Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database. Guests are not required to login during this beta-testing phase

Ismaili History 627 - Misconception of the doctrine of Qiyama

Culling up the different narratives, it appears that few Ismailis in northern Syria had misinterpreted the notion of the qiyama among the orthodox Muslims, who also in turn, ignored its inner Islamic substance and devised a derogatory imputation and engineered anti- propaganda in hyperbolic and opprobrious words. Dr. Nassih Ahmed Mirza writes that, 'Among the Syrian Ismailis who lived far away from Alamut in a different environment, the teachings of the qiyama were probably not fully understood by all.' (Ibid. pp. 156-7) Under these difficult circumstances, the basic teachings of the qiyama was bound to have been different in northern Syria from what was in Iran. Between 559/1164 and 607/1210, the orthodox machine sprouted out from all directions in Iran and Syria, reviling that the Ismailis had violated the Islamic Shariah. Dahalbi (d. 748/1348) writes in 'Zubat at-talab fi Tarikh-i Halab' that, 'The proclamation of qiyama in Iran was obvious, the more so since the Syrian historians clearly know nothing of the event of Alamut.' Such episodes had possibly furnished further weighty excuse for the Muslim opponents of the Ismailis to accuse them of the outright abandonment of the Islamic law. One can judge from the imponderable and starkly fictitous accounts of the contemporary diplomats and travellers, about the nature of the rumours spread against the Ismailis. In a diplomatic report of 570/1175 of an envoy, Burchard of Strassburg, who had been sent to Syria by the Roman king Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-1190), indicates that Burchard had been ill-informed by the local Muslims about the Ismailis during his visit to Syria in 570/1175, which he produced in his report in a distorted form. He writes, 'The Heyssessini live without law; they eat swine's flesh against the law of the Saracens, and make use of all women...' Ibn Jubayr, the Spanish traveller had also passed through the Syrian Ismailis territories on Friday, the 18th Rabi I, 580/June 29, 1184 and describes what he learnt through oral channels that, 'On their slopes are castles belonging to the heretical Ismailites, a sect which swerved from Islam and vested divinity in a man (Sinan).... He bewitched them with these black arts, so that they took him as a god and worshipped him. They abased themselves before him, reaching such a state of obedience and subjection that did he order one of them to fall from the mountain top he would do so, and with alacrity that he might be pleased.' (vide 'The Travels of Ibn Zubayr' tr. by R.J.C. Broadhurst, London, 1952, p. 264). All this sounds that the unrealistic and incredible image of the Ismailis was portrayed in Syria. Dr. Nassih Ahmed Mirza continues to write: 'This misunderstanding of the spiritual aims of the qiyama, which very likely were only understood by the most learned dais, may together with political consideration have been the factor which prompted the grandson of Hasan Ala Dhikrihi al-Salam to reinstate the observance of the ordinary rituals of the Shariah.' (Ibid. pp. 158-9).
And here we cannot but call attention to the fact that the qiyama involved an emphasis on the batin along with its counterpart, the zahir, was present in Ismailism from the earliest times. It is irrational judgement of some historians that the qiyama involved an abrogation of the shariah, since the Ismailis had seldom deprecated it. Thus, Jalaluddin Hasan restricted his followers not to preach the doctrine of qiyama. The most obvious inference from this action emerges that the esoteric teachings of Islam was privatized, and the tradition of the Sufic khanqah (cloister) came into existence in the Ismailis to observe the esoteric practices in solitude.

Jalaluddin Hasan also cemented cordial relations with the Muslims rulers, so that the Ismailis living in the mountains for many years, can accelerate their economical conditions in the different cities. There are indications that at least some of the Ismailis were becoming increasingly weary of their isolation from the outside world. To make this possible, there had to be at least a measure of outward conformity. For generating friendship with the rulers, Jalaluddin Hasan greatly needed first to make the people known that the Ismailis had never abrogated the Islamic Shariah. He ordered the building of mosques and public baths. He invited the Muslim theologians from Iraq and Khorasan. According to 'The Cambridge History of Iran' (London, 1968, 5th vol., p. 476), 'From the time of Hasan III, the Ismailis attracted to their libraries and to their learned patronage a large number of scholars from the outer world. Such scholars were free to maintain their prior religious convictions.' Ibn Wasil (d. 697/1298) writes in 'Mufarrid al-Kurub' (p. 211) that the Syrian Ismailis were also subsequently informed in 608/1211 to follow the policy of the Imam.

