Recognition of the Imam:
Realizing the “Ali Allah” Reality

By Shafeen Ali

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Shafeen Ali is a Shia Ismaili Muslim who has been a faith-based teacher and speaker for the last 10+ years.  He has delivered more than 150 presentations and workshops throughout the world on faith and religious education. To contact, please email: or visit website:

Imam Mustansir Bi’llah II (A.S.), our 32nd Imam:
“It is obligatory and necessary for the true believer to recognize his Creator who is manifest in this world in the form of a human being, and to see Him here in order to see Him also in the hereafter.” [1]

“Is Imam God?” It is perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions in the hearts of many believers of Shia Ismaili Islam, often the youth, who have been challenged by their friends, by social media, or their own self-reflection to arrive at this question.  Usually, they are seeking a “Yes” or “No” response.  If the answer arrived at is “Yes”, the immediate next question is: “Isn’t that shirk (associating partners with God), a major sin in Islam?”  If the answer arrived at is “No”, a barrage of questions follow: “Why, then, do we pray to the Imam?”  “Why do we have his pictures in our homes and places of prayer?” “Why do we treat the Imam like we would treat God?”  Often, a concept, which was recited, in the old Ismaili Du’a (regular prayer), of “Ali Allah” or “Ali Sahi Allah” (Sahi implying the meaning “right” or “true”) is invoked to support the “Yes” argument.  It is countered often times, by those holding the “No” position, by the concept of “Shafa’a” or “Intercession”, where Allah is seen as transcendent and the Prophets and Imams are seen as “ladders” or “ropes” designated by God for mankind to reach Him.  Sometimes, the debate turns bitter as Ismaili brothers and sisters argue about who has more Imaan (faith), Aql (intellect), or who is more spiritually superior to know the real truth, instead of questioning or debating it.

It is in light of this divisive background that I have attempted in this essay to address the question of the divinity of the Imam.  My attempt is MINE ALONE; it is NOT intended as an official or institutional position on this question.  I hope that my brothers and sisters will forgive me my shortcomings and I hope this essay will help each find his/her own answer.  This attempt has been couched in the larger context of the “Recognition of the Imam”, a central element of faith or Imaan, for Shia Ismaili Muslims, as in the following saying of Imam Mustansir Bi’llah II (A.S.):

It is the first duty of the believer in this world that he should recognize the Imam of his time, and obey him. [2]

The recognition of the Imam has also been correlated in this essay with the “Ali Allah” reality, a historic truth of our faith since the beginning of Islam, if not the beginning of creation itself.  We will ask and explore three questions to achieve all of the above:

Who or What is the Imam in relation to God?

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.), our 5th Imam:
“We are the gates of God. … He who approaches Him through us is brought near Him. … He who turns away from us goes astray.” [3]

In the Qur’an, we hear the story of the creation of Adam as a viceroy (khalifa) or representative of God on earth:

And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy (khalifa) in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not.
(Qur’an 2:30, Pickthall Translation)

The critical moment occurs when God breathes His spirit (ruh) into Adam.  God gives the angels an instruction before doing this:

So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My spirit (ruh), do ye fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him.
(Qur’an 15:29, Pickthall Translation)

After God breathes His spirit into Adam, a very interesting sequence of events follows:

So the angels fell prostrate, all of them together.  Save Iblis. He refused to be among the prostrate.  He (God) said: O Iblis! What aileth thee that thou art not among the prostrate? He (Iblis) said: I am not one to prostrate myself unto a mortal whom Thou hast created out of potter’s clay of black mud altered! He (God) said: Then go thou forth from hence, for lo! thou art outcast. And lo! the curse shall be upon thee till the Day of Judgment.
(Qur’an 15:30-35, Pickthall Translation, emphasis mine)

Elsewhere in the Qur’an, God describes the greatest sin that He would not forgive as associating partners with Him (shirk), as in the following verse:

Lo! Allah pardoneth not that partners should be ascribed (yush’raka) unto Him. He pardoneth all save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribeth partners (yush’rik) unto Allah hath wandered far astray.
(Qur’an 4:116, Pickthall Translation)

But if associating partners with God, worshipping others as God, is a sin that cannot be pardoned, why did Allah ask the angels to commit this sin by prostrating themselves to Adam, a mortal made of clay and mud?  And why did he punish Iblis, who was the only one who saw a problem in this, as to Iblis, Adam was a mere mortal not worthy of worship?

The answer lies in the concept of “mazhar” which in Arabic literally means that which makes something “batin”, hidden, “zahir”, apparent or manifest.  When God breathes His spirit (ruh) into Adam, God makes Himself “zahir”, apparent or manifest, through Adam.  Adam is, therefore, a “mazhar” of God.  Adam is also a “wasilah”, a “means of approach” or a vessel, through which, God makes Himself known.   When the angels were asked to prostrate to Adam, they were not prostrating to the body of Adam; they were prostrating to the batin, which that body, made zahir, the spirit of God, within Adam.

Moreover, because of this spirit within Adam, Allah bestowed upon Adam the title and role of khalifa (as per Qur’anic ayah 2:30 above), an earthly representative of God.  The Arabic root of the word “khalifa” is KH-LAM-FA.  One meaning of this root is to “repeatedly move to and fro (coming and going)”. [4]  It is as if there is a telephone in the hands of God directly connected with a telephone in the hands of the khalifa on earth and communication repeatedly moves, to mankind from God, and from mankind to God, through the khalifa.

In April of 1975, a conference was held in Paris chaired by Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (A.S.) with attendance from representatives of the Ismailia Associations, precursors to Ismaili Tariqa Religious Education Boards (ITREBs), from Europe, UK, USA, Canada, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Middle East.  Based on the report of this conference, one of the topics discussed was how the concepts of Nabuwah and Imamah should be taught in the religious education and research programs for the Jamat, the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.  In this regard, as per the report, the following was resolved:

These concepts to be explained and understood in the general perspective of God’s communication to man.  The Imam to be explained as the ‘mazhar’ of God, and the relationship between God and the Imam to be related to varying levels of inspiration and communication from God to man. [5]

So, the conference resolves that the Imam is to be explained as “the ‘mazhar’ of God”, the one who makes God “zahir”, apparent or manifest, just like Adam.  Another point, which stands out, is the reason for why such a “mazhar” is necessary: for “varying levels of inspiration and communication from God to man”, again matching the purpose for Adam, to be a “khalifa” for God.

