This essay explores how writers of the Fatimid period of Isma‘ili history, during the tenth and eleventh centuries, developed an approach that sought to reconcile an understanding of the transcendent and unique nature of God – embodied in the Qur’anic concept of tawhid – with a view of creation as both produced by, and yet distinct from, God.
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the publication Spirit and Life: A Catalogue of the Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum published by The Aga Khan Trust for Culture to accompany the exhibition Spirit & Life at The Ismaili Centre, London in 2007.
In this article Professor Azim Nanji provides a brief overview of the history of Islam, tracing the origins of the Shi‘a and the Sunni perspectives. Within this context, we learn of the emergence of Shi‘a Ismaili Muslims and their history, from the foundation of the Ismaili Fatimid caliphate in North Africa in 909 CE up to the contemporary period.
An International Conference organized by the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology-University of Alberta in partnership with the Association for the Study of Ginans.
Muslims across the world have given sonic shape to spiritual words. From spoken declamation to melodic chant, devotional repertoires expressing Muslim piety are abundant in their continuity and vitality.
The Aga Khan Foundation celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1992.
This reading includes a message sent by His Highness the Aga Khan for this occasion and an article by Professor Azim Nanji entitled “Action and Compassion: Moral Frameworks within the Islamic Tradition.”
“At the heart of the dilemma that faces Muslims in regard to the question of development is whether Muslim moral imagination can draw inspiration from past experiences and values to shape meaningful contemporary solutions to social and economic problems worldwide. One of the human qualities that encompasses the concept of a global ethical value in the Islamic tradition is summed up in the term taqwa, which in its various forms occurs over two hundred times in the Qur’an….”
“I have taken this stand not out of arrogance or pride, neither out of mischief or injustice. I have risen to seek reform in the community of my grandfather. I would like to bid good, forbid evil, and follow the tradition of my grandfather and my father ‘Ali bin Abi Talib.” – Imam Hussein (AS)
“The tragedy of Karbala illustrated that the numerical superiority does not count when it comes to the truth and the falsehood.”
The reading is interesting because we are provided with the wider human appeal of the truth that Imam Hussein stood for. Please click Imam Hussein (AS): “The Chief of the Youth of Paradise”
Dr Zulfikar Hirji
Professor Azim Nanji
This is an edited version of an article that was originally published in The Encyclopaedia Iranica, Columbia University, New York, Vol. XIV, pp. 208-210.
The Ismailis consist of two main branches – the Nizari Ismailis and the Musta‘lian Tayyibi Ismailis. Both have their roots in the Fatimid period of Ismaili history
Event Date: 08.09.10 – The Department of Religion observes Abrahamic week by focusing on the most iconic of sacred spaces — considered by the three Abrahamic Faiths as the most holy of sacred places — Jerusalem. Invited from Jerusalem to participate in the conversation are members of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths who can impart both their understandings of how this penultimate sacred space came to be so regarded, as well as their visions of how it might be shared in peace.
The Institute of Ismaili Studies will be hosting a book launch event for
with Professor Azim Nanji of Stanford University, USA
The event will take place at 7.45 pm on Tuesday 14th September 2010 at the Ismaili Centre, 1 Cromwell Gardens, London SW7 2SL.
This event is by pre-registration only and limited places are available. Please contact Sarah Ismail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending this event.
The city of Cairo was in founded in 358 AH/ 969 CE as the new royal capital of the Fatimids, an Ismaili Shi’i dynasty that ruled over a flourishing empire for 262 years until its demise in 567 AH/ 1171 CE. Subsequently, Cairo maintained its status as a major metropolis under the Ayyubids and the Mamluks, who established their own states over extensive parts of the Muslim world.
Professor Azim Nanji
This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Selected Proceedings of the International Congress for the Study of the Qur’an, 1980, pp.39-49
Given the whole spectrum of views that have developed throughout Ismaili history, it is not easy to define any one of these as representing an exclusive form of Ismaili interpretation. Focusing on the Fatimid period, this article attempts to develop a basis for understanding Shi’i Ismaili interpretations of the Holy Qur’an.
