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date: 22 May 2018

Ismaili and Fatimid North Africa

Summary and Keywords

The Fatimid dynasty ruled North Africa from 909 to 1171 CE. The Fatimids identified as Isma’ili Shi’is and they declared a Shi’i countercaliphate in Qayrawan to rival the Sunni ‘Abbasids in Baghdad. Their dynasty rose to power from an underground missionary movement, but eventually conquered most of North Africa, the Levant, the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and Yemen. Their first capital was in Qayrawan, but they are best known for founding the city of Cairo as their imperial capital in 969. The Fatimids linked North African and Mediterranean trade with the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea, creating an era of unprecedented economic growth. Further, Fatimid sponsorship of Isma’ili Shi’i ritual and scholarship allowed for the development of several Isma’ili movements that have persisted into the modern era. The Fatimid era ended in the 12th century during the rise of Turkic dynasties and the influx of Crusader forces into the eastern Mediterranean region.

Keywords: Fatimids, North Africa, Shi’i, Isma’ili, Cairo, Tunisia, Qayrawan

Origins of the Fatimids

The Fatimid dynasty arose in the late 9th and early 10th centuries from an underground network of Isma’ili missionaries who preached the da’wa, or “call to truth,” in North Africa, Yemen, Iran, and the Persian Gulf. They endeavored to challenge the Sunni caliphate of the ‘Abbasids in Baghdad (750–1258) and establish the caliphate of a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 661).

While early proto-Shi’i movements had existed since just after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (d. 632), the Isma’ilis diverged from the larger Imami movement in the 8th century over the question of the successor to the Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 765), who the Imamis (and, later, the Twelver Shi’is) follow as the sixth Imam. Isma’ilis followed al-Sadiq’s son Isma’il, while the Imamis followed his half brother Musa. In the 9th century, Isma’ili da’is, or missionaries, preached that the Imam Muhammad b. Isma’il b. Ja’far al-Sadiq (d. 795) would return to usher in the end of days. A figure known as the hujja, or “proof,” led the Isma’ili da’wa movement from Syria. These hujjas, who were descendants of Muhammad b. Isma’il, served as proof of the Imam’s continued leadership by mediating between the community and the Imam. The followers of the Imam believed that the Imam was in a state of ghayba, or occultation. The Isma’ili da’wa remained active in the 9th century, with da’is traveling to Iraq, Yemen, North Africa, and the Iranian plateau.

At the end of the 9th century, the leader of the Isma’ili movement, ‘Abd Allah (d. 934), who became the first Fatimid caliph and took the regnal title al-Mahdi bi-llah, announced his own Imamate. This announcement shifted Isma’ili understanding of the Imamate; it changed the Isma’ili Imam from the person of Muhammad b. Isma’il to a descendant of Muhammad b. Isma’il. While this announcement splintered the Isma’ili movement into several competing groups, later Fatimid writing argued that the idea of the hujjas had always been meant as an act of taqiyya, or dissimulation, to protect the identity of the living Imam.1 One portion of the Isma’ilis, who are known as the Qarmatiyya, rebelled against the Isma’ilis in Syria. The Qarmatiyya remain best known for an attack on Mecca in 930 when they massacred Muslim pilgrims and stole the black stone from the Ka’ba (eventually ransoming it to the ‘Abbasid caliph rather than to the Fatimids).

After al-Mahdi claimed the Isma’ili Imamate in 899, he began a ten-year journey to North Africa, where he established the Fatimid caliphate in 909. He initially went to Ramla, in Palestine, before continuing into Egypt in 904, which was ruled by the Tulunid family. Al-Mahdi had allies in Egypt who helped keep him safe from ‘Abbasid investigators. He remained in Egypt for approximately a year, leaving in early 905 after the Tulunids were overthrown by ‘Abbasid allies. Al-Mahdi first traveled from Egypt to Libyan Tripoli, then across central Algeria into Sijilmasa. Sijilmasa acted as a significant center for trans-Saharan trade and al-Mahdi remained there in hiding for several years.

While al-Mahdi traveled across North Africa, his da’i in North Africa, Abu ‘Abd Allah (d. 911), gathered followers amongst the Kutama Berber who controlled Kabylia, a mountainous region along the Mediterranean coast of what is now Algeria. The Fatimids likely targeted this region due to its inaccessibility and distance from Qayrawan, the capital of the Aghlabid dynasty, who ruled North Africa as ‘Abbasid vassals. The Aghlabids had served in the ‘Abbasid military in North Africa in the late 8th century, beginning to rule semi-independently in the name of the ‘Abbasids in the year 800. The Aghlabids put the ‘Abbasid caliph’s name on their coins and had the Friday prayers said in the name of the caliph. The Aghlabids also sent a portion of their tax revenue to the caliph’s treasury in Baghdad. In 876, the Aghlabids founded the city of Raqqada, approximately ten kilometers southwest of Qayrawan, as a palace city.

Abu ‘Abd Allah defeated the final Aghlabid amir, Abu Mudar Ziyadat Allah III (r. 903–909), who had fortified the walls of Qayawan and sent military forces against the Kutama Berbers to try to defeat the Isma’ilis. Ziyadat Allah fled Raqqada in 909 and died ignominiously. After Abu ‘Abd Allah captured the Aghlabid capitals of Qayrawan and Raqqada, he guaranteed safe passage for the population of Qayrawan and invited all those who fled to return, including any members of the Aghlabid family or former employees within the Aghlabid administration.

Abu ‘Abd Allah established a fledgling Fatimid state in Qayrawan and Raqqada, focusing on establishing basic public administration before leading an army to Sijilmasa to rescue al-Mahdi. Once freed, al-Mahdi declared his new title as Fatimid caliph. Al-Mahdi remained in Sijilmasa for forty days after his rescue, allowing for the surrounding Berber tribes to pay homage. When he arrived in Raqqada on Friday, January 5, 910, the Friday prayer in the mosques of Qayrawan and Raqqada was pronounced in al-Mahdi’s name.