In other words, the Imam, in every age and time, fulfills the nature and purpose of Adam as mentioned in the Qur’an, to be the mazhar and khalifa of God on earth.  Similarly, when murids, followers of the Imam, adore, worship, seek help, or prostrate in front of the Imam, their prostration is like the prostration of the angels in front of Adam.   The murids are not prostrating to the physical person of the Imam, but instead, to the batin, or spirit that is made zahir, through his physical person.   As Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, a Research Associate, at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, explains in his insightful book, Spiritual Quest – Reflections on Qurʾanic Prayer According to the Teachings of Imam ʿAli:

… it is not a question of seeking human means for the sake of attaining a divine end, for one sees through the human form to the divine substance of the maẓhar. [6]

What is this batin, the spirit, or “divine substance”?  The word that we use to describe that divine substance, within the Imam, is Nur, an Arabic word that translates to “Light”.  In the Qur’an, Allah identifies Himself with this word, as in the following verse:

Allahu nuru assamawatiwal-ardi

Allah IS the Light of the heavens and the earth.
(Qur’an 24:35, Pickthall translation, emphasis mine)

Once, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.), our 4th Imam, was asked to comment on the Qur’anic verse 64:8 – “And believe in Allah and His Messenger and the nur (light) that We have brought down”, the Imam replied:

the nur (light) is indeed the nur of the imams from the Prophet’s family; they, [i.e. the imams], were the light that God has brought down and they [in fact] are the light of God (nur Allah) in the heavens and on earth. [7]

As Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.) states, the Imams are, in essence, “the light of God (nur Allah)” and this nur is “in the heavens and on earth.”  Therefore, the Imams encompass these two realms, heavens and earth, acting as a wasilah, a means of approach, for God’s will and vision to reach man, and man’s worship and service to reach God; they, accordingly, fulfill the purpose of a mazhar and khalifa, as discussed earlier.

In fact, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), our 48th Imam, in his address at the first Ismailia Association Mission Conference, held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in July 1945, went further and extended the idea of such a mazhar, to more than a human being, to even “fish”, when there was nothing but fish on earth.  The Imam said:

In 1905 Juma Bhagat, one of our great missionaries who rendered great services to me, and other very pious Ismailis came to me, that is exactly 40 years ago, that in Dua the word which refers to “fish” should be withdrawn.  I said to him, “Mr. Juma, do you intend to drop one of the foundations of the faith?” and I said to them that when there was nothing but fish on earth, God stood as witness, and they must have no doubt to that kind of witness from above. [8]

In this age and time, it is our 49th hereditary Imam, Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (A.S.), who, as per our faith, is the mazhar, witness or proof of God on earth, and God’s khalifa, bearing the Nur, as he himself has said:

Since my grandfather, the last Aga Khan, died, I have been the bearer of the “Nur” a word which means ‘The Light’.  The Nur has been handed down in direct descent from the Prophet. [9]

(There is a beautiful mention of seeing “through the human form to the divine substance”, the Nur of the Imam, in the Farah Mitha Diamond Jubilee Song, “Guide the Way”, lyrics by Farah Mitha, Alya Bejaoui and Aleem Juma, Time: 3mins4sec – “The world sees your accolades, And we see your Heart, and your Nur, You live your life, to make the world a better place, And encourage us to do the same”:

Looking back at the idea of shirk, the angels didn’t commit shirk when they prostrated to Adam because they were prostrating to the Nur of God within Adam.  It was Iblis who actually committed shirk (associating partners unto God) and kufr (disbelief, denying the truth) by not prostrating to Adam;

  • Shirk, by obeying his own desire and ego before obeying God, consequently, equating his own desire and ego to God;
    [as the Qur’an says: “Hast thou seen him who maketh his desire his god, and Allah sendeth him astray purposely, and sealeth up his hearing and his heart, and setteth on his sight a covering? Then who will lead him after Allah (hath condemned him)? Will ye not then heed?”
    (Qur’an 45:23, Pickthall Translation)]
  • and Kufr, by being blinded by his pride, so much so, that he saw Adam as a mere mortal (even though God had breathed into Adam of His spirit and, thus, His nur), and so, disbelieved/denied the truth that Adam was a “mazhar” of God.
    [as the Qur’an says: “And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He demurred through pride, and so became a disbeliever (al-kafireen).”
    (Qur’an 2:34, Pickthall Translation)]

Just like in the case of Adam, in every age and time, it is the work of Iblis, Satan, who “poses” as pious men and women, to lead murids of the Imam away from the Imam, by planting doubt and confusion.  He leads them astray towards the real shirk and kufr.  As Pir Shihabu’ddin Shah al-Husayni (A.S.), brother of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), explains in his profound work, Risala dar Haqiqat-i Din Or True Meaning of Religion:

It suffices to know that in every epoch or a (millennial) period of time there is, and always was a manifestation of the Deity, from the time of Adam, and even before Adam, and till the time of the Final Prophet (i.e. Muhammad).  It is present even now in the world ….  Only the accursed ones and the devils posing as pious men strictly attached to religion, always prevent people from seeing this, misleading them from the right path, and dooming them to damnation. [10]

Then, what is the right path?  It is the path that leads us to the recognition of God through the recognition of the Imam.  The Imams are the “gates of God”, as the tradition, attributed to Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.), at the beginning of this section, tells us.  Moreover, to know the Imam is to know God, as demonstrated through the following tradition attributed to Imam al-Husayn (A.S.), our 2nd Imam:

The imam al-Ḥusayn: ‘God created all beings especially to know and worship Him.’

A disciple: ‘What is the knowledge of God?’

The imam: ‘Knowledge, during each era, of the imam of this era.’ [11]

We will discuss this knowledge of God through the knowledge of the Imam, further, in the next section, as we explore the “Ali Allah” reality and how it relates to the recognition of the Imam. [Back to Questions]

Why is the “Ali Allah” reality a key to the recognition of the Imam?

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), our 48th Imam:
“It is your ignorance and not that ‘Ali Allah’ is wrong.” [12]

In 1945, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.) wished to establish an Ismailia Association, a predecessor to the Ismaili Tariqah Religious Education Board, in East Africa, for the religious education of the Jamat and for the training of teachers and missionaries.  To further this effort, the first Ismailia Association Mission Conference was held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in July 1945, where the Imam also delivered a historic address.  In this address, the Imam directly addressed the “Ali Allah” reality.  He described a request that members of the Jamat had brought to him, eight years before the conference, related to the words “Ali Allah” in the old Du’a.  He said,

… when last in Bombay 8 years ago, many of our people came to me and requested to add just one word in the Dua, and then they said, everything is alright.  I said what is that one word.  They said “Instead of ‘Ali Allah’ to say ‘Ali-un-wali-Allah’.”  So I said you better drop the whole Dua if you want to alter that word.  You are ignorant.  It is your ignorance and not that ‘Ali Allah’ is wrong. [13]

The addition requested by the members, “un-wali”, would have made the meaning “Ali the wali (of) Allah”, with the word “wali” having many meanings in Arabic such as “custodian”, “helper”, “protector”, and “friend” but having the overall connotation of “closeness”.  The plural of “wali” is “awliya” and is also used in Islam to refer to sufi saints who have gained “closeness” to God.

