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« Keep Hope Alive! | Main | Muslim Education in Africa … and Pakistan … and the US »

Nov 03, 2004


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who you

"it would sadden me greatly if any thinking Muslim still believed it"

Yo Yankee Boy,

You should be in a full state of depression by now. First we have to qualify what you mean by "thinking" - unfortunately this will be a contested term. How do we define it? Who asserts it? How do we verify it?

Second - my experience with most "thinking" Muslims has been that they view Ismailis as strange and not really Muslim or even non-Muslim. Even worse Ismailis that have left the tariqah - flat out say that Ismailis are non-Muslim.

I know a couple of webisites that sell Prozac from Canada - if you are interested :)


It is a sad state of Muslim intolerance and ignorance,when we give legitimacy to a few revisionists who would like to see nothing more than a totalitarian, non pluralistic and a singular monolithic Islam.Given the choice to all Muslims in what state would you prefer to live in, Taliban, Saudi or Canada the answer becomes obvious,As puritan Muslims we sure love the kafir state and life style,should I tell my young son he is not a Muslim and should stop wearing Nike or go clubbing.

Well we all know who really needs prozac :-))



Interview with PHD Ismaili Convert
The following is a question/answer session between a Christian school teacher and an American professional (Ph.d) who renounced his Christian faith to embrace Sunni Islam
which he later renounced to embrace the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim sect about thirteen years ago. The session was done in three separate sittings as the Ismaili convert needed to refer to his source material to support his answers. Every session was audio taped and finally the third session became the end product.

1. Do average North Americans know anything about Ismaili Muslims and their activities?


2. Then who does?

Those who are. affached to the institutions of higher learning and national.
leaders of both industrialized and non-industrialized nations.

3. Can you tell us who Ismaili Muslims are?

Certainly! Ismaili Muslims are aShia sect of Islam headed. by their 49th imam, their spiritual leader, His Highness Prince Karim Agakhan who is, also, a direct and hereditary descendant of Prophet Muhammad. He is also a Harvard University graduate. 1400 years ago, upon receiving a divine injunction just a few months before his death, Prophet Muhammad designated Ali, who was his cousin and son-in-law, as his heir, and proclaimed him as his successor to an assembly of 140,000 pilgrims. Soon after the Prophets demise, there was a split. contrary to the Prophet's will and wishes, one faction decided to elect Abu-Bak air, one of the Prophet's companions as Khaliph (temporal ruler), and accept the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam, for guidance, instead of the Prophet's designated successor, Ali, in spite of -the oath of allegiance they had already given him. This group called itself "Sunni."

The second group decided to abide by the will and wishes of the Prophet and stay loyal to his successor, Ali. They came to be known as "Shias."

The Shias accepted Ali and his hereditary descendants as the guides and heads of the faith. These hereditary guides are also known as Imams. The Imams were to guide their followers in religious and worldly matters.
This split in Islam is, more or less, like the one in Christianity - Catholics and Protestants.

4. Is there something wrong with just settling for the Holy Book and dispensing with the Imam, as the Sunnis did?

In my view it is. Let me explain by an example. Have you ever come across a school situation where students in a classroom have been told that there will be no teacher provided to teach them for a full year and instead the students will have to seek instruction, on their own, from the
text -book provided to them? No, you haven't! The students can do without the text book but not without a teacher. The text book is secondary to the teacher. The teacher can work around the text book. In poor countries, classroom instruction is carried out in the absence of classroom, supplies, textbooks, school libraries, computers, etc, and yet the 'students learn. This shows that a teacher is indispensable to the classroom but the text book is not. In this classroom example, the teacher is analogous to the Imam, an ever-living guide; the textbook is analogous to the Holy Book, the Quran. In short, you can do without the Quran but not without the Imam from the progeny of the Prophet and Imran.

Here is an example of my own personal experience to further validate my point::

My friend's family and mine were visiting New York for the first time. Once in New York, I rented a van and chose to go around with a tour guide. My friend refused to have a tour guide, and so he decided to rent a separate van and depend on the city map to guide him. At the end of our trip when we compared our experiences, all I heard from him was sour grumbling about their frustrations over some major and minor roads under repair, quite a few detours; hours wasted in poring over the map and its tiny, non-readable print; hours wasted in finding destinations; stopping at every gas station to chock if they were on track; often being told they took the wrong exit; and that they could not visit most of the places that they had planned for the tour. The verdict was that the whole trip was "lousy".

While in our case, we enjoyed our trip immensely. The tour guide sat behind the wheel of our van and took charge. Did we ever open the city map during the tour? Not once! We resigned ourselves to the tour guide. All we did was relax and enjoy the tour. He knew the city well so he was aware of all road closures and detours. My friend's city map had no updates on it.

The tour guide, here, can be compared to the Imam of the time, whose job it is to guide us according to the changing times, and make our journey to spiritual salvation easy and obstacle-free. Our path is straight and easy to travel because of his presence.

The city map can be compared to the Holy Book, the Quran. Just as the map alone could not prove itself of any significant help to my friend, so also, the Holy Book, the Quran alone cannot be of much help. On the contrary, the Holy Book, when used without, its. legitimate interpreter, can prove harmful, and at times, even dangerous. Haven't you heard of the killing of Muslim women in Algeria for violating a so-called Islamic dress code? Aren't you aware of the primitive Taliban government in Afghanistan in the recent past where the so-called Islamic laws were being rammed -down people's throats, the most recent being the destruction of Buddha's statutes though Buddha is accepted in Islam as one of Allah's prophets!

5. You make a lot of sense! Are Shia Ismailis the same as the Ithnashari Shias of Iran?

No! Historically, there was only one Shia faction at the beginning when the first split occurred at the time of the Prophet's death. Then, after every few generations, a minor or major split would occur in the Shia sect and thus there occurred quite a few Shia sub-sects with their own distinct schools of thought. One major split occurred over the succession of Imam Jaffer, the fifth Imam. Those who believed in his designated elder son Ismail came to be known as Ismailis, and those who believed in his younger son Mussa al-Kazim came to be known as Ithnasharis which means Twelvers.

6. Why were they called Twelvers?

Because the line of their Imams ended upon the death of the eleventh Imam who had no son to succeed him, so this sect then claimed that their - twelfth Imam was born but went into hiding and has lived unseen- ever since.

7. So, how is the Ismaili sect different from the other Shia sects?

The Ismaili sect is the only sect that has had a living hereditary successor from the progeny of the Prophet and Ali to guide the believers in the esoteric interpretation of the faith at all times. Not a single generation over the last 1400 years has been deprived of spiritual and worldly guidance. Our Imam is called "Imam-e-zaman" which means Imam of the time. Allah's Noor (Light) resides in the body of the current Imam as it did in all his predecessors. Allah did not stop talking to or guiding mankind after the Prophet's death. The Imam, for the Ismaili believers,- is a reflection of Divine Reality in this world.

In the absence of "Imam-e-zaman", all the other Shia sects relied and still rely on their Mullahs (priests) or Shaykhs (so called learned people) for the interpretation of the Holy Quran and spiritual guidance. Consequently, there are disagreements and differences in the understanding and interpretation of the faith of Islam with everyone feeling qualified to interpret the faith. While in the case of Shia Ismaili Muslims, the interpretation of the Holy Quran is the sole prerogative of the Imam of the time, who interprets the faith according to the changing times and adapts it wherever and whenever necessary without compromising its fundamental principles of religious practice.

8. You said that only you Ismailis have the Imam of the time. What about Imam Khomeini of ban?

The word Imam has more than one meaning. One who leads a prayer in
a mosque is also called Imam. One who preaches the faith (Khomeini for instance) is also an Imam (leader). We Ismailis use the word Imam to mean one who is a direct and hereditary descendant of Ali who was divinely appointed to succeed the Prophet and then designated as such by the Prophet. Seed after seed, as Abraham was promised, our Imams have come down in an unbroken line and have always been present amongst us. We can trace our Imam's ancestry back not only to Abraham but also to Adam and beyond.

As I explained earlier, the Shias of Iran were with us until the fifth Imam. Then they split and believed in the brother of the designated Imam. After a few generations, they claimed that their 12th Imam went into hiding and has lived all these 1300 years among us, unseen but seeing, and will appear when time is ripe. Since they had no hereditary Imam present amongst them, they had to settle, for those who wanted to assume the leadership of their faith, such as Khomeini, so Khomeini was an Imam in that sense.

9. So what's wrong with an Imam going into hiding? Isn't that possible?

No! Not according to the Ismaili school of thought! Anything that doesn't make sense is unlslamic and so unacceptable to us. Here, it's quite appropriate to quote M. D. Donalson, a renowned Christian historian who said:

"Islam is almost alone among the religions of the word in addressing itself to man's reason and demanding that he should accept religious belief only upon the grounds of convincing argument and not mere claim and -supposidon.

According to the Ismailis, the Imam of the time 'has to be present at all times to interpret the faith and guide the faithful. Since guiding the faithful on the right path is the Imam's major function, he cannot afford to go into hiding, particulary such a long-term hiding. His continued presence among his believers is paramount for their spiritual guidance and well-being. In the other Shia sects, when the legitimate Imam was not there, the clergy took over and as a result there was confusion and chaos. The US/Iran hostage crisis of the eighties and its prolonged aftermath is a good example of such a chaos.

10. Is there any evidence in your Holy Book to support this idea of the continued presence of a hereditary Imam?

Yes. Verse 3:33,34 of the Quran says:

"Allah (God) did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people - a line of descendants, one succeeding the other, and Allah heareth and knoweth all things.

Our present 49th Imam, His Highness Karim Agakhan is the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad. Our last Israeli prophet was Jesus (as.). Prophet Muhammad was from the progeny of Ishmael, the elder son of Abraham, while all the Israeli prophets were from the progeny of Isaac, the younger son of Abraham.

The Ismaili Imams have come down in an unbroken line in direct descent from Prophet Muhammad. Judge Russel upheld the direct descent claim of His Highness the Agakhan III in a British High Court and endorsed his claim as the 48th legitimate successor to the Prophet as authentic. By the way, the title of "His Highness" was conferred upon our. 48th and 49th Imam by the British government.

11. Is there any other supporting evidence that the Imam should be present at all times?

Yes. History records that the Prophet told an assembly of about 140,000 Muslims after his Farewell Pilgrimage to hold fast to the Quran and his designated successor, Ali, and his descendants. He told the gathering that they would remain on the right path and would never go astray provided they obeyed his instructions. He -said All and the. Quran would never separate. This is also mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Islam by Huston Smith.