The Early Fatimids

The first three Fatimid caliphs, ‘Abd Allah al-Mahdi bi’llah (r. 909–934), Abu al-Qas’im Muhammad al-Qa’im bi-Amr Allah (r. 934–946), and Abu Tahir Isma’il al-Mansur bi’llah (r. 946–953), engaged in the difficult task of consolidating Fatimid power in North Africa. They faced internal dissent as well as opposition from the ‘Abbasids, the ‘Umayyad dynasty in Spain, the Byzantine Empire, the Qarmatiyya, and various local dynasties in North Africa. By the end of this period, however, the Fatimid caliphate was firmly established in North Africa, had established significant trade relationships across the Mediterranean, and was on its way to conquering Egypt.

When al-Mahdi assumed power, he designated a Kutama Berber army to rule over each province in North Africa. The central administration in Qayrawan remained predominately Arab and the Fatimids relied heavily on former Aghlabid administrators, allowing for a remarkable degree of continuity with the previous regime. Al-Mahdi renewed the guarantee of safe-conduct which had been issued by Abu ‘Abd Allah and employed many former administrators and military leaders. Al-Mahdi reestablished the financial bureau (diwan al-kharaj), which had been destroyed during Ziyadat Allah’s flight from the city. He also established a bureau to administer property of the Aghlabids who fled with Ziyadat Allah.

In Qayrawan and Raqqada, al-Mahdi ordered that the names of all patrons be removed from architectural monuments, such as mosques, forts, and bridges, and replaced with his own name. As argued by art historian Johnathan Bloom, “The act was a symbolic prise de possession, ensuring the new claimant the symbolic advantages of citation, that is, the benefits from any baraka the building might have.”2 He also ordered construction of a new palace city, Mahdiyya, on the Mediterranean coast about twenty-five kilometers southeast of Qayrawan. He selected a site on a peninsula between Susa and Sfax which was easily defensible; at its narrowest point, the peninsula was only 175 meters wide. The new capital was far enough away from Qayrawan to avoid local hostility while being close enough to remain within its commercial sphere. Al-Mahdi’s selection of a coastal capital helped the Fatimid dynasty compete with the Byzantines for control over Mediterranean trade. While Qayrawan continued as an important center of trade, Mahdyiiya eventually became an even more significant commercial center. The Great Mosque of Mahdiyya, which drew heavily upon architectural elements from the Great Mosque of Qayrawan, was completed in 916. Al-Mahdi moved into his new capital on February 20, 921.

After establishing himself as caliph, al-Mahdi had to grapple with the messianic expectations of the Isma’ili movement. Many of the Isma’ili da’is, including Abu ‘Abd Allah, who had conquered North Africa for the Fatimids, expected al-Mahdi’s victory to usher in the end of days. Thus, al-Mahdi began to transfer some of these messianic expectations onto his son, al-Qa’im. According to Isma’ili prophesies, the awaited Mahdi would bear the full name of the Prophet Muhammad himself: Abu al-Qasim Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah. Al-Mahdi’s given name was ‘Abd Allah Abu Muhammad. Once al-Mahdi declared his caliphate, his son was presented as Abu al-Qasim Muhammad. When his patronymic name was appended to this name, he became “Abu al-Qasim Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah,” which was the full name of the Prophet Muhammad. Historian of Fatimid history, Heinz Halm, argued that this name change diverted the messianic expectations of the Isma’ili faithful onto al-Qa’im.3 While this effort was largely successful, several prominent da’is began to doubt al-Mahdi’s messianic credentials when he seemed too comfortable with earthly power in North Africa and its trappings. These da’is, including Abu ‘Abd Allah, unsuccessfully rebelled against al-Mahdi in 911 and were executed.

Al-Mahdi’s son succeeded him to the caliphate, taking the regnal title of al-Qa’im bi-Amr Allah (d. 946). Before ascending to the throne in 934, al-Qa’im had led two failed campaigns eastward into Egypt, in 913–915 and 919–921. When al-Mahdi died in 934, al-Qa’im concealed his death for one-hundred days while he consolidated power.

In addition to pursuing another unsuccessful expedition against Egypt in 935, al-Qa’im’s reign focused on consolidating Fatimid rule in North Africa and expanding Fatimid trade interests in the Mediterranean. However, al-Qa’im mainly ruled through his father’s administrators, disappearing behind the walls of Mahdiyya after ascending to the throne. Halm wrote, “We know practically nothing about the personality of the second Fatimid caliph; were it not for the few childhood scenes from the flight from Salamya to Sijilmasa, which the eunuch Ja’far recorded in his autobiography, al-Qa’im would be a mere blur for us.”4 Under al-Qa’im, the Fatimids inherited control over Sicily from the Aghlabids and used the island as a base for launching coastal raids on Italy, France, and the islands of the western Mediterranean.

Al-Mahdi and al-Qa’im had both faced local rebellions, largely at the hands of the Zanata Berbers who had supported the Rustamid dynasty of Tahert. Abu ‘Abd Allah had overthrown the Rustamids in 909, but the Zanata continued to fight the Fatimids, eventually allying with the ‘Umayyad dynasty in Spain. Toward the end of al-Qa’im’s reign, however, the Fatimids faced a serious rebellion. From 943 to 947, a local Ibadi Berber named Abu Yazid (d. 947) led a rebellion against Fatimid rule. Abu Yazid capitalized on the socioeconomic grievances of local Berbers, who opposed the Arab domination of the region. In the early 940s, Abu Yazid traveled from village to village, calling for war against the Fatimids. His rebellion experienced early success, conquering several Tunisian cities. By the end of 944, Abu Yazid and his army had conquered Qayrawan and, in 945, laid siege to Mahdiyya itself. He nearly conquered the nascent Fatimid caliphate completely. Al-Qa’im died in 946, in the midst of Abu Yazid’s siege. His son, who took the title of al-Mansur bi-llah, concealed his father’s death but drove Abu Yazid and his followers out of Qayrawan. In 947, al-Mansur dealt a final blow to Abu Yazid’s movement and openly proclaimed himself caliph. Like his grandfather, al-Mansur also founded a new capital city: Mansuriyya. Located near Qayrawan on the site of his victory over Abu Yazid, “Mansuriyya,” can be translated as “the city of victory.” Mansuriyya served as the Fatimid capital from 948 until 973, when the capital was moved to the new imperial city of Cairo.

