Ismailis attacked in karachi in 2015

Pakistan of the Ismailis

Zaigham Khan
The past is another country, and 1906 is on located at a distance of more than a century. In that eventful year, the imam of the small Ismaili Muslim community led the process of forming a political platform for South Asian Muslims at a meeting of the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Dhaka. Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III suggested the name of the party – All India Muslim League – and was elected its first president.
Seven years later, a young Mumbai based lawyer, also belonging to the Ismaili community, left the Indian National Congress and joined the party founded by his spiritual leader. We know how this charismatic lawyer turned the party into the voice of Indian Muslims and changed the course of history by founding a new state 34 years later when he was a terminally ill old man.
Sometime before Jinnah returned triumphantly to the city of his birth as the father of the new nation, some Hindu families in my village in District Muzaffargarh were facing a dilemma. Like hundreds, perhaps thousands of Hindu families in India, they had revered Ismaili imams as their spiritual mentors. Keeping with the tradition of mysticism in India, Aga Khan had never asked them to convert. But these were different times, and Aga Khan had finally ordered them to convert to Islam if they wanted to keep the connection. They found it easier to leave their religion than disobey their spiritual mentor. With the help of local Muslims, they converted to Islam in a simple ceremony held at a Sunni mosque, though they chose to embrace the Ismaili denomination.
As a schoolgoing boy, I would meet some men from these families at the Deobandi Jamia mosque where they used to pray every Friday with other Muslims. Everyone knew that Ismails were required to say their prayers at the largest Muslim mosque in the area if a mosque of their own denomination was not available. These Ismaili families later shifted to Multan where they became part of the thriving Ismaili business community.
Multan, the historic city they shifted to, was itself once a centre of Ismaili dawat (preaching). In fact, Ismailis had set up a Muslim state in the area more than a thousand years ago that was terminated violently in 1010 AD by Mahmud Ghaznavi, revered in our textbooks for desecrating a Hindu temple. One of the major shrines in Multan also belongs to a 13th century Ismaili saint, Pir Shams Sabzwari, visited by Muslims of all denominations.
Going back to my own Deobandi mosque, I saw Ismailis praying there till the 1980s, the decade when the Middle East, with its heavy baggage of violent sectarian history, arrived in this part of South Asia. In 1990, a 14-year-old boy killed a crippled Shia worshipper at a Sunni mosque in Muzaffargarh considering his regular presence an abomination for the sacred place.
Incidentally, the mosque was built by the Shia owners of a nearby factory.
I went to interview the boy at the district prison. He appeared unrepentant and told me that he was inspired by speeches of a sectarian religious leader based in Jhang. A local lawyer explained to me how leaders of the sectarian organisation patronising the boy had easy access to the district administration and received half a dozen arms licences every day.
Starting its journey as an Islamic state, Pakistan by now had become a sectarian state where Ismailis, along with Shias and non-Muslim minorities, were misfits. Takfiri fatwas, that declare individuals and rival sects to be infidels, are a very old hobby of our religious entities. Some clerics used to call Jinnah Kafir-e-Azam – the Great Infidel – as a retort to his popular title. In the case of Iqbal, clerics had gone much further with Maulvi Abu Muhammad Didar Ali, khateeb of the Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore, issuing a proper fatwa declaring Iqbal an infidel.
Interestingly, in the case of His Highness Aga Khan, it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who raised the question of him not being a perfect Muslim while Iqbal defended his teachings through an article. 
For South Asian Muslims, such confrontations were more of an amusing sideshow, not something that affected their day to day lives. Unlike the Middle East where empires with rival sectarian allegiances had created much bad blood, in South Asia there was enough space for Lal Shahbaz Qalandar to turn himself into an eagle and fly unhindered and for Shah Waliullah to carry out his scholarly work.
What changed things in Pakistan for Ismailis – and for everyone else – was the attitude of the state. Over time, the Pakistani state has assumed a sectarian character and its religious institutions have become blatantly sectarian. Take the example of the so-called International Islamic University in Islamabad. How this university employs followers of one sect and promotes teachings of that specific sect to its students has never been a secret.
A recent report of an intelligence agency leaked to the media points out that the university “intentionally promotes sectarian doctrine at its campus”. And we are talking of a state-owned and run ‘premier centre of Islamic learning’ with the president of Pakistan as its chancellor.
On the more practical side, the state has patronised militant jihadi organisations belonging to a small number of sects. Thanks to these oorganisations, some of whom have fallen from grace while others remain precious assets, the takfiri fatwas are no longer empty edicts; they are backed by the firepower of extremist organisations that can easily cow down state institutions and functionaries. No wonder the attack on Ismailis in Karachi was preceded by a fatwa against the whole denomination from one of the country’s largest and most influential madressahs. The head of the same madressah has also issued a fatwa against a federal minister who has been forced to explain his position like a chastised schoolboy.
Violent extremism is only a fruit of the tree the state itself had planted. Perhaps the biggest challenge of our times is to de-sectarianise the Pakistani state and return it to the joint ownership of all Muslims denominations and followers of other faiths. The way Ismailis have maintained stoic silence over the brutality wreaked on the community says a lot about the environment of fear that surrounds them.
Once upon a time, His Highness Aga Khan and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave voice to the aspirations of all Muslims of South Asia. It is now our turn to speak on behalf of our Ismaili brothers and sisters. 

