Ismailis in China – A Travelogue with a Special Photo Collection


Thursday, May 15, 2014.

The rich history and literary traditions of the Ismaili community in China have been inadequately studied in modern times, and so it was a distinct honour for this website and its sister blog,, to feature and publish, on January 1st 2014, the essay and photographs about the Ismailis in China by Kenyan-based Ghulam Panjwani. Ghulam’s piece is an outstanding eye-witness account of his many visits to Xinjiang, and vividly presents a ‘living’ community. During the last four and a half months, this essay has been viewed by thousands of readers from around the world (over 80 countries) and elicited a large number of comments, all very positive.

Unfortunately, and with much regret, I inform readers that the author, Ghulam Panjwani, has asked me to retract his essay and accompanying photos. Ghulam was most pleased with the presentation I had edited on Simerg and Simergphotos, and he has assured me that his decision to withdraw the photo essay is entirely personal. As Ghulam holds the copyright to the essay and the photos, I am obliged to follow the author’s personal request. I am hopeful that Ghulam will, in the future, contribute essays to Simerg of his travels to various regions of Central Asia.

Ghulam Panjwani’s photo essay, with its delightful anecdotes and unique insights, on the lives of the Ismailis in China cannot be replaced. Readers may wish to read the essay titled “The Nizari Ismailis of China in Modern Times”, by Amier Saidula, which is included in the volume A Modern History of the Ismailis: Continuity and Change in a Muslim Community, edited by Farhad Daftary, and published by I. B. Tauris (in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies) in 2011. Saidula’s essay provides an overview of the history, beliefs, practices and life-cycle rituals of the Ismailis in China.

I apologize to all our readers for the disappointment in not being able to view Ghulam Panjwani’s essay and accompanying photos on this website any more.

Thank you.
Abdulmalik J. Merchant
Ottawa, CANADA


36 thoughts on “Ismailis in China – A Travelogue with a Special Photo Collection

  1. Ghulam and Mumtaz: Wow, this is very informative and we are very impressed by all your travels and experiences. Thank you for sharing in such great detail. May Mowla Bapa give you both more strength and opportunity to serve Him and His Jamaat. AMEEN…

    Nizar and Tasnim Habib

  2. A great piece! Wonderful article of our Chinese brothers and sisters. May Mawla bless you for your services.

  3. Dear sir

    Great effort by you. I hope that our jamat in China will progress. It gave me tremendous happiness to know that you have visited the jamat of China on numerous occasions.

  4. Thank you Ghulam &Mumtaz for sharing quite an experience that you’ve had with the Institution. I know you were involved but after reading this article, it’s remarkable to know and understand your journey and path that you have embraced. The task that you have undertaken to reach our Jamat in different parts of the world that are in hardship is outstanding. Your teachings and showing us their immense purity, their culture and richness is very moving.

    Thank you so much for sharing your strength, challenges, and feelings with our brothers and sisters. We love you both and May Mawla always be by your side at all times, accept all your seva and prayers. Hope to see you both next time you’re in town. God bless you both.

  5. Thank you Ghulam and Mumtaz for sharing this precious stories , and also Abdulmalik Merchant. Indeed I never went to China but these stroies were very inspiring. Especially I have been impressed by the photocopy and Translation of the letter of Mavlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, our ancestors told us about that but now we saw it. Thanks again and Mavla bless you. Merubon. Khorog Tajikistan

  6. This reminds me during my 5-months’ Khidmat in Hunza when a family took me right up to Khunjerab Pass! I wish I had the fortune of going on the other side of the border. But earlier i had also visited Peoples’ Republic of China in 1976 when I met various minority tribes like Uygur, people from Kashgar, Mongols and many including a Muslim woman who addressed us in the same breath as a Buddhist man did one day.

  7. Obrigado por compartilhar a vida e cultura dos irmaos Ismailis dessas terras distantes.

  8. Yes, indeed,touching ! Thank you very much for the great work and the great love you have shown for your brothers in Faith! You can see that you are not indifferent to the fate of our brothers and sisters in Faith – you love them, you care for them and really want to see them and that you want them to live at peace and prosperity. God bless you.

