Jump to content
Musu

The Seveners and the Nizaris: the difference?

Recommended Posts

Salam Alaykum,

 

 

What is the difference between the Seveners and the Nizaris? Or are they the same? I must apologize for the low-quality of sources, but I've read some rather conflicting information. For example, the Wikipedia article Isma'ilism lists the Nizaris and the Seveners under separate subsections . Moreover, the latter is categorized under the Extinct branches section. The article goes as follows: 

Quote

However, most scholars believe this group is either extremely small or non-existent today.

I'd advice caution, since the insertion doesn't have any references. Moreover, Garcia (2006) has came out with the following chart where Seveners and Nizaris are listed separately. The reliability of the source can be questioned, though: 

Islam_tree.jpg

 

However, there are sources that imply otherwise.For example, both Erde & Steinbach (2010) and Hendricks (2005) imply that the Seveners still do exist in the modern world. Well, these two are quality sources, but just not to let you too easy — my brothers — the Wikipedia article on the Seveners states: 

Quote

Sometimes "sevener" is used to refer to Ismā'īlīs overall, though several branches, such as the Nizari Ismailis, have far more than seven imams

Again, just like with the Wikipedia article on Isma'ilism, I'd advise to caution: this insertion doesn't have any references either, but it manages to cast a doubt — if it's true — on Erde & Steinbach (2010) and Hendricks (2005); were they talking about the Nizaris or whom?

 

I hope you endure through the confusion with me, brothers :-) Thanks!

 

 

 

Sources

 

  1. Ende W. & Steinbach, U. (2010). Islam in the World Today: A Handbook of Politics, Religion, Culture, and Society, p. 260: "Afganistan is home to both Twelver Shi'a (the majority) and Sevener Ismailis (a minority), together making up over 20 percent of the country population."
  2. Garcia, L. (2016). The Assassins — the Legacy of Medieval Terrorist-Murderers. History Sifter 26.02.2016.
  3. Hendricks, S. (2005). Tasawwuf (Sufism): Its Role and Impact on the Culture of Cape Islam, pp. 112-113: "Pockets of various Shi'ite sects however - particularly the Isma'ilis, or Seveners - do exist in all the major centres along the East African coast (Trimingham, 1962:104-8)."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bismillahi Rahmanir Raheem

Salaam alaikum! :)

It's curious that this comes up because I've been fascinated by the Isma'ili movement and recently got my hands on Farhad Daftary's Isma'ilism: History and Doctrines. 

Broadly speaking, Sevener, Bohra, Mustaali, Tayyibi, Nizari and Isma'ili are used interchangeably.  Seveners is, I would say, an archaic term.  Generally, when people say Isma'ili, I believe they are referring to the Nizaris.  They indeed have had 49 Imams. 

I am no scholar as even a brief read of my thoughts can prove, but I believe that Sevener is a term used to describe early Isma'ilis who believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq (AS) had given the Nass to his son Isma'il.  The problem is that Isma'il is reported to have predeceased Imam al Sadiq (AS), and the Imam was insistent on showing that Isma'il was dead.

(BTW- side note: for any Isma'ili brothers or sisters, please know that I am not disparaging your beliefs or being disrespectful Isma'il b. Ja'far.)

There have been allegations that the Imam showed the face of his dead son (and honestly here, my heart breaks thinking of it) repeatedly.  The question is why: was it to prove that Isma'il was dead or was it taqiyya to throw the Abassids off the trail? I don't know the answer to that.

Seveners were those who believed that Isma'il was the rightful Imam, but that he had actually gone into ghaybah and would return. So they stop at 7 Imams.

Nizaris don't believe that.  I don't think.  Nizaris as I understand it are among the groups that accepted that the Imamate would continue in the line of Isma'il b. Ja'far, specifically Muhammad b. Isma'il. There' a lot that happens between the schism over the successor to Imam al Sadiq (AS) and the schism over (I think) Al Mustansir's rightful successor, from which the Mustaali and Nizari branches emerged. So the story goes from the time of the rise of the Abbasids past the end of the Fatimids.

