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A HISTORY OF THE AGAKHANI ISMAILIS


This book was first published from Canada in 1991.
It has been republished twice from Pakistan.
The Urdu translation of the book has been published from Pakistan.
(Section One)

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH  THE BENEFICENT, 
THE COMPASSIONATE 

    I begin with my gratitude to the Beneficent and the Compassionate,
whose Messages have guided the believers to a straight path.

    "As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular prayer; never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish."                                           Holy Qur'an 7/170
INTRODUCTION

       The followers of Karim Aga Khan, the "Agakhani Ismailis,"  are spread out in various parts of the world. They constitute the vast majority, and comprise a controversial group, within the various sub-sects of Ismailis, who in turn form a small minority within the various groups and sects of the Islamic brotherhood. Thus, the Agakhani Ismailis represent a minute proportion, some 0.1 percent, of the Muslim world. However, their fame and profile far exceed their numbers, due primarily to the prominence of the Aga Khan and his family members through their international political, economic, and social status.

       Of significance has been their long association with thoroughbred horse racing in Europe; Aga Khan III's weighing in gold, diamonds, and platinum as a gift from his followers; the marriage of Prince Aly Khan Karim Aga Khan's father to renowned actress Rita Hayworth and his role as a leader of Pakistan's delegation to the United Nations; the service of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in the United Nations as High Commissioner for Refugees; and, most recently, Karim Aga Khan being named Commander of the French Legion of Honour for  eminent services to humanity.

       It is a common belief that the ancestors of the Agakhani  Khojah  Ismailis were Hindus and that approximately seven centuries ago they were converted to the Ismaili faith by Pirs (authorized preachers) that came from Persia. The questions often asked are: Were these Pirs Imami Nizari Ismailis? Were they sent to India from Persia by the Ismaili Imams (spiritual leaders)? What was the Islamic Tariqah (persuasion) adopted by these converts at the time of their conversion?

       The faith practised by Ismailis during the golden era of their history  the Fatimid period of the Caliphate in Cairo  was within the spectrum of the various sects, denominations, and schools of thought that exist in mainstream Islam. This meant that they observed the Shari'ah laws at the peak of their glory. Fatimid Imams built the first
university in the world, al-Azhar, which became an institute of repute in the Muslim world, to study the Qur'an and Islamic jurisprudence, among other subjects. Fatimid Ismailis recited the canonical Islamic prayers in mosques five times a day, as opposed to conventional Ismaili prayers three times a day at present in the Jama`at khanas (literally, place of assembly; in Ismaili terminology, place of worship). During the congregational noon prayers on Fridays, the names of the prevailing Fatimid Imams were mentioned in Khutba (an exhortation or sermon) in Egypt. Like other Muslims, they observed the Fast during the holy month of Ramadhan and performed the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).

    It is interesting to learn how the dramatic change occurred that absolved the sect from the requirements of certain edicts of the revealed laws after the fall of the Fatimid dynasty, in the Alamut period. The roots of the Fatimid Ismailis were in theregion of the Middle East where Islam was born. On the other hand, the roots of the majority of the Agakhani Ismailis, who are the Shia Imami Khojah Ismailis, are in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, and their conversion from Hinduism has gone through various phases of proselytization. During the past one and half centuries, the religion ofthese converts has undergone such drastic changes that the present generation of Agakhani Ismailis is almost totally ignorant of the practices of their forbears only two,
three, and four generations ago in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and Africa. The Agakhani Ismailis have made significant progress in the fields of education, commerce, and industry. Spiritually, however, the propagation of esotericism has left the community virtually bereft of the fundamental precepts and concepts of Islam.

    Today, only a few elderly Khojahs (Ismaili, Ithna'ashri, and Sunni Khojahs) who have read the literature published during the nineteenth century, such as Ibrat-afza (an autobiography of Aga Khan I in Persian) or its Gujrati translation published in 1861, orthose who have heard from their elders the accounts of the second and thirdproselytizing, can trace back the trails and rediscover the lost heritage.