12. Are there any other countries who know the- Ismaili Muslims and the Agakhan?
Yes. World leaders and community of nations have taken admirable notice of Prince Karim Agakhan's humanitarian contributions in the fields of education, architecture, health and economic development. It is ironic that this Shia Ismaili Muslim leader has been bestowed upon with honours by the community of nations which are predominantly non-Muslim. Let me list a few here:
Commandeur, Ordre du Merite Mauritanien (1960)
Grande Croix: Order of Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugal (1960)
L'Ordre National de la Cote d1voire (1965)
L'Ordre National de la Haute-Volta(1965)
L'Ordre Malagache (1966)
L'Ordre du Croissant Vert des Commores (1966)
Grand Cordon, Order, of the Taj, Iran (19 66)
Nishan-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan (1970)
Cavaliere di Gran Croce della Republica Italiana (1977)
Grand Officier, L'Ordre National Du Lion, Senegal (1982)
Nishan-e-Pakistan (1983)
Grand Cordon, Ouissam-al Arch, Morocco (1986)
Gold Medal, Spain (1987)
Cavaliere del Lovaro, Italy (198
Doctor of Law (Honorary), Peshawar University,. Pakistan, (1967)
Doctor of Law (Honorary), Sindh University, Pakistan, (1970)
Doctor of Law (Honorary), McGill University, Canada, (1983)
Doctor of Law (Honorary),, McMaster University, Canada, (1987)
Commandeur Legion d'Honneur, France (1990)
Honour of being invited to deliver baccalaureate address to the Class
of 1996 at the Brown University, RI, U.S.
To enlighten you further, I am quoting the following, courtesy of ISLAMS QUIET REVOLUTIONARY by Akberally Thobhani:
"Nations and world leaders, Muslims and non-muslims, in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America,- by bestowing these honours, have, indeed, recognized the deep value of the positive and peaceful contributions made by Prince Karim and the Ismailis in the contemporary world.
King Juan Carlos of Spain, in awarding the country's first Gold Medal to a non-Spaniard, commended Prince Karim Agakhan for his contribution to the conservation and development of the profession of Architecture.
President Francois Mitterand of France, in awarding France's highest honour, established by Napoleon in 1802, stated that France was recognizing a long tradition of distinguished service to humanity. Italy, a seat of the Vatican, has awarded Prince Karim two of its highest honours -for his major contribution to that country's economy.
It must be pointed out that many of these national honours are usually awarded to heads of state only, and rarely to private individuals. In addition, Prince Karim has been honoured by the United Nations, the Smithonian Institute, and numerous other national and international, professional, and service-oriented organizations in Muslim and non-Muslim countries.
In the United states, Prince Karim was the first-time recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Foundation Medal ever given to a patron of architecture along with the American Institute of arts award."
I shall cut short by saying that the Agakhan has been well-received at the White House from the days of President Kennedy.
13. Is it true that his grandfather, His Highness the Agakhan III, your 48th Imam was a man of eminence, internationally, and also like a family member at the Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace?

Yes, indeed!
- He was twice President of the League of Nations.

-He had a long-standing friendship which turned out to be life-long (over 34 years) with the Prince of Wales (later King George V) and Queen' Mary. He was the king's confidante and a frequent informal luncheon guest of the family at Bukingham Palace. The king, and his father before him, constantly associated with the Agakhan, then only a young man of nineteen, just to discuss and listen to his views on international affairs, and also to socialize with him.

-On one occasion, he was invited to an audience with Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, at Windsor Castle. The only person in the room during this first

audience was his old patron, the Duke of Connaught. The Queen knighted the Agakhan but observed that she would not expect him to kneel or receive the accolade since he was a prince himself and the descendant of many kings. A little later, he was bidden to stay the night at the Castle and dine with her Majesty. At dinner, he sat between the Queen and her daughter, Princess Beatrice. Other several high officers of State were, also, present. One among them, was Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Halsbury. After dinner, the Queen gave the Agakhan a jewelled portrait of herself, decorated with the rose of England, the thistle of Scotland, and the harp of Ireland- and the harp was in emeralds.

-During this visit, the Agakhan made the acquaintance of various other members of the British Royal Family. First among them was the Prince of Wales, later to become King Edward VI. He took to the Agakhan at once, and had him made an honorary member of his own club, the Marlborough Club, and some months later, early in 1899, he himself nominated him for full membership. In those days membership of the Marlborough, thus conferred, had a special social and personal significance; one was stamped, as it were, as a personal friend of the Prince of Wales.
-The Agakhan presented three separate addresses at the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria who was a very dear friend to him.

-When Edward VI, ascended the British throne, the Agakhan was -honoured with a personal invitation to his Coronation in 1902. On this occasion the king bestowed on him the title of G.C.I.E. This was an addition to the existing title of K.C.I.E.

-When back in India, the Agakhan was surprised with a letter from the Viceroy, Lord Curzon requesting him to become a member of his Legislative Council. The Agakhan thought it was a considerable honour for a young man in his twenties. He accepted.

-After his two year term, he was offered another term of two years, but he refused.

-When king George V ascended the British throne in 1912, the magnificent Durbar was held in Delhi. The King-Emperor personally bestowed on the

Agakhan the highest decoration which it was possible for any Indian subject of the Crown to receive, making him a Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India.

14. Is it true Queen Victoria had your 48th Imam Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah the honour to sit on the throne that she had designated for Jesus Christ at a royal banquet in the presence of scores of foreign ambassadors but the news of the incident was suppressed and given no publicity?

I have seen a clipping of Saint Gazette of 22nd July, 1898 in which this incident was reported.

15. Was His Highness the Agakhan III an Indian national?

Yes! He was of Persian extraction but born in Karachi which was part of the Indian sub-continent.

16. One day, while reading THE AGAKHAN AND HIS ANCESTORS by Naoroji Dumasia, I was amazed to discover that the Agakhan III had played a major and Vital role, from laying the groundwork for India's independence to, ultimately, bringing it to fruition. How is it that history has not depicted him as a major role-player?

As for the Agakhan remaining a silent worker and seeking no credit or recognition, I can only say that our Imams only focus on humanitarian work and never on recognition in any form. So are we also exhorted by them to do. They insist that when the Lord is pleased with someone, He presents him with opportunities to serve mankind.

17. Considering the close life-long ties he enjoyed with the British monarchy and the British Government since his teenage years, and also considering the manifold honours and marks of distinction conferred upon this widelyrespected Imam of the Ismailis, it would be but logical to conclude that the Agakhan must have exerted considerable influence on the British government and monarchy for India's independence. And yet how amazing that the Agakhan had never been linked with India's independence as he should have. Why was this so?

You have repeated, here, your question #13 In a slightly different way. I can only speculate the answer for you! Because he had to practise what he preached.
18. And, what's that?

Just focus on good work. Expect no rewards or recognition. That's what Lord Krishna preaches in the holy Geeta, and Allah preaches in the Quran. While you insist so much on worldly rewards and recognition which are but ephemeral, I'm aptly reminded, here of what our present Imam, the Agakhan IV, said during his television interview on MAN AUVE, when asked how he would like, to be remembered for his invaluable services to humankind. I'll paraphrase: He said he would not like to be remembered by face or by name. Instead, he would like his humanitarian work to be continued even after he -was long gone.

19. Noble, indeed! Was your 48th Imam. hold in such high esteem by other. nations, too?

Yes. The Sultan of Zanzibar bestowed on him the highest order in his gift, the Brilliant Star of Zanzibar. The German Emperor, Kaiser, awarded him the Royal Prussian Order of the Crown (First Class). He returned the insignia when Germany engaged in World War 1, (1914) against Britain and her Allies.

The Agakhan placed his own services and those of the Muslim world including those of the subjects of British India at the disposal of the British and her Allies against Germany.

His own son Prince Aly Khan took a commission in a British Yeomanry Regiment and with official approval had been attached to the French forces in Syria.

20. Is service to the United Nations a family tradition?

Yes, it is! Service to mankind is and has been the mission of our Imams
throughout our history. His son' :Prince Sadruddin Agakhan served the United Nations as a commissioner for Refugees for several years for a token salary of $1 a year. The present Agakhan's younger brother, Prince Aminmohammed also served the United Nations for several years. President Ronald Regan and the first lady stayed at the present Agakhan's villa in Geneva (1985) for several days while attending a historic meeting with Soviet leader Michail Gorbachev.

21. I am just flabbergasted upon finding out that a Shia Muslim Imam and their family are held in such high esteem, world-wide, while we in the Occident recoil from the very word "Shia." The word conjures up images of American hostages in Iran in the eighties. Why aren't the masses in the Occident ever made aware of the meritorious work of Shia Ismaili Muslims and their highly respected Imams?

Because the western media is so prejudiced against Islam that it misses

no available opportunity to use the volatility in a few middle eastern regions to brand the faith of Islam as violent. Strangely enough, never have the media ever confused the IRA activities and bombings in Ireland with the faith of Christianity, nor the bombings in Oklahoma City by those two Waco members. This is a double standard. Sensational reporting and not truthful reporting is their objective where Islam is- concerned. In short the West practises bad journalism'.

22. Would you enumerate some of the activities of the Ismaili community?

Certainly! Three major areas of Ismaili focus throughout history were: promoting learning and research; establishing health and social programs; promoting economic growth for self-sufficiency and improving the qualityof life for the have-nots around the world without consideration to race, creed, or color.

One of many examples, The Agakhan Foundation has a network of Primary Health Care projects in a predominantly Christian Keny, mostly in rural areas, with emphasis upon immunization, growth monitoring, community health-worker training, school health and clean water supply, nutrition of children under five years old and women of child-bearing age. Countless similar projects are undertaken in other third world countries, also:

-There are 230 Agakhan health centres in the third - world countries
-There are 5 Agakhan maternity homes
-There are 5 large Agakhan hospitals
-There is an Agakhan University hospital in Karachi affiliated with the Harvard University, Boston, U.S.; McGill, and McMaster Universities of Canada
-There are 300 Agakhan schools
-Numerous economic development-related projects are undertaken to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate in the under-developed countries

While on the subject of his service to humanity, it would be quite appropriate to quote from the address of our 49th Imam, His Highness the Agakhan, IV.

"There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot Unless they can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink into apathy, degradation and despair it is for us who are more fortunate to provide the spark. We will not let bigotry, communalism, or sectarianism make our lives inwardlooking and increasingly meaningless.

I can proudly say that a few of the lecturers and professors at the universities such as Harvard, Boston; McMaster, Hamilton; Alberta, Edmonton, are Ismaili Muslims and the product of the Agakhan Schools in Kenya.

I can, also, proudly say that one of the earliest universities, AI-Azhar, was built by the Ismaili Muslims in Egypt, 1000 years ago, at a time when Europe was still living in the "Dark Ages," It is still there. Alluding to this medieval period, Mr., Mulroney, ex-Prime Minister of Canada, paid the Agakhan and the Ismaili community a tribute for being in the vanguard of learning and education at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili centre in Burnaby, Vancouver, in 1,985.

In the context of this early period let me recall the words of Wallace K. Ferguson:

"In this Islamic empire, composed of many varied races held together by a common religion, there grew up in the following centuries a civilization higher and in many respects more enlightened than that of early medieval Europe, and one from which the peoples of the West learned much."

Another important historian, H.G. Wells, in a comprehensive survey of the world's history, states: "The light of Islamic universities shone far beyond the Muslim world and drew students from east and west. At Cordoba, in particular there were great numbers of Christian students, and the influence of Arab philosophy coming by way of Spain upon universities of Paris, Oxford, and North Italy, and upon western European thought was very considerable,-- indeed."

By the way, Science, Culture, Philosophy, Astronomy" Medicine, and other learning flourished during the 200 years of the Ismaili rule in Spain until the invasion of Fernidad and Isabella who destroyed all the Muslim works they could find in Spain. Robert R. Gullick writes:

"The most tragic event in History is that of the baffle of Poitiers, when the Science, the Art and the civilization of Arabia fell before the barbarism of Franks."

23. How does the Agakhan carry out his numerous philanthropic projects?
Through the Agakhan Foundation network. The highly respected
American Newspaper, the Christian Science Monitor, in discussing the Agakhan's development-related work, the author, Edward Giradet, described his network as one of the most highly regarded non- governmental organizations in the developing world. The results of his development projects have been so impressive, successful, and economically effective that they could provide excellent models for replication elsewhere in the world. (The Christian Science Monitor, Dec.27, 198

The Agakhan and the Ismailis have always believed in the dignity of individual man or woman, and, to see that dignity upheld, they would much rather direct their efforts and resources to help the have-nots acquire economic independence. The aim is to teach the person how to catch a fish rather than provide him with one. The Agakhan Foundation has been applauded many times over for its stupendous success in achieving this goal in the third world countries. One underlying greatness of, the Foundation's work is its total commitment to humankind as one universal brotherhood where religious beliefs have no bearing or any role to play.

