The Devotion of Nizar Quhistani

Note: For a context to this reading, please first read Literary Reading: The “Light” that will keep on burning and Sideline: Work Portraying the Struggles of the Ismailis in the Middle Ages Receives International Honours

Those Ismailis who escaped the Mongol onslaught, were able to keep and maintain the basic infrastructure of the religious organization (Dawa) of the Ismaili community (Jamat).

 Among the families that enabled the Jamat to maintain their religious identity was that of the Ismaili Poet Nizar Quhistani.

 Despite persecution and constant attack from his enemies he reacted with courage to all the false charges and allegations that were made against him.

 He stated:

“It does not worry me if all the Mullahs of the world declared in their edicts that among the chosen and the common the drunken Nizari is worst of them all. I have no fear of being killed by them, nor the vexations (anxiety or distress) of burning flesh; I care not what wounds they inflict on me, because they are all hypocrites and liars.”

Nizar Quhistani wrote a monumental Mathnawi called Azhar wa Mazhar (Revelation and Manifestation) containing Ismaili beliefs related to notion of Imamate in Shia Islam and the Concept of Zahir and Batin (the apparent and hidden).

The work embodied the high ideals of Nizari Quhistani. The principle of direct hereditary descent of  the Imam from the Prophet was championed by the poet, often with the support of the following Quranic verse:

“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 hear all things.” (Sura 3, Ayats 33-34).

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.”


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


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