8 Replies to “Pakistan of the Ismailis”

  1. Muhammad Hassan: Brother, am just loving the way you take on a debate. It is not only about the strength of content (argument), but the polite and respectful way you address the commenters—even not agreeing to their view points. This admirable trait makes you distinctive as a civilized and educated debater. I strongly believe that politeness and showing respect to the ‘opponents’ are the fundamental prerequisites for any meaningful debate. Otherwise, the main theme of the discussion would left behind and personal abuses will take on the leads. It would be a great injustice if we do not appreciate Mr. Hakim for his respectful mannerism, and his sincerity to be peaceful and let others live peacefully. Stay blessed you both.
    Regarding the article–the Pakistan of the Ismailis–we must appreciate the learned writer for his courage to speak the truth and highlighting some of the historical facts alongside the services of the Ismailis to the beloved country, Pakistan. If God willing, we will discuss some other aspects in days to come.
    Yaar zinda, sohbat baqi..
    Nisar Ahmad Shah
    Garam Chashma

  2. As always regarded and respected, Hakim sahab,
    Much more obliged and satisfied over your kind remarks which concludes in a very warm, ethical, sincere and stronger bond of brotherhood.
    My compements and gratitude for your excellent inputs and I am proud of your potentials.

  3. Thank you my dear and honorable brother Muhammad Hassan sahab now this discussion’s chapter is being closed here with pleasures,yes we are prime nation in the map of the world ,if we follow our culture and old tradition, revere our feeling and try to point out those factors which are harmful for our unity , then to evaluate and treatment of the unhealthy matters would not be so difficult,because due to lack of internal communication with each other not only increases our enmity but also eats the strong roots of our that brotherhood which has been continued last many decayed without any termination I like that our this brotherhood should be recurrent instead of collapse.How much love existed among our one village to the another village and place to place when some one passed away from any part of Chitral without any bloody relation we felt it, preferred it and on priority bases usually participated in condolence collectively.even we were living between two narrow mountainous region but our heart were broad more than the space from the earth to sky.Our hearts beated at a same time . My dear brother we should remove and eliminate of those spaces which cause to separate us from each other and do not cause to become a single and prime nation. Please I request that if we say that we are one nation then our thinking and planing also should be prime and unidirectional to our goal then we will write down those feeling which will be useful to promote the civilized and universal social community and nation .Eventually our matching feeling wear the dress and and convert into a shape then to minimize our problems and maximize our developmental processes.I salute your agreement that eventually we both converged and focused to our real meaning which was chosen and selected by me.The great people are those they may be angry and emotional but to tolerate is their way of life are called forceful and strong,To damage and destroy of some one’s life is very easy but to cure and protect of some one life is the best wisdom than all.Once again I thank you for your creative and curative mind that may Allah grant effulgence our darkness and snatch all of darkness from our hearts and from our thinking.I love to you as my Chitrali Brother without any discrimination and cast because we are one in every platform from every aspect.Come join hands together to create the peaceful environment to our perpetual stability ,otherwise we will be deprived from our this brotherhood as well as the lovely peaceful Chitral.I request that any kind of cooperation in this regard shall require, I will present myself in first row among those who love to Chitral. TAR DAMANI PE SHEKH HAMARY NA JAYEO…..DAMAN NICHORH DEN TO FARISHTEY WAZU KAREN.
    Sincere son and brother of Chitrali Nation
    Muhammad Hakim

  4. With regards and respect to you and your comments I would say that as long as the clerics/ preachers or anyone who is doing the right thing in the society like the one you have mentioned of Qari sahab, I would not only appreciate it, rather I would like to join him in such kinds of good deeds, but once catastrophic activities like the one which caused karachi incidents (Upon which this debate started) and numerous other terrorist activities across the country which is not good for the society in any sense is something that we must condemn, whether he is an individual or any particular group recruiting, training and executing such henious crimes. If we ignore such big crimes, and still highlight the very few good deeds and never hold anybody responsible for such unrests, then who will come to safeguard us from such threats??
    In response to your query that ismailim was existing before pakistan’s existance, doesnt relate to the current issue in the sence that whatever Ism,being exist doesn’t matter, what really matters is that what this particular “Ism” is doing in a particular time. Ismailism has been existing through the times globally with a track record, so comparing them with the one which has been the key message in this article is some thing injustice.
    I really appreciate your positive message regarding the peaceful coexistance, I think it may be a communication gape of little bit mis understandings under a heavy load of brotherhood and tolerance which we have been exercising over the years, yes again agree with you that external forces might be there to destabilize our peaceful coextistance, those also need to be identified and dealt with wisdom rather than emotions.

