Nizari Ismailis

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Nizari Ismailis

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Ismailis and the primacy of the ideal society4

Ismailis in the middle and new interpretation of the teachings of Hassan Sabah5


End Notes7

Nizari Ismailis


The United States and China, as internationally powerful countries, have a vast array of interests and


The spirit of any religion is not situated in a "fixed" doctrine but in an approach to living. It is not merely contained in a system of beliefs but all pervading through the process of living; not in any religious prescriptions but in the embodiment of principles and practices through personal engagement and awareness in one's daily life activities. This is how I understand Islam as "a way of life" - that faith is performative and primarily a dynamic of lntellectual / spiritual aspiration and not a straight-jacketed telos dominated by a static religio-cultural product. The crux of the conundrum revolves on the perceived religious attitude upon the human intellect - in how it seeks to support or stagnate its evolution during an individual's existential quest. Aziz Esmail (1992) notes, “to disregard it is to concentrate, instead, on fixity and timelessness. Intellectual creativity is a motor that compels forward movement. Where the intellect is not supreme, the mind has a tendency to operate under the impetus of nostalgia, harking back to a pristine, supposedly perfect era.”

Islam is not fixed to one culture; its essence is a timeless, placeless, formless, religious ethos - to speak of Islam is to speak of a body of principles upon which faith, spirituality, practice and ethics are founded. It is this core which has informed Islamic civilizations as a result of this singular ability to express its universal and fundamental principles across the spread of history and geography while integrating the diversity and taking on the customs, tastes, and styles that belong to the various cultural contexts. With the existence of tens of millions of Muslims in the West from various parts of the world there is a process underway of distinguishing their Islamic identity from their culture of origin and simultaneously reconciling and integrating their Islamic principles to the lived realities within their new environment. It is in this manner that successive generations of Pakistani, Algerian, Indonesian Muslims (to mention but a few) are assembling for themselves what it means to be a Muslim in Britain, France, Canada, etc. Just as there is no monolithic Islam in the east, Muslims in the west would necessarily take on a range of cultural features.

Traditions evolve against an ever-changing context, thus necessitating a practical and novel insight of essential principles as applied to contemporary conditions. And it is here that the conundrum of the intellect is most pronounced, in the distinction of what is "permissible" and "forbidden", for it is easy to fall into the Manichean trap that what Muslims have produced is Islamic and what derives from "the west" is fundamentally perverted and un-Islamic.

The intellect is appreciated as a Divine gift and its role is central in the Shia tradition, rooted in the ...