A question, then, arises: why was this potential change to the old Du’a, such a big issue for Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), so much so, that he said making the change was equivalent to dropping “the whole Dua”?  A related question that arises: why was the eventual change made in the new Du’a, which we currently recite, and the tasbihs recited after the Du’a, namely “Aliyyullah”, acceptable?  The answer has to do with the meaning of the words “Ali Allah”, how that gets changed when we say “Ali-un-walli-Allah”, and how that remains the same when we say “Aliyyullah”.    The Imam explained the meaning of “Ali Allah”, in the same speech at the conference, as follows:

… there is a fundamental difference between Ismailism and Christianity.  In Christianity they believe that Jesus the man was God Almighty and during the 33 years of his life on earth he was the Almighty. For the Ismailis, during the 60 years of his life, Ali on earth was the prisoner of the material world, limited by it and suffering constantly.  When we think of Ali, it is not the man during these 60 years but the eternal that came from God and returned to God direct. [14]

The Imam used the following three elements to describe the Ali of “Ali Allah”, each of which are relevant and explained further below:

  • the eternal
  • that came from God and returned to God
  • direct


As per Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), the “Ali” of “Ali Allah”, refers not to the man but rather to “the eternal” that the man represents.  Al-Qayyum, “the Eternal”, is one of the names of God found in the Qur’an and so “the eternal” points to “the divine”.  In the last section, we defined the man, the physical Imam, as the mazhar, and the divine substance within the man, as the “Nur” which that mazhar makes zahir.  “Ali” in the phrase “Ali Allah”, as per Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), refers to the eternal and, therefore, to the divine substance, the “Nur”.  Making that substitution, the phrase “Ali Allah” becomes “Nur Allah”, better articulated as “Nur (of) Allah”.  As a result, “Ali Allah” means “Nur of Allah”.  If we apply this to “Ali-un-walli-Allah,” which some members of the Jamat suggested as a change in our old Du’a, then “Ali-un-walli-Allah” would mean “Nur the custodian/helper/protector/friend (of) Allah,” which would be completely different from the original intention and would contradict our understanding of Nur.

Alternatively, what we currently recite in our Du’a and Tasbihs, “Aliyyullah”, written in Arabic as Aliyyullah_graphic, is grammatically a genitive case called iDāfa [15], and translates to “Ali of Allah”.  Making the substitution for “Ali” based on the above, “Aliyyullah” also means “Nur of Allah”.  The genitive case implied in “Ali Allah” is made explicit in Arabic through “Aliyyullah”, with the meaning remaining the same, “Nur of Allah”.

When this meaning is applied to the words “Aliyyullah”, where they occur at the end of the 2nd part in our current Du’a (which is textually very similar to the old Du’a), the Du’a makes more sense.  When we say,

Aliyyun Ameerul-Mu’mineena  Aliyyullah

the word “Ali” in that phrase is repeated twice.  In current Du’a translations, this is assumed to be a redundant use of “Ali” and so, the second Ali is usually dropped, with the translation saying,

Ali, the master of believers, (is) from Allah.

Instead, if we understand the meaning of Aliyyullah as “Nur of Allah”, the translation would now read,

Ali, the master of believers, (is) Nur of Allah.

Now when we add what follows, namely,

Mawlana Shah Karimul Hussaini Al-Imamul Hazirul Maujood,

we get,

Ali, the master of believers, (is) Nur of Allah, (is) Our Mawla Shah Karim al-Hussaini the present living Imam.

What we are essentially saying, then, is that the Nur of Allah that was in Ali, the first Imam, is in today, our Hazir Maujood Imam, Our Mawla Shah Karim al-Hussaini.  Also, with that Nur, the role and title of “the master of believers”, originally espoused by Imam Ali (A.S.), is inherited by our current Imam; thus, the current Imam is our Mawla, “Lord” or “Master”.  The presence of the Nur links Ali with the current Imam in this part of the Du’a.  We also find this structurally consistent with the prayers we recite, usually after the Du’a, in which we say:


O Ali, O Nur, Our Mawla Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazir Imam …

Again, we see identification here between Ali, the Nur, and our current Hazir Imam, Our Mawla Shah Karim al-Hussaini, in the same order, as the extract above from the Du’a.  This alignment further validates that “Ali Allah” means “Nur of Allah” as well as specifying that the Nur of Ali is the Nur of the Imams.


In addition to associating Ali with Nur in his historic address at the conference, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.) also identifies a purpose and an orientation to that Ali, to that Nur, when he says, that came from God and returned to God.  This aligns particularly well with the ayat, the verse of the Qur’an, applicable to all believers, mu’mins, wherein it says:

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un

Lo! we are Allah’s and lo! unto Him we are returning.
(Qur’an 2:156, Pickthall translation)

The Imam quotes this same Qur’anic ayat in the Ismailia Association Mission Conference address saying “from the Hakikati point of view this Ayat means more than all the rest of Koran”.   Then, the Imam explains the esoteric meaning of this ayat as follows:

… according to the Ismaili religion Allah is the ocean.  Ali during his life on earth was the river separated from the ocean of the Almighty – separated from it and running towards it – over-coming all material resistances and running towards its origin … Then of course Pir Sadrudeen and others have put forward the doctrine – namely that all Momins are the small streams starting from the earth then joining the ocean with the river.  … These are the doctrines, the true heart of the Ismaili religion. [16]

When we think of an ocean, a river, and a stream, what is common in all of them?  They are all bodies of water.  Similarly, Allah, Ali, and Mu’mins or believers have one common identity: they are all bodies of Nur.  The “origin” of this Nur is the ocean, is Allah, as we discussed in the last section the verse of the Qur’an,

Allahu nuru assamawatiwal-ardi

Allah IS the NUR of the heavens and the earth.
(Qur’an 24:35, Pickthall Translation, emphasis mine)

The vehicle through which this Nur is delivered to all of creation, in the heavens and the earth, and returns to the ocean is the river, Ali, “separated from it and running towards it … towards its origin”.  As Imam Ali (A.S.) is known to have said in his “Sermon of the Clear Declaration” (khuṭbat al-bayān):

anā nūr Allāh – “I am the Light of God”
anā ḥujjat Allāh fi’l-arḍ wa’l-samāwāt – “I am the Proof of God on earth and in the heavens”
anā al-awwal anā al-ākhir – “I am the First, I am the Last”
anā nūr al-anwār – “I am the Light of lights” [17]

One may understand this declaration better by using the analogy of a flight of stairs, 1, 2, 3, to 7 going from a level TOP to a level BOTTOM.  Someone descending from the TOP to the BOTTOM will encounter stair 1 as the FIRST, al-awwal, stair.  Someone ascending from the BOTTOM to the TOP will encounter stair 1 as the LAST, al-akhir, stair.  Ali is al-awwal and al-akhir, the first and the last, stair of Nur, separated from it and running towards its origin.  Since the rest of the stairs “derive” their existence and position in relation to the TOP based on stair 1, stair 1 is also the stair to which all other stairs lead, so Ali is “the Light of lights”, nur al-anwar.  Even the title of “Imam” and the name of “Ali” are consistent with this analogy; “Imam” literally is “one who leads” and “al-Ali” is one of the names of Allah in the Qur’an meaning “The Most High”.  Accordingly, Imam Ali (A.S.), LEADS all in spiritual elevation, in spiritual HEIGHT, in his origin from, and return to, Allah.

