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Khoja [Nizaris] Satpanth Ismailism

Among the Shias of India the Ithna-Asharis are in the majority while the Khojas and Bohras of Western and Central India belong to the two internal divisions of the Isma`ili group of Muslims - the Nizaris [Khojas] with Satpanth Ismailism and the the Musta'lis [Bohras or Bohri] with Tayyibi Ismailism.

The Khojas are headed by the Agha Khan, who has followers in Pakistan, India, Iran, Yemen, and East Africa. The present Aga Khan, Prince Karim, is the 49th direct descendant in a male line down from Ali. His great-grandfather, Hasan Ali Shah, was given the title of Aga Khan by the Sultan of Persia. The Ismaili followers of the Aga Khan professedly believe that the Qur'an was time bound and was not meant to be a Universal message for all times. The Aga Khan has officially declared himself, before his followers, as the "Mazhar of Allah on earth". The word "mazhar" means "copy" or "manifest".

The followers of the Agha Khan maintain Allah made the Caliphate hereditary office and not an office "by election" or "nomination". They note that Allah promised Hazrat Ibrahim that his progeny would rule the nations, and the Prophet Muhammad was descended from Prophet Ibrahim's elder son Ismail's line. The Quran outlined the inheritance laws in detail and the legacy passes to the children, related by blood, and not outsiders. Hazrat Ali a.s. was Prophet Muhammad's cousin, Abdul Muttalib was the shared Grandfather to both Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali, and moreover, Prophet Muhammad gave his daughter Fatima a.s., to his favorite and chosen, Hazrat Ali in marriage. Their children, Hazrat Hassan and Hazrat Hussein carried the pure blood of Prophet Muhammad in their veins. The present Living Imam, Imam e Zaman, Prince of Peace for Islam, Mowlana Shah Karim Aga Khan (prayers of peace), is the 49th in the direct line.

The Khojas are concentrated in Gujart State, India. Khojas were originally Hindus of the trading class converted by Pir Sadruddin [Pir Sadr Al-Dine] in Sind in the later 14th Century (CE). From Sind, the conversion spread into Kutch, then into Kathiawar and through Gujarat to Bombay. Pir Sadr Al-Dine is credited with the conversion of the Khojas from the Hindu caste of the Lohanas. He laid the foundation of the communal organization, built the first assembly and prayer halls (Jamaat Khanahs) and appointed the community leaders (Mukhis). Khojas live chiefly in lower Sind, Cutch, Gujarat, Bombay and in wide diaspora, particularly in East and South Africa, Arabia, Sri Lanka and Myanmar (Burma).

The Khojas appeared in Eastern Turkestan in the 16th century as leaders of two sects of Nakshbandiye Sufi order - the White mountaineers and the Black mountaineers. The khojas soon assumed informal temporal power. Any political decision in the Mogol khanate of the 17th century could not be accepted without approval of the khojas. China seized Eastern Turkestan in 1759.

Zanzibar attracted Indians from Kutch and Kathiawad, and Khojas emigrated in hundreds by dhows in the 19th century.

Satpanth, really Sat Panth, i.e. the "True Path (to Salvation)", is the name of a sect of Islam, forming a kind of transition from ordinary Islamic doctrine of the Shi 'ite type, to Hinduism. The majority of the Khoja community gives preponderance to Islamic elements at the expense of the Hinduistic, while in the Imam-shahi branches certain groups may pursue just the opposite course of drifting back to Hinduism.

The Nizari sect began when Hasan Ibn al-Sabbah refused to recognize al-Musta'li as the new caliph in 1094. He support al-Musta'li's brother Nizar, who soon disappeared under obscure circumstances in 1095. Musta'liyah Isma'ilis were centered in Cairo while the Nizaris, consolidated their positions in Iran and Syria. Hasan-i Sabbah established his mountains stronghold at Alamut, intending to to destroy the Abbasid Caliphate by murdering its most powerful members. The group followed in the steps of the Kharijites, elaborating an ideology directed against Muslim rulers that they regarded as impious usurpers. The Nizaris [Misaris] gained prominence during the Crusades when a society of Misaris, called Assassins, harassed both the Crusaders and Saladin (Salah ad Din al Ayyubi) at the time of the crusades of the eleventh century. They became famous in the 12th Century for their seizing of Crusader forts and assassinating Christian leaders. The sect was thought to be active possibly continued through the 14th century as a group of bandits on the Afghanistan Silk Road.

Accoring to one account, the Hashshashin (Assassins) received their name from their use of hashish. Other writers suggest that assassin simply means 'followers of Al-Hassan' (or Hasan-i Sabbah, the Sheikh of Alamut, known as "The Old Man of the Mountain"). Their own name for the sect was ad-dawa al-jadida which means "the new doctrine" and they called themselves fedayeen from the Arabic fida'i which means "one who is ready to sacrifice his life for the cause."

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:59:41 ZULU