  5. To criticize is absolutely your right my dear Hassan sahab,really my meaning is not that as you have felt about my argument.But I did not take any exogenous source also did not give you any Mula or Dashman argument to tell you about the above statements but you yourself have not thoroughly studied the article. so please try to know my meaning,I would never be against to anyone and I do like for everyone that which I like for myself.But your misunderstanding about the division of Umat e Muhammd can not be understood by me because you have told that these all Ismailisim ,Sunisim,Shiaism were introduced by clerics after Pakistan.So I mentioned in my comments the writer’s statements to clarify you that the divisions were not made by them inside Pakistan…You know there are a lot of clerics they are doing well for the welfare of the nation without any discrimination as the great Scholar the Qary Faizullah grants the award in cash every year for the first position holder students inside our district Chitral and different part of the country.He also supports and gives the financial aid and treatment as well facilities to those poor ill peoples who have no any source of income and they can not afford to pay a huge bill of their treatment as like the renal failure ills. So how you blame collectively that this division was created by clerics.You also have not mention the specific person who is responsible to create such division inside the country.My dear brother even we have different manners of religious worship but we should follow them individually and collectively and we should not target to any scholar and cleric because in their heart Allah has kept this holy Quran Which is the holiest book of the world.They have been keeping the holy book as well as hadith and sunat in their hearts far last many years.It is our weakness and lack of knowledge that we neglect their unique and universal services to the Umat e Muhammadi.My dear brother this is our country we have totally room to do practice our worship in our own manners no one can resist to any body to do his religious activities which is permitted in the constitute of Pakistan.Regarding to my statement I can only apologize to you that my meaning is not based on bias.I love my all communities people without any difference and cast from the deep of my heart.I thank to that it has provided a platform to solve our national level problems individually and collectively.But you should respect our religious values and do not blame to any without any reason.In my eyes we are all chitraly is one strong and unique nation of the world and we are the peaceful people of the world but some activities do not need to disclose them ,because that will create the destructive base to destabilize our strong peaceful society. So we should forgive to each other our minor mistakes and misunderstanding then no one can destroy our peaceful Chitral. From the initial we respect our values even our life manners almost not the same but never we gesture toward anyone personal’s way of living style and ways.We were one ,we are one and we will be one nation together. so we should not need to challenge to each other.We all know better that what did the sir Agha Khan for Pakistan in the difficult time .History books are full of these great achievement but unfortunately some exogenous enemies come and enter our rows and want to destroy our peace and brotherhood especially in Chitral. So if we do not think about these violated manners and negative aspects of feeling then very soon we will be like the other effected people of the country become bad and can not continue our this unique brotherhood in our district.As you all know the ratio of education increases very rapidly in our region but we can not be able to ignore unnecessary activities,but behind the veil we are making plan to lead each other even we need the legal or illegal source.So I again apologize that my dear brother my words should not be taken in wrong meaning.I hope you got my true meaning now??

  6. Not a constructive argument, so I wouldn’t respond.
    My request to Mr.Hakim Khan would be thorough reading of Zaigham Khan’s aricle in an unbiased manner and I beg your pardon if any of the sentence of mine has hurt you anyway.

  7. Muhammad Hassan on June 9, 2015 at 10:25 am said: “Such Clerics have not only divided Pakistan in to Shia, Sunni or Ismailies on sectarian basis, rather this division has engulfed the entire Pakistani society in a ruthless manner.”
    Brother, if the Ismailism , Sunism, Shiasm and falanaism were initiated by religious clerics(dashmans) after the Pakistan come into being so why Agha Khan was already the leader of Ismalism before Pakistan? But you say that after the existent of Pakistan these different Islamic division made up by clerics. Please do not interpret by your mind many complex things which were already exist before the Pakistan come into being.
    Zaigham Khan (The News): “The past is another country, and 1906 is located at a distance of more than a century. In that eventful year, the imam of the small Ismaili Muslim community led the process of forming a political platform for South Asian Muslims at a meeting of the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Dhaka. Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III suggested the name of the party.”
    Please my respected brother open your eyes and clear your mind. Then blame to clerics that the the division was made by them. But it was 1906 at that time was not any country with the name of Pakistan. But Ismailism was exist.

  8. Honorable Zaigham Khan has depicted a true story of how Pakistan was transformed ideologically from Qaid e azam’s and Allama Iqbal’s Pakistan in to the Current Pakistan. The most unfortunate thing with this country has been the “Wrong Interpretations”, and non existence of a valid interpreting institution. Such Clerics have not only divided Pakistan in to Shia, Sunni or Ismailies on sectarian basis, rather this division has engulfed the entire Pakistani society in a ruthless manner.
    Today even mosques are no more safe for the worshipers and this is totally because of the lack of wisdom which the author has rightly emphasized in his article. World is following one lesson i.e “Unity” by falling Berlin wall, making European Unions, NATO, Pluralism is becoming the hallmark of not only USA, but Canada Australia and other European nations,while teachings of hatred, divisions, biased curricula and hypocrisy by the so called Muslim states has brought them to the destinations they deserve.
    It is high time to promote the pluralistic teachings in this technologically advanced era and follow the basic rules of the holy Quran and Science i.e “Research and Research” if we are to survive and live a respectable life.

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