By Mr. Fakquir Muhammad, Karachi (Pakistan)
The name of Hazrat Abu Yaqub as-Sijistani is placed among the names of those well known preachers of "Ismaili religion" who made fruitful efforts to combine religion and philosophy and used the latter as a weapon and source to contradict or to bring down the critics of religion and to prove the truthfulness of religion.
His full name was Ishaq Bin Ahmad and his surname was Bandana. According to Professor, W. Ivanow, this surname is used in place of Bandanai or Bandani, probably due to his belonging to Bandan a district in the Northern part of Sijistan (or Sistan). But usually he is known as Sijistani (or Sijzi, or Sigzi).
Birth And Education: Like other famous Ismaili preachers, the details of his life history are not available. From some notes on his life found in history books, we come to know that he was born about 271 A.H. in Bandan a district in the north of Sijistan. Sijistan is situated in the south of Khurasan, which is the birth place of the famous Iranian wrestler Rustam. Some people say that Hazrat Sijistani's family was also a member of the same race, but some others say that he belonged to the Arab race; his grandfather had settled in Khurasan after migrating from Kufa.
As far as his education is concerned, we know nothing about his early religious education and his secular education. But it is said that he gained his knowledge of preaching and philosophy in schools devoted to Ismaili preaching in Yaman. During his studies he proved to be very intelligent and a genius and very soon he was known as a great philosopher. He had a golden opportunity to gain some knowledge of preaching and philosophy from Hazrat Abu Abd Allah (or Abu'l Hasan) Muhammad Bin Ahmad Nasafi, (or Nakhshabi), a great philosopher and preacher. Hazrat Sijistani was much influenced by Hazrat Nasafi's views and was a great supporter of these views. Therefore, when Hazrat Abu Hatim ar Razi wrote the book "Kitab al-Islah" for the correction of a few points of views of Hazrat Nasafi, presented in the latter's book "al-Mahsul", Hazrat Sijistani wrote the book "Kitab an Nusra" in support of Hazrat Nasafi's views.
Preaching: After completing his studies, he was appointed as a preacher in Eastern countries like Khurasan and others along with Hazrat Nasafi.That period when Hazrat Sijistani was preaching is known as Golden Age in the history of preaching of Ismaili religion, because by that time, Hazrat Imam Mahdi had appeared in the West according to the following Hadith "The sun will rise in the West after three hundred years after Hijrah," and Ismaili preachers were spreading the Ismaili views all over the world.
Although, in the light of the good speeches of the preachers well documented with knowledge and logic, the preaching was successful everywhere yet. at the same time the opposition was also increasing. Especially in Eastern countries like Khurasan, to rouse the people towards the Ismaili religion was considered just as to jump in the well of death. It was due to the fact that the ruler of that part of the world, being under the influence of Abbasid Caliphs, were the greatest enemies of Ismailis. Therefore, due to this religious opposition, Hazrat Husayn Bin Ali al-Maruzi, a teacher of Hazrat Nasafi was killed by Nasar Bin Ahmad Samani. Although Hazrat Nasafi and Hazrat Sijistani were well aware of this danger, still they worked in this area with great boldness and stability. They preached in such a logical way that not only the courtiers and friends of the king adopted the Ismaili faith, but the King Nasar Bin Ahmad Samani himself adopted this religion willingly. The king not only believed in the religion but he also sent 1,19,000 dinars to Hazrat Imam Mahdi as a compensation for the death of Husayn Bin Ali al-Maruzi. Thus these two learned preachers and scholars met with great success in spreading the true religion in the East.
Abbasi Caliphs did not like Ismaili teachings to spread and they tried to stop it by any means. Therefore, in the year 331 Hijri or 942 C.E. with the help of Nuh Bin Nasar son of Nasar Bin Ahmad, and his commander-in-chief, they made a plan against the Ismailis and jailed Nasar Bin Ahmad. Then they started the cruel mass murder of Ismailis.
In Ismaili History this mass murder is referred to as the Great Trial. In this mass murder Hazrat Nasafi was killed along with many other preachers. According to Abdul Qahir at Baghdadi (429 A.H.) Hazrat Sijistani was also killed. But according to recent research and also to the books written by Hazrat Sijistani himself and by other authors, the date given by Baghdadi is wrong, Sijistani had escaped this mass murder. His own book Kitab al-lftikhar proves he was alive till 361 Hijri (972 C.E.) and according to the book al-Mabda' wal-Ma'ad he was alive till 386 Hijri (996 C.E.).
