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The early caliphate adopted the political organisation predominant in the late antique Middle East – imperial monarchy, sanctioned by divine power – but with a distinctively Islamic ideology of leadership involving kinship, piety, victory and justice. The prime location for the performance of royal power was the court, particularly for caliphal accessions or successions. The warrior rulers filling the caliphal vacuum after 945 adopted Islamic means of legitimisation, including oaths of loyalty, honorific titles, robes of honour, and being named on coinage and in Friday prayers; while the ʿulamaʾ increasingly claimed spiritual authority as ‘heirs of the Prophet’. The new Turco-Mongol elites from the thirteenth century on found a role for military strongmen, incorporating the nomadic virtues of strong leadership, good fortune and royal genealogy into a fluid mixture of ideologies. Performance of power encompassed the hajj, hunting parties, public sessions dispensing justice and rituals designed to bind the palaces of the court more closely to the towns wherever they were based.
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