Among the Shias of South Asia the Ithna-Asharis are in the majority while the Khojas and Bohras of Western and Central South Asia 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, Tajikistan, Yemen, Syria and East Africa. The present Aga Khan, Prince Karim, is the 49th direct descendant in a male line down from Hadrat Ali. His great-grandfather, Hasan Ali Shah, was given the title of Aga Khan by the Sultan of Persia (Iran). 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 God on earth". The word "mazhar" means "copy" or "manifest".

The followers of the Agha Khan maintain God made the Caliphate hereditary office and not an office "by election" or "nomination". They note that God promised Hadrat Ibrahim (Abraham) that his progeny would rule the nations, and the Prophet Mohammad 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. Hadrat Ali a.s. was Prophet Mohammad's cousin, Abdul Muttalib was the shared Grandfather to both Prophet Mohammad and Hadrat Ali, and moreover, Prophet Mohammad gave his daughter Hadrat Fatima, to his favorite and chosen, Hadrat Ali in marriage. Their children, Hadrat Hassan and Hadrat Hussein carried the pure blood of Prophet Mohammad in their veins. The present Living Imam, Imam e Zaman, Prince of Peace for Islam, Mowlana Shah Karim Aga Khan , is the 49th in the direct line.

The Khojas are concentrated in Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Gujarat. Khojas were originally converted by Pir Sadruddin (Pir Sadr Al-Dine) in Sindh in the later 14th Century (CE). From Sindh, the conversion spread into Kutch, then into Kathiawar and through Gujarat to Mumbai. Pir Sadr Al-Dine is credited with the conversion of the Khojas. 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 Sindh, Kutch, Gujarat, Mumbai 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 Mongol Khanate of the 17th century could not be accepted without approval of the Khojas. China seized Eastern Turkestan in 1759.

Zanzibar attracted South Asians from Kutch and Kathiawar, 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. The majority of the Khoja community gives preponderance to Islamic elements, while in the Imam Shahi branches certain groups may pursue just the opposite course of drifting back to paganism.

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 Kharijis, 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 Sultan Salah-ad-Din al Ayubi ( Saladin) 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."















  Page last updated: Friday, November 25, 2005 22:04:51 -0500