Fatimid Religious Policy in North Africa

When the Fatimids conquered Qayrawan, the Muslim population of the city was predominately Maliki and Hanafi Sunnis. Qayrawan also had a significant Shi’i minority population, which were mostly Zaydi or Imami Shi’is but not Isma’ili. When Abu ‘Abd Allah conquered Qayrawan, he held theological debates with local Sunni religious scholars in the hopes of winning converts. Due to fierce competition between the local Hanafis and Malikis, the Hanafi minority—which had been close with the Aghlabid administration—was willing to cooperate with the new Isma’ili Fatimid state.

Because they had the majority support, the Malikis resisted Isma’ili rule during the period of the first three Fatimid caliphs. Abu ‘Abd Allah had sought to enforce Shi’i norms of public religious practice, but he also wanted to avoid alienating the local Sunni population. No one was forced to become Isma’ili, but they did attempt to recruit converts and many did convert to Isma’ili Shi’ism after the Fatimid takeover.

Abu ‘Abd Allah established the first Fatimid administration in Qayrawan. A pious missionary, he introduced the Shi’i form of the call to prayer, which involves the phrase hayya ‘ala khayri al’-amal (come to the best of works), and eliminated the phrase preferred by Sunnis in the dawn prayer, al-salatu khayrun min al-nawm (prayer is better than sleep). Abu ‘Abd Allah also added to the Friday sermon a blessing on the Ahl al-Bayt, the family of the Prophet Muhammad, including ‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn.

When Abu ‘Abd Allah departed Qayrawan to rescue the first Fatimid caliph al-Mahdi from Sijilmasa, he put his brother, Abu al-‘Abbas (d. 911), in charge of governing the city. In his absence, tensions between local Malikis and the Fatimids increased. Two Sunni Maliki religious scholars publicly stated that the Caliph Mu’awiya (d. 680), who opposed the caliphate of ‘Ali, was more respected than ‘Ali. Abu al-‘Abbas had the two Sunni religious scholars executed and their bodies dragged through the city. When Abu ‘Abd Allah returned to Qayrawan, he chastised his brother for ruining the positive relationship which the Fatimids were trying to build with the local Sunnis. Contemporary Sunni accounts of the incident contextualize it within the competition between Malikis and Hanafis in Qayrawan; they argue that the Hanafis tried to use their newfound relationship with the Fatimids to quash popular Maliki scholars.5

The Fatimid Legacy in Central North Africa

Ziri ibn Manad (935–971), the leader of a Sanhaja Berber tribe, had helped the Fatimids crush the rebellion of Abu Yazid in the mid-10th century. The Fatimids then made him their governor over the territories of the western provinces of Ifriqiya, encompassing modern Algeria. When the Fatimid caliphs moved their capital to Egypt in 972, Ziri’s son, Buluggin ibn Ziri (r. 971–984), became the Fatimid viceroy of North Africa, ruling from Qayrawan. But they did not maintain their holdings in North Africa for long. The Fatimids took their fleet with them, quickly losing control over Sicily. Later, Algeria broke away as well. The Fatimids, more focused eastward toward Syria and Iraq, did not always maintain close relations with the Zirids.

In 1049, the Zirids adopted Sunni Islam and recognized the ‘Abbasids of Baghdad as caliph. The Fatimids sent their military to North Africa and defeated the Zirids but allowed the military to plunder the territory in 1051–1052. By 1057, the Zirid ruler, al-Mu’izz, was forced to abandon Qayrawan, his capital, and flee to Mahdiyya. The last Zirid ruler was driven out of Mahdiyya in 1148 by Roger II, the king of Sicily.

The Fatimids in Egypt

Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah (r. 953–975), the fourth Fatimid caliph, expanded Fatimid rule eastward to conquer Egypt. His most famous general, Jawhar b. ‘Abd Allah, was possibly of Slavic origins and was often known as al-Saqlabi (the Slav) or al-Siqilli (the Sicilian). Beginning in 958, Jawhar led Fatimid forces westward in order to pacify the frontier before heading east to Egypt. Jawhar’s forces defeated Zanata Berber allies of the Umayyads of Spain who had rebelled against the Fatimids near Tahert, then reconquered Sijilmasa and laid siege to the Umayyad city of Fas in 960. After taking the Umayyad governor of Fas prisoner and conquering the city, Fatimid rule extended as far west as the Atlantic.

Like his predecessors, Mu’izz focused on the conquest of Egypt. In the mid-10th century, the Ikhshidid dynasty ruled Egypt as vassals of the ‘Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad. But, by this period, Egypt faced famine, natural disasters, political instability, and economic problems. These difficulties provided an opening for Fatimid missionaries. Mu’izz began sending more da’is into Egypt to preach the Isma’ili and Fatimid cause and win over officials within the Ikhshidid state.

Abu al-Misk Kafur, the Ikhshidid vizier and guardian of the sons of the amir, served as regent after the death of the Ikhshidid ruler Muhammad b. Tughj in 946. Kafur had de facto control over Egypt for twenty-two years and maintained stability within Egypt despite persistent famine and local rebellions. When, in 968, Kafur died, Ahmad b. ‘Ali, the eleven-year-old grandson of the former Ikhshidid amir, was named successor. The weak successor led to internal dissension, jostling for power at court, and military mutinies. One of his cousins, Hasan, seized power shortly thereafter and it was rumored that he had Isma’ili sympathies.

Thus, in February 969, Jawhar led the Fatimid army out of Qayrawan on their path to Egypt. In Qayrawan, the Fatimids staged an elaborate ceremony for the departing army: the caliph Mu’izz gave Jawhar his royal robe and ordered that all governors on the way to Egypt dismount to greet Jawhar. By July 969, Jawhar had conquered Fustat, the capital of Ikhshidid Egypt. He declared a general amnesty and made a public proclamation guaranteeing the safety of the people and their property. While the name of the ‘Abbasid caliph was dropped from the Friday prayer, the Fatimids tolerated religious freedom within Egypt.

Jawhar served as governor of Egypt for four years. He nearly immediately began to build the city of Cairo as the new Fatimid capital. It was based on Mansuriyya but eventually named al-Qahira al-Mu’izziyya, “The Victory of al-Mu’izz,” and is now known as Cairo. The new city held two royal palaces, one for the caliph and one for his successor. In 970, Jawhar laid the foundations of al-Azhar, the ceremonial mosque that eventually became the first university in the world. During his reign, Jawhar worked to end famine in Egypt, improve its finances, and reform the Ikhshidid administration.

