IS "AGA KHAN A ROYAL TITLE?
"Aqa" (also, Agha or Aga) is a word, said to be of Tatar origin, signifying a dignitary or lord. The term was applied by the Turks to the chief of the janissaries. "Khan," now degraded by its overuse, was a title of nobility, and was also used for a local ruler or official. "Aga Khan" is the adopted family name of a hereditary spiritual leader (Imam) of the Shiah Nizari Ismailis. One of the many legends that have circulated about this mysterious religious leader is that the title of "Aga Khan" was conferred by the Emperor of Persia upon the great-great- grandfather of the present Aga Khan, for his dedicated services to the throne. On the contrary, Hassan Ali Shah Mahallati Aga Khan I (1804-81), was an unsuccessful insurgent. A one-time governor of Kirman in Persia, he had "proclaimed an independent government." In the opinion of Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-90), a noted orientalist and British spy; the attempt at rebellion against the reigning sovereign was "ridiculous."
In 1905, during a trial in the High Court of Bombay, Hassan's grandson, Aga Khan III, testified before Justice Russell that "Aga Khan" was "not a title but a sort of `alias,' a pet name when Hassan Ali was a young man." The pet name was later adopted as a hereditary family name by the succeeding Imams, who also claim to be the direct descendants of prophet Muhammad (sas).
In his autobiography, `Ibrat-afza, written in Persian and published in Bombay, Hassan narrated his several unsuccessful military encounters in Persia, in which he had been aided by the British Raj. According to Sir Richard Burton, he had received weapons in quantity from John Company (British), including at least two heavy field pieces (cannons).
In 1840, accompanied by a few hundred horsemen, the "adventurous and romantic" Hassan (Aga Khan I), fled Persia. The defeated political refugee, sought and found sanctuary under the protection of the British Raj. Upon his arrival in Afghanistan, Hassan provided the mercenary services of his horsemen to the British army. In his memoirs, Hassan spelled out his reasons for joining the invading army of the British Raj in the conquest of Afghanistan and Sind from Muslim rulers. Hassan (a Muslim mercenary and so called direct descendant of the prophet!) referred to the British as "the people of God" (khalq 'ullah), and to his role of acting as a secret agent for the British general Sir Charles Napier as "for the sake of God's pleasure"
(mahd-i rida-yi ilahi).
Nearly a century later, Hassan's grandson, Aga Khan III, was proud to record in his own Memoirs the mercenary services of his grandfather, which he described as "stout assistance" rendered to the British Raj in their process of imperialistic expansion. "For these services and for others which he rendered to Sir Charles Napier in his conquest of Sind in 1843-4, my grandfather received a pension from the British Government." Hassan's ambitions of recovering his lost territories from the Shah of Persia, with the help of "the people of God" (the British), were never fulfilled. However, he did receive a hereditary title of "Highness" which the present Karim Aga Khan uses with pride.
1866: A BRITISH COURT SEALS THE FATE OF A SUNNI MUSLIM COMMUNITY
Under the protection of and with aid from the British Raj, Aga Hassan Ali Shah - Aga Khan I, successfully established his religious authority over a small Muslim "Khojah" community of converted Hindus that lived on the west coast of India. The majority of these converts had adopted Sunni persuassion, the faith of their orginal converters to Islam. These Sheikhs - the converters, are presently known as "Pirs of Khojahs" by the Ismailis.
Aga Hassan Ali Shah wrote in his autobiography `Ibrat-afza' that he was himself a `Murid' of a Sufi Master Mast `Ali Shah (Haji Zayn al-`Abidin Shirwani), who was a successor to Majdhub `Ali Shah, the thirty-eighth Qutub of the `Ata Allah Sufi Order. Hassan Ali Shah initiated a new era in the history of these converted mostly Sunni "Khojah" Muslims. Ismaili history books records that in 1864, he removed the officiating Sunni "Mullah" from the Khojah Mosque in Bombay and replaced him with a Shiah "Maulvi". In 1866, the fate of this "Khojah" Muslim community was sealed when a British judge, Sir Joseph Arnold, passed judgment in favour of the Aga Khan on all points, declaring him the undisputed religious leader of the "Khojah" community giving him the absolute control over all communal property, including prayer houses and burial grounds. This was a turning point in the history of the Khojah community.
