Posted: Mon Apr 28, 2003 10:11 am Post subject: FATIMID ERA
If you are interested in knowing about the intriguing Fatimid Period, read
"EXPLORING AN ISLAMIC EMPIRE" by Paul E. Walker. This book presents a really thorough account of the glory of the topic period.
If you just want to know the basics, then "A short history of the Ismailis" by Dr. Farhad Daftary is an excellent source.
<P>When Fatmids were witnessing downfall, their followers "Soomras" were ruling <BR>Sindh (then an independent country now a province of Pakistan). Soomras ruled<BR>Sindh upto 1351 AD. Till then they had drifted away from Ismailism. <BR> </P>
Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2003 6:30 pm Post subject: Re: Why we lost that Glory.
i am a researcher about the relationship between educatioin and politics during the Fatimid era i egypt , can u help me by sending me any manuscript or books related to this topic. my email is: <A href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</A><BR>
Imam SMS had made a Farman which explained why we lost that glory.<BR><BR>"Murido na himmat thaiya"<BR>(Murids lost their courage)<BR><BR>Definition of Himmat from Imam<BR><BR>Kalame Mowla "Himmat badi Iman nishani" (Courage is a strong sign of Iman)<BR><BR>Imam SMS " Je koi himmat karine savarna Jamatkhanama aavi Bandagi kare che....."<BR>(Whosoever courageously comes to khane in the morning to do bandagi...)<BR><BR>Something to reflect upon......
Posted: Thu Jan 08, 2009 3:16 am Post subject: The Fatimid Dynasty and Its Contributions
I was curious to see your interest in Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah’s words about the loss of the Fatimid dynasty. While it is in Gujrati, an explanation might be helpful in English.
Let us first note that the Fatimid dynasty, according to historical records, started with Imam Mehdi and ended with the death of Al Adid. Now although in theory this is correct, it does not reflect the complete version of events.
The Fatimid dynasty was the beginning of an era where Imam Mehdi, the descendant of Fatima, openly declared his leadership and involved himself in public affairs. He wanted the freedom to protect the rights of his followers and carry on his work in both material and spiritual capacities.
After Imam Mehdi the succession of Imams are: Qaim, Mansur, Moez, Aziz, Hakim bi Amrillah, Zahir, and Mustansirbillah. It was during the time of Imam Mustansirbillah that history takes an interesting twist. A conflict arose as to who is the rightful successor – Nizar or Must’ali. Nizar, who was clearly declared at first, was matched by his brother Must’ali who had the support of the vizier Afdal al Gamali. Afdal argued that Mustansirbillah had declared Nizar to be his successor but at his death bed there was a change of mind.
This conflict led to a split between Nizaris and Must’alians. Historical records seem to always point out that the Fatimid dynasty ended through the Must’alian line, but rarely points out that it was not the only line accepted as truly Fatimid. Nizaris claim that the Fatimid dynasty, although not in name, was not lost but continued its succession to the present leader – the Aga Khan.
Today Must’ali’s blood lineage does not exist because it came to an end at the death of Al Adid; whereas the lineage of Nizar still continues. It is very important to respect our Must’alian brothers, at the same time certain points of history must be clarified.
Let it also be noted for historical purposes that the Fatimids were very important to the development of modern education. Too many times in western education the contribution of Muslim thinkers is absent. The west has formed an intellectual patent on historical contributions and refuses to acknowledge that Muslims, originating from so called “primitive races”, could have ever contributed anything of significance by themselves.
Western education teaches students that Muslims were uncivilized and that the simply copied the works of the Greeks and transmitted it to the western world. That clearly contains bias and a slight tease of racism towards Muslims and Islam itself.
May we remind western historians to remember that Greeks were far more primitive in mathematics than most civilizations of that time. Thanks to the Chinese, Indians, and Arabs new knowledge in computation flourished.
Modern science had one special miracle that propelled it from the old world to the new and that was the introduction of the current decimal system. What would life be like if the decimal system was not used today?
The Greeks, with all the credit given to them, could not even conceptualize zero into their mathematics. Without such a system Greek computation was cumbersome and incapable of higher computations. Why are we not using the Greek-Roman numerals today? If they were so superior then why not continue their legacy? In the end whose numerals are we using today? We are using Indian-Arabic numerals.