I've tried to make sense out of that same Wikipedia article many times, and I was at a loss.

All mistakes are mine, and Allah knows best.

R

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, reisiger said:

Bismillahi Rahmanir Raheem

Salaam alaikum! :)

It's curious that this comes up because I've been fascinated by the Isma'ili movement and recently got my hands on Farhad Daftary's Isma'ilism: History and Doctrines. 

Broadly speaking, Sevener, Bohra, Mustaali, Tayyibi, Nizari and Isma'ili are used interchangeably.  Seveners is, I would say, an archaic term.  Generally, when people say Isma'ili, I believe they are referring to the Nizaris.  They indeed have had 49 Imams. 

I am no scholar as even a brief read of my thoughts can prove, but I believe that Sevener is a term used to describe early Isma'ilis who believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq (AS) had given the Nass to his son Isma'il.  The problem is that Isma'il is reported to have predeceased Imam al Sadiq (AS), and the Imam was insistent on showing that Isma'il was dead.

(BTW- side note: for any Isma'ili brothers or sisters, please know that I am not disparaging your beliefs or being disrespectful Isma'il b. Ja'far.)

There have been allegations that the Imam showed the face of his dead son (and honestly here, my heart breaks thinking of it) repeatedly.  The question is why: was it to prove that Isma'il was dead or was it taqiyya to throw the Abassids off the trail? I don't know the answer to that.

Seveners were those who believed that Isma'il was the rightful Imam, but that he had actually gone into ghaybah and would return. So they stop at 7 Imams.

Nizaris don't believe that.  I don't think.  Nizaris as I understand it are among the groups that accepted that the Imamate would continue in the line of Isma'il b. Ja'far, specifically Muhammad b. Isma'il. There' a lot that happens between the schism over the successor to Imam al Sadiq (AS) and the schism over (I think) Al Mustansir's rightful successor, from which the Mustaali and Nizari branches emerged. So the story goes from the time of the rise of the Abbasids past the end of the Fatimids.

I've tried to make sense out of that same Wikipedia article many times, and I was at a loss.

All mistakes are mine, and Allah knows best.

R

 

Well written, this is also my opinion of the Isma'ilis as well, I am at a loss when trying to understand it as well.  Good to see you again bro @reisiger

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

Well written, this is also my opinion of the Isma'ilis as well, I am at a loss when trying to understand it as well.  Good to see you again bro @reisiger

Hey there brother!  I'm sorry I suck at answering emails in a timely fashion! :) Thanks so much for the kind words!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Gaius I. Caesar said:

No problem, I understand but I missed you though. We ought to hang out soon, stranger. :)

Likewise, and absolutely! We definitely do!  The danger of being friends with introverts, right? ha! :) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, reisiger said:

Likewise, and absolutely! We definitely do!  The danger of being friends with introverts, right? ha! :) 

Ha, right, dangers of being introverted and being friends with introverts, you might not hear from us in a while. :)

Edited by Gaius I. Caesar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

Ha, right, dangers of being introverted and being friends with introverts, you might not hear from us in a while. :)

Did you ever do that MBTI test? I know Z's type, but I can't remember if you did as well.  But yeah that's a fact! haha

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, reisiger said:

Did you ever do that MBTI test? I know Z's type, but I can't remember if you did as well.  But yeah that's a fact! haha

Yeah, I did, turns out that I am a INFP or the"councilor" type. Anyway, how was your research on the Isma'ilis? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 minutes ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

Yeah, I did, turns out that I am a INFP or the"councilor" type. Anyway, how was your research on the Isma'ilis? 

You and my friend Kate are the same type.  No wonder we get along so well. I'm an INFJ.