Mu’izz transferred the capital of the Fatimid caliphate from Mu’iziyya to Cairo in June 973. He brought with him his sons, relatives, as well as the coffins of his predecessors to be reinterred in the new imperial capital. He was also accompanied by most of the Isma’ili notables and da’is and a large retinue of Kutama Berbers. Once in Cairo, Mu’izz maintained the Fatimid position of religious tolerance. While al-Mahdi and al-Qa’im had initially tried to exclude Maliki jurists from influential positions within the administration, Mu’izz ended this policy. Historian Farhad Daftary has called Mu’izz’s move to Cairo the “termination of the North African phase of the Fatimid dynasty.”6

Fatimid Economic Policy in Egypt

Egypt’s economy was largely built upon its agrarian wealth and its favorable trade position on the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The Fatimids built upon both of these assets, leading Cairo to become one of the wealthiest cities of the age. Egypt possesses significant agrarian wealth built upon the yearly flood of the silt-rich Nile River. The Fatimids made Cairo an inland port to help facilitate ship traffic up the Nile, increasing trade. As the Fatimids expanded, they conquered Mecca and Medina for religious reasons, but they also sought to control the coasts of the Red Sea down to Yemen to prevent interference in trade by local middlemen.

The Fatimids also built a strong navy, with the goal of facilitating Mediterranean trade and the hopes (never realized) of conquering the Byzantine capital of Constantinople. They were able to control both the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean. Egypt under the Fatimids was also known for its fine arts and handicrafts, producing cloth, pottery, crystal, and bronze jewelry.

The Fatimids in Syria

Mu’izz sought to increase da’wa activities outside of Fatimid territories in order to reunite with the Qarmatiyya and help facilitate Fatimid expansion. After the Fatimid conquest of Egypt, the Qarmatiyya of Bahrain remained the most significant Fatimid foes. While the holy cities of Mecca and Medina submitted to Fatimid power after their conquest of Egypt, the Fatimids struggled to conquer Syria due to Qarmatiyya opposition. Although Fatimid forces entered Syria in 970, this only led to a fierce Qarmatiyya response; in 971, the Qarmatiyya conquered Damascus and marched toward Cairo. They did not manage to overtake the city, but they invaded for a second time in 974. Fatimid forces, however, eventually defeated the Qarmatiyya after they were betrayed by one of their commanders in Palestine, leading the Qarmatiyya to retreat to Bahrain. The Fatimids then conquered Damascus and signed a peace treaty with the Qarmatiyya. Mu’izz’s efforts to expand the Isma’ili da’wa outside of Fatimid territories eventually won over the Qarmatiyya da’i Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani (c. 971), who endorsed the Fatimid imamate and brought the Isma’ilis of Khurasan, Sistan, and Makran back into the Fatimid community. In the late 10th century, the Fatimids continued to expand their influence into Sind, in northern India, as well as into Ghaznavid territories.

The Fatimids in Cairo

After the death of Mu’izz in 975, his son, Abu Mansur Nizar, succeeded him and took the regnal name al-‘Aziz bi’llah. Al-‘Aziz was the first Fatimid caliph to only rule from the capital city of Cairo. Predominately concerned with the extension and consolidation of Fatimid power in Syria, he sent Fatimid forces into Syria to reconquer Damascus in 976. After several skirmishes with the Qarmatiyya, al-‘Aziz led an army into Syria himself in 978. He defeated the Qarmatiyya (along with Turkic allies) in Palestine. This victory marked the declining influence of the Qarmatiyya, although Damascus remained only nominally under Fatimid control. Al-‘Aziz continued his efforts to expand into northern Syria, focusing on Aleppo, but he was not successful. It was not until 1008–1009, during the reign of al-Hakim, al-‘Aziz’s son, that the Fatimids successfully conquered Aleppo, but their power in the city only lasted a short time.

Problems with Berber Troops

Before his departure for Egypt, Mu’izz had appointed Buluggin b. Ziri, the amir of the Sanhaja Berbers who had long allied with the Fatimids, as the new governor of Ifriqiya. Mu’izz put Buluggin in charge of all of the Fatimid territories in western North Africa, with the exception of Sicily and Tripoli. Berbers made up most of the Fatimid military but, by the time of al-‘Aziz’s reign, ethnic groups in the Fatimid military engaged in vicious infighting. After his victory in Syria, al-‘Aziz had brought Turks into the Fatimid military, possibly trying to undermine the power of the Berber troops. These new Turkic soldiers came to dominate significant posts within the Fatimid military, which led to a serious rivalry between the Berbers and Turks in the Fatimid army.

When al-‘Aziz died in 996, he was succeeded by his son, Abu ‘Ali al-Mansur, who took the regnal name of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. The Berber troops in the Fatimid army saw the death of al-‘Aziz as an opportunity to reassert their power. They convinced al-Hakim to appoint the Kutama chief, al-Hasan b. ‘Ammar, as his wasita, a high administrative position that mediated between the caliph and his officials and subjects. Ibn ‘Ammar worked to improve the position of the Berbers in the army, leading to the intensification of the rivalry with non-Berbers in the military and administration. Al-Hakim eventually reined in this rivalry, taking more direct control over state affairs in 1000.

Al-Hakim’s Controversial Reign

Al-Hakim remained in power for twenty-five years, a period which was pivotal in the transition between the North African and Egyptian phases of Fatimid history.7 However, historians remember al-Hakim as an enigmatic ruler best known for a series of odd caliphal decrees, such as forbidding women from leaving their houses (a rule he attempted to enforce through forbidding cobblers from making women’s shoes). Recent scholarship, such as historian Paul Walker’s Caliph of Cairo, has argued that this skewed view of al-Hakim as an eccentric and dangerous ruler derives largely from hostile later sources. Instead, recent scholarship portrays al-Hakim as a generally competent ruler who worked to balance the needs of conflicting constituencies under his rule. He sponsored learning and education, establishing a Dar al-‘Ilm open to scholars of all religions in Cairo in 1005, which taught a variety of subjects, such as the Qur’an, Islamic jurisprudence, logic, math, and astronomy.