Jalaluddin Hasan sent his envoys to the Abbasid caliph Nasir, Muhammad Khwarazmshah, the rulers of Iraq and Azerbaijan to notify them of his religious policy, making them informed that the Ismailis were the true Muslims. Very rapidly, the Ismailis restored the lost prestige and began to spread in the Muslim cities. The Abbasid caliph Nasir also issued a decree in Baghdad in Rabi I, 608/August, 1211, proclaiming his close ties with Alamut. It is curious that the decree indicates that the Ismaili Imam had embraced Sunnism, which apparently is the addition in the original text by the later Sunni writers.

Some historians have curiously inflated in their narratives that Jalaluddin Hasan had accepted the suzerainty of the Abbasids, which is quite incorrect. Granted that the Alamut had recognized the supremacy of Baghdad, then the Abbasid khutba should have been recited in the territories governed by Jalaluddin Hasan, which, of course did never occur. Secondly, if Alamut had been made the Abbasid's enclave, the rulers of Alamut followed by Jalaluddin Hasan should have been directly appointed from Baghdad according to the prevalent custom, which also never took place. Jalaluddin Hasan had actually cemented his friendly ties with the Abbasids and other Muslim rulers to restore the prestige of the Ismailis.

Jalaluddin Hasan thus was held in high esteem and accepted as a cheif amongst other chiefs, and his rights to the territories he dominated were officially acknowledged by the Abbasids. His mother went on the pilgrimage to Mecca in 609/1213 under the patronage of caliph Nasir, who received her with great pomp and deference. On that occasion, according to 'A Short History of the Khawarzamshahs'(Karachi, 1978, pp. 72 and 207) by Prof. Ghulam Rabbani Aziz that the Abbasid caliph placed the flag of Khwarazamshah behind that of Jalaluddin Hasan, the ruler of Alamut, in the caravan of the pilgrims. She gave great amounts in charity, and had many well dug.

The improved relations were naturally beneficial to the Sunni Muslims as well. For instance, at the end of Jalaluddin Hasan's rule, many Muslims including prominent scholars who were fleeing from the Mongolian strikes in Khorasan, found asylum in the Ismaili towns of Kohistan.

It is seen that the reforms of Jalaluddin Hasan have been taken into a wrong sense by Juvaini and other historians, tincturing with dubious stories. Juvaini claims that Jalaluddin Hasan had given up the creeds of his forefather (p. 698) and professed Sunnism (p. 699). He seems to make a dogmatic different between the Imam with the previous Imams of Alamut. Granted that Jalaluddin Hasan had deserted the creeds of his forefather and embraced Sunnism, then why he retained with him till death the spiritual authority of Imamate, and nominated his son as the next Imam in accordance with the fundamental concept of Shiism? Secondly, it is unlikely to confess the notion advanced by the historians that an Imam had adhered to the Sunnism on one hand and his followers continued to profess Shi'ism of an Ismaili tariqah on other. Jalaluddin Hasan was therefore absolutely an Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, therefore, the opinions of the historians are utterly irrational and unrealistic. According to 'The Cambridge History of Iran' (London, 1968, 5th vol., p. 470) that, 'From an Imamate point of view, he (Jalaluddin Hasan) was undeniably the Imam: he had received the irrevocable designation by the preceding Imam and whatever he ordered was to be received in faith'. Suffice it to say that the Syrian scholar, Arif Tamir cited a letter of Jalaluddin Hasan, in which he claims his Imamate and traces his descent from al-Nizar through Hasan II, vide 'Sinan Rashid-ad- Din aw Shaikh al-Jabal' (al-Adib, 23rd vol., May, 1953, p. 45). It is also a matter worth consideration that his actions were not rejected by his followers, and he was also able to leave Alamut fearlessly and visited in foreign lands for 18 months and returned with no difficulty or mishap. W. Montgomery Watt writes in 'Islam and the Integration of Society' (London, 1961, p. 77) that, 'For the Ismailis, too, the Imam was an absolute autocrat, whose decrees had to be accepted. However strange his new decision might seem, a loyal follower could not question it, since he was bound to regard the Imam as knowing better than himself. In fact the community seems to have followed al-Hasan III without hesitation. He himself may genuinely have believed that he was acting in the best interests of the community.'

Jalaluddin Hasan also procured close relation with the ruler of Gilan, and in 608/1212, he betrothed to the four women of Gilan. One among them was the sister of Kai'kaus bin Shahanshah, the ruler of Kutum, who bore Imam's successor, named Alauddin Muhammad.


Back to top