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The Realm of the Imām the Faṭīmids in the tenth century

  • Michael Brett (a1)


Despite their period from the tenth to the twelfth century, at the height of the Middle Ages; despite their position in Egypt, at the centre of the civilization of the Near and Middle East; and despite their prominence as the third Caliphate of Islam, the Fāṭimids lack a satisfactory modern history of their dynasty. This is partly because of the length of their life, which covers the histories of so many hundreds of years; partly because of the span of their empire from North Africa to Egypt and Syria, stretching across the histories of so many regions; and finally because, at the level of Islam itself, their empire was divided between their dawla or state and their daՙwa or doctrine. The doctrine, which focused on the Fāṭimid Imām as the quṭb or pole of faith, gave the dynasty its peculiar strength and endurance. The failure of that doctrine to supersede the Islam of the schools, however, left the Fāṭimids increasingly isolated and ultimately vulnerable. Standing outside the mainstream of Islamic tradition, the dynasty's own version of its history was disregarded. Instead, its components passed out of their original context to be incorporated into the regional or universal histories of subsequent authors. Maqrīzī was alone in compiling his Ittiՙāẓ al-ḥunafā' as a history of the dynasty in Egypt, introduced by a miscellany of information on its origins and previous career.



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1 Wüstenfeld, F., Geschichte der Fatimiden Chalifen (Gottingen, 1881).

2 cf. Stern, S. M., Studies in early Ismāՙ īlism (Jerusalem and Leiden), 1983, and more particularly Madelung, W., ‘Fatimiden und Bahrainqarmaten’, Der Islam, xxxiv, 1959, 3488, and Das Imamat in der miner früher ismailitischen Lehre’, Der Islam, xxxvii, 1961, 43135.

3 Wiesbaden, 1978.

4 al-Dīn, Idrīs ՙImād, ՙUyūn al-akhbār wa funūn al-āthār, vols. 4–6 (ed. Ghalib, M., Beirut, 19731978); vol. 5 Ta'rīkh al-khulafā dawla al-fāṭimiyya bi 'l-Maghrib (ed. Dachraoui, F., Tunis, 1981); Ta'rīkh al-khulafā’ al-fāṭimiyyīn bi 'l-Maghrib (ed. Yalaoui, M., Beirut, 1985).

5 Halm, H., Das Reich des Mahdi: der Aufsteig der Fatimiden (Munich, 1991).

6 BSOAS, LVII, 1, 1994, 2539.

7 Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1969, 161–70.

8 Reich des Mahdi, 13.

9 Reich des Mahdi, 285–6. Ironically, the story has been omitted(?) from the ՙUyūn, and is found only in the Egyptian sources: al-Maqrīzī, , Ittiՙāẓ al-hunafā', 3 vols. (Cairo, 19671973), i, 8889.

10 For this doctrine of the Mahdi, cf. Brett, ‘The Mīm, the ՙAyn and the making of Ismā ՙīlism’, cited above, n. 6.

11 Reich des Mahdi, 276–7.

12 Sīrat al-Ustādh Jawdhar (ed. Husayn, M. K. and Shaՙirah, M. A.-H., Cairo, 1954), 3041; transl. Canard, M., Vie de l'Ustadh Jaudhar (Algiers, 1958), 5357.

13 Ta'rīkh al-khulafā', 338 ff.

14 al-Nuՙmān, Al-Qāḍī, al-Majālis via 'l-musāyarāt (ed. el-Feki, H., Chabbouh, I. and el-Yalaoui, M., Tunis, 1978), 448. Cf. Vie de l'Ustadh Jaudhar, 56, n. 40.

15 al-Nuՙmān, Al-Qāḍī, Iftitāḥ al-daՙwa wa ibtidā' al-dawla (ed. al-Qāḍī, W., Beirut, 1970; F. Dachraoui, Tunis, 1975), 333: ‘When the Qā'im saw that the time of the Dajjāl's destruction was approaching, he instructed and commanded, ՙahida ilā … wa amara, the Imam al-Manṣūr to combat him.’

