“I Wish I’d Been There”
By Khalil Andani
It happened on August 8, 1164, CE (17 Ramadan 559 AH).
This is the day I would have wanted to witness.
On this day Isma‘ilis from all over Persia gathered outside the fort of Alamut. A great pulpit was erected with four pillars attached to four banners – white, red, yellow and green.
The murids from Rudbar and Daylan stood to the front of the pulpit, the murids from Khurasan and Quhistan were stationed on the right side, and the murids from central and west Persia were positioned on the left.
At midday, the Imam of the time, Mawlana Hasan ‘ala-dhikrihi al-salaam, adorned in a white garment and wearing a white turban, descended from the castle and ascended the pulpit.
The Imam greeted the dignitaries and sat down for a moment. Suddenly, he rose and drew his sword and made one of the most important declarations in Isma‘ili history:
“O’ inhabitants of the worlds – jinn, men, and angels. Know that Mawlana, the Lord of Resurrection (qa’im al-qiyamat) is the lord of everything in existence. He is the lord who is the absolute being (wujud-i mutlaq). He excludes all existential determinations, for he transcends them all; he opens up the threshold of his Mercy, and through the light of his Knowledge he causes all beings to see, hear and speak for all eternity 
“The Imam of the Time has sent you his blessings and compassion. He has called you his specially selected servants. He has relieved you of the duties and burdens of the shari’a and has brought you to the qiyamah (the resurrection).” 
Following this declaration, the Imam invited everyone to feast and to break their fast – at midday during the month of Ramadan. Thereafter, this day was celebrated as ‘Idd al-Qiyamah (The Festival of Resurrection) or the Great Resurrection (qiyamat al-qubra).
The qiyamah had freed the murids from the burdens of the religious law (shari’ah) and summoned them to the spiritual reality (haqiqah) of the Imam. They were invited to experience the spiritual Paradise on earth and be blessed with the Imam’s luminous vision (nurani didar).
In the exoteric understanding, the term Resurrection (qiyamah in Islam) refers to events that occur at the end of the world and the last judgment. In Isma‘ili thought, the Resurrection or qiyamah is a continuous event that brings change, spiritual elevation and retribution. Both creation and qiyamah occur continuously and in every moment. Qiyamah also takes place in the realm of history; not the material history of the physical world (‘alam al-dunya) but the sacred history of the World of Faith (‘alam al-din).
Isma‘ili philosophers understood the history of the World of Faith as comprising of seven periods or cycles – each lasting hundreds of years. The first six of these cycles were marked by the appearance of the six major Prophets (natiqs) – Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. In these six cycles, spiritual truths (haqa’iq) are hidden in exoteric revelations and the religious law (shari’a) according to which humanity is ordered to work and perform actions. But still to come was the seventh cycle – which would be a cycle of the manifestation of these esoteric truths when human souls would be rewarded for their work and the religious law (shari’ah) would be abrogated. This period is called the Cycle of Resurrection (dawr al-qiyamah) and its appearance is marked by the advent of a great figure referred to as the Lord of Resurrection (qa’im al-qiyamah).
Was the qiyamah of 1164 the same as the great qiyamah that had been foretold by the Isma‘ili philosophers? Isma‘ili thinkers of Alamut such as Nasir al-Din Tusi understood the 1164 qiyamah as a rehearsal or a foretaste of the final qiyamah – which was still to come when the sixth cycle of Prophet Muhammad would be completed by the parousia of the Lord of Resurrection.
But will the final qiyamah be recognized when it arrives? The Bible says that the ‘Day of the Lord’ comes as a thief in the night , that is, when people are unable to see. The Holy Qur’an states that the Hour of Resurrection will come secretly and the majority of people will not be aware .
“Do they only wait for the Hour – that it should come on them all of a sudden (baghtatan), while they are not aware (la yash‘auroona)?” – Holy Qur’an 43:66
I wish I’d been there…
1. Abu Ishaq Quhistani, Haft Bab Abu Ishaq, transl. Ivanow, Bombay 1959, p. 41 and Henry Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy, p. 99.
2. Farhad Daftary, The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines, Second Edition, p. 359.
3. See 2 Peter 3:10 and Thessalonians 5:2.
4. The word baghtatan means ‘unconsciously’ or ‘hiddenly’ and is used in the Qur’an (6:47) in contrast to the word jahratan which means ‘openly’ or ‘publicly’. That is to say, the event of the great qiyamah and the advent of the Lord of Resurrection (qa’im) will be hidden to most people. The Isma‘ili philosopher Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani also writes that people will be heedless of the appearance of the Lord of Resurrection: “Man will be heedless of what confronts him of the grandeur of that Day, being oblivious to its overwhelming importance.” (Kitab al-Yanabi transl. Paul Walker, “The Wellsprings of Wisdom”, p. 102).
About the writer: Khalil Andani is an aspiring contemporary Isma’ili thinker and studies Islamic esoterism, Isma’ili history and thought, and comparative religious thought such as the perennial philosophy. He is a graduate from the University of Waterloo with Bachelor of Math (BMath) and Master of Accounting Degrees (MAcc) and recently completed his Chartered Accounting (CA) designation. Khalil regularly authors articles and presentations on subjects from Isma’ili philosophy and intellectual thought and their connection to contemporary Isma’ili doctrine and practice.
Please see the following articles by Khalil:
1. The Delegation Decoded: An Esoteric Exegesis of the Delegation of the Isma’ili Imamat
2. Light upon Light: Succession in the Shi’a Isma’ili Imamat
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