If you recall, when Christian missionaries such as Dr. Livingstone and others explored Africa, their humanitarian services went hand in hand with -converting the indigenous population to the Christian faith. The Agakhan Foundation sets no such conditions.

24. I still don't understand why a religious leader such as the Agakhan, who is truly a hereditary descendant of Prophet Muhammad, would get involved in worldly affairs such as international politics, business ventures, and investments? Shouldn't such a figure be divorced from the world and its material aspects?

Indeed, not!

You do believe in the Biblical King David, don't you? Wasn't he king and prophet, both at once?

You do believe in the Biblical King Solomon, don't you? Wasn't he king and prophet, both at once?
We are Muslims. Prophet Muhammad himself was a merchant, economically productive and a good example of self-dependency. Islam says be economically productive and share that which is surplus. Hoarding of wealth is forbidden.

25. Isn't it odd that such a glorious faith as Islam permits four wives, thus encouraging polygamy?

Islam is still shy of 96 wives to stand at par with Prophet David who had 100 wives. And yet, you and I both believe in Prophet David and have no quarrel with him. Your statement should be examined in the context of the society of preIslamic times. Arab tribes. constantly waged wars with one another. Men who were also husbands, fathers, breadwinners, and guardians would get killed and leave
behind hosts of their dependents unprovided for. All this would result in a formidable societal crisis. In the midst of such a chaos Muhammad was chosen as Allah's messenger to reform these people. He eradicated the tribal differences and made them all brothers. In order to provide for the womenfolk left widowed and children left fatherless, the Quran allowed men to marry four wives provided all wives were treated alike. This divine injunction permitting four wives totally eliminated any possibility of desolate widows resorting to prostitution to financially support themselves and their fatherless children. The Prophet also emphasized in the strongest terms adopting orphans to achieve spiritual salvation.

26. So, are you suggesting that the divine revelation for four wives was relevant to that period only?

Yes! Or, if any of the primitive past resurfaces now or in the future. For instance, after what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo, during the recent wars, a large number of womenfolk became widows and refugees. Their
menfolk were tortured and killed in large numbers by Serjevo leaders during their ethnic cleansing spree. Given the shortage of men, which would be a better solution for those women? To opt for prostitution or Islamic polygamy?

Besides, we must remember that this is a social and not religious problem. Any divine revelation of such nature can be adapted, repealed or enforced by the hereditary Imam who is always present to guide his followers in changing times. Would you say the times have not changed since the time of Prophet Muhammad?

27. Beautiful and rational! That's how Islam now looks to me! But, what would your Imam say to you if you wanted to marry four wives in Canada?

He would, I'm sure, raise his eyebrows and ask me to respect and abide by the laws of the land as he has always repeatedly told us.

28. So, there's no way you can indulge in polygamy?


29. Does the Ismaili faith believe that those who are not in its fold will go to hell?

Not at all! The Quran says:

"Those who have believed, and the Jews, the Christians and the Sabaeans, whosoever believe in God and the Last Day and act righteously, they shall have their requital from their Lord and shall neither fear nor grieve. " (2:62, 5:69) The words of this above revelation are echoed in the statement made by our 48th Imam, His Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah in his MEMOIRS.

"And I further pray that all who truly and sincerely believe in God, be they Christian, Jew, Buddhist or Brahmin, who strive to do good and avoid evil, who are gentle and kind, will be joined in Heaven and be granted final pardon and peace."

The emphasis is on good actions. There is a reward for good deeds and consequence for bad ones, which all boils down to accountability.
Unreasonably, there's no accountability for our actions in Christianity since Jesus' blood is the

30. Do you Ismailis have any quarrel with Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc'?

Not at all! Our 48th Imam, His Highness the Agakhan III, wrote in his MEMOIRS:

"All Islamic schools of thought accept it as a fundamental principle that for centuries, before the advent of Muhammad, there arose from time to time, messengers illumined by divine grace, for and among those races of the earth which had sufficiently advanced intellectually to comprehend such a message, thus Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all the prophets of Israel are universally accepted by Islam. Muslims, indeed, know no limitation merely to the prophets of Israel, they are ready to admit that there were similar Divinely-inspired messengers in other countries- Gautama Buddha, Shri Krishna, and Shri Rama in India, Socrates in Greece, the wisemen of China, and many other sages and saints among peoples and civilizations of which we have now lost trace. Thus, man's soul has never been left without a specially inspired messenger from the Soul that sustains, -embraces, and is the Universe."

31. Then what need was there for a Divine revelation to Muhammad?

The answer is again found in the MEMOIRS of our 48th Imam, and I quote: "The answer of Islam is precise and clear. In spite of its great spiritual strength, Jewish monotheism has retained two characteristics which render it essentially different from Islamic monotheism, God has remained, in spite of all, a national and racial God for the children of Israel, and his personality is entirely separate from its supreme manifestation, the Universe.

In far distant countries such as India and China, the purity of the faith in the one God had been so vitiated by polytheism, by idolatry and even by a pantheism which was hardly distinguishable from atheism, that these popular and folk-lore religions bore but little resemblance to that which emanated from the true and pure God-head.

Christianity lost its strength and, meaning for Muslims in that it saw its great and glorious founder not as a man but as God incarnate in man, as God made in Flesh. Thus, there was an absolute need for the Divine Word's revelation, to Mohammed himself, a man like the others, of God's person and of his relations to the Universe which he had created.'"

32. Is Ismaili Islam only 1400 years old?

No! It is as old as the Creation itself. Excepting Satan, all the other angels that bowed to Adam practised Islam and were Muslims because they submitted to Allah's command. Islam has existed under different labels prior to the advent of Muhammad. What Muhammad preached was Ismaili Islam. What all his predecessors such as Jesus, Moses, David, Abraham, Noah, and Adam preached was Ismaili Islam. The Quran calls them all Muslims. Two of the many verses revealed to this effect were: "He (Allah) hath ordained for you that religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which He commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying: Establish the religion, and be not divided therein. " (chapt 42 verse 13)

The Prophet is asked to tell the people:

"Say. We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was given unto Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims to Him" (111: 84)

8000 years ago, before the advent of our Biblical Adam, there existed and flourished a civilization on the soil of the Indian sub-continent. At this time in history, Ismaili Islam existed under the divinely inspired Buddha (not Gautama Buddha), and before him under Krishna, and before him under Rama. The Ismaili Islam traces itself further back to the time when there was nothing but aquatic life. There is a verse in the Quran which says: "in the beginning, Allah's throne was on water." (14:7) This further indicates how well Ismaili Islam and Science are in harmony with each other. Christianity claims the Creation is 6000 years old -as old as Adam- which is scientifically inaccurate. Ismaili Islam claims it is billions of years old and that there have been hundreds of Adams before the Biblical Adam, and this Ismaili theory is in agreement with the present scientific data. Adam in Arabic simply means anything made out of clay and water. We are all Adams of our time.

Ismaili Islam traces itself back to the Big Bang. And in every age there has been a living guide present to show the right path to those who wished to achieve spiritual salvation. In every age humanitarian work and not prayers have been emphasized as the principal requisite for spiritual salvation. Prayer without action becomes pride and bears no desired fruits. 1400 years ago, the Quran and the the sermons of Imam Ali told us of the Big Bang, describing how the universe came into existence while scientists have just recently confirmed the Big Bang to be the beginning of the universe.

33. But, how could Islam be as old as the Creation itself when we all know it was founded by Muhammad only 1400 years ago?

The Arabic word Islam, which means peace and submission to the will of God, may be 1400 years old, but that does not mean that the concept of Islam is only 1400 years old. Islam existed before the birth and arrival of Muhammad even during the period of all the prophets that preceded Muhammad as I proved to you from two Quranic verses. Islam was not unique to Muhammad. The word Islam is simply an Arabic term. Allah called Jesus, Moses, and Abraham Muslims in the Quran because they all practised Islam -peace and submission - to His Vill at all times. All those angels that prostrated before Adam practised Islam for they submitted to the will of God.

34. Do you mean to say all the afore-mentioned religions were true?

Yes, they were in their own time. There is only one God, with only one religion, one truth, and one message for mankind, but there have been innumerable messengers who brought this message and took it to various parts of the globe to those who needed it. The Quran testifies to that. Different religions sprang up because of different messengers though the messengers did not intend for this to happen. Every outgoing messenger foretold his successor, so it was not the messengers but only the self- seeking clergy and people who were responsible for different religions on this earth. Call it the politics of the faith, if you will.

35. You certainly make a lot of sense! How are all the numerous humanitarian projects undertaken by the Agakhan and the Ismailis supported, financially?

-by the generous donations by the Agakhan himself
-by the tithe (zakat) offered to the Imam by his Ismaili followers around
the world
-by the grants given by CIDA of Canada and also European countries.

36. Is the tithe offered to the Imam for the purpose of running his humanitarian projects?

Not at all! Tithe is one of the fundamentals of Islam and the Ismaili faith and is offered unconditionally by the believer for spiritual salvation. Tithe is also found in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and other faiths. When an Ismaili follower offers tithe, he sincerely hopes the Imam would apply it to his personal use. But the Imam returns it manifold to initiate and support more and more humanitarian projects around the world. When divinely- authorized leadership lacks, such as in other faiths, a massive amount, of tithe money can be misappropriated by the recipients. The examples of such notoriety involving Christian TV evangelists such as Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Bakker are a few of many such scandals still so vivid and fresh in our mind. In the cases of these evangelists, monies sent to them by the gullible, caring masses were not for their personal use, they were only the trustees. In the Ismaili faith the Imam is not a trustee. He is the owner and legitimate recipient of the tithe, but of his own free will, he decides to utilise it for the welfare of the less fortunate on this globe.

37. Do you Ismailis turn your faces to Mecca when offering prayers?

No, we don't.

38. Why not?

Because the Quran doesn't require it! I'd much rather go straight to the Quran for guidance in this matter.
"To God belongs the East and West. Withersoever ye turn, there is the presence Of God. For God is all-pervading, All-Knowing (2. 115)

39. Do you mean to say there is absolutely no injunction to turn your face to Mecca?

There certainly is. But it has nothing to do with the three mandatory prayers (salats). Let me quote the verse and you judge for yourself!

"From whencesoever thou startest forth, turn thy face in the Direction of the Sacred Mosque. That is, indeed, the truth From thy Lord. And God is not unmindful of what you do" ( 2: 149)

The verse is not stipulated for prayer purposes. It doesn't have the word "salat," which means prayer, anywhere. There is an esoteric meaning to this verse. Let's first examine and demonstrate the literal meaning:

You are expected to turn your face to the Sacred Mosque in Mecca as soon as you start off to go some place. And if you try to observe this verse literally, you could place yourself in a dangerous situation. For example:

Lets say you are driving west to work in the morning. According to the verse, you are supposed to have your face turned to Mecca (east). If you are travelling west doing what the verse says, you will soon trigger multiple accidents and car pile ups; you were looking back while driving forward. You are a hazard to motorists. How impractical!