After escaping from the mass murder of 942 C.E. (331 Hijri), it seemed likely that he worked in Bukhara. This is also supported by Arif Tamir who writes that the Hazrat was preaching in the period of Hazrat Imam al-Muizz (365 Hijri). However, Ibn Nadim writes in his book al-Fihrist (completed in 377 Hijri) that Sijistani was appointed as a preacher in Ray. In this book he writes that Ismaili preachers were Mooslis and they were preaching in AI-Jazair (Algeria) under the order of Caliph Abu Yaqub, who was staying in Ray at that time. Most probably Caliph Abu Yaqub was referred as Hazrat Abu Yaqub as Sijistani by Ibn Nadim.
Besides, Dr. Mustafa Ghalib writes, with reference to "the secret Ismaili documents" that Hazrat Sijistani was the head of all the preaching institutions in Persia.
Moreover, according to the research of Professor Stern (details are given in the following pages) it does not seem impossible that he was still alive in the era of Hazrat Imam ai-Hakim bi-Amri'il-lah (Peace be upon him) (386 - 411 Hijri).
Thus, in the light of history we come to know that his efforts to preach Ismailism were not discontinued in 331 Hijri, but he continued his services for Ismaili religion for more than half a century. Thus, in this way he had a golden opportunity to spread Ismailism from the period of Hazrat Imam Mahdi to the period of Hazrat Imam al-Hakim bi-amri'l-lah (peace be upon him) i.e. for a period of six caliphs.
HAZRAT SIJISTANI AS A SCHOLAR:
Hazrat Sijistani has a great value both as a Muslim philosopher and as a preacher of Ismailism.
As has already been stated, Hazrat Sijistani is regarded as one of those greatest Muslim philosophers and scholars who have contributed a lot to combine Islamic way of life with logic and to develop Muslim philosophy.
The period in which Hazrat Sijistani was preaching was considered as the golden age of the history of Muslim knowledge and thinking due to the development of Islamic literature and to the publication of translated version of Greek philosophical books. Unfortunately, besides this development, Muslims suffered from a confusion in their thinking and a troubled soul due to some extremist scholars; that is, some narrow minded philosophers gave preference to philosophy over Shariat (religious law) refusing to believe in Holy Prophets and neglecting the logic and knowledge of some people praising superficiality, although knowing that knowledge and logic offer a great reward according to the Holy Quran. These philosophies issued a judicial decree of infidelity against the people who studied these thoughts. All this created such a big gap between religious law and logic that it was very difficult to bridge that schism. It was a challenge for the neutral Muslim scholars and philosophers to prove the reality and truthfulness of Islam by logic and shariat (religious laws) both. Therefore, at this critical stage, Ismaili preachers were the first to come forward to fulfil their duty and they did it with a great success.
Hazrat Abu Hatim ar-Razi (322 Hijri) discussed the matter with Abu Bakr Muhammad Bin Zakariya Razi (313 Hijri) a famous Physician and philosopher and the head of the group of people not believing in the prophets after the last Prophet. Hazrat Abu Hatim ar-Razi also wrote a book A'lam an-Nubuwwat refuting Abu Bakr Muhammad Bin Zakariya ar-Razi. In this book he has proved the necessity for prophets after the last Prophet by logical and illogical arguments and with reference to the books of different religions. Although, many Muslim scholars and learned men like Abu Nasr Farabi (339 Hijri) and Ibn Hazam Zahni from Spain (456 Hijri) have written many books against Abu Bakr Razi, yet there is no doubt that the first one was written by Hazrat Abu Hatim ar-Razi.
Hazrat Sijistani continued the mission started by preceding scholars and preachers. He wrote a valuable book "Ithbatu'n Nubuwwat" on the problem of necessity for Prophets after the Last Prophet. This problem had attracted the attention of all Islamic circles of knowledge and thought at that time. In his book he proved the existence of prophets by arguments from all religions and soul of man and the physical state of nature. He had also admitted his belief in the Last Prophet (Peace be upon him). Besides this, Hazrat Sijistani has written many other valuable books on Muslim philosophy in which he has combined Shariat (religious law) with logic and has shown that actually these two are not contradictory to each other but they point towards a single one object.
In recognition to his services in the field of knowledge, researchers who have worked on his books and his philosophy, place him among those greatest philosophers and scholars who have contributed immensely to the development of Muslim thinking. Dr. Hasan Ibrahim Hasan wrote that Hazrat Abu Ya'qub as-Sijistani has compiled many books that had a profound impact on development of Islamic thinking and the development of philosophy of Ismaili religion.
