Few fields of Islamic studies have witnessed as much progress in modern times as Ismaili studies, and in even fewer instances has the role of a single individual been as pivotal in initiating progress as that of the Russian scholar Wladimir Ivanow (1886–1970), whose memoirs are now published here for the first time. The breakthrough in modern Ismaili studies occurred mainly as a result of the recovery and study of a large number of texts relating to the field, which had not been available to the earlier generations of orientalists.
The second largest Shi‘i Muslim community after the Ithna‘ashari or Twelvers, the Ismailis have had a long and complex history dating back to the formative period of Islam. Subsequently, they became subdivided into a number of major branches and minor groups.
The Ginans are a body of religious lyrics reflecting the synthetic and ecumenical reach characteristic of allied genres, such as the poetry of the Sufi and Bhakti traditions in the mediaeval, Indo-Islamic environment. Testifying to the origin and evolution of the Ismaili community in India, the Ginans continue to form the community’s living, poetic traditions to this day.
[Adapted from the Preface]