       A study of primary as well as secondary documents, some of them rare and others that have been withdrawn from circulation or that were written for internal circulation in the ancient form of Sindhi script called  Khojki,  reveals that the process of proselytizing has gone through three distinct stages. The last two are only a century and a half old.
 A few Agakhani Ismaili scholars who have compiled a bibliography of Ismaili literature, and others who have access to these documents, are well aware of the fact that the conversion of Hindus to the Ismaili faith has not been firsthand and has gone through more than one phase. But these scholars are also cognizant of the fact that under Article 14 of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims (1986), any Ismaili who prints, publishes, or circulates any material or makes any statement or
convenes a meeting or assembly purporting to be on behalf of, or in the name of, or relating to, the Imam, the Ismaili Tariqah, the Jama`at (a congregation or community), and any Ismaili Council or Institution without the written permission of the National Council within whose jurisdiction he or she resides shall be liable to disciplinary action, and the offender can be expelled from the community. It is high time that these kinds of stipulations and restrictions are lifted and that Ismaili
scholars have the encouragement and support of community leaders in publishing their findings.

        In 1947-48, a couple of Ismaili students and I met the Russian professor Vladimir Alekseevich Ivanov (1886-1970), popularly known as W. Ivanow, and Vice-Chancellor Asaf Ali Asghar Fyzee (1899-1981), a Sulaymani Ismaili, who were the founding members of the Ismaili Society in Bombay, to obtain their permission to translate one of their publications into Gujrati.

       In 1946, the Ismaili Society was founded with the aim of promoting independent and critical study of all matters connected with Ismaili faith, which included their literature, history, and philosophy. The Ismaili Society functioned with the financial support and patronage of the late Aga Khan III.

      The Society had undertaken a bibliographical survey of Ismaili literature. One and a half decades later, when the work was finally published by the Society in Tehran in 1963, it was in an abridged form. Professor Ivanow scrutinized 929 works, and his analysis of these many documents was published in just 180 pages. Asaf Fyzee, the founding member of the Ismaili Society, wrote,  "Everything connected with Ismailism seems to be enveloped in a cloud of mystery and secrecy."

      Sixty-three years ago, I was born into an Agakhani Ismaili family where every member of the house over the age of five was made to recite his or her Du'a (a designated ritual prayer) in Gujrati three times a day. A prayer in which one would repeatedly prostrate oneself before a photograph of the Aga Khan and affirm with firm conviction that the photographed mortal was the physical manifestation of Allah upon this earth.

        His Highness Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, came to see my mother at a hospital in Southend-on-Sea, England, where I was born. He personally gave me the name by which I am known today. The late Aga Khan was well-known for his wit and uncanny ability to provoke laughter. While giving his blessings, he wittily appointed me as a Kamadia (assistant steward cum accountant) and my (late) elder brother Abdulali   who was also born in England   as a Mukhi (chief steward cum treasurer) of his London Jama`at. The year was 1928.

       As a devout follower of the Aga Khan, my father donated Rs.300,000.00 --  practically eighty percent of his entire wealth -- to the Aga Khan's Diamond Jubilee fund. Half a century ago, that was an enormous sum of money. Being the highest donor from India, he received the singular honour of weighing His Highness the Aga Khan (putting plastic boxes full of rented diamonds on the weighing scale) in Bombay, on 10 March 1946. Thereafter, contrary to the general expectations of every believing Ismaili, the downfall of our family began.

        My father, who had been in the carpet and textile business, suddenly had to face charges arising out of a small business transaction. He had sold goods meant forexport, locally. I was a student at that time but became an accessory for having acted as a delivery boy. Our entire stock of textiles was confiscated by the authorities, who were
acting under instructions from the newly independent Indian government. Communal tensions were running high and anti-Muslim sentiments were visible inside and outside of the court house.

       Aga Khan had his own tax problems with the government. The authorities were demanding a large sum as taxes on his revenues and funds collected from the Ismaili community. Donors who had donated substantial sums for the Diamond Jubilee were individually investigated and taxed. Aga Khan decided to stay in Europe till the matter was settled by his agents, which did not happen during his lifetime.

      The court proceedings were slow and the hearings dragged on for several years. To start a fresh life, I moved to West Pakistan in 1949 with a few hundred rupees in my pocket. A few years later, morally depressed and financially depleted, my father migrated to East Pakistan. After the partition of India, the Aga Khan had predicted in his private Farmans (authoritative and binding pronouncements) that  Dacca and  Chittagong would become  London and Paris  of the East. After losing a portion of his investments, my father moved to East Africa. From there, under the guidance of the Aga Khan, my family relocated to Belgian Congo. Aga Khan's prognostication that Congo would be the last colony in Africa to get its independence was wrong, and within a few years my family had to get out, following the turmoil in that country after independence.