 

The research is going well.  I am really struggling with the successorship to Imam al Sadiq (AS) though.  There are several articles I've read that gave me pause.  I don't know that they've convinced me of anything more than to question what I've read even from within our own school.  I'm about 150 or so pages into Dr. Daftary's massive book on the subject (it's like 800 pages).  Great stuff, but untangling history and propaganda, and taqiyya, and not speaking either Arabic of Farsi is a struggle.

May Allah guide us all!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/23/2016 at 3:57 PM, reisiger said:

I am no scholar as even a brief read of my thoughts can prove, but I believe that Sevener is a term used to describe early Isma'ilis who believed that Imam Jafar al Sadiq (AS) had given the Nass to his son Isma'il.

@reisiger, thanks for your response! I was afraid nobody is going to answer this post :-) Actually, I gave some thought about the term Sevener today, and it crossed my mind if the group is considered to be extinct today since they stopped at seven imams, whereas the others "...accepted that the Imamate would continue in the line of Isma'il b. Ja'far...", just as you said. Sounds reasonable to me.

 

Reading Wikipedia can be rather confusing at times. For example, in some articles Isma'il ibn Jafar has been titled as the seventh Imam, while in some others seventh Imam is said to be Muhammad ibn Ismāʿīl, his son. One possible reason for this might be found from the article Imamah: Ismaili view, where Hasan ibn Ali is considered a mere pir by the Nizārīs, not an Imām. In the article about Seveners, Isma'il ibn Jafar is titled as the seventh Iman, though.

 

Frankly speaking, the etymology still appears a bit confusing to me. Referring to the followers of Isma'il ibn Jafar by the term "Sevener" would sound logical to me, since it'd distinguish them from the followers of Musa al-Kadhim, his younger brother whom the Shia Twelvers follow. Could you please help me with this, brother? :-)

Edited by Musu

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's such a fascinating history. I first ran into the Seveners as I was reading about the Crusades; how they fought the Knights Templar, how they were known as the infamous Hashashins (حشاشين), how they practiced a mystical branch of Islam with esoteric teaching...

 

I haven't found access to their current teachings, but I've understood that they've come far away from their mystical, esoteric origins. Is that correct? I mean, they say the Nizari Ismaili current is rather a secular branch of Islam... :shock:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/24/2016 at 4:13 PM, Musu said:

@reisiger, thanks for your response! I was afraid nobody is going to answer this post :-) Actually, I gave some thought about the term Sevener today, and it crossed my mind if the group is considered to be extinct today since they stopped at seven imams, whereas the others "...accepted that the Imamate would continue in the line of Isma'il b. Ja'far...", just as you said. Sounds reasonable to me.

 

Reading Wikipedia can be rather confusing at times. For example, in some articles Isma'il ibn Jafar has been titled as the seventh Imam, while in some others seventh Imam is said to be Muhammad ibn Ismāʿīl, his son. One possible reason for this might be found from the article Imamah: Ismaili view, where Hasan ibn Ali is considered a mere pir by the Nizārīs, not an Imām. In the article about Seveners, Isma'il ibn Jafar is titled as the seventh Iman, though.

 

Frankly speaking, the etymology still appears a bit confusing to me. Referring to the followers of Isma'il ibn Jafar by the term "Sevener" would sound logical to me, since it'd distinguish them from the followers of Musa al-Kadhim, his younger brother whom the Shia Twelvers follow. Could you please help me with this, brother? :-)

Salaam alaikum @Musu !  You're very welcome.  The Isma'ilis are sadly very misunderstood.  And I'm speaking as an Ithna Ahseri (Twelver), but I think, as I heard Dr. Nakshawani say, that we as followers of Ahlul Bayt (AS) need to always demonstrate the best manners and highest level of intellect.  It's on us.  I hear too many people calling this group and that group kaffir, practitioners of bid'ah.  Again referring to Dr. Nakshawani, we risk becoming a Shi'i version of the Salafis. We all face Qiyyamah, so I respect every school in Islam.  :)

The methodological problem with understanding the Isma'ili tariqah is that it has been an historically persecuted community, and as such, we need to know what was said or done in a state of taqiyyah.  We need to understand the sources of the knowledge available to us.  What I mean by that is that much of what I had read previously about the Isma'ilis is from heresiographical sources, or outright anti Isma'ili polemics.  So I applied the same method I applied when I was coming to understand the Twelver school, and as I delved deeper and deeper, I found that there was a great deal of wisdom to be found and much of what I had read was just wrong.

