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Russian Scholars on Ismailism / Ed. by Stanislav Prozorov, Hakim Elnazarov. St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg State University Faculty of Philology; Nestor-Historia Publishers 2014. 312 p., ill.

In December 2011 the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, UK) and the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, RAS (St. Petersburg) held an international conference on the contribution of Russian scholars to the study of Ismailism (including the Ismailis of the Pamirs) on the occasion of the 125th anniversary of the birth of the prominent Russian Iranist, W. A. Ivanow (1886–1970). The conference was attended by scholar representing research and educational institutes in Russia, Tajikistan, the United Kingdom and Canada. The conference materials form the basis of the proposed collection of articles.


Институт исмаилитских исследований — 9

The Institute of Ismaili Studies — 11

Предисловие — 13

Introduction — 19



Farhad Daftary. Wladimir Ivanow and Modern Ismaili Studies — 24
Until the middle of the twentieth century, the Ismailis were studied and evaluated almost exclusively on the basis of evidence produced, or often fabricated, by their detractors. As a result, a host of myths and misrepresentations circulated for centuries, both in Muslim societies and in Europe, regarding the teachings and practices of this community of Shiʿi Muslims. A breakthrough in the study of the Ismailis occurred in the 1930s and 1940s as a result of the recovery of a relatively large number of genuine Ismaili texts — manuscript sources that had been preserved secretly in numerous private collections mainly in the Yemen, Syria, Central Asia and South Asia. Wladimir Ivanow (1886–1970), who settled in India after the Russian Revolution, played a key role in the initiation of modern progress in Ismaili studies. This paper presents the historical development of Ismaili studies and W. Ivanow’s major contributions to this fi eld of Islamic studies.

Boris Norik. W. Ivanow’s Collection in the Archives of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences: A Short Survey — 38

The name of Wladimir Alekseevich Ivanow represents a milestone in the history of the Asiatic Museum (currently known as the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts). Although Ivanow worked only three years at the Asiatic Museum, he managed to accomplish a great deal. His collection is kept in the Archive of Orientalists, numbered as 19 fi le. It has to be noted that the organisation of the collection is currently incomplete and most of the material is in a state of disarray. The most organized is Inventory 1, which includes 68 documents, most of which are on the history of Sufism and Ismailism, Shi‘a sects and Iranian dialects. The academic value of the documents varies, as many include short summaries of monographs and reference books which were popular at that time. Inventory 2 includes Ivanow’s personal letters, which are also of great interest, with the list of his correspondents containing the names of such great scholars as K. G. Zaleman, V. A. Zhukovskiy, A. A. Romaskevich and others. In addition, some materials of the collection are not projected in any of the Inventories, and await their technical processing and academic evaluation. At present, it is possible to assert that V. A. Ivanow’s collection has potentially significant value for academic work, and will be particularly appealing to specialists on the history of Sufi sm and Ismailism, as well as to philologists who study Iranian dialects. This paper presents the survey of the Ivanow’s collection and its value for the orientalists.

Alexey Khismatulin. The Teachings of the Ahl-i Haqq in the Studies of Wladimir Ivanow — 45

In 1953, Wladimir Ivanow published some original texts representing the teaching of the Ahl-i Haqq in the Ismaili Society Series under the title of The Truth-worshippers of Kurdistan. Ahl-i Haqq texts. There he provides the English translation and narrations of the texts. On the basis on these materials and using also the publications of V. F. Minorsky (the fi rst orienta list who studied the subject), Ivanow produced solid research preceding the publication of the texts. He attempted to summarise, analyse and systematize all the available information related to the teachings of Ahl-i Haqq at that time, when very little scholarly information on the topic existed. The article discusses the content of the texts and Ivanow’s approach to the analysis of the teaching of Ahl-i Haqq.

