The Ismaili Shia are also known as Seveners because in the eighth
century their leaders rejected the heir designated by the sixth
Imam, Jafar al Sadiq (d.765), whom the Imami accepted. The new
group instead chose to recognize Jafar's eldest son, Ismail, as
the seventh Imam and the Shia community split into two branches.
Ismaili communities in Afghanistan are less populous than the
Imami who consider the Ismailis heretical. They are found primarily
in and near the eastern Hazarajat, in the Baghlan area north of
the Hindu Kush, among the mountain Tajik of Badakhshan, and amongst
the Wakhi in the Wakhan Corridor.
Many Ismaili believe the line of Imam ceased when Ismail died
before his father in AD 760; others believe he did not die but
remains in seclusion and will return at the end of the world.
Ismaili beliefs are complex and syncretic, combining elements
from the philosophies of Plotinus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, gnosticism,
and the Manichaeans, as well as components of Judaism, Christianity,
and Eastern religions. Ismaili conceptions of the Imamat differ
greatly from those of other Muslims and their tenets are unique.
Their beliefs about the creation of the world are idiosyncratic,
as is their historical ecumenism, tolerance of religious differences,
and religious hierarchy. There is a division of theology into
exoteric (including the conservative Shariah) and esoteric
(including the mystical exegesis of the Quran which leads to haqiqa,
the ultimate realty). These beliefs and practices are veiled in
secrecy and Ismaili place particular emphasis on taqiya
meaning to shield or guard, the practice that permits the believer
to deny publicly his Shia membership for self-protection, as long
as he continues to believe and worship in private. Taqiya
is permissible in most Shia, and some Sunni, sects.
Ismailis in Afghanistan are generally regarded with suspicion
by other ethnic groups and for the most part their economic status
is very poor. Although Ismaili in other areas such as the northern
areas of Pakistan operate well-organized social welfare programs
including schools, hospitals and cooperatives, little has been
done among Afghan Ismaili communities.
Considered less zealous than other Afghan Muslims, Ismaili are
seen to follow their leaders uncritically. The pir or
leader of Afghan Ismailis comes from the Sayyid family of Kayan,
located near Doshi, a small town at the northern foot of the Salang
Pass, in western Baghlan Province. During the Soviet-Afghan War
this family acquired considerable political power.
name Afghanistan conventional long form Islamic State of
Afghanistan conventional short form Afghanistan local long
form Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan local short form Afghanestan former Republic of Afghanistan
- total: 647,500 sq km land: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km
- mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
- arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
- landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide
the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in
the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
- 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes
occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. We accept no responsibility
for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person resulting from information
published on this site. We encourage you to verify any critical information with
the relevant authorities.