“By the generosity of the Imam of the time, we say that Paradise in truth is the Intellect, and the Gateway of paradise is the Prophet (peace and salutation be upon him) during his time, and his wasi, his rank, and the Imam of the time during his age. The Key to the gateway of paradise is the utterance of the phrase, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadan rasul Allah.”
Please click: Pir Nasir-i Khusraw on the Gateway and Key to Paradise
The excerpts shown below from the Holy Qur’an, the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and speeches of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, are quite clear about who the term Ahl al-Bayt refers to. However, Farhad Husseinali Patni gives further light on the subject by providing examples and references from early Islamic History, going back to the life of the Prophet and Qur’anic revelation. Please read this important article by clicking on “Ahl al-Bayt” – An Understanding Based on the Holy Qur’an, Hadith and Historical Events or on the image below.
‘Id-e-Ghadir is celebrated by the Shi ‘ite communities to mark the event that took place at Ghadir Khumm (Valley of the Pond) on the 18th Dhul-Hijjah. This event commemorates the designation (appointment by way of nass) of Hazrat All as the ‘Amir-ul-Mu’minin (commander of the faithful) and Imamul-Muslimin’ (the Imam of the community of believers) at Ghadir-i Khumm when the Prophet (s.a.s.) was returning from his Last Pilgrimage (hajjatul-wida) in the year 632 AC. On this occasion, the Prophet publicly proclaimed Ali to be his successor  in guiding the community after the end of the institution of Nubuwwah. According to the Shi’a doctrine, tradition and interpretation of history, the designation of Hazrat Ali marked the beginning of the institution of Imamah. The designated Imam was to continue the ta’wil (interpretation) and talim (teaching) of Allah’s Final Message, i.e. the Holy Qur’an.
Accordingly, throughout the course of the history, the Shi’a have commemorated this occasion as a mark of recognition and acceptance of Allah’s mercy to mankind by bestowing continued guidance. Each Imam, since the time of Hazrat Ali has designated his successor. The Imam in his time has continued to guide his followers according to the prevailing conditions. His function has always been to look after the welfare of the community both in spiritual and worldly (material) matters. His guidance to his followers is that they should lead their lives in such a way so as to practice their Faith with a sense of balance and harmony, ensuring that there is no conflict between the two aspects of an individual’s life. The practice of the Faith thus becomes the way of life.
Presently, the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims celebrate the day of accession of their present Imam to the office of Imamah as Yaum-e Imamat or Imamat Day. This occasion is celebrated as a mark of gratitude to Allah in having bestowed His mercy and bounty in guiding them through the office of the Imam on Sirat al-Mustaqim (the Straight Path).
“Muhammad said: ‘He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is his Mawla. O God, be the friend of him who is his friend and be the enemy of his enemy.’
“This became the proof text for the Shia claim that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor after the Prophet’s death in 632. The meaning of Mawla here probably implies the role of patron, lord or protector.” – History in Quotations by M. J. Cohen and John Major.
“…As you know, the Shi’a divided from the Sunni after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was, in Shi’a belief, named by the Prophet to be the Legitimate Authority for the interpretation of the faith. For the Shi’a today, all over the world, he is regarded as the first Imam.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006. 
“In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).” – The Preamble of The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. 
“The Ismaili Imamat is a hereditary institution of Muslim leadership, linked to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) by direct lineal descent through Hazrat Ali, his cousin and son in law. The line of Ismaili Imams has continued uninterrupted by hereditary succession from Hazrat Ali through to the present, 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.” – The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) , Brazil and the Ismaili Imamat sign a Protocol. 
“Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people – offspring, one of the other, and Allah knows and hears all things.” (Sura 3, Ayats 33-34).
With regard to the above verse, the Ismaili poet Nizar Quhistani explained:
“We search for a union with the family of the Chosen (Prophet Muhammad). We search for the truth of son after son. We are totally obedient to his offspring, one of the other. There is no other thing we can add to this but itself. We endeavour in our faith so that we do not turn out to be faithless.” – Quoted in Ismailis in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.
 To read this and other published speeches at the AKDN Website, please click Tolerance Award from the Evangelical Academy of Tutzing and Speech Archives.
 To read background story and complete preamble, please click The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”.
 See The Ismaili Imamat note in AKDN–Brazil Protocol.
“…This tale belongs to ages past. It goes back to the era of Hazrat Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.), our third Imam, from whose veins was to ensue the Divine Line of the Imams. He was the Imam who, on the battlefield of Karbala, received the nass of Imamat from his father, Hazrat Imam Hussain (a.s.) with the blessing: “Through you the line of Imamat will continue till the Day of Judgment…”
by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah
Faith (Iman) is like a tree, the roots of which go into the heart: its trunk is in reason, and its branches are in the instincts, while imagination is its new shoots and leaves – (senses of) the body. The foundation (asl) of faith is love for the Imam-e-Zaman (the Imam of the Time). And if this foundation, that is, this love, and the roots of faith are strong and in good condition, all other parts of the tree, such as its trunk, its branches and leaves, can be expected to continue to flourish even if they are (accidentally) damaged. If, on the contrary, the roots are not well grounded, or even rotten, the whole tree will soon dry, and then will become good for nothing except to be used as fuel.