Aliy Kolesnikov. The Correspondence of W. A. Ivanow and H. Corbin (1947-1966) (Pages from the History of the Ismaili Society) — 53

The correspondence between Wladimir Ivanow and Henry Corbin was published 12 years ago, but it has not yet received a due attention. Of the 89 letters in this collection, 65 from Ivanow are addressed to Corbin, 9 to Corbin’s wife (Stella Corbin), and one to the French diplomat F. Max; 13 letters are addressed to Ivanow from Corbin, and there is one letter to him from Louis Massignon. The content of the correspondence reveals much about the two scholars, as it is quite diverse but concerns, for the most part, purely professional issues: the activities of the Ismaili society; the gathering, copying and publication of major works of Ismaili authors; the exchange of academic literature; visits to Ismaili settlements, places connected with the history of Ismailism, Ismaili shrines, etc. The impressions and opinion of Ivanow regarding his participation in the International Congress of Orientalists and the meeting of his contemporary scholars is especially interesting, as it provides his opinion about Iranian and Islamic Studies and his contacts and exchanges with Russian and Soviet orientalists. This paper makes a careful examination of the correspondence.


Ramazon Nazariev. The Contribution of Russian Scholars to the Study of Ismaili Philosophy and Theology, and Prospects for its Development — 64

The study of Ismaili philosophical doctrines has been undertaken by many famous scholars. Amongst these scholars, a special role is given to Russian orientalists. Starting from the second half of the 19th century, during their travels across various regions of the Near East and Central Asia, the Russians collected valuable materials about the culture of the people associated with the Ismaili faith. These materials included data about philosophical and theological doctrines, which subsequently became the foundation for the study of this rationalistic philosophical school. In this paper, the issue relating to the contribution of the Russian scholars in the study of Ismaili philosophy and theology is examined in historical context. It highlights the following periods of the study of Ismailis and their teaching:
— The Pre-Soviet period. The specifics of the philosophical world-views of the Ismailis are summarised on the basis of the collected materials of the Russian orientalists, such as, Count A. A. Bobrinskoy, A. A. Semenov, V. V. Bartold, W. A. Ivanow and others.
— The Soviet period. The main historical and philosophical works are analysed, including their main content and importance for the modern scholarship. The authors of such works are A. E. Bertels, A. K. Zakuev and others.
— The Post-Soviet period. The highlights of this period are the works produced by E. A. Frolova, A. V. Smirnov, A. A. Ignatenko and others. Here we discuss the latest developments in Ismaili studies in Russia and explore the commonality and differences in methodological analysis of the Ismaili philosophical heritage. The paper ends with presenting of the prospects for further development of the field.

Sunatullo Jonboboev. The Ismaili Notion of History in the Context of the Broader Philosophy of History — 74

There are certain philosophical notions, the importance of which becomes evident only over a period of time and in comparison to other notions (i. e., when they are placed in the context of world’s traditions), such as the idea of our understanding the history. The concept of the philosophy of history is taking an important place among other ideas of the Ismaili tradition (including Ikhwan as-Safa’). However, in the author’s opinion, this idea has not been suffi ciently examined by contemporary scholars - the few exceptions being H. Corbin (1964, 2010), Kh. Dodikhudoev (1987, 2011), and F. Daftary (2008). This article is based on the reading and analysis of the works of the Ismaili philosophers, as well as the generalisations and evaluations of the Russian, Soviet and foreign scholars, who have devoted their work to Ismailism. Such generalisations serve as a foundation for a comparison of the current concept of Ismaili history with other known, similar theories related to the philosophy of history.

Alexander Arapov. The Concepts of the Universal Intellect and Universal Soul in Russian Religious Philosophy and Ismailism — 93

The Platonic concepts of the Universal Intellect and Universal Soul are common to both Ismaili philosophy and the Russian religious philosophy of the Silver Age (the period between 1880 and 1920, which was characterized by the emergence of various intellectual movements in Russia), whilst being quite alien to classical Christian philosophy. Despite the influence of Neo- Platonism on the formation and development of Christian philosophy, the concepts of the Universal Intellect and Universal Soul were rejected by the Western and Eastern Christian theologians and philosophers. The concept of the Universal Intellect and the animation of the world were widely adopted in Muslim philosophy. The Russian philosophers belonging to the Christian faith were exposed to these ideas and developed a cosmological framework which was much closer to the Ismaili teaching than to Christian theology. This paper explores the subject in detail.


