Dr. Farhad Daftary, Associate Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications at the IIS, was recently in Mumbai, India, for the launch of the Gujarati translation of his book A Short History of the Ismailis. The translation, titled, Ismailio-no Tunk Ittihaas, was done by Jehangir Alibhai Merchant and Sultanali Muhammad, and published by N.M. Thakkar Publishers, Mumbai.
On the occasion of the book launch, the President of the Ismaili National Council for India, Mr. Nizamuddin Ajani, and the book’s publisher, Mr. Hemant Thakkar made speeches. The Chairman of ITREB India, Mr. Bakhtawar Dharani, the CEO of ITREB India, Mr. Hussain Jasani, ITREB Secretary, Mr. Imtiaz Momin, and the editor of The Ismaili (India), Dr. N.M. Irani were among those present on the occasion.
In his speech, Dr. Daftary discussed the history of the Ismailis and explained that Ismailis, dispersed over more than 25 countries, including India, live in harmony with their neighbours. He shed light on the legends that formerly prevailed about the Ismailis and demonstrated how later research has proved them to be untrue.
The event was widely covered in the Gujarati-language press in Mumbai. The daily Gujarati newspaper Janmabhumi headlined its coverage with a quote from Dr. Daftary’s speech, where he said that Ismailis do not support religious extremism. Other newspapers such as Mumbai Samachar, Divya Bhaskar and Gujarat Samachar also carried accounts of the occasion, highlighting Dr. Daftary’s speech and his emphasis on the Ismailis’ role in contributing to world peace and inter-faith dialogue.
During his visit to India, Dr Daftary was invited to meet with leaders of other Ismaili communities, such as the Alavi Bohras of Vadodara, Gujarat. Dr Daftary met with the Da‘i Mutlaq of the Alavi Bohras, Saiyedna Taiyeb Ziyauddin Saheb, the current spiritual leader of the Alavi Bohra Ismaili community, at the Dai’s residence at Vadodara, Gujarat. They exchanged gifts; copies of Dr Daftary’s book were presented to the Dai. Later, Dr Daftary was shown the Alavi mosque in Vadodara and their library where an important collection of Ismaili manuscripts is housed.
The Alavi Bohras are Musta‘lian Tayyibi Ismailis who share with the Nizari Ismailis a common Fatimid heritage. Following the death of the Fatimid Imam-caliph Mustansir billah (d. 487 AH / 1094 CE), the Ismailis divided over the question of his succession. The Nizari Ismailis acknowledged the elder son Imam Nizar as the successor while those who remained loyal to the younger son became known as Musta‘alian Ismailis. Subsequently, the Imams of the Muste‘alian Ismailis went into concealment and the responsibility for the guidance and leadership of the community were assumed by a Da‘i Mutlaq (Supreme Authority), who is considered to be the representative of the concealed Imam. From the twelfth century onwards, the Musta‘lian Ismailis were based primarily in Yemen and later in India, where they became known as Bohras.
Since the mid 1990s, IIS publications have been translated from English into eleven languages, including Arabic, French, German, Hungarian, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Tajik, Turkish, Urdu and now, Gujarati.