Another example of literal (exoteric) meaning:
Let's say you are a pedestrian abiding by this verse of the Quran. You are walking west while looking to the east. Is it practical? You are puffing your own life at risk. You could be easily run over! This kind of Islam is impractical and very hard to practise, while the Quran says Islam is very easy to practise.

The verses of the Quran have both exoteric and esoteric meanings and only those, divinely authorized, can interpret them for us. Now let's examine the esoteric meaning:

The Quran has exalted the Kaba in Mecca to a high position because the Sacred Mosque is located, there, and Kaba is exalted because Ali (AS), the first divinely appointed Imam and successor to the Prophet was born there, in the Mosque itself. It's a historical fact and accepted by all Muslims, alike. The Kaba is holy because of Ali. Every succeeding Ismaili Imam is Ali and the bearer of Allah's Noor (light). So, esoterically, the above verse wants us to have in our hearts the remembrance of Ali at all times and during whatever activities. we ate engaged in, eg. travelling, walking, driving, flying, etc. Doing this is practical and doesn't get us into trouble with the traffic-law or endanger our lives. Such an esoteric interpretation is possible only when the legitimate Imam of the time is present.
-Allah's Quran is valid for all times and for all places. Can a Muslim who goes to the moon, or any other planet ever turn his face to Mecca at prayer time? If not, will he then not say his prayer?

So, as I said, the Kaba implied here is Ali.

40. Do you mean to say that the Sacred Mosque owes its exalted position to Ali because he was born inside of it?

Yes! That certainly is our logical belief! History records that, one day, Ali's pregnant mother, Fatima Binte Asad was caught in an emergency child-birth situation just when she was by Kaba's Sacred Mosque. Her labour pains started and she didn't know what to do. Just then, she heard a voice inviting her to take shelter inside the Sacred Mosque. But, how could she go in? The door was locked! Just then, a wall miraculously split open to afford her entry. Once she was inside, the wall closed, and soon Ali was born. Not only was Ali born in the Sacred Mosque, but he also died a martyr decades later when struck with a poisoned sword while praying in a mosque. There is a Quranic verse which is called Hadi-se-Qudsi in which Allah told Muhammad.,
"Had it not been for thee, I would not have created the world! And, had it not been for Ali, I would not have created thee.
In other words, the Prophet owed his existence to that of Ali. If there was no Ali, there would be nq Muhammad, and if there was no Muhammad, there would be no universes. What more do we need to be convinced that the Kaba is holy because of Ali, though it's a general Muslim belief that the Kaba is holy because it was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. If this be the case, its still OK with me, because Abraham, Ishmael, and Ali are one and the same to me. Allah says "make no distinctions among my prophets.

Now compare this miracle wifth the treatmeht*Jesus'moth . r.M re a.ygotwhen placed in a similar childbirth situation about 600 years before Ali was born. When pregnant with Jesus, virgin Mary was turned away by the townsfolk who falsely accused her of immoral conduct and considered her a bad oxample to their children. Forlorn and abandoned, Mary retired to a stable where she gave birth to Jesus. And yet, she was a woman who was "chosen above women of all nations" as per a Quranic verse. Such an honour even the Bible has not bestowed on Mary.
Just compare the treatment Allah gave to Ali's mother with that which He gave Jesus! mother! Ali's mother was invited inside Kaba's mosque, while Jesus' mother was left alone to solve her ownW-bblem. Ali was chosen to be born in the Kaba while Jesus in a stable. And yet, the Quran has called Jesus Allah's mighty messenger and has endorsed his miracles. Didn't Jesus, according to the Bible, invoke the name of Ali? : "Oh, Effi, why have you deserted me?" All was above all the prophets. The Kaba is exalted only because of Ali.

As an Ismaili Muslim I am shocked every time I hear the news of wars and bloodshed over the so called "holy lands," the inanimate earth and terrain, be it Mecca or Jerusalem. Holier than those lands, to my mind, are the human lives because the divine spark flickers inside human bodies and not in the grounds of those "holy lands." And yet, man senselessly destroys human lives to protect those so called "holy lands." Allah's message came for people; His messengers, also, came for people and not for the land on which those people lived, and yet the land is always mistakenly hallowed and given precedence over the people. The slogan is: KM the people, but protect the holy land. How much more distorted can man's thinking get!
Allah says in the Quran that He "speaks in parables" and, therefore, a divinely authorized interpreter is simply indispensable when clarification on a Quranic verse, such as the above one, is needed. With such an interpreter around, Islam is, indeed, very easy to practise.

41. Do Ismaili Muslims go to Mecca on pilgrimage? One pilgrimage in a lifetime is a must, isn't it?

I can only answer for myself. No, I don't. One of the Prophets authentic hadiths (sayings) says:
"if you provide a needy pupil with a pencil to write with, Allah will bless you with a reward as big as seventy pilgrimages can afford." Although we are a minority within a minority, we, Ismaili Muslims, have gone way beyond just providing pencils! I have explained before that we've been building universities, schools at all levels, and also awarding scholarships. So, I hope, my pilgrimage has been covered by His mercy.

Moreover, as Jamshid explains on his internet write-up, our Hajj (pilgrimage) is performed also by seeking the deedar (glimpse) of the Imam of the time. Since his Noor is present in every Jamatkhana (prayer house), going to Jamatkhana -everyday is equal to performing hajj. As explained earlier, the Kaba in Mecca is holy because Ali was born there. For us, the Noor of Ali is present in the Jamatkhana which to us is our Mecca.

42. Do you Ismailis offer five prayers a day?

The Quran has prescribed only three regular prayers and we offer them daily at the prescribed times. To support my statement for three prayers, I refer you to the following Quranic Ayats (verses):
(11: 114; 2: 233; 3:191; 17: 7

43. Do you Ismailis abandon work at your workplace at prayer time and spread out your mat to pray while your employer is paying you for that time?

We practise our faith, esoterically, so while at work, at prayer time, I would remember the Lord just for a split second, which certainly would not interfere with my work or employees time. In our school of thought a moment's remembrance of Allah is a prayer in itself. Later, when at home, I would sit down and offer my full formal prayer. The Quran assures us that Islam is a faith very easy to practise, and this is only possible when
a divinely appointed interpreter from the Prophets progeny is present.

44. Isn't it unlslamic for Ismaili women not to cover their faces when in public?

No! The Quran has not asked for it. The Quran asks the believer of each sex to "lower your gaze and guard your chastity."

45. We often hear that Islam is repressive where women's rights are concerned. What is your comment?

Nonsense! Let me quote some non-Muslim writers in this context:

R. Roberts, Ph.D.: "Muhammad gave women the right to inherit, possess and acquire property in a way which is not enjoyed even by many modem women"

Jiwanlal Kapur (Bat-et-Law), a Hindu writes. "in England it was only in 1871 or thereabout that women were granted rights of property, where as Islam gave them these tights thirteen centuries ago."

Or. Annie Besant writes. "I often think that woman is more free in Islam than in Christianity. Woman is more respected by Islam than the faith that preaches monogamy. In the Quran, the law about women is more just and liberal. It is only in the last twenty years that Christian England has recognized the fight of women to property while Islam has allowed this tight from all times. It is a slander to say that Islam preaches that women have no souls."

1400 years ago the Prophet said it was the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek learning
Prophet Muhammad's wife, Bibi Khadija, was a successful business woman before and after marriage, and our present Imam Shah Karim Agakhan alludes to her in his speech to his Ismaili audience thus:

"in this effort of enhancement, do not forget the importance of women in our Jamat (community). It is very important that, more and more, they should be associated with the thinking and the decision-making that takes place in our institutions in Pakistan and everywhere else. And I am convinced that this is the way it should be. Do not forget, do not forget the lesson of history in the life of Bibi Khadija. Her example is an important example for the women of Islam, and I think it is important that we should keep that always uppermost in our minds.

Eighty years ago, our 48th Imam, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah strongly advised the Ismaili parents in all developing countries to educate the daughter instead of the son if they had the means sufficient only to educate one child. He believed that educating a daughter was equivalent to educating the whole family.

-,About eighty years ago, in March 1926, addressing his Jamat in Mombasa, Kenya, our 48th Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah said:

"I do not want to see Ismaili women dependent on anyone,, be their parents, husbands or anyone except God Give them such an education that they can manage their own lives. All the knowledge that is available in the world, all of it must remain open for girls to acquire and learn-"

In India in Transition, 1918, our 48th Imam declares his faith in the Indian woman, and I quote:
"Indian women are by no means wanting in natural intelligence, and with the confidence that comes of long observation, I assert that the Indian woman who has property and education manages the one and can use the other certainly as well as any man."
Is there any indication here that true Islam is repressive and forces woman to play second fiddle to man?
46. Truly amazing! So what we constantly hear about the repressive customs of some Muslim nations is not part of the faith of Islam?
Not one bit!

47. Quite a few Muslims have whispered to me that you Ismailis are not true Muslims! How would you react?

With silence! When such an irresponsible statement is made, silence is truly golden, under the circumstances. But for your satisfaction, I'll answer it at length. Islam is divided into 73 sects. There is a Prophet's saying, widely accepted by both, Sunni and Shia Islam, that the Prophet had said that the faith of his brother Moses divided into 71 sects and only one stayed on the right path; that of his brother Jesus divided into 72 sects and only one stayed on the right path; and he predicted that his own faith would divide into 73 sects after his death and only one would remain on the right path. Now, which of the 73 sects can claim, with certainty, that it is the one on the right path?

Every one of the 73 sects believes that it is on the right path. That does not necessarily mean that it is! There are several sub-sects in the Sunni sect alone. According to the Prophet, there is only one sect that is on the right path. Under such circumstances, every sect should be generous and tolerant enough to respect the belief of those from different schools of thought. The least they can do is to refrain from judging those who are not
in their camp. The Quran has a verse to this effect: '"Everyone to his religion

48. Has your Imam himself ever claimed he is the interpreter of the Quran for the Shia Ismaili Muslim sect?

Yes, indeed! When Arun Puree of INDIA TODAY, interviewed the present
Agakhan, he asked him:

a. As Imam of your sect, you are also an interpreter of the Quran for your followers, but on the other hand you are a man with a modem education and background. Now do you reconcile these two aspects on subjects like women's lights, family planning and other related matters?

b. As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Quran to the modem condition. On the question of modernity, the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two, aspects are safe-guarded, the rest can be subject to adjustment.

49. What prompted you to renounce the Christian faith in favour of Islam?

The Bible, itself.

My parents were devout Christians. There was a Sunday school for us and regular Bible reading. Right from childhood, the Bible made no sense to me. At that time -I wondered why according to the Gospel of Mathew, Jesus had 26 ancestors in his genealogy, whereas he had 41 ancestors according to the Gospel of Luke! I also wondered why Joseph was mentioned as Jesus father in the genealogy when he (Jesus) was born of immaculate conception. Was the Bible really a word of God?

As I grew up, I began to critically analyze the Bible and found there was hardly anything spiritually or morally uplifting. There were scores of other things apart from the inaccuracies in the scientific and historic data. I became convinced the Bible could not be the word of God. I concurred with George Bernard Shaw, fully, when he wrote:
"The most dangerous book (the Bible) on earth, keep it under lock and key. "

The Bible we have today is not what Jesus preached. The gospel that Jesus preached was the Bible which never got recorded during his life time. What we have is mere heresay. The Quran testifies to this fact in chap 2 verse 79:
"And woe to those who write the book with their own hands
And then they say.*
"This is from Allah."
Then there were all kinds of biblical versions; some with several chapters eliminated. In some copies, Isaac has been called the only son of Abraham. And, in other copies, he is called the elder and Ishmael the younger son. Then I read the Quran. I read through the book, expecting to find the same kind of errors as in the Bible, for it was alleged by hostile Christian writers in the West that Prophet Muhammad was the author of the Quran, and that he had copied most of the Quran from the Bible. I read and re-read, but as I read and reflected, I stayed amazed, for it contained none of the incorrect historic or scientific data of the Bible. What's more, our dear Mary, the mother of Jesus, is referred to as "a woman chosen above women of all nations." Like any person of average intelligence, I wondered why this Prophet of Islam would choose Mary, a Jewess, for such high honour!