Hakim Elnazarov. The Russian Pioneers of Modern Scholarship on the Ismailis of Central Asia — 101

The Ismaili Muslims of Central Asia have been generally absent from the discussion on the beliefs and doctrines of the Ismailis presented by Western scholarship until the last decade of the nineteenth century. It was, by and large, due to the pioneering works of the Russian orientalists that the religious beliefs and traditions of the Ismailis of Central Asia, particularly those residing in the narrow valleys of the Pamir mountains, received due attention and were introduced into modern scholarship on the Ismailis. At the same time, the discovery of Ismaili literature from Central Asia contributed to a reassessment of the tales and legends written about the Ismailis by other Muslims and the Crusaders. The Russian scholars and explorers of the Pamirs, such as, Bronislav Grabczewsky, Dmitriy Ivanov, Aleksey Bobrinskoy, Adrian Serebrennikov, Aleksandr Semyonov, Andrey Snesarev, Ivan Zarubin and others, initiated systematic research into the history, and religious and intellectual traditions of the Central Asian Ismailis. Wladimir Ivanow, the founder of modern Nizari Ismaili studies, belongs to the same generation of Russian scholars who fervently pursued the exploration of Ismailism and inspired the future generation of scholars of diverse backgrounds to study the history, traditions and the heritage of the Ismaili Muslims. This paper provides a general overview of the emergence of Ismaili and Pamiran studies in Russian scholarship.

Davlat Khudonazarov. Count Aleksey Bobrinskoy — the Founder of Modern Ismaili Studies in Russian Scholarship — 123

The current paper is devoted to the commencement of Ismaili studies in Russian scholarship. The pioneer of Ismaili studies in Russian domains was A. A. Bobrinskoy, an ethnographer and specialist in cultural studies. Furthermore, in this Russian scholar, we actually have the pioneer of modern Ismaili studies in European scholarship. During the 1920s, W. Ivanow’s stated that “the modern state of Ismailism in Asia does not attract much attention of European researchers of the East”; he further observed that European scholars were not making any effort to study this branch of Islam. Therefore, the author of this paper argues that Count Bobrinskoy’s publication of 1902 was the fi rst Russian, and in fact, the fi rst European, study on Ismailism.

Shozodamamad Mamadsherzodshoev. The Contribution of Russian Scholars to the Collection and Studies of the Written Heritage of the People of Mountainous Badakhshan — 152

Starting from the second half of the nineteenth century, Russian orientalists began the systematic compilation, collection, description and publication of the most valuable manuscripts found in the Pamirs. This written heritage has paramount importance in the study of the history and spiritual life of the people of Tajikistan and Central Asia in general. Some of the manuscripts found in Badakhshan served as foundational texts for the critical edition of the works published in Russia and abroad. A wide range of materials was collected in the region by Russian scholars, which provides insight into the way of life of people of Badakhshan. A. Bobrinskoy, A. Andreev, W. Ivanow, I. Zarubin, A. Semenov, A. Bertels and others made a signifi cant contribution in the study of the history, culture, ethnography and linguistic diversity of the inhabitants of the Pamir. Their works exhibit the richness of the culture of the local people and the value of their written heritage for academic scholarship. For many generations, calligraphers and scribes rewrote works of various genres which contained a variety of materials about the people of the region. Some manuscripts are of artistic and calligraphic value. This article describes the main stages of the study of the written heritage of Badakhshan and the role played by the Russian scholars in the collection and investigation of this heritage.