The Mu’mins or believers, then, at different levels of recognition of their true self, and thus, recognition of the Imam, are like those other stairs, streams of water, descendants of the river, and so, the river’s spiritual children.  We are the children of the Imam’s Spirit, his Ruh, which in essence is, his Nur.  As Professor M.A. Amir-Moezzi, a Shi’i Imami theology specialist, and an author for the Institute of Ismaili Studies, succinctly explains in his phenomenal work, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam-Beliefs and Practices:

… in Shiʿism the Imam is made in the image of God and … the adept initiated to the esoteric doctrine has been made in the image of the Imam … [18]

The true adepts or believers carry this Nur, this light, the Light of Ali, the Light of the Imams, in their hearts.  As Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (A.S.) is reported to have said:

… the light of the Imams (A.S.) in the hearts of the true believers is more bright than the light of the sun in the midday. They (the Imams) … give light to the hearts of the true believers … [19]

And as the true believer takes in more and more light, Nurun ‘Ala Nur, “Light upon Light” (Qur’an 24:35), and elevates himself/herself spiritually, through love for and faith in the Imam, he/she fulfills the journey of this Nur, of this Light, that has come from God and must return to God – Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (Qur’an 2:156).

(There is a beautiful mention of the Mu’mins deriving their Light from the Imam in the Canadian Diamond Jubilee Song, “Aaya Mawlana”, lyrics by Zaheed Damani and Alya Bejaoui, Time: 3mins21sec – “From you is our smile, With you is our life, From you is our Light, And all through our time, It’s through you we unite”:

In harmony with above, the famous mystic and poet Rumi, described by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), at the same Ismailia Association Mission Conference, as “a murid of Ismaili Shamsudeen”, defines the journey to God as saints rising through veils of darkness and light (nur).  In a verse from his Masnavi, Rumi says:

God’s Light has seven hundred veils, my friend—
These veils of light are levels to ascend.
A group of saints behind each veil you’ll find,
Leading to the Imam, in rank they’re lined.
The lowest rank, due to deficient sight,
Are those who cannot bear more of the light;
The next rank, due to their own weakness too,
More radiance than their limit cannot view;
That light, which for the top rank grants new life,
To the squint-eyed brings only pain and strife.
Impaired sight can improve eventually:
Once you’ve passed every veil you’ll reach the sea. [20]

In this manner, Rumi beautifully articulates the journey of “Light upon Light”, the streams into the river, the river into the ocean.


Finally, as per Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), the Ali of “Ali Allah” came from God and returned to God, “direct”.  When the river is near the ocean, as they meet, the river is the ocean.  As the following saying attributed to Imam Ali (A.S.) claims:

We stand in such a relation to God that when we are near unto Him, we are Him. [21]

This is the esoteric significance of the word “Sahi” in the saying “Ali Sahi Allah”, also from the old Ismaili Du’a, with the word “Sahi” representing “direct”.  Direct indicates that there is no “intercessor”, no “go between”, no step, no stair, between Ali and Allah.  If Allah is completely transcendent and if Ali is in “direct” contact with Allah, this, then, makes Ali the means (“wasilah”, as mentioned in the last section) from, and to, Allah.  Two necessary truths must also follow, namely:

1) When Allah needs to reach us, He goes through Ali, through the Imams.  As Nasir al-Din Tusi, a 13th century Ismaili thinker and scholar, says, in his significant work,  Rawda-yi Taslim or Paradise of Submission, about the Imam:

… his speech is the speech of God, his act is the act of God, his command is the command of God, his word is the word of God, his decree is the decree of God, his will is the will of God, his knowledge is the knowledge of God, his power is the power of God, his face is the face of God, his hand is the hand of God, his hearing is the hearing of God, and his sight is the sight of God. [22]

2) When we need to reach Allah, we go through Ali, through the Imams.  This is demonstrated by the following sayings of the Imams:

Imam Ali (A.S.): “I am the Most Beautiful Names by which one invokes Him (Allah).” [23]

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.): “He who knows us knows God, and he who knows us not, knows not God.” [24]

Imam al-Mu’izz (A.S.): “… we are the gates of God and the means through Him.  He will accept whoever comes to us.  And whoever seeks forgiveness will reach Him and whoever seeks mercy from us, we will seek mercy for him from God and whoever repents, all his mistakes will be forgiven.” [25]

Prior to the Institute of Ismaili studies, an important text capturing the history of the Ismaili Imams was a book called Noorum Mubin (also known as Nurun Mubin) Or the Sacred Cord of God: A Glorious History of Ismaili Imams, first published in 1936, compiled by Ismaili scholar Wazir Ali Muhammad Jan Muhammad Chunara.  In the chapter in this book about Imam Ali (A.S.), there is a section called Mi’raj (literally meaning “ladder” in Arabic) that gives an account of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) ascending to the heavens to visit God.  Near the beginning of the Prophet’s journey to God, the Prophet encounters a lion blocking his way.  Upon seeing the lion, the Prophet takes his ring off and throws it in front of the lion.  The lion takes the ring and gets out of the Prophet’s way.  After visiting all the other Prophets, Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) arrives in the presence of God.  God is behind a veil and has a conversation with the Prophet from behind this veil.  The Prophet is very surprised that the voice he hears coming from behind the veil is the voice of Imam Ali (A.S.).  Then, heavenly food appears from behind the veil in front of the Prophet and God asks the Prophet to eat.  The Prophet tells God that he never eats alone.  A hand emerges from behind the veil, to join the Prophet.  On that hand is the same ring that the Prophet had thrown in front of the lion, near the beginning of the journey.  Immediately, the Prophet recognizes that hand as the hand of Imam Ali (A.S.), who was referred often, due to his bravery, as Asadullah, or the “Lion of God”. [26]

In the above account, God interacts with the Prophet, and the Prophet interacts with God, through Ali, confirming symbolically the two truths discussed earlier.  These truths are further validated by a hadith attributed to Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) wherein he says about Ali:

Here is the most radiant Imam, tallest lance of God, the greatest Threshold of God; whosoever longs for God, so let him enter through this Threshold … Without ʿAli, truth would not be distinguished from falsehood, nor believer from non-believer; without ʿAli, it would not have been possible to worship God . . . no Curtain hides God from him, no Veil lies between God and him! For ʿAli himself is the Curtain and Veil. [27]

For a Mu’min, this implies that if he/she has access to Ali, to his Nur, and thus, the Nur of the Imams, through their Nur, he/she has access “directly” to Allah.  For that Mu’min, the transcendent Allah, beyond all imagination and comparison, becomes immanent, through the Nur of Ali, through the Nur of the Imams.