I think what we are calling Seveners could be the Qarmatian movement.  These guys were so focused on the esoteric meaning of Islam and the Holy Qur'an that they considered outward actions (hajj, etc) to be idolatrous and superstitious.  They even attacked the Ka'aba itself (auzubillah)!

The thing with Imam Al Hasan(AS) is curious to me because it seemed like he did hold the reigns of the Imamate until Imam Al Hussein (AS) was ready to assume them.  The Isma'ilis understand that as there being a manifest Imam and a silent Imam.  The analogy they use is the Holy Prophet (SAWAS) and Imam Amir al Mu'minin (AS). The same could be said for Prophet Isa ibn Maryam (AS) and the Holy Prophet (SAWAS).  Prophet Isa (AS) had to leave the world so that RasulAllah (SAWAS) could come.  He even says so in the Christian scriptures.  The very misunderstood verse of the Paraclete...

As far as the Nizari Isma'ilis, so far as I can see, they don't seem especially secular, but they do have an interpretation of Islam that seeks to be more modern.  Their doctrines are sometimes hard to know from an outsider because in order to know them, you have to give bayah to the Imam.  Similar to in a Sufi order. 

As far as the etymological issue, I would say that Sevener and Twelver are labels that have been applied after the fact.  These groups would have likely called themselves just Shi'a.  The label Twelver comes from the hadith of the 12 Caliphs/Amirs/Imams.  There is a ton of confusion surrounding this issue overall.  To truly understand the Isma'ilis, I think we need to realize that theirs is a long history of persecution and much of the extant writings are from hostile sources. 

I personally applaud you for seeking knowledge.  I think that we should all aspire to do that.  The more we read, learn, contemplate, and study, so long as we do it with proper intentions to seek useful knowledge to please Allah (SWT), I think we're on the right track.  But as I always say, I am not a scholar and Allah knows best.

I would suggest checking out the strangers series on youtube - I think Shaykh Noorudeen Durkee and Circlegroup did them.  They did a great job talking about two of the most significant Isma'ili Da'is: Nasir-e-Khusraw and Hassan-e-Sabbah.  I know some people may be put off because I'm suggesting listening to Sufi Shaykhs talking about Isma'ili Da'is, but I think labels are a way to keep us divided.  We all affirm the Shahada; therefore, let us all be Muslims.  Let us take the good knowledge from any source, whether Shi'i, Sunni, Sufi, or whatever and discard whatever is not in agreement with the only Sahih book there is: the Holy Qur'an.

Please feel more than welcome to reach out any time, either inbox or here.

May Allah Subhana Wa Ta'Ala always keep you in His mercy and guide you to all truth and the ultimate success: the Jannah.  In shaa Allah.

R

 

Edited by reisiger
I don't know how the interwebz works

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/26/2016 at 4:35 PM, reisiger said:

I think what we are calling Seveners could be the Qarmatian movement.  These guys were so focused on the esoteric meaning of Islam and the Holy Qur'an that they considered outward actions (hajj, etc) to be idolatrous and superstitious.  They even attacked the Ka'aba itself (auzubillah)!

