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KASSIM SHAH (710-771/1310-1370), 29TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

Imam Kassim Shah, known as Syed Kassim Muhammad was most probably born in Daylam. He is said to have lived shortly in Armenia and Anatolia in the circle of the Bekhtashahis, a growing Sufi order in the Kurds and Turkomans. The tradition most possibly of later period indicates that Imam Kassim Shah had flourished a small village in Azerbaijan, called Kassimabad, which seems almost doubtful. It is however probable that the village, in which Imam Kassim Shah either resided, or where he used to see his followers, was termed, Kassimabad by the Iranian followers. It is also believed that when his son, Islam Shah had arrived at Kahek in Iran in 798/1396, the Iranian Ismailis had also termed Kassimabad as the abode of Islam Shah's father.

Ghazan Khan (1295-1304), the sixth Ilkhanid ruler had embraced Islam, and restored peace in Iran. He was succeeded by his brother Uljaytu (1304-1316), who professed Christianity like his mother. He invaded Gilan, Mazandaran and Khorasan, putting many Ismailis to sword. He at last became a Shi'a Muslim, and was succeeded by his twelve years son, Abu Sa'id (1316-1334). Finally, Amir Hussain founded the Jalayirid dynasty at Tabriz in 736/1336, which also ended in 812/1409. In Ispahan and Shiraz, Muzaffaruddin Muhammad, the son of Sharafuddin Muzaffar (d. 754/1353) founded the Muzaffarid dynasty in 713/1313, which lasted till 795/1393. The Kurts of Herat also rose in 643/1245, and Taymurlame also became a powerful ruler in 783/1381 by conquering Iran.

The scattered Ismailis slowly began in settling down in the towns and villages of Iran. Few among them in northern area had concentrated their efforts at Daylam, one of the largest districts of Gilan. Daylam was occupied and ruled by Kiya Saifuddin Kushayji in 760/1360 at Marjikuli. He was deep-rooted in Ismaili faith like his forefathers since the period of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. He was however forced to abandon Ismailism through a letter by the Zaidi Syed Ali Kiya bin Amir Malati, the neighboring ruler. Zahiruddin Mar'ashi (d. 892/1486) writes in his Tarikh-i Gilan wa Daylamistan (Tehran, 1968, p. 67) that Kiya Saifuddin replied indignantly to the messenger, declaring his family's faith openly: "My ancestors followed the religion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and were followers and believers in the Syeds (Imams) of the line of Ismail bin Jafar Sadik. Nobody has a right to order us in this manner." Thus, Syed Ali Kiya mustered his troops in Gilan in 779/1378 and occupied Daylam, and founded the Zaidi dynasty of Amir Kiya'i Syeds, and extended his influence in Ashkawar, Kuhdum as far as Tarum and Qazwin. The lieutenant Amir Ali of Syed Amir Kiya had domineered the Ismailis in Daylam, and the local theologians also chimed in and started their customary propaganda. In 781/1379, Syed Ali Kiya chased the Ismailis in Qazwin, and retained control of that region for seven years until 788/1386, when he was compelled to surrender Qazwin, Tarum and its castle to Taymurlame (771-807/1370-1405), the founder of the Taymurid dynasty in Iran and Transoxiana.

It was at this time that the Ismailis entered in Gilgit and Hunza with the efforts of Taj Mughal. He is said to have built a Mughlai Tower at Jutial, and another on the way to Hunza, near Thol. Taj Mughal is said to have proceeded to Sikiang through Pamir, and thus he dominated most of the prominent regions of Central Asia. He died most probably in 725/1325. It seems likely that Gilgit had been ruled by the local Ismaili rulers from 710/1310 to 973/1565, and remained in close contact with the Ismailis of Badakhshan.

Imam Kassim Shah passed a darwish life in the mountainous regions of Azerbaijan. He was fond of hunting in the woods, and used to travel in different towns and villages, sometimes for a long time. Upon his death, most probably in 771/1370, the Imamate devolved upon his son, Islam Shah.


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