Isma'ilism belongs to the Shi'a branch of Islam, they believe in the oneness of Allah (swt), as well as the prophet Muhammad (saw). They believe the Imam has the authority to interpret the Qur'an in relation to the present time and to rule an Islamic polity.
Throughout its history, Isma'ilism has undergone major events and transformations that have affected its intellectual path, social structure and political framework. The Isma'ili genesis is surrounded with myth, distortion, ambiguity, and secrecy. Isma'ili history is still fully unknown, and despite this, the members of the sect consider themselves the second major Shi'a community. The Isma'ili sect believes in the seven Imams and therefore is called the Seveners. Isma'ilis follow the descendants of Imam Ismail and still follow up to the present day.
After the death of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq in the year 756 AD, Isma'ilism was devoted as an independent Shi'a group with their followers Imam Ismail bin Jafar, his spiritual successor, to become an independent chain of imams from the lineage of Isma'il bin Jafar differing and diverging from the group who followed his younger brother by claiming wine was permitted and prayers could be reduced to two from five.
The mid-second century AH can be considered the beginning of the spread of the Isma'ili dawa. The members of their community lived for more than a century and a half in complete secrecy and under the chase and control of the Abbasid authorities. The first widespread of Isma'ilism was in Yemen. Then leaders of the Isma'ili movement took Salmiya in Syria as a center for advocacy to expand slowly in Syria, as well as in Basra and Kufa in Iraq, then in Egypt, North Africa, and India. Their state lasted for five centuries.
During the reign of the Fatimids, the Isma'ili school of thought acquired its distinctive characteristics and completed its doctrinal construction. The Fatimid caliph al-Imam was the person for whom the religious and worldly powers met for the first time since the caliphate of Ali, which is consistent with the overall vision of the doctrine at that time.
The Isma'ili is one of the most sectarian groups and doctrines that have been subject to disintegration and division. There are more than one branch in the same sect, for instance, the Musta'li named for their acceptance of al-Musta'li as the legitimate nineteenth Fatimid caliph and legitimate successor to his father, al-Mustansir Billah. In contrast, the Nizari - the other living branch of Isma'ilism, presently led by Aga Khan IV - believe the nineteenth caliph was al-Musta'li's elder brother, Nizar.
Other branches like Ṭayyibi Isma'ilism is the only surviving sect of the Musta'li branch of Isma'ilism, the other being Hafizi Isma'ilism. Most followers of Tayyibi Isma'ilism are found in various Bohra communities: Dawoodi, Sulaymani, and Alavi.
Distinctive Practices of Isma'ilism
Ismaili Muslims have major differences in their prayer and other rituals. For instance, Isma'ilis pray in a Jamatkhana which is a designated space to gather and perform tariqah practices. The Isma'ilis considers Ismail ibn Jafar as a divinely appointed spiritual leader and successor and follow the descendants of Imam.
Isma'ilis and Agha Khanis
Today, Nizari Isma'ilis represent the majority of Isma'ilis, and they follow a chain of imams that ends with Karim Aga Khan. He became Imam of the Shi'a Imami Isma'ili Muslims in 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shi'a Imami Isma'ili Muslims, residing in Bombay, India. He graduated from Harvard University, and founded the Institute of Isma'ili Studies in London.
In the last era, there were massive migrations of Isma'ilis in South Asia because of wars geopolitical conflicts. Karachi is considered the most populous place of Isma'ilis in Asia and their contemporary center.
Islamic movement portal to study political Islam and minorities: http://www.islamist-movements.com/13268
Kamaluddin Ali Muhammad, Practices and Ceremonies
Abu Aly Aziz, Isma'ili Tariqah
Great answers start with great insights. Content becomes intriguing when it is voted up or down - ensuring the best answers are always at the top.
Questions are answered by people with a deep interest in the subject. People from around the world review questions, post answers and add comments.
Be part of and influence the most important global discussion that is defining our generation and generations to come