There is a chapter in the Holy Quran, named Sura Maryam (Chapter Mary) (XIX) named in honour of Mary. Such an honour is not to be found given to Mary even in the Christian Bible. Out of the 66 books of the Protestants and 73 of the Roman Catholics, not one is named after Mary or her son, Jesus.

If Muhammad was the author of the Holy Quran, then he would not have omitted to include In it the name of his own mother Amina, his dear wife Khadija, and his beloved daughter, Fatima. It does not make any sense why, Muhammad who was a Muslim would set aside the names of his loved ones and instead include the name of Mary, a Jewish woman, in the Holy Book of Islam which he is alleged to have authored! But the truth is that the Quran is not his handiwork. It is divine revelation. He had no choice but to reveal the Quran to us as it was revealed to him, whether he liked it or not, and he also ensured that the revelations of the Quran got recorded as soon as they were brought to him by Angel Gabriel.

If there is any more authentic book of divine revelation left on this earth, it is only the Quran and not the Bible. The Bible has been the most tampered book, revised and re-revised. Once a word of God is revised by humans, its no longer a word of God, though in the case of the Bible it never was ever a word of God, and that's why the gospels are preceded with the words "according to", for example, "the Gospel according to Mathew", or "the Gospel according to Luke," eta

Bible scholars continue to find errors and discrepancies in the Bible. A Christian magazine called AWAKE (September 08, 1957) had an article called 50,000 errors in the Bible. Even the original unrevised four books of the Bible were an account of hearsay by Mark, John, Luke, and Mathew. Michael Hart in his publication RANKING OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN HISTORY chose Muhammad to lead the list and placed Jesus third on that list. He explained that it was Paul who founded the Christianity as we know it today, and that Jesus had very little to do with it. Paul wrote quite a few books while Jesus never wrote a single word.
As for the Quranic revelations, they got recorded as soon as the Prophet received them. In fact Christians owe an enormous debt to Islam for Mary's vindication.

50. What do you mean by that?

Well, when virgin Mary was the talk of the town and accused of immoral conduct, which holy book came forward to defend her honour? None!

There's no holy book of any faith in which either Mary or Jesus are mentioned except the Bible and the Quran. Can the Bible defend her, today? No, because the Bible has no credibility. For effective testimony, you need a credible witness. Just as any altered testimony or hearsay account is inadmissible in any court of law so also should it be with the Bible! The Bible is too weak to defend Mary's honour! In a recent ABC TV broadcast, Peter Jennings ran a documentary called THE SEARCH FOR JESUS in which it was claimed that a good number of present-day Bible scholars believe Jesus was illegitimate. Most Christian scholars, archbishops, and priests, themselves do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, and yet, strangely enough, all the one billion Muslims at this hour implicitly believe, in the virgin birth and Jesus' miracles. Why? Because the Quran endorses them.
The Quran has been termed authentic by Western scholars and scientists, such as Maurice Bucaille, and it has credibility among the learned. According to a Quranic verse, it was Jesus himself, while still a babe in his cradle, that responded to the accusing townsfolk. Upon seeing a babe, speaking like an adult, the townsfolk could not but back off and, eventually, believe in Mary's honour. Even today and since its revelation, it is the authentic Quran and not the interpolated Bible that has been found credible and effective enough to vindicate Mary. For Christians, the Quran is a sanctuary from slanderous attacks against Mary when skeptics, both Christian and non-Christian are questioning, like their forebears did, the truth of the virgin birth and Jesus' miracles.

51. What was it that babe Jesus said to the accusing townsfolk as per the Quran?

Something quite amazing! He said:

1. 1 am the servant of God.
2. He gave me the Book and made me a Prophet. .3. He made me blessed wherever I might be.
4. He enjoined on me the Prayer and Almsgiving as long as I am alive. 5. He enjoined on me to be kind to my mother
6. Peace be on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I will be raised up again..

And as for my converting to Islam, let me clarify that I am a better Christian now, more enriched than ever. I have not distanced myself from Christ by accepting Islam, but instead I have come closer to him. In the same way any Jew who accepts Christ, gets closer to Moses. But any Jew who accepts Muhammad gets closer to Christ and Moses, both, for all these prophets form a chain of the brotherhood of prophets in which each prophet is a link. Therefore, just remember:

Any Christian denying Muhammad his prophrthood is no different from any Jew denying Jesus his prophethood just as every Christian is a better Jew, so also every Muslim is a better Christian. To put it simply: Christianity is the extension of Judaism, and Islam is the extension of Christianity and Judaism, both.

52. Very well put, indeed!. Quite a few non-Muslim scholars such as Gandhi and Michael Hames have highly commended Islam for racial equality and international brotherhood. Can you support this with any example from the life of the Prophet or your Imam?

Certainly! The most striking example is about the Prophet's companion, Bilal, who was a black slave whose freedom the Prophet had bought off from his Jewish master. Once free, he always stayed by the Prophet's side, an unprecedented honour for any person. The Prophet conferred upon Bilal the honour to call worshippers to prayer by sounding the call (Azan) from the top of the mosque. Some racist Arabs resented this, so the Prophet delivered a sermon in which he said:

"All men are divided into two categories.

1. The pious and God-fearing who are estimable in Allah's eyes.

2. The transgressors and hard-hearted who are lowly and contemptible in the eyes of Allah.

3. All humanbeings are the progeny of Adam, and Allah has created Adam out of clay. Prejudice has no room at all in true Islam. You asked for only one example, but I have one more. This one from the guidance of our 48th Imam. In the early fifties, our Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah, who was also once President of the United Nations, advised his Ismaili followers in East Africa to adopt one African child and raise him/her like their own. The Ismailis were new immigrants from India and were still struggling to settle in that British occupied country, so only those who could afford to feed an extra mouth adopted African children. Being a caucasian convert myself, first I thought all those black Ismaili Muslims, now in their fifties, were new Afro-American converts. Later, I found out that they were adopted children of Ismaili parents and as good as born Ismailis.

53. Truly amazing! You Ismaili Muslims could be the torch-bearers to guide our troubled world to the haven of peace. But, how did you first become acquainted with the Shia Ismaili Muslim faith?

Initially, I had embraced Sunni Islam, but stayed frustrated for months because I ended up with more unanswered questions. I found Sunni Islam more at odds With logic, reason, and the Quran. I also lost my sleep over the most vital matter concerning the tithe (zakat) which I gave to different recipients every month while beset with doubts if they (recipients) were legitimate or not. Just then I noticed the amount of attention Islam was getting here in America and Canada through the Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Agakhan IV. Twelve years ago, I was amazed to see that the same Islam which-was being maligned, on the one hand, by the western media for the political activities of some Muslim countries, was being celebrated, on the other hand, in our several North American universities where the Shia Ismaili Muslim Imam, Karim Agakhan, was being received and honoured amid recitations of the verses of the Quran in packed convocation halls. Verses of the Quran in predominantly Christian or non-Muslim universities! This was unprecedented and unbelievable! Ismaili Islam caught my attention, then.

Later in that year, I travelled extensively. In the course of my travels, when I was in Spain, I was just astounded by the relics of the glorious past of the Ismaili I Muslims Who ruled in Spain for, over 200. years in the 13th century. This period of their rule was known as Fatimid period, named after Fatima, the Prophet's daughter. Then, I critically analyzed some of the historical accounts of the activities of the Ismaili Imams and I found what they promoted and practised was universal brotherhood. During their rule, 10th century (AD) onwards, there flourished all kinds of learning, all kinds of Sciences, Philosophy, Mathematics, Art, Architecture, and Culture.

During the medieval period, when the West was still living in the "dark age", the Ismailis were founding centres of learning and education. During this period, 1000 years ago, there came into existence, AI-Azhar, the world's well-known university in Cairo, Egypt, followed. by Dar-es-Sana College of Industry in Sicily; Dar-ut-Tib, Medical College at Palermo, Sicily; University of Cordova in Spain. Some of the largest libraries were established in Alexandria, Egypt; Cordova, Spain with 400,000 volumes; at the Academy called Fatimid Bait-ul-Hikmat at Cairo with books estimated at 2 million volumes; the library at Tripolis in Syria had about 3 million volumes.

It would be quite appropriate to say that while the enemies, of Ismaili Muslims always looked for opportunities to wage wars against them to destroy them and their work, the Ismaili Muslims themselves stayed preoccupied with waging wars against the social ills by trying to eradicate illiteracy, disease, and poverty.
Never have I ever heard the West acknowledge the debt we westerners have owed Islam, but instead I have seen Galileo of the 16th century, A.D., and others given undeserved credit for the legacy left to us by the Ismaili Muslims. I think we are simply pathetic, more so because our spiteful urge to discredit Islam under any pretext available to us never seems to abate.

When in Egypt, I learned about all their glorious past and positive contributions to the society of the time. "Kahira" was the name of Egypt's capital. Later it became corrupted to "Cairo." Kahir was the name of the Ismaili Imam around that time, and the capital had been named after him as "Kahira." At this time in history as I said earlier, Europe still lived in the dark ages. Later, I also discovered that it was the Holy Quran that held a special fascination and attraction for European and other scholars that came from everywhere to attend Muslim institutions of learning. I also learned that this fascination stemmed more from the plethora of accurate scientific data which this Muslim holy book contained apart from other reasons. To cite a few examples:
1400 years ago, the Quran told us, clearly, that the sun was luminous while the moon wasn't and that it (moon) borrowed its light from the sun. Did the West know about this then?

It told us that every heavenly body was surrounded by an encircling line which was its boundary and which it was not supposed to step out of. We call it the "orbit'. In fact, the heavenly bodies are considered better Muslims because they abide by and surrender to the laws of Nature, without fail. Imagine the chaos, both at NASA and in the heavens if the heavenly bodies stepped out of their orbits! The Quran Insists the believer observe such signs in the universe and reflect on them. As a creation with intellect, we humans should be better aware of our duties not to overstep or transgress the divinely set boundaries ( laws) that are in place for our own temporal and spiritual good. This is the message for us from those heavenly bodies! Why is there so much pain and very little happiness in our lives, today? It's because we live an unlslamic way of life, breaching every code of moral and ethical conduct in the name of individual freedom.

1400 years ago, the Quran said every heavenly body including the sun was in motion. The West knew nothing about it until recently.

The Quran says all life has aquatic origin. Did the west know about this 1400 years ago? I could go on and on with astounding scientific secrets that the Quran has held for 14 centuries and is still holding for those with open minds to fathom them.