16 cf. M. Brett, ‘The Mīm, the ‘Ayn’, see esp. pp. 33–4.

17 cf. Dachraoui, F., Le califat fatimide au Maghreb 296–362/909–73 (Tunis, 1981), 297298.

18 Reich des Mahdi, 330.

19 cf. transl. Fyzee, A. A. A., The Book of Faith (Bombay, 1974), a translation from the Daՙā'im of the section on the Imāmate.

20 Crone, P. and Hinds, M., God's Caliph (Cambridge, 1986), 99103, 108, n. 76; cf. pp. 80–93.

21 Reich des Mahdi, 330; the characterization of such an Ismāՙīlī school is naturally complicated by the division of the sect into Nizārīs and Ṭayyibīs: cf. D. Hinchcliffe, review of Fyzee, , Compendium, BSOAS, XXXIII, 3, 1970, 626627.

22 Fyzee, A. A., A compendium of Fatimid law (Simla, 1969), xlviii1.

23 Daftary, F., The Ismāՙīlīs: their history and doctrines (Cambridge, 1990); for the Ṭayyibīs on this point see esp. pp. 317–18. The legal implications of the Nizārī doctrine of qiyāma are not discussed; but see e.g. pp. 469, 477–8, 491, 516, 526, 528–32.

24 Fyzee, , Compendium, xxiiiiv.

25 cf. Halm, , Reich des Mahdi, 328.

26 Fyzee, Compendium, xxviii; cf. Poonawala, I. K., Biobibliography of Ismāՙīlī literature (Malibu, 1977), 48 ff.

27 cf. Dachraoui, , Califat fatimide, 404416.

28 Reich des Mahdi, 331. Cf. Brunschvig, R., ‘Fiqh fatimide et histoire de l'Ifrīqiya’, in Marçais, G., Méḷanges d'histoire et d'archéologie de l'Occident musulman (Algiers, 1958), II, 1320, and in idem, Études d'Islamologie (Paris, 1976), I, 6370.

29 Al-Qāḍī al-Nuՙmān, Iftitāh, ed. Dachraoui, 3–7.

30 al-Nuՙmān, Al-Qāḍī, Al-Urjūzat al-mukhtārah (ed. Poonawala, I. K., Montreal, 1970); cf. Brett, ‘The Mīm, the ‘Ayn’, 35.

31 cf. Hamdani, A. and de Blois, F., ‘A re-examination of al-Mahdī's letter to the Yemen’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1983, 173207; cf. Brett, ‘The Mīm, the ՙAyn’, 31.

32 S. M. Stem, ‘The early Ismāՙīlī missionaries in North-West Persia and in Khurasan and Transoxania’, and ‘Heterodox Ismāՙīlism at the time of al-Muՙizz’, Studies in early Ismāՙīlism, Part 2, chs. iii, v.

33 Madelung, , ‘Imamat’, 86101.

34 cf. de Blois, F., ‘The Abū Saՙīdīs or so-called “Qarmaṭians” of Bahrayn’, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, xvi, 1986, 1321.

35 Halm, , Reich, 336337.

36 Walker, Paul E., Early philosophical Shiism: the Ismaili Neoplatonism of Abū Ya'qūb al-Sijistānī (Cambridge, 1993); The wellsprings of wisdom: a study of Abū Ya'qūb al-Sijistānī's Kitāb al-yanābīՙ (Salt Lake City, 1994).

37 Early philosophical Shiism, 35–8, 77–8.

38 ibid., 92, 123.

39 ibid., 123, 142.

40 ibid., 152–3.

41 ibid., 47, 49, 89.

42 ibid., 109–11, 119. Cf. Calderini, S., ‘ՙĀlam al-dīn in Ismāՙīlism: world of obedience or world of immobility?’, BSOAS, LVI, 1, 1993, 459469.

43 ibid., 141.

