Introduction to Glossary
Listings in the glossary are selected terms and names appearing frequently in the text. The meanings given often refer to the technical and religious senses of the words as adopted especially by the Ismailis. The abbreviated forms ‘pl.’ and ‘lit.’ mean ‘plural’ and ‘literally’, respectively.
Glossary: H - K
A name of God meaning The Truth or The Reality.
Lit. edge, boundary, limit,; a technical term in Islamic law denoting Gods limits or punishments for various crimes mentioned in the Quran. Also a technical term for any rank in the Fatimid Ismaili dawa
Lit. ‘report’ or ‘narrative,’ used for the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad and in Shi‘i
Islam also for those of the Imams
A branch of Musta‘li Ismailis.
Upon the death of the twentieth Imam of the Musta‘li Ismailis, Fatimid Caliph al-‘Amir bi-Ahkam Allah, the official Musta‘li da‘wa in Cairo, along with the majority of Musta‘lian Ismailis in both Egypt and Syria, and some Musta‘lians in Yemen, recognised al ‘Amir’s cousin, al-Hafiz as the next Imam-Caliph. These Must‘ali Ismailis became known initially as the Majidiyya and then as the Hafiziyya or Hafizis. The Zurayids of Aden and some of the Hamdanids of Sana’a also supported the Hafizi da‘wa
. Hafizis seem to have disappeared soon after the demise of the Fatimid caliphate in 1171 CE.
(Arabic; derived from the root ha-ja-(ja)), meaning ‘to betake oneself to’, also, occurs in other Semitic languages. The word Hajj usually refers to the annual pilgrimage by Muslims to the Ka‘ba in Mecca, also called the Great Pilgrimage, in contrast to ‘Umra, the Lesser Pilgrimage. The Islamic Hajj owes most of its rituals to the pre-Islamic pilgrimage. Currently, it takes place over five days, 8-12 of the twelfth month (Dhu al-Hijja) of the Muslim lunar calendar. On the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijja, pilgrims offer an animal sacrifice to commemorate Abraham’s sacrifice. The day is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as ‘id al-Adha. Muslims from diverse ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds come together to perform the ritual. It was only in the 8th year of the Hijra, 630 CE, when the first Muslim community performed the Hajj. The Prophet’s first pilgrimage as head of the Muslim pilgrims was in 10 AH/ 632 CE; it was also his last, whence the title, hujjat al-wada‘ (‘farewell-pilgrimage’).
Pl. of haqiqa
. A system originating in 9th century Ismaili texts, and later modified and developed in a Neoplatonic framework by al-Nasafi (d. 943), Abu Hatim al-Razi (d. 934), Abu Ya‘qub al-Sijistani (d. ca. 971) and Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani (d. after 1020) in the 10th and 11th centuries. According to these authors, behind the external aspect (zahir
) of religious prescriptions, which can change with every prophet, the haqa’iq are the immutable and eternal truths of the realm of the batin
(the hidden), which are known to the Imam
and accessible only to the initiated or the elite.
haqiqa (Persian: haqiqat)
The reality. In the writing of philosophers such as Ibn Sina (d. 1037), it means the true nature of something, its essential reality; for Sufis
such as Ansari (d. 1089), it is a profound reality discovered after the human souls union with God. This latter concept was understood in different ways by other mystics like al–Hallaj (d. 922) or Ibn Arabi (d. 1240). Yet others, like al–Hujwiri (d. 1071), define it as the immutable profound reality, by contrast to sharia
(the law), seen as a reality that can undergo changes.
Lit. ‘temple of light.’ According to the Tayyibi author Ibrahim al–Hamidi (d. 1162), it is the spiritual body formed by the gathering of the individual souls of believers after their ascension. Suhrawardi: hayakil al–nurr.
A technical term in philosophy derived from the Greek hyle
(matter), opposed to sura
(form). Usually used in the sense of prime matter, being the third emanated principle after the intellect and the soul in the cosmogonies of Ismaili thinkers such as al–Sijistani (d. 971) and Nasir Khusraw (d. ca. 1088), and also in the Epistles of the Brethren of Purity
Greek word for hermeneutics, i.e., the discipline and theory of interpreting texts.
hikma; hikmah; hikmat
A term which in the Quran means wisdom, and later acquired various technical meanings referring to religious, gnostic or esoteric philosophy.