Owing to time constraints, I shall desist from discussing astounding revelations that the Quran made, 1400 years ago, about human conception and a stage-by-stage development of the human embryo the information on which became available to the West through modem technology only 70 years ago. 1400 years ago the Quran stated our most recent theory of the Big Bang as a fact. First scientists said the universe was a one time event. Recently, they revised their theory and said the universe, was continuously expanding. 1400 years ago the Quran said the universe was continuously evolving. What leaves an inquiring mind amazed is the fact that all these Quranic revelations were conveyed through the lips of Muhammad who was an literate man, at a time in history when there were no microscopes or telescopes. Like Maurice Bucaille, I also wondered how could a single man have tackled so many, and such varied subjects at a time of scientific obscurantism! How could he have so skilfully eliminated everything from the secular knowledge of his time, that centuries later, was to be shown up as being totally inaccurate! Contrarily to the Quranic statements, the Book of Genesis (The First Testament) tells us it took God six days to create the universe, detailing what was created on each day. For example:

the creation of the earth (on the third day) came before that of the heavens (on the 4th day) when it is a known fact that our planet comes from its own star, the sun

-the creation of light on the first day before the creation of the stars which produce this light

-the existence of an evening and a morning before the creation of the earth

While, the Quran merely says that God only has to say "Be' and it happens, thus attesting to God's omnipotence.

In chapter 7, verse 54, the Quran also does say that God created the universe in six days, but it doesn't go further than that.

54. Isn't the Quran, then, contradicting its own verse? On the one hand it says Allah has only to say "Be" and it happens, while, on the other hand it says it took Allah six days!

Not at all! Unlike the Bible, the Quran stays clear of listing what was created on each day over those six days. This verse has an esoteric interpretation which only "those authorised" such as the designated Imam's from the progeny of the Prophet can explain. Remember that quite a few Quranic verses are allegorical and Allah speaks in parables and a lot of verses with hidden meanings need to be explained by the Imam of the time. According to the Ismaili esoteric interpretation, the six days are not the periods of 24 hours as we know them, but they are "long periods" or "ages". Each day or an age or a long period refers, esoterically, to an era
of each of the six great prophets -Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad- all of whom came with a mission to prepare the mankind spiritually and intellectually for them (mankind) to accept All ibne Abu Talib as Allah's "mazhar" (manifest representative) or Divine Reality on this earth. According to the Ismaili teachings, with each one of those six prophets, Ali was present but not manifest for mankind to know him yet.
Prophet Muhammad was the more honoured one during whose mission Allah decided to have Ali declared as the manifest Imam and thus end the era of prophethood. In fact, all the six major prophets, and all the other over one hundred thousand prophets that came to this earth were sent for the sole purpose of preparing mankind, spiritually and intellectually, for it (mankind) to know and accept Ali in his manifest aspect as Allah's Divine Reality on earth.

55. You said Ali was present but not manifest with each prophet. Can you explain?

Certainly! With Adam, his own son Seth was All. With Noah, it was his own son Shem who was Ali. With Abraham, it was his own son Ishmael who was Ali. With Moses, his own brother, Aaron, was Ali. With Jesus,

Simon Peter, his Companion, was Ali. With Muhammad, his own cousin and son-in-law All, was Ali, under the same name. There is a tradition of Prophet Muhammad where, one day, he said to Ali, "0 Ali, you were present, but unrevealed, with all the prophets before me, while during my mission, you have been present and manifest, both."

56. Remarkable, indeed! You have convincingly shown me the beginning of Allah's faith, its continuity, and its present, status - the Ismaili Islam. But, how could Simon Peter be Ali, a Divine Reality, on earth when we all know he denied Jesus three times after Judas, betrayed Jesus to his enemies? Didn't we all see this desertion of Jesus by Peter In the film JESUS OF NAZARETH?

The film was based on the Bible. But, haven't we already talked about the incorrect historical and scientific data in the Bible? Haven't we already talked about the 50,000 errors found by Christian scholars in the Bible? Therefore, isn't it quite obvious that the portrayal of Peter, based on the Bible, which has been revised and re-revised, is also based more on fiction than fact? The Bible says Jesus was crucified, but the Quran says he was not.

57. What!! Do you mean to say the whole Christian world - about 4 billion strong - are wrong for their belief in crucifiction? Your statement may hurt a Christian believers feelings!

That's what the Quran says! The Quran can't be inaccurate! You will appreciate that fourteen centuries ago in the absence of our modem-day scientific advancement, it would have been much harder for the Quran to be accurate on the complex matters relative to the scientific principles and the laws of Nature than the matters relative to simple historical data such as the fate of Jesus! And yet, we see the Quran is right on. So, if the Quran is right on the complex matters relative to the creation of the universes and the laws that govern them, then it can be many times more likely right on a simple historical data such as the fate of Jesus! Wouldn't you agree? And guess what! It's the Quran that told us, 1400 years ago, that there were universes and not just one universe. Our scientists discovered this fact just recently.

As for a Christian believers feelings, I must emphasize, the Quran stresses the use of reason and logic and not emotion in the matter of faith. That is why Islam is, today, attracting, not recruting intellectuals and scholars, by hundreds and thousands. All I have done is use reason and logic, and don't forget I was, myself, a devout Christian once, and the truths from the Quran have never hurt my feelings. On the contrary, I feel that I am a better Christian now. Our Imam once said that truth does not diminish but ennobles its seeker.

58. So, was it only the scientifically accurate data in the Quran that attracted you most to Islam?
No! It was the teachings of the Quran! The Quran touches every aspect of human life and guides its follower like a loving parent guides his kid, and, that is why Islam is said to be a way of life. There is guidance on every matter that pertains to human life. The do's and don'ts in the Quran define the scope of human rights and responsibilities, and they are based on universal morals, ethics, and laws to protect the rights and dignity of everyone. Here's what it says about our duty to our parents:
"Your Lord decreed that you serve none save Him, and that
you show kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them
attain old age, do not say, "Fie" to them, nor repulse them,
but speak to them a gracious word
"And lower to them, the wing of submission through mercy,
and say., "My Lord! Have mercy on them, as they cared for
me when I was little " (17 : 23, 24)

About business ethics:

"And fill the measure when you measure, and weigh with the right balance. That is better and fairer in the end. (17: 35)

About humility:

"And do not walk on the earth in haughtiness, for you can never rend the earth, nor will you rival the mountains in their loftiness. " (11 : 37)

About sanctity of life:'

"And do not Nil the soul which God made sacred. save with a tight." (17:33)

About freedom of worship:

"No compulsion in religion. The tight direction has been made distinct from error." (2.-256)
"Do not insult those to whom they pray besides God, lest they, in aggression and ignorance, insult God." (6. 10
Against rumour-mongering:

"0 you who believe! If a wicked person brings news to you, verify it, lest you hurt some folk in ignorance, then you regret what you did." (49:6)

About truth and justice:

"0 you who believe! Stand up for justice! Witness for God! Testify even against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin." - (4: 135)
The Prophet said against prejudice:

"'No Arab has -an advantage over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab, nor a white over a black, nor a black over a white except in piety. All of you have come from Adam, and Adam came from dust."

59. Incredible! Now I know why intellectuals are turning to Islam! What else apart from the glorious past of the Ismailis attracted you to this faith?

My desire to *be guided by the Imam of the time - Imam-e-Zaman. The Shia Ismaili sect alone has an ever living Imam from the progeny of the Prophet.

60. Was there anything in the Quran to indicate that the Ismaili faith was the only right answer?

Yes, indeed! I'll re-quote the verse I quoted earlier: Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people - a line of descendants, one succeeding the other, and Allah heareth and knoweth all things" (3: 33, 34)

There's another verse in the Quran where Allah says:

"0 ye, who believe, obey God and the messenger and those in authority amongst you" (4:59)
Once I was convinced that Muhammad was Allah's last and final prophet, Islam His final message, and the Quran His final book in which all His previous messages and messengers had been acknowledged, all I had to do was to look for a living guide or Imam that was both from the progeny of Imran and the Prophet. The Quran says that Ale-Imran (the progeny or descendants of Imran) will be on earth till the day of Judgment. Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet, was the son of Imran who was popularly known as Abu-Tallb. Imran (Abu-Talib) was the Prophets paternal uncle and guardian. As for any other Shia sects, there is no living guide in them, so my task to locate the Ismaili sect became quite easy. My task was further made easy when I read one Mr. Akberally Maherally's writings.

61. What was so special in his writings?

Mr. Maherally, based in Vancouver, BC, is bitterly virulent against the Ismaili faith and our Imam. He claims he is a Sunni Muslim and yet he spares no effort to vilify another Muslim sect and its head whose blessings the whole Muslim world has been enjoying for years.

It is $in (kufr) and also very unlslamic to vilify other Muslim sects or religions. He is known to have embarked on a smear campaign against the Ismaili Imam who is received by the Western heads of state amid recitations of the Quranic verses and with admiration for his humanitarian work around the globe. Such an honour for a Muslim leader is unheard of in a predominantly Christian nation and society.

Now in the fold of Sunni Islam, he is bringing reproach to scores of Sunni Muslims who believe maligning other sects of Islam is like the Quran says "eating the flesh of your own brother." One Sunni brother said to me: "Mr. Maherally is a bane to mankind, let alone Islam!"

He wilfully misquotes Quranic verses to support his writings against the Ismaili faith. Thanks to him, I read the Quran minutely at least 25 times in the last 9 years. He is at pains to grab at anything unauthentic to disprove the Ismaili Imam's claim to direct descent from the Prophet. He is well aware that the Ommayads, Abbassids, Mongols, and the Christians in Spain during history massacred the Ismailis and destroyed their precious literature, manuscripts and libraries. He also knows that in place of the authentic accounts cropped up unauthentic accounts written by and propagated by the enemies we listed above. Marco Polo also reported what he learnt from the enemies of Ismailis.

Until the turn of the twentieth century, Western writers portrayed Islam as a cult and Prophet Muhammad as an epileptic, or magician, or duplicator of the Judeo-Christian scriptures, and what not. We did not like it. I am sure Mr. Maherally did not like it, either. It was only in the recent past that we found some Western historians acknowledging Islam as Allah's last faith and Muhammad (A.S.) as His true prophet. Does he agree with those hostile Western writers regarding the Prophet? If not, why? Those hostile writers are also part of history. Why can't they be believed? Here, he is prepared to distinguish between right and wrong; he is prepared to separate spiteful historians from genuinely fair-minded ones, and so, he carefully denounces and rejects the historians hostile to the Prophet whom he seems to have nothing against. But, when it comes to the Ismaili Imam, he is not ready to use the same yardstick; he refuses to be objective. His overwhelming personal enmity - he was excommunicated from the Ismaili faith - drives him to vilify the Ismaili Imam by wilfully resorting to unauthentic, hostile historical accounts and material. Recently, there hag been so much research to prove the unbroken line of the Ismaili Imam's direct descent from Prophet Muhammad and yet, he wilfully persists in citing references from hostile unauthentic historical accounts, and thus labours under the delusion that he has succeeded in misleading the truth seekers. But our Ismaili Imams did better than having to depend on any manuscripts or historical records to ensure the authenticity to their claim.
62. And what was that?
During the life-time of the Prophet, an especially privileged group of select believers were made aware of Ali's exalted status with Allah, and this group would gather together in private and participate in a special ritual prayer (salat) which was different from the Namaz that they commonly offered with all the Muslims in the mosque. The first three Khaliphs, Abu-Bakkr, Omar, and Othman were not part of this select group though history has falsely named them as the Prophet's close companions. The select group consisted of people who were intellectually and spiritually capable of transcending the plain exoteric interpretation of the Quranic scriptures. In this prayer Ali's name was also recited for supplication to Allah. The same prayer then had his successor, Hussain's name, added to it when Hussain succeeded his father as the next Imam. Later, when Hussain passed away, Hussain's son Zainul's name got added to the list. Thus three times a day, the believers would recite in their prayer all the listed names while supplicating to Allah for His mercy. Down the road, the names of more successors got added, and the list gradually grew bigger as years and decades went by. Today, we have 49 names memorized altogether that we recite three times a day, and we seek Allah's mercy under those names. For 1400 years, Ismailis have recited their Imams' memorized names three times a day without fail. 15 million Ismailis recite these names three times a day in our Jamatkhanas everyday. We do not need any research analysts, historical records, or manuscripts to show or prove to us our Imam's genealogy. Although the text of our Dua (salat) has changed a few times, the genealogy of our Imams has stayed as part and parcel of our traditional prayer, and this centuries-old practice has not only rendered our Imam's genealogy doubt-proof, but has also precluded any necessity to depend on historical records or manuscripts for its authenticity. Please note that every departing Imam names his hereditary successor in his will, and then immediately the new Imam's name gets added to the bottom of the list of the names of the Imams in our ritual prayer. It is this unbroken line of Imams that Allah is referring to in the, Quran when He urges Muslims to hold on to "The rope of Allah" and not become divided. As long as this universe is in existence, the names of our 49 Imams and all the succeeding Imams in the future will continue to be recited in our prayer. Down the road, many more mischief-mongers like Mr. Maherally will arise to foment trouble but Ismailism, as always, will continue to shine as per Allah's promise in the Quran.
63. Fantastic!! How ingenious! But was it this impregnable proof (memorized names) of your Imam's genealogy that first convinced you of the authenticity of your Imam's hereditary claim?

