I begin by taking the name of Allah, to whom all praise is due, and by asking Allah to send peace and blessings upon His final messenger, Muhammad.
When I was an Ismaili I often wondered why people would leave or what problems and dangers they had encountered within the faith. The dangers, stemming from problems in the foundation, are too many to count due to the simple fact that Ismailism is not from Allah – subhanahu wa ta’ala. I could not find a source with all these points compiled, and it was with this in mind that I decided to provide our dear readers with a list of some of the most significant benefits of leaving this sect.
- A Pure Focus on Allah the Almighty
- Safety on The Day of Judgement
- Have a Clear Understanding of Your Beliefs
- Access to Actual ‘Esoteric’ Interpretations
- Access to The Quran and its True Context
- Access to the Life and Hadith of the Noble Prophet
- Access to a Complete Way of Life and Scholarship
- Assurance Against the Pagan and Innovated Concepts in Ismaili Doctrine
1- A Pure Focus on Allah the Almighty
One of the main reasons for the conversion of ex-Ismailis to Sunnism is the focus on Allah – subhanahu wa ta’ala. As many are aware, the main focus in Ismailism is not the Creator, but rather, the creation. Even though Sunnis love the Ahlulbayt deeply, they do not make them the focus of the religion.
Ismailis, sadly, do not enjoy the same focus on Allah. This is most commonly observed in how they, at the very least, insist on putting the Ahlulbayt as an intermediary between them and Allah. This is not encouraged in the Qur’an, for we know that Allah said [Qur’an 2:186]: “And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he calls on Me.”
Furthermore, modern Ismailism takes it a step further and directs the believer to seek their forgiveness and provision straight from the Imam (See article on Ismaili prayers). Ali himself sought forgiveness from Allah and encouraged others to do the same.
Ali ibn Abi Talib reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, your Lord is delighted when his servants says: Lord, forgive my sins, for none forgives sins besides you.”
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 3446 [See more]
Ismailis have been drawn away from this mentality by being told that they need to go through the Ahlulbayt and that their Duas are worth less to Allah without this intercession – do they think that Allah does not respond to one who cries out to Him with a sincere heart? Is the one that bows his head to the floor in prostration not connected enough with His creator for his supplication to be answered?
In Islam, there is no priestly class. The individual prays directly to God without going through an intermediary. When a Muslim seeks forgiveness, he seeks it directly from God with no human having the authority to tell him if his repentance was sufficient or accepted. When a Muslim is in need, he turns directly to God, without having to put his trust and reliance in anyone other than Him. When a Muslim wants to read the revelation and guidance from God, he goes directly to the Quran and Sunnah, being able to read them directly by himself.
Islam will give you the opportunity to have a personal, one-on-one relationship with your Creator. It is to Him that you will call out to and it is to Him that you will ask for forgiveness – is that not much more beautiful than worshipping another man like me and you?
Question for Ismailis: Why would Allah require us to seek intercession through Imams if that’s what the pagans did with their idols before Islam? 
2- Safety on The Day of Judgement
Most Ismailis do not realize it, but if they rely on the faith of their fathers and it turns out that they are not part of the ‘saved-sect,’ then the Ismailis will truly be one of the most devastated groups on the Day of Judgement. Not only have they abandoned the instruction of Allah that He has made clear through the Quran and His Messenger, but they also pray to and ask forgiveness from His creation rather than from Him. This is associating partners with Allah, no matter how one tries to twist it or justify it, and this is the one sin that Allah does not forgive for someone unless they change their ways.
It has been made quite clear from the articles and books available on this website, such as ‘A History of Aga Khani Ismailis’ by Akberally Meherally (a past president of an Ismaili Council and missionary who became Sunni), that the current Ismaili Imamat does not trace back to Ali and goes against Islam’s core teachings. However, if one is still in doubt, it is so much safer to take the path of the Ahlus-Sunnah, or those who follow the Quran and teachings of the Prophet, rather than to risk everything to follow unnecessary innovation that has no proof in the Islamic doctrine. There are many proofs for this, and below are just a few.