Historical records and the court documents filed by the Aga Khan's counsel show that prior to the arrival of the Aga Khan, the majority of the Khojahs observed Sunni rites and rituals, with religious ceremonies carried out by Sunni Mullahs. After receiving the necessary mandate, Hassan began proselytizing the Khojah community. These documents also record that Hassan guided them to the creed of his ancestors, which was an Ithna'ashriyyah persuasion of the Shiah sect of Islam. Hassan's autobiography records that he himself believed in the Imamat of Musa Kazim (the younger brother of Ismail) and his descendants. Majority of the historians record that Imam Ismail died within the life time of his father Imam Jaffer as Sadiq. Today, the present Aga Khan claims to be the designated hereditary direct descendant of Imam Ismail. This is a major noteworthy glaring shift, within the last four generations of the Aga Khans.
Ismaili historians have recorded that until as late as 1874 (34 years after his arrival in India), the Aga Khan's authority as a religious leader was sharply opposed by some influential wealthy members of the community. His followers in Bombay objected to "his too great predilection for drinking and intriguing with females," according to Sir Richard Burton.
In 1881, Hassan died and was succeeded by his son Aga Ali Shah. His leadership lasted for a brief period of four years with no major events. His interests in life were horse breeding, racing, and big-game hunting. In 1885, Aga Ali Shah died and his eight-year-old son, Sultan Muhammad Shah, became Aga Khan III and the new leader of the community. The young Imam's mother, Lady Ali Shah, who was a very devoted Ithna'ashri Muslimah, became a trustee and, behind the scenes, acting leader of the community. She was instrumental in the introduction of various Ithna'ashriyyah rituals in the community. Some of these rituals are currently prevailent as a legacy of Lady Ali Shah who died in 1938.
AGA KHAN III, AN INTERNATIONAL POLITICIAN
In 1898, the young Aga Khan undertook his first tour of Europe. On his way, he approached Sultan Abdul Hamid of the Ottoman Empire with "an elaborate plan for colonization." The statement submitted was prepared by Rabbi Kahn. The plan was based upon Aga Khan's Zionist friend Professor Haffkine's masterpiece scheme for the establishment of a Jewish settlement "that could be progressively undertaken in the Holy Land." Dr. Haffkine had suggested before Aga Khan that "the land would be obtained by purchase from the Sultan's subjects" whereas "the capital was to be provided by wealthier members of the Jewish community."
Aga Khan, who claimed to be an Imam and a direct descendant of the prophet, wrote in his Memoirs: "As Haffkine propounded it, I thought this sort of Zionism useful and practical." The scheme was turned down by the Sultan. The disappointed Aga Khan wrote: "I must say its rejection has always seemed to me one of Abdul Hamid's greatest blunders." Today, looking at what is happening in Palestine, I but cannot refrain from quoting a passage from the Ismaili Du'a (ritual prayer), with a bewilderment and a doubt. The passage recited is a "fragmented" portion of the verse 36:12 of the Holy Qur'an. The translation thereof, as it appears in the Du'a book including the words within the parentheses, reads; "And We have vested (the knowledge and authority) of everything in the manifest Imam."
As long as the British Raj ruled in India, "the secret services of the Aga Khan III were in constant demand." He was an "Ambassador without Portfolio" for the British. In his Memoirs, he proudly referred to such services as "secret diplomatic missions." Besides several other titles, he received "the highest decoration which it was possible for any Indian subject of the Crown to receive (K.G.C.S.I.)," records Aga Khan.
