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NIZAR II (993-1038/1585-1628), 40TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Imam Nizar was born in 982/1574 in Anjudan, and ascended at the age of 11 years. He is known as Shah Ataullah among the Iranian mystics. His father had brought him in Kahek in 992/1584, and henceforward, Kahek became the next headquarters. Kahek or Kiagrak is situated about 35 kilometers northeast of Anjudan and north-west of Mahallat. It took few years to the Ismailis to settle in Kahek and its locality. He also founded a village near Kuhubandi, known as Kahek of Aqa Nizar, then became known as Bagh-i Takhat. The colony of the farmers in this village was also known as Nizarabad.

The Ismaili merchants of Kirman are said to have built a small palace for Imam Nizar in Kahek, which became known as Kahek-i Shah Nizar, where a small marble platform was erected in a garden, facing the palace. It is said that the Imam would sit on this platform, which was surrounded by water, when giving audience. His guests would be placed amid flower beds on the other side of the water.

The Safavid Shah Abbas ruled Iran from 995/1588 to 1038/1628. He restored peace with severe actions. He reduced the number of provincial governors to curb the power of Kizilbash, and took punitive action against them for their disloyalty. Shah Abbas also turned to the third force, which Shah Tahmasp had introduced into the state, and created their regiments which constituted the nucleus of a standing army. He also took the power of collecting revenue from the Kizilbash. The chief of the Ustajlu faction in Khorasan, Murshid Quli Khan, was a powerful Kizilbash leader, who was responsible for placing Shah Abbas on the throne. He had assumed that, as in the past, he would be able to bend the king to his will. Shah Abbas had him executed in 996/1589. Hence, the Uzbeks overran the province of Sistan, and invaded Mashhad, but it was repulsed. In 1005/1598, Shah Abbas transferred his capital from Qazwin to Ispahan. He expanded his influence in Herat and defeated the Uzbeks, and annexed Balkh in his state. In 1014/1605, he attacked on the Turks and recovered Tabriz.

Shah Abbas is noted as a great builder, and so was very cruel. In 1024/1615, he executed his son, Muhammad Bakir, the then governor of Khorasan. His another son Hasan predeceased him. In 1030/1621, when he fell ill, his third son Muhammad prematurely celebrated his death. When Shah Abbas recovered, he blinded Muhammad. In 1035/1626, he blinded his only surviving son, Quli Mirza. Hence, he had no male issue to succeed him. He died in 1038/1629 after ruling for 42 years, and was succeeded by his grandson, Sam Mirza, surnamed Shah Shafi, the son of Muhammad Bakir.

The Ottoman empire was sunk into the internal disputes after sultan Suleman, and lost many regions from the Safavids. Unemployment, poor exports and the worsening condition of the peasants had badly paralyzed the economy of Turkey. The Safavid Shah Abbas used to export the silken costumes and carpets to Europe through the port of Turkey, but it was stopped because of the newly formed Port Abbas in Iran, resulting another heavy crack in the tax-income of Turkey. In sum, the Ottoman empire began to come in its ebb.

Roger Savory writes in Iran under the Safavids (New York, 1980, p. 91) that, "We have seen the period from the establishment of the Safavid state in 1501, upto the accession of Shah Abbas I in 1588, was one of change and experiment. An attempt was made to incorporate the original Sufi organization of the Safavid Order in the administrative structure of the state." Thus, under Shah Abbas, the Sufism came to life once again.

When Shah Abbas I tolerated Sufism in Iran, the tide also turned in favour of the Ismaili mission, providing benign climate to the da'is to propagate Ismailism. Imam Nizar is thus reported to have gone to Khorasan in 1014/1606 with few da'is, where he concealed his identity, and assumed a Sufi sounding name, Shah Ataullah among the Nimatullahis. He became the qutb (pole) of the Nimatullahis most probably in Nishapur, Marw, Herat, Balkh and Sebzewar in Khorasan province. Imam Nizar was probably the first Ismaili Imam to become the spiritual master of the Nimatullahis.

It seems that many Nimatullahis, the followers of Imam Nizar known as Ataullahis secretly adhered Ismailism in Khorasan. When Imam Nizar left Khorasan for Kirman, some of them also joined him. It appears from one extant qasida that Imam Nizar had composed few qasida for them.

The Ismailis in Iran mostly resided in Khorasan, Kirman, Fars and Anjudan. The Ismailis, known as Ataullahis lived in Kirman as the peasants. The Ismailis in Fars were nomadic tribesmen, who were also called as Ataullahis. It is related that a number of slaves of Abayssinia escaped from being sold at Port Abbas, and took refuge in Kirman and embraced Ismailism. They were very faithful warriors and rendered their services to Imam Nizar as guards.