44 cf. Wansbrough, J., ‘Arabic rhetoric and Qur'ānic exegesis’, BSOAS, XXXI, 3, 1968, 469485; ‘Majāz al-qur'an: periphrastic exegesis’, BSOAS, XXXIII, 2, 1970, 247–66; and Quranic studies, (Oxford, 1977).

45 Early philosophical Shiism, 125; Wansbrough, ‘Majāz al-qur'ān’, 266.

46 Early philosophical Shiism, 129.

47 ibid., 127–8.

48 ibid., 132.

49 ibid., 127.

50 ibid., 20–1.

51 ibid., 18–19, 28–9, 163, nn. 58, 59.

52 cf. Brett, ‘The Mīm, the ‘Ayn’, 29.

53 ibid., 39.

54 Early philosophical Shiism, 9–11.

55 al-Mulk, Niẓām, The Book of Government or Rules for Kings (transl. Darke, H., London, 1960), ch. xlvi, 213238.

56 Stern, ‘Early Ismāՙīli missionaries’, Studies, 222–2.

57 Book of Government, 218–24. For the bare story, cf. Stern, ibid., 219–20.

58 cf. Walker, , Early philosophical Shiism, 5160.

59 see above, at n. 25.

60 Walker, , Early philosophical Shiism, 140141.

61 ibid., 20–1.

62 ibid., 17–8, from Stern, , ‘Early Ismāՙīlī missionaries’, Studies in early Ismāՙīlism, 221, 228.

63 ibid., 23.

64 cf. Stern, S., ‘Cairo as the centre of the Ismāՙīlī movement’, Studies in early Ismāՙīlism, 234253; Gottheil, R., ‘A distinguished family of Fatimide Cadis (Al-Nuՙmān) in the tenth century’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, XXVII, 1906, 217296.

65 Al-Shahrastānī, , Kitāb al-milal wa 'l-niḥal (Cairo, 1968), I, 191198; Book I, ‘Muslim sects’, transl. Kazi, A. K. and Flynn, J. G., Muslim sects and divisions (London, 1984), 163170; transl. Gimaret, D. and Monnot, G., Livre des religions et des sectes, I (Louvain, 1986), 550565.

66 see above, at n. 51.

67 see above, at n. 22.

68 Wansbrough, J., The sectarian milieu (Oxford, 1978).

69 Halm, H., Shiism (Edinburgh, 1991).

70 Crone, and Hinds, , God's Caliph, 99 ff.

71 Kohlberg, E., ‘From Imāmiyya to Ithnā-‘ashariyya’, BSOAS, XXXIX, 3, 1976, 521534.

72 see above, n. 3; cf. Brett, ‘The Mīm, the ‘Ayn’.

73 cf. Walker, , Early philosophical Shiism, 128, 131–2.

74 ibid., 146 ff.

75 Oxford, 1977.

76 Netton, I. R., Allāh transcendent (London and New York, 1989), 203.

77 ibid., 234–43.

78 cf. Hodgson, M. G. S., ‘How did the early Shīՙa become sectarian’, Journal of the American Oriental Society, LXXXV, 1955, 113; idem, art. ‘Ghulāt’, Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.).

79 Halm, , Kosmologie, 143168; cf. Brett, , ‘The Mīm, the ‘Ayn’, 2627, 39. The sectarian consequences of such doctrines are reviewed by Moosa, M., Extremist Shiites: the Ghulāt sects (Syracuse, New York, 1988).

80 ‘On recomposing the Islamic history of North Africa’, 168.

81 cf. Brett, M., ‘The unification of North Africa by Islam in the seventh to thirteenth centuries’, Morocco, Occasional Papers No. 1, 1994, 312.

82 Khaldūn, Ibn, The Muqaddimah, transl. Rosenthal, F., 3 vols. (2nd ed., New York, 1967), I, 305306.

The Realm of the Imām the Faṭīmids in the tenth century

  • Michael Brett (a1)


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