In 1930, the Aga Khan led the British Indian delegation to the Round Table conference held in London. In 1934, following the Second Round Table conference, the Aga Khan approached the British Government of India with a request to give him a territorial State so that he could join the company of Indian Maharajahs and Princes. Sultan Muhammad Shah - Aga Khan the third, was greatly disappointed when his offer was rejected by the Mcdonald government. In 1937, he represented the British Indian government in the League of Nations. Thereafter, he was elected president of this prestigious international organization.
AGA KHAN III INTRODUCES
"ALI SHAHI (TRULY) ALLAH" AS
THE CONFESSION OF ISMAILI FAITH
Aga Khan III enjoyed a long life. During his 72 years of Imamat (leadership), from 1885 to 1957, he changed the course of history for the Khojah community. Socially and economically, Khojah community made great progress, and so did the Aga Khan. He became one of the richest men on earth, and a leading breeder and owner of thoroughbred horses. Between 1930 and 1936, his horses made history in the racing world by winning several prestigious racing events in Europe. His grandson - Karim Aga Khan, has carried on the family tradition on the turf of horse racing.
During his leadership, Aga Khan III was literally weighed by his followers; in Silver at Bombay, in Gold at Bombay and Nairobi, in the rented industrial Diamonds at Bombay and Dar-es-Salaam, and finally in Platinum at Cairo and Karachi. Aga Khan gave back to the community welfare projects, the money collected for these token ceremonies.
Long before the arrival of the Aga Khans in India, Khojah families had settled in East Africa, especially on the island of Zanzibar. The Aga Khan III, encouraged his followers to emigrate to East Africa in greater numbers. Many of these families became prosperous businessmen. Today, the majority of the descendants of these pioneers have resettled in Europe and North America.
Aga Khan was also successful in changing course of the religious path of the community. The Ithna'ashriyyah rites and rituals that his mother and grandfather had introduced in the community were systematically thrown out by him. The jobs of the Shiah Maulvis were taken over by his close relatives and the paid missionaries. Aga Khan introduced new theological concepts and sacred practices. Many of which attributed explicit divinity to Hazrat Ali, such as; reciting of "Ali is truly Allah" as an integral part of the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), in their daily ritual prayers called Du'a. This was the beginning of the third and final proselytization in the history of the Khojah community. Today, Ismailis recite "Aliyyullah" in their ritual Du'a which translates; "Ali, the Allah".
In 1905, the Aga Khan won a major civil suit brought against him by his relatives. One of the significant issues decided by the court was concerning the persuasion of the Khojah community. The judgment document declared the members to be "Shiah Ismailis". During this historic trial, the plaintiff's counsel suggested that the presiding judge Mr.Russell should not try the case, as he was a friend of Aga Khan - the defendant. In his judgment document, Justice Russell admitted: "I had exchanged calls with the Aga Khan and had dined twice with him and had asked him to dinner and he had not been able to come."
In 1906, Aga Khan dismissed the traditionally elected "Khojah Joostis" (jurisprudent committees), of the community. In replacement thereof, Aga Khan established "Ismailia Councils" and appointed office-bearers and members for the Councils. The practice is prevalent to this day. In 1910, Aga Khan promulgated a legally drafted "Shiah Imami Ismaili Constitution" and ordained it under his personal seal. Thereafter, Aga Khan made a Farman (Royal Decree) commanding the followers to abide by the Constitution. The opening article 1.1 of the most recent Constitution ordained in 1986 by the Hazar (present) Imam - Karim Aga Khan reads;
Mawlana Hazar Imam has inherent right and absolute and unfettered power and authority over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismailis.
Below are the faithful reproductions of the Arabic transliteration, the English translation and the Gujrati translation (transliterated) of the phrase "Aliyyullah", as they appears in the Book of Ismaili Du'a, officially published by `The Shia Imami Ismailia Assiciation for Africa, Kenya', 1963:-
The Arabic transliteration:
"La ilaha illallaha, Mohammedur-Rasoolullahi, Aliyyun Amirul-mu'mineen Aliyyullah:"
The English translation:
"There is no deity except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Aly, the master of the believers, is from Allah."
