In the name of Allah (Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem)
This is my understanding of the Ismaili religion and my story of how I came to Islam.
All Praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, The one who we seek help from, and the one we worship. Whoever Allah guides, nobody can misguide. And whoever Allah allows to be misguided, nobody can guide. I bear witness that Allah is my Lord, and that Prophet Muhammad (SAllahu alaiyhi wa salam) is the last and final messenger in the line of messengers and prophets beginning from Adam alaihis salam. I was born as an Ismaili (sometimes referred to as Aga Khani).
We will start with a bit of background explanation!
Who/what is an Ismaili (sometimes known as Aga Khanis)
They call themselves Shia Ismaili Muslims. They believe in One God, that Muhammad is the last Prophet, and that he appointed Ali as his spiritual leader and that leadership falls to their family until the end of time. The current living Aga Khan (a formal title of the Ismaili leader), known as Shah Karim Al-Husayni (referred to as Hazir Imam (the manifest imam) by Ismailis) is the 49th in the line of imams which began with Ali (RadiAllahu Anh, May Allah be pleased with him)
What is the role of Quran in an Ismaili’s life?
Ismailis do sometimes read the Quran, you may find it in their houses. They believe it is outdated (was revealed for a specific time, place, and situation) do not believe it is universally valid and relevant for all times and peoples.
What is Aga Khan’s role?
Aga Khan is the spiritual leader and advisor of the Ismailis. His rule is the law for them. For example, looking at history, there was a time where the Aga Khan of the time decided that Hijab (women’s outer garment that covers the hair) was no longer necessary and was not needed to be worn. Thus Aga Khan (being the current representative of God on Earth) can nullify the rulings stated in the Quran or taught by the last Messenger of Allah.
Weren’t you a Muslim?
I used to consider myself an Ismaili Muslim, yes. However, I later found out that the Islam that Ismailis are taught is not the true deen (way of life) that was sent by God.
How did you come to Islam
I had a good friend in high school that used to chat with me about religion and life. He invited me to come and pray namaz (Persian word for salaah – the ritual prayer of Muslims which is performed five times a day) after school and also invited me to come for the jumuah khutba (Friday prayers and sermon). I had been exposed to the prayer before and my father had always taught me that there is nothing wrong with praying however you liked, and thus I felt very at home coming to pray with the other Muslims. Nobody attacked me or my beliefs, or denied that I was a Muslim, and I felt quite welcome and happy to find a way to pray to God. In fact even though Sunnis prayed differently I felt that this was still a way for me to pray to God and I was very happy about this opportunity and I even told my younger brother to come join us.
As time passed, my friends alhamdullilah (All praise is due to Allah) continued to take me to the mosque and to different Islamic lectures, conferences, and events. It was amazing to have such good friends who really cared about me and my hereafter in order to involve me. They also gave me audio tapes and video tapes to watch. All this time I never felt that they were preaching to me or trying to convert me, infact the whole time I felt I was Muslim and I did not feel threatened in the least. Actually in the future when people used to ask me how I converted I used to get very upset and say that I never converted, but later I got over this phase and I accepted that I did convert/revert to another way of life.
What are the differences between Ismailism and Islam?
Just at a glance (and I am no expert), in general, Ismailis do not pray salah (their prayer is different), fast in Ramadan (some might), pay zakah (they pay something else), go for hajj (maybe some do), wear hijab (they do not believe in it), avoid interest (they believe interest is okay)
Whydid you convert?
In conclusion, as I began to see both sides of the fence, and I began to read the Quran, lots of questions began to appear in my mind. I always felt from a young age that it wasn’t necessary to ask Aga Khan for help when we could always talk to Allah, and this confused me. Questions began to appear such as: What is the worst unforgivable sin? Why do we (Ismailis) pray to Aga Khan when we can pray to Allah directly? and so on..
The answer to the first question is: 4:116 Allah forgiveth not (The sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins other gods with Allah, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right).1
This answer was really scary to me. Because an Ismaili fellow told me that this is what Sunnis accuse us of. I did not want to risk my eternity in hell forever, so I decided that I did not want to practice Islam in this manner. I decided I would practice Islam as according to the way Allah wanted me to, not the way my parents or my culture taught me. I decided that I would read the Quran and find out what my Lord and Creator wanted from me.
…And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad (sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam)) gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it) , and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is severe in punishment.” [Qur’aan 59:7]2
What is your advice to other Muslims?
First my advice to all the Muslims is to learn your deen (way of life) and practice it. Don’t take this amazing blessing of Islam for granted. You never know when you will die. Also, become friends with Ismailis, and invite them to come pray with you. DON’T DEBATE (but instead DISCUSS) with them, but be gentle, be kind, and pray for Allah to open their heart to Islam. Also keep in mind that you cannot convert anybody, all you can do is balagh (convey) the message, and then leave the rest to Allah. If they convert, All praise is due to Allah, and if they don’t, still the decision belongs to Allah and He guides whom He wills (period).
What is the Ismaili prayer like?
The Ismaili prayer is known as the “Holy Dua”, it is 6 parts, and it is compiled by Aga Khan. It is partly written by him and has some parts of Quran in it.
You mean Qadiani or “Ahmedy” when you say Ismaili, right?
Oh no, not again. This is a common mix-up. Qadianis and Ahmediyyas are a totally different group that have nothing whatsoever to do with Ismailism.
More details on this at another time. Any questions? I am sure you have tons!
Where are you now?
I have now left Islam