Ismailis and Philosophy: A Critical Rationalist Perspective

A lecture by Dr. Daryoush Mohammad Poor, Reseach Associate, The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. Part of the conference "Reflections on Ismaili Studies: Standing on Poonawala's Shoulders."

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Duration: 40:24

This paper is an attempt to demonstrate that the intellectual activities of Ismaili dāʿīs can be seen and explained in light of critical rationalism, at least in a minimal sense. History of Ismaili thought and doctrines, at a cursory glance, suggests that reason has played a vital role in giving potency to Ismaili ideas in their encounters with their rivals, particularly as regards question of the relation between cosmology, science and religion, but this is not simply in case of dealing with ‘others’; it has happened among them too. This point can be best traced in how doctrines have transformed among various Ismaili communities.

The central question remains to be theories of truths. From a critical rationalist perspective, truths are merely true theories of knowledge. Here is where we find the intersection of critical rationalist methods with that of Ismaili thinkers. The regulative idea of truth remains powerful and even though, theoretically, in a community with a central figure and authority of the Imam criticism may be curbed or stifled, we have historical evidence of the flourishing of a critical rationalist ethos among Ismaili dāʿīs in their own dialogues and in their interactions with those outside their community.

In this paper, Poor provides a broad framework which could work as an emancipating and liberating perspective in Ismaili intellectual studies releasing it from the grips of positivist and Orientalist accounts and opening it up to rational and critical approaches reaching into the tradition itself, but not remaining limited or fettered by what was once a driving force in the past.


Dr. Daryoush Mohammad Poor joined the IIS in 2002 and, since then, has contributed as a translator for a number of departments including the Department of Academic Research and Publications, Project Tajikistan, the Department of Curriculum Studies and the IIS website. Currently, he is a Research Associate in the Department of Academic Research and Publications. Prior to this, he served as Editorial Researcher, contributing to the Encyclopaedia Islamica project.

Daryoush completed an associate degree in Mathematics in 1998 from Ferdowsy University in Mashhad. Following completion of a special degree in International Relations at the University of Westminster in 2003, he went on to post-graduate studies in International Relations and Contemporary Political Theory, graduating with merit in 2004 from the Centre for the Study of Democracy, The University of Westminster. His dissertation was titled 'Reforms from within: the crisis of democracy in Iran'; it entailed an academic study of the process of reforms in the political structure of Iran.

He completed his PhD in 2012 at the University of Westminster’s School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages in Political and Social Studies. His thesis is an assessment of emerging models and ideal types for authority and leadership, using the case study of the AKDN.