The Gujrati translation (transliterated)
of the phrase "Aliyyullah":
"Ali Allah mahthi chhe (ane te ejh chhe)".
meaning; "Ali is from Allah (and is the same)".
Please note the words that are within the parantheses in the first line are NOT mine,
they do appear in the book of Dua:
THE FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF THE ENIGMATIC PHRASE:
The phrase "Aliyyullah" is a combination of two words. "Aliyyun" and "Allah". When these two words are joined together, the letter "n" becomes silent and the phrase is read as "Aliyyullah". The word "Aliyyun" translates
"The Ali", and the word "Allah" means "The God". Hence, the phrase "Aliyyullah" means "The Ali, The God". In the Ismaili terminology it signifies;
"Karim Aga Khan (The 49th Ali), The God".
The English translation in the Du'a Book, which reads;
"Ali is from Allah" is just a smoke screen. The Gujrati translation with its elucidation within the brackets,
removes that smoke screen. The Arabic word for
"from" is "min", which does not appear in the Arabic text.
IS KARIM AGA KHAN, A DIRECT DESCENDANT OF THE FATIMID CALIPHS?
In 1935, the Aga Khan's department for religious propagation and publications, Bombay, printed and distributed a book in Gujrati `Noorum-Mubin - A Glorious History Of The Ismaili Imams'. Aga Khan's genealogy was designated by the author - Alimohammad J. Chunara, as the "Sacred Rope of Allah" (Hab'lillah). During his Golden Jubilee year, Aga Khan the third, highly recommended his followers to read this newly published book.
Although, many essential historical data were missing, the author had linked the Aga Khan's ancestry with the Grand Masters of the dreaded 'Assassins' - a heretical sect of Islam, that flourished in Persia and Syria between 11th and 12th centuries. The current term `assassination' has its root from this community of Assassins. Most of the latter day Grand Masters claimed themselves to be the 'Nizari Imams' of the Ismailis. These Nizari Imams were in turn shown as the hereditary physical descendants of the Fatimid Caliphs, who ruled in North Africa, Egypt, and Syria from 909 to 1171. Many western scholars such as Marshall G. Hodgson and Bernard Lewis have doubted the authenticity of the advocated 'physical descent' and suggested, it was but a kind of "Spiritual Filiation" (esoteric descent), which, with the succeeding generations became a physical linkage in the fullest sense.
One of the Grand Masters of the Persian Assassins, Jalal al- Din Hasan - the 25th Nizari Imam, had publicly repudiated his grandfather's claim for being a physical descendant of the Fatimid Caliphs. He proclaimed himself a Sunni Muslim. Made a complete turnabout from the heretical Nizari doctrines and demanded from his followers a strict observance of the Islamic Shari'ah Laws.
In 1210, Jalal died of poisoning. His son, Grand Master Ala-uddin Muhammad - the 26th Nizari Imam, was a "sickly and unbalanced corrupt figure".
In 1255, Ala-uddin; "died ignominiously, slaughtered with an axe by the hand of a former homosexual lover" records, Edward Burman of the University of Leeds in his book 'The Assassins - Holy Killers Of Islam' (Aquarian Press, Great Britain).
In 1256, the soldiers of Hulega Khan, razed to the ground all the fortresses and stronghold of the dreaded Assassins. The 27th and the last Imam of the Nizari Ismailis in Alamut
"and his followers were kicked to a pulp and then put to the sword; and of him and his stock not trace was left..." writes professor Bernard Lewis, in his book 'The Assassins', quoting historian Ata Malik Juvayni (1226-83).
In India, Aga Khan the third, gradually replaced the hitherto popular term "Khojah" with "Imami Ismailis", in the community documents and literatures printed by his department for religious propaganda called "The Recreation Club". The so called "Club" lateron became "Ismailia Association" . Today, the same organization is known as "The Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board." The term "Ismaili" is derived from Ismail - the eldest son of Imam J'afar as Sadiq. Ismailis consider Imam J'afar as their fifth Imam and the physical descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.). Ismailis only recognize Hadhrat Ali's second son - Husayn, as their Imam. The rest of the Shiahs recognize both the sons Hassan and Husayn, as their Imams and therefore they consider Imam J'afar as their Sixth Imam.
