MAJDUʿ, ESMĀʿIL b. ʿAbd-al-Rasul (d. Ujjain, India, 1183 or 1184/1769-70), an Ismaʿili Mostaʿli-Ṭayyebi of the Dāʾudi Bohra faction, a scholar from India well-known for his Bibliography (Fehrest) of extant Ismaʿili manuscripts; he catalogued approximately 250 works with their full or partial contents and arranged them according to Ismaʿili curriculum for the study of its literature. Wladimir Ivanow’s Guide to Ismaili Literature was based on this Fehrest. Ivanow had found its copy by chance with a bundle of disjointed leaves in Lucknow for a paltry sum of money. The original Arabic text was edited from three recent manuscripts of Indian provenance and published in Tehran in 1966. Internal evidence suggests that it was compiled during the time of the thirty-ninth dāʿi (summoner) Ebrāhim Wajih-al-Dīn (from 1150/1737 to 1168/1754), as the author refers to him and his teacher with the conventional invocation: Aṭāla Allāho baqāʾahu (May God extend his life!)
Nothing is known about his early life, education, and family except that he and his son Hebat-Allāh were the students of Loqmānji b. Ḥabīb-Allāh (d. 1173/1760), the renowned Ismaʿili pundit of his time. Soon both father and son became distinguished scholars in their own rights. Esmāʿil was honored by the fortieth Dāʾudi dāʿi Hebat-Allāh al-Moʾayyad fi’l-Din (d. 1193/1779) with the title of Shaikh and a high rank in the daʿwa hierarchy. However, in 1175/1761, under mysterious circumstances, Esmāʿil’s son, Hebat-Allāh, claimed that he was in contact with the hidden Imam (who had moved with his retinue in the vicinity of Ujjain) through his chief dāʿi, ʿAbd-Allāh b. Ḥāreṯ, who appointed him at the rank of al-ḥojja al-layli (a rank in the daʿwa hierarchy higher than that of the dāʿi moṭlaq). His claim implied that the living fortieth dāʿi should yield his position to him by virtue of his superior status. Esmaʿil supported his son's claim, and two leading scholars of the time, namely, Hebat-Allāh (the son of Loqmānji b. Ḥabib-Allāh) and ʿAlī b. Saʿid Hamdāni, not only supported Hebat-Allāh’s claim but also composed treatises in praise of him and his learned father. Hence, their movement gathered momentum, and they openly propagated their mission in Ujjain, the headquarters of the daʿwa. Thus, it posed a serious threat to the dāʿi’s authority and his religious establishment.
Soon persecution of their followers, called Hebtiya (Heptia in Gujarati), after its founder Hebat-Allāh, started. Consequently, both father and son managed to flee, but they were chased, imprisoned by the local authorities wherever they sought refuge, and brought back to Ujjain. The dāʿi attempted to reconcile and bring them back to the fold but he failed. During the turmoil Hebat-Allāh was seized, and his nose was cut off as a sign of disgrace. For this reason he was given the derogatory nickname Majduʿ (one whose nose is amputated). The whole episode is dramatically depicted in vivid colors by two historians of the daʿwa, namely, Qoṭb-al-Din Borhānpuri (d. 1241/1826), who refers to Esmāʿil as al-malʿun (the accursed) and to his son Hebat-Allāh as al-majduʿ; and Moḥammad-ʿAli Rāmpuri (d. ca. 1315/1897-98), who refers to Esmāʿil by the nickname al-Majduʿ. Thus, it seems that the derogatory surname was transferred from the son to his father, as he was the author of several other works in addition to the Fehrest.
Esmāʿil died in 1183 or 1184/1769-70 in Ujjain, but the date of his son’s death is not recorded. Later sources state that a few families of Hebtiya survived in Ujjain until the beginning of the twentieth century. It should be noted, however, that the daʿwa sources accuse both the father and the son of holding antinomian tendencies, stealing daʿwa books from the dāʿi’s private library (ḵezāna), and also committing other illicit acts.
Abdul Husain, Golzār-e Daudi for the Bohras of India, Burhanpur, n.d., pp. 47-49.
Qoṭb-al-Din Borhānpuri, Montazaʿ al-aḵbār fi aḵbār al-doʿāt al-aḵyār: see Delia Cortese, Arabic Ismaili Manuscripts: The Zāhid ʿAlī Collection in the Library of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London and New York, 2003, pp. 123-24, no. 107; pp. 901-26.
Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2007, pp. 285-86.
Esmāʿilji Ḥasan-ʿAli Badripresswala, Aḵbār al-doʿāt al-akramin (in Gujarati), Rajkot, 1939, pp. 287-96.
Wladimir Ivanow, A Guide to Ismaili Literature, London, 1933.
Idem, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliographical Survey, a second amplified ed. of A Guide to Ismaili Literature, Tehran, 1963.
Esmāʿil b. ʿAbd-al-Rasul Majduʿ, Fehresat al-kotob wa’l-rasāʾel, ed. ʿAli-Naqi Monzawī, Tehran, 1966 (for a list of additional sources and his extant works, see Poonawala).
Ismail K. Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismāʿīlī Literature, Malibu, 1977, pp. 204-6.
Moḥammad-ʿAli Rāmpuri, Mawsem-e bahār, 3 vols., Bombay, 1883-94, III, pp. 481, 492-526.
(Ismail K. Poonawala)
Originally Published: September 22, 2015
Last Updated: September 22, 2015Cite this entry:
Ismail K. Poonawala, “MAJDUʿ, ESMĀʿIL,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2015, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/majdu-esmail (accessed on 22 September 2015).