segunda-feira, 23 de abril de 2018

Isma'ilism and the belief in the superiority of the Imamate

Aga Khan IV
By Pedro Ravazzano

Shi'ism is divided into two branches, which, in turn, differ in profound theological questions. The main point of distinction is in the balance (or not) maintained between shari'ah and haqiqah, prophecy and imamate. When one conceives of an associated and consequent relationship between the zahir and the batin, between exoterism and esoterism, what we have is the Duodeciman Shi'ism, which represents almost the whole. However, if the batin is raised to the point where it obliterates the zahir, and as a result, the imamate takes precedence over prophecy, Isma'ilism arises, especially in its reformed ramifications, giving rise to a multiplicity of sects.

Isma'ilism grew to such a degree that it became the largest branch of Shiite, culminating as a political power with the Fatimid Caliphate in the tenth and twelfth centuries. They believed in the unity of God, as well as at the end of the divine revelation with Muhammad. Ismaelites and Duodecimans (orthodox Shiites) accept the same initial Imams as the descendants of Muhammad through their daughter Fatimah and therefore share much of their history. Both groups see the family of Muhammad (Ahl al-Bayt) as divinely chosen, infallible (ismah) and led by God to lead the Islamic community (Ummah), a belief that sets them apart from most of Sunni Islam.

After the death of Muhammad ibn Isma'il in the 8th century AD, the teachings of Isma'ilism were further transformed into the belief system as it is known today, with an explicit focus on the deeper and esoteric meaning of the Islamic religion. With the eventual development of the Duodeciman Shiism, Isma'ilism dedicated itself to the mystical path and the nature of God, with the "Imam of Time", representing the manifestation of esoteric truth and intelligible reality, in a mixture of Neoplatonism and Islamic mysticism. Unlike the Duodeciman Shiism, however, who understood the dual relationship between the exoteric and the esoteric, the Ismailites, in the end, emphasized the superiority of the occult over the apparent. As a consequence, Imam Ali was raised to a higher status than Prophet Muhammad.

Thus, since walayah is above the prophecy from which it originates, it is concluded that the person of Wali - ie the Imam - takes precedence over the prophet, and the imamate always has and always takes precedence over the prophetic mission. What Duodeciman Shiism sees as the outcome of an eschatological perspective is realized "in the present" by Isma'ilism, through an anticipation of eschatology, which is a revolt of the Spirit against all slavery, since the Imam of Time, as an entity superior to prophecy, is alive. For Isma'ilism, the door of prophecy is always open, so it is understood its rapid process of metamorphosis throughout history.

Ja'far al-Sadiq, Sixth Imam, was a direct descendant of the Messenger of Islam. Isma'ilism arises through the followers of his son, Isma'il ibn Jafar and his successors, reaching to Ḥussein ibn Amad, father of Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah, founder of the Fatimid Caliphate. After the death of the eighth Caliph Fatimid, Al-Mustansir Billah, a complicated succession crisis sets in. His eldest son, Nizar, was deposed by his brother Al-Musta'li. From these conflicts will arise two divisions that still exist in Isma'ilism: Nizarian Isma'ilism and Mustalism Isma'ilism, the latter divided again with the succession of Al-Musta'li, between the followers of Al-Hafiz and At-Tayyib. The followers of Nizar took refuge within the empire and from this exodus came the Assassin sect (al-Ḥashashin), founded by Hassan-i Sabbah, a Nizarian missionary.

Nizarian Isma'ilism, born with the followers of Nizar, son of the Fatimid Caliph, descendants of Imam Isma'il, the fifth generation of descendants of the Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima, has in its maximum leader the Aga Khan IV. The major difference from Nizarian Isma'ilism to other shia ramifications, such as the Druzes, Alawites, and even the Baha'i Faith, for example, is that they do not yet believe in the existence of the occult Imam. The succession remains alive, now incarnated in Aga Khan IV, the current Imam of Nizarian Isma'ilism.

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