Event Date: 9-10 September 2011
Royal Holloway, University of London
Contesting Shi‘ism: Isna ‘Ashari and Isma‘ili Shi‘ism in modern South Asia
Michel Boivin –
The Ithna ‘Ashari- Isma‘ili divide among the Khojas: exploring forgotten judicial sources from Karachi around 1910.
When Hasan Ali Shah (d. 1882), the living imam of the Isma‘ili Shias, came to settle in India, a section of his alleged followers, known as the Khojas, rejected his authority. After a number of court cases, they shifted to Sunnism or Ithna ‘Ashari Shi‘ism. This divide is well documented by scholars working with Bombay judicial sources, in particular the Aga Khan Case (1866); on the contrary, the judicial sources from Karachi have not yet received significant attention. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Karachi was challenging Bombay as a main economic centre of the Empire. Karachi was thus a hub for the Khojas, as well as for other merchant groups. From the 1850s, the “Pearl of the East” was regularly visited by Hasan Ali Shah’s son and heir, Ali Shah (d. 1885). Ali Shah’s own son and successor, Sultan Muhammad Shah (d. 1957), was born there in 1877. This paper wishes to explore such resources for fostering a fresh understanding of the Ithna ‘Ashari-Isma‘ili divide among the Khojas around 1910.