      From 1949 to 1975, during my domicile in Pakistan, I diligently served the Ismailia community in various capacities. I kept up the Jama'ati tradition of serving the Hazar (present) Imam with Tan, Man, and Dhan (Body, Mind, and Money). In 1972, I was appointed President of the Ismailia Regional Council for Karachi and Baluchistan by Karim Aga Khan. I held that position till I emigrated to Canada in 1975.

       Towards the end of 1982, I published in British Columbia my first book on the ancestry of the Aga Khans. It was entitled From Abraham to Aga Khan. As the years went by, I continued research on the subject of Ismaili literature and history. At the same time I augmented my studies with the revealed messages that are to be found in the Qur'an and the Bible. By the grace of Allah, I got out of my tunnel vision. I could now see my beliefs from a wider perspective. A perspective whose outlook was panoramic and not restricted by inherited, imposed or prescribed thinking. I could now compare with an open mind what I had studied in the past with what I was learning in the present. Ibegan asking questions in private as well as in public, by writing memoranda and pamphlets.

        My doubts were strengthened when I discovered that a large number of Ismailis had similar doubts and difficulties in under
standing what they were asked to practise. But most of them were observing a double standard. To express their doubts or endorse
their feelings in the open was too risky. It could lead to expulsion from or rejection by the Jama`at, which none could afford because
of their family ties and business contacts within the community.

     My frustrations germinated, but I alsostayed within the community. I did not refrain from seeking answers from Agakhani scholars and missionaries at public gatherings as well as in private. I flew to Paris   after communicating with Karim Aga Khan's personal secretary   hoping to getanswers from the highest authority, the Aga
Khan, but the promised interview did not take place.

    The real change in my attitude came when Idiscovered to my utter surprise that the Aga Khan is not a direct descendant of the
Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, through the Fatimid Imams, but is a descendant of Hasan, a son of Da`i Muhammad of Alamut, who
had proclaimed a kind of spiritual filiation with the Fatimid Imams. I intensified my research on the subject, and compared thedata recorded by Ismaili and non-Ismaili historians. My findings got more and more
support as I went through fresh documents.

    Finally, I decided to write a book based upon my discoveries. Understanding Ismailism A Unique Tariqah of Islam was published at
the end of 1988. It was printed and distributed from British Columbia, Canada, a country that promotes and guarantees itscitizens the freedom of conscience and religion; freedom of thought, belief,
opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, under its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I was expecting rejoinders in the form of books or memoranda challenging my research, but that did not happen. Instead, something else
transpired.

    Hardly a week or two passed after the above publication when an announcement was read in all the Jama`at khanas of Canada,
asking the members of the Jama`at not to support the author, etc. Shortly thereafter, in December 1988, the honorary secretary of
the Aga Khan's Ismaili Council for British Columbia filed a  Complaint  before the Aga Khan's Conciliation and Arbitration Board for British Columbia. The complainant asked the Board to recommend my expulsion from the Jama`at, under Article 14 of the Ismaili
Constitution ordained by Karim Aga Khan.

    My lawyers advised me that without going into the merits of the book or its content, the mere fact that I had written a book on Ismaili faith and Aga Khan without obtaininga written permission from the Ismaili Council was sufficient cause for obtaining an order for expulsion from the community under theordained Constitution. I had not been a
practising Ismaili for the last several years. Professor Peter Lamborn Wilson mentioned in the opening sentence of hisreview, which was published in the book, that I was a former Ismaili.

    In March 1989, I publicly withdrew my oathof allegiance to Karim Aga Khan and at the same time invited him through the media, as
well as by a letter, to have an open forum or a public debate at the Royal Albert Hall in London, either personally or throughrepresentatives. The offer was not accepted.

    At the end of 1989, I wrote 'Understandingthe Bible -  through Koranic Messages'. It was published at a time in the history of the
Middle East when there was a greater need for Jews, Christians, and Muslims   the three children of Abraham   to re-examine their own
roots and unite as brothers. The book was reviewed by Tom Harpur, a former professor of the New Testament. Several months later, I
was interviewed by Tom Harpur in his nationally televised series Heaven and Hell.

