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Seven pillars of Ismailism

The Ismā'īlī Shi'a – the Nizari, Druze and Mustaali – have more Pillars than those of the Sunni. The Shahadah (profession of faith), is not considered a Pillar and is instead seen as the foundation upon which they are built.[1]

The Ismā'īlī Pillars

  • Walayah “Guardianship” denotes love and devotion to God, the prophets, the scripture, the imams and the du'āt "missionaries". In Ismā'īlī doctrine, God is one and the true desire of every soul, creator of everything. the appointed du'āt lead believers to the right path. The Druze refer to this pillar as Taslīm "Submission".
  • Taharah "Purity": The Ismā'īlī lay special emphasis on purity and its related practices, and the Nizari consider this in a more esoteric sense too and apply it to purity of mind, soul and action, the Musta'lis also apply it to ritual practices related to prayer and cleanliness.
  • Salat "Prayer": Unlike Sunni and Twelver Muslims, Nizari Ismā'īliyya reason that it is up to the current imām to designate the style and form of prayer, and for this reason the current Nizari practices resemble dua and pray them three times a day. These three times have been related with the three times that have been mentioned in the Qur'an: sunrise, before sunset, and after sunset. In contrast, the Musta'lī maintain five prayers and their style is generally closely related to that of the Twelvers. The Druze believe that the meaning of prayer is sidqu l-lisān "speaking Truth (to/about God)" and do not believe in five daily prayers. They do sometimes attend prayers, which is the practice of the "uninitiated" (juhhāl) and historically was also done for reasons of taqiyya.
  • Zakah "Charity": with the exception of the Druze, all Ismā'īlī Madh'hab have practices resembling that of Sunni and Twelver Muslims with the addition of the characteristic Shī'a khums: payment of 1/8th of one's unspent money at the end of the year to the imām. In addition to khums, Ismā'īlīs pay 12.5% of their monthly gross income to the imām, which goes to the central accounts and then spent on welfare of the humankind like education and health projects. One of the major examples of these projects is the Aga Khan Development Network, that is one of the biggest welfare networks of the world. Thus, Ismā'īlīs believe that as Muhammad was designated to take zakāt from the believers in the past, it is now the duty to pay the imām or his representative. The Druze practice hifzu l-'Ikhwān "Protection of One's Brothers" instead of paying a fee, a culturally complex practice of interdependence.
  • Sawm “Fasting”: Nizari and Musta'lī believe in both a metaphorical and literal meaning of fasting. The literal meaning is that one must fast as an obligation, such as during the Ramadan and the metaphorical meaning being that one is in attainment of the Divine Truth and must strive to avoid worldy activities which may detract from this goal. In particular, Ismā'īlīs believe the real and esoteric meaning of fasting is avoiding devilish acts and doing the good deeds. Not eating during the month of Ramadan in conjunction with a metaphorical implementation of fasting. The Druze emphasise the esoteric meaning, which they call tark 'ibādat al-awthān "deserting idol-worship": that which detracts from communion with God is an idol (wathan).
  • Hajj “Pilgrimage”: For Ismā'īlīs, visiting the imām or his representative is one of the most aspired pilgrimages. There are two pilgrimages: Hajj-i-Zahiri and Hajj-i-Batini the first is the visit to Mecca, the second, being in the presence of the Imam. The Musta'lī maintain also the practice of going to Mecca. The Druze interpret this completely metaphorically as "fleeing from devils and oppressors" and rarely go to Mecca.[2]
  • Jihad "Struggle": The definition of jihad is controversial as it has two meanings: "the Greater Struggle" and the "The Lesser Struggle", the latter of which means a confrontation with the enemies of the faith. The Nizari are pacifist and interpret "adversaries" of the faith as personal and social vices (i.e. wrath, intolerance, etc.) and those individuals who harm the peace of the faith and avoid provocation and use force only as a final resort only in self-defense. The Druze have a long history of military and political engagement, but refer to this pillar solely as Rīda "Contentment" – the war to fight that which removes you from the ease of the Divine Presence, a meaning similar to that of the Nizari. In addition, the 'Uqqāl "Wise Ones", the religious cadre of the Druze, are pacifists.

Druze list