According to the documents and historical accounts accepted by the vast majority of Shiahs (nearly 90%), Ismail died before his father. His younger brother, Musa Kazim, succeeded Imam J'afar and became the next Imam. Those who chose to depart from the mainstream Shiahs contended that Imam Ismail died after his father. Ismaili historians record that the funeral procession as well as the burial ceremony of Ismail did take place in Medina during the life time of his father, but, those were "mere ruse to mislead the enemies." This minority group became known as the "Seveners". One of the various sub-groups of the Seveners is the Nizari Ismailis.
Those who accepted Musa Kazim as their Seventh Imam became known as the "Twelvers" (Ithna'ashariyyahs), when their 12th and the last living Imam, disappeared into the cellar of his family home. The Twelvers claim that their last Imam has gone into "occultation." Ismailis on the other hand claim, an Imam never goes into hiding or occultation. Ismailis vehemently contend, if an Imam was to disappear or to pass away without designating his own physical descendant as the next Imam, the world would come to an end. They proudly declare, their Imams have - in spite of political and religious persecutions - survived, and, are ever present (Hazar) to lead the community. They prefer to call the present Aga Khan as "Mawlana Hazar Imam". Having an absolute faith in the doctrine of 'an ever living Imam' is the absolute prerequisite for being an Ismaili.
THE PINNACLE OF THE PARADOXES
It is a documented fact that Aga Khan I and II, their ancestors in Persia, the horsemen who accompanied the Aga Khan I from Persia, and the mother of Aga Khan III were all dedicated Twelver Shiahs. Elderly Ismailis living in India have witnessed the immediate family members of Agakhan III including his mother, observing the Ithna'ashriyya rites and rituals in the Imamwadas of the Ithna'ashriyya communities in Bombay and Poona. These family members and the Aga Khan I and II, lived and died believing in
the Imamate of Musa Kazim and his descendants. This fact is easily verifiable from the court documents, the Memoirs written by Aga Khan I and III, and also from the inscriptions on the tombs of Aga Khan's ancestors in Persia. Ignoring such incontrovertible evidence, Ismailis continue to acknowledge, as well as recite in their prayers, that Aga Khan I and II were themselves, respectively, the 46th and 47th, Mawlana Hazar (living) Imams. The fundamentally important question that needs to be addressed is; Why should a "living Imam", devotedly observe the rituals of the Twelvers and seek from a "disappeared Imam"?
A DIVISION AMONG THE FOLLOWERS OF THE AGA KHAN
The evidence presented before Justice Russell, in the Haji Bibi Case (Bombay - 1905), shows that Aga Khan the third, had introduced a "Du'a" (ritual prayer in Gujarati), upon his succession to the leadership of the Khojah community. Today, it is known as the Juni (old) Gatpat ni Du'a. In this Dua Book, the Aga Khan's physical ancestral lineage from the Day of the Creation is mentioned. The family tree extended upwards from Hadhrat Ali to Shree Rama and Shree Krishna and from there to the very First Incarnation (Fish), of the famous "Ten Incarnations" (Das-Avataras) of the Lord Vishnu.
