Peaceful Times and Fond Memories of Salamiyya, Syria….Then Terror Strikes Violating the Qur’anic Injunctions on the Sanctity of Life


Jabal Mashhad near Salamiyya, Syria

Jabal Mashhad is one of the two mausoleums in Syria which is of special historical significance to Ismailis. The mausoleum is thought to hold the tombs of the 8th Ismaili Imam, Wafi Ahmed, and his two sons as well Rashid al-Din Sinan, a Syrian dai from a much later period in Ismaili history. Photo: Ari Babul, Vancouver, Canada. Copyright.

The Syrian Jamat goes back to the earliest times of Ismaili history, and can be considered as the oldest Ismaili Jamat in the world. The Imams of the dawr satr spent significant time in Syria, coordinating the activities of the dawa from Salamiyya. The 11th Ismaili Imam, al-Mahdi, left Salamiyya in the 10th century to establish the Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa and become its first Caliph.

Masyaf Castle near Salamiyya, Syria.

The Masyaf castle sits strategically at the mouth of one of the important routes into the mountains as a counter against a nearby crusader castle, Krak de Chevalier, and other threats at the time. Photo: Arif Babul, Vancouver, Canada. Copyright.

A few centuries later, following the death of the Fatimid Caliph Imam al-Mustansir, when the Ismailis became divided into two distinct communities, Hasan Sabbah in Persia and, later, Rashid al-Din Sinan in Syria emerged as prominent dais of the Nizari Ismailis in their respective regions. The Ismailis in Syria gained considerable prominence during the Crusades when they confronted both the Crusaders and Saladin who had assumed power in Egypt after the disintegration of the Fatimid Caliphate. Sinan and his predecessor, dai Abu Muhammad, acquired a number of fortresses to face the enemies’ challenges.


…Mawla [Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah] inquired where I came from and where I had been. Among places I had been to, I mentioned Salamieh in Syria, and Mawla said, “Oh and did you see all those princes?” I replied that I had met Prince Muhammad Mulheim, Varas Ahmed Mirza and Mustafa Ghaleb, the famous writer. Mawla said, Khanavadhan, Khanavadhan.

Now, when in Salamieh, Emir Muhammad Mulheim had taken me to a room in his house where his mother was waiting to see me. I was requested to look at the mother and told that should I be blessed with Mawla’s Didar in Europe, she wanted me to remember her face so she could attain Mawla’s Didar through my eyes. Regrettably, in the Imam’s presence I failed to recall this request. However, Mawla asked me, “And who else did you see?” I was surprised at this question and took a minute or so to think. Then, it came to me and I replied: “Mawla, I saw Prince Muhammad Mulheim’s mother,” and Mawla patted my shoulder and said “Khanavadhan, Khanavadhan”….Abdul Mamdani, Toronto, Canada (link to complete narrative follows article.).


By Muslim and Nevin Harji
(with additional text by Malik Merchant)

We visited Salamiyya in September 2008. It is a beautiful city with a kind and hospitable Ismaili Jamat. The photos on this page represent the happy memories we have of Salamiyya, a truly historical city for the Ismailis whose settlement there is as old as Islamic history itself. Salamiyya was the place from which the Ismaili dawa spread, which then resulted in the establishment of the Fatimid Empire.

A street in Salamiyya, Syria

Downtown Salamiyya getting ready to welcome His Highness the Aga Khan for his Golden Jubilee in 2008. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


My “Desert Rose”. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


Ismaili Volunteers in Salamiyya, Syria

Ismaili volunteers in Salamiyya getting ready to receive the Jamat from around the world for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


Prince Aly Khan Mausoleum in Salamiyya, Syria

The Jamat in Syria was deeply attached to Prince Aly Khan, father of the current 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. As per the Prince’s wish, he was laid to rest in this mausoleum in Salamiyya, Syria. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


A fruit vendor in Salamiyya, Syria.

A fruit vendor in Salamiyya, Syria. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


Dates in season in Salamiyya, Syria.

Dates in season. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


A conducted tour of  Jabal Mashhad

A conducted tour of Jabal Mashhad, which is thought to contain the tombs of Imam Wafi Ahmed and his two sons as well as the Ismaili dai Rashid al-Din Sinan. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


The main Ismaili mosque in Salamiyya

The main Ismaili mosque in Salamiyya, Syria. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


Decorations for the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, Salamiyya, Syria.

The whole city of Salamiyya was decorated  for His Highness the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee visit in 2008. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.


Welcoming the Ismaili Imam to Salamiyya during his golden jubillee.

The hills and the landscape surrounding Salamiyya welcoming the 49th Ismaili Imam to celebrate his Golden Jubilee to the accession to the throne of Imamat. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, Canada. Copyright.



Terror and Death in Salamiyya

We could not imagine that Syria would one day be engulfed with the terrible tragedy that is taking place today. Our hearts pain when we read about the lives that have been lost from the recent suicide bombings and other acts of terror, with the latest being in Salamiyya, home to tens of thousands of Ismailis. By their brutal actions, the terrorists have shown their absolute ingratitude to the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, which affirms that to save a life is, as if, to save humankind altogether.

We deeply grieve with our Ismaili and Muslim brothers in Salamiyya and Syria, and pray that peace may return to their homeland without any further delay through the Islamic ethic of open-dialogue and compromise among all Syrians.

We finally pray for the souls of all those individuals who have lost their lives, and assure the Syrian Jamat of our collective prayers for their faith, courage and hope for the future.

Date posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Date updated: January 29, 2013 (corrections to captions).


Link to Abdul Mamdani’s narrative: Fond Memories of Salamieh, 51 Kensington Court, and Yakymour

Profile of Muslim and Nevin Harji, and Malik Merchant at Contributors.