The Messenger of Allaah stood among us and said: “Those who came before you of the people of the Book split into seventy-two sects, and this ummah will split into seventy-three: seventy-two in Hell and one in Paradise, and that is the jamaa’ah (main body of Muslims).” [Recorded in Abu Dawood]
In a similar narration, when the Prophet was asked who this saved group will be, he replied with “(those who follow) that which I and my companions follow.” [Recorded in Al-Tirmidhi]
Hazrat Ali himself has said “The people of this nation will split into seventy three sects. The worst among them is one that poses to love us and abandons our orders.” [Al-Ahadith Al-Muntaqat by Ibn Dayzeel p. 96]
It is no question that if the companions or the Prophet were to see the prayers, rituals, beliefs, and attitudes of the Ismailis today, they would be shocked and appalled at the new faith that the Ismailis follow in the name of Islam. The Prophet predicted this when he said:
“Among those in charge of you, after I am gone, will be men who extinguish the Sunnah and follow innovation. They will delay the prayer from its proper time.” I said: “O Messenger of Allah, if I live to see them, what should I do?” He said: “You ask me, O Ibn ‘Abd, what you should do? There is no obedience to one who disobeys Allah.” [Recorded in Sunan Ibn Majah]
Q: If changing the time of a prayer is enough to make someone unworthy of being followed, then what is the status of one who changes the prayer altogether?
3- Have a Clear Understanding of Your Beliefs
When inquired about what his role as what the Imam really means, Sultan Muhammad Shah responded with “I am everything to everybody. If you consider me God, I am your God. If you consider me your spiritual father, I am your spiritual father. If you consider me your Imam, I am your Imam. If you consider me only your friend, I am your friend and so on…” 
For someone who takes their religion seriously and wants to understand it rationally, this is not a sufficient answer. Vague answers like these are provided by Ismaili leaders when asked about the fundamental concepts and beliefs of their faith. Is it not the right of someone to know what role the Imam that they dedicate everything to plays in their life? An Ismaili can keep searching for answers to core questions, but due to the lack of clarity or resolution in the Ismaili doctrine the search will provide more complications than clarifications.
In Islam, one is not only clearly informed about what role the Prophet and Allah play in their lives, but anyone who tries to exaggerate or lessen these roles is quickly rebuked as such core foundational beliefs are evidently detailed in the Quran. No baseless supposition is considered, and every claim requires a proof from Allah and His Messenger. Furthermore, one is encouraged to ask questions and to use their rationale when justifying their faith, whereas in Ismailism one is encouraged to do the opposite; in ancient Ismaili practices the act of ‘fasting’ refers to “keeping silent as to what the Imam does, not trying to find his faults, and recognizing all his actions as just even if they are blameable and impious.” 
Q: If Ismailism claims to be based on ‘Aql, then why does it not have a clear foundational text for its essential beliefs in order for its followers to navigate their faith through reason?
4- Access to Actual ‘Esoteric’ Interpretations
If an Ismaili wished to implement Quran or Hadith in their life, they would quickly be told that they are not following them esoterically as they ‘should’ be. But this is the huge problem in modern Ismaili theology, as the esoteric knowledge, that should be provided by the Imam, simply isn’t.
Ismailis hold that the esoteric knowledge behind Quran and Hadith are allocated exclusively to the Imam. However, he never seems to communicate any of this esoteric knowledge to his followers but rather this search of understanding is left to the individual for themself. It is not surprising then when so many of the Ismaili youth today ask: “So then what is the purpose of having an Imam?”
Likewise, if the Imam says something questionable in a Farman, distressed Ismailis are told it was meant metaphorically (and if we dig deeper, who holds the meaning behind the metaphor? The Imam. And does he disclose these deep meanings to his followers? Never).
It is not unfair to say that this is a huge inconsistency in Ismailism – they see themselves as superior because they have a more ‘true’ understanding of the faith, and yet if you ask them to provide the esoteric explanation of any Quranic verse their Imam might have given to them they remain unable to provide one.
Leaving Ismailism will take off this restrictive ‘lock’ on esoteric interpretations and will provide you with a much richer understanding of the Deen through commentaries on the Quran and Sunnah by the great companions of the Prophet, and it will also provide you with explanations and examples of these teachings through Islam’s scholarly tradition that dates back 1400 years.
Q: If the Imam has the true understanding of the faith and has been sent as a guide by Allah, why would he keep this knowledge to himself and not even provide it to his own community?