Western historians must also give credit to intellectuals such as Al Kwarizmi from whom the word algorithm came from. It was his book which contained the word al jabr which came to be known as Algebra.
Medicine was another field where Muslims excelled. During Fatimid times there were too many superstitious views in the western world as to why humans fell sick. Ibn Sina, considered the father of medicine, wrote the Canon of Medicine who’s first scientific approach to healing did away with concepts of sin and evil and replaced it with experimental reasoning.
The very word Chemistry is Arabic in origin. It comes from Al Chemy, or alchemy, as western historians call it. True racism and bias can really be shown when explaining to students the history of the subject. They go so far as to say that Arabs, not mentioning the word Muslims, were primitive in their thinking of chemicals. They somehow sat all day and night trying to turn base metals into gold and mistakenly fumbled upon certain concepts. Once again reference is made to the Greeks as the basis of western thinking, the Muslims simply copied them, and their texts were transmitted to the west.
In the Christian world there was much debate over creation vs. evolution, in the Islamic viewpoint that wasn’t the case. Intellectuals such as Galileo and Copernicus led a movement of disbelief in the church and its doctrine. Such debates as the earth being flat and the universe not being in constant movement led to further accusations against the concept of an existing God. Darwin epitomised that movement and has ever since created a separation in the western world between those who accept creation and those who deny it.
Western historians go even further as to say that Al Azhar University was not the first modern university in the world. Such a claim would mean that Muslims were intellectually advanced than those of the western world.
This all stems from a hidden belief amongst western thinkers that Islam and those who follow it are wrong in faith, absent in intellect, inferior in race, and asset poor. It is a propaganda that the British used while on its colonial expansion.
For the British, true faith and path to heaven was only Christianity and other faiths were wrong and dammed to eternal hell. Education was given to the western world by the Greeks and no other race could have contributed anything of significance. Muslims simply copied the Greeks and preserved it so that it could be used once again by the west.
The only superior race according to the British was the white race; all other races were primitive and inferior. They constantly referred to the Bible claiming that the children of Shem shall be superior. This led to mass export of African slaves to the new world and a systematic eradication of their language, history, culture and religion.
Indians still have an inferiority complex which was instilled in them by the British. Learning English is still more highly respected than Hindi or any other language in India. What would the west think if there was a white man, who spoke English, who ruled England, and was Muslim? Even in the United States the notion of having a Muslim President is unthinkable to a vast majority.
Pluralism and the need for the human family to embrace each other intellectually and physically is the most important undertaking of our time. It will take many generations for the world to become truly global, to accept one another as equals, and to understand that which binds us as human beings. Perhaps we can learn from the Fatimids and the legacy they left behind.
ya ali madad,Intresting............we hardly hear how the downfall came,it was definitely the ismailles who brought the downfall.........as the setup was solidyfied by the time of imam muiz....and sadlly enough it was not the lack of comitment ,it was over committing to a point of ownership and permenance,ofcourse with the ismailly pride and boostfulness...and the claim that.................ALI SAHI ALLAH........inspite of the Imams not wanting it mentioned in the physical contexture........beware we are just about ready for the second resserection...............! Will we follow our forefathers and be the same proud,boostfull,inconsiderate and no sense of united decitions.wanting to be the top honjoo all the time........
Posted: Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:04 am Post subject: Salam alikom...
Thanks for the wonderful topic in this whole forum, may Allah bliss us all
I found something on a site under the name URL Egypt conditions under the Fatimid Caliphateand wish to know whether true or not, if someone here knows...
I found an article saying that "the weakness of the Abbassid Dynasty led to the foundation of the Fatimid Dynasty......... Moreover, the Alides helped the Fatimids in getting rid of the Abbasids and they made good relations with the former in order to participate in their government. ....."
need more explanation please...
Pomp and Celebration in Fatimid Egypt During the Flooding of the Nile
By John Feeney
When the Nile reached its peak, the golden parasol was unfurled, trumpets sounded, and the caliph, “mounted and clothed in sapphires and emeralds,” emerged to the wonderment of his subjects…it was difficult for many spectators to catch even a brief glimpse of the passing caliph. But the very act of seeing him, it was believed, conveyed blessings upon the beholder.
