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QARMATIANS - The Ismailis and the Qarmatians

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"It must be known that some historians have tried to establish as fact that the Qarmatians and the Ismailis constituted one and the same movement, and some have tried to prove the contrary. Ibn Rizam, an anti-Ismaili pamphleteer of the first half of the fourth/tenth century had wrongly woven stories of the Ismailis and Qarmatians, to which S.M. Stern writes in Studies in Early Ismailism (Jerusalem, 1983, p. 295) that, "One might regard this account which derives after all from a pamphleteer whose aim was to blacken the reputation of the Fatimid, with some suspicion." Historian Nuwayri (d. 732/1332) also poured unbelievable stuff, whose primary purpose was to provide entertaining reading and cared less than anything for the truth. It is however curious to note a general tendency in the Sunnite and Shi'ite sources, when referring to the Ismailis, often erroneously call them Qarmatians without perception of the distinction between them. The Qarmatians have been discredited invariably as the extremist and opportunistically nihilist, and their extreme activities have been wrongly conflated with the Ismailis. Syed Abid Ali writes in Political Theory of the Shi'ites (cf. A History of Muslim Philosophy, ed. by M.M. Sharif, Germany, 1963, 1:738) that, "The Carmathian sect is not confused with the Ismailites, as the latest research has established beyond any doubt: it is the term "Ismailite" which is indicative of the true origin of the sect, other appellations being either misleading or based on hostility to this sect in general and to orthodox Shi'ites in particular." He also writes, "At this juncture, it is perhaps expedient to state in the most explicit terms that the Carmathians were not associated with the Ismailis, nor were they identical with them as it is sometimes wrongly supposed." (Ibid., p. 741). S.M. Stern also writes that, "It is true that the movement to which both names (Ismailis and Qarmatians) are applied was at one moment in its history broken by a schism, and that the name "Qarmatian" was predominantly used in respect of the Qarmatians of Bahrayn, who were at variance with the main body of the Ismaili movement; yet even then the term "Qarmatian" was not exclusively reserved for them and was often used - usually in a derogatory sense - to denote any Ismaili.... The early Ismailis were seldom so denominated by their contemporaries, being called instead by such names as Qarmatians or Batinis. They themselves seem to have designated their movement simply by the name "the mission", al-dawa, or more formally "the right-guided mission", al-dawa al-hadiya; thus "to be converted to Ismailism" would be rendered by them as "to enter the mission", dakhala'l-dawa. (Ibid. pp. 289-90)

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