TLDR Imamat History

TLDR Imamat History

As the Diamond Jubilee year closes, members of the Ismaili community often reflect on the Imamat. The Ismailis have a long and fascinating history of Imams, stretching all the way back the the Prophet Muhammad. Every day, millions of Ismailis recite the names of these Imams in their daily prayers. But we don't always no the stories behind these names. Personally, I wasn't comfortable reciting these names without knowing anything about most of them. So, I took the Diamond Jubilee year as an opportunity to delve into their history. But I know everyone isn't burdened with this kind of free time, so I've created a "Too Long; Didn't Read" for our history. What follows is a single sentence summary for each Imam. You can also click the "Read More" buttons to see a paragraph summary for each name.

Of course, this is only about the 49 Imams recognized by the Ismaili community (and Hassan). If you want to read about how many Imams there could be, check this out.



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Aly tried to serve as an advisor for the early Caliphs and tried to maintain peace in an increasingly fracturing early Muslim community.

Shia-Sunni Split

Hassan fought with, surrendered to, and was betrayed by Syrian Caliph Muawia.

Husayn gathered support against Syria but was ultimately martyred with his family.

Zain alAbidin reorganized the Shia after the battle of Karbala

Shia-Zaydi split

Muhammad alBaqir avoided conflict with the Umayyads (unlike his brother) and codified the Mission (Dawa).

Jafar asSadiq studied religious texts and created schools of law for many sects of Islam.

Ismaili-Ithna Asheri split

Ismail (probably) died before serving as Imam.


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Muhammad ibn Ismail went into hiding and secretly spread the Ismaili Mission (Dawa).

Mubaraki-Qarmati split

Wafi Ahmed stayed hidden, but nomadic, continuing the Mission.

Taqi Muhammad oversaw the creation and circulation of the Brotherhood of Purity's Encyclopedia, which rooted Ismaili beliefs firmly in both the neoplatonic and mystical.

Razi adDin Abdullah stayed in hiding but secretly laid the foundations of an Ismaili State.

Northwest Africa

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Muhammadin alMahdi founded the Fatimid Empire after a brief imprisonment.

alQaim, the first Fatimid Caliph, expanded his empire across North Africa.

alMansoor defeated the Fatimid's greatest enemy, Abu Yazid.



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alMuiz built infrastructure across North Africa in order to conquer Egypt, conquered Egypt, and established the Fatimid capital in Cairo.

alAziz defended Cairo against tribal uprisings.

alHakim biAmrillah reformed Cairo under Ismaili law and then again with a more pluralistic approach.

Fatimid-Druze split

azZahir presided over an economic depression but recovered with public works and an emphasis on the arts.

alMustansir Billah tried to hold together a dissolving empire.

Nizari-Mustaali split

Nizar went into hiding but was killed by his brother.


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alHadi escaped Cairean prison and went into hiding in the mountains of Persia.

Muhtadi stayed in hiding.

Qahir stayed in hiding.

Ala Dhikrihi asSalam came out of hiding.

Ala Muhammad refortified a public Nizari identity in Persia and Syria.

Jalaluddin Hassan reinstituted Sharia and built relationships with surrounding empires.

Ala adDin Muhammad tried to make further alliances and built communities in India.

Rukn adDin Khair Shah tried to fend off the Mongolians but couldn't.

The Great

Shams adDin Muhammad went into hiding and tried to reorganize the remaining Ismailis.

Nizari-Momini split

Qasim Shah stayed in hiding, sent Pir Shams to India.

Islam Shah stayed in hiding, sent Pir Sadruddin to India.

Muhammad ibn Islam Shah stayed in hiding.

alMustansir Billah stayed in hiding.

Abd asSalam stayed in hiding.

Gharib Mirza stayed in hiding.

Abu Dhar Ali stayed in hiding.

Murad Mirza stayed in hiding.

Zulfiqar Ali stayed in hiding.

Nurud adDin Ali stayed in hiding.

Khalilullahi Ali stayed in hiding.

Nizar stayed in hiding.

Sayyed Ali stayed in hiding.

Hassan Ali came out of hiding, but records are lost

Qasim Ali records are lost

Abul Hassan Ali served as a governor in Iran.

Khalilullahi Ali curried favor with the Shah of Iran.

The Aga Khans

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Shah Hasan Ali established the Ismailis in Iran, fought in their civil war, then established the Ismailis in British India.

another Sunni-Shia split?

Shah Ali Shah built relationships with surrounding Muslim communities.

Sultan Muhammad Shah helped to establish Indian independence and a Muslim State.

another Ismaili-Ithna Asheri split?

Karim alHusayni is currently the Imam.

Further Reading:

Why do we pray to the Imam?

TLDR Imamat History: Arabia

TLDR Imamat History: Arabia