Reasoning and Religiosity of Esotericism-Ta'weel


Knowledge (‘ilm-علم) and wisdom (hikmah-حكمۃ) are, according to Isma’ili belief, eternal gifts from God, revealed to humanity through His prophets. God has successively dispatched six prophets bearing a law (shari’ah): Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ and Muhammad. These prophets are ‘speakers’ (naatiq-ناطق), because they talk to men, proclaiming to them a shari’ah, an exoteric (zaahir-ظاهر) law with its commandments and prohibitions, its ritual obligation and legal definitions. By the side of each prophet-speaker stands an authorized representative (wasi or asaas-وصي، اساس) who knows and teaches eternally immutable ‘esoteric meaning’ (baatin-باطن) of all these prescriptions and regulations-though only to a small number of the elect.

Thus, Adam and his son Abel at his side, Noah and his son Shem, Abraham’s wasi  was his son Ishmeal, Moses’s wasi was his brother Aron, and Jesus Christ’s was Simon Peter. The speaker-prophet  of our era is Muhammad. His wasi or asaas is his cousin and son in law ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib. The latter’s descendents are the true imams of Islamic community (ummah); they alone know and transmit the ‘esoteric meaning’ of the divine revelation proclaimed by Prophet Muhammad. The imams, whose succession continued with the Fatimid caliphs in Cairo till the 21st imam Abul Qaasim at-Taiyeb and their succession is in its place till date though in seclusion, are thus the repositories of the divine message; they are the upholders of ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Wisdom’, which they transmit to their followers, they are the ‘friends of God’ (awliya Allah-أولیاء الله).

The imams spread ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Wisdom’ based on exoteric and esoteric interpretation of divine law through ‘Summoners’, da’is, these are propagators or missionaries who summon people to follow the true imam and instruct the individual who ‘responds to the summons’, al-mustajib or the initiate, through wise sayings and necessary knowledge. The missionary or Da'i as a teacher is the most characteristic figure of the Isma’ili movement. From the very beginning, the Da'i’s travelled far and wide to spread the good tidings.

Tanzeel-تنزیل or Tafsir-تفسیر (outer meaning or commentary on the Qur’an) is completely based of Ta’weel-تأویل (inner meaning) without which Tanzeel becomes void and meaningless.  The everlasting beautiful outward appearance is from inside and that which could not be seen and could not be understood by everyone.   The belief that each and every Qur’anic verse has both outer and inner meaning as the same is the case with the sayings of Prophet Mohammad which are applicable and acceptable in all times till the last Day of Doom.

As distinct from the zaahir (evident meaning) of the literal wordings of sacred texts and religious prescriptions, notably the Qur’an and the Shari’ah, the baatin is the inward, hidden or esoteric meaning having deep and stronger impact on the deeds and thoughts of the believers. In the Isma’ili-Taiyebi gnosis the word baatin goes hand in hand with ta’weel and it exclusively denotes the method of inducing the baatin for the allegorical, symbolic and esoteric interpretation or spiritual-hermeneutic exegesis of historic events and the world of nature as described by the sacred Islamic texts. Ta’weel became the hallmark of Isma’ili thought and literature.  It is to manifest the hidden so as to unveil the true spiritual reality only to those who are properly initiated into the community and who have acknowledged the spiritual guidance of the rightful imam of his era or his representatives who possess the rightful authority to interpret Islam in all its dimensions. Qur'anic verses throws light on this subject in the following way:

  • And bestowed His favours, external and esoteric, in abundance on you? And yet there are men who contend about God without any knowledge or guidance or the Book enlightening.  (al-Qur’an 31-20)
  • He is the first and He the last, the transcendent and the immanent; and He has knowledge of everything.  (al-Qur’an 57-3)
  • But those who are twisted of mind look for verses metaphorical, seeking deviation and giving to them interpretations of their own; but none knows their meaning except God; and those who are steeped in knowledge affirm: "We believe in them as all of them are from the Lord." But only those who have wisdom understand. (al-Qur’an 3-7)

This type of allegorical interpretation is applied on the Hadith of Prophet Mohammad:

  • Unity is mercy, dissent punishment.
  • The Qur’an is the real cure.
  • The mosque is where the pious live.
  • The pinnacle of wisdom is fear of God.
  • Paradise lies beneath your mother’s feet.

Numerous books are dedicated to this topic and it has been written throughout the Islamic era and the same is carried out today too by the missionaries. The distinction between the zaahir and baatin was an integral part of the religious system of thought elaborated by the Isma’ili missionaries of different periods and this particular process continued with the Taiyebis in Yemen.  Below is a small example of esoteric text taken from Kitaab al-Kashf by Ja’far b. Mansur al-Yemen in the mid 4th century AH/10th century AD.

