Editor’s Note: Sascha Stans’s research on the contemporary Nizari Ismailis of Hyderabad, India, is a reasonable research paper albeit with some errors, which could have been easily corrected, with little more in depth search. He refers to Teena Purohit’s thesis (page 28) which itself has been criticized for the lack of historical accuracy. Stan also misidentifies a popular but independent website as a community’s official website (page 10). In addition, there are about 11 minor typos. Overall, it is an okay article which is worth a read.
The aim of this thesis is to explore the way in which a local Nizari Isma’ili community, the Khojas of Hyderabad, translate the articulated ideals of their spiritual leader the Aga Khan on topics of religious identity and interreligious interaction into their daily contexts. By understanding the local community not as a monolithic minority, but rather as a minority consisting of various social layers, data gathered from the Khoja community about topics of memory, normative values and practices, and geographical contextualization are shown to vary among the community members. These differences, in turn, influence the way these community members translate the Aga Khan’s ideals into the local context.
Sascha Stans, Religions in Contemporary Societies
For this research, I limit myself to the Nizari Isma’ili Khoja community of Hyderabad city, India. The Hyderabad Khoja community proved an interesting case study for a multitude of reasons.
Firstly, Hyderabad is a city with both a significant Hindu, a significant Muslim population and a visible presence of other religious communities as well. This religious diversity puts the Khoja community in a position where interreligious interactions are inevitable.
Secondly, Hyderabad is particularly renowned for its public manifestations of piety. Through festivals and public rituals, different religions in the pluralistic spectrum of Hyderabad make claims on public space to practice their faith. These markers of religious identity add to the visibility of interreligious encounters: Interreligious curiosity becomes tangible through participation in public rituals and festivals either as actor or as spectator.
Thirdly, within the Nizari Isma’ili transnational religious framework, Hyderabad does not constitute a major hub in the way Mumbai or London do, adding to the likeliness of a local orientation for the Khoja community rather than a transnational focus. This connection with the local situation allows for more profound differences between local and transnational strategic rationale.
Previously on Ismailimail…