This is beautifully represented by Pir Shihabu’ddin Shah al-Husayni (A.S.) in Risala dar Haqiqat-i Din Or True Meaning of Religion, wherein he recalls an interaction between Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (A.S.) and a Mu’min:

Imam Ja’far Sadiq once replied to a man who asked him whether it is true that at the Day of Resurrection God will become visible to all? ‘Yes’, – said he – ‘He is visible even before that day.  He is visible to His slaves from the day when He asked them: “am I not your Lord?” Do not you see Him?’ The man who asked the question then replied: ‘O my Lord, I see thee! Give me the permission to tell this (to others) on thy authority’.  The imam replied: ‘do not tell this to anybody, because people are stupid and ignorant, they shall disbelieve you, regarding this as impiety (kufr)’. [28]

For such a Mu’min who truly “sees” the Imam, the Imam becomes the aim and destination of all service and worship, for the Imam’s service is Allah’s service, his worship is Allah’s worship.  Moreover, it is only when such a Mu’min annihilates himself/herself in his/her Imam that the Mu’min is able to annihilate himself/herself in God: the stream joins the river, the river joins the ocean.  As Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.) reiterates in his address at the Ismailia Association Mission Conference:

These are the doctrines of the Ismailis.  This is perfectly clear.  There is nothing new.  The perfect Momin after death and Imam should not be separated, which means it is like a river which flows through the earth, stones, rocks and various other obstacles but reaches the ocean carrying with it all kinds of smaller streams. [29]

The Sufis say, “Die before you die”.  The “death” of the Mu’min above, is his/her spiritual annihilation in the Imam, preferably, before his/her physical death, and through the Imam, into Allah.  One does not die such a death by merely proclaiming “Ali Allah” for that can be superficially or ignorantly done without any heart or depth.  One dies such a death by giving himself/herself, completely – every breath, thought, word, and deed – to his/her Imam.  We hear about such a death in Kalam-I Mawla Or Speech of the Lord, an Ismaili devotional corpus, containing teachings of Imam Ali (A.S.), wherein it says:


malakul mot to sab par aave, sab bande kee le jaataa hay jaan;
ees marane aagal jo mar chale, so mar kar paave amar makaan. (Verse 245)

The angel of death comes upon every person, he takes away everyone’s soul;
But if one dies before such death, then through dying becomes forever whole.


mein or tu kee duee chhodd kar, ek dekh kuchh do nahee hay;
aysaa samaj fanaa ho usame, tu nahee tab vo sahee hay. (Verse 327)

By abandoning the twoness of I and you, behold oneness, there is no duality;
Realizing this annihilate yourself in Him, when you don’t exist that is true reality.


sab kuch usame vo sabme, baaher bheetar hae bharpur;
aysaa samaj jo usame meeleeyaa, so laa mot huaa usakaa nur. (Verse 246)

Everything is in Him, and He is in everything, outside inside He fills outright;
Realizing this if one dissolves in Him, then deathless becomes that person’s light. [30]

Such annihilation (fanaa) of the Mu’min in his/her Imam is the ultimate significance and purpose of the “Ali Allah” reality, and thus, the true and complete recognition of the Imam.  We will explore this recognition further, in the next section, and how to live it, personally, in our daily life. [Back to Questions]

How do we recognize the Imam in our daily life?

PLEASE NOTE: Below is only ONE example of addressing this question based on my life experiences and personal search.  Each of you may have your own.  I am only sharing my perspective out of a plurality of potential perspectives.  Though this is generally true for the entire essay, I believe it to be particularly relevant for this section.

Imam ‘Abd al-Salam (A.S.), our 33rd Imam:
“If you long to behold my face then open the eyes of your heart; for naught see these earthly, fleshly eyes save my appearance, time eroding. … If you desire to recognize me then first recognize your self, for I recognize those who recognize me. … While I may resemble but a drop, from the sea fallen afar, when you recognize that drop you’ll know, the mighty sea to be naught but me.” [31]

From July 11th, 2007 to Dec 13th, 2008, the global Ismaili Jamat celebrated the Golden Jubilee, 50 years of Imamat, of our beloved Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (A.S.).  The Imam visited many Jamats during this time, blessing many of the Jamats globally with spiritual Darbars, meaning “court of a king” in Farsi.  These were events of great happiness for the Jamat as well as immense opportunities for each murid to be blessed with the Imam’s presence, prayers, guidance, and enlightenment.  Tuesday, April 15th, 2008, was a special day for me, personally, because

The Jamats of Western United States, New Zealand and Australia, together with members of the international Jamat, gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Centre for the second Golden Jubilee Darbar in the USA.  [32]

As I waited to see my Imam, tears started rolling down my eyes.  As my imam entered the hall in which I sat among ten thousand other murids, a question became the center and focus of my entire being.

Why am I separate from you?

A Darbar is a happy occasion for the Jamat.  But this question ripped me apart from the inside.  The pain and sadness I felt that moment was perhaps matched only with one another time in my life: when I sat as a thirteen year old on a hospital chair outside an Intensive Care Unit grieving the loss of my physical father.  The more pain I felt, the more I cried.  The moments I would dare to look up at the Imam, the distance and separation from my spiritual father, would drive me into greater agony.  Each time I looked at him, he looked back at me.  But nothing that day could reduce the distance between him and I.  He was so close and yet, so far, far, away.

Why am I separate from you?

After the Darbar ended, there were lots of celebrations.  I missed most of them as I fell asleep in one of the rooms at the Convention Center completely fatigued from crying my soul out.  Life returned back to normal.  Or at least it seemed to.  What I didn’t realize was that something had opened up inside my heart.  When we have a physical meeting such as a Darbar with the Imam, we often take with us to such a meeting, our most desired prayers, for the Imam to address.  Unconsciously, I, or really my soul, had prayed for one thing and one thing only, with great intensity.

