In the mid-1980s there were only a few hundred Ismailis in various parts of Lebanon. The Ismailis are Shias known as Seveners because they believe Ismail was the seventh Imam.
The Ismaili sect is divided into two branches: the Mustalian branch is found primarily in North Yemen, and the Nizari branch is found in the Iranian district of Salamiya, Afghanistan, Soviet Central Asia, India, the hitral and Gilgit areas of Pakistan, and East Africa. The Ismailis split into two branches over a succession dispute. The current Nizari Imam is a revealed ruler and is well known, even in the West, as the Agha Khan.
Ismaili beliefs are complex and syncretic, combining elements from the philosophies of Plotinus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, gnosticism, and the Manichaeans, as well as components of Judaism, Christianity, and Eastern religions. Ismaili tenets are unique among Muslims. Ismailis place particular emphasis on taqiyya, the practice of dissimulation about one's beliefs to protect oneself from harassment or persecution. Ismaili beliefs about the creation of the world are idiosyncratic, as is their historical ecumenism, toleration of religious differences, and religious hierarchy. Furthermore, the secrecy with which they veil their religious beliefs and practices (together with the practice of taqiyya) makes it extremely difficult to establish what their actual religious beliefs are. Their conceptions of the imamate also differ greatly from those of other Muslims.
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