    In the middle of 1990, I began collectingbooks and documents that would assist me in discovering the roots of my inherited beliefs. As a teacher of a religious school,I had heard almost all the Farmans pronounced by the Aga Khans, recited hundreds of Ginans (hymnlike devotional songs that are recitedin the Jama`at khanas), and read practically every book of Ismaili history that was ublished by the Ismailia Association for India. They all led me to believe that the
conversion of my ancestors to the Ismaili faith was direct. The Pirs who performed the onversion were Ismailis.

   The data I had now collected told me a different story. I decided to look outside and approached a few families of Sunni Khojahs and Ithna'ashri Khojahs whose ancestors were also converted from Hinduism. They provided me with documents and facts hitherto unknown to me and probably to most Ismailis. A History of the Agakhani Ismailis will serve as the most explicit account of
the history of the followers of the Aga Khan and their religious life today.

    This book of history is in particular addressed to the mundane everyday readers the laity. I have therefore chosen to furnish
bibliographical data for the quoted passages before each quotation, rather than have a consolidated list at the end. The book may
also prove to be of interest to non-Ismaili readers and scholars who have, in the words of a professor, "run into a stone wall"  or
"gotten the run-around"  while doing their research on the Ismaili community.


THE ROOTS OF  OUR PERSUASIONS 

A divine innocence

   A captivating smile radiating from the beaming face of a newly born baby gazing at you from its crib is suffused with divine innocence. However, that impeccability and candour are so transient that as soon as the infant grows up, the heavenly naivete takes its leave and is not seen again. The unblemished purity with which a human mind was divinely conceived and created within the womb of a mother has been tainted. A slate that was once clean and spotless is now delineated with materialistic characters and figures. The shadow of a human being has
eclipsed that innocent smile.

    From time immemorial, one of the major responsibilities of arenthood has been to enlighten, or to be precise, to influenceoffspring with certain dictates and precepts. In the process, parents confer upon their
wards their views and personal beliefs. Going back, we discover that just as we have, our parents, too, inherited their religiouspersuasions and beliefs from their parents. A child born into a Christian home may develop his intellect hearing the name of  "Lord Jesus"as his benefactor and saviour. Another, born next door may enrich his intellect hearing the name of  "Shri Rama"  and  "Shri Krishna".In an Ismaili home an infant hears the nameof  "Mawla Bapa,"  a term that refers to their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.

   To extol that revered name and to staunchly defend  His  glory becomes one of the sacred duties of that child as he or she grows up. This childhood training is so well grounded that even upon maturity, an
educated, well-bred, adult individual would very gratifyingly imitate his parents.

A sublime act

   During my high school days in Bombay, I often walked home from my school. My home was in a Muslim quarter and the government school was in a crowded residential-cum-business area that was predominantly a Hindu neighbourhood. In this journey by foot, I swam through the
ceaseless flow of ethnically diverse human traffic that dashed in either direction, at a brisk pace. Occasionally, a freely roaminggauwa mata (mother cow) would stop her stride, raise her tail, and begin discharging
its urine.

    As a young Muslim, I watched with a feeling of awe and surprise as the civilized, urbane Hindu men and women that were walking alongside me suddenly surged forward and placed their cupped hands under the elevated tail, to catch a spoonful or two of that fluid. These cultured, devout, high caste Hindus would then routinely raise their hands and release that sacred liquid into their wide open mouths. After chanting a few words and rubbing their wet palms on the back of that holy cow, these sophisticatedindividuals would resume their journey with joy at having caught that pious liquid in time. A mind that has developed in a
non-Hindu home can only try to comprehend, but can never fully understand the sacrosanctity of these acts or the feelingsof elation, gratification, and bliss that filled the hearts and minds of these pious
performers, who have dauntlessly followed the footsteps of their ancestors in this twentieth century.

Our affiliations

     For the great majority of us the choosing of a religion has been a matter of family tradition and the geographical location of our birthplace. Had a person been born in South America, his chances of being a Brahmin (a high-caste Hindu) rather than a Catholic would have been one in a million or probably none at all. It can be said that in most
cases the religion that we follow is not through our personal discovery but an imposed family persuasion. Yet we protect thatpersuasion as well as the beliefs and practices that are associated with it with all our strength and vigour. They have now become our beliefs and our practices.

    When a person migrates from the place of his birth, he accepts new cultures, speaks new languages, and adopts new social practices that ameliorate, or are better suited to, his new environment. But when the
subject is religion, he resents and takes exception to new influences, beneficial or otherwise. He would proudly maintain that his religion is holier than thine. There can be no foreign philosophy or perception worth trading with his.