No! That only helped strengthen my conviction further. What first convinced me was the fact that there never arose a counter-claimant in the last 1400 years. On a rare occasion, when someone did make a false claim, he died without an offspring to succeed him, which was Allah's way of showing that his claim was bogus. In the case of our Imams, there has been no hitch whatsoever. Seed after seed as Abraham was promised, the line of our Imams has continued unbroken.

For instance, to validate my point further, our 48th Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah, bypassed his own son Prince Aly Khan and named his grandson Prince Karim, our present 49th Imam as his successor. We all know our present Imam is not the son of our 48th Imam but he is still his heir and direct descendant. It's likely someone like Mr. Maherally may arise a 100 years from now and present his cooked up research to the people of his time with a malicious intent to mislead them, affirming that our 49th Imam was never the descendant of our 48th Imam or the Prophet on the basis that he never was the son of our 48th Imam. Would we, then, in our graves agree with that writer? Certainly not! We are the contemporaries of our 49th Imam and we do know that his grandfather, our 48th Imam bypassed his own son which does not make him his descendant any the less. Three of my very learned Christian friends first turned Sunni and then Ismaili thanks to the writings of Mr. Maherally. We came to know one another when we first met during the Imamat day celebrations. One of them, a genetic engineer, made a very sensible comment on Mr. Maherally during the feast.

64. What was that?

He said Mr. Maherally could have served Islam better by investing his fervour, time, and effort more productively by trying to search out and then present to the Muslim world his version of the genuine Ale-Rasool (true descendant of the Prophet) instead of vainly maligning the Agakhan. Twelve years of smear campaign is a lot of precious time wasted! To this, my other partner laughed and said the present Imam, genuine or not, has so much credibility around the world and among his adherents, that now it would be too late for the supposed genuine one to turn up and be accepted with no track record such as this Imam and his predecessors have in terms of humanitarian works.

65. King Hussain of Jordan claimed to be a descendant of the Prophet. What's your comment?

He might very well be one! But he never claimed he was a hereditary successor to the office of Imamat. For example, Queen Elizabeth has several descendants but Prince William is the only hereditary future successor, and not his uncles, Andrew or Edward, neither his cousins, Fergi's daughters. For that 'Matter, there could be scores of such descendants of the Prophet out there and may not even know about it. The present queen of England was reported to be the Prophe's descendant, too. What's critical Is the hereditary succession to the office of Imamat from the progeny of not just Muhammad but also Ale Imran, that is, Ali, and, happily for us, the Quranic verse about Ale-Imran is found fulfilled only in the Shia Ismaili sect of Islam.

66. But, why did Mr Maherally's polemics- have on you a positive and not negative effect?

Because, my dad used to say, "Son, when you hear someone being unrestrainedly maligned, check the victim out and you Will be surprised to find him (victim) noble and honourable." His polemic writings raised questions in my mind! I decided to check the Ismaili Imam and his work out before conversion. Every new finding on the Imam, on his work, and on the work of his adherents, was consistent with their history in Egypt, Spain, Iran, India, Pakistan, East Africa, Canada, and U.S. It seems they live and have lived on this earth only to serve mankind with their material resources, with their physical labour, and with their heart full of compassion. In the Ismaili philosophy, humanitarian deeds supersede Allah's worship. Just as the Quran says that the most pious in the sight of the Lord is one whose actions are good. This is what the Ismaili Islam thrives on. Besides, their capacity to forgive their tormentors and detractors is without parallel. While in an American lawcourt, the winning plaintiff in a libel or slander lawsuit walks away triumphantly with millions in compensation, the Agakhans would always choose to forgive their detractors once they have won the lawsuit., One such example, in the recent past, was the case in a British court against one Mr. Mir. Bose.

67. I noticed that you used a very compassionate tone when talking about Mr. Maherally. There was not the slightest trace of rancour or animosity. Why?

Because he was one of our spiritual brothers who was blessed to be born in the Ismaili faith but has unfortunately gone astray. He needs our prayers so he may see the light again. And, is it not him I partly owe the debt of finding the Ismaili faith?

68. Was there anything else that appealed to you most when studying the Ismaili faith?

Yes! The fact that it is a faith of the intellect. Intellect is another facet of
the Ismaili faith and true Islam.

Moreover, if you go through the teachings of the Ismaili Imams, you will notice that every word they speak is full of wisdom. If you listen to their speeches and teachings, you will sit in wonderment because of their spiritual profundity. I have always heard wise men say that a person's worth can be gauged or measured by not how he looks or dresses, but by what he says or when he speaks.

69. Can you quote one example to support this?

Certainly! Off the top of my head, we all know how we, in the west, have thrown away our moral values and succumbed to a way of life which in the Bible can compare with that of Sodom and Gomorrah, all of which for our individual freedom. When addressing a large Muslim audience in Karachi, Pakistan, not yet tainted by the western moral degradation, our present Imam said:

......... I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: What was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as out-dated, old-fashioned and is often the target of ridicule. Elsewhere, in the same speech, he reminds the audience of the Prophet's noble life-style which should be a guideline for every Muslim.

70. Suppose a non-Ismaili wanting to convert to the Ismaili faith says that he doesn't like the idea of tithe, but he will follow all the other tenets, rites, and rituals. What would be your response?

I'd address it in two ways. My first approach would be based fully on the Quran. I'd say to him:

"Sir, it is you who are looking for spiritual salvation and want to embrace Ismailism. And, Ismailism is the Prophet's Islam, in its essence and truest sense. The Quran, a divine revelation, is the basic book of our faith. Its teachings, only when followed faithfully and with conviction, will bring forth desired spiritual and material benefits.

Allah says in the Quran that everything in the Creation belongs to Him, including the human race. Therefore, all that I own also belongs to Him. In Islam and Ismailism we surrender everything to Him. Whatever we get to keep is considered gift from Him.

If you wish to benefit fully from Ismaili Islam, then you have to follow its tenets and not question them. You cannot benefit one bit from Islam if you seek to reform the teachings of the Quran to suit your likes or dislikes. The Quran has set down tithe- obligatory "zakat"- as the fundamental principle of the faith. Listen to this verse from the Quran:
Of their (believers) goods take zakat, so thou mightest purify and sanctify them, and pray on their behalf Verily, thy prayers are a source of security for them. And Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth." (9:103)
For us to be purified and sanctified, we need to pay zakat (tithe). Who can continue to purify and sanctify the believers during the physical absence of the Prophet? The answer is the hereditary Imam of the time from the progeny of the Prophet. It would be irrational and hence unlslamic to suggest that the blessing of being purified and sanctified was only limited to those who lived during the time. of the Prophet. This blessing is available till eternity to all those who are in the fold of Imam-e-Zamaan. The Ismaili faith resolved for me the issue of my zakat (tithe) going into the wrong hands, anymore. The issue of zakat constantly plagued me when I was in the Sunni fold.
Here's another verse pertaining to money:
"Who would lend God a goodly loan, and He would multiply it for him, and for him will be a rich reward. ?' (57. 11)

Is Allah a beggar? Is He poor? Is He broke? Why else is He asking for a loan? He is Noor! (spirit). What has He got to do with money, a material thing? Ismaili Islam is the faith of the intellect. Any intelligent thinker will agree that most good deeds can't be done without money or material resources; there can't be spiritual rewards, or say dividends, unless first we dig in our pockets and invest. Material rewards also require monetary investment. Why should we then expect spiritual rewards that are eternal to accrue to us without any material investment? Since we live in a material world we have to make material investments or sacrifices, such as charity, to gain spiritual benefits. Isn't money something that we love most? So, sacrifice it for the love of God to prove to Him that you love

Him more. It's as simple as that!
One very young Ismaili Micro-Biologist said to me, "Tom, since we resent parting with our money, I have a different perspective from others when I pay my tithe. Since everything I own belongs to Allah according to the Quran, everytime I hand in one eighths of my net income, I say: Thank you, Lord, for letting me keep the remaining seven eighths. This perspective makes me a receiver and not giver, and therefore there is humility instead of pride or resentment at the time of giving."
The Quran says the best in God's sight are those who are righteous. Our present Imam said in his interview:
"My role, first of all, is to interpret and integrate the faith with worldly life. A faith, which for all Muslims, is not separate from our daily existence. Our duty dictates that we must try to help our fellow man. My function also leads me to attempt to ameliorate the quality of life of all classes of society and to manage, based on economic and social plans, the institutional sectors of the Imamat including the Agakhan Trust I& Culture, of which the activity is the Agakhan Award for Architecture, presented every three years.
Good deeds involve charity and social programs. If you check what the Agakhan foundation and all the other Ismaili initiated programs are doing with the tithe paid to the Imam, you will be convinced we are doing all in our power to live up to the above Quranic verse.
Now, here's my second approach to answering your above question. Let me reproduce here my conversation with All, a young Ismaili dentist just before I converted.
Tom: I'd like to convert to your Ismaili faith, but I don 7 like the idea of tithe as one of its tenets!
Tom, what you're looking for is a custom-made faith, not an existing one!

It is you who are in search of a faith. Our faith has not invited you to join it nor is it recruiting converts, and therefore you can't have it on your terms nor can you seek to modify it to suit your needs or whim. Tithe and the three regular prayers are the fundamentals of our faith and there's no compromise on that!
If you want a product on the market, then you can have it on a seller's terms, not yours. There are quite many spiritual products - I mean religions - out there. It is you who are looking for a religion to benefit from and not vice-versa. I'm not aware of any custom-made religions out there, and if there is one, Ismailism is certainly not one.If you think the Ismaili faith is the tight product for your spiritual salvation, then you can request, not ask or demand, to be considered. If successful, you will be making a contract to abide by its tenets so that you benefit from the faith. And, note the word contact is straight from the Quran. In the Ismaili faith, which is true Islam, an in-coming convert is making a contract which he and Him both have to honour. Tithe is the fundamental of that contract.
Tom: What, if a young Ismaili earning a good income protests he will not pay the tithe and that it is not his fault he was born in the faith.

