Dr Farhad Daftary and Prince Rahim Aga Khan. Image credit: Rehana Virani/IIS.

On 18 January 2023 the IIS held a reception to honour Dr Farhad Daftary and mark his retirement as Co-Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications earlier this month.

The event took place at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London, with Prince Rahim Aga Khan in attendance and was attended by staff, students, governors and leaders of the Ismaili community.
During a speech at the event celebrating the work of Dr Daftary and his invaluable contributions to the Institute, Prince Rahim announced that His Highness the Aga Khan had decided to attach Dr Daftary’s name to the IIS PhD Scholarship programme. These awards will henceforth be called the Farhad Daftary PhD Scholarships.

“The growth and evolution of IIS and its development into an internationally recognised centre of knowledge and excellence in Ismaili studies have been a journey in which Dr Daftary has played a central role not just as a leader, but as IIS’s most respected and most productive scholar and author,” Prince Rahim said.

“I know I can speak on behalf of His Highness and for all of us here and the generations who will benefit from his scholarship, that we are very grateful that Dr Daftary chose this to be his lifetime’s work and that he has made such a major contribution to the field of Ismaili studies.”

Dr Daftary was appointed IIS Co-Director in September 2009 and held this position solely from May 2011 onwards. He first came to the Institute in 1988 and was Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications (DARP) for three decades, assuming the role in 1992.

During this time he launched several successful book series, such as the Ismaili Heritage Series in 1996 (with 15 volumes published so far), the Ismaili Texts and Translations Series in 2000 (25 volumes), and the Shi‘i Heritage Series in 2013 (nine volumes), to name a few. Under his leadership, the IIS has become a leader in the field of Ismaili studies and increasingly in the fields of Shi‘i and Qur’anic studies.

As an academic, Dr Daftary has led by example, becoming the foremost scholar in the field of Ismaili history. In his career to date, he has authored or edited 23 books and written countless articles, book chapters and encyclopedia articles. His best-known works, which have been translated into a total of 16 languages, include The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma‘ilis, and A Short History of the Ismailis: Traditions of a Muslim Community. Three volumes have been published by other scholars in his honour.

Paying tribute to this remarkable academic career, Dr Omar Alí-de-Unzaga, Head of the IIS’s Qur’anic Studies Unit, said that “Dr Daftary’s oeuvre and legacy will certainly be a reference point for generations to come.”

Naguib Kheraj, a member of the IIS Board of Governors, paid tribute to Dr Daftary’s character and said “Whilst the quality and quantity of Dr Daftary’s academic output has been important, his impact has been far greater because he is an extraordinary human being who is admired and liked and respected.”

Murid Shah Nadiri, speaking on behalf of his fellow IIS students, thanked Dr Daftary as a teacher and source of inspiration. “While he spoiled us with his love and affection outside the class,” he said, “during his history lectures he would teach us the most complex historical events with a simple language that sounded like music.”

Dr Daftary himself said: “I joined the Institute in September of 1988 and since then I have witnessed significant growth and development in many ways from publications, manuscripts, translations, a sizable faculty, educational programmes, and unique educational materials that are appreciated by Ismailis throughout the world. The IIS is a serious academic institution and a point of reference in Ismaili and broader Shi’i and Qur’anic studies.

“Whatever contribution I have made to the field would not have been possible without the support and guidance of Hazar Imam and I owe him a debt of gratitude for this long journey.

“I want to thank the board for making this transition in my recent career as smooth as possible, and all heads of department with whom I have worked closely. And finally, I wish my successor, Professor Zayn Kassam, the best of success in her new role.”

Far from retiring from the IIS, Dr Daftary will continue his scholarly research, writing and teaching activities indefinitely. As appropriate recognition of his contributions to the Institute and his long service, he has been conferred the lifetime title Director Emeritus, and has been appointed to the IIS Board of Governors. In this way, IIS staff, students and other stakeholders will continue to benefit directly from his knowledge, wisdom and guidance.