5- Access to The Quran and its True Context
Ismailis often see the Quran as so heavily esoteric that they avoid reading it altogether. However, the Quran is a guide for mankind that Allah has kept preserved in its original form for over 1400 years! The Quran has been sent down for every human being to reflect and ponder over, as Allah said [Qur’an 38:29]: “This is a blessed Scripture which We sent down to you [Muhammad], for people to think about its messages, and for those with understanding to take heed.”
Surely neglecting the direct Words of Allah, the One who created the heavens and the earth, is a great misfortune for one who believes in Him.
No longer will one have to stop themselves from believing in what a Quranic verse is saying because their REC teacher has told them something contrary to it, but rather one can place their entire trust in Allah and take His word for what He says. I remember I was instructed in my STEP curriculum that Satan did not exist and was a metaphor, and likewise I was taught growing up that heaven and hell, the stories of the prophets, and even the prophethood of Muhammad was not to be taken in a literal sense.
The people who teach such interpretations without proof are liars, as Allah has promised in the Quran [4:122]:
“But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall admit them to the Gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein forever. Allah’s Promise is the Truth, and whose words can be truer than those of Allah?”
As a Muslim, you can not only believe Allah when He speaks in the Quran but you can also read the extensive Tafseer, or commentaries, written by scholars on the context and meaning of the verses. These Tafseer are based on Prophetic Hadiths and the sayings of the companions, such as Ali and Hussain, and are available for everyone to read and learn from.
Q: If the Quran is ‘outdated’ and not meant to be read and reflected on by Muslims in today’s world, why has Allah preserved it for 1400 years without even a vowel being changed?
6- Access to the Life and Hadith of the Noble Prophet
Most people are aware that Sunnis/Ahlus-Sunnah(people upon Sunnah) build their faith on the Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet. However, the Ismailis are unable to benefit from the Prophetic traditions as they are seen as irrelevant or contradictory to core Ismaili teachings.
It should not be a surprise that the Ismailis do not encourage the reading of prophetic Hadiths, since they reject the majority of the companions of the Prophet as reliable narrators along with the fact that most Hadith go against newly invented Ismaili teachings such as the Imam being a “Mazhar” or the Prophet containing the “Nur of Allah.” Due to these innovations in the religion, the Ismaili leaders have greatly limited the scope of materials that an Ismaili can and should learn from. Rather, all trust is placed on the Imam and his interpretations of these core texts.
For instance, Ismailis rely on the Farmans of their Imams as guidance and believe that these sermons are sufficient by themselves, without any need of the Quran or Hadith. However, these Farmans are kept so secretive that even devout Ismailis don’t have access to a majority of the Farmans made by their current or past Imams.
Jamatkhana libraries have even been ordered in recent years to burn all the Farmans they had that were made by Sultan Muhammad Shah, and old Ginans have been changed to edit out the Hindu elements that they originally contained. Even if one was seeking to grow spiritually and was given access to these hidden texts, they would be greatly disappointed as most (if not all) of the Farmans solely cover the worldly life and how to excel within it – there is almost no mention of the afterlife, building one’s relationship with Allah, or the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him). How is an Ismaili supposed to gain a deeper understanding of the spiritual world when the Imam never even speaks about spirituality?
For prophetic narrations, the Sunnis have a variety of sources that they can refer to. Off the top of my head, Sunnis can easily find prophetic narrations in the Saheehain, the four Sunan, Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta Malik, Al-Tabarani’s three Ma’ajim, Sunan Al-Daraqutni, Sunan Al-Darimi, Saheeh Ibn Hibban, Saheeh Ibn Khuzaimah, Musnad Al-Bazzar, Musnad Abi Ya’la, as well as the Masaneed that have been preserved through Ibn Hajar’s Al-Matalib Al-Aliya.
These Hadith help one to improve their character, grow their relationship with Allah, understand the purpose behind life, and they encourage one to be patient and to become those who are righteous. It is strange to hear the Imam of the Ismailis speak about the “great values of our faith” but then go into no detail to describe what those values are or how to implement them, but to rather speak about elementary-school topics such as learning English or the perils of smoking – especially when the entire role of the Imam is to provide this secretive ‘spiritual guidance’ that brings one above the Dunya and closer to Allah.
