Shi'i Eschatologies across the Millennium: 900-1900

This panel addresses the shifting apocalyptic frameworks of Islamic messianism in 10-20th-century Shīʿism, with particular attention given to eschatological expectations of the Endtime, the mystification of historical characters and configurations of ethnic groups in the communal setting of the Nizārī state, and mystical experience and hidden knowledge in relation to the hidden imam qua the messianic figures of the Qā’im and the Mahdi. The proposed papers take up a set of leading questions to examine in depth the qiyāmah in Fāṭimid and Nizārī Ismāʿīlī texts and in Sufi and Ithnā ʿAsharī settings; that is, how messianic expectations frame the sources and resources of authority and circumscribe hidden knowledge. Considering the appearance and abrogation of religious law, religio-political sovereignty, configurations of identity in communal settings, and mystical experience works to uncover and reveal the eschatological registers as well as the re-ordering of the significations of the manifest and the hidden in relation to the Endtime and the figure of the Qā’im across the millennium.

The papers are as follows. Andani’s paper examines several works of Nāṣir-i Khusraw, arguing that Nāṣir’s eschatological thought depoliticizes and spiritualizes the role of the Qā’im in contrast to earlier Ismāʿīlī messianic doctrines. Mohammad Poor discusses a new shift in the fourth period of the Nizārī qiyāmah, This new shift, a second qiyāmat, was gradually developed and consolidated during the reign of Muḥammad III. Also focusing on the Nizārī period of Ismāʿīlī thought and history, Sarkozy examines the different representations- both historical and mystical- of different ethnic groups in the little studied collection of poetry, the Dīwān-i Qā’imiyyāt. In a Sufi context, Alexandrin’s paper presents Saʿd al-Dīn Ḥamūye’s views on messianism and the Endtime, which rely extensively on post-Fāṭimid Ismāʿīlī eschatological registers of how prophetic types and their opponents together culminate in the seal of God’s friends and the manifestation of the Mahdi. Cancian analyzes how the eschatological doctrines of Ithnā ʿAsharī Shīʿīsm are exposed in the Niʿmatollāhī Sufi Sulṭān ʿAlī Shāh’s tafsīr, Bayān al-saʿādah fī maqāmāt al-ʿibādah, through his relying on the recurrent pattern of the correspondence between the macro and the microcosmic dimensions of reality.

Personal Information (Panel Organizer)

Alessandro Cancian
Institute of Ismaili Studies


Fri, 2016-08-05 08:45 - 10:15


by Alessandro Cancian / Institute of Ismaili Studies

The theme of the hidden Imām occupies, quite obviously, a privileged place in Twelver Shiʿism, to the point of becoming the heart of its eschatology. While the return of the Imām (ẓohūr) at the end of the time has hardly been debated by Twelver scholars in its historical reality, the idea that this event might take place at the individual and spiritual level as well as at the collective and historical one, has crossed – with different degrees of intensity – twelver theosophy since the very time in which the doctrine was formulated.
At a time, the 19th century, where messianic fervour was particularly ardent in Iran, and the wait for the return of the Imām triggered the worldly, albeit ephemeral, success of chiliaistic movements, resurgent Sufism contributed its insights to the discourse on occultation (ghayba) and parousia (ẓohūr), emphasising their microcosmic dimension without denying their macrocosmic one. One of the places where this dialectic is at play is the exegetical masterpiece of the Neʿmatollāhī master Solṭān ʿAlī Shāh Gonābādī (d. 1909), the tafsīr Bayān al-saʿāda fī maqāmāt al-ʿebāda. This so far understudied work, which combines features of the pre-Buwayhid, hadith-based commentaries with those of the classical mystical tafsīrs, and is a fundamental chapter of the history of Shiʿi exegesis, and represents a compendium of the order’s, clad in the form of a Qur’anic commentary. In this paper I intend to analyse how the eschatological doctrines of Twelver Shiʿism are exposed by Solṭān ʿAlī Shāh through his relying on the recurrent pattern of the correspondence between the macro and the microcosmic dimensions of reality.

