The Shi’a Ismaili Muslims are now a global jamat and spread all over the world, ranging from Australia down south to the Arctic zone in Canada, up north. In all countries of their settlement, including the very new ones, Ismailis are seen to exist harmoniously within the broader framework of the country concerned, on the one hand progressing steadily under Present Imam’s guidance on the other, contributing to the progress and well-being of that particular country. The Ismailis emerged originally from Syria, then spread in Yamen, Iran, Central Asia, Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, East Africa, etc.
The word tariqah (pl. turuq, tara’iq) is derived from tariq meaning a space between two rows of palm-trees. It is thus simply meant the way, path or road, as it is said in Arabic qatah atariq means he interpreted the road, and howalla tariqatah means he is following his own way. Salmon suggests in his Arabic Dictionary (p, 499) the derivation of tariqah from taraqa meaning a string of camels following a difficult tract to a well.” The word tariq occurs nine times in the Koran. The tariqah is not only internal perception of the hidden meaning of the law, it also purports to be a total discipline aimed towards the progressive purification of the soul.
Rashid Ahmad writes in Islam and Current Issues (Lahore, 1990, p. 92) that, “However, prayers, deteriorated into the performance of some mechanical actions, do not provide warmth to the human heart. The theologians turned the shariah into formalistic ritualism. Soon a powerful group of God-intoxicated Sufis (mystics) revolted against the dry discussions of the theologians. They declared that the shariah of the doctors of the law is the beginning not the end. The Sufis introduced a new term tariqah, which denotes the way leading to union with the Truth. They claimed that the tariqah alone helps man to overcome his inner disease. By purifying his soul the believer can attain a stage where he enjoys the divine bliss. In fact, the main concern of the Sufis was the inner life of man. The new term became so popular that the distinguished divines started using it for spiritual attainment and the shariah became a system concerned with appearance alone”
If the Shariah is obligatory for all people without exception, the spiritual path, the tariqah does not make the same claim. That is to say it is only for those who are predisposed and called to set out on the great adventure, which is the quest for the Divine. The route of tariqah or its following is more difficult than other path. It is an esoteric and spiritual tariqah of Islam. Cap. W.B.S. Rabbani writes in Islamic Sufism (Lahore, 1984, p. 76) that, “Islam is made up of two aspects, the outer and the inner. The outer aspect is called Shariat and the inner Tariqat” Prof. Masudul Hasan also writes in History of Islam (Lahore, 1987, 1:615) that, “There are two aspects of Islam, the outward and the inward. In the outward aspect of Islam, the emphasis is on the observance of law, in the inward aspect the emphasis is on seeking the Truth.” Martin Lings is much explicit, writing: “The Quran is the book of the whole community, yet at the same time, and above all, it is the book of a minority, the book of a spiritual elect. It achieves this double aspect in different ways. Firstly, it is full of “open” verses which every believer can and indeed must apply to himself or herself, but which may none the less be said to apply pre-eminently to the Sufis” (What is Sufism, London, 1981, p. 27). Muhsin Fayd Kashani (d. 1680) writes in al-Safi fi tafsir kalam Allah al-wafi (1:31-32) that, “If someone claims that the Koran has only an exterior meaning, he speaks strictly from self and errs grievously.”
The adherents of Islamic Shariah are known as ashab-i zahiri and the followers of the Tariqah are known as ashab-i ilm-i batin. Kul Husayan writes, “The Shariah is in the tongue, the Tariqah in the soul” (cf. Bektashi Sairleri, Istanbul, 1930, p. 249). Mir Valiuddin also writes in The Quranic Sufism (Delhi, 1959, pp. 14-15), “The science of Shariat is”