The Preamble of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”

December 13, 1986, Geneva: On his 50th birthday, His Highness the Aga Khan is seen ordaining a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community. Click for enlargement.

Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim  al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.


In 1905, the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, issued a written set of ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the Ismailis of East Africa which effectively served as their communal constitution.  This constitution re-affirmed the centrality of the Imam’s authority over the affairs of his community and also articulated the distinctive religious identity of the Ismailis. This document was revised and published several times until 1954, and was made available to Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike. Similar rules were given to the Ismaili community in British India.

During the 1960’s, the 48th Imam’s grandson and successor,  Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, gave Constitutions to his followers in Africa and Pakistan in 1962, and to the Jamat in India in 1967.

A constitution review committee was then formed in the early 1980’s, and after exhaustive review, Mawlana Hazar Imam, in 1986, ordained a new Ismaili Constitution known as “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.”

The Ismaili Constitution became applicable throughout the world, linking all Ismailis to the Imamat. His Highness did this with the belief that the Constitution would provide a strong institutional and organizational framework through which his community would be able to contribute to the harmonious development of the Muslim Ummah and of the societies in which his followers lived. He expressed confidence that the Ismaili Constitution would give a stronger integrated identity to his community, and that in abiding by it in letter and spirit, the Ismailis would achieve greater peace, unity, happiness, security and wellbeing. He futher hoped that the Constitution would become an enabling document for all his murids (followers) for an active role in institution building, for creative application of their abilities, for personal development and for intellectual and spiritual satisfaction.

The new constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by Mawlana Hazar Imam on December 13th, 1986, his fiftieth Salgirah (birthday) and thirtieth year of Imamat.  The Constitution was revised by Mawlana Hazar Imam on July 11, 1998, when he completed forty one years of his spiritual leadership.

The following is the preamble from the Constitution.

The Preamble

(A) The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims affirm the shahādah lā ilāha illa-llāh, Muhammadur rasulu-llāh, the Tawhid therein and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is the last and final Prophet of Allah. Islam, as revealed in the Holy Quran, is the final message of Allah to mankind, and is universal and eternal. The Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through the divine revelation from Allah prescribed rules governing spiritual and temporal matters.

(B) 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).

(C) Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass, it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendents whether they be sons or remoter issue.

(D) The authority of the Imam in the Ismaili Tariqah is testified by Bay‘ah by the murid to the Imam which is the act of acceptance by the murid of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam and the murid. This allegiance unites all Ismaili Muslims worldwide in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Imam within the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. It is distinct from the allegiance of the individual murid to his land of abode.

(E) From the time of the Imamat of Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s), the Imams of the Ismaili Muslims have ruled over territories and peoples in various areas of the world at different periods of history and, in accordance with the needs of the time, have given rules of conduct and constitution in conformity with the Islamic concepts of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill.

(F) Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential.

(G) Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim  al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.

(H) By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims.

(I) It is the desire and Hidāyat of Mawlana Hazar Imam that the constitutions presently applicable to the Ismaili Muslims in different countries be superseded and that the Ismaili Muslims worldwide be given this constitution in order better to secure their peace and unity, religious and social welfare, to foster fruitful collaboration between different peoples, to optimise the use of resources, and to enable the Ismaili Muslims to make a valid and meaningful contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of the Ummah and the societies in which they live.

Date article posted on Simerg: December 10, 2010




(1) The Ismailis: An Illustrated History by Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji, published by Azimuth editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies (2008).

(2) Wikipedia, article on Imamah, with link to Web site Salman Spiritual,

(3) (Web site of Kamaluddin Muhammad and Zarina Kamaludin)


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23 thoughts on “The Preamble of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”

  1. Copies of the constitution should be sold at literature desk as they were in the 1990’s. It is important for every Ismaili family to have a copy at home. Mawlana Hazar Imam worked very hard on this constitutional document, and there is no reason whatsover that it should not be available to the Jamat. Hopefully the leadership is reading this message, and will help to get copies at literature desk.

  2. I am very proud to be able to read the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution. Please make the entire constitution available.

  3. PREAMBLE is the primary and the most important document of Ismaili Tenets. I visited scores of JKs in few countries, NEVER saw that important document on notice boards for the benefit of jamaits. After 1986 never heard any lecture on explanation of the Ismaili Tenets prescribed in Preamble. Looks like ITREB as well top leadership is unwilling to give excess to jamaits for some reason. It is true the copy of Preamble and constitution is not available on JK literary stalls for long time. The one which I obtained long ago cost me $18 ( why they kept so high price). My suggestion is ITREB should provide 2 pages of Preamble to jamaiti members either free of cost or charge Rs 100 or $1 as donation to offset cost.

  4. Hi Everyone! I am working on a topic closely related to ‘the governance structure of the Ismaili Community’. Can somebody help me with finding the text of ‘Rules and Regulations for the Ismailis of East Africa (1905)’ and successive constitutions, please? Please note that I have a copy of the latest (1986) one. Send your feedback to

  5. Ya Ali Madad. Can I get a copy of The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim. I would like to have a hard copy.

  6. This is a Public Document and must be available globally for anyone interested, let alone for Ismailis (making it not available is, to me, a disservice to the Constitution!). It is available ( must be!) with the National/Country Council (at least in Pakistan I had purchased a printed copy–at that time without the Rules and Regulation for Pakistan–a decade or more before!). However the Constitution is available, at least, with every Local Council and Local-ITREB ( more than 50 in Pakistan serving a Jamaat of 600,000 through 1000 plus Jamatakhanas).

  7. Well, The QUESTION of AVAILABILITY of Ismaili Constitution to the Jamat has been an agenda without REPLY from our Leadership for a very very long time . Since I was a Mukhi of the Jamat ( 13 yrs back ) this matter has not been resolved and I still see the Jamat asking about it. My suggestion is Aiglemont, would be a place to get rightful answer.

  8. Ya Ali Madad.
    Is there any website of the Ismaili Tareqah add Religious Education Board (ITREB) from where we can get the ismaili constitution book.

  9. Malik, I hate to inform you that you have been misled, there is NO Ismaili Constitution being sold on the literature counter in the USA. Do you happened to know where I can purchase one?

    • I had obtained my personal copy from the literature desk in Ottawa sometime back. I had inquired at the literarure counter in Vancouver a few months ago and was told they had run out of copies and were awaiting a new consignment. It would be best to contact the Jamati leadership and try and borrow a copy while we all await the reprint.

      Every Ismaili family should possess a copy of the constitituion and I hope they are made available without further delay.

  10. Ya Ali Madad,

    Can anyone tell me where I can get the copy of Ismailim Constitution.

    Thanks & Regards,

    Amit A.Kotadia

  11. The Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution lays out the real or straight path for a correct understanding about Ismailism. The key points covered include the designation of Hazrat Ali as Imam, the obedience and bayat to Hazrat Ali and his successors. These principles should be understood and retained in the heart of every Ismaili.

    • You should be able to obtain a copy of this very important document from the Jamatkhana literature counters.

      Considering its significance and importance, we recommend that the primary document which includes the Preamble and the Articles, be distributed among all Ismaili households, just like “The Ismaili” magazine. The document is not a bulky book, as can be seen in the photo above.

      Copies of specific Rules and Regulations applicable to each country should be made available for reference purposes in Jamatkhana libraries.

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