“The Qur’an begins with bismillaah al-rahmaan al-raheem (بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم); bismillaah is comprised of seven letters.  twelve letters emerges from this and that are al-rahmaan al-raheem.  This verse is the beginning of the first chapter of Qur’an surat ul-hamd which has total seven verses.  The seven letters, which are the bismillaah, signify the seven naatiq. The twelve letters that arise from these signify that for each naatiq there are twelve naqeebs or hujjats.  Thus the twelve letters, which are al-rahmaan al-raheem, that arise from the seven lettered bismillaah, together become nineteen letters.  This signifies that from the naatiqs – after each naatiq – seven imaams and twelve hujjats arise, which makes nineteen.  The same is the case with pillars of Islam, in which there are seven pillars each having twelve traditions.”

Zaahir-Exoteric Baatin-Esoteric
Islam Faith
Skies Prophets
Qur’an Household of Prophet Mohammad
Earth Ali bin Abi Taalib
Temporal world Spiritual world
Body      Soul
Prayer Spiritual Mission
Ka’bah  The Imam of the time
Water Knowledge
Oath of Allegiance The right path
Honeybee Believer
Salt Wisdom
Fruits The Imams from the progeny of Prophets


  1. Velji, Jamel A. (2016). An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 62.
  2. al-Qadi, al-Qudai (2016). Light in the Heavens: Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad. New York: New York University Press. pp. 4,7,16,31,77,83,131,157.
  3. Daftary, Farhad (2007). The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines. UK: Cambridge University Press & Institute of Isma'ili Studies. pp. 238–239, 261–264, 276, 277,515,522.
  4. Daftary, Farhad (2012). Historical Dictionary of the Ismailis. UK: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 15,31,151,155,166,202,205.
  5. Ismail K, Poonawala (2002). The Pillars of Islam. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pp. 367,496,502.
  6. Halm, Heinz (2001). The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning. New York: I B Tauris. pp. 17,18,82.

A Beginner in Isma'ili Taiyebi Faith


مؤمن مستجیب - Mu'min Mustajeeb - A Believer or a Beginner in Isma'ili Taiyebi Faith who pure-heartedly, respectfully, devotionally and uncondionally accepts the guidance from Mukaasir e Mutlaq and gives Oath of Obedience to all the Eight Spiritual Ranks viz. from Mukaasir to Nabi (prophet). After giving oath he initiates his long journey of learning, piety and salvation. With every passing day he only learns and acquires the articles of faith which his Superiors think beneficial for him. As he is a beginner, as per Isma'ili Faith, he cannot doubt or question a little bit on any command of his Masters (صاحب مقام).


Da'i al-Mutlaq


الداعي المطلق، داعي المطلق - ad-Da'i ul-Mutlaq or Da'i al-Mutlaq: It is the spiritual rank in Isma'ili Da'wah which became more explicit and operational after the seclusion of 21st Fatimid Imaam of Cairo, Abul Qaasim at-Taiyeb in 528 AH/1134 AD. After Mohammad this rank is on the 6th position and after this comes Mazoon-مأذون and Mukaasir-مکاسر. Before the seclusion the Da’i or a missionary works under the direct orders of Imaam and his trusted associates in all the 12 islands-جزائر where faithful were present and living openly propounding their faith or secretly due to the fear of their lives. In Yemen, after the seclusion, Da’i was given Itlaaq-إطلاق or a free conduct and absolute religious and social authority but under the governing principles of Isma’ili Taiyebi Faith. His command is regarded as a final decree guided by the divine support of Imaam and this is the reason he is called Da'i al-Mutlaq. Unlike the case of Imaam, where he appoints his successor only from his sons through divinely guided practice called Nass-نص, the Da’i can appoint anyone in his place who is most trusted, pious and capable of carrying Da’wah affairs with wisdom and proficiency. Haatim Zakiyuddin is the 45th Da’i al-Mutlaq of Alavi Bohras in the line of succession of these Da’is in which 24 are in Yemen, 7 are in Ahmedabad, 1 is in Surat and 12 are in Vadodara.