   When someone points a finger at the enigmatic dogmas that are associated with his religion, he often tries to defend them for the sake of defending. And when he fails todo a good job of it, he estranges himself from that individual, rather than disassociate himself from the identified paradoxes. But when it is his turn to point a finger at their paradoxical dogmas, he expect instant submission from his opponents. He expectseveryone but himself to be rational and logical while discussing religion.

The roots of our truth

     For all practical purposes, we assume thatthe patriarchal affiliation that was enjoined, prescribed, or imposed upon us by reason of birth or fate has to be the wholetruth and the only truth worth defending. The
most unfortunate part of this whole scenario is that the very notion of such an assumption was also imposed upon us by the same people who handed over to us our religion. What we claim as "our" truth is indeed a personal truth, but we cannot be positive and confident of its veracity unless and until we track its roots through history and discover the source.

    The roots of our inherited fanaticism could be centuries old. Most probably we do not even know the name or the historical background of that individual ancestor who discovered our religion or was converted to believing what we believe today. A sincere effort to trace the origin of our persuasions and the history of conversion could be a rewarding experience.

 "Angootha chhap"

    Ismaili historians have recorded that themajority of the progenitors of Agakhani Ismailis were very poor and came from the rural areas of Sind, Gujrat, Kathiawar, andKutchh. Before their conversion, seven
centuries ago, they belonged to a middle low-caste Hindu society that was constantly oppressed by the high-caste Hindu priests,landlords, and local merchants. In those days, the rural population in India consisted mostly of uneducated individuals that wouldfall within the category of "angootha chhap",meaning the illiterate individuals that place thumb impressions on written documents in lieu of signatures. These long-suffering,docile human beings had developed the habit of meekly placing their thumb impressions,with an unsuspecting mind, on any documentthat was put before them by their benefactors.  Besides, they had no other alternative or means at their disposal toascertain the authenticity of the documentswithout offending their masters.

    Similarly, these submissive ancestors withno access to any literature, would place their trust in any story that was narrated to them by their elders or religious Gurus. Thebase of their beliefs was a blind faith and reliance upon these individuals. They had built their traditional, cultural, andreligious convictions based upon Riwayah
(oral transmissions of traditional stories) that were being told and retold with a twist, generation after generation.

 Serve with an unsuspecting mind

   Ismaili literature, like much other religious literature, is full of epic stories and folklore depicting the superhuman power of the Pirs and Imams. Not long ago, all these legends of miracles (e.g., lowering of the
sun by Pir Shams in the city of Multan) were devoutly respected and regarded as historical facts by the devoted ancestors. Many unsuspecting minds would, even today, place their total trust on legendary supernatural feats of Hazrat `Ali that are vividlynarrated in the various Farmans made nearly a century ago by the then Aga Khan.

    Often an Ismaili would quote a popular verse from a Ginan to prevail over a logically sound argument or win a losing debate. The verse teaches:  "Bhore mane s'révo",  meaning;  "Serve with a mind that is
unsuspecting."  This reminds me of a well-known Christian admonition which has a similar advice for those who express their scepticism of the Trinity document. It says: "He who tries to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind, but he who denies the Trinity will lose his soul."

Holy Qur'an:
The criterion

An English translation of the Holy Qur'an and a detailed commentary thereof by Abdullah Yusuf Ali enjoys a unique place in Islamicsociety. I have taken the liberty of quoting his translation and the commentary at the end of each chapter of this book to convey the revealed message that stands as a criterion for all mankind.

    So set thou thy face steadily and truly to the faith;
    (establish) Allah's handiwork according to the pattern
    on which He has made mankind:
    no change (let there be) in the work (wrought) by Allah:
    that is the standard religion:
    but most among mankind understand not.       Holy Qur'an 30/30
Commentary by A. Yusuf Ali:

As turned out from the creative hand of God, man is innocent, pure, true, free, inclined to right and virtue, and endued with true nderstanding about his own position in the Universe and about God's
goodness, wisdom, and power. That is his true nature, just as the nature of a lamb is to be gentle and of a horse is to be swift. But man is caught in the meshes of customs, superstitions,selfish desires, and false teaching. This may make him pugnacious, unclean,false, slavish hankering after what is wrong or forbidden, and deflected from
the love of his fellow-men and the pure worship of the One True God. The problem before spiritual Teachers is to cure this crookedness, and to restore human nature to what it should be under the Will of God.