 

 

Salaam alaikum, @reisiger! I think you might be right; the Qarmatians are said to have emerged during the Abbasid Caliphate (750 – 1258 CE) as a result of a split after the death of Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl (considered the 7th Imām in Ismāʿīlism; the obscurity discussed in my last post). The majority is said to have denied his death, thinking he has gone into occultation instead. This would actually explain the name Sevener, since they stopped at the 7th Imām !  I am sorry for the low quality of my sources, I've practically been trying to clue together various fragmented Wikipedia articles :-) In the Qarmatians article, it is said:

 

Quote

The split among the Mubārakiyyah came with the death of Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl (ca. 813 CE). The majority of the group denied his death; they recognized him as the Mahdi. The minority believed in his death and would eventually emerge in later times as the Isma'ili Fatimid Caliphate, the precursors to all modern groups.

 

The son of the 7th Imām, Ahmad al-Wafi (ca. 795/795 – 827/828 CE) is furthermore said to be the one from whom both the Nizari and the Mustaali trace their Imamate lineages, as well as from his descendants who founded the Fatimid Caliphate (909 – 1171 CE):

 

Quote

Aḥmad al-Wafī [...] is the eighth Isma'ili Imam. He was the son and successor of the seventh Imam, Muhammad ibn Isma'il. He was called al-Wafi "true to his word".

As the Imam, he was the supreme spiritual leader of the Ismaili community from his appointment until his death. The Nizari and Mustaali trace their Imamate lines from him and his descendants who founded the Fatimid Caliphate.

 

But what happened next...? Well, those who kept following the Imamate lineage of Ahmad al-Wafi, the son of Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl, kept doing so without interruptions: after Ahmad al-Wafi came Muhammad at-Taqi (ca. 813/814 –839/840 CE); after him came Radi Abdullah (831 – 881 CE); after him Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah (873 – 934 CE). ATTENTION: the latter was actually the founder of the Fatimid Caliphate !!! At the Radi Abdullah article it is stated, "Radi Abdullah...:

 

Quote

is the tenth Isma'ili Imam. He is successor to the ninth Imam, Muhammad at-Taqi (Ahmed ibn Abadullah), and the father of Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah, the Imam who founded the Fatimid Caliphate.

 

So here we can verify that the lineage of succession indeed passes through the Fatimid Caliphate, whereas the Qarmatians stuck to the 7th Imām, Muḥammad ibn Ismā‘īl. This would totally justify the term Sevener, although it is most likely later invention. Anyway, the story continues. During the Fatimid Caliphate, the lineage continued steadily until the death of al-Mustansir Billah (1036 – 1094 CE). This is the moment when the split into the Nizari and the Mustaali Ismaelites. The article Fatimid Caliphate: Civil war and decline goes:

 

Quote

After the eighteenth Imam, al-Mustansir Billah, the Nizari sect believed that his son Nizar was his successor, while another Ismāʿīlī branch known as the Mustaali (from whom the Dawoodi Bohra would eventually descend), supported his other son, al-Musta'li. The Fatimid dynasty continued with al-Musta'li as both Imam and Caliph, and that joint position held until the 20th Imam, al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah (1132 CE). 

 

Now, I am not going to go in-detail to the various splits that happened within the newborn Mustaali -branch; indeed there were quite a few. One branch supported at-Tayyib Abi I-Qasim (the Taiyabi Ismaili), a two years old son of al-Amir bi-Ahkami I-Lah; another supported his cousin al-Hafiz (the Hafizi Ismāʿīlī). Up to this day, the Taiyabi Ismaili is "the only surviving sect of the Mustaali branch of Isma'ili Islam", although split in three different sects: Dawoodi, Sulaayamani, and Alavi Bohra. As stated by the article Taiyabi Ismaili:

 

Quote

The Ṭaiyabi Ismailis are the only surviving sect of the Mustaali branch of Isma'ili Islam. The Taiyabi have split into three major branches: Dawoodi, Sulaymani, and Alavi Bohra.

The Taiyabi originally split from the Fatimid Caliphate-supporting Hafizi branch by supporting the right of at-Tayyib Abu'l-Qasim to the Imamate.