Al-Hakim, however, also persecuted the Christians and Jews of the Fatimid caliphate. Beginning in 1004, he demolished churches and monasteries, ordered the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem in 1009, and imposed restrictions on the behavior of both Christians and Jews. In part, historians have interpreted al-Hakim’s measures as his attempts to win the support of Egyptian Muslims who had grown frustrated with the number of non-Muslims occupying powerful offices within the Fatimid administration. But his attack on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem had larger repercussions for the region. After the attack, the Byzantine emperor terminated an existing Fatimid–Byzantine truce and, in 1015–1016, forbade any commercial ties between Byzantium and the Fatimids. This series of events also played a role in sparking the Crusades, where European armies entered the Middle East to aid the Byzantines against Turkic enemies but also sought to reconquer the city of Jerusalem.

The Rise of the Druze Movement

One of the reasons for al-Hakim’s fame among the Fatimid caliphs derives from his mysterious disappearance and the rise of the Druze movement. Al-Hakim had begun to develop ascetic tendencies during his time in power, which led him to pass new religious laws, such as a decree forbidding his subjects from prostrating themselves before him. He also began to dress simply and ride a donkey. In 1013, he appointed ‘Abd al-Rahim b. Ilyas b. Ahmad as his successor, instead of his own son. ‘Abd al-Rahim was a great-grandson of al-Mahdi, the first Fatimid caliph, and al-Hakim gave him power over all the affairs of state.

During al-Hakim’s final years in power, there were open struggles among the Isma’ili da’is, some of whom came to view al-Hakim as divine. This idea, which became the seed of the Druze faith, was first articulated in 1017 by a da’i named al-Hasan b. Haydara al-Akhram. Other da’is were shocked; Isma’ilis believed the Fatimid caliphs were divinely appointed and infallible, but they were not seen as divine beings. Al-Akhram worked to persuade other da’is and prominent officials of his interpretation. He was assassinated in 1018 and, after a power struggle within the movement, a Turkic da’i from Bukhara, Muhammad b. Isma’il al-Darazi, assumed leadership of the movement. The Druze derive their name from al-Darazi (from the al-Daraziyya and al-Durziyya). In 1019, Druze leaders demanded that the Fatimid qadi al-qudat convert to the Druze interpretation of Isma’ilism, which led the Turkish troops in al-Hakim’s army to turn against the movement and attack al-Darazi’s followers. Al-Darazi then vanished mysteriously and was probably assassinated. The Druze leaders went into hiding but eventually regained al-Hakim’s favor and began to develop a da’wa organization for the new faith.

In 1021, al-Hakim disappeared mysteriously during a long nighttime excursion on the outskirts of Cairo in the Muqattam hills. Several days after his disappearance, his donkey reappeared, carrying his clothes, pierced by daggers. His body was never found. Some historians have argued that he was assassinated, possibly on the order of his half sister, Sitt al-Mulk (d. 1023). Others argue that Druze leaders ordered his assassination in order to capitalize on his disappearance. After his disappearance, the leaders of the Druze went into hiding as the Fatimid leadership in Cairo attempted to crush the movement. They were largely successful in Egypt, but the Druze continued their missionary efforts in Syria. It is not known if al-Hakim supported the Druze movement himself. There is no surviving evidence that he laid claim to divinity. The leadership of the Cairo da’wa opposed the Druze movement. The da’i, Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani (d. 1021), considered the most distinguished da’i of the age, was summoned to Cairo to write a theological refutation of the Druze movement. Al-Kirmani’s writings circulated widely and helped curtail the emerging Druze faith. Today, however, the Druze survive; there are approximately 300,000 Druze in the Middle East, mostly in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. The Druze refer to themselves as the Muwahhidun (Unitarians), stressing the unity of God.

The Late Fatimid Caliphate

The Caliph al-Zahir and Sitt al-Mulk

After al-Hakim’s disappearance, his half sister, Sitt al-Mulk (d. 1023), facilitated the succession of al-Hakim’s sixteen-year-old son, Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali, to the throne and became regent. Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali took the regnal title of Zahir li-I’zaz Din Allah. As regent, Sitt al-Mulk worked to restore order and undo some of the religious polices from al-Hakim’s reign that had caused opposition from non-Muslims. But Sitt al-Mulk died two years after al-Hakim and, while Zahir was still caliph, his wasita directed the power of the caliphate. The main issues facing the Fatimids under Zahir were a famine that hit Egypt in 1024 and difficulties maintaining hold on their territories in Syria. Zahir died in 1036 after serving as caliph for fifteen years.


After Zahir’s death, his seven-year-old son, Abu Tamim Ma’add, became caliph. He took the regnal title of al-Mustansir bi’llah. His caliphate was the longest in the Fatimid dynasty, lasting from 1036 to 1094. As historian Farhad Daftary has argued, “[Al-Mustansir’s] reign also marked the closing phase of the classical Fatimid period. While it witnessed numerous vicissitudes, the overall fortunes of the Fatimid caliphate now clearly began their irreversible decline.” Until al-Mustansir was sixteen years old, the power of his caliphate remained in the hands of his vizier and his mother, who became his regent.

During al-Mustansir’s reign, the rivalries in the Fatimid military between different ethnic groups intensified. During al-Mustansir’s reign overall, there was a broad alliance between the Berber, Turkic, Daylami, and Arab troops against the Sudani contingent. The fighting between these military factions, however, led to instability at court. In 1047, the Fatimid vizier had a close ally of the queen mother murdered. In retaliation, the queen mother arranged for the vizier’s assassination in 1048. These assassinations, in addition to other court rivalries, destabilized the court and prevented effective civil administration.

In 1062, the Turkic and Berber troops began fighting the Sudani forces openly near Cairo. It took five years for them to completely defeat the Sudanis. At the same time, Egypt was also facing famine, an economic crisis caused by seven years of low levels of the Nile River, and continued fighting and plundering by Turkic troops. Al-Mustansir sold his own personal treasure to pay the Turkic troops. Despite this, they looted the royal palaces and destroyed two Fatimid libraries in Cairo in 1068–1069. Al-Mustansir’s family fled Cairo to seek refuge in Syria and Iraq.

However, in 1073, the commander of the Turkic forces was assassinated during a period when a good harvest helped alleviate the famine facing Egypt. Al-Mustansir allied with the governor of Acre, Badr al-Jamali (d. 1094), who had also served as the Fatimid governor of Damascus. Badr al-Jamali reached Cairo in 1074, crushing opposition to al-Mustansir and restoring order. Al-Mustansir granted him the title “Vizier of the Sword and of the Pen” (wazir al-sayf wa al-qalam). Badr al-Jamali became the commander of the armies and the head of the civil, judicial, and religious administration of Fatimid Egypt. He returned peace and prosperity to Fatimid Egypt.