The Aga Khan was worshipped as;
1. A physical manifestation of the 'Noor' of Allah.
2. The 10th Avtara of Lord Vishnu.
3. A direct descendant of prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.).
The followers of Aga Khan also used to recite, on the night of the New Moon (Chandrat), as well as on various occasions, a very devotional 'Hymn in Gujarati' (Ginan), entitled "Das-Avatar". It was believed that mere listening to this Ginan, at the end moment of an Ismaili, would assure him/her of 'Mok'sh' (Salvation) and the 'Noorani Deedar' (Spiritual glimpse) of Noor Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Today, the New Du'a has been introduced. Before the western media, the present Aga Khan vehemently denies "Divinity". The fact that the Du'a had to be changed, the "Divinity" had to be denied publicly, indicates the growing influence of the Islamic Shariyya Laws on the world stage. Yet, to say otherwise would not only go against all the Ismaili religious practices, but even expose the "religion" to the charge of hypocrisy; how could a God cease to be a God? The present Aga Khan has denied "divinity" before the media but has not asked his followers to discontinue the recitation of the Ismaili Ginans (Devotional Songs) recited in the Jamatkhanas, which attributed "Absolute Divinity" to HadhratAli and thereby to him. One such popular Ginan is entitled "Haq tu - Pak tu". Please click "DIVINITY" below to read the text and the translation of Haq tu - Pak tu.
The introduction of the innovated `Shahadah' in the Gujarati Du'a which declared "Ali, truly Allah", became the basis of a major division among the followers of Aga Khan. In 1901, a small group of reprimanded followers, who had been admonished by the Ithna'ashriyya Mullahs during their visitation of Karbala, approached the Aga Khan with a special request. These followers were advised by the Iraqi Mullahs that the worship of Ali or Aga Khan as an Incarnation, Manifestation and/or Associate of Allah (SWT) nullifies their prayers, voids their fasting, pilgrimages, zakah, etc., and the eternal hell would be their place of abode in the hereafter. The special request was to replace the enigmatic "Declaration of Faith" from the newly introduced Gujarati Du'a, with the one that declared Ali to be "the beloved of Allah" ("Ali- un-Wally-Allah"). Such a Declaration was professed by the rest of the Shiahs. The young Aga Khan was adamant and refused to amend or discard the "heretic" Declaration. He insisted, if the phrase that attributed "Divinity" to Ali (there by to himself, the 48th Ali) was to be discarded, then the entire Du'a should be throw out by his followers. The enlightened followers, having failed in their mission, decided to revert back to the original Ithna'ashriyya persuasion of their ancestors. A persuasion which was practised and professed by Aga Khan the first.
The splinter group renounced the leadership of Aga Khan and established the Khojah Ithna'ashriyya Jama'at in Bombay. From there it spread to the rest of India and Africa. Due to this split many Khojah families in India and Africa were divided. They continue to remain so, until now. Today, Khojah Ismailis say; "Ithna'ashri Khojahs are the Dissidents." The Khojah Ithna'ashris say; "Ismaili Khojahs are the one who have abandoned the faith of their forefathers."
The frustrated Aga Khan made a religious pronouncement (Farman), ordering his followers to sever all social and religious contacts with these so called Dissidents. Any of his follower, taking part in the marriage, or mourning of a Dissident could be excommunicated by the Ismailia Council, under the Rule Number 142 of the `Ismailia Constitution', ordained by the Aga Khan. The hatred between the two groups took a violent turn. Aga Khan's Mukhi (Chief Priest) for Bombay - Hassan, was stabbed with a knife by an Ithna'ashri named Killu. Earlier, some Ismaili fanatics had severely beaten Killu and made him temporarily invalid. Killu admitted to the killing and was sentenced to death by hanging. The court trials, as well as the subsequent funeral procession and burial of Killu, brought the Dissident Khojahs out in the open. In 1901, two Ismaili `Fida'is' (the terminology has its root in the `self sacrificing' Nizari Ismailis of the 12th century, known as the `Assassins of Alamut') attacked three Dissidents. Two Ithna'ashris died and one survived.
Aga Khan's deep rooted hatred for the faith of his parents and grand parents (Ithna'ashrism) is glaringly visible in the quoted `Farman' made by him from Zanzibar on July 13, 1899. "Within ten, twenty or thirty years, the Ithna'ashri religion will be worn out. After 100 years the Ithna'ashri religion will not exist at all. It will not exist in Iran either because that religion's base is not on Aq'l (the power of reasoning). Our religion's base is on Aq'l." (Translation is from the Book of Farmans in Gujarati).