Ali. No child born in the Ismaili faith is automatically a born Ismaili till his parents get him baptized. Later in life, when of age and economically productive, as a true believer, he is obligated to pay the tithe as part of the contract. If he has any objection, then he is free to quit the Ismaili faith; he is not stuck! He can leave the faith any time. Our Imams say that anyone is free to leave any time they want, which means there will be no compromise on the fundamentals of the faith, no one can stay in this faith and seek to reform it. This faith is for true believers and not for reformers or innovators. This faith is for true believers who are in it because they want to be in it, no one has forced them to be here, and therefore they cannot have the audacity or rather impudence to suggest reforms. It is the Ismaili faith that's enriching and ennobling them and not vice-versa. This faith Is existence and survival is not dependent on its followers. It is there to serve its followers. It is as old as the Creation itself and it will survive and endure even without its adherents.
The tithe is the foundation of the faith. Just as a building can 't stand without a foundation so also no piety, worship, or charities can bring forth benefits without the tithe.

Since there is no policing with regards to the tithe, anyone can hypocritically practise the faith and avoid paying the tithe, and no one but Allah will know about it. But, will he ever benefit spiritually or materially? No, he won't He will be the loser! Moreover, he will also be in breach of the forementioned contact for which, I'm sure, Allah will spell out consequences. - It is much better to leave the faith in honesty than practise it with hypocrisy. The Quran has prescribed hell-fire for hypocrites.

71. What do you aim to achieve from the Ismaili faith?

The ultimate union with Allah, my Creator! I wish to break loose from the cycle of birth and re-birth. The esoteric character of the Ismaili faith will help me achieve this and I have not an iota of doubt about that!

72. Can I be accepted in the Ismaili faith right away if I wanted to convert?

No! ismailism is a faith of the intellect. It does not encourage blind belief. You would want to read and study the faith for some time. Once you are convinced, based on reason, that it is the right answer for you, then you can apply through the Ismaili Council in your area. You would then be tested on your knowledge of the faith. Always remember that Ismailism is a faith of conviction and not convenience.

73. In all sincerity, please tell me if you really believe the Quran is authentic!

Yes, I do! Though, thanks to Caliph Othman, its verses are not in the order they were revealed, I do believe it is not interpolated and that is why what it tells us about the universe and its laws tallies with the present scientific data. But, if you ask me if the Quran that we have in the book form is total and complete, then I personally believe it is not! I believe all verses directly referring or pertaining to Ali have been eliminated by Khaliph Othman. And here's why I say so.

Immediately, upon the Prophet's death, Abu-bakkar, the first Khaliph made known his intention to launch the task of compiling the Quran. Whereupon Ali presented himself before the Khaliph and offered a copy of a compiled Quran to him. Abu-Bakkar rejected the copy and said they would compile their own. Several years after the death of the Prophet, the Quran that the Muslims have today was compiled by Othman, the third Sunni Khaliph, who was corrupt to the core and totally devoted to please the Ommayad clan whose head at that time was Muawiya. Muawiya, then governor of Syria, hated Ali and his family so much that he made it his mission to see the progeny of the Prophet vilified, maligned, and reviled in public addresses given to congregations after Namaz in all the mosques by accomplished orators who were highly paid to do this job. Those who would be readily believed were paid by Muawiya untold amounts of money to fabricate slanderous lies against Ali and his family. Can you imagine a place of worship being turned into a platform to vent hostilities against the saviour of Islam? Othman condoned all these activities and supported Muawiya's hostility against Ali. The state treasury was depleted of hundreds of thousands of dirhams that Othman showered upon his kindred and friends. Othman was a king of nepotism and bribery. Such was the anarchy in his time. Under such an environment where hostility against Ali was celebrated, it would be but illogical to expect that the verses of the Quran in favour of Ali would be preserved in the Holy Book by an unscrupulous man such as Othman.

History tells us that self-seeking Muslims after the Prophets demise coined their own hadiths (sayings) and ascribed them to the Prophet just to serve their own ends. Bukhari, a reliable Sunni hadith analyst only found 4000 of the 600,000 hadiths to be authentic. Why should I then believe the Quran has not been tampered with?

I have often wondered why Ali has not been mentioned so openly and as often in the Quran as he was in the speeches of the Prophet. History tells us that every time Islam came close to being wiped out, Ali turned up to save it, and although the Prophet said, "Ali was with the Quran and the Quran was with All," and although he called Ali "the gate to the city of knowledge," hardly do we see Ali openly and directly mentioned in the Quran. It's my personal belief that Othman ensured every verse pertaining to Ali be removed. Why would he or his predecessors, Abu-Bakkar or Omar, want Ali's name appear as part of divine, revelation when they were the ones who first usurped caliphate from him (Ali) and even broke the allegiance they had paid him in front of the Prophet? And how often do we speak well of those we bitterly hate? How often do we give credit to our enemies for anything? Ali was looked upon with utmost jealousy and hostility by them, and there was no way the power hungry Othman would have retained in the Holy Book any verse that was directly referring to Ali. The verses with hidden meanings referring to Ali were retained because Othman knew not what they meant, one such example being the verse I quoted twice about Ale-Imran.

Another such verse Othman presumably knew not who it was referring to was:

"Oh Apostle! Deliver what hath been revealed to you from your Lord. And verily if you did not do this, you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people. Surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving. " (5:67)

The above verse came at a time when the Muslim. community was returning home from Mecca after the Prophet's last pilgrimage. The revelation came as a reminder of some previously revealed command not yet carried out by the Prophet. God had never used such stem words when addressing His beloved Prophet, and here He clearly threatens to wipe out his total prophethood and mission of 40 years If he failed to carry out a certain command.

What was that previously revealed command that the frightened Prophet was hesitating to convey to the people? Why was he afraid of the people from whom Allah assures him divine protection? He was commanded to declare AM as his successor and master of Me Muslim community The Prophet was keenly aware of the jealousy and hostility among his own companions against Ali. He was also dreading an adverse community reaction because Ali happened to be his cousin and son-in-law. But, Allah's angry threat caused the frightened Prophet to waste no more time. Although not In his nature to cause any hardship or inconvenience to anyone, the Prophet ordered immediate rounding up of the homebound pilgrims lest Allah should carry out His threat against him. Those who had gone ahead, were called back. An assembly of about 140,000 people was gathered at Gadir-e-Khuum, an oasis in the desert. Ali on his side, the Prophet got up on a make-shift platform made out of saddles and declared Ali as his heir, successor, and their master. The huge: audience acknowledged Ali as their master. Omar was the first to congratulate and pay his allegiance. to Ali but broke it as soon as the Prophet passed away.,

As soon as Ali was declared his successor, Allah sent a revelation to say that He had perfected the Prophet's religion and was pleased to name it Islam.

Allah has skilfully kept out Ali's name from the above verse, thus successfully throwing the mischief-mongers off track. The Prophet knew who the verse was about but Othman didn't. We know who it is referring to from the immediate reaction of the Prophet who rushes to declare Ali and also from Allah's reaction who perfects the imperfect religion as soon ,as Ali has been declared: Sunni experts have advanced different illogical interpretations of "Today I have perfected your religion. None of them have made sense to me. As I said before, anything that doesn't make sense is unlslamic to me.

Had Othman known the verse referred to Ali, he would certainly have dropped it from his compilation. It was this verse that ended the era of prophethood and launched the beginning of the era of Immamate.

Remember, we talked about the six days God took to create the world? The Prophet symbolizes the sixth day. Ali's declaration symbolizes the seventh day, in which culminated the mission of all those 124,000 prophets whose primary mission was to prepare mankind to eventually receive Ali as Allah's manifest representative (mazhar) or Divine Reality.

Othman would never have tolerated an open mention of Ali's name in the Quran. This sort of intrigue in politics is similar to what happens even in our civilized North America during election time. When do our political candidates speak well of their contestants? Therefore, I believe the Holy Book is incomplete, though to me as an Ismaili, it is immaterial because "Ali is with the Quran and the Quran is with Ali", and as every hereditary Imam from I the progeny of the Prophet and Imran is All who Is the embodiment of. the essence of the Quran, who himself is the "speaking Quran" as claimed by Ali, himself, on the battlefield of Siffin. We have a complete Quran in our Imam-e-Zaman, and therefore, the incompleteness of the Holy Book is inconsequential to me. Just as I explained right at the outset that the map of the New York city was of no significance or consequence to us when we had, a live tour guide to drive us around as opposed to my friend who settled for the city map and ruined his own trip. The Quran is secondary to the Imam just as the city map was secondary to the tour guide.

74. Thank you for answering the questions in such depth. Ismaili Islam is, beyond all question, a faith of the intellect, which you have proved -with examples, and my hat off to Ismaili Muslims and the Agakhan! I must say I admire you for your knowledge and logic. I hope we'll be able to do another session like this in the future!
Inshahlah! And thank you for your kind words, but before we part, I have a question for you.. to reflect on: "Does it make sense to you that God's trusted and beloved Prophet Muhammad could have, left hismision of such grave nature unfinished and incomplete so Othman could finish it for him?"


i came to visit this site by accident. I would like to say that although this text of interview gives some information about the Ismaili faith. I still wanted to say afew words. My name is Khan and I am an Ismaili from Afghanistan. I have noticed that some people are confused about Ismailism and talk alot of nonsense. many of them are those who were once born in Ismaili families, but unfortunately due ot lack of attention and knowledge from their parents they had failed to recognise their faith. I would say its natural and as a matter of fact maybe ...95% of the Umma do not know everything. this is due to problems of different kind. so as a sympathist i forward my e mail address to those who lack the knowledge about our religion and talk nonsense all their life.

do not waste your lives barking at others, discipline your selves first!

Remember one who has disciplined himself according to the Islam or i shall call it divine law is the most beloved to ALLAH. A fool or Jahil or i rather say an Intellectually blind person is hated and disliked by all. ALLAH ALMIGHTY sends his LANAT to FOOLS AND BLINDS.

...Stop wasting your precious lives for nonsense and learn wisdom, open your eyes and find truths in life. We are humans. Do you have any idea what a human is??

sincerely, khan



here's A BRIEF REPLY to the above false accusations.
please help yourself before you help others
and also consign yourself and others to hell
for all eternity to come.


navali, kenadian­ian2005/jumuah_friday_noon_pra­yer.htm­ian50/email.htm­ian50/­m­ian50/islamawarenessclub1.htm­ian50/islamawarenessclub.htm­ian50/neil_diamond.htm­ian50/allah_helper_protector.h­tm


well you certainly can go to hell too, you ignorant, single-minded dog of a man...

i usually do not use this kind of language; alas, you - my simple-minded friend - are asking for it.


i also find it funny, and a little ironic, navali, that you use the same website as your sources of information.

it becomes quite obvious then, to us educated-type folks, that you are certainly not educated.

why don't you do a little real research before you espouse some backward mode of islam. and also, read the quran quite closely, and interpret it without the help of some backward madressa

nowrooz Ali Sabiti

There is not the American Phd Name, nor the name of the interviewer.
Please mail me the name of the renounced person, the name of interviewer, the date and place of the interview and also the E-mail address of the renounced person.
Thank you for your cooperation


There is not the American Phd Name, nor the name of the interviewer.
Please mail me the name of the renounced person, the name of interviewer, the date and place of the interview and also the E-mail address of the renounced person.
Thank you for your cooperation

nowrooz Ali Sabiti

There is not the American Phd Name, nor the name of the interviewer.
Please mail me the name of the renounced person, the name of interviewer, the date and place of the interview and also the E-mail address of the renounced person.
Thank you for your cooperation. I mailed you and asked three times. But no one answered

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