Dr. Taha Ahmad Sharif writes about Ismaili preachers that Hazrat Nasafi and Hazrat Sijistani and other Ismaili preachers were along the great philosophers and they made valuable discussions with contemporary philosophers.
Dr. Hussayn Hamdani writes that Hazrat Sijistani is another Ismaili preacher and protector of Islam who used philosophy itself as a weapon against opponents of religion, and he is one of those very early philosophers and thinkers who have contributed a large part in the development of Ismaili philosophy.
Professor Stern writes that a thorough study of the writings of Hazrat Sijistani is very necessary. This is because his writings are our greatest proof about the believer of the philosophical branch of Ismailism in 4th century Hijri and 10th century milad.
Finally to realise Sijistani's greatness as a scholar, it is enough to know that Hazrat Hamid ad-din Kirmani, a great Ismaili philosopher, who was also a student of the former and he gained his knowledge of Ismaili philosophy from Hazrat Sijistani and carried it to its peak. Secondly, he removed all small differences in Ismaili beliefs which existed among the preachers before him. He constructed the building of Ismaili philosophy on such a solid foundation that there has never been even a minor difference among his succeeding preachers.
Even today some historians and biographers believe in the date quoted by Abd al-Qadir al Baghdadi (Hijri : 429) that Hazrat Sijistani was killed in the mass murder of 331 Hijri/942 C.E., along with Hazrat Nasafi and other Ismailis. But according to the recent research of Professor W. lvanow and Professor Stern based on Sijistani's own books and other history books, this date is proved to be wrong.
In the 9th Chapter of his book "al-iftikhar", Hazrat Sijistani writes that at the time of writing this book, a period of more than 350 years had elapsed since the death of the Holy Prophet.
Another similar statement comes in the 13th Chapter of the same book under the heading of "Knowledge of Ablution and Neatness." Since the Holy Prophet died in 11 Hijri, therefore, Hazrat Sijistani was alive till at least 361 Hijri/972 C.E.
Besides, Professor W. lvanow quotes from Hazrat Sijistani's book "al-Mabda', Wa'l ma'ad" that in the preface of this book Hazrat Sijistani has recognised Maulana at-Hakim bi Amri-i-lah as "Imam-e-Zamana" (Caliph or leader of the world at that time). The latter was a Caliph in the year 386 Hijri/996 C.E. Accordingly, Sijistani was alive till at least 386 Hijri 996 C.E.
Besides, Arif Tamir writes in the preface of his book "Al-Riaz" that Hazrat Sijistani was appointed as a preacher in Bukhara by the order of Caliph Hazrat al Mu'izz who was a Caliph from 341 Hijri - 365 Hijri. In this respect he was a contemporary of the Magistrate Hazrat an-Nu'man (362H) and Hazrat Ja'far Bin Mansur from Yaman (365 Hijri).
Also, Professor Stern quoted from Rashid ad-din (Jami'at Tawarikh i.e. Complete Histories - a book from the British Museum, No. 7628) that "after the death of Hazrat Nasafi who was sentenced to death in Bukhara (331 H/942 C.E.), Hazrat Ishaq al-Sijzi was captured by Amir Khalf Bin Ahmad al-Sijzi (the latter was a ruler from another safary family who ruled from 349 Hijri to 399 Hijri). From the above statement, probably he means that Hazrat Sijistani was killed by Amir Khalf." From this statement we infer that he did not die before 349 Hijri. Therefore, the date of his death as given by Baghdadi proves to be incorrect, and from these historical evidence we conclude that he passed away like his forefathers in the path of religion; but this death did not occur in 331 Hijri, instead it probably occurred between 386 Hijri - 399 Hijri in the era of Amir Khalf Bin Ishaq (read Ahmed in the place of Ishaq since Ishaq is incorrect although it is given thus in history books).
May Allah shower his blessings on the Holy People who gave their lives only for Allah.
Sayyidna Sijistani was a great author. He has produced books on different subjects concerning Muslim philosophy and Ismaili Da'wat (propagation). Value of these books can be well ascertained from the undermentioned titles selected from the index of Al-Majdu'a as well as 'Ismaili Literature' of Prof. W. Ivanow.
1. lthbatu'n-Nubuwwat' It is his greatest and remarkable work. In it he has communicated different religions such as Daysanites, Marcionites, Sanavi (of China), Mazdakites, Zorastrian, etc. It has seven parts and each part depends upon 12 chapters. In these parts clarification on variation in the Universe, proof of the Creator of the Universe, Apostles' discord in exoteric matters and accord in esoteric matters, prophets' epochs, presence of wondrous subjects and solid proofs of the Apostle's prophethood in holy Quran and Shariat, etc. have taken place subjectwise.
