Imamat in Ismaili Qasidas

In Celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Recent Visit to East Africa

His Highness the Aga Khan recently completed a highly successful visit to East Africa where he met his Ismaili followers in private gatherings, in what is termed as a didar (or lit. glimpse), as well as had high profile meetings and engagements with different leaders of East African countries. Some of the Ismaili community related functions as well as public events have been well covered by official Websites such as and and we invite our readers to click the links for reports, speeches, photographs and videos. As usual, the blog continues to provide by far the most comprehensive links to all that is Ismaili related and we strongly recommend our readers to visit the blog.

Simerg sought to provide a totally different perspective of His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit in the context of what a didar means and represents to an Ismaili. We hope readers found the short excerpts – a total of 35 – in our 7 part series meaningful and inspiring. As East African Ismailis continue to reflect about the visit, and the joy and peace the Imam’s didar brought to each individual’s heart, mind and spirit, we felt we should conclude with some thoughts about the Imamat with a few qasidas from Ismaili literature. Of course, it is our fervent hope and supplication that Mawlana Hazar Imam will, inshallah, travel worldwide to meet his other Ismaili murids in the near future. We shall endeavour to provide more perspectives on the Imamat and the didar when the visits to other areas take place. Ismaili literature is replete with reflections on the central role the Imam plays in the life of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community, and there is no shortage of material on the subject. In the meantime we are grateful to our readers for their constant support, encouragement and good wishes.

Thank you.

Abdulmalik Merchant



Rachael Kohn: Well Khusraw himself was something of a religious seeker. He seems to have even read about other religions as well as philosophy. What faction or what tradition of Islam did he align himself with?

Alice Hunsberger: He was very well educated and did look at lots of different religions. At some point in his life, he had a spiritual awakening, and in one place he tells it as a dream, and in another its a more journey — like kind of story. He finally found the truth and the peace in faith that he was seeking in the Ismaili faith, that is a branch of the Shi’ites. He believes that what God sent down is the external, and that the internal meaning is what needs to be brought out and that needs an Imam, an interpreter….interview link provided below.


The springtime of a friend of ‘Ali
is always full of the efflorescence of ‘Ali;

None deserves eminence and praise among
the people except he who befriends ‘Ali.

The heart of every Shi’i is protected
from Satan in the fortress of ‘Ali;

As ‘Ali is from the Prophet’s family
the true Shi’i belongs to the family of ‘Ali.

‘Ali’s cave is of knowledge, not stone
for stone does not befit the glory of ’Ali;

The clouds of ta’wil do not shed their droplets
except on the trees and seed-fields of ‘Ali.

Husayn and Hasan, the Prophet’s reminders
were none other than the reminders of ‘Ali;

Truly no one can be saved from the fire
unless he comes under the protection of Ali.

* * *

by Nizar Quhistani

“Salvation is to be found in the Imam of the Time. I found the essence of faith in obedience to the command of his representative. I have given up everything except that contained in the Quranic verse ‘offspring, one of the other’. Ever since I found the Imamate, permanently in human form, I have known no other guide than the living, everlasting Imam, For in his command, I have found peace in both the worlds.”

The necessity of a living Imam in every age according to the changing needs and circumstances of people is echoed in the following lines:

“My lover appears in different forms, Because for each period there comes a new guidance; One after the other, there follows another Qaim Imam Ali.”

* * *

by al-Andalusi, 10th century

About the composer, al-Andalusi: As was customary with most ruling Muslim dynasties, the Fatimids maintained a staff of a few professional poets, who performed important roles in the court rituals and public ceremonials. The most famous of the court poets was Muhammad ibn Hani al-Andalusi, who entered the service of the Fatimids in 958 during the reign of Imam al-Mu’izz after fleeing Muslim Spain, where his verses in support of batini (Ismaili) philosophy incurred the hostility of the Umayyad rulers. He served Imam al-Mu’zz in Mansuriya and then accompanied him on his journey to Egypt. But he was killed on the way by an enemy. Imam Mu’izz was saddened by this incident, and remarked that Ibn Hani was one of the greatest poets to have served him. Ibn Hani left behind a Diwan of 246 pages in which most of the poems are in praise of Imam Mu’izz and the Fatimid Dynasty. His extreme love for the Imam is shown in the following compositions.


