Introduction to Glossary
Listings in the glossary are selected terms and names appearing frequently in the text. The meanings given often refer to the technical and religious senses of the words as adopted especially by the Ismailis. The abbreviated forms ‘pl.’ and ‘lit.’ mean ‘plural’ and ‘literally’, respectively.
Glossary: D - G
al-da‘wa al-hadiya; al-dawa al-hadiya
‘The rightly guiding mission,’ an expression used by the early Shi‘a
and earliest Ismailis,
who felt that the caliphate
had been wrongfully taken from the ‘Alids
. The movement began to be particularly successful around the middle of the 3rd/9th century when a multitude of Ismaili da‘is
began their activities in Iraq, Persia, eastern Arabia and Yemen.
The faith, the religion or ‘the world of religion’; often contrasted with al–dunya
, the material world.
Lit. abode of emigration.
The realm of Islam, a term used in classical Islamic jurisprudence to denote regions or countries subject to Islamic law. Often contrasted with the dar al–harb, lit. the realm of war.
A state or dynasty. Also used to refer to the domain of politics (siyasa).
Lit. ‘period of concealment’. Qadi Nu‘man (d. 974) uses the term dawr al-satr
to refer to the period of around 150 years in which the Isma‘ili imams
were hidden from public knowledge, and which ended with the appearance of ‘Abdallah (or ‘Ubaydallah) ‘al-Mahdi’, who in Nu‘man’s terminology started the period of disclosure (dawr al-kashf
). According to Abu Ya‘qub al-Sijistani (d. after 971), dawr al-satr refers to the period when truth is concealed from the senses, that is, the period that started with Adam and which he expected to end upon the return of Muhammad b. Ismail as the Mahdi
. Later, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1274) speaks of periods of concealment that can take place when the imam’s true spiritual reality is not manifested, even if he is physically available.
dawr (pl. adwar)
Cycle, revolution, period. Together with kawr
— a great age or aeon. It is a division of the cyclical religious history developed by some early Ismaili authors such as Ibn Hawshab (d. 914) and his son Ja‘far (d. 10th c.) as well as by Fatimid
thinkers such as Abu Ya‘qub al–Sijistani (d. after 971), Qadi Nu‘man (d. 974) and al–Shirazi (d. 1048). These terms are also part of the Tayyibi mythical cosmology introduced by Ibrahim al–Hamidi (d. 1162). They held that history developed in seven cycles, each inaugurated by a speaking prophet (natiq
). See also dawr al–satr.
da‘i al-balagh; dai al-balagh
A missionary in charge of invitation into the da‘wa
during the Fatimid
Lit. summoner, a term for missionary amongst various Muslim communities, especially used among the Ismailis
before and during the Fatimid
period as well as in the Alamut
period of Ismaili history. (See dawa
Lit. summons, mission or invitation to Islam. Amongst Shii
Muslims, it was the invitation to adopt the cause of the Imamat
. It also refers more specifically to the hierarchy of the Ismaili
religious organisation in the pre–Fatimid, Fatimid
, and Alamut
periods of Ismaili history.
da‘wat al-haqq; dawat al-haqq
The true mission or the true summons. A term used by the Ismailis of the pre–Fatimid and Fatimid
periods to refer to their dawa
Da’udi Bohras; Da’udis
A subdivision of Tayyibi Musta‘li Ismailis.
The 26th Da‘i al-mutlaq of the Tayyibi Ismailis (d. 997 or 999 H/ 1589 or 1591 CE) was succeeded by his deputy in India, Da’ud Burhan al-Din b. Qutubshah. But, four years later, the deputy of the deceased da‘i in Yemen, Sulayman b. Hasan al-Hindi, claimed the succession to the leadership of the Tayyibi da‘wa. This heated succession dispute was brought before the Mughal emperor Akbar in 1005 AH / 1597 CE. A special tribunal decided in favour of Da’ud b. Qutubshah, but the dispute, with its Indian-Yemeni dimensions, was not resolved and led to a permanent schism in the Tayyibi da‘wa and community.
The majority of the Tayyibi Bohras acknowledged Da’ud b. Qutubshah as their 27th Da‘i al-mutlaq
and henceforth became known as Da‘udis. On the other hand, a majority of Tayyibis of Yemen and a small group of Bohras in India supported the succession of Sulayman b. Hasan and became designated as Sulaymanis. Thereafter, the Da’udis and Sulaymanis followed different lines of da‘i
s. The Da’udi da‘i
s have continued to remain in India, while the da‘i
s of the Sulaymanis have resided in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Lit. ‘the act of reminding’; ‘remembrance’. The Qur’an exhorts individuals to remember God: ‘Oh ye who believe! Remember (udhkuru) God with much remembrance (dhikran kathiran)’ (Q 33:41). Dhikr designates a kind of prayer, which consists in the constant repetition of a name or formula. It is performed either in solitude or collectively. For the mystic al–Hallaj (d. 922), it is a method that helps the soul to live in God’s presence, another method being fikr (discursive reflection). Later Sufis, such as Ibn ‘Ata Allah (d. 1309) emphasised that dhikr is a particular technique that guarantees access to higher states and wrote manuals on how to perform dhikr.