A Qur’anic term meaning both ‘proof’ and ‘presentation of proof.’ In Shi‘i Islam it designates Prophets and Imams as ‘proofs’ of God’s presence on earth. In the Ismaili da‘wa of the pre-Fatimid and Fatimid periods, it was also applied to senior da‘is and in the Alamut period of Ismaili history it came to be applied to those representing the Imam.
huquq al-adamiyyin (sing. haqq adam or haqq adami)
Rights of humans, i.e. private, essentially civil, legal rights or claims. A translation of the modern concept of human rights.
huquq (sing. haqq)
Legal rights, claims, and the corresponding obligations.
Al-Hallaj, Husayn b. Mansur
A Sufi poet and mystic born in Fars
(in present-day southern Iran). He is mainly remembered for his proclamation ana al-haqq
(I am the truth), and for his tragic execution at the hands of the Abbasids
. Early in his life, al-Hallaj moved with his family to live in Baghdad. Soon, al-Hallaj became engaged with the religious and political life of 10th
century Baghdad. He was imprisoned for nine years and executed in 922 CE. It is debatable though, whether it was al-Hallaj’s political activity or his Sufi utterances that led to his execution. It is believed that al-Hallaj wrote forty nine books; the only one that has survived is his Kitab al-Tawasin
, besides a collection of poems collected in his Diwan al-Hallaj
al-Hasan b. ‘Ali
The elder of Alis
two sons (d. c. 669) by Fatima
and grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
A mountain near Mecca where the Prophet Muhammad used to withdraw for prayer and where the first verses of the Quran were said to have been revealed.
A mountainous region in Yemen.
revolutionary group which emerged in the 8th century CE; also used generally to designate the Abbasids
and others who claimed descent from Hashim, the ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad.
(Arabic; lit. ‘the barrier’). A region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea which includes some of the holiest sites and cities for all Muslims - the Ka‘ba in Mecca, and Medina, the final resting place of Prophet Muhammad.
(Arabic; derived from the root ha-ja-ra
, meaning to emigrate from one's own land and take up residence in another country). Technically, the term hijra
designates the migration of Prophet Muhammad and his early Muslim community from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. The hijra
was taken as a result of the Meccans’ intensifying persecution of the Muslims following the removal of protection from the Prophet upon the death of his uncle, Abu Talib in 619 CE. The Muslim community left for Yathrib (later called Madinat al-Nabi, ‘City of the Prophet’; also known as al-Madinat al-Munawwara, ‘The Illuminated City’). Then, upon receiving the divine command, the Prophet followed his community there. The importance of hijra
lies in the fact that it is with hijra
that the Muslim community (umma
) was firstly formally constituted. Suras in the Qur’an
are labeled as either Meccan or Medinan; as the content of the suras reflect the changed position of the umma
before and after the hijra
. The Muslim calendar provides another indication of the significance of this event: its beginning was set on the first day of the lunar year in which the hijra
had taken place.
A religious order founded by Fadl Allah Astarabadi in the second half of the 14th century CE in Persia and Anatolia.
A term in classical Islamic jurisprudence denoting religious practice or acts of worship, i.e., worship performed by bodily actions or good deeds. In most classical treatises of Islamic law, it is contrasted to muamalat (worldly activities). In the writings of some Ismaili authors like Hamid al–Din al–Kirmani (d. after 1020), it is contrasted to ibadat batina ilmiyya (spiritual esoteric worship).
Arabic word meaning permission.
