A learned theologian, poet, stylist and an accomplished diplomat, Shah Tahir Husayni was also the most famous Imam of the Muhammad-Shahi branch of Nizari Ismailism. He was born in the final decades of the 9th AH/ 15th CE century in the village of Khund, near Qazwin in northern Persia, where his forefathers known locally as the Khundi Sayyids had lived and acquired some following after the middle of the 8th AH/ 14th CE century.

The most detailed account of Shah Tahir is contained in the Tarikh-i Firishta (History of Firishta), composed around 1015 AH/ 1606 CE by Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah Astarabadi, better known as Firishta, the celebrated historian of the Deccan who knew members of this family. Shah Tahir's father, Imam Shah Radi al-Din, who had led the Muhammad-Shahi Nizaris of Quhistan and Sistan in eastern Persia, later established his rule over a part of Badakhshan where he had many followers. Shah Radi al-Din was murdered in 915 AH/ 1509 CE and his head was taken to Mirza Khan, a local Sunni Timurid ruler who persecuted the Ismailis of Badakhshan.

Shah Tahir succeeded his father to the imamate of the Muhammad-Shahi Nizaris. It seems that from early on in his life and as a form of taqiyya or precautionary dissimulation, Shah Tahir presented himself as an Ithna ‘Ashari or Twelver Shi‘i, and this explains why he composed several commentaries on the theological and juridical treatises of a number of well-known Twelver scholars such as al-‘Allama al-Hilli (d. 726 AH/ 1325 CE).

He was also in contact with Sufi circles and wrote a commentary on the Gulshan-i raz (The Rose Garden of Mystery), the famous mathnawi poem of the Sufi master Mahmud Shabistari (d. after 740 AH/ 1339 CE).


Dr Farhad Daftary

Co-Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications

An authority in Shi'i studies, with special reference to its Ismaili tradition, Dr. Daftary has published and lectured widely in these fields of Islamic studies. In 2011 a Festschrift entitled Fortresses of the Intellect was produced to honour Dr. Daftary by a number of his colleagues and peers.


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