  Designating a person on a spiritual rank
  نص - Nass: It is an explicit, clear and specific declaration and designation through Divine Indication and Spiritual Intervention-تأئید إلھي for the appointment of a successor-منصوص, be it an Imaam or his deputy-داعي during Imaam’s concealment by his predecessor-ناص amongst his subjects, publicly-نص جلي or privately نص خفي and at times supported by written documentary orders-سجل شریف. This tradition and practice-سنۃ اللہ is related to the Isma’ili Taiyebi succession to the seat of Imaamat, whereby each Imaam under hidden heavenly commands designates his successor, when he witnesses the Light of Imaamat-نور الإمامۃ has got transferred to one of his sons whom he selects for Nass. During the seclusion of Imaam, his deputy-Da’i performs this act of succession whom he finds eligible for the status of Da’i. He might not be from his sons, unlike the succession of Imaam where an Imaam always appoints his successor from one of his sons. The succession of Imaamat has begun from the Aadam Safiyullaah-آدم صفي اللہ and will continue till the last day when Qaa’im ul Qeyaamah-قائم القیامۃ will act as the final authority on the Day of Judgement.

Mazoon al-Mutlaq


المأذون المطلق - al-Mazoon al-Mutlaq, Mazoon e Mutlaq: The Licentiate, Authoritative Rank, the most trusted associate in Da’wah ranks who takes Bay’at-Pledge of Loyalty from his subjects by the orders of Da’i al-Mutlaq. He is on a Spiritual Rank in the Isma’ili Taiyebi Da’wah hierarchy immediately below the authority of Da’i who sits in his right side and who carries out the religious activities as per the regulations of Da’wah organization. At any cost he always assists and obeys his superior and his Master, the Da’i al-Mutlaq. His prime responsibility is to conduct teaching sessions and make them understand the basic things of Isma’ili Taiyebi faith. In the absence of Da’i he acts as his legatee. Da’i may appoint his Mazoon as his successor. And if not Da’i can appoint someone more learned and efficient for the post of Da’i after him and can never disqualifies Mazoon from his post. As the respectable post of Mazoon is necessary for the completeness of Spiritual Hierarchy. As far as Alavi Da'wah is concerned, from the time of 28th Da'i in Ahmedabad till 44th Da'i in Vadodara, every Mazoon has become Mansoos (successor) of a former Da'i. There exist not a single instance where Mazoon and Mansoos are separate entities. Da'i after examining minutely appoints his Mazoon only when he finds him eligible to be his successor. On the death of Mazoon, Da'i immediately appoints another trusted person on this rank.


Mukaasir al-Mutlaq


المکاسر المطلق - al-Mukaasir al-Mutlaq, Mukaasir e Mutlaq - The Eight and the last rank in the Spiritual Hierarchy of the Isma’ili Taiyebism. He sits left to the Da’i al-Mutlaq during the religious gathering-Majlis. He is lower to the rank of Mazoon. He is well versed and well informed about the baseless beliefs of other sects for which he thinks as a threat to the faith of believers. His responsibility is to train the beginner - مستجیب مؤمن and win over the neophyte who is little aware of the overall understanding of Islamic Faith and by proper grooming he enters him into the fold of Isma’ilism by taking Oath of Fealty in the name of the present Da’i al-Mutlaq. He is quite expert in putting Rational and Logical arguments with necessary ideological and doctrinal proofs and healthy debates. On the death of Mukaasir, Da'i entrusts this rank to one of his close associates. In some cases, on the death of Mazoon, Da'i elevates Mukaasir to the rank of Mazoon.

  Salaam and Qadam-bosi

سلام - Salaam - Salutation, Safety, Greeting, Peace or Respect of a person with Spiritual status or a general believer of Da'wat ul-Haqq (mission of truth). It is one of the beautiful attributes of Allaah the Almighty. This term is used 19 times in the Qur'an and it is equal to the letters if "Bismillaah ir Rahman ir Raheem", the beginning of the Qur'an and the most recited verse in the Islamic World. The completion of any supplication (du'aa-دعاء) is endorsed with the Salaam (salawaat-صلوات) on the Prophets and their households. It also refers to the prescribed Islamic voluntary or compulsory monetary payments done by a believer throughout the year to the Da'i (missionary). It is the basic element of Islamic etiquette and ethics. It is regarded as good practice to start any talk with "as-salaamo 'alaykum"-السلام علیکم (peace be upon you). The greeting of the people of Paradise-اھل الجنۃ is Salaam. The faith of Islam is nothing but Salaam. The core of Islam is to remain in Peace and to make others feel Peace. A believer must do salaam & qadam-bosi-قدم بوسي (to kiss right knee of an Imaam) after every prayer (namaaz). Salaam is that a believer bows down in front of an Imaam then holds his right hand while keeping his right eye first then left eye then forehead and at the end kisses his hand. This he does 2 times. Then at the end kisses his right knee and does request for Du'aa and blessings. This refers to the Prophetic tradition that, "Paradise is underneath the Feet of Mothers," Mothers here means the Imaam or his representative (da'i) from the progeny of Prophet Mohammad.

