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A Short History of the Ismailis

A Short History of the Ismailis: Traditions of a Muslim Community

Farhad Daftary
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    A Short History of the Ismailis
    Book Description:

    Despite being one of the key Shi'i Muslim communities, the Ismailis were until recently studied primarily on the basis of the accounts of their enemies. This new introduction is the first to be based on modern scholarship, taking account of recently recovered Ismaili texts. It covers all the main developments in the major phases of Ismaili history, from the early formative period, through the Fatamid golden age and the Alamut and post-Alamut periods, to more recent history. Dealing only with the most important historical developments, this is a comprehensive and accessible survey for all newcomers to the subject.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7922-5
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Note on Transliteration, Dates and Abbreviations (pp. viii-viii)
  5. 1 Ismaili History and Historiography: Phases, Sources and Studies (pp. 1-20)

    A major Shī‘ī Muslim community, the Ismailis have had a long and complex history dating back to the formative period of Islam, when different communities of interpretation developed their doctrinal positions. By the time of the Abbasid revolution in 132/750, Imāmī Shī‘ism, the common heritage of the major Shī‘ī communities of Ithnā‘ashariyya (Twelvers) and Ismā‘īliyya, had acquired a special prominence. The Imāmī Shī‘īs, who like other Shī‘ī communities upheld the rights of the Prophet Muhammad’s household (ahl al-bayt) to the leadership of the Muslim umma, propounded a particular conception of divinely instituted religious authority, also recognising certain descendants of the...

  6. 2 Origins and Early History: Shī‘īs, Ismailis and Qarmaṭīs (pp. 21-62)

    The Prophet Muhammad laid the foundations of a new religion which was portrayed as the seal of the great revealed religions of the Abrahamic tradition. Thus, Islam from early on claimed to have completed and superseded the messages of Judaism and Christianity, whose adherents were accorded a special status among the Muslims as the “people of the book” (ahl al-kitāb). The unified and nascent Muslim community (umma) of the Prophet’s time was, however, soon divided into numerous rival communities and groupings, as the Muslims now disagreed on a number of fundamental issues. The standard text of the Qur’an itself, the...

  7. 3 The Fatimid Age: Dawla and Da‘wa (pp. 63-119)

    The Fatimid period is often represented as the golden age of Ismailism, an “interlude” in Ismaili history. The foundation of the Fatimid caliphate in 297/909 in North Africa doubtless marked the crowning success of the early Ismailis. The religio-political da‘wa of the Ismā‘īliyya had finally led to the establishment of a state or dawla headed by the Ismaili imam. This was no small achievement. The leader of a secret revolutionary movement, having tactfully evaded confrontation with the military forces of the Abbasids, had been installed to a new Shī‘ī caliphate. The establishment of the Fatimid caliphate represented not only a...

  8. 4 The Alamūt Period in Nizārī Ismaili History (pp. 120-158)

    By 487/1094, Hasan Sabbāh, who preached the Fatimid da‘wa within Saljuq dominions in Persia, emerged as the undisputed leader of the Persian Ismailis. Hasan already followed an independent policy against the Saljuq Turks. In fact, his seizure of the mountain fortress of Alamūt in northern Persia in 483/1090 signalled the initiation of an open revolt against the Saljuqs as well as the foundation of what was to become the Nizārī Ismaili state. It was under such circumstances that in al-Mustansir’s succession dispute, Hasan upheld the cause of Nizār and severed his relations with the Fatimid regime and the da‘wa headquarters...

  9. 5 Later Developments: Continuity and Modernisation (pp. 159-216)

    This final chapter will present a brief survey of the main developments and trends in the history of Ismaili communities during the post-Alamūt period, from the fall of Alamūt in 654/1256 till the 1990s. It will focus mainly on the majoritarian Nizārī branch of Ismailism. In this period, several Nizārī communities developed in various regions and, more or less, independently of one another. These communities, scattered widely from Syria to Persia, Central Asia and India, elaborated a diversity of religious and literary traditions in different languages. The Tayyibī Musta‘lī Ismailis had continued to be centred in Yaman with a growing...

  10. Glossary (pp. 217-220)
  11. Select Bibliography (pp. 221-230)
  12. Index (pp. 231-248)