Arabic word found in polemical Muslim sources, meaning deviation from the straight path, but may connote apostasy or heresy. (See mulhid
In general usage, a leader of prayers or religious leader. The Shi‘i
restrict the term to their spiritual leaders descended from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib
and the Prophet's daughter, Fatima
Imama; Imamah; Imamat; Imamate
An abstract noun from the term Imam
referring to the institution of hereditary spiritual leadership in Shii
Knowledge, science, learning; also, more specifically religious knowledge. In Shi‘ism
this term also refers to the special knowledge of the Imams
Cognition, knowledge, gnosis. In one strand of modern Islamic discourse, the term is used for an amalgamated category which includes the mystical experience, sufism
, esoteric doctrine and monist philosophy and is related to Shiism
. It is related to the thought of al–Kirmani (d. 1021) and the Epistles of the Ikhwan al–Safa
on the one hand and al–Farabi (d. 950), al–Amiri (d. 992) and Ibn Sina (d. 1037) on the other hand. Major exponents are al–Suhrawardi (d. 1191), Ibn Arabi (d. 1240) and Haydar Amuli (d. 1305). The tradition is presented as reaching its climax in Safavid times with Mir Damad (d. 1630) and Mulla Sadra (d. 1640). Later authors included are Sabzavari (d. 1873) and Khomeyni before his involvement in politics in 1963. See arif
Adherents of a branch of the Kharijis
, named after their leader Abd Allah b. Ibad in the 7th century CE.
Lit. origination. Since the Quran describes God as Originator (badi, see Q 2:117), Ismaili Neoplatonists such as al–Nasafi (d. 661/1262–1263), al–Sijistani (d. after 971) and Razi (d. 934) used the derived term ibda to develop the Neoplatonist idea that God makes existents out of non–existence in a one–off, unparalleled act.
The name given in the Qur’an to the Devil, mostly when he is said to have refused to bow down before Adam (Q. 2:34, etc,). Also called al–shaytan (‘the demon’) in the Qur’an. Muslim commentators and theologians have disagreed as to whether Iblis is an angel or a jinn.
A Muslim dynasty in the Maghrib
founded in 789 (in present–day Morocco).
Mediaeval Muslim name for modern–day Tunisia; also the area where the Fatimids
founded their state in the early tenth century.
(derived from the Arabic root ja-ha-da, meaning ‘to make an effort’, ‘exertion’, or ‘endeavour’.) In Muslim law, the term ijtihad refers to an independent mode of individual reasoning or interpretation using specific methods and sources to arrive at solutions to new legal problems. Ijtihad is applied to communal issues not covered explicitly in the Holy Qur’an or the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad. The one who is qualified to practice ijtihad is called mujtahid. The use of Ijtihad became prominent in the middle of the 2nd AH/8th CE century. With the establishment of the four Sunni schools of Muslim law (between 2ndAH/ 8th CE century until the early 4thAH/ 10th CE century), it came to be understood amongst many Sunni communities that all the essential questions had been discussed and settled by the opinions of medieval scholars. This led to what is known in Muslim traditions as the closing of the door of ijtihad.
Muslim dynasty that ruled in Egypt (935–969), succeeded by the Fatimids
From Arabic, lit. ‘Brethren of Purity’, a group of learned scholars who were based in Basra and Baghdad around the last quarter of the tenth century CE. It is more generally accepted that their line in literature belonged to the Shi‘a legacy with strong connections with the Ismaili tradition. The Ikhwan produced an encyclopaedic work of 52 volumes Rasa’il Ikhwan al-Safa’ (The Epistles of the Brethren of Purity). These embodied the scientific and philosophical knowledge of their time. The Epistles treated a wide array of subjects including astronomy, logic, math, music, and natural sciences. Besides, the Epistles also explored the nature of the soul and investigated associated matters in ethics, revelation, and spirituality.
Adherents of a branch of early Shiism
which followed the Husaynid line of Imams, which later divided into the Ismailis
Adherents of a branch of Shii
Islam that considers Ismail, the eldest son of the Shii Imam
Jafar al–Sadiq (d. 765), as his successor.
Refers to the Bawanids (1074–1210 CE), a local dynasty in Tabaristan and Gilan, who used the title of Ispahbadhi, meaning army chief.
A district of Fars province in mediaeval Persia.