Why am I separate from you?

The Imam had answered that prayer.  He had opened something inside me so that I would not FEEL that separation anymore.  Instead, correlated with the intense separation I had felt at the Darbar, I would FEEL proximity, immense proximity, the divine proximity expressed in the words:

We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.
(Qur’an 50:16, Pickthall Translation)

This proximity was very subtle at first.  I would be facing a problem and a thought would come in my head about a solution and I would ask myself: “Who is the thinker of this thought?  This thought couldn’t have come from me for I have never thought or experienced such a solution before.”  A realization would dawn: “The Imam is the thinker of this thought and he has just given me this solution.”  Similarly, I would be distressed about something and a feeling of peace would envelope my heart and I would ask: “Who is the source of this feeling for I was distressed just a minute ago?”  A realization would follow: “The Imam is the source of this feeling and he has just given me this peace.”  But how could this be true?

As I searched for answers within the faith, the hints of this phenomenon were everywhere.  Our Du’a says:

Tawassalu Indal Masaib, Bi Mawlakumil Haziril Mawjood Shah Karimil Hussaini

Seek at the time of difficulties, the help of your Mawla the present living (Imam) Shah Karim al-Hussaini

If the Imam’s secretariat and residence is in Aiglemont, France, and if a letter to him will take days to get there and perhaps weeks to come back, how can I realistically reliably connect with the Imam when I have a difficulty or problem?  What if I need a solution by tomorrow?  There must be another means of accessing the Imam, accessing divine guidance and help.  As the Qur’an also reminds us:

Call upon Me, I will answer you.
(Qur’an 40:60, Shakir Translation)

Then, I was introduced to the following teaching of Imam al-Mu’izz (A.S.), our 14th Imam:

Indeed, even when you are physically away from us, our souls are together, in our mutual love for each other and in our affection for you and in your affection to us … closeness cannot just be in physical terms but also needs to be in spirit. [33]

Of course, my relationship with the Imam is spiritual (as the Imam says, “My Beloved Spiritual Children”).  So the means of approaching him, relating with him, calling upon him, must be spiritual, too.  As a spiritual child of the Imam, there must be, within my own spirit, a spiritual faculty of the Imam that I could look up to for guidance and direction.  But what is this spiritual faculty?  The answer came as a big surprise to me.  It was found in a speech Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (A.S.) gave three decades ago, at the Inauguration of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan, where he said:

The divine intellect, ‘Aql Qul’, both transcends and informs the human intellect. It is this intellect which enables man to strive towards two aims dictated by the Faith: that he should reflect upon the environment Allah has given him and that he should know himself. It is the light of intellect which distinguishes the complete human being from the human animal … [34]

Growing up, I had often heard my parents and religious education teachers refer to the Imam as Aql-e-Qul, divine intellect.  Now that made sense.  This speech taught me that the Imam’s spiritual faculty is the “divine intellect”, aql-e-qul, often shortened to just “aql” or “intellect”.   It guides and informs me through my “human intellect”, aql-e-juzz, often referred to as the “mind” or “reason”, enabling me to have a better understanding of life, as well as myself.

(There is a beautiful mention of Imam as Aql-e-Qul in the Salim-Sulaiman Diamond Jubilee Song, “Padharo Mawla”, lyrics by Kamal Haji, Time: 3mins15sec – “Shah Karim Mawla, Tum Mushkil Kusha Ho, Aql-e-Juzz Hu Mein, Aql-e-Qul Tum Ho”:

This came as a big surprise to me because through my life experiences, I had come to favor the heart over the head.  I disliked the word “intellect” because, to me, it represented the head.  I had associated the intellect with a utilitarian, indirect, logical, and materialistic faculty that runs counter to what I preferred, a humanitarian, direct, intuitive, and spiritual faculty.  What I was being told by the Imam in his speech was that the intellect was actually spiritual.  This was validated for me by Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, who defines the intellect in his powerful work, Justice and Remembrance – Introducing the Spirituality of Imam ʿAli, as

intellectus/nous is that which is capable of a direct contemplative vision of transcendent realities, whereas reason—the translation of the Latin ratio and the Greek dianoia—is  of an indirect, discursive nature; it works with logic and arrives at mental concepts, only, of those realities. With the intellect, then, one is able to contemplate or ‘see’ the Absolute; with the reason, one can only think about it. [35]

An English Muslim scholar, writer, and philosopher, Martin Lings, who is also the author of what is hailed by many as the “best biography of the prophet in English”, would further make the connection between the intellect and the heart.  He says in his book, The Eleventh Hour-The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy:

The Intellect is enthroned in the Heart. [36]

He further explains the “Heart” as not “the bodily heart, but the centre of the soul.” [37]

Finally, Professor M. A. Amir-Moezzi, would confirm for me the identification of the intellect, or ‘aql, with the Imam.  He says in his outstanding book, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam-Beliefs and Practices:

… the identification between ʿaql and the figure of the imam is constant in the early corpus of traditions attributed to the historical imams.  ‘Aql is said to be the ‘interior proof’ (al-ḥujja’l-bāṭina) of God whereas the imam is His ‘exterior proof’ (al-ḥujja’l-ẓāhira) … The imam is the exterior ʿaql, whereas ʿaql is the interior imam of the loyal-faithful.  According to a Prophetic tradition reported by imam ʿAlī: ‘The ʿaql in the heart is like a lamp in the centre of a home.’ [38]

The intellect, hence, was the mechanism through which I could be close to my Imam and my Imam could be close to me.  It was the source of the thoughts and the feelings that I knew had come from the Imam.  But by what vocabulary could I refer to this faculty to make it clear that it was not my human intellect, mind or reason, but rather the Imam’s?  I was not the only one who had come to distrust the word “intellect” due to the mistakes of the human mind or reason, which could act destructively if inspired by the ego instead of the divine.  As the mystic and poet Rumi is known to have said:

It is reason (ʿaql-i juzʾī) which has destroyed the reputation of the Intellect (ʿaql-i kullī). [39]

Therefore, I needed a different name to describe this faculty, similar to the term, “interior imam”, which Professor Amir-Moezzi had referred to above.  This quest was fulfilled by the following words of Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, in his wonderful book, Spiritual Quest – Reflections on Qurʾanic Prayer According to the Teachings of Imam ʿAli, which also explained what had happened to me since that morning of the Darbar:

Through emulation of the Imam, as regards both inward disposition and outward action, one not only enhances one’s ethical comportment but also augments one’s receptivity to the spirituality embodied by the Imam. One is thereby guided from outer example to inner principle, from the outer Imam to the inner Imam—the spirit of one’s own intellect—whose potential is brought closer to fruition, and rendered more in harmony with the perfection manifested by the outer Imam. [40]

The “Inner Imam” was communicating with me, and my INTELLECT, was nothing more than IN-TELL-ACT, the Inner Imam IN-side me TELL-ing me how to ACT.  When I submitted to my Inner Imam, I listened to my IN-TELL-ACT and was one with my Imam.  When I strayed from my Inner Imam, I listened to my EGO, Edging God Out, and was far from my Imam.  The physical distance or separation from the Imam no longer mattered to me.  What mattered was spiritual separation, which was completely in my hands.  Who would I follow, my IN-TELL-ACT or my EGO?