Editor: Farhad Daftary, Elizabeth Fernea, Azim Nanji
The history of Cairo is usually presented in terms of periods and dynasties such as the Fatimid or Ayyubid. The modern history of Egypt is generally held to begin in the last decades of the nineteenth century with the emergence of a new, modern city, constructed by the Khedives of Egypt along European lines. This illustrated book examines Cairo from the first century AH/seventh century AD until the present, considering the relationships between the physical layout of the city and its historic buildings, its economy, and its social, cultural, and religious life. The book discusses the programs of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, both for restoring historic monuments in the district of al-Darb al-Ahmar and for reviving and improving the social and economic life of the old city. It also seeks to convey what the residents of the old city think about these projects, to clarify what, if any, is the felt relationship between the great monuments like Bab al-Zuwayla and the people who live nearby and what can be learned from this experience for similar restoration projects in other parts of the world.
The Ikhwan al-Safa’ and their Rasa’il: An Introduction, published by The Institute of Ismaili Studies, in association with Oxford University Press, was launched in Nairobi and Mombasa in June 2009. The events in Kenya, which marked the first worldwide launch of the publication, were attended by members of the local academic and Muslim communities.
Read at the source: http://iis.ac.uk
Guest speaker Professor Azim Nanji gave the key note address
Coastweek — Guest speaker Professor Azim Nanji has given the key note address to ‘The Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa IB Graduation ceremony celebrating the graduation of its third cohort of IB Diploma students.
Professor Nanji was actually born in Kenya and attended the Aga Khan School in Mombasa.
He subsequently has held senior academic and administrative posts at various American and Canadian universities.
He is currently Senior Associate Director of the Abbasi Programme in Islamic Studies at the Stanford University in California.
Professor Nanji spoke knowledge.
“You too have now done the same but remember that it is meaningless if you do not pass that knowledge on to others”.
More at the source: http://www.coastweek.com/3225-03.htm
Scholars And Mombasa Muslim Ummah Attended A Book Launch
Encyclopaedia of 52 Epistles on a wide array of subjects
Coastweek — Dr. Nader El-Bizri from The Institute of Ismaili Studies and Professor Azim Nanji from Stanford University at the launch of the book “The Ikhwan al Safa and their Rasa’il: An Introduction”, on Sunday 14 June 2009.
The Ikhwan al-Safa’ or Brethren of Purity were a group of Muslim thinkers – based in Iraq – who produced, more than a thousand years ago, an encyclopaedia of 52 epistles on a wide array of subjects ranging from cosmology to mathematics and physical sciences, ethics to aesthetics, and revelation to metaphysics.
In the last half of the twentieth century, Muslim communities in North America have been increasingly recognised as an established minority rather than a ‘mere exotic presence’. Their ‘encounters’ with their host communities have been multidimensional and consist of a diverse set of experiences. This article explores three dimensions through which Muslims have interacted with their communities of adoption: a) the establishment and creation of community space for prayer and gathering; b) addressing the normative values embodied in family life and tradition within an alternative and primarily secular context of law and rights; and c) recognising the importance of education as a tool for furthering identity and opportunity amidst assimilative national models.
One of the most systematic and succinct expositions of Ismaili ideas of the Imamate is to be found in a work of Qadi Nu‘man (d. 363 AH/974 CE) called Da‘a’im al-islam. Nu‘man, a leading jurist of the Fatimid period of Ismaili history, played a key role in the formation and elaboration of several legal as well as theological works that were regarded as definitive in his time. Wilaya, as the basis for belief in the Imamate as defined by Qadi Nu‘man, is the foremost among the pillars of Islam. However, prior to discussing the question of wilaya, he differentiates between islam (submission) and iman (faith), basing himself on a Qur’anic verse: “The desert Arabs say ‘we believe.’ Say (to them) ‘You have no faith (iman).’ But rather they should say ‘we have submitted (aslama)’’’ (Qur’an 49:14). From this he deduces that one can thus be a Muslim (muslim, i.e., a member of the religion of Islam) without necessarily being a mu’min. The latter implies belief in and devotion to the rightful Imam; this, in fact, constitutes true faith.