Sarfaroz Niyozov. A Comparative Analysis of W. Ivanow’s and A. Bertels’ Works on Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism: Toward Rethinking Central-Asian Ismaili Studies — 160

Despite post-Soviet advancement in Central-Asian Ismaili Studies, Wladimir Ivanow and Andrey Bertels have remained foundational in this fi eld. However, because of the opposing ideological camps in which these two scholars found themselves, their impact has been limited to their own spheres of infl uence. In this paper, I advocate a re-examination of the ideological positioning of both authors, arguing that each played a critical part within the contexts and constraints of their times. Their respective works, both entitled ‘Nasir-i Khusraw and Ismailism’, constitute examples of this role. These works are Ivanow’s and Bertels’ committed and independent intellectual constructs and are the result of skilful negotiation between (i) their knowledge, values, and skills and (ii) the ideological and structural constraints and possibilities of their times and (iii) their conceptual and methodological tools such as access to data. I further argue that a critical comparative re-reading of both authors’ dedicated and meticulous studies of Ismailism and Nasir-i Khusraw can provide us with nuanced, contested, evolving, and negotiated notions of Nasir-i Khusraw and Central-Asian Ismailism: an understanding that is better informed, de-essentialised, pluralistic, and constructivist.

Lola Taneeva-Salomatshоeva. The Contribution of A. E. Bertels to Ismaili Studies — 209

This paper presents the outstanding contribution of A. E. Bertels to the Ismaili studies. His contribution is particularly visible in the study of the manuscripts which were found in GBAO (GornoBadakhshan Autonomous Region) of Tajikistan during the expedition of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1959- 1963). His works on the Ismailism demonstrate his encyclopaedic erudition in Islamic studies, various religious system, literature and history of Muslim states, which allowed him to conclude that the meaning of the term “Ismailism”, if taken in its abstract form and deployed in relation to specifi c branches, has existed since the eighth century until modern times, and it has been used as frequently as terms, such as, “Christianity”, “Islam”, or “ Shi‘ism”. The current paper considers the polemics which took place between Bertels and W. A. Ivanow. It also analyses certain treatises (e.g., Taj al-‘Aqa’id, Zad al-Musafi rin, Jami‘ al-Hikmatayn), which are discussed in his work «Пять философских трактатов на тему ‘Afaq va Anfus’» (Five Philosophical treaties on the subject of ‘Afaq va Anfus’).

Elbon Hojibekov. The History of the Ismaili pirs of Shughnan in the Works of Russian, Soviet and Contemporary Scholars — 218

The Russian and Soviet scholars made signifi cant contribution to the study of the religious and cultural life of the people of the Pamir. A large corpus of literature was produced about the cultural life of the people of the region since the beginning of the twentieth century. However, little work was done on the study of the Ismaili pirs (spiritual authorities) of the Mountainous Badakhshan. The studies of the scholars in the pre-Soviet, Soviet and post-Soviet periods contain contradictory and prejudiced comments on this subject. The author of this paper examines the major issues in the history of the Ismaili pirs of Shughnan district of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan as presented in the works of Russian and Soviet scholars, such as, Count A. A. Bobrinskoy, A. Cherkasov, A. A. Semenov, A. V. Stanishevskiy, A. A. Kuznetsov, B. A. Antonenko, M. Nazarshoev, D. Karamshoev, I. Kharkavchuk, as well as contemporary scholars, including L. N. Kharyukov, A. Shokhumorov, and others.


Stanislav Prozorov. The Arabic Manuscript of an Unknown Treatise of al-Mufaddal al-Ju‘fi (d. before 183/799) on Early Shi‘a Doctrine — 229