The Brief Fatimid Dominion over Baghdad

While they rose to power in North Africa, the Fatimids always sought to conquer Baghdad, the seat of the Sunni ‘Abbasid caliphate. For much of the Fatimid period, Baghdad was controlled by a Shi’i Persian military dynasty, the Buyids (945–1055). Despite their shared Shi’i identity, the Fatimids and Buyids did not follow the same form of Shi’ism and remained rivals. The Buyids were ousted from Baghdad in 1055 by the Seljuqs, a family of Turkic chieftains who claimed to be saving the ‘Abbasid caliph from Shi’i domination. Thus, the ‘Abbasid caliph granted the Seljuq ruler, Tughril, the title of sultan.

Tughril aimed to conquer Fatimid territories in Syria and Palestine. But, to a degree, he was thwarted by Abu al-Harith Arslan al-Basasiri, a Turkic slave soldier who had become a significant military leader in Iraq in the late 1040s. Al-Basisiri seized control over several Iraqi towns, most notably Basra. Al-Basisiri may have had Shi’i proclivities and he sought out Fatimid support for an assault on Baghdad. In 1058, al-Basasiri entered Baghdad and had the name of the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir inserted into the khutba. He then conquered Wasit and Basra, two other significant Iraqi towns. These conquests, however, were short lived. The Fatimids stopped supporting al-Basisiri financially and he fled Baghdad in 1059. The Seljuk leader Tughril then reentered the city and, after a pursuit, captured al-Basisiri near Kufa and executed him. But, for a brief period, the name of the Fatimid caliph was called in the Friday prayer in the ‘Abbasid capital of Baghdad.

The Succession to al-Mustansir

Al-Mustansir’s death led to a split within the Isma’ili community. Al-Mustansir had appointed his son, Nizar, as his successor, but al-Mustansir’s vizier, Abu al-Qasim Shahanshah, who was known as al-Afdal, wanted to maintain his own power. Thus, al-Afdal supported the succession of Nizar’s half brother, Abu al-Qasim Ahmad, who was much younger and married to al-Afdal’s sister. When al-Mustansir died, al-Afdal placed the younger half brother on the Fatimid throne, gave him the title al-Musta’li bi’llah, and convinced the Fatimid military and court to swear allegiance to him. Later versions of the succession story claim that al-Mustansir nominated al-Musta’li on his deathbed.

Nizar fled Cairo for Alexandria and led a rebellion against al-Afdal in 1095. The Isma’ilis of Alexandria supported him and declared him caliph. Nizar advanced on Cairo, but al-Afdal’s forces besieged Alexandria and captured Nizar, imprisoning him in Cairo. The Fatimid Isma’ilis split into two rival factions: most Egyptian Isma’ilis supported al-Musta’li, along with the Isma’ilis of Syria, Yemen, and western India. But most of the Isma’ilis of Iraq and Iran supported Nizar. Today, two of the major communities of Isma’ilis trace the origins of their division to al-Mustansir’s death.

The vizier, al-Afdal, controlled Fatimid Cairo in the name of al-Musta’li, continuing the policies of al-Mustansir. When Crusader forces entered the region, al-Afdal tried to open negotiations to ally with them against the Turkic amirs of Syria. But the Crusaders seized Jerusalem from the Fatimids, defeating an army led by al-Afdal himself near Ascalon in 1099. The Crusaders continued to expand in Palestine, conquering Hayfa, Asruf, and Caesarea. Meanwhile, the Nizari Isma’ilis in Persia had continued to organize their opposition and fight both the Fatimids and the Crusaders. Led by Hasan-i Sabbah (d. 1124), sometimes known as “the old man of the mountain,” European Crusaders created legends about the Nizari Isma’ilis, remembering them as the “Hashishin” (assassins), for their willingness to sacrifice their own lives to kill their enemies.

In the midst of this Crusader expansion, al-Musta’li died in 1101. Al-Afdal proclaimed the caliphate of al-Musta’li’s five-year-old son, Abu ‘Ali al-Mansur, with the regnal title of al-Amir bi-Ahkam Allah. Al-Amir led several expeditions against the Crusaders. Al-Afdal was assassinated in 1121 in a plot possibly led by al-Amir himself. After al-Afdal’s death, al-Amir became increasingly disliked by the people of Egypt. A group of Nizaris assassinated him in 1130.

Fatimid Decline

The death of al-Amir led to a new schism among the Isma’ilis. A group now known as the Tayyibi Isma’ilis believed that the Fatimid caliph al-Amir had a son, named al-Tayyib, a few months before his murder, who was sent to be raised in Yemen. Several historical accounts attest to the birth of a son. According to some historical sources, al-Tayyib was designated as al-Amir’s heir, with one of al-Amir’s cousins, Abu al-Maymun ‘Abd al-Majid, ruling as regent. After an attempt to overthrow him, ‘Abd al-Majid declared his own caliphate in 1132, taking the title of al-Hafiz li-Din Allah, making him the first Fatimid caliph whose father had not reigned before him. Al-Hafiz’s proclamation of his caliphate split the Musta’li community. The Egyptian and Syrian Musta’lis supported al-Hafiz and are sometimes called the al-Hafiziyya or al-Majidiyya. But some of the Musta’li groups in Egypt and Syria, in addition to the majority in Yemen, followed al-Tayyib’s imamate and were known as the Tayyibiyya. Thus, by 1132, the Fatimid Isma’ilis had split into three main factions: the Nizaris had an independent state in Persia and Syria; the Tayyibis dominated Yemen; and the Hafizis ruled Egypt.

Al-Hafiz died in 1149. His successors, al-Zafir (1149–1154), al-Fa’iz (1154–1160), and al-‘Adid (1160–1171), were all young and controlled by their viziers. The last of these viziers was Salah al-Din Yusuf b. Ayyub (d. 1193), better known as Saladin, who was appointed in 1169 and ruled with the title of sultan. He consolidated his position in Egypt, building his own military force. He formally ended Fatimid rule in 1171 when he had the khutba in Cairo read in the name of the ‘Abbasid caliph al-Mustadi’ (1170–1180).