by Elizabeth Alexandrin / University of Manitoba

Scholars of Persian Sufism have argued that Saʿd al-Dīn Hamūye’s (fl. 13th CE.) works reflect Shīʿī leanings because of his messianic views on the “seal of the friends of God” (khatm al-awliyā’) and the identity of the Mahdi. On the basis of the Miṣbāḥ al-Tasawwuf and Kitāb al-Maḥbūb, my paper proposes that Ḥamūye’s teachings on walāyah and the seal of God’s friends integrate specific Ismāʿīlī concepts within the framework of al-Ḥakīm al-Tirmidhī’s treatment of the Endtime in the Khatm al-Awliyā’. The contours of Ḥamūye’s engagement in the on-going debate about the seal and the identity of the Mahdi is in part due to the reception of Ibn al-ʿArabī’s teachings. His contribution also re-frames messianic considerations. Significantly, the Kitāb al-Maḥbūb gained traction in 13th-century intellectual circles and shaped the messianism and eschatology of the later Persianate Sufi tradition. Furthermore, Ḥamūye’s messianic views and explicit predictions of the End time represent a clear departure from Ibn al-ʿArabī’s works.
Ḥamūye writes independently of most 13th-century Shīʿī discussions of Qā'im-ology with respect to the form of the manifestation of the Mahdi. This paper will argue that Hamūye’s letter mysticism and how he structures walāyah working throughout prophetic history to the Endtime shares similar eschatological registers with Ismāʿīlī works from the late Fāṭimid period and post-Fāṭimid period. This period includes the Haft Bāb-i Bābā Sayyid-nā, a text that revisits after the fact the Ismāʿīlī “proclamation” of the qiyāmah in 1164 CE., and which juxtaposes prophetic types and prophetic opponents to explain the “realized apocalypse” of the Ismāʿīlī qiyāmah. According to Ḥamūye, the typologies of prophetic types and opponents represent the messianism of cumulative walāyah. Ḥamūye’s views on messianism rely extensively on a theory of how prophetic types and their opponents together culminate in the seal of God’s friends and the manifestation of the Mahdi. Throughout prophetic history, the opponents’ violation of religious law constitutes the secret of walāyah and how the seal of walāyah will be broken open at the end of time. This doubling of walāyah temporarily stabilizes another register of esoteric knowledge as hidden and inaccessible until the time of the Mahdi.

by Daryoush Mohammad Poor / Institute of Ismaili Studies

The historical phases of the Nizārī Ismailis of the Alamūt period can be broadly divided into four major phases: 1) the consolidation period of the Alamūt state, or the period of taʿlīm; 2) the period of first resurrection beginning with the declaration of qiyāmat by Ḥasan II continuing until the end of the reign of his son, Muḥammad II; 3) the period of satr which is the entire reign of Ḥasan III; and 4) the period of returning to the doctrine of qiyāmat from the time of Muḥammad III until the downfall of Alamūt. In this paper, I will try to elaborate on the fourth period.
The literature on the Nizari Ismaili’s doctrine of qiyāmat, in almost all sources – be they historical or doctrinal – speaks about one single event initiated by Ḥasan II who came to be known as Qāʾim al-qiyāma. This declaration in 559/1164 marks the beginning of social, doctrinal and political shifts in the Nizārī Ismaili community. There is, however, another shift which occurs within this new shift often ignored or left undetected because of the enormity of the original event. This new shift, which I would call a second qiyāmat gradually develops and gets consolidated during the reign of Muḥammad III.
There are several features which make the second resurrection distinct from the first one. Contrary to almost all non-Ismaili narratives of the same age, an utter abrogation of ritual laws in Ismailism seems far more unreal when we look at the second qiyāmat period. What would be theoretically quite revolutionary and radical in the abstract sense for the first qiyāmat turns out to be milder in practice in the second phase of the qiyāmat. In this paper, I will draw on sources from the fourth period and some manuscripts of different periods to demonstrate this visible shift. I will also provide some conjectures as to why this shift has come about.