The Heart of the Qur'an is its Chapter Yaa Seen (36). The heart of this chapter is its verse "Peace is the word from a Merciful Lord" (58). The heart of this verse is Salaam. So truly speaking the essence of Qur'an is Peace. The first sign of hypocrisy and enmity is to stop offering Salaam.

Prophetic Traditions: 1. Offering the peace-greeting and speaking with kindness will assuredly win God's mercy. 2. Call out the peace greeting and you will know peace. 3. Show concern for your relatives, even with a greeting. 4. The greeting of our people is "Peace", our subject's security. 5. Greet before conversing.

41st Indian missionary Saiyedna Jivabhai Fakhruddin (d. 1347 AH/1929 AD) says in his poetic verses, "Khuda ne kaha jinko har dam Salaam, Kalaam unka hai goya Haqq ka Kalaam", God has offered Salaam to the ones whose dialogue and words are the words of Truth (God).


شجرۃ - Shajarah - Tree. Tree means the spiritual hierarchy within the Taiyebi Da'wat. It starts from the first Prophet of Islam Maulaana Adam who conveyed the core message of the Oneness of Allaah till the Last Prophet of Islam Mohammad al-Mustafaa who is the Seal of Prophethood. After him his progeny became the guardian of Islam and this will continue till the Last day of Judgement. This holy tree will never die and it will provide the cool shadow of peace and progress to the travellers in this world in the form Du'aat-missionaries.

In Qur'anic verses the Holy Tree-شجرۃ طیبۃ is referred to the Light of Allaah which means keeping faith in Aal e Mohammad and their Da'i and this faith gives Noor to the heart of the faithful (ch. 24 v. 35). This Holy Tree is also related to the Good Utterance-کلمۃ طیبۃ i.e. the Imaam from the Pure Progeny-ذریۃ طیبۃ of Prophet Mohammad who will remain all the time for the guidance of humanity. The roots of this holy tree is very strong and spread across the land and its branches have gone high in the heavens (ch. 14 v. 24).

Prophet Mohammad says in one of his Hadees: "I am in this world like a traveler who takes a nap in the shade of a tree on a hot day, then continues on his way." Here, the shade of tree is Nubuwat (prophethood) and the hot day is the world of ignorance. After getting divine attachment one can proceed in his travel and hope for the better Hereafter-آخرۃ

Saiyedna Hasan bin Nooh Bharuchi in one of his works brings vivid description of this Holy Tree: "Mohammad al-Mustafaa is the base (root), 'Ali Ameer ul-Mumineen is its trunk, Faatimah az-Zahraa is its branches, Imaam Hasanand Imaam Husain are its fruits and flowers and Shi'a is its leaves. It has been grown in the Paradise, the like of which one can never find on this earth."

  Spiritual mission

دعوۃ - Da’wat is a call, mission, invitation or summons related to divinity or spirituality towards the unity and oneness of Allaah. The mission is of Truth and the truth could never be separated from the Almighty (al-Qur'an ch.13 v.14). It existed before this material world and will be there after its annihilation. It is the Mission of Truth, the Bridge towards Salvation, an Arc of Guidance, the Light showing the Point of Return, the Way to Heavens, the Proof of Imaamat-امامۃ and an institution to attain ranks as per the deeds. It also refers to the hierarchy of ranks (hudood-حدود) within the rightly guided religious organization called ad-Da’wat ul-Haadiyah-الدعوۃ الھادیۃ. The one who calls is called Da’i-داعي or Haadi-ھادي (missionary or guide) who is divinely appointed by his predecessor. Everyone who heads Da’wat right from the first prophet Aadam until Muhammad, his progeny and their deputies are called Da’i with the same aim, guidance and directives. Da’wat is for Unity and Peace. Outwardly it is in the form of Islam and inwardly it is Imaan-ایمان (faith). Today, 45th Da’i al-Mutlaq Saiyedna saheb is the deputy of the Da’wat of Imaam uz Zamaan-امام الزمان, the hidden imaam from the lineage of 21st Imaam Abul Qaasim at-Taiyeb.

The Da'wat is organized hierarchically, in line with the particular importance accorded to hierarchism and step by step designation in Fatimid Isma'ili thought carried forward in its Taiyebi branch in Yemen and India. Indeed, there is a close analogy between the terrestrial hierarchy of the Fatimid Da'wat organization with its highest ranks of Naatiq (Nabi, prophet), Asaas (Wasi, vicegerent) and Imaam, and the celestial or cosmological hierarchy developed during the period of the Fatimid Caliphate and strictly followed by the missionaries in India today.

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