The term “Central Asia” will include here the mountainous regions of China, Soviet Union, including Hindukush, Pamir, Yarkand, Wakhan, Oxus, Shagnan, Gilgit, Hunza and Chitral.
During the period of Imam al-Mustansir billah, Nasir Khusaro was designated as a hujjat of Khorasan and Badakhshan. He came from Khorasan and launched mass conversion in Central Asia. When public pressure against him escalated, he found refuge in Yamghan, in the court of Ali bin al-Asad, an intellectual Ismaili prince in the mountainous region of Badakhshan. Thus Yamghan became synonymous with prison, where he died.
The descendants of Syed Khamush Shah Shirazi entered China soon after the reduction of Alamut in 1256 and spread in Sikiang, Kashgar, Rashkam, western Mongolia and Chinese Turkistan. In the 5th generations of Syed Sohrab Wali was a certain da’i, called Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, who had gone to China. His descendants also entered Russia. In 1930, another da’i called Syed Shah Ghulam from Chitral had gone to China and was killed by the government. The amil represents the office of the Mukhi in every village. They utter Ya Ali Madad by putting their hands on their knees. When the guest departs, they utter Khuda Hafiz by putting their hands on their knees in the same manner. In 1937, Abdul Shah had to go on an official visit to China. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah had told him to deliver waez and impart the Ismailis in China, which he did successfully. The Present Imam also made a tour of China between October 19, 1981 and October 29, 1981.
The Present Imam’s visit to Moscow in January, 1995 marked a milestone in the history of the Imamate and a significant new phase in its international development activities. This visit, Imam’s first ever to Russia, was organized in response to an invitation extended by the Russian government in 1994. Almost from the moment the official motorcade conveyed Imam from Vnukovo Airport to the State dacha, through Moscow’s snow-lined streets, in sub-zero temperature, began five very full days. During his stay in Moscow, the Imam held a series of meetings with officials at the highest levels of federal and local government. His busy schedule included meetings with the Mufti of the Muslims of Central European Russian, Shaikh Ravil Gainoutdin and with the Orthodox Patriarch of All Russia, His Holiness Alexy II at the respective headquarters of the institutions headed by the two religion leaders. In an event unprecedented in the known recorded history of the Imamate, on the 29th January, 1995, the Imam went to grant a didar to members of the jamat of the Central Asian tradition of the Ismaili tariqah. Gathered in Moscow’s Olimpiski Stadium, were members of the jamat living in and around Moscow and others who had come from various countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, many of whom traced their origin to the Central Asian Republics and Afghanistan.
Tajikistan belongs to the larger Badakhshani Ismaili constituency and represents vividly the spiritual and cultural heritage of Ismailis. The current Ismaili population is found in the Badakhshan province and other parts of Tajikistan. Many Ismailis have also migrated to Kyrgyzstan (Osh and Bishkek), Kazakhstan (Alma Ata) and Russia (Moscow, Saint Petersberg, Saratov and other cities). The Present Imam became the first Imam in the known recorded history of the Ismailis to have traveled to grant didar in Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic at the invitation of their governments between May 22, 1995 and May 31, 1995. The Imam visited Dushanbe, Khorog, Roshtkala, Murghab, Sijd, Ishkashim, Rushan and in Bishkek.
The foundation stone ceremony of the Ismaili Centre was performed in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on August 30, 2003 in presence of the Imam, President Rahmonov of Tajikistan, the Mayor Ubaidulloev and other distinguished leaders. The Imam launched a landmark cultural center in Dushanbe, marking a milestone in the 1300-year history of the jamat in Central Asia. The landscaped complex that will initiate a revitalization of cultural, educational and contemplative space and urban regeneration in Dushanbe, will also be the first permanent place of gathering and organization for the jamat of Central Asia.
Politically, the Gilgit Agency is sub-divided into various areas like Yasin, Punial, Gupis and Ishkoman. The Ismailis resided thickly in Hunza state, where the Present Imam toured between October 20, 1960 and October 24, 1960. Presently, there are 55 Jamatkhanas in Gilgit Agency, 125 Jamatkhanas in Punial and Ishkoman, 147 Jamatkhanas in Gupis and Yasin and 111 Jamatkhanas in Hunza State.
There are about 1,60,000 Ismailis in Chitral, or its 35% population belongs to the Ismailis. Till 1949, there were no Jamatkhanas in Chitral. Prayers were offered within the houses. In 1949, however, Jamatkhanas were built throughout the area. There are now 264 Jamatkhanas in Upper Chitral and 167 Jamatkhanas in Lower Chitral.