2. Kitabul Yanabi'. It has been created on 40 sources. Yanbu' means spring or source; Yanabi' is its plural. In it clarification of the meaning of Yanbu', balance between spiritual and physical sources, reality of the universe, concern of two letters, i.e. 'Kun' with God's ordinance, world of wisdom and impulses, firmaments, primitive condition of human being, angles, non-existence of evil in creation, reward, meaning of heaven and hell, parity between bed reading and martyrdom. position of the Lord of the Day of Judgment, singularity and plurality, finality, condition of securing spiritual aid in physical world, etc., subjects have been discussed. Prof. Henry Corbin has translated this book into French and has published it in 1961 from Tehran and Paris.
3. Kitabul Mawazin. It depends on 19 chapters. In it reputation of opposition of truth and its follies; amenities for approvers of truth and detrimental results for its disapprovers; mystique of the Creator; ordinance, prayer and its mystique; mystique of wisdom and its qualities; two main (wisdom and impulse) and three subordinates (jad, victory and idea) : Natiqs, Asas and Imams' mystique Hujjat and Da'is, ever living and his importance; benediction for Virtuous and conviction for wrongdoers; knowledge and spiritual aid (gain of which is eternal repose and its loss ever lasting): etc., have been explained with evidence.
4. Tuhfat al-multajib or mustajibin. In it God's ordinance, Kalima, wisdom, sabik. void, hayala, impulse, lawh, firmament. thani, tali, appreciation, complexion. sun, moon, 2 main, jad, victory, idea meaning of 7 spiritual letters, etc., have been clarified.
5. Kitab al-lftikhar' It has been composed in 17 chapters, in which unity, ordinance, wisdom, and impulse; jad, victory, idea; 7 spiritual letters; prophethood, visazat, Imamate, doomsday, baas, benediction and conviction deep meaning of holy Quran, as well as arkan (foundation) and secret of Shariah, etc., have been dealt with.
6. Al-Mabda' wa'l-ma'ad: It is a booklet, in which unity of God, lauh, Mabda and Ma'ad of Nafs Natiqu have been discussed. According to W. lvanow, in the introduction of this booklet Imam Hakim bi Amrillah. has been referred to as Imam. No mention is made in the index of Fihrist al-Majdu' about this booklet, which is to be found in a private collection.
7. Sullam an-Najat: It has been written subjectivise. In it Quranic conception of faith termed as 'al Imam billahi wa Malaikatihi wa kutubihi wa rusoolihi wal yawmil aakhiri wal baasi baadal maut wal janatu wan-naar', etc., have been discussed. Moreover, in this book mention is also made of Sanavi, Daysanite, Sabean Majusi, etc.
8. Kitab an-Nusra fi sharh ma qala-hu'sh-Shaykh al-hamid fi kitab al-Mahsul: It is a refutation, by Sayyidna Sijistani, of criticisms on 'al-Mahsul' of Sayyidna Nasafim made by Sayyidna Hatim ar-Razi in his book al-Islah.
9. al-Maqalid al-Malakutiyya. It has been reproduced in 'Kiatbul Azhar'.
10. Musliyat al-ahzan. It has been written on greatness of patience in sufferings and in difficulties.
11. Kitab al-wa'iz. It has been written on the regulations of righteousness.
12. Ar-Risalat al-Bahira' It has been written on omniscience of God, mention of which has been made by Pir Nasir Khusraw in his book 'Zadul Musafarin'.
13. Al-Radd 'ala man waqaf 'inda'l-falak al-muhit mina'l-falasifa. It has been dealt with world constitution and astronomy.
14. Kitab al-Bisharat. It has been communicated in another book of Sayyidna Sijistani.
15. Asas ad-Da'wat'
16. Kashf al-Asrar. Mention of these books has been made on page 283 of al Farqu Bainui Farq' by Baghdadi. Besides this, nothing could be known about these from other books.
17. Ta'wil ash-shara'i. It has been also described in 'al-Farq' by Baghdadi, besides in the index of 'Majdua'. In it facts and secrets of shari'at as well as deep understanding of Quranic verses, besides many other subjects have been discussed.
18. Sus al-baqa or usus an-ni'am. It has been mentioned only in 'Zadul Musafarin' by Nasir Khusraw.
19. Sara'ir al-ma'ad wa'l-ma'ash. As it is mentioned in the index of 'ai-Majdua', some find it to have been written by Sayyidna Abu Hatim Razi.
20. al-Kitab al-Gharib fi ma'na'l-Iksir. It has been written on chemical science, to be found in private library.