THE PIRS OF THE KHOJAHS

The conversion of Hindus in India

    Within a century after the passing away ofthe Prophet of Islam, Muslims expanded their realm as far as India. Under the leadership
of Muhammad ibn Qasim, Arabs conquered Sind in 712. Thereafter, Islam spread deeper into India through subsequent conquests by the
Ghaznavids and others. Islamic rule in India reached its peak under the celebrated Muslim dynasty of the  Great Moghuls  (1526-1858),
who were noted for their cultural refinement and architectural achievements, and for the blending of their Persian heritage with
Indian culture.

   On the other hand, the Da`wah (literally, summon, invitation) activities of Islam - the conversion of Hindus -  was carried out by the
Muslim scholars and Da`is (literally, summoners, religious propagandists). Along with Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi came the famous
Muslim scientist and genius Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973-1048) to India. He learnt Sanskrit and became a bridge between the twocultures. Al-Biruni translated the Hindu classic named Patanjali Yoga into Arabic and wrote a book called Kitab al-Hind, describingHindu philosophy and customs. Muslim Da'is belonged to various Islamic sects and schools
of thought, but the majority of them were Sunni Muslims.

The conversion of the Khojahs

   Six to nine centuries ago, a significant number of Hindus from the subcontinent of India, especially those living in Kashmir, Punjab, and Sind, and on the western coast of India, embraced Islam. One such group was converted by a Muslim Da'i named Shaykh Sadr ad-Din (leader of the faith). Ismailis call him by the name of Pir Sadr-din. From Turkey to India, this Persian title Pir is used in preference to the Arabic word Shaykh. PirSadr-din gave these newly converted Gujrati,
Kutchhi, and Sindhi-speaking Muslims the laqab (honorific title)  Khawajah,  meaning an honourable person, and named their persuasion Sat-panth (true path). As time went by the word  Khawajah  became  Khojah and the community became known as  Sat-panthi Khojahs,  or simply  Khojah Muslims.  But, it is very important to understand that these Sat-panthi Khojahs  were mainly Sunni Khojahs as we shall soon observe.

    Prior to the arrival of the Pirs of the Khojahs, there had come to India many Ismaili Da'is from Persia, but they were mostly Qirmatis (Qarmatians) who in those day were commonly called Malahida 
( impious heretics ) by their foes. During a peak period of the Fatimid dynasty, Ismaili Da`is such as al-Sijistani, al-Haytham, and Jamal bin
Shayban had spread the Ismaili Da`wah from Khurasan to Multan. But it was short lived in India. When Mahmud Ghaznavi conqueredNorthern India, he imprisoned Ismaili ruler Abu'l-Futuh Daud ibn Nasr and ruthlessly killed Ismailis in Sind and Multan. AnIsmaili author, Ghulamali Allana, writes in 'Ginans of Ismaili Pirs' that Al-Haytham, a
nephew of ibn Hawshab, was the one who started the work of Ismaili Da'wah in Sind nd converted the ruler of Sind to Ismailifaith. This was the dynasty of Soomras, who ruled Sind for over 300 years. Allana
recorded that when Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi invaded Sind, he mercilessly butchered thousands of Ismailis, and with that came the
end of Ismaili rule in Sind. Dr. John Norman Hollister has recorded in The Shi'a Of India (2nd ed., 1979, p. 347), based upon recent
researches of M. Abdul Halim Sharar and Syed Hashimi's publication The Arab Rule in Sind (pp. 221-22), that Sumras (Soomras) "were
Jewish converts to Islam who, coming to Sindfrom Iraq, adopted the Qarmatian articles offaith and held power over the province of
Sind until the middle of the eighth centuryA. H."

Pir Satgur Nur

    Based upon legends, some historians have,placed the conversion of the Khojahs as early as the ninth century by a Da`i named Nur-ud-Din (light of the faith). Ismaili missionary Abualy A. Aziz records in A Brief
History of Ismailism, (Toronto, 1985, p. 114) that he was the fifteenth Pir of Ismailis. His name was Sayyid Mohammed. Nooruddi'n was
not his name but a title he died in 487 a.h. (1094 a.d.). Others historians have placed the arrival of this so called  Ismaili Pir in India during the period of the fourth grand master of Alamut, Hasan 'ala dhikrihis-salaam (d. 1166). T. W. Arnold says that he arrived in Gujrat during the reign of Sidhraj Jai Sing (1094-1143). F. L. Faridi says, based upon another legend, that he arrived in Gujrat during the reign of Bhima II (1179-1242). Dr. G. Allana writes that he came after Al-Haytham. Thus the legendarydates vary from the ninth to the thirteenth
century.

