The Unit seeks to promote a systematic study and research on materials of special relevance to the heritage of the Ismaili communities worldwide. In addition, it will be responsible for the overall management and development of special collections at the IIS, including manuscripts, coins and other artefacts, rare printed books and journals, archival items, audio-visual materials etc., as well as overseeing a variety of activities such as cataloguing, preservation, digitisation and organising exhibitions.
The IIS holds one of the most significant repositories in the world of materials related to Ismaili communities, comprising nearly 3,000 manuscripts in Arabic, Persian and Indic languages, in addition to several hundred volumes of rare books, periodicals and journals, off-prints, as well as a number of important coins from the Fatimid and Alamut periods of Ismaili history. The Unit is also putting into place an archiving programme to preserve and facilitate the scholarly use of important archival materials in the IIS’ collection.
Wafi Momin, an IIS alumnus and most recently serving as Keeper of Ismaili Collections at the IIS Library, has been appointed as Head of the Unit. Currently finishing his PhD at the University of Chicago, Wafi Momin’s primary research focuses on the historical formation of the Satpanth Ismaili tradition and issues pertaining to religious interactions in the South Asian context. Over the last couple of years, Wafi Momin has also led the project of systematic cataloguing, analysis and preservation of the IIS’ collection of Khojki and Gujarati manuscripts, which record and transmit a variety of literary pieces, the most prominent among them being the Ginans, composed in languages as diverse as Gujarati, Hindi/Hindustani, Sindhi, Punjabi with loan-words from Arabic and Persian.
“The Institute’s special collections, especially the manuscripts, serve as an important resource for understanding the intricacies of Ismaili history and doctrines over many centuries; they also provide us with a rich glimpse into the socio-political dynamics within which Muslims and other communities have engaged with a multitude of intellectual disciplines, as well as the existence of dynamic relations between the Ismailis and other faith communities, ranging from the Abrahamic traditions to a host of indigenous religious groupings across the Muslim world”, says Wafi Momin.
In his role as Head of the Unit, Wafi Momin will have the overall managerial responsibility for the IIS collections of special materials, their development, preservation as well as facilitating research and education on these materials.