Thus love for Mawlana Hazar Imam is everything, being the root of faith. If it is not strong, all the acts of outward piety (a’mal-i zahiri) which are like leaves of the tree, will fade. If you have thousands of leaves, fresh and of good colour, they will dry in a short time, and then a very small fire will be sufficient to burn them completely.
2. LOVE FOR HAZAR IMAM
by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq
It is related from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that a group of Shias visited him one day. One in the group addressed the Imam and spoke of a man who was with them.
“O Son of the Messenger of God: this man has love for you.”
On hearing these words, the Imam looked at the person and said:
“The best kind of love is the love for the sake of God and His Messenger. There is no gain in any other kind of love.”
The Imam then continued.
“Once the ansars [helpers] came to Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.s.) and said, ‘O Messenger of God! We were on the wrong path and Allah guided us through you. We were destitute and we prospered by your blessings. For this reason, you may ask of anything you desire from our belongings and we shall give it to you.’
“At this, the following verse was revealed by Allah, ‘Say (O Muhammad): No reward do I ask (for my favours) except your love for my kith and kin’.”
Moved to tears, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq then raised his hands and exclaimed:
“Praise be to God, Who has exalted us above all.”
“Faith” adapted from Risala dar haqiqat-i din by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah Al-Husayni, translated as True Meaning of Religion by Wladimir Ivanow. Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah was the eldest son of the 47th Ismaili Imam, Aga Ali Shah, also known as Aga Khan II. The Pir was only 33 when he died due to a chest related illness, a few months before the demise of his own father, Imam Aga Ali Shah. Mawlana Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, then only 8 years old, succeeded to the throne of Imamat as the 48th Imam.
“Love for Imam” excerpted from article by Jehangir Merchant and Alnoor Bhatia published in Ilm, Volume 5, Number 1 (July 1979). The article was based on the Gujarati edition of Qadi al-Numan’s work, Da’aim al-Islam.
“We search for a union with the family of the Chosen (Prophet Muhammad). We search for the truth of son after son. We are totally obedient to his offspring, one of the other. There is no other thing we can add to this but itself. We endeavour in our faith so that we do not turn out to be faithless.”
Ismaili poet NIZAR QUHISTANI
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, is pictured above at his enthronement as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay at the age of seven. His reign lasted for 72 years. In his will, he proclaimed Prince Karim Aga Khan as the 49th Imam with the following words:
“Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue.
“In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.
“I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers.”
Through the special designation (or the Nass) of the late Imam, Shah Karim al-Hussaini became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Nizari Ismailis at the age of twenty.
Shortly after, the newly enthroned Imam met Ismaili leaders and representatives from around the world, and also made the following statement:
“My grandfather dedicated his life to the Imamat and Islam, both of which came first, and above all other considerations. While I was prepared that one day I might be designated the Aga Khan I did not expect it so soon. I follow a great man in a great responsibility and he could have given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me this spiritual leadership. My life, as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers.”
Date posted: July 10, 2014, 23:26 EDT.
ESSENCE OF IMAM
by Imam ‘Abd al-Salam, 15th Century
There is an ode of the 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam in which he says that the talisman (anything that has magical powers) that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. This ode is lucidly explained by Dr. Shafique Virani in his path breaking book, “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages.”
In the ode the Imam observes that the true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time. His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.
The Imam continues by saying that today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage. Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams.
The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulfur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation. 
THE NOOR OF IMAMAT
By Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam,
His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam
For hundreds of years, my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction. 
THE BLESSINGS OF IMAMAT DAY
By Nadim Pabani
Rejoice! Rejoice! For Imamat Day is here!
Do not despair for your Imam is always near.
But what is the essence of this most Blessed Day?
That inspires us to smile and continuously pray?
The Imam exists; a shining Lamp in the Dark
Guiding mankind to goodness, and residing in our heart
He watches over us with love and with care
So you may feel alone, but do not despair!
Your Mawla is here and today is a reminder
He sets an example showing how to be kinder
He promotes the good and forbids the bad
It’s why He exists, so why not be glad?
So on this Imamat Day we raise our hands,
And pray that His Light will shine through all lands
This Day we reaffirm our oath of allegiance
And promise once more to remain in obedience
The Imam is He, from whom we acquire
Our knowledge so that we, rise spiritually higher
Rejoice! Rejoice! For Imamat Day is here!
Remember Him always and you’ll have nothing to fear.