O Mu’izz li-Din Allah!
the outstanding glory
and greatness of our time
is surely due to you

By you is the universe
honoured and allotted
its provisions, epochs
and respites of time

When the turbid depths
were purified for you
the waters became sweet
and mouths became fragrant.

Your qualities are beyond
the tongue’s description
beyond what the truthful
and the garrulous say

God has bestowed on you
the book and His grace
but alas, my verses
are not worthy of you!



Command what you will
not what the fates ordain
for you are the one
the overpowering one

You are the one, the heir
to Muhammad’s legacy
and your helpers are like
those who supported him

You are the one of whom
glad tidings were given
by learned men in their
books and traditions

You are the one, Imam
of the righteous, by whom
tyranny and disbelief
are wholly subdued

You are the one, Imam
whose love and affection
salvation is forseen
and our burdens removed

You are the one on whose
intercession we depend
when tomorrow brings forth
the Day of Resurrection


by Nasir Khusraw, 12th century

The Qur’an and the pure
sword of Haydar – these are
the two foundations of
the faith of Muhammad.

For he, ‘Ali, stood with
his sword Dhu’l-faqar*,
drawn in every battle on the
right hand of Muhammad.

Ali’s rank in the faith
was like Aaron to Moses,
for he was both the peer
and companion of Muhammad.

On the Day of Resurrection
Aaron and Moses will kiss
the mantle of ‘Ali and
the sleeve of Muhammad.

Muhammad’s religion was
like a dense forest;
‘Ali was the lion in
the forest of Muhammad.



*The sword of the first Shia Imam, Hazrat ‘Ali. The name is also commonly transliterated as Dhu al-Fiqar, Dhulfiqar, Zulfiqar etc. The scimitar is one of the oldest and best known symbols of Islam, and is particularly important to the Shī‘a, Alevis and Sufis. By most accounts, Muhammad presented Zulfiqar to a young ‘Alī at the Battle of Uhud. During the battle, ‘Alī struck one of the fiercest adversaries, breaking both his helmet and his shield. Seeing this, Muhammad was reported to have said “La fata illa Ali, la saif illa Zulfiqar” (“There is no hero but ‘Ali and no sword except Zukfiqar”). Source:


by Muayyad al-Din Shirazi, 12th century

Peace be upon Muhammad, the chosen,
the one who intercedes in the hereafter.

Peace be upon Ali, the beloved,
and those descended from him, the radiant stars.

Peace be upon you, O Sovereign Lord
of Cairo, and all their gain abides with you.

I sacrifice my soul to Mustansir,
who is supported by the legions of heaven.

I bear witness that it is your blessed face
which illumines the faces of your followers.

You are the custodian of the fountain of life,
and may the fountain of your enemies perish!

Date ‘Imamat in Ismaili Qasidas’ posted: Sunday July 31, 2011.



1. For Ms. Kohn’s complete interview with Dr. Hunsberger, please click Voices: Alice Hunsberger on Nasir Khushraw – Poet of Substance (on this Website). Poem from Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poems, ed. Faquir M. Hunzai and Kutub Kassam, pub. I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), 1997.

2. Adapted from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover – May 3, 2007). See » Ismailis in Middle Ages.

3, 4 and 5. Poetry source: Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poems, ed. Faquir M. Hunzai and Kutub Kassam, pub. I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1997. Article on Andalusi compiled from Shimmering Lights and Muhammad ibn Hani al-Andalusi, a famous court poet during the Fatimid era by Mahmoud Darwish. To download the latest catalogue of IIS publications, please click IIS 2010 Catalogue.


For “Didar Series” posts please click:

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