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By Farhad Daftary

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0 The orientalists of that time, led by A. I. Silvestre de Sacy (758–838) who also finally explained correctly the etymology of the name ‘Assassin’, began their more scholarly study of Islam on the basis of Arabic manuscripts which were written mainly by Sunni authors with their anti-Ismaili biases. As a result, they studied Islam according to the Sunni perspective and, borrowing classifications from Christian contexts, treated Shiʿism and Ismailism as ‘heterodox’ interpretations of Islam, or even as heresies, by contrast to Sunnism which was taken to represent Islamic ‘orthodoxy’.

This was the movement of the Muʿtazila, the defenders of human rationality, that arose in Basra with the aim of reuniting the Muslims on a compromise solution of the disputes among the various religio-political parties. The early Muʿtazilis were, however, mainly theologians who focused their attention on theological principles with a side interest in the issues related to the rightful leadership in the community. In agreement with the Khariji position, the Muʿtazilis emphasized the need for a just imam and the community’s obligation to remove an unjust one.

Hodgson, The Order of Assassins (The Hague, 955). 23. K. Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismaʿili Literature (Malibu, CA, 977). 24. E. Walker’s Abu Yaʿqub al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary (London, 996), and Ibn al-Haytham’s Kitab al-Munazarat, ed. and tr. W. E. Walker as The Advent of the Fatimids: A Contemporary Shiʿi Witness (London, 2000). For a complete listing, The Ismailis and Ismaili Studies 4 see The Institute of Ismaili Studies, Department of Academic Research and Publications, Catalogue of Publications, 2004–2005 (London, 2004).

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