 

Anyway, out focus is in the Nizari -branch, and I've reached an understanding that, where the popular culture refers by the term Seveners, they are actually the Nizaris. NOTE! I personally much more belief that the historical Seveners, if I may, were the Qarmatians as suggested by @reisiger, but in the popular culture this term is misused to refer tot the Nizaris –– and especially the Nizari Ismaeli State (1090 – 1256 CE). The Nizaris were the infamous Hashashins (حشاشين) who targeted the Knights Templar and reigned the Alamut castle between 1090 – 1256 CE. This is also the time when most of the Crusades took place, starting from 1096 (the First Crusade).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/26/2016 at 4:35 PM, reisiger said:

As far as the Nizari Isma'ilis, so far as I can see, they don't seem especially secular, but they do have an interpretation of Islam that seeks to be more modern.  Their doctrines are sometimes hard to know from an outsider because in order to know them, you have to give bayah to the Imam.  Similar to in a Sufi order. 

But the Sufi teachings are much more available for the public, aren't they? This isn't a rhetorical question, but a real one; indeed I have no idea! :-)

 

I read the latest posts at another thread, Are Ismaili muslims? (page 19), and indeed in exoteric sense they might seem rather secularized. But on the other hand (I assume); we have this vast Sufi literature available for the public, but do we have any literature about the Nizari esoteric doctrine? I think this is a reasonable question since indeed the practice might seem a little secular; therefore, what's the state of their mysticism nowadays?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recent Posts on ShiaChat!

    • Did someone miss that Russia actually made a deal with Saudi Arabia and sold them S-400 air defense missile? Don't you get it, these people are playing with the resistance and it is sadness that we buy and ask help from the enemy of Islam. It is us that gonna lose every war that they create, because that is how they make easy money.
    • I live in a burb of Chicago. Population of the Metro Chicago area and it’s surrounding areas = 9.5 mil
    • actually, one such effort done is: (1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i and Hanbali), the two Shi’i schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Ja`fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. http://ammanmessage.com/the-three-points-of-the-amman-message-v-1/ but extreme wahhabis reject this. let's not be extremists like them. i remember, during 2003 invasion of iraq, thousands of gi joes died. today, the modern jihadists are their foot soldiers. how to prevent this (being foot soldiers for US or some other entities) from repeating itself in future? 1. spread the fact that shiism is not majoosi/jewish creation. 2. while not belittling others, shiism has strong evidence to be the islam  propagated by the Prophet, preserved through His Ahu Bayt as. 3. let's race towards good deeds - you don't have time to throw stones during a 100m dash, do you?
    • Looking at anyone who is not your partner in marriage - with lust - is haram.
    • Al-Salamu Alaykum This is what you should do if you found a lost item: Question: Suppose that Muslim, residing in a non-Muslim country finds a suitcase (full of clothes) with or without the owner’s nametag on it. What should he do with it? Answer: A suitcase of personal belongings normally has the nametag through which the owner can be contacted. If he knows that it belongs to a Muslim or a non-Muslim whose property is sacrosanct (or even if there is a likelihood —a considerable likelihood— [that it belongs to a non-Muslim whose property is sacrosanct]), it is necessary for him to announce it for one whole year that he has found that item [so that the owner can come forward and claim it]. If he cannot find the owner [even after the lapse of one year], he should, based on obligatory precaution, give it in charity. However, if he knows that it belongs to a non-Muslim, it is permissible for him to keep it provided that he is not legally bound to announce what he finds in that country or to hand it over to the authorities, etc. (1) In the latter case, he is not allowed to take possession of it; rather it is compulsory on him to act in accordance with the legal undertaking. Question: If I find an item in a European country without any distinctive sign on it [identifying the owner], is it permissible for me to keep it? Answer: If it has no distinctive sign by which one can contact the owner, it is permissible for you to keep it except in the case [of the legal undertaking] mentioned earlier. Source:  http://www.sistani.org/english/book/46/2057/
×