The Institute of Oriental Manuscripts (Saint Petersburg) holds an Arabic manuscript (1b-85a) of an unknown treatise of al-Mufaddal al-Ju‘fi entitled, Kitab al-Adilla ‘ala’l-khalq wa’ltadbir wa’l-radd ‘ala’l-ka‘ilina bi’l-ihmal wa’l-munkiri al-‘amd bi-riwayat al-Mufaddal ‘an al-Sadiq. This is an instruction of Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq (d. 148/765) to a Shi‘i muhaddith, al- Mufaddal al-Ju‘fi , as an individual training to propagate Shi‘i ideology and explaining to him a wide range of arguments in refutation of specifi c or potential opponents.
The work belongs to the period of acute religious and political struggle in the Caliphate, which gave rise to a specialization of religious knowledge, the formation of genres of Shi‘i religious and political literature and the development of a Shi‘i dogma in the circle of Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq.
The key idea of the teachings of Ja‘far al-Sadiq is as follows: a human being must understand that all elements of the macroand microcosm testify to the divine rule (al-rububiyya), the premeditation of creation of intent, the purposefulness and harmony of the created world. To prove his point, Ja‘far al-Sadiq gives examples from the natural world, from astronomy, wildlife, the diversity of species, the shapes and colours of creation which are hidden in the bowels of the earth and visible on its surface, comparing these to the human intellect, in which there is knowledge which is obvious and knowledge which is hidden. Taken together, these ‘proofs’ show Ja‘far al-Sadiq’s encyclopedic knowledge of human nature and the surrounding world.
Another key idea of Ja‘far al-Sadiq’s instruction is that the management of the world and the divine presence on the ground is ongoing, and that the guardian and interpreter of the secret knowledge of the universe, which is laid down in the Qur’an, is ‘the family the Prophet’ (ahl al-Bayt). Further development of this original idea is observed in Shi‘i Islam, which maintains that a visible proof (al-hujja) of the divine presence on earth is to be a mediator between God and men.
The term al-hujja is used in the teachings and practices of the Ismailis. The notion of al-hujja took a fi rm place in the dogma of the Shi‘a Imamis, who argued that the land cannot be deprived of al-hujja of the descendants of ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, ‘visible’ or ‘hidden’ ones who would govern the community by the will of God. They recognized the twelfth ‘hidden’ Imam Muhammad b. al-Hasan as the last al-hujja.

Rahmat Rahimov. Shi‘a Objects of Worship in the Sunni Environment of Central Asia — 241

Information on the objects of worship of the Ahl al-Bayt (immediate family members of the Prophet) within the Sunni environment of Central Asia is fragmentary and dispersed in various sources in Russian literature. They do not provide a sufficiently clear view about the role and place of Shi‘a Islam within the general system of the local Muslim religiosity. Particularly, there is a noticeable scarcity of research about the mythology of ‘Ali. b. Abi Talib (d. 661), the first Imam of the Shi‘a Muslims. The main question here is, how, during such a short period of time (in the historical scale), did the fi gure of a historical personality turn into a hero of myths and legends among the local Sunni population?
The present paper does not claim to provide a clear-cut answer to the above question. It only highlights possible ways of understanding the motives for the mythologisation of the personality of ‘Ali, who has been turned into one of the main personages of fantastic stories and tales of the Sunni Tajiks.
This paper attempts to enrich, as far as possible, the insufficient information in the existing ethnographic literature by supplementing it with missing pieces of information. The presented data, according to the author, makes it possible to observe concrete manifestations of the elements of coexistence of the two branches of Islam — Sunni and Shi‘a — within a single religious complex in the given region. These manifestations are directly related to the sources of such specific city in the Central Asian regional Islam. The work draws on the field-work data that the author collected from the settled agricultural population of Central Asia. At the core of the collected materials are the oral traditions transmitted by the Sunni Tajiks about the eponyms of the ritual objects of Shi‘a Islam within Central Asian Sunni environment.

Tohir Qalandarov. On a Letter of B. A. Litvinskiy Addressed to the Head of the Tajik Regional Branch of the Soviet Culture Foundation — 256

This article draws on a letter from the personal archive of the prominent orientalist, founder of the archaeological school of Tajikistan, and member of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan, Boris Anatolievich Litvinskiy (1923- 2010). In the personal archive of Litvinskiy, the author of this paper found a copy of a letter which was addressed to the head of the Tajik republican department of Soviet Culture Foundation, the poetess Gulrukhsor Safi eva. The letter has been typed on three pages with A4 format without indication of the date. It is known that the Tajik Culture Foundation was established as regional branch of the Soviet Culture Foundation in a founding conference held in Dushanbe on the 28th of April 1987. In his letter, the scholar actually outlined an action plan for the Tajik Culture Foundation, drawing attention to what has been most important for him — the protection and restoration of the architectural monuments. Regrettably, most of Litvinskiy’s recommendations were not taken into account by the leadership of the Foundation.