Hoard of Crusader gold found in ruins
Posted On: July 26, 2012 - 4:00pm
A team of researchers from Tel Aviv University has uncovered a hoard of real-life buried treasure at the Crusader castle of Arsur (also known as Apollonia), a stronghold located between the ancient ports of Jaffa and Caesarea, in use from 1241 to its destruction in 1265. The hoard, comprised of 108 gold coins, mostly dinars dated to the Fatimid Period (ca. 900 to 1100 AD), was discovered in a pot by a university student. The coins bear the names of sultans and blessings, and usually include a date and a mint name that indicates where a coin was struck.
The Crusaders' last stand: Pot of gold worth £300,000 found in fortress where it was buried by doomed force of Christian knights
•Pot of gold 'Dinals' were buried by Crusaders as enemy forces closed in
•100 coins worth up to $5000 each
•Remained hidden in fortress since 1265
•Hidden inside broken jug to prevent conquerors taking treasure
By Rob Waugh
The Ramadan Lantern – A Fatimid Tradition
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Photo: Heba Helmy, almasryalyoum.com
Fanous Ramadan (the Ramadan lantern) is an essential part of Ramadan’s magical atmosphere in Egypt. Some sources date the fanous back to a celebration during the Fatimid dynasty when Egyptians welcomed the arrival of the Fatimid Ismaili Imam/Caliph Muizz to Cairo by lighting hundreds of lanterns. Since that time, the fanous lanterns and lamps of various kinds, of many hues and degrees of brightness, and even both real and imaginary, have always been special to Egypt. Before the coming of electricity, Cairo itself was noted for its spectacular use of lanterns to illuminate the city, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies 35 No.1, University of Chicago Press, 1976, pp 29-40.
This paper was delivered at the Congress of the American Oriental Society in Santa Barbara in March 1974. In it, Wilferd Madelung presents his exhaustive research into the origins and sources of a monumental document that was considered lost to history; the Kitab al-idah, Qadi al-Nu‘man's first legal work - a vast collection of legal traditions transmitted from the family of the Prophet (ahl al-bayt), indicating their points of consensus (ijma‘) and conflict (ikhtilaf) and elucidating what was firmly established doctrine in them with evidence and proofs. This article provides an invaluable resource for academics and students of Islamic studies and related fields.
Historical representations of a Fatimid Imam-caliph: Exploring al-Maqrizi’s and Idris’ writings on al-Mu‘izz Li Din Allah
Dr Shainool Jiwa
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Alifba: Studi Arabo-Islamici e Mediterranei, Vol XXII - the published proceedings of the International Conference on the Fatimids and the Mediterranean held at the University of Palermo, Italy in December 2008.
It is a happenstance of history that the two most comprehensive extant sources on the Fatimid era (909-1171 CE) were composed by two 15th Century scholars: Taqi al-Din Ahmad b. Ali al-Maqrizi (d.1449 CE) and ‘Imad al-Din ldris (d.1468 CE). Although they composed their works almost three centuries after the Fatimid dynasty had waned, their writings assume primary source significance as, in constructing their narrative, they draw upon a spectrum of earlier North African, Egyptian and Iraqi, Sunni and Ismaili sources, which have not survived the vagaries of time and circumstance.
Though they were contemporaries and died within two decades of each other, both authors, the first an Egyptian Sunni Shafi‘i jurist, the second a Yemeni, Tayyibi Ismaili Chief Da‘i, have significantly different interests and motivations when writing about the Fatimid era. Their belief in the purpose of history, their methodology in using source material, the focus of their narratives as well as their target audience make their approaches to recording Fatimid history distinctive. This provides a relatively rare opportunity to study two discrete perspectives from which to understand and examine Fatimid historiography.
The reign of the fourth Imam-caliph, al-Mu‘izz li Din Allah (953-975 CE), an exemplary sovereign in whose era Egypt is brought under Fatimid sway, thus transforming their North African state into a Mediterranean empire, has received focussed attention from both al-Maqrizi and Idris. Their respective works, the 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)[i] and the ‘Uyun al-akhbar wa Funun al-Athar (Sound Sources and Trustworthy Traditions)[ii] together provide comprehensive coverage of the life and times of al-Mu‘izz, with both writers drawing from sources available to them but which, unfortunately, are no longer extant. An examination of their notions, purposes and expressions of history consequently forms the focus of this paper.
. 1013 AD in the Middle East was the apogee of Shiite power. The Ismaili Shiite dynasty, the Fatimids, ruled North Africa, Egypt, and much of the Levant. The Shiites of Lebanon, the Alawites of Syria, the Druze of both countries, and some of the strength of Zaydi Shiite Islam in Yemen today all have their historical origins in part in Fatimid Shiite dominance. The Fatimids belonged to the Ismaili branch of Shiism.
Fatimid Imams had a fondness for books, establishing a library that was a wonder of the medieval world
“An Ismaili da’wa without libraries was unimaginable. The fondness of the Ismaili Imams for books from a very early stage is again and again emphasized by contemporary sources.”
“After the Fatimids moved to Egypt in the year 973 the palace in Cairo acquired a library unmatched anywhere in the contemporary world. During the reign of al-Aziz (975-996) it contained more than thirty copies of the al-‘Ayn dictionary by the well-known grammarian Khalil (d. 791). The famous world chronicle of al-Tabari (839-923) was represented by twenty copies… the major work of the philologist and lexicographer Ibn Durayd (837-933), al-Jamhara, there were a hundred copies. When this library was plundered by Turkish soldiers in the year 1068 it consisted of forty rooms. The works of classical authors alone comprised 18,000 volumes.”
After the loss of the palace library in…the year 1068, the collections had to be re-assembled and soon they once more comprised a considerable number of volumes. Ibn al-Tuwayr, a chronicler of the late Fatimid and early Ayyubid periods, is our major source on the subject…He writes…
“This library contained a great many bookshelves standing all around the enormous hall; the shelves were divided into compartments by vertical partitions; each compartment was secured by a hinged door with a padlock. There were more than 200,000 bound books and a few without bindings; jurisprudence according to the different schools, grammar and philology, books about the traditions of prophets, history, biographies of rulers, astronomy, spiritual knowledge (ruhaniyyat) and alchemy – on each discipline the [relevant] manuscripts….All this was written on a label attached to the door of each compartment. The venerable Qur’an manuscripts were preserved in a higher place…”
After the fall of the Fatimid empire in the year 1171, Saladin sold the library and converted the rooms into a hospital. The chronicler Ibn Abi Tayyi of Aleppo, a Twelver Shi’i, has left the following account:
“Among the things that were sold was the library. It was one of the wonders of the world, and it was said that in all the lands of Islam there had been no greater library than the one in the palace of Cairo. Among the astonishing things is the fact that there were 1,200 copies of al-Tabari’s chronicle and many others!“
At the Dar al-Ilm founded by Fatimid Imam al-Hakim in 1005
The court chronicler al-Musabbihi (quoted by al-Maqrizi) described the library at this institution:
“Into this house they brought all the books that the commander of the faithful al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah ordered to bring there, that is, manuscripts in all the domains of science and culture, to an extent to which they had brought together for a prince. He allowed access to all this to people of all walks of life, whether they wanted to read books or dip into them. One of the already mentioned blessings, the likes of which had been unheard of, was also that he granted substantial salaries to all those who were appointed by him there to do service – jurists and others. People from all walks of life visited the House; some came to read books, others to copy them, yet others to study. He also donated what people needed: ink, writing reeds, paper and inkstands.”
Extracts from Heinz Halm’s The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd. London, 1997
Compiled by Nimira Dewji
Fatimid Caliph-Imams encouraged the cultivation of poetry
Poetry has always been central to the spiritual life of Islam, particularly among the Sufis and other esoteric traditions of the faith. Through the ages, it has been composed in classical languages and local dialects to express love and devotion for God, and for Prophet Muhammad. Although a large body of the great poetry of Islam has been translated into English, the poetry of the Ismailis, which includes Ginans, except for a small portion, is still only accessible in the original languages.
Among the arts, the cultivation of poetry was especially encouraged by the Fatimid Caliph-Imams. As was customary with most ruling Muslim dynasties, the Fatimids maintained a staff of a few professional poets, ranked according to their skills, who performed important roles in the court rituals and public ceremonials. The most famous of the court poets was Muhammad ibn Hani al-Andalusi, who entered the service of the Fatimids in 958, after fleeing from persecution in Muslim Spain. He was reputed as the foremost Arabic poet of the Maghrib (present–day Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and his poetry was widely admired. He was the official court poet of Imam al-Mansur and Imam al-Mu’izz.
Prince Tamim, the eldest son of Imam al-Mu’izz (ca. 948-984), was dedicated to the pursuit of literary and cultural pursuits until his premature death.
Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poetry tr. By Faquir M. Hunzai, London, I.B. Taurus, 1996
Compiled by Nimira Dewji
Today in history: The first Fatimid city was inaugurated
The city of Mahdiyya, founded by the Fatimid-Caliph Imam al-Mahdi, was inaugurated on February 20, 921.
Imam al-Mahdi was proclaimed caliph in Sijilmasa (near modern-day Rissani in Morocco) in 909, marking the foundation of the Fatimid Caliphate, which began the ‘golden age’ of Ismaili thought and literature, and one of the greatest eras in Islamic and Egyptian history.
In order to have better access to the Mediterranean and eastern lands, Imam al-Mahdi founded the coastal town named after him, transferring his capital there in 921.
Mahdiyya was equipped with a large shipyard that enabled the Fatimids to possess a powerful fleet. When the Fatimids gained control of Sicily in the tenth century, the island developed vital trade relations with Ifriqiya. Palermo (in Sicily), with its numerous mosques, became a flourishing centre of traditional Islamic sciences. Fatimid Sicily played an important role in the transmission of Islamic culture to Europe.
Sqifa al-Kahla gate in Maddiyya (Photo: Gasmi Raouf)
The oldest Fatimid architectural structures – one of two city gates (the Sqifa al-Kahla) and the mosque – are still preserved in the modern-day small town. Over the centuries, the mosque fell to ruins until the 1960s, when it was completely restored and is used again.
Farhad Daftary, The Ismailis: Their history and doctrines, Cambridge University, 1990
Heinz Halm, The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd., London, 1997
Fatimids’ inclusive model of governance was reflected in the Aman proclamation of the tenth century
Named after the Prophet’s daughter, the Fatimids established their empire in 909 in North Africa when Imam al-Mahdi was proclaimed Caliph. Imams al-Mahdi and al-Mansur reigned from North Africa, founding cities named after them. In 973 Imam al-Mu’izz transferred the capital of the empire to Cairo, a city he founded.
The Fatimid Caliph-Imams adopted an inclusive model of governance that enabled political and economic stability, intellectual advancements, and artistic grandeur for two centuries of their reign, considered a remarkable period in Egyptian and Muslim history.
Upon entering Egypt, the Fatimid General Jawhar, issued the Aman, or ‘peace proclamation’ in June-July 969, on behalf of the Imam al-Mu’izz. The Aman provided “the foundation for respecting the diversity of religious outlooks in a shared quest, inspired by the Qur’anic call:
‘O humanity! Truly We created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might know each other. Truly the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most God-conscious of you. Truly God is Knowing, Aware.’ (Qur’an 49:13).”1
The Fatimid dynasty’s ideals of equity and social justice were associated with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad who had issued the Charter of Medina that emphasized inclusion and just governance for all residents.
The Aman included “the nature of the Fatimid mission, which is articulated in their understanding of a divinely designated duty of care and protection of the cosmopolitan Egyptian populace. Accordingly, the Aman underscores the Fatimid commitment to establish just governance for all their subjects including members of the Ahl al-Kitab (The People of the Book, meaning Jews and Christians), and their inclusive and tolerant attitude to all Muslim communities. The Aman has been recounted in full by the erudite and prolific Sunni Egyptian historian, Taqi al-Din Ahmad al-Maqrizi (1364-1442).”1
The Aman proclamation stated that:
“Our lord and master, the Commander of the Faithful, has advised his servant to extend equity and justice and to dispel injustice, to temper aggression, to eradicate transgression, to increase aid, to uphold what is just and to strengthen the oppressed through compassion and beneficence, to supervise fairly, to be generous in companionship, to be kind in associations, to scrutinise living conditions, to offer protection to the inhabitants day and night so that they can strive freely to earn their living and can manage their affairs such that it would restore them.”1
Fatimids' inclusive model of governance was reflected in the Aman proclamation of the tenth century
Facade at Al-Azhar Mosque
1Dr Shainool Jiwa, Inclusive Governance: A Fatimid Illustration, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Dr. Farhad Daftary, Ismaili History, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Named after the Prophet’s daughter, the reign of the Fatimid Caliph-Imams (909-1171) is often referred to as a ‘golden age’ in Ismaili history. The Fatimids placed a high value on intellectual and artistic activities and Cairo, their capital, became a flourishing centre of scholarship, learning, and the arts. Furniture, textiles, and artefacts made in Cairo had a particularly high reputation and were exported to the entire Mediterranean area.
Fatimid art, known for the richness of its decoration, exemplifies the creativity of the craftsmen. Ceramic objects with metallic tints (lusterware) dating to the Fatimid era are considered to be amongst the best examples of medieval Islamic ceramics.
Blue glass cup, Egypt, 9-11th century, Victoria and Albert Museum
The technique of lusterware on ceramics, developed originally in Iraq, was revived in Egypt and Syria. Fatimid ceramic bowls – known as bacini – were highly sought after in Italy where they were used either for decorating facades or as religious vessels. Large glass flasks, cups, and jugs made in the workshops in Cairo were decorated with plant motifs and geometric patterns in several colours. Fatimid craftsmen were the first to make decorative objects of this kind in the large size.
Fatimid bacini, 11th century, Musée nationale de San Matteo.
This ceramic bowl with a lustre-painted decoration, produced in Fatimid Egypt in the second half of the eleventh century, is a bacino (basin, hollow circular vessel). Embedded in one of the facades of San Sisto Church in Pisa, it was used, along with other ceramic plates, to decorate the building.
Sibylle Mazot, “The Fatimids, Decorative Arts,” Islam: Art and Architecture Edited by Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius, Konemann
Qantara Mediterranean Heritage
Victoria & Albert Museum
Today in history: Fatimid jurist Qadi al-Nu’man passed away
One of the greatest Ismaili jurists and theologians of the Fatimid era, Qadi al-Nu‘man, passed away on March 27, 974 in Cairo, after serving the Fatimid dynasty for almost fifty years. Imam al-Muizz led the prayers for al-Nu’man’s funeral.
Qadi al-Nu‘man was born around 903, and entered the service of the first Fatimid Imam al-Mahdi in 925, serving the next three Imams in various capacities, such as the keeper of the palace library and the qadi (judge). His growing position and importance reached its zenith under the fourth Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Mu‘izz, when he became the highest judicial functionary of the Fatimid state, the chief judge (qadi al-qudat).
The early Fatimids were confronted with the issue of statehood because there did not exist an Ismaili law similar to the Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanafi, and Hanbali law developed by the Sunni Muslims, and the Ja’fari law developed by the Twelver Shi’is. While the Ismailis had observed the law of the land wherever they lived, the need for a code of law arose when they formed the Fatimid state, although Ismailism was never imposed on all subjects of the state.
Al-Numan’s Tarbiyat, 10th majlis copied in 1858. Image: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History
Although the process of codifying Ismaili law occurred during the time of time of Imam al-Mahdi, Qadi al-Nu’man was officially commissioned by Imam al-Mu’izz to prepare a legal set of law.
“Al-Nu’man codified Ismaili law by systematically collecting the firmly established legal hadiths transmitted from the ahl al-bayt. His efforts culminated in the compilation of the Da’a’im al-Islam (The Pillars of Islam), which was scrutinized closely by Imam al-Mu’izz and endorsed as the official code of the Fatimid state.”1
The Da’a’im is divided into two volumes. The first volume deals with acts of devotion and religious duties, and the second volume deals with worldly affairs such as food, clothing, wills, inheritance, and marriage.
The esoteric counterpart of the Al-Nu’man’s Da’a’im al-Islam is the Tarbiyat al-mu’minin, better known as the Ta’wil da’a’im al-Islam (Hermeneutics of the Pillars of Islam). This volume comprised 120 lectures on the esoteric Ismaili doctrines, or hikma that were delivered at the majalis al-hikma, or “sessions of wisdom.” These private lectures, delivered by the chief da’i in a special hall of the Fatimid palace, developed into an elaborate program of instruction for a variety of audiences including the initiates, courtiers, high officials, and women.
The texts for these lectures, addressing a wide variety of theological, philosophical, and ethical issues as well as the esoteric interpretation (ta’wil) of the Qur’an, were pre-approved by the Imam before they were delivered at the majalis.
1 “Al-Qadi al-Nu’man and the Ismaili madhab,” in The Ismailis An Illustrated History, Azimuth Editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Heinz Halm, The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd., London, 1997
Lectures delivered at the majalis al-hikma were pre-approved by the Imams
The teaching sessions related to the esoteric Ismaili doctrines, or hikma, were designated as majalis al-hikma, or “sessions of wisdom.” Under the Fatimids, