A history of IIS

Connecting the Past, Present and Future


The Institute of Ismaili Studies is established and opens its library

The copying of the Qur’anic text often was an amalgamation of the efforts multiple people from scribes to illuminators. This particular copy of the Qur'an was created in Kashmir and includes Persian text in the margin.
His Highness meets Ismaili scholars and leaders of the Jamat in Paris, where the decision is taken to establish an academic institution whose objective is to promote scholarship and learning on Islam, and a greater understanding of the intellectual heritage of the Ismailis.
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The Institute of Ismaili Studies is formally inaugurated and established in London in 1977. It begins its work with six members of staff, three of whom are academic faculty.
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Library 1979 2
The Library is established as a central repository and resource for Ismaili and Islamic studies. Today, after merging with the library of the Aga Khan University's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in 2014, the Aga Khan Library as it is now known houses over 54,000 volumes, including over 5,000 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, photographs and artefacts.
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MHI Graduation

The IIS’s first educational programmes begin

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The IIS’s first Teacher Training programme in Islamic Studies commences in collaboration with the University of London’s Institute of Education.
A Master’s programme in Islamic Studies begins in collaboration with McGill University, Canada. An agreement between the Aga Khan Foundation and McGill University establishes co-operation between the IIS and McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies through joint academic programmes and exchange of faculty and students.
The first pre-school materials in the Talim series are published. The pre-school Talim textbooks and resources contribute to the religious and cultural education of infants by acquainting them with simple precepts of faith and ethics.
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GPISH launches and the IIS's first books are published

The Ismailis History Doctrine
"The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines" by Dr Farhad Daftary, the first comprehensive, historical survey of the Ismailis, is published by Cambridge University Press. IIS publications fulfil an essential function in correcting misconceptions regarding Ismaili and Shi‘i history, thought and doctrine, thus rebalancing common understandings of Muslim cultures and societies.
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1990 – 2
The Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH) begins. Thirteen Ismaili students from around the world join the first class of GPISH, a pioneering interdisciplinary approach to Islamic studies and the humanities.
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Abu Yaqub Al Sijistani (1)
The Ismaili Heritage Series is launched, with an aim to produce modern scholarship on the Ismailis, their rich intellectual and cultural heritage and thought. "Abu Ya‘qub al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary" is the first book published in the series.
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Two scholars with gloves working on a manuscript and the other scholars doing the same in the blurry background
The IIS’s doctoral scholarship programme is established. Doctoral scholarships are awarded to high-calibre Ismaili students in fields or disciplines related to Muslim cultures and civilisations, particularly Ismaili, Shi‘i and Qur’anic studies.
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STEP Launch

The Secondary Teacher Education Programme is launched

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The first teacher training students arrived from Canada, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan and the USA. The programme is now open to Ismaili teacher training students from all over the world, who will teach secondary-age children, across 21 jurisdictions, once they graduate.
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Dr D Timeline Image
In September 2009 Dr Farhad Daftary was appointed IIS Co-Director together with Professor Karim H. Karim. Dr Daftary held this position solely between May 2011 and January 2023. He also served as Head of DARP for three decades, assuming the role in 1992.
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AKC Opening (1)

The Ismaili Special Collections Unit and short courses launch and the IIS moves to its permanent home

The Ismaili Special Collections Unit (ISCU) is established as part of the IIS’s continuing endeavours to systematically preserve, develop, digitise and catalogue its diverse range of special collections, as well as to study and facilitate research on these materials. ISCU holds one of the most significant repositories of materials related to Ismaili communities in the world.
Short Courses – 1
The Institute’s Continuing Education Programme, a series of short courses for adults, is launched. Courses are open to members of the global Jamat, particularly those affiliated with Imamat institutions.
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The World of Islam Series is launched. For the first time the Institute publishes a series for a non-academic, general reader, exploring a range of themes, historical as well as contemporary. The first book in the series is "The Fatimids: 1. The Rise of a Muslim Empire".
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A far sighted view of Aga Khan Centre taken during the day time
The Institute of Ismaili Studies moves to its permanent home at the Aga Khan Centre, London. The IIS is co-located with the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and the Aga Khan Foundation (UK) in a purpose-built building designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Fumihiko Maki. The AKC, which also houses the Aga Khan Library, features state-of-the-art teaching, conference and exhibition facilities, as well as courtyard and rooftop gardens inspired by the diverse landscapes of the Muslim world.
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Board – 3

A new Board of Governors is appointed and the IIS launches its new website

A new Board of Governors is appointed. The new appointments internationalise the make-up of the Board, enhance diversity among its members and, for the first time, include alumni of the IIS.
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Ismaili Festivals
The Living Ismaili Traditions series is launched. Created specifically for the Jamat, Living Ismaili Traditions is the IIS’s first in-house series and spotlights Ismaili histories and cultures. The first title, "Ismaili Festivals: Stories of Celebration", by Dr Shiraz Kabani is a unique and personal account of festivals and traditions from the author’s own lived experience as an Ismaili.
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Multiple different sized screens in the same frame
A new IIS website is launched. The IIS was the first Imamat institution to have an online presence, launching its first website in 2000. Looking to the future and embracing digital transformation, the Institute launched a brand new website in 2022.
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Zayn Timeline Image
Dr Zayn Kassam begins as the Institute’s Director, as Dr Farhad Daftary steps away to become Director Emeritus and sit on the Board of Governors. Dr Kassam is a scholar of Islamic and Ismaili philosophy and Islamic mysticism and previously held a variety of positions at Pomona College in California.
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