In due time, I developed a relationship with this Inner Imam where I would call upon him in any difficult circumstance (Masaib as per our Du’a), question, or decision and receive his guidance through a dialogue between him and I.   Sometimes this exchange took place in a document so that I could have a record, for later reflection, of the guidance, which my IN-TELL-ACT had given me, for that particular instant.  These engagements included my asking of the Inner Imam for the deeper or esoteric meanings of scriptural verses, sayings of the Prophets and Imams, devotional expressions, or life experiences.

One day, I came across the following words of Imam ‘Abd al-Salam (A.S.) that speak directly to recognizing the Imam:

If you desire to recognize me then first recognize your self, for I recognize those who recognize me. [41]

This statement was quite a riddle.  I asked my IN-TELL-ACT, “WHO AM I?” The answer came:

I AM . . .

I waited for the . . . to fill in but nothing more came.  I asked my Inner Imam again, WHO AM I?” Again, the answer came:

I AM . . .

Again, I waited for the . . . to fill in but nothing more came.  I pleaded to my Mawla within, “Why are you playing with me, Khudawand (Lord)? Please tell me the answer.” He answered:

You are looking for something outside of yourself to define you.  The answer is within.  Drop the . . . and fill the space within.

I looked again and tried to do what my Inner Imam had said.  The answer unfolded:

I AM . . .

(drop the . . .)


(need to fill the space within)

(the space within is the ONE space between the I and the AM)

(there is a letter missing in that space)

(what letter could take that place ………………….. M, for the Mawla within)



Of course, the riddle of Imam ‘Abd al-Salam (A.S.) made sense now.  It was reduced to two phrases:

… recognize your self, … recognize me.

Both Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) and Imam Ali (A.S.) had been known to proclaim the same when they had said:

man ʿarafa nafsahu ʿarafa rabbahu

He who knows his soul (his self), knows his Lord. [42]

What Imam ‘Abd al-Salam (A.S.) had said, was also said much earlier, in the Qur’an:

Remember me, I will Remember you.
(Qur’an 2:152, Pickthall translation)

If we break up the word remember into “re” and “member”, then, the word means to “put back together” or “reunite.”  As we re-member or re-unite ourselves with the Imam, the Imam re-members or re-unites us with himself.  As a hadith-e-qudsi says:

When My servant remembers Me in himself, I remember him in Myself. [43]

This is the “Die before you die”, which we discussed, at the end of the last section: the spiritual annihilation of the Mu’min in the Imam and through the Imam into Allah.  What I discovered in my journey was that this was not just a final product or outcome of one’s life, but rather, a continuous process, a perpetual dying before you die, a regular giving of oneself to one’s IN-TELL-ACT, to one’s Inner Imam.  This is difficult, for daily, I succumb to my lower self, to my EGO, in some way or another, in thought, word, or deed.  Daily, my Inner Imam takes note, and gives me hope, to aspire for the best in me, which is nothing else but his self, his essence, his Light.

Now as I reflect on that question I had asked of the Imam in the Darbar hall, I receive a clear answer, which I didn’t realize before:

Why am I separate from you?

You are not.  In fact, I am always with you, I watch over you, I take care of you.  You are never alone because I am always with you in your heart, which is really MY heart.

This is my Haqiqat.  This is my realization of the “Ali Allah” reality.  This is my recognition of the Imam by recognizing myself.  This is something I live regularly through my IN-TELL-ACT, my Inner Imam, my Mawla within, in my HEART.  Earlier we heard the saying of Imam Ali (A.S.) that, “The ʿaql in the heart is like a lamp in the centre of a home.”  We also heard Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (A.S.) say that “It is the light of intellect which distinguishes the complete human being from the human animal.”  The Light that lights the heart, that lights this lamp of the intellect in the heart, is the same divine substance, the Nur of Ali, the Nur of the Imams, the Nur of Allah that we have discussed in previous sections.  As Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini (A.S.) beautifully said, quoting the mystic and poet Rumi, in his speech at the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Center Toronto:

The light that lights the eye is also the light of the heart… but the light that lights the heart is the Light of God. [44]

May we all re-member ourselves to the Imam, perpetually, through this Light.  May we all recognize the Imam in our self and in others, universally, through this Light. [Back to Questions]


Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), our 48th Imam:
“I am everything to everybody.” [45]

So, Is Imam God?  Perhaps the best answer was given by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (A.S.), himself, to an Ismaili dentist, Dr. Hassan E Nathoo, in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in 1946.  Dr Nathoo writes:

He told me that people often asked him if he was God. He said, “I am everything to everybody. If you consider me God, I am your God. If you consider me your Spiritual Father, I am your Spiritual Father. If you consider me your Imam, I am your Imam. If you consider me only your friend, I am your friend and so on. It depends on your faith. You, too, are a different person to different people: you are son to your parents, a father to your children, a brother to your siblings, etc. But anybody who considers me God at a Shariati level is no better than a ‘Bhut Parast’ (idol worshipper or an iconolater). At the Marfati level, this question does not arise”. [46]

It is not the Imam who is limited.  It is we who are limited.  Consequently, we each see the Imam with our limited eyes and, therefore, perception.  He, in his benevolence and grace, caters to the way we see him.  He is able to be “everything to everybody”, whatever a murid needs and thinks him to be.  As a hadith-e-qudsi says:

I am as My servant thinks of Me. So let him think well of Me. [47]

However, the Imam clearly warns against considering him God at a Shariati (exoteric or physical) level.  What does that mean?  It means to set him up as an idol.  Idols, in history, were physical images or forms without a spirit, like a clay sculpture.  Moreover, God, or a function of God, was exclusively associated and limited to the idol, the physical form, in time and place.  To consider the Imam as God, at the Shariati level, is to set him up as an idol: to consider him God materially, without regard for the spirit or Nur that truly inspires and forms his divine nature i.e. the eternal Ali.  It is also to limit God solely and exclusively in time and place to the physical body of the Imam.  This cannot occur for the Nur is not just in the physical body of the Imam, it is also in the heavens and the earth, including in the Mu’mins own selves, who look to the Imam to realize their Nur.