A social class of land–owning aristocrats in pre–Islamic Iran.
In the Quran it means a) retribution, judgment (as in yawm al–din
, the day of judgement); b) religion in a broad sense. The pair din–dunya
is sometimes used to delineate the relation between the religious and the temporal. Islamist political groups believe din
is intimately linked to dawla
(the domain of politics).
A government registry; ministry, department or office; a collection of poetry or prose.
A religious community that arose as an off shoot of the Fatimid Ismailis around 408 AH / 1017 CE.
The Druze emerged in Syria in the closing years of the reign of the Fatimid Imam-caliph al-Hakim (r. 386-411 AH / 996 AH-1021 CE). Starting with al-Darazi (or al-Darzi), after whom the group came to be known as al-Daraziyya (or al-Durziyya), they organised a movement in Cairo emphasising the messianic role of al-Hakim and attributing divinity to him. The consolidation of Druze doctrines began with their scholar and leader, Hamza b. ‘Ali, who also succeeded in developing a da‘wa organisation for the movement that spread across Syria.
The Druze teachings are mainly founded on the letters of al-Hamza, written between 1017-1020 CE, and transmitted within the community from generation to generation through initiated scholars. The Druze also refer to themselves as Muwahhidun or Unitarians. They have developed their own scholarship and have distinctive practices. The Druze live in various regions of Syria, Lebanon and Israel, with smaller settlements in the Americas, Australia and West Africa.
This world, i.e. the visible world, as opposed to al–akhira (the hereafter).
Dar al-Hikmah; Dar al-Hikma;
Lit. ‘House of wisdom’. A scholarly institution founded in Cairo by the Fatimid Caliph
al–Hakim in 1005 CE. Its building housed a large library containing thousands of volumes and a public reading room. It was the meeting place for traditionists, grammarians, jurists, astronomers, logicians and mathematicians. It was there that al-Qadi al-Nu‘man (d. 974) gave lectures on the Ismaili da‘wa
, which were called majalis al–hikma
(sessions of wisdom). The institution was also known as Dar al–‘ilm (The House of Knowledge).
Dar al-‘Ilm; Dar al-Ilm
Lit. ‘House of Knowledge,’ an institution of learning established in Cairo by the Fatimid Caliph
al–Hakim (d. 1021). See also Dar al–Hikmah
The highlands in the province of Gilan, near the Caspian Sea in northern Iran.
Da‘udis; Daudis; Dawoodis
Adherents of a sub–branch of the Tayyibi Ismailis. The Tayyibis are one of the two branches of the Mustali Ismailis, the other branch being the Hafizi.
The eleventh month of the Muslim lunar calendar.
Lit. The Proof or The Distinguisher between Good and Evil, a name applied to the Quran and also the title of its 25th chapter.
falasifa (sing. faylasuf)
Practitioners of falsafa
(Arabic word derived from the Greek philosophia
was sometimes identified with the Arabic hikma
(wisdom), a term found in the Quran. The most common usage refers to the Muslim authors who were the inheritors and successors of Greek thinkers. Their technical vocabulary was based on translations or adaptations of Greek terminology. They pursued the study of logic, the natural sciences, metaphysics and the nature of the human mind or soul. They were influenced in various degrees by Neoplatonism and the falasifa
in general endeavoured to establish an ultimate harmony between philosophy and religion. They looked upon philosophy (demonstrative reason) as superior to religion. However, they also recognised that the exacting method of philosophy (or science) can be pursued only by a few. Thus they saw religion as a set of doctrines, narratives and moral and legal injunctions through which the higher truths grasped rationally by the intelligentsia, were made accessible to the broad masses, enabling them to attain happiness in this world and the next. Principal figures include al–Kindi (d. 866), Abu Bakr al–Razi (d. ca. 925), al–Farabi (d. ca. 950), Ibn Sina (d. 1037) and Ibn Rushd (d. 1198).
. Young devotee who volunteers to sacrifice his life for a cause. Between the 11th and the 13th centuries, fida’i
s are known to have gradually formed a corps whose members were sent from Alamut
and the other Nizari
fortresses in Iran and Syria to assassinate certain prominent enemies of the Nizaris, usually in public locations. Legends were developed by Muslim and Crusader authors, who began to attribute every single political assassination to the Nizaris. The myth that fida’i
s were called hashashin
because they consumed hashish was popularised by European authors such as Marco Polo (d. 1324).
The science of Islamic jurisprudence.
Al-Farabi, Abu Nasr
A preeminent Muslim philosopher born in the region known as Turkestan. In Medieval Latin texts, al-Farabi was referred to as Alfarabius or Avennasar. Being an outstanding philosopher, he became known as al-mu‘allim al-thani (the second master), placed alongside Aristotle, (the first master). Early in his life, al-Farabi moved from Central Asia to Baghdad, where most of his works were written. More than one hundred works are attributed by the Arab bibliographers to al-Farabi among which are al-Madina al-Fadila (The Virtuous City), al-Siyasa al-Madaniya (Civil Policy), and Ihsa’ al-‘Ulum (Survey of the Sciences). Al-Farabi aimed at developing a capacity within Islamic culture for the integration of philosophy as a method of analysis and as an intellectual discipline. Al-Farabi was also a musician who invented a musical instrument called al-qanun/ al-qithara (the zither). He also wrote a notable book on music, Kitab al-Musiqa al-Kabir (The Great Book of Music). In 942 CE, al-Farabi was invited by Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani to live in his entourage mainly in Aleppo. Later he died in Damascus in 950 CE.
(pl. fuqaha’, derived from Arabic fa-qi-ha meaning to have a correct understanding of matters). Faqih is an expert in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). Early in the 10th century CE, the fuqaha’ represented a major part of the religious elite. They functioned as judges (qudat) and jurisconsults (muftin). The importance of the fuqaha’ has steadily declined during the twentieth-century as a result of the massive legal reforms which took place in most Muslim countries during and after the colonial period. The fuqaha’ have largely been replaced by modern lawyers, jurists, and judges.
From Persian lit. command, authority, will, permission. At the time of the Ottomans, the word ‘farman’ was used in Ottoman Turkish to denote any order of the Ottoman Sultans. In the 15th
century CE, the word was first used in its strict sense of a written document. Typically, such documents would open with an invocation to God and were addressed to a governmental official in the capital cities or in the provinces as well as to dependent/client rulers. In the Shi‘i Ismaili
context, it refers to an address by the Imam
to his community.
A province in southwestern Persia, the capital of which is Shiraz.
Major Muslim dynasty of Ismaili caliphs
in North Africa (from 909) and later in Egypt (973–1171), who claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad through ‘Ali
and derived their name from the Prophet's daughter, Fatima
Old Cairo, the first Muslim city in Egypt, founded by Amr b. al–As (d. 663).
Exaggerators or extremists. A term of disapproval in classical Muslim sources against what they regarded as heretical exaggeration in matters of doctrine.
A Sanskrit word meaning knowledge. In particular, a poetic composition in an Indian language (Sindhi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Hindi or Multani), ascribed to one of the Pirs
who in the Khoja
Ismaili tradition, founded and led their community between the 13th and 19th Centuries. The ginans
have elements of didactic and mystical poetry and are legendary in nature. They are assumed to have been preserved orally until they were committed to writing in the Khojki
Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad (d. 1111 CE)
A noted theologian, jurist and mystic, (1058-1111 CE), whose thoughts and writings had a major influence on the development of Sunni
Islam. He was born at Tus, Khurasan
in Eastern Iran and served as chief instructor at the Madrasa Nizamiyya
in Baghdad between 1091 and 1095 CE. His works include Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din (
Revival of the Religious Sciences)
, al-Munqidh min al-dalal (
Deliverance from Error)
and Tahafut al-falasifah (
Incoherence of the Philosophers).
The name of the angel that appears in the Bible as sent by God to Daniel and in the Quran as bringing the message down to Muhammads heart (Q 2:97). In hadith
literature, Gabriel appears as the constant counsellor and helper of Muhammad. According to authors such as al–Kisai (d. 12th c.), Gabriel was sent to every prophet from Adam to Muhammad.
(Arabic; lit.: ‘pond of Khumm’): Name of a pool (or marsh) located in an area called Khumm between Mecca and Medina, in present day Saudi Arabia. Ghadir Khumm is famous in Muslim history as the location where the Prophet Muhammad, while returning to Medina from his farewell pilgrimage to Mecca in 632 CE, stopped to deliver a sermon during which he uttered the famous words declaring Imam ‘Ali
as the mawla
(lit. patron, lord, master) of the believers. These words are preserved in hadith
collections as: ‘He whose mawla
I am, ‘Ali is his mawla
’. This event, which falls on 18th
of Dhu’l Hijja in the Muslim lunar calendar, is commemorated by all Shi‘a
Muslims as Eid (‘Id) al-Ghadir.
Muslim dynasty which ruled lands from Khurasan in Persia to Northern India (977–1186).
The Gospel (Ar. al–Injil) is the message transmitted by Jesus. The word literally means ‘good news’ of Christ’s appearance in history. In the plural, it refers to the books composed by Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as a number of apocrypha.