On Imamat Day we gather, we celebrate and rejoice!
And hearts beat in unison, saying shukhar in one voice!
Date posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
 Adapted from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.
 Farman Mubarak Pakistan Visit 1964, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. Quoted also in Ilm, Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom, July 1975, Volume 1, Number 1, page 27.
“…The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet…” -- His Highness the Aga Khan, February 2014
Ikhwan Allani of Toronto, Canada, is fascinated by the beauty of poetry, especially in the expression of mystical knowledge and devotion. In this poem, he illustrates a technique to embed an esoteric aspect of the Ismaili tariqah through a universal medium such as poetry. Please click on Light Upon Light or on the image below.
The following English translation of selected parts of His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech on February 27, 2014 to the Canadian Parliament which were in French was obtained from the live translation that was provided during the broadcast.
HONOUR AND THE WORLDWIDE RECOGNITION OF IMAMAT
….Thank you again, Prime Minister, for your invitation. It is for me an unprecedented honour. It is a feeling, a profound feeling…because I have been told that this is the first time in 75 years that a spiritual leader has addressed the Senate and the House of Commons together as part of an official visit.
It is, therefore, with humility and awareness of eminent responsibility that I address to you today, elected representatives of the Federal Canadian Parliament and in the presence of other Senior Federal Officials.
I have the great privilege of representing the Ismaili Imamat — this institution which has stretched beyond borders for more than 1400 years and which defines itself and is recognised by an increasingly large number of states, as the succession of Shia Imami Ismaili Imams.
As the 49th Imam, I have for the past 50 years, looked after two inseparable responsibilities: overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of Ismailis, as well, at the same time, as focusing on improving their quality of life and that of the people with whom they live.
Even if there was a time when Ismaili Imams were also Caliphs — in other words, Head of States, for example in Egypt during Fatimid times — my duties today are apolitical. All Ismailis are first and foremost citizens of their countries of birth or adoption. The reach of the Ismaili Imamat is, however, much larger than it was at that time since it is active today in many regions of the world. It is from this perspective that I will share with you some thoughts with you that I feel are worthy of your presence here today.
OPPOSING FORCES BUT HARMONY IS POSSIBLE
THROUGH A CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS
Allow me at this point to address you again in French. I have just spoken about the incomprehension that exists between industrialised world and Muslim world and about how opposing forces have undermined relations with the great traditions of Islam. Yet, our hearts, our minds, and for many, our faith, tell us that harmony is possible. In fact, recent developments are an indication of this.
I would like to say how important constitutional development is in correcting the inability of several existing constitutions to match the evolution of societies, especially when these societies are evolving. This is a fundamental issue that, given my responsibilities, I cannot ignore. You maybe surprised to learn that 37 countries throughout the world have adopted a new constitution over the past 10 years, and 12 are at an advanced phase of modernising their own constitutions. That is a total of 49 countries. In other words, this movement involves a quarter of the UN member states. Out of that 49, 25 percent have a Muslim majority. This shows that there is now no turning back from the demand by civil societies for new constitutional structures.
I would like to take a moment now to speak to a specific political difficulty that involves the Muslim world. Religious parties, by their very structure, are based on the principle of inseparability between religion and daily life. The consequence of this is that when it comes time to negotiate constitutional terms with those who want separation between state and religion, a consensus of overarching legislation becomes very difficult to reach.
THE EXAMPLE OF TUNISIA: A GREAT STEP FORWARD
However, there is one country that has shown us now that this is possible, and that is the Tunisian Republic.
Now is not the time or the place to go into details on its new Constitution, however, allow me to point out that this is the outcome of a responsible pluralist debate, and that it appears to contain the necessary rules to ensure mutual respect between the various parts of civil society. This is reflected in, among other things, a use of notion of coalition, whether that be at an electoral level or government level. This is a great step forward for the kind of pluralism that Canada and the Ismaili Imamat have been hoping for.
Allow me also to make note of a hopeful outcome of these developments. That is that the forum for debate and conflict within any pluralist society no longer has to be the street or square, but that it can be the constitutional court of a state’s law.
THE PORTUGUESE CONNECTION AND THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Besides the genius of Tunisian constitutionalists, the preparatory work of this involved consultations on comparative Constitutional Law. And I would like to acknowledge in particular the role that the Portuguese legal experts have played, citizens of the country that I greatly admire and that, like Canada, has developed a civilisation of mutual respect between communities and openness to religions. I am referring here to the law regulating the relations between the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat since 2010. I am very pleased to add, before this very honourable audience, that this law was unanimously passed and it recognises the nature of the Ismaili Imamat as being a supranational entity.
In conclusion, on the Tunisian constitution, Mr Francois Hollande, the President of the French Republic, said in Tunis that “what makes your revolution unique and even your constitution, is the role of civil society.”
Date posted: Sunday March 1, 2014
Please also see: In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race