Mulla Shaikh Ali Gilani writes in Tarikh-i Mazandaran (comp. in 1044/1634, pp. 88-89) that, "Sultan Muhammad, the Banu Iskandar ruler of Kujur, who succeeded his father in 975/1567 was an Ismaili. He openly emboldened the propagation of Ismailism in Rustamdar. He seized Nur and other localities in Mazandaran and spread Ismaili creed as far as Sari. He died in 998/1590, and was succeeded by his eldest son Jahangir, who was also deep-rooted in Ismailism. He was obliged to go to the court of the Safavid Shah Abbas I, following the latter's conquest of Gilan and other Caspian provinces in 1000/1592. Later, Jahangir returned to Rustamdar, but was arrested by the local lieutenant of Shah Abbas I, who had led a large force against him. Jahangir was sent to Qazwin, where he was executed in 1006/1598."

In Syria, the inroads of the bigoted Nusairis recurred on the Ismaili villages in 999/1591, and pillaged their properties. This time, the Ismailis repelled the band of Nusairis from their territories with their own resources.

Kahek was made the new headquarters in Kirman after Anjudan. Syed Abdul Nabi was an Indian vakil, who visited Kahek. He was rejoiced to behold Imam Nizar in the garden, facing the palace, which he relates in his ginan that: - "I enjoyed a trip with the Imam, when my Lord was in the garden." Syed Abdul Nabi's another ginan also gives condensed account that:- "The everlasting Lord resides in Kahek in the very form of Ali. The apparent Imam Nizar is the 77th epiphany of God, and the 40th Imam."

Syed Abdul Nabi mostly preached in Gujrat. In Surat, he came into the close contact of the Gupti Momina Ismailis. He used to organize a weekly religious gathering, known as satsang (the pious congregation) in which the local Hindu families were also invited, notably the Laiwala, Naginawala and Jamiatram families. Syed Abdul Nabi died in Surat, and his mausoleum is situated at Kankara Khadi, near Surat.

In India, the Kadiwal Syeds continued the Ismaili mission despite several impediments. Fourth in the line of Syed Mashaikh bin Syed Rehmatullah Shah bin Pir Hasan Kabir, was Syed Fazal Shah; who operated proselytizing mission in north Gujrat with a tremendous effect upon the local peasants. He is said to have visited Iran in 1035/1625 during the period of Imam Nizar and was appointed as a vakil. The tradition relates that Imam Nizar also sent with him his one relative, called Pir Kassim Shah. Both of them not only conducted the proselytism afresh, but also accelerated the economical condition of the Ismailis. Pir Kassim Shah died around 1121/1710, and was buried in a village, called Mudana, two miles from Sidhpur. Thus, Hasan Pir had to administer the mission in Gujrat and Kathiawar, and died probably in 1126/1715.

Imam Nizar died in Kahek in 1038/1628 and was entombed in his small palace, which had been made a domed sepulcher. It is an eye-catching building in Kahek, consisting of different chambers. It also accommodated the graves of Imam's close relatives, but the dates inscribed in the graves are concocted. The mausoleum was renovated in 1805 by the Syrian pilgrims, who stayed in Kahek for many months, and it was again rebuilt in 1966 by the local Ismailis.

The dates of the Ismaili Imams of the post-Alamut period are well recorded in the Satveni'ji Vel by Syed Nur Muhammad Shah (d. 940/1534) down to the period of Imam Nuruddin Ali (d. 957/1550). It also prompted the Indian Ismailis to write down the dates of the following Imams. The Russian scholar W. Ivanow visited Iran in 1937 and noted the dates of Imams' death from the plaques on the existing mausoleums. While collating the dates of the inscriptions with the traditional records, it seems that the dates of few early Imams are almost in agreement, but other dates are in fair contrast, making a layer of confusion to reconcile them. For instance, the death of Imam Nizar is placed 1038/1628 in the traditional records, but the inscription of mausoleum places 1134/1722, indicating a discrimination of about 94 years. It is, however, much nearer to reasonable possibility that the Indian Ismailis had been in close contact with the Imams after Pir Sadruddin's time in Iran, and they had treasured up the traditional records in their memories, therefore, the traditional dates cannot be ruled out. Besides, there is another testimony equally potent that Pir Sadruddin is said to have composed a daily prayer for the Indian followers, wherein the names of the Imams from Hazrat Ali down to the Imam of the time were recited. When an Imam died, the name of his successor was added in the daily prayer. Under such practice, the traditional records seem more credible than that of the inscriptions. It seems probable that most of the mausoleums and their inscriptions existed long after the death of the Imams, and none can assert that the scribes had either written the actual dates, or the dates of their own time, or written on guess work. Take it for granted that the inscriptions provide true record, then one would have to brush aside few names of the Imams from the official list, so as to adjust the history with the dates of inscriptions. The Indian pilgrims most possibly had visited the mausoleums of the Imams and seen the inscriptions, had these really existed during their time. In spite of reading the extant inscriptions, the Indian pilgrims of later period seem to have clung with their own dominant records, which is ample to judge that they had discarded the uncertain dates of inscriptions. In all this, what should have become abundantly clear is that all the dates of the inscriptions are not to be trusted. We have many instances that the inscriptions of some Sufi saints in Iran had been wrongly inscribed in their shrines too.


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