Ithna ‘Asharis; Ithna ‘Ashariyya
Lit. ‘Twelvers,’ the majority branch of the Shi‘i
Muslims who acknowledge twelve Imams
in lineal succession from ‘Ali b. Abi Talib
, after the Prophet Muhammad. Following Imam Ja‘far al–Sadiq (d. 765.) the Ithna ‘Asharis acknowledged his younger son Musa al–Kazim as their Imam while the Isma‘ilis recognised Isma‘il, the eldest son of Imam Ja‘far al–Sadiq, as their Imam.
The Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards (ITREBs)
More precisely the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards. A contemporary term for local and international boards within the Ismaili community, ultimately accountable to the Imam
and responsible for religious instruction and supervision over details of the practice of the faith in the localities under their jurisdiction.
Compulsion, predestination, fate, determination. see Jabriya
Lit. ‘islands of the earth,’ this phrase was used by the Fatimid Ismaili da‘wa
for the twelve geographical regions in which its mission was active.
Lit. ‘island,’ peninsula or a territory situated between large rivers. Applied to each of the 12 territories in which the pre–Fatimid Ismaili organisation is reported to have divided the world for its operations, and which were defined by geographic, ethnic and linguistic parameters. In the Fatimid
period, al-Qadi al-Nu‘man (d. 974) lists the lands of the Arabs, Byzantines, Slavs, Nubians (or Turks), Khazars, Hindis, Sindhis, East Africans, Abyssinians, Chinese, Persians and Berbers. Later, in the Anjudan period (15th–17th centuries) it was used for the regions inhabited by the Nizari
Mostly used in Muslim writing to denote holy war. However, in mystical literature, this term was interpreted in its root sense of exertion and came to mean an inner struggle for purification.
A mountainous region in central Syria between Hama and the mediterranean coastline southwest of Jabal al–Summaq.
Name applied to those alleged to hold the doctrine of jabr
(compulsion), according to which it is not man who actually acts, but only God. Mu‘tazilis
and Maturidis accused the Ash‘aris
, who denied the notion of qadar
(free will), of believing in jabr. The Ash‘aris considered their doctrine of kasb (acquisition) a mean between jabr
. Also mujbira
A Muslim dynasty which ruled Iraq, Kurdistan and Azerbaijan (1336–1432 CE), and succeeded by the Qara Qoyunlu.
Jamat; jamat; Jama‘at
Assembly or religious congregation; also a term used by the Nizari Ismailis
for their individual communities.
is from Arabic which means group or community, and khana
is from Persian meaning house, lit., ‘the house of the community’. It means a place where people of certain Sunni
Muslim communities come together for prayers and communal gatherings. Though primarily associated with the activities of Sufi groups, the Jama‘at Khanas are one of the many types of spaces of worship in diverse Muslim contexts. It also refers to the places of worship and communal gatherings in the Shi‘i Ismaili
Adherents of an early Shi‘i
group which recognised Ibn. Mu‘awiya, a descendant of Ja‘far b. Abi Talib, the brother of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib
, as their Imam
Northwest and west–central Persia.
A local Muslim dynasty of Daylam
in northern Persia which ruled over Rudbar, Daylam
and other surrounding regions at the turn of the 8th/9th century CE.
From Arabic, lit. ‘Speech, discussion, argument’, translated as philosophical theology, refers to theological reflection using rational philosophical argumentation to study and express the content of the faith in a coherent manner. It has become a discipline among other religious sciences of Islam and extends beyond theology in the narrow sense to include subjects like free will vs. determinism and theories proper to physics.
Lit. word. Used in the Quran with several meanings, chief among which is the Divine Word. It also refers to the formula for the declaration of faith amongst Muslims (also shahada
). In Shii
and Ismaili esotericism, the concept is linked to the act of creation by various thinkers such as the Ismaili Abu Yaqub al–Sijistani (d. after 971), the Twelver Mulla Sadra (d. 1640) and the Sufi Ibn al–Arabi (638/1240).
Land tax established by Caliph Umar II to be paid by the dhimmis on the earliest conquered lands by the Muslims. As more and more Muslims acquired kharaj–paying lands and kharaj–paying dhimmi, land–owners gradually became Muslim. The kharaj situation varied from region to region and from time to time.
