Much of the Ismaili settlement in Eastern Africa, together with several other immigrant communities of Indian origin, took place in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. This thesis argues that the primary mover of the migration were the edicts, or Farmans, of the Ismaili spiritual leader. They were instrumental in motivating Ismailis to go to East Africa. Although there were other Indian groups from the general geographical area of Western Indian and Gujarat who also migrated to East Africa, the crucial factor in the migration of Ismailis were the edicts or Farmans of the Imams. My thesis argues that the Farmans or edicts played a very important role in persuading Ismailis to move to East Africa. Though other groups from Gujarat and Western India also moved to East Africa, the Ismailis followed the edicts or Farmans of the Imam and this was the major factor for the Ismailis to move. Ismaili history is replete with migratory movements, whether due to persecution or economic reasons. The religious leader of the Ismailis, the Imam or the "Imam of the Time" as he is known as by the Ismailis, including all the Aga Khans to date, sought to bring the Ismailis out of their poverty and famine-stricken land and settle into more favored economic areas under British jurisdiction. This thesis will demonstrate that Aga Khan III actively promoted the movement of the Ismailis to East Africa. His edicts shaped the migration of Ismailis and they provided uneducated people the reason as well as the motivation to go together with a sense of reassurance. I will use personal oral histories which add to the historiography to make my case for both Ismailis and the Ithnasheris, the largest Shia Muslim community. Since Ismailis are generally a closed community and actively practiced Taqia (secret practice), I will use whatever written material I have been able to find to make my case. The Ithnasheris were also Khojas who had split from the main Khoja Ismaili community in India because of their objection to the control being exercised by the Imam, Aga Khan I, who had arrived in Sind Province in 1843 from Persia. Though they were part of the Shia sect, the Ismailis who converted to the Ithnasheri sect, became Shias but maintained the Khoja name. To support my argument, I draw on oral histories of both Ismailis and Ithnasheris as there is no written record of any pronouncements by the leaders of the Ismailis and it is entirely oral history by word of mouth. This thesis adds substantially to the historiography of the subject matter. Since written accounts are not available, my oral history recollections accomplish this.


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Graduation Date





Pineda, Yovanna


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program










Release Date

May 2019

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)