Why I feel Ismailism is Important

December 19, 2007 at 5:41 am (personal interpretations)

Often I am asked why I am a firm supporter of the Ismailis and even consider myself a “friend of the imam?” when I am a professed Pure Land Buddhist. That is a good question and deserves a good response. I hope this text will make it clear my interest in the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim faith.

The proclamation of Qiyamat by Imam Hasan II on August 8th 1164 is probably the defining event of Ismailism that drew my interest in the faith. My first exposure to this event was through the writings of Peter Lamborn Wilson a.k.a. Hakim Bey. Ironically Wilson’s comments comparing the Qiyamat to Shinran Shonin’s (founder of Jodo Shinshu the largest sect of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan) idea of shinjin (certainty of enlightenment thru Other Power) led me to the Pure Land Faith. This occurred sometime in 1990. However, I was still attracted to the faith of Imam Hasan II and kept re-reading Wilson’s work over the years.

During the fall of 1997 I came into contact with some Ismailis on the Internet and I began to study the faith from an more orthodox Ismaili perspective. One warned me that it was easy to start studying Ismailism but it is not easy to stop. He could have not been more right! During the spring of 1998 I took a Masters level course in the History of Religions at a local university and I made the Ismailis the focus of my course work. During this process I discovered others, who like myself, were not Ismailis but interested in the faith after being exposed to it by Wilson. So I put up a Website[1], started a Internet mailing list[2] and a newsletter (Qiyamat: A Newsletter for Friends of the Imam) in order to bring information about Ismailism to those who were interested.

I view Ismailism and Pure Land Buddhism as basically similar. Ismailism is a religion centered on the Imam of the Time who possesses Allah’s Light (Noor). Thus it is centered on a being of divine light. Pure Land Buddhism is centered on Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Life. Also, Buddhists scholars believe that the ideas of Pure Land Buddhism arose during the early centuries of this Common Era, when Buddhism first moved out of Northern India and into areas under Iranian influence. Thus Amida Buddha is the Buddhist expression for the “Man of Light” in Iranian Gnosticism. Thus another affirmation of the principle that on the level of gnosis, all faiths are One.

“He who counsels his own soul should investigate, during his life in this world, all doctrines concerning God. He should learn from whence each possessor of a doctrine affirms the validity of his doctrine. Once its validity has been affirmed for him in the specific mode in which it is correct for him who holds it, then he should support it in the case of him who believes it.”

                                                -Muhyi al-Din ibn al-Arabi-

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The Light of the Imam

November 8, 2007 at 1:35 am (personal interpretations, poems)

The Light of the Imam 

Ulimately there is only Reality (Allah):

it is beyond creation and non-creation;

it is beyond life and death;

it is beyond the infinite and the finite;

it is beoynd knowledge and ignorance;

it is beyond pleasure and pain;

it is behond heaven and hell;

it is beyond nirvana and samsara

it is beyond the One and the many;

and yet the Real can be known.

From the very beginninglessness

the Real has shown its Light

and that Light manifested itself in the world of form.

From Imam Adam to Imam Karim Aga Khan IV

there has never been a time

when this world was without the Light.

The Imam’s Light reaches out

and sparks up the divine light within.

Light upon Light

and so we are raised up,

awakening into Reality  

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A Batini interpretation of The Sprites 72.16-18

August 20, 2006 at 2:12 pm (personal interpretations, Uncategorized)

(16) If they would only keep straight along the highway,
We will let them drink plenty of water
(17) so We may test them by means of it;
while it will lead anyone away to mounting torment
who avoids mentioning his Lord.
(18) Mosques belong to God,
so do not appeal to anyone besides God (in them).

An Ismaili friend I met over the Internet pointed out this passage to me as pointing to the latter Khoja Ismaili rite of Ab-e-shifa (‘water of purity”). The rite of Ab-e-shifa consists of drinking water blessed by the current Imam of the Time. This is done daily after prayers (dua) and on special occassions like Chandraat. It is symbolic of cleansing the soul of karmic impurities which are created by everyone in the course of their everyday
lives. One takes up the cup of niyaz, offering prayers for other Ismailis and
oneself, then saying “Farman” drinks the Ab-e-shifa.

“It is only when you drink Niyaz with complete and true faith that your heart
will be cleansed.” Imam Aga Khan III

If they would only keep straight along the highway,

Islam is often called the straight path, which in modern terms is ahighway. It is the simplest way to liberation for most people. Therea are many believers who have started on the path to knowledge of Allah. Many fall away form this highway detouring into blind paths and alley ways. Often well meaning individuals retreat into the safety of fundamentalism and its ideology of absolute unchanging truth. This verse is a warning to such believers.

To keep to a straight path is to go straight towards a destination. The aim of Islam is to awaken to one’s fundamental unity with Allah. This destination, tho
transcendent, has a foci in this world and that is the imam-e-zaman, i.e., Imam of the Time. So to keep straight is to put into practice the farmans of the current Imam.

We will let them drink plenty of water
so We may test them by means of it;

The rite of Ab-e-shifa is not part of Sunni Islam as it has been handed down in our times. So this rite is a great stumbling block for those non-Ismaili Muslims who
first hear about it. This verse points that this rite is a test, a test of true community. All Ismailis share in
the drinking of niyaz daily. To share niyaz means that all Ismailis must come together as a group daily in their jamatkhanas. It is a major symbol of unity and union; a symbol of the reality of tawhid.

This verse also points to the Ismaili division of people spiritually into three
classifications: people of opposition (enemies of the imam-e-zaman), people of order (regular believers) and people of union. Those who oppose the imam-e-zaman separate themselves from the ongoing Qiyamat and have to continually experience rebirth. One should remember, that the people of opposition are in a state of spiritual non-existence
(which is the real meaning of hell). Tho, given time all people will enter into the Qiyamat and Hell itself will empty.

Jim Davis
3-9-2000

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