Q: Why is it that every time a Hadith or Quran verse is brought up in Ismaili discussions, it is only to show the status or power of Ali and the Imams and not to praise Allah?
7- Access to a Complete Way of Life and Scholarship
Islam is a complete way of life and it does not start of stop after the prescribed prayers. What Ismailis lack severely compared to any other sect in Islam is a detailed guide on the implementation of Islamic principles and rulings in daily life, which is something that is necessary for one who seriously values their faith.
Islamic Fiqh beautifully details not only basic Islamic etiquette like how one should greet others or approach their spouse, but it also goes into the specifics of how one should conduct their business, control their tongue, split their inheritance, lower their gaze, etc.
In contrast, Ismaili doctrine is completely devoid of such a system and consequentially a devout follower is left neglected in terms of almost every basic question they may have – such as if their income is halal, if they have been fair to their children and their parents, etc.
Not only are their a multitude of resources detailing every topic a believer would want to learn more about, but as a Muslim you will encounter learned men who have dedicated their lives to become familiar with the Prophetic teachings that will help you in implementing Islam to the best of your ability in your specific circumstances. Islam is also very flexible and it is easy to practice, so therefore learned people that are easily accessible are necessary for Muslims to know where to draw the line in worldly matters. Imagine trying to ask a simple question regarding something like this in a Jamatkhana – if you ask ten people you will get ten different answers, all based on conjecture!
Q: If the Quran says that we are all resurrected for the Day of Judgement, and the Ginans say we go through reincarnation, which one is an Ismaili supposed to listen to?
8- Assurance Against the Pagan and Innovated Concepts in Ismaili Doctrine
There is no question that Ismailism has established outright blasphemous rituals and doctrines throughout its history, such as as the saying of ‘Ali Sahi Allah’ (Ali is the right Allah) in the first Gujarati dua, the banishment of the Shariah completely in the time of Alamut, Hindu concepts such as reincarnation or the ten incarnations of God (including Vishnu, Budha. Ali) within the Ginans, or the modern worship and prayer to the Imam today. These doctrines are often brushed aside as metaphors or as the ‘true spiritual recognition of God,’ but one who has read the Quran and sincerely wishes to become closer to Allah knows that such pagan doctrines are extremely contrary to core Islamic principles and would never have been tolerated by the Prophet or Ali. I myself, even when I was at the peak of my time being a devout Ismaili, felt ashamed when my friends would visit my house and ask whose picture I have hanging up in every room. It felt strange to me to respond to them that this man was my divinely-inspired spiritual leader, or that I saw him as God (because I did). I had known deep inside that hanging up pictures of a man and idolizing him was not natural nor rational for me to do.
Muslims firmly reject and deny such blasphemous ideas, and are comfortable knowing that they truly worship Allah without any partners. Such are the people who will be safe on the Day of Judgement, and these people attribute all praise to their Creator.
Q: Why does Ismaili doctrine seem to change with every Imam? Can there really be an ‘eternal Imam’ if he seems to change his mind about even the core foundations of the religion?
Our final request to you, our friends, is to reflect upon the faith you follow.
Look at this list closely.
Can you really say that you are truly content knowing that you are missing out on all of this? Are you really satisfied being upon an Islam that is not the Islam that was revealed by Allah – subhanahu wa ta’ala – upon His final Messenger?
If you are, then we sincerely wish you guidance.
If not, then we extend our hand to you. Please do contact us using the information provided on our website.
Footnotes & Citations:
- “The Arabs believed that such idols, or heathen gods, would bring them nearer to Allâh, lead them to Him, and mediate with Him for their sake, to which effect, the Qur’ân goes: “We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allâh.” [39:3], and “And they worship besides Allâh things that hurt them not, nor profit them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allâh.” [10:18]” – An excerpt from the Prophetic biography, The Sealed Nectar
- Dr Hassan E. Nathoo, My Glorious Fortnight with Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, 1988
- According to Dabistan, Fasting means the “preservation of the mysteries of the Imam.” Vol. II, p. 408. In the Fatwa against the Nosayri lbn Taymiyya also mentions lsma’ilis giving the same interpretation to Fasting. Guyard, lac. cit., p. 186.
Lastly, we took great inspiration and help from the following articles: