The latest IIS publication, Towards a Shi‘i Mediterranean Empire: Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo, explores the reign of the fourth Fatimid Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz li-din Allah (r. 953-975 CE), based on the only complete history of the Fatimids written by a mediaeval Sunni Muslim historian. The work by Dr Shainool Jiwa, provides a translation for the first time, of the writings of al-Maqrizi, a 15th century Mamluk scholar, on the reign of Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz.
Imam-Caliph al-Mu‘izz’s rule was among the most eventful periods in Fatimid history and has left indelible imprints on subsequent centuries. While being an accomplished statesman and administrator, Imam-Caliph al-Mu‘izz was also an avid scholar and a generous patron of learning. During his reign, the Fatimid Empire extended from present-day Morocco in the west to Syria and Yemen in the east and southeast, respectively. He has the distinction of planning and executing the Fatimid conquest of Egypt, which was subsequently ruled by the Fatimids for the next two centuries.
The expansion of the Fatimids, the conquest of Egypt and the founding of Cairo are among the significant historical events portrayed by al-Maqrizi in his Itti‘az al-hunafa’ bi-akhbar al a’imma al-Fatimiyyin al-khulafa’ (Lessons for the Seekers of Truth on the History of the Fatimid Imams and Caliphs). A distinctive feature of the Itti‘az is that it preserves a number of early Fatimid decrees, letters and sermons delivered by Imam-Caliph al-Mu‘izz. An example of this is the guarantee of safety (amān) which the Fatimid commander, Jawhar al-Siqilli (d. 381/922), issued to the Egyptian populace. The Fatimid commitment to establish just governance for all their subjects, including members of the Ahl al-Kitāb (The People of the Book), and their inclusive and tolerant attitude to all Muslim communities are among the principles upon which their policies in Egypt were instituted.The book’s introduction provides a succinct and accessible account of the founding and evolution of the Fatimid Empire. It also introduces al-Maqrizi’s works and interest in the Fatimids. Inspired by the Khaldunian idea that “the inner meaning of history involves speculation and an attempt to get at the truth”, al-Maqrizi undertook a systematic study of the Muslim polity in order to define successful governance models and one such model was manifested in Fatimid rule.
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