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ZULFIKAR ALI (920-922/1514-1516), 37TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

Zulfikar Ali, known as Khalil or Khalilullah, was born most probably in 900/1394, and resided in Anjudan. Syed Imam Shah (d. 926/1520) described the name Shah Khalil most possibly for Imam Zulfikar Ali.

Imam Zulfikar Ali used to visit different villages to see his followers, and sometimes stayed with them for few months. It is related that when he had been in the village of Dizbad in Khorasan, the parents of Khaki Khorasan, a renowned Ismaili poet and philosopher, used to go late in the night to see the Imam, after ensuring that their child was sleeping well. The daily absence of the parents aroused the curiosity of Khaki Khorasani, who was then hardly seven years old. On one night, he followed his parents without their knowledge, upto the secret place. He did not enter the house and hid behind the door. He however could watch inside the house his parents and other Ismaili elders. He could not understand the religious ceremonies being solemnized, but his heart palpitated with inner joy, because he just saw the Imam sitting before the congregation. At the end of service, the food offerings brought by the faithful were shared. Imam Zulfikar Ali told to a person to share it to each one. When he finished, he was asked to see outside. The person stepped out the house, and found a tired child watching the proceedings. He also got his share, and since then Khaki Khorasani cultivated a love and devotion towards his Imam.

It seems that the Imam was also in close contact with the Syrian Ismailis, and sent his letters from time to time. One like letter is discovered in Syria, which had been sent through a da'i Shamsuddin bin Daulatshah. It was read in the Syrian community in presence of the local Ismaili Qadi Shihabuddin bin Ibrahim al-Mainaqi (872-937/1467-1532). This letter reads:-

My spiritual children,

Thanks be to God Who had dignified whom He wanted by His obedience, and reviled whom He wanted due to His disobedience. And prayer be on His Prophet who made all His nations equal, and called them for His obedience and worship.

You must know that the knowledge of the Imam is one of the principles which should be accepted. As the Imam is permanent and an ever existing truth, the world could not be vacant of him for a single hour. And he, who does not know the Imam of his time, he would die a pre-Islamic death.

The Imams are ever existing and permanent. They are continuous dynasty coming out the one from the other. The Imam is known from his original nucleus. If he has nominated and appointed for the post of Imamate, any one of his sons, he should be considered the right Imam.

There are a few other Syrian Ismailis of high repute in the period under review, whose biographies are however not accessible, such as Muhammad bin al-Jazirah, Abu Mansur al-Yameni al-Shadili, who wrote Kitab al-Bayan; Muhammad Abul Makrim, Muhammad bin al-Fazal bin Ali al-Baza'i etc.

Abu Firas is one of the most eminent figures in Syria. His name was Abu Firas Shihabuddin bin al-Qadi Nasr bin al-Jawshan bin al-Hussain al-Daylami al-Maynaqi. His father was a native of Daylam, who migrated to Syria in 859/1455, and settled down in the fortress of Maynaqa. Abu Firas was born at Maynaqa in 872/1468. He acquired his education in Aleppo and served the Syrian community to great extent. He became a chief da'i of Syria, and died in 947/1540 at Maynaqa. He was a prolific writer, and his Qasidat al-Nasab deals the lineage of the Imams. He had a son, called Ibrahim Abu Firas, who died during his lifetime.

Khayr Khwah Herati most probably lived in this period. His name was Muhammad Reza bin Sultan Hussain Ghuriyan Herati. His pen-name was however Gharibi. He was born in Herat at the end of 15th century. His father Sultan Hussain was a native of Ghuriyan in Afghanistan, where he served as an Imam's vakil. Being summoned by the Imam through a messenger Mir Mahmud, he started his journey along with Khwaja Kassim Kohistani, but was killed by brigands in Khorasan. His son Khayr Khwah, who was then 19 years old had been taken in his father's place despite the objection of some community elders, because of his young age. Khayr Khwah visited Anjudan and saw the Imam. He describes in his Risala, how the different hujjats arrived during the fortnight he spent in Anjudan. He had been given due training of Ismaili mission, and was sent to Mashhad for learning Arabic. Finally, he was made the chief da'i in place of his father in Afghanistan. He was a man of great ability and a potential da'i. He died most probably after 960/1553.

It appears from the fragments of different traditions that few Ismaili fidais had been commissioned risky task, whose complete details are not accessible. It is however learnt that during the operations, many of them did not return to Anjudan and had lost their lives. Examples of such unknown fidais are found in the time of Imam Murad Mirza, who had taken whole responsibilities of the family members of these fidais. We have a report that Imam Zulfikar Ali had provided sustenance to about twelve families, whose young men had been deputed on an unknown mission, some of them returned or died.

Imam Zulfikar Ali died in 922/1516, and was succeeded by his son Nuruddin Ali.

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