  9. I just say: congratulations for your wonderfull job and pray for your strength, mushkilasan and happiness. Ameen

  10. This is very impressive to see someone explore and continue to serve the Imamat. You are a role model and an example to all of us.

  11. I knew little about your affiliation with FOCUS; but for the first time read something about you, which actually came from you. You truly have an inspirational soul. You perhaps have one of the rarest of the rare souls that are meant to turn tragedies into hope. Being a father, I can well- imagine, as to how hard, panicking and difficult would it be to bear the loss of their beloved ones, by any parents. You saw hope in the tragic pain that you went through, to rediscover the cause for your remaining life. I haven’t met you, but I can for sure see an unceasing and ever shining hope that keeps you at peace within and inspires your greater cause for the humanity. Undoubtedly, your wife would be the real source of your inspiration. Stay blessed

    • Thank you Rehmat for your kind thoughts, we really appreciate it. Please remember us in your daily prayers. People like you whom we have never met and yet are the source of encouragement and motivation for us. May Mawla Bless you always.

      • I agree to every word by Rehmat Karim. I was about to write a very similar feeling. Thank you Ghulam Panjwani and Mumtaz for being the inspiration for many in the jamat.

  12. A worth reading material. Thanks Mr. Pajwani for sharing the brief but useful information about the Jamaat of this particular area.

  13. Thanks so much for this informative article. I always wanted to learn more of our brothers in China and this has helped me get a better understanding of their lifestyle.

  14. One of the best and most informative articles I have read in months… great job. I had read on the internet about Ismailis in China but the available information was quite limited up until now.

  15. Ghulam, this is your acquaintance from Toronto HQ Jamatkhana from late 70s and early 80s.

    You may recall we met briefly in Paris during the Golden jubilee Darbar. Your accounts and experiences of Ismailis in China that you shared with us is really educational and inspiring, I would imagine for most who read it all.

    Keep sharing with us more of your travel experiences from that part of the world as it is relatively new for most of us.
    Great to know you are doing well. Thank you. hopefully you might visit us in Toronto when the Ismaili centre and The Aga Khan Museum opens inshallah in 2014. Simerg, continue doing a great job of bringing together a variety of content from Ismailis around the globe and connecting us.
    Bashir Lalani
    Mississauga, Ontario

  16. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with and detailS about their living and practicing faith. I pray that our brothers and sisters of this area will become part of the worldwide global jamat in the years to come.

  17. Thank you for sharing this information, I believe this piece is very vital and important to all of our brothers and sisters around the world to acknowledge how lucky we are. Keep up the good work !!

  18. Thanks for sharing about our Chinese brothers and sisters. We love our Chinese jamat just as we love our jamats in all parts of Badakhshan. Beautiful work, Mawla bless you,

  19. Hi my name is Anish Prasla I just wanted to give my gratitude to Ghulam and Mumtza Panjwani family for sharing a peice of this great article ,otherwise I would have had no clue on how are brothers and sisters from the different part of the world practice our faith with such purity knowing that they live in remote areas and that they do not have the same facilities that we have here. May Mawla bless them with strength and happiness, amen. Thank you and Ya Ali Madad.

  20. Thank you very much Gulam & Mumtaz for sharing with us. keep up the good work. May Mawla give you the strength and courage to do more Amen!

  21. It is great to know so much about our brothers and sisters,living in hardship, many of whom never had an opportunity to have Hazar Imam’s Didar or contact with other Ismailis around the world. Ghulam proved to be a strong link between us. His work is beyond admiration. Mirza Ismail

  22. Excellent history of hidden members of Ismaili Jamats of China, in past, now revealed along with live photographs. Al-Hamdullilah this is an extensive work by the Panjwani family. Hats off!

  23. A great piece! I was not aware that there are Ismailis in China and thank you so much for sharing some very important information.

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