The present book provides a coverage of nearly 1300 years of the history of the Ismailiyya in an abbreviated manner, presenting a synthesis and summary of the latest scholarship in the field. This work is primarily addressed to historians, and covers the entire source materials: manuscripts, historic works, doctrinal sources, principal studies of Eastern and Western scholars concerning the Ismaili movement. It constitutes an indispensable and reliable encyclopaedic source for anyone interested not only in the intricacies of Ismailism but also Islam in general.
Following a foreword, preface and note on the text (pp. xiii–xviii), the work is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter, entitled an “Introduction: Western progress in Ismaili studies,” (pp. 1–31) covers the early encounters between Europeans and Nizari Ismailis in Syria during the time of the Crusades, and also relations between Ismailis and Christians down to the expulsions of the latter in 1291. The last phase of these encounters, continuing down to the present day, starts with modern–day orientalism, in which scholars such as W. Ivanow played a key role.
The second chapter, on the “Origins and early development of Shi‘ism,” (pp. 32–90) deals with the origins and early development of Shi‘ism down until the time of Aga Khans with the rulers of Qajar Persia on the one hand, and the Ni’mat Allahi dervishes on the other.
This encyclopaedic work, covering an extreme range of regions from North Africa to India, deals with doctrinal issues in their historical contexts, the author trying to show the relevance and significance of particular doctrines in different periods. The main concern of the book is to delineate the variations, branches and multiple intellectual and literary dimensions of Ismaili history and thought. With the book's breadth of research, featuring the inclusion of charts and chains of succession of the Imams and Ismaili missionaries, along with an index of technical terms, it will remain the standard scholarly work on things Ismaili for some time to come. For the general student of Islamic studies, it illuminates the dynamic role played by esoteric thought in the religious, social, and intellectual history of Shi‘i Islam.