The intellectual ‘elite’ or ‘elect,’ often contrasted in classical philosophical literature with the ‘masses’ (awamm
khudawand-i qiyamat; khudavand-i qiyamat
Lord of the resurrection. Epithet of the Nizari
Imam Hasan (d. 1166), after whose name his followers added the formula ‘ala dhikrihi’l-salam (on his mention be peace). Hasan was the first Imam
in the Alamut
period to declare himself openly as Imam in 1164. He proclaimed the qiyamat
, i.e. resurrection, which as understood by its critics as a rejection of the external forms of religious practice. However, a prevailing tradition amongst the Ismailis interprets the term to mean a spiritual revelation of the truth. See qa’im al-qiyama
A sermon delivered in a mosque at Friday prayers.
Key terms in early Ismaili
cosmology derived from the Quranic creative imperative kun
meaning Be, and qadar
, which means determinations.
In the Quran, the divine imperative (amr
), meaning Be, (as in Q 2:117: when He decrees a thing, He but says to it: be and it is). Ismaili Neoplatonist authors understood the term in a way consistent with their overall doctrine, in relation to Gods will and creation. See amr
A province in present–day Algeria.
A city southeast of Baghdad, it is the site of the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn ibn Ali
, grandson of Prophet Muhammad, in 61 AH/ 680 CE. Hence, the city is referred to as Mashhad al-Husayn. Karbala’ houses the tomb of Imam al-Husayn, which is visited by thousands of pilgrims, particularly during the month of Muharram, on the tenth day of which (known as ‘Ashura
, q.v.), Imam al-Husayn and his followers were massacred by the Umayyad
army. The shrine at Karbala’ is well known for its architectural features, its gold and silver ornamentation, and its ornate chandeliers. The soil from Karbala’ is fashioned into small tablets upon which some Shi‘a
, especially among the Twelver
Shi‘a communities, prostrate during their prayers. Historically, the maintenance of the shrine came not only from the Shi‘i rulers of Iran and India but also from some of the Sunni Ottoman
leaders. Nowadays the shrine at Karbala’ is under the protection of the Shi‘a of Iraq and Iran.
Adherents of an early Shi‘i
group originally led by al-Mukhtar (d. 687) who recognised Muhammad b. al-Hanafiyya (d. 322/934) as their Imam
In pre–Islamic times, a temple for worship of traditional gods. After the conquest of and re–entry into Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad, he re–dedicated the place to the worship of Allah and established it as a focal point for the pilgrimage (hajj). It also represents the direction to which Muslims turn for ritual prayer.
A sub–sect of the Ibadiyya
branch of the Kharijis
, founded at the beginning of 9th century CE by Khalaf b. al–Sarub (Khalaf al–Hallaj).
(pl. Khaniqahha) from Persian, lit. ‘residence’. Khaniqa
is a term for a Sufi
meetinghouse which serves as a residential teaching centre for Sufi disciples. It seems to have first been used as a term to designate this function in Persia in the 9th
CE century; a famous khaniqa
was established by Muhammad ibn Karram (d. 839 CE) the founder of the Karramiyya tariqah
are usually designed to house Sufis, provide places for communal worship, and feed the residents, guests and travellers. Like zawaya
are also used as burial-sites of Sufi masters. As the institution spread, its architectural form developed according to local needs and customs. Khaniqahha
today are spread over many parts of the Islamic world, especially the Persian-influenced regions (Iran, Central Asia and South Asia).
An early Muslim community, meaning seceders, who withdrew their allegiance from Ali b. Abi Talib
A term probably derived from the Persian khwaja
(lord, master). The Khojas are one of the Ismaili
communities originating from the Indian subcontinent and now living in many countries of the world.
historically developed among the Khojas
of the Indian subcontinent to record their literature.
The northeastern region of early Islamic Persia, immediately south of Transoxania and west of Badakhshan.
A collective term for several early Shi‘i
groups in Persia and Transoxania, also known as the Khurramdiniyya.
A province in southwestern mediaeval Persia and Iraq bordering the Persian Gulf in the south.
A city and province in central Iran.
tribe in North Africa who became key supporters of the Fatimids
in the tenth century.