   The name of this Da'i in Ismaili literature is Pir Satgur Nur. Various
miracles are ascribed to this legendary preacher by Ismaili authors, such as making Hindu gods and goddesses (statues of stones)dance at his command. The claims for Pir Satgur Nur being deputed by an Ismaili Imam from Persia are conflicting and cannot besubstantiated.
 John Norman Hollister records in 'The Shi`a Of India' (p. 351), that based upon the date of the Pir's death recorded on his tomb and
the claims made about him, the Pir  "wouldhave been over three hundred years old!"

   Professor W. Ivanow concludes in 'The Sect of Imam Shah in Gujrat' (p. 59):  "It must befrankly admitted that we know absolutely nothing about the date at which the Pir [Satgur Nur] settled or died at Nawsari, whohe was, and what religion he really preached."

Pir Shams of Multan

    Other traditions have tried to attribute theconversion of the Khojahs to a Muslim saint named Awliya Shah Shams-ud-Din of Multan, Punjab (d. 1276). But history records thatthis famous Muslim saint, to whom Ismailis refer as Pir Shams, had not visited Gujrat, Kutchh, or Kathiawar during his lifetime, andthe majority of the Khojah Ismailis have their roots in these districts.

   Today, the majority of historians agree that the development of the Khojah sect was greatly influenced by Pir Sadr-din and his son Pir Hasan Kabiruddin (Shaykh Kabir ad-Din). Pir Sadr-din was the one that gave the Khojah community its name. This Khojah ancestry is the root of almost all the Agakhani Ismailis of Indo-Pakistan origin, who have since spread all over the globe. One has also to bear in mind that it is also theroot of Khojah Shi`ah Ithna'ashries and Khojah Sunni Muslims of Indo-Pakistan origin.

    Khojah Agakhani Ismailis claim that Pir Sadr-din and his mentor Pir Shams of Multan were Imami Nizari Ismailis. Sunni Khojahs claim that the Pirs were Sunni Muslims and their converts were observing the traditions (Sunna) of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace. Khojah Ithna'ashries claim that the forefathers of Agakhani Ismailis were following Ithna'ashri rites and rituals. Even the ancestors of Karim Aga Khan that came from Persia were strictly observing Ithna'ashri rites and rituals. These ritualswere gradually abrogated and systematically abolished during the Imamate of Aga Khan III.

    Today, there are thousands of descendantsof the original converts and adherents of Shah Shams in Pakistan, India, Tibet, and Kashmir who regularly visit the shrine oftheir Awliya. These devotees of Shah Shams are known as Shamsi. A vast majority of them follow the Sunni Tariqah of Islam, and therest are Ithna'ashries. With the exception of
a few families in Punjab and the Northwest Frontier province, there are no Ismaili Shamsis in India or Pakistan. Noorum-Mubin, a history book (1951 ed., p. 330) written by an Ismaili author acknowledges that the majority of the converts of Pir Shams now belong to the Ahle Sunnat Jama`at meaning, belong to the community of Sunni Muslims.

 Khojah  is a term used to describe a caste

    Recently, the centennial of a widely readGujrati monthly, Rahe Najat (path of salvation), was celebrated by the KhojahIthna'ashries. A special booklet paying homage to its first editor, Haji Gulam Ali Haji Ismail, popularly known as Haji Naji (the  saved  Haji), was published and printedby NASIMCO (Organization of North American Shi`ah Ithna-ashri Muslim Communities), Toronto, Canada.

    Professor Abdulaziz A. Sachedina of the University of Virginia writes in this booklet (p. 4):

    It is important to stress the basic characteristic of the Khoja community whose members retained their caste ideas inherited from their Hindu ancestors for a long time due to the necessity of posing as Hindus. However, this caste identity has no relationship with Islam. In fact, it is correct to say that thereis nothing like  "Khojaism"  that competes for loyalty with "Shi'ism"  in this community. A Khoja is a Khoja only byright of birth. It is a term used to describe a caste and as such even if a Khoja changes his religion he still remains a Khoja.
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