21. Mu'nis al-qulub
22. Risalat fi Ta'lif al-Arwah
23. Risalat al-Amn mina'al-hayrat. All these three books are to be found in a private library.
24. Khazinat al-adillat: It is dependent on 28 treasures concerning Ismaili concepts. Most probably it has been considered among 13 Risalas by Hamid ad-Din ai-Kirmani. In the index of 'al-Majdua', it is described as a work of unknown individuals.
25. Kashf al-Mahjub. It is in Persian language, description of which has been made on page 422 of 'Zadul Musafarin' by Nasir Khusraw, printed in Berlin, in Khwanul Ikhwan page 117 printed in Cairo, page 139 printed in Teheran, as well as on page 32 printed in Laipaza and page 48 printed in Deccan, of 'Malil Hind'. According to some, it is a translation of 'Kitab al-Asrar'. It has been published by Professor Henry Corbin in French language with an introduction, in 1949 from Teheran and Paris.
B I B L I 0 G R A P H Y
1 . Sayyidna Sijistani: Kitab al-Iftikahar. published by Ismailia Association
for Pakistan. Pg. 132. 181.
2. Baghdadi: al-Fark Bain Fark: Cairo pg. 183.
3. al-Bairuni: Malil Hind; Deccan 1958. pg. 49. Lai Pazag, 1925 Page 32.
3. al-Fehrist; Cairo Page 282.
5. Sayyidna Pir Nasir Khusraw: Jami'u'l-Hikmatayn. Tehran, 1953. Page 171-172.
6. Sayyidna Pir Nasir Khusraw: Zadu'I-Musafirin; Berlin 1932. page 421-423.
7. Sayyidna Pir Nasir Khusraw: Khwanu'i-lkhwan: Cairo 1940. Page 12. 113. 115.
8. Dr. Hasan Ibrahim Hasan: Tarikh-e-Daulat-e-Fatimaha. Third edition. Cairo 1964. Page 472, 473.
9. Dr. Kamil Hussain and Dr. Mustafa Halim: Introduction of 'Rahat al-'aql; Cairo 1952. Page 17.
10. Dr. Kamil Hussain: 'Taifalul Ismailiyah: Cairo 1959. Page 149.
11. Dr. Hasan lbrahim Hasan: Ubaiduilah at-Mahdi. Cairo. 1 947 Page 245.
12. Dr. Taha Ahmad Sharf: Dawlat uh-Nizaria ajda'd-e-Aga Khan: Cairo 1950. Page 18 .
13. Khawaja Rashiduddin: Jami at-tawarikh; Tehran 1338 Page 12-13.
14. Nizamul Mulk: Siyasat Nama: Tehran 1320 Page 266-273.
15. Shaykh Ismail al-Majdua: Fihrist Fi-Kutub wa-Rasail, Tehren, 1966.
16. Stern: Das'irat ui-Ma'riful Islam (Urdu), Punjab University, Part 1, 1962, Page 937, 938,
17. Dr. Kamil Hussain Fi adabi Misril Fatimiha'; Cairo 1950. Page 28.
18. Dr. Zahid Ali: Tarikh-e-Fatimin-e-Misr; Hyderabad Deccan 1948. Page 396.
19. Arif Tamir:Mukdamat af-Yanabi fa Sayyidna Sijistani, Beirut 1960. Page 10, 18.
20. Abdul Rehman . Saif Aazad: Tarikh-e-lkilfaye Fatimin, Tehran 1382 H. Part 1. Page 4-5.
21. Mustafa Ghalib: Mukdamat al-Yanabi la Sayyidna Sijistani. Beirut 1965, Page 45-48.
22. Mustafa Ghalib: Tarikh-e-Da'watul Ismaliyah; Beirut, Page 187.
23. Mustafa Ghalib: Aalam ul-Ismailiyah: Beirut 1964 Page 154.
24. Henry Corbin: Introduction to "Trilogie Ismailienne" Tehran. 1961.
25. Henry Corbin: Introduction to "Kashf-al-Mahjoob" Tehran. 1949.
26. Hamdani: Some Unknown Ismaili authors and their works. (J.R.A.S-) 1933 Page 136.
27 Stern: Encyclopaedia - Leidon :- London 1960, Page 160.
28. W. lvanow: Ismaili Literature. Tehran, 1963, Page 27, 28. 29, 30.
29. W. lvanow: Problems in Nasir Khusraw's Biography, Bombay. 1956, Page 53. 59. 63, 66.
30. W. lvanow: Studies in Early Persian Ismailism, Leidon 1948, Page 119.
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