After the death of al-‘Adid, the Fatimid family were held under house arrest in the Fatimid palace. Saladin persecuted the Isma’ilis of Egypt, and the Hafizi Isma’ilis did not survive for long after the end of the Fatimid caliphate. Many Isma’ilis went into hiding, fleeing to upper Egypt. Al-‘Adid’s oldest son, Da’ud, who had been appointed his heir, was recognized by the Hafizis as the next imam, but Da’ud was held captive by Saladin. He died as a prisoner in Cairo in 1207–1208. The Hafizi Isma’ili community continued in Yemen.

Discussion of the Literature

The pre-Fatimid Isma’ili da’wa and the foundation of the Fatimid caliphate has remained a popular topic of study. Michael Brett and Heinz Halm have both written excellent surveys of early Fatimid history.8 Brett’s work ends at the reign of the Caliph al-Mu’izz (r. 953–975), just before the Fatimids transferred their capital to Cairo; Halm finishes with the transfer of the Fatimid capital to Cairo in 971. Both of these works built upon a longer historiographical tradition interested in the foundation of the Fatimids. Wladimir Ivanow and S. M. Stern’s early work surveyed the Fatimid accounts of their own past, but were completed in a period before the discovery of new caches of Isma’ili manuscripts.9

In the 1930s, Wladimir Ivanow, Asaf Fyzee, Husayn al-Hamdani, and Zahid Ali publicized collections of Isma’ili manuscripts kept within the Isma’ili communities of South Asia. The availability of these Isma’ili manuscripts, the foundation of the Ismaili Society of Bombay in 1946, and the creation of the Institute for Isma’ili Studies (IIS) in 1977 improved scholarship on the Fatimids and led to a series of bibliographical works by scholars such as Ivanow and Isma’il Poonawala, which have been more recently revised by Paul E. Walker and Farhad Daftary.10 Part of the mission of the Institute for Isma’ili Studies has been to make Isma’ili manuscripts available to scholars; they are committed to the publication of primary sources in translation through their “Isma’ili Texts and Translations Series.”11

Overall, Fatimid history could be better integrated into the broader history of Islam and the medieval Mediterranean. Some scholars, especially Michael Brett, have done some excellent work in this regard, but many of the recent works on Fatimid history focus on close textual analysis and narrow studies of significant Fatimid da’is or leaders.12 For example, Verena Klemm’s Memoirs of a Mission: The Isma’ili Scholar, Statesman and Poet al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi is a close reading of the writing of one Fatimid da’i.13 Tahera Qutbuddin also focuses on the work of one da’i (in this case, the same da’i).14 Sumaiya Hamdani studied the works of Qadi al-Nu’man (d. 974), the first chief qadi of the Fatimid caliphate and the architect of the Fatimid caliphate’s policy of rapprochement and accommodation with their Sunni subjects.15 While her book is a close analysis of Qadi al-Nu’man’s writings, she contextualizes his work within the rise of the Shi’i states in the 10th century, the conflicts within the nascent Isma’ili movement over the nature of the Imamate, and the many rebellions against Fatimid rule during the early Fatimid caliphate.

Irene Bierman and Paula Sanders have provided two of the most significant analyses of Fatimid history and legitimacy by analyzing broader questions of the articulation of Fatimid authority.16 Rather than focusing on public proclamations and textual sources, both Bierman and Sanders analyze public inscriptions and ritual as two of the important ways that the Fatimids expressed their own power, often to a diverse audience. Bierman argues that the writing on coins, public buildings, and textiles worn by the caliph during public processions constituted writing addressed to a public audience which was contextually contingent and addressed the diverse audiences of Cairo.17 Sanders’ work also stands out for its attempt to reconstruct Fatimid political culture from its rituals instead of relying only on formal proclamations. The attention that she pays to ritual as a form of expressing legitimacy echoes Bierman’s use of “public writing” to show how the Fatimids engaged with both Sunni and Isma’ili audiences.

Overall, Fatimid historiography is still largely affected by a Sunni-centric view of the medieval Islamic world. While many scholars, such as Farhad Daftary, Sumaiya Hamdani, and Shainool Jiwa, have argued that Sunni Islam was not necessarily dominant in the 9th and 10th centuries (and this author agrees with that contention), more work needs to be done demonstrating this claim. It would be useful for future researchers to integrate Fatimid history within broader historiographical trends in medieval Islamic history, such as studies of conversion to Islam, the development of different forms of Muslim orthodoxy, and the formation of different forms of Muslim identity. The study of the Fatimids in North Africa would also benefit from a more detailed discussion of race and an examination of the dynamics of interactions between Berbers, Arabs, and other racial groups in the region.

Primary Sources

While many sources of North African history are not available in English, the Institute for Isma’ili Studies (IIS), especially via its “Ismaili Texts and Translations Series” (see “Discussion of the Literature”), has done incredible work on making primary sources on the Fatimids available in both English and Arabic. The full list of their publications can be found on their website, but the most significant works for those interested in the Fatimids in North Africa are the following: the Iftitah al-da’wa (Opening of the Mission), written by Qadi al-Nu’man (d. 974), the first Fatimid chief qadi, which discusses the Isma’ili da’wa movement in North Africa that led to the establishment of the Fatimid caliphate; Sirat al-Ustadh Jawdhar (Life of Jawdhar), written by Abu Ali Mansur al-Aziz al-Jawdhari (d. 972), the private secretary of Jawdhar (d. 973), the general who conquered Egypt for the Fatimids, which discusses the context of the early Fatimid caliphs in North Africa and even contains selections of letters from the caliphs to Jawdhar; and the history of the Fatimid caliphate in Cairo as told by al-Maqrizi, a scholar of Mamluk Egypt.18 The surviving khutbas, or sermons, of the first four Fatimid caliphs have been published, which provides a sense of how the dynasty saw itself and its role in North Africa.19

In addition, both Paul E. Walker and Farhad Daftary have written bibliographies of Fatimid and Isma’ili history.20 In these works, they outline both the available primary sources (from manuscripts and texts to coins, art, architecture, and building inscriptions) as well as survey the modern studies available on Fatimid history.

Further Reading

Bierman, Irene. Writing Signs: The Fatimid Public Text. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Brett, Michael. The Rise of the Fatimids: The World of the Mediterranean and the Middle East in the Fourth Century of the Hijra, Tenth Century CE. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001.Find this resource:

Cortese, Delia, and Simonetta Calderini. Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Daftary, Farhad. The Ismaʿilis: Their History and Doctrines. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.Find this resource:

Daftary, Farhad, ed. Ismailis in Medieval Muslim Societies. London: I. B. Tauris, 2005.Find this resource:

Halm, Heinz. The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids. Translated by Michael Bonner. New York: Brill, 1996.Find this resource:

Halm, Heinz. The Fatimids and Their Traditions of Learning. London: I. B. Tauris, 1997.Find this resource:

Hamdani, Sumaiya. Between Revolution and State: The Path to Fatimid Statehood: Qadi Al-Nuʻman and the Construction of Fatimid Legitimacy. London: I. B. Tauris, 2006.Find this resource:

Rustow, Marina. Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Sanders, Paula. Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Walker, Paul E. The Caliph of Cairo: Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996–1021. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2012.Find this resource:


(1.) “Statement on Mahdi’s Communication to the Yemen on the Real and Esoteric Names of His Hidden Predecessors,” in On the Genealogy of Fatimid Caliphs (Arabic edition), ed. and intro. Husayn F. al-Hamdani (Cairo: American University at Cairo School of Oriental Studies, 1958), 9–10 (Arabic pagination).

(2.) Jonathan M. Bloom, “The Origins of Fatimid Art,” Muqarnas 3 (1985): 21.

(3.) Heinz Halm, The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids, trans. Michael Bonner (New York: Brill, 1996), 155.

(4.) Halm, The Empire of the Mahdi 278.

(5.) For more information on this topic, see Wilferd Madelung, “The Religious Police of the Fatimids toward Their Sunni Subject in the Maghrib,” L’Egypte Fatimide: son art et son histoire; acts du collque organise’ a’ Paris les 28, 29, et 30 mai 1998 (1999): 97–104.

(6.) Farhad Daftary, The Isma’ilis: Their History and Doctrines (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 162.

(7.) Paul E. Walker, “The Isma’ili Da’wa in the Reign of the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim,” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt 30 (1993): 162.

(8.) Michael Brett, The Rise of the Fatimids: The World of the Mediterranean and the Middle East in the Fourth Century of the Hijira, Tenth Century CE (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001) and Heinz Halm, The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids, trans. Michael Bonner (New York: Brill, 1996). This book was originally published in German as Das Reich des Mahdi: der Aufstieg der Fatimiden (875–973) (Munich, Germany: Beck, 1991).

(9.) Wladimir Ivanow, Isma’ili Tradition Concerning the Rise of the Fatimids (London: The Islamic Research Association, 1942) and S. M. Stern, Studies in Early Isma’ilism (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1983).

(10.) Wladimir Ivanow, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliographical Survey (Tehran: Ismaili Society, 1933), Isma’il Poonawala, Bibliography of Isma’ili Literature (Malibu, CA: Undena Publications, 1977), Paul E. Walker, Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and Its Sources (London: I. B. Tauris, 2002), and Farhad Daftary, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliography of Sources and Studies (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004).

(11.) Examples of their publications include the following: Hamid Hajji’s Founding the Fatimid State; a translation of Qadi al-Nu’man’s Iftitah al-Da’wa; Ayman Fu’ad Sayyid’s The Fatimids and Their Successors in Yaman; an edited edition of vol. 7 of Idris ‘Imad al-Din’s Ayyun al-Akhbar; James W. Morris’ The Master and Disciple; a translation of Ja’far b. Mansur al-Yaman’s Kitab al-‘Alim wa al-Ghulam; Paul E. Walker’s Orations of the Fatimid Caliphs; a translation of several khutbas of the Fatimid Caliphs; and Paul E. Walker’s Master of the Age, a translation of al-Kirmani’s al-Masabih fi ithbat al-imama. Most recently, Shainool Jiwa published Towards a Shi’i Mediterranean Empire: Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo (2010), which is a translation of the portions of the Mamluk historian al-Maqrizi’s Itti’az al-Hunafa’, devoted to the reign of the Imam-Caliph al-Mu’izz. These texts generally contain a critical edition of the original source in Arabic as well as a translation and supplementary contextualizing material.

(12.) Michael Brett, The Rise of the Fatimids: The World of the Mediterranean & and the Middle East in the Tenth Century C.E. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2000).

(13.) Verena Klemm, Memoirs of a Mission: The Isma’ili Scholar, Statesman and Poet al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi (London: I. B. Tauris, 2003).

(14.) Tahera Qutbuddin, al-Muayyad al-Shirazi and Fatimid da’wa Poetry: A Case of Commitment in Classical Arabic Literature (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005).

(15.) Sumaiya Hamdani, Between Revolution and State: The Path to Fatimid Statehood—Qadi al-Nu’man and the Construction of Fatimid Legitimacy (London: I. B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2006).

(16.) Irene Bierman, Writing Signs: The Fatimid Public Text (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) and Paula Sanders, Ritual Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).

(17.) Stephannie Mulder, The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is and the Architecture of Coexistence (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014).

(18.) Hamid Haji (trans.), Founding the Fatimid State: The Rise of an Early Islamic Empire. An Annotated English Translation of al-Qadi al-Nu’man’s Iftitah aol-Da’wa (London: I. B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2006), Hamid Haji (trans.), Inside the Immaculate Portal: A History from Early Fatimid Archives. A New Edition and English Translation of Mansur al-Azizi al-Jawdhari’s Biography of al-Ustadh Jawdhar, the Sirat al-Ustadh Jawdhar (London: I. B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2012), and Shainool Jiwa (trans.), Towards a Shi’i Mediterranean Empire: Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo. The Reign of the Imam-Caliph al-Mu’izz, from al-Maqrizi’s Itti’az al-hunafa (London: I. B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2009).

(19.) Paul Walker (trans.), Orations of the Fatimid Caliphs: Festival Sermons of the Isma’ili Imams. An Edition of the Arabic Texts and English Translation of Fatimid Khutbas (London: I. B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2009).

(20.) Paul E. Walker, Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and Its Sources (London: I. B. Tauris, 2002) and Farhad Daftary, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliography of Sources and Studies (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004).