Note: In the next four years, it will be 100 years to the above Farman. Today, the trend among the enlightened Ismailis is to revert back to the ancestral Tariqah of their forefathers. The one that was practised before the arrival of the Aga Khans in India, which was the Sunni Tariqah of Islam.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the founder of Pakistan, was also by birth an Ismaili Khojah. He and the most of his family members joined the groups of the so called Dissident Khojah Ithna'ashris and remained so until their last days. Mr. Jinnah's closest associate and a prominent Pakistani industrialist, Mr. M.A.H. Isphani, wrote: "Qaid-e-Azam (Mohammed Ali Jinnah) told me that...when he was twenty-one, decided to quit the ranks of the Ismailis and join the Isna Ashari fold. ...that he tried to persuade the Aga Khan himself to abandon his headship of Ismailis and to join the ranks of the Isna Asharis, to which sect most of the members of the Aga Khan's own family belonged."
Aga Khan became the Imam of Muhammad Shahi Syrian Ismailis
Rashid al-Din Sinan was a personal friend and a chief Da'I of Hassan II. Hassan, the Grand Master of Persian Assassins, had fraudulently declared himself an Imam. In 1166, Hassan was stabbed to death by his own brother-in-law for making the factitious claim. Hassan's son Muhammad II, developed enmity with the chief Da'i Sinan. Muhammad's attempt to kill Sinan failed. Sinan who had moved to Syria, now established his own domain and became the Grand Master and Imam of the Syrian Assassins.
In 1256, almost all of the Persian Assassins were massacred by the Mongolian army. In 1273, the Syrian Assassins were also annihilated by the army of Mamluk Sultan Baybars. Thus, the Nizari Ismailis in Persia and Syria, who were better known as the heretic Assassins, lost their political power. "Ismailism stagnated as a minor heresy in Persia and Syria, with little or no political importance", writes Bernard Lewis in his book `Assassins'.
In the realm of religion, nearly two centuries after their political downfall, the community of Nizari Ismailis split into two branches. Those who chose to follow Muhammad Shah, the elder son of the late Imam Mu'min Shah, became known as the "Muhammad Shahi Nizari Ismailis". The others who opted for the younger son named Qasim Shah were known as the "Qasim Shahi Nizari Ismailis". The Agakhans claim to be the descendants of Imam Qasim Shah. After this major split, there came the period of hiding (Dawr-I Satr) for the Nizari Imams. The Ismaili historians say; the period of hiding lasted for nearly three centuries. The historians have practically no records of the descendants of Imam Qasim Shah, from 1480 to 1722 A.D. The majority of Syrians who had become Muhammad Shahi Ismailis, also lost contact with their fortieth Imam, Amir Muhammad al Baqir, who had been living in southern India. They were desperately looking for a successor.
In 1888, a delegation of Sheikhs, representing a small group of exploring Syrians called Hajjawis came to India. In Bombay they met the young Aga Khan. The desperate Sheikhs accepted the Imamate of Aga Khan, who was claiming to be a descendant of the rival branch. In the archives of the Ismailia Council in Salamiyya, Syria, there is a letter bearing the seal of Aga Khan, written in 1307 A.H. (1890 A.D.).
In 1895, Aga Khan commanded his newly converted Syrian followers to substitute the Islamic Salah with the Gujarati Du'a, which he had introduced to his followers in India and Africa. Dick Douwes and Norman N. Lewis write in `The Trial of Syrian Ismailis'; "Some of the main innovations concerned the `salat', or ritual prayer: the Isma'ilis were now bidden to meet for prayer only twice a day, around a table on which a portrait of the Imam was placed and towards which the worshippers were to turn, instead of in the direction of Mecca. Many of the prayers were to be said in Urdu. Among the formulae to be pronounced were the words, "Ali Allah, sahi Allah" (`Ali is God, truly God)." (p.218). Nauzbillah!