Moreover, the Imam adds that at the Marfati level, the question, is Imam God, does not arise.  Marfat (related to arafa, to know, gnosis) is a state of being or recognition in mystical tariqas (“paths”) in which one lives their life in Haqiqat or Truth.  The Sufis say that the ultimate Truth is that “there is nothing else but God”.  Since, God IS Nur (Qur’an 24:35), and since this Nur is in the heavens and on earth, in the Imam and the Mu’mins, the ultimate Truth is that “there is nothing else but Nur”.  Then, at the Marfati level, the question, “Is Imam God”, becomes “Is Nur Nur”, answered by its own asking and, thus, “does not arise”.  What the Imam may really be saying is, “The ultimate answer and truth is waiting for you at the Marfati level.  Realize that state of being in which you live, move, and have your being in God, in Nur.” [48]

We may ask our Inner Imam:

How do I do this Khudawand (Lord)?

The answer that may follow:

Re-member me, I will re-member you: the stream into the river, the river into the ocean. These are the doctrines of the Ismailis.  This is perfectly clear.  There is nothing new. [49]


1) Imam Mustansir Bi’llah II, Pandiyat-I-Jawanmardi Or Advices of Manliness, trans. W. Ivanow (Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1953), 101-102. [Back to text]
2) Ibid., 77. [Back to text]
3) Al-Qadi al-Nu’man, Selections from Qazi Noaman’s Kitab-ul-Himma fi Adabi Ataba-el-a’emma Or Code of Conduct for the Followers of Imam, trans. Jawad Muscati and A. Moulvi (Karachi, Pakistan: Ismailia Association W. Pakistan, 1950), 42. [Back to text]
4) “Project Root List, KH-LAM-FA”,, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
5) Eqbal Rupani, “Ismailia Association: Paris – Conference, 1975. Report by Eqbal Rupani”, 6,, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
6) Reza Shah-Kazemi, Spiritual Quest – Reflections on Qur’anic Prayer According to the Teachings of Imam ‘Ali (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2011), 34. [Back to text]
7) Arzina R. Lalani, Early Shi’i Thought – The Teachings of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2004), 80 [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
8) Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, “Extract from an address by Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah at the Ismailia Association Mission Conference held at Dar-es-Salaam in July 1945”,, accessed March 20, 2019, [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
9) “Nicholas Tomalin – The Sunday Times Interview, ‘The Ruler Without A Kingdom’ (London, United Kingdom)”,, December 12, 1965, accessed March 20, 2019, [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
10) Pir Shihabuddin Shah al-Husayni, Risala dar Haqiqat-i Din Or True Meaning of Religion, trans. W. Ivanow (Bombay, India: Islamic Research Association, 1933),14-15. [Back to text]
11) M.A. Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam – Beliefs and Practices (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2011), 272. [Back to text]
12) Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, “Ismailia Association Mission Conference”. [Back to text]
13) Ibid. [Back to text]
14) Ibid [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
15) See Example #3 under “Genitive case” at following website for “Arabic Case System”: [Back to text]
16) Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, “Ismailia Association Mission Conference”. [Back to text]
17) Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, 126-131. [Back to text]
18) Ibid., 119, note 45. [Back to text]
19) Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub al-Kulayni, Al-Kafi, trans. Muhammad Sarwar, Part 1: Al-‘Usul, The Book about People with Divine Authority (Kitab al-Hujja), Chapter 13, Hadith 1,, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
20) Jalal al-din Rumi, The Masnavi Book 2, trans. Jawid Mojaddedi (New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 2007), 50.  [Back to text]
21) Nasir al-Din Tusi, Rawda-yi Taslim Or Paradise of Submission – A Medieval Treatise on Ismaili Thought, trans. S. J. Badakhchani (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2005), 121 & 258, note 106. [Back to text]
22) Ibid., 121. [Back to text]
23) Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, 128. [Back to text]
24) Ibid., 114. [Back to text]
25) Al-Qadi al-Nu’man, Al-Majalis wa’l Musayarat, 2nd ed., rev. Muhammad al-Ya’lawi (Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 1997), 72 [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
26) A.J. Chunara, comp., Noorum Mubin, Or the Sacred Cord of God: A Glorious History of Ismaili Imams, Urdu Translation ed. (Bombay, India: Recreation Club Institute, 1940), 38-39. [Back to text]
27) Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, 118 [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
28) al-Husayni, Risala dar Haqiqat-i Din, 13. [Back to text]
29) Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, “Ismailia Association Mission Conference”. [Back to text]
30) Adapted from “Qalaam-e-Mowla – Text and Translation”,, accessed March 20, 2019,; and same urdu (Karachi: ITREB Pakistan, 1995), 86, 113. [Back to text]
31)  Shafique N. Virani, The Ismailis in the Middle Ages – A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc., 2007), 176-177.  [Back to text]
32) “United States of America visit diary,”, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
33) al-Nu’man, Al-Majalis wa’l Musayarat, 236-237. [Back to text]
34) “Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini Speech, ‘Inauguration of the Faculty of Health Sciences and ​Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan’ (Karachi, Pakistan)”,, November 11, 1985, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
35) Reza Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance – Introducing the Spirituality of Imam ʿAli (New York, NY: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd, 2006), 22-23. [Back to text]
36) Martin Lings, The Eleventh Hour-The Spiritual Crisis of the Modern World in the Light of Tradition and Prophecy, 2nd ed. (Lahore, Pakistan: Suhail Academy, 1999), 1. [Back to text]
37) Ibid., 1, note 1. [Back to text]
38) Amir-Moezzi, The Spirituality of Shi’i Islam, 414-415. [Back to text]
39) Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, 64, note 58. [Back to text]
40) Shah-Kazemi, Spiritual Quest, 65 [emphasis mine]. [Back to text]
41) Virani, The Ismailis in the Middle Ages, 176. [Back to text]
42) Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, 69. [Back to text]
43) Seyyed H. Nasr, Caner K. Dagli, Maria M. Dakake, Joseph E. B. Lumbard, and Mohammed Rustom, eds., The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2015), 480, 7:205c. [Back to text]
44) “Mawlana Hazir Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini Speech, ‘Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Center Toronto’ (Toronto, Canada)”,, May 28, 2010, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
45) Hassan E. Nathoo, “My Glorious Fortnight with Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah”,, July 28, 1988, accessed March 20, 2019, [Back to text]
46) Ibid. [Back to text]
47) Nasr, The Study Quran, 568, 11:9-10c. [Back to text]
48) Adapted from Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, The Memoirs of Aga Khan – World Enough and Time (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 9. [Back to text]
49) Adapted from  Qur’an 2:152, Pickthall Translation, and Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, “Ismailia Association Mission Conference”. [Back to text]