Leila Dodykhudoeva. A Fragment of Linguistic “World View” of the Peoples of the Western Pamirs. Landscape — 266

This article discusses the fragment of the linguistic world view of the peoples of the Western Pamirs. This fragment is characterised by lexis which expresses the notion of “space and landscape” as it is connected with the human habitat, in terms of the worldly and sacral spheres, man’s modes of organising his landscape and the related general daily activities and religious traditions. Identification of this “world view” on the basis of vocabulary reflects a conceptual categorization of reality by the ethnic group.
The absence of a fixed written form of the Pamiri languages creates a specific linguistic situation, whereby the language itself serves as the main monument, representing a verbal part of the cultural heritage of the people. It reflects the formation of the society and may serve as a means for discovering the stages of the development of spiritual and material culture. At the same time, the language has key words which are indicative of a specific culture and which underlie the system of steady implications and perceived meanings of the words in a language and culture. The analysis of these words allows us to reveal the wide cultural context of the development of a nation.

Pavel Basharin. Legends on al-Hallaj in the Pamirs: the Problem of the Transformation of the Image of the Sufi Saint in the Context of Sufi Hagiography — 288

The fi gure of Mansur al-Hallaj is distinguished from a large number of charismatic Muslim mystics for its originality and popularity among the Iranian and Turkic nations of Central Asia. The reason for this probably resides in the assumption that al-Hallaj was the fi rst well-known Muslim saint who came to Turkestan. The pervasiveness of the Islamic image of al-Hallaj is emphasized by its spread to the periphery of the Muslim world, including to the Pamirs. Among the Ismailis of the Pamirs, he is revered as a forebear of the holy “forty chiltans” (forty saints). There is also a curious legend of his execution in the Pamirs. One of the fi rst fi xations of the legend about al-Hallaj is recorded in the book of A. A. Bobrinskoy Gortsi verkhovyev Pyandzha (vakhantsi i ishkashimtsi) (Mountain Dwellers of the Upper Reaches of River Panj (Vakhanis and Ishkashimis) (Moscow, 1908)). The subsequent collection of material on the subject53 allows the reconstruction of a full version of the saint’s life as disseminated in the Pamirs. This version shows the range of interpretations and elaborations of the classical incidents from the hagiography of al-Hallaj and local substrate stratifi cations, which are comparable to the recorded texts on the lives of Sufi saints, including Akhbar al-Hallaj, ‘Abd Allah al-Ansari, Farid al-Din ‘Attar, Zakariya al-Qazwini, etc.

Boghsho Lashkarbekov. The Study of the Pamiri Languages in Russia and Tajikistan — 301

Although the pioneers of the study of the Pamiri languages were Western European researchers, the Russian and Soviet (including Tajik) specialists in Iranian studies have also made significant contributions to the study of these languages. The works of European pioneers of Pamiri studies, such as, Robert Shaw, V. Tomashek, V. Gager, G. Grierson and others, who laid the foundation for studies in Pamiri languages, were only able to draw on insignificant linguistic materials, which were mainly recorded as nonphonological transcriptions. Starting from the 1930s, Russian scholars began systematic studies of the Pamiri languages, conducting special linguistic expeditions for this purpose, and working in the fi eld for a long period of time. These expeditions included linguistics from academic centres in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Dushanbe. They were instrumental in the emergence of a school of Pamiri Studies which was headed by Prof. Ivan Zarubin. This paper presents the development of the study of Pamiri languages in Russia and Tajikistan.

List of Authors — 309

List of Illustrations — 311


Contents, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, Introduction



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