The Fatimids

Select Papers on Their Governing Institutions, Social and Cultural Organization, Religious Appeal, and Rivalries


The chapters of this volume contain a series of detailed studies of various aspects of Fatimid rule in the regions of its Mediterranean and Near Eastern empire, 909 to 1171 AD, including separately the role of the imam-caliph, wazīr, chief qāḍī and dāʿī, and other political and public offices of this Shīʿī caliphate. Geographically it covers North Africa, Sicily, the Levant, Hijaz, Cairo and Egypt in the medieval period, with special attention to books, science and libraries, court society, festivals, intellectual traditions and Ismaili doctrines, its religious appeal, military, enemies and rivals, among them the Abbasids, Umayyads, and Ibadis.

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Paul E. Walker (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1974) was director of the American Research Center in Cairo for over ten years (1976-86). He is currently Deputy Director for Academic Programs, Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago.
List of Abbreviations


Part 1: Institutions of Government

1 The Role of the Imam-caliph as Depicted in Official Treatises and Documents

2 Was the Fatimid Amīr al-Juyūsh in fact a Wazīr?

3 The Relationship between Chief Qāḍī and Chief Dāʿī

4 The Responsibilities of Political Office in a Shīʿī Caliphate and the Delineation of Public Duties

5 Kutāma, Kalbids and Other Westerners: The Maghāriba in Cairo

6 Egyptian Popular Festivals

7 Alexandria as an Entrepôt in the East-West Exchange of Islamic Scholarship

8 Royal Libraries and the Production of Texts

Part 2: Society and Culture

9 Social Elites at the Court

10 The Caliph al-ʿAzīz and His Daughter Sitt Al-Mulk: A Case of Delayed but Eventual Succession to Rule by a Woman

11 Intellectual Currents and Traditions

12 Literary Culture

13 The Pitti Palace Rock Crystal Ewer and the Sordid Story of How and Why It Came to Exist

14 Al-Ḥākim and the Dhimmīs

Part 3: Religious Appeal

15 The Doctrine of Ta‌ʾwīl in Fatimid Ismaili Texts

16 To What Degree Was Classical Ismaili Esotericism Based on Reason as Opposed to Authority?

17 Techniques for Guarding and Restricting Esoteric Knowledge in the Ismaili daʿwa

18 Science in the Service of the Fatimids and Their Daʿwa

19 An Ismaili Answer to the Problem of Worshiping the Unknowable, Neoplatonic God

Part 4: Rivalries

20 Ismaili Polemics Against their Opponents

21 Islamic Ritual Preaching (Khuṭbas) in a Contested Arena: Shīʿīs and Sunnīs, Fatimids and Abbasids

22 Portrayals of the Umayyads in Official Pronouncements and in Daʿwa Literature

23 Conflict with the Ibāḍīs and the Ibāḍī Version of the Imamate in North Africa and in the East

24 The Abbasid-Fatimid Rivalry for Control of the Holy Cities and the Hijāzī Response
Bibliography of Works Cited in the Text or Notes

Anyone interested in the history of the Ismailis and/or Islamic Egypt in the medieval period.
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