The Shi‘ite and Ismaili claim to wilaya is deduced by Nu‘man on the basis of historical events revealing Imam ‘Ali’s close proximity to the Prophet, as well as his being the most worthy among the Companions to succeed the Prophet. Then follows a discussion of the indications of preference for Imam ‘Ali made by the Prophet throughout his life and confirmed in the declaration at Ghadir Khumm after the so-called Farewell Pilgrimage (khutbat al-wida‘), “He whose mawla (trustee, helper, lord) I am, ‘Ali is his mawla,” According to this view, having been attached to the establishment of the Imamate, Imam ‘Ali was granted the authority to interpret the Holy Qur’an and to initiate change in society in accordance with these principles adapted to the context of the time. The importance of wilaya in Nu‘man’s scheme lies in the fact that the Imam deserves the love and allegiance of the community, quite apart from whether, at a given time, the Imamate is a political office or not (Qadi Nu‘man, Da‘a’im I, pp. 1498; tr., I, pp. 18-122).
Al-Nu‘man then goes on to give the Ismaili concept far wider scope by relating it to Qur’anic analogies and Islamic tradition. He argues that the tradition of designating and establishing the succession has been adhered to throughout the history of the earlier prophets and quotes the specific Qur’anic instance where Jesus announced the coming of Prophet Muhammad; he also cites other cases of prophets who had designated their legatee (wasi). The Imamate therefore complements the cycle of prophethood (nubuwwa), sustaining the continuity of divine guidance until the Day of Judgment. In the Ismaili view, the function of prophethood to convey God’s message had ended, but the need for affirmation, interpretation, stewardship and spiritual leadership was not yet over: the Imamate fulfils this role.
The Imamate in Ismailism
Professor Azim Nanji
Professor Azim Nanji assumed the role of Director of the Institute in the autumn of 1998. Previously, he was Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at the University of Florida and has held academic and administrative appointments at various American and Canadian universities.
Professor Nanji has authored, co-authored and edited several books including: The Nizari Ismaili Tradition (1976), The Muslim Almanac (1996), Mapping Islamic Studies (1997) and The Historical Atlas of Islam (with M. Ruthven) (2004) and The Dictionary of Islam (with Razia Nanji), Penguin 2008.. In addition, he has contributed numerous shorter studies and articles on religion, Islam and Ismailism in journals and collective volumes including The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Modern Islamic World, and A Companion to Ethics. He was the Associate Editor for the revised Second Edition of The Encyclopaedia of Religion. In 1988 he was Margaret Gest Visiting Professor at Haverford College and a Visiting Professor at Stanford University in 2004, where he was also invited to give the Baccalaureate Address in 1995 (see Baccalaureate Address at Stanford University). He has also lectured widely at international conferences all over the world.
Professor Nanji has served as Co-Chair of the Islam section at the American Academy of Religion and on the Editorial Board of the Academy’s Journal. He has also been a member of the Philanthropy Committee of the Council on Foundations and has been the recipient of awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Canada Council, and the National Endowment for Humanities. In 2004 he gave the Birks Lecture at McGill University.
Within the Aga Khan Development Network, Professor Nanji has served as a Member of the Steering Committee and Master Jury of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Task Force Member for the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and Vice Chair of the Madrasa-based Early Childhood Education Programme in East-Africa.
In autumn 2008, he will take up an appointment in the Abbasi Programme in Islamic Studies at Stanford University.
Source: Institute of Ismaili Studies
Dr. Azim Nanji has joined the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies as Senior Associate Director in September 2008. In this capacity he is involved in plans to extend the reach of Stanford’s studies in Islam and Muslim societies, giving attention both to on-campus events and also to initiatives for national and international scholarly and student exchange. Nanji will also be a Lecturer in Stanford’s Department of Religious Studies, offering regular courses.
Complete at the source, opens in PDF
In the autumn of 1998, Professor Nanji became the Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies. After leading the Institute for ten years, he is now leaving to join the Abbasi Programme in Islamic Studies at Stanford University as a Senior Associate Director. Under his leadership, the IIS expanded its programmes and activities and has emerged as an institution known for its high quality research and publications in areas related to Muslim cultures, particularly in the fields of Ismaili and Shi‘i Studies.