Ismaili method to convert Hindus
From: Vishal Agarwal, firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE: See references at the end
Ismailis have been known to digest Hinduism and other religions for more than 1000 years now. It is surmized that they were responsible for spreading Islam in much of SW Punjab (Multan region), Sindh, Kutch, Gujarat, Rajasthan. Eventually, when the Qaramatian kingdom was smashed by Mahmud Ghaznavi (and after their kingdoms in Sindh also fell) who was a staunch Sunni, these half-Hindu and half-Ismailis became Sunnis, a notable example being the Sammas and Sumra dynasties of Sindh [Quereshi 1962: 49-51]. In many parts of India (Rajasthan and Gujarat) however, the Ismailis were re-absorbed into the dominant Hindu culture, although vestiges of the Ismaili past are still visible and are a sensitive issue in some Sampradayas today (e.g. the Pranamis, the mother of Mahatma Gandhi being a member of that that sect). Many of the so called Sunni sufis of Multan were actually Ismaili but their descendants found it inconvenient to retain their Ismaili or Shia heritage. The present day remnants of these Ismailis are Bohris, Khojas and Memons as well as the heretical Alawites in the middle east.
A considerably exaggerated account of Ismaili Dawa’a is contained in the works of Dominique Sila Khan who however tends to overstate the case of Ismaili influence. She unethically posed as a French tourist wwho pretended to be interested in converting to the Pranami faith. She concealed her intentions or the fact that she was a researcher who was interested in pushing the thesis that the Pranamis originated as Nizari Ismaili Muslims. Fearing violent Muslim retaliation, the Pranamis decided not to file a legal case against her. See Sharma (2006), p. 82, 96 below. One example of Sila Khan’s exaggeration is that she thinks that even the early Sikh Gurus were Ismailis but their Islamic heritage was suppressed by later Gurus!
Some tell tale descriptions of Ismaili tactics by Pakistani or Muslim authors –
“In those days the Ismailis had a tradition of posing as adherents of the faith within which they worked. They worked both among the Sunnis and the non-Muslims. There are several instances on record where an Ismaili missionary posed as a Brahmin or a Hindu priest and instead of flatly contradicting the doctrines of the faith he sought to subvert, he accepted its basic assumptions and introduced some of Ismaili beliefs in a disguised form and thus slowly and gradually paved the way for total conversion. Lack of total adherence has never worried the Ismailis because they are fully confident that the convert will ultimately accept the faith fully. This kind of conversion is achieved in a peculiar manner. In the beginning, the appeal is not on the basis of dogma or beliefs, but an attempt is made to convince the potential convert of the spiritual greatness of some person. In the early days, the missionary himself was a man of exemplary character. Very often, Ali was depicted as an incarnation of Vishnu among the Vaishnavites. In short, after some personal loyalty had been created, the disciple was taken through various stages into full-fledged belief in the teachings of Ismaili Islam. The Ismailis were here at an advantage compared to the Sunnis because the latter insist upon total conversion right from the beginning and are not willing to make the least compromise in the matter of doctrine. A change in the name of the convert also became common. The reason for this, in the beginning, was that the pagan names among the converts were often offensive to Muslim ideas of monotheism. Later, however, a change of name became almost obligatory in the popular mind. The justification has been that the convert is thus weaned away totally from his associations with the past which are rooted in a religious tradition. The Ismaili technique has been different. The inspiration has come from their insistence upon certain esoteric meanings of all exoteric institutions of religion. Because they could expand their influence in the world of Islam only by continuous propaganda, they were experts in the propagation of their views.” [Qureshi, 1962:45]
Another historian writes – “the reports sent by Ismaili missionaries from Multan and Sind to the Fatimid Caliph in Cairo are available in the works, compiled in Egypt during the Fatimid period. These reports shed interesting light on the Ismaili propaganda carried on by dais (missionaries). The missionary activity, known as dawa was the most characteristic institutions of Ismailism. Under it, the dai (missionary) was appointed by the Caliph to work in distant places and counties, attract people towards their faith and bring them under its fold. In the first instance the dai worked in the guise of a Hindu monk or a Sunni Muslim as the circumstances demanded of him and would change his method after he had won over a large number of converts to Ismailism. Unlike the Arabs, they (Unlike the Arabs who) were fanatics and hardly tolerated the shrines or places of worship belonging to non-Muslims. A letter dispatched by the dai of Sind in 962 AD to the Caliph tells us how the Ismailis made compromise with Hindu customs and rites in the beginning and then forced their own laws upon the converts. In the letter the dai, Halam mentions the victory “which he achieved in Sind. He writes that he had broken the idols, for the destruction he had previously asked the Imam’s permission”[Siddiqui 1987:38]
Sat Panth name is not a new, but an old name for Nizari Ismailis for several centuries now.
Qureshi, Ishtiaq Husain. 1962. The Muslim Community in the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610-1947). Mouten & Co (‘S-Gravenhage, W Germany).
Sharma, Chhavi Bhargava. 2006. Between the Two Worlds – Long Term Effects of Communal Violence on a Multi-religious, Marginalized Community. WISCOMP. New Delhi
Siddiqui, Iqtidar Husain. 1987. Islam and Muslims in South Asia: Historical Perspective. Adam Publishers and Distributers (New Delhi)