Abstract: Delivered as part of a summer programme of lectures and seminars organised by the University of Lisbon and sponsored by the Luso-American Development and Oriente Foundations, Shams Vellani elaborates the transnational dimensions of the Ismaili community, with particular attention to the community's recent history, and its leadership under the current Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

The talk situates Shi'ism generally, and Ismailism in particular, as one response to the question of authority that arose after the death of Prophet Muhammad. In the contemporary period the Imamat, and the institutions that have developed under its leadership, have become a vehicle for the community to articulate and actualise its social conscience which is informed by its understanding of Islam.

Likewise, the desire to implement a mechanism for social governance of the community has led to the development of a modern constitution, an expression of its Shi'i ethics, that became instrumental in reifying a larger communal Ismaili identity and value-system whilst recognising the community's pluralism and diversity.