by Dr. Miklos Sarkozy / Institute of Ismaili Studies

The present paper examines the representations of different ethnic groups in the Dīwān‐i Qā’imiyyāt. Even though the evidence is rather scarce, a recently published collection of poems entitled Dīwān‐i Qā’imiyyāt, a predominantly eschatological text, suggests that the Nizari Ismaili state acted successfully as a balance between rivalling powers of his time. Due to the extreme scarcity of our historical data relating to the contacts held by the Nizari Ismailis with their direct neighbours, the evidence provided by the poems of the Dīwān‐i Qā’imiyyāt about the Khwarizmian Empire, the Mongols, the Ildiguzid Turks as well as different local Shi’i kingdoms of Mazandaran can be of significant importance.
As far as the reprentation of these diverse ethnic groups is concerned, one can see a twofold system ruling the main narrative of these qaṣīdas. Direct references to historical events and well-known historical figures, battles are often mixed with eschatological statements where only the title, the ethnic background or sometimes a fabricated name of different persons is mentioned by the authors of these poems. This double system raises several questions: whether this technique of a deliberate mystification of certain historical characters is due to the poetrical conventions of the period intented to a very limited audience well aware of these events, or it is because of the fragmented knowledge of the authors about these incidents, or these imaginative pseudo-historical data suggest perhaps a deliberate and hitherto unnoticed connection to the main eschatological message of the Dīwān‐i Qā’imiyyāt.

by Khalil Andani / Harvard University

This paper examines the doctrine of Qa’im al-qiyama (Lord of the Resurrection) espoused by the eleventh century Ismā‘īlī Muslim thinker, da‘i and poet, Nāṣir-i Khusraw (d. 1088). The notion of the Qā’im or Mahdi is a messianic doctrine of Shi’i Islam that revolves around the expectation of particular descendent of the Prophet Muhammad who would rise up and restore justice to the world. With the rise of the Fatimid dynasty in 909, Ismaili da‘is had to re-formulate ideas of the Qa’im al-qiyama in order to reconcile the Imamat of the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs with prior Ismaili messianic ideas concerning the advent of the Qa’im. By examining several works of Nasir-i Khusraw, this paper argues that Nasir’s eschatological thought depoliticizes and spiritualizes the role of the Qa’im in contrast to the earlier Isma‘ili messianic doctrines. This is demonstrated in Nāsir's differentiating the rank and function of the Qa’im al-Qiyama from the those of the Prophets and the Imams, his introduction of secondary eschatological figures such as the Proof (hujja) and Vicegerent (khalifa) of the Qa’im, and finally, the manner in which he stresses the role of the Qā’im in spiritual and cosmic terms as opposed to political roles. In presenting Nasir’s views on qiyama, the paper will also note how he integrates the ideas of previous Ismaili Imams and da‘is such as the Imam 'Abdullah al-Mahdi, the Imam al-Mu'izz (d. 975), Qadi al-Nu‘man (d. 974), Abu Ya‘qub al-Sijistani (d. after 971), Abu Hatim al-Razi (d. 934), and his contemporary al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi (d. 1078) – all of whom spiritualized the concept of the Qa’im al-qiyama. Through these formulatlions, Nasir is able to synthesize a doctrine of qiyama that is rich with eschatological expectations while affirming the spiritual and political authority of a continuous line of Ismaili Imams (the Fatimid Caliphs) in his own time. The paper will then briefly consider how the formulations of the qiyama in Nasir's thought can inform our understanding of the Qiyama declared by the Nizari Imam Hasan 'ala-dhikrihi al-salaam in 1164 at Alamut, especially with respect to the exact position or religious rank that Imam Hasan lay claim to and the issue of abrogation.