Aitmadi Mohamad Ismail Adra, “Abu Nu‘man” (1935-2023)

It is with deep sadness that the Institute of Ismaili Studies learned of the passing of Aitmadi Mohamad Ismail Adra, one of our founding fathers. He had a long life of service to his country, his community and to Hazar Imam. In addition, he contributed greatly to the Institute’s publications and projects.

Mohamad Adra, known as Abu Nu‘man, was born in Tal al-Dara (commonly known as Taldara), a small village close to Salamiyya, Syria, on 2 August 1935.

His primary education was in a school in Taldara that was established by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. He pursued his secondary studies in the city of Hama thanks to a government scholarship and later obtained a bachelor's degree in English language and literature from the University of Damascus.

Aitmadi Mohamad Adra spent a long career as an English language teacher in various locations in Syria, mainly in the secondary schools of Salamiyya and Taldara.

He also occupied various positions in the Syrian Ismaili community. He began serving as a member of the National Council (1959-64), where he also became the Honorary Secretary (1966-69). He was appointed by Hazar Imam as Chief Mukhi of the Syrian Jamat (1972-76), served as President of the Ismailia Association for Syria (1976-79) and acted as Chairman of the Education Board for Syria for two full mandates (1979-87).

His service took a more international dimension when in the 1980s and 1990s he was invited to the USA and Canada where he delivered sessions to the Jamats on the history, culture and traditions of the Syrian Jamat.

Due to his deep knowledge and his intellectual and leadership qualities, Mohamad Adra played an active role in a number of momentous discussions and committees that contributed to the foundation of the IIS. In 1975 he participated in the Ismailia Associations Conference in Paris where the formal plans for the establishment of the Institute were finalised. In 1978, he was appointed by Hazar Imam as a member of the Review Committee where he was assigned the review of research in the areas of Qur’anic and Hadith studies.

Ismailia Associations Conference, Paris, 1975.

Aitmadi Mohamad Adra is the third person from the left in the back row

Mohamad Adra’s involvement with the Institute continued. In 1983 he delivered a number of lectures to the first cohort of the Institute’s students on topics such as the concept of ta’wil, Ismaili qasidas, and the life and thought of the Fatimid Chief Da‘i al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi.

The subject of al-Mu’ayyad was indeed very close to his heart. He spent many years studying and translating his works. This culminated in publication by the Institute of his annotated English translation of al-Mu’ayyad’s Diwan, or collection of poems, under the title Mount of Knowledge Sword of Eloquence  (2011). He also translated the first 100 lectures (and some others) of al-Majalis Al-Mu’ayyadiyya which have not been yet published.

Book jacket for Mount of Knowledge, Sword of Eloquence

Aitmadi Mohamad Adra passed away on 3 March 2023, leaving behind six children and eleven grandchildren. Those who knew him were privileged to enjoy his mild-mannered, gentle personality as well as his thorough knowledge and understanding of the Ismaili Arabic literary and intellectual traditions.

The Institute of Ismaili Studies wishes to honour his memory and legacy and is deeply grateful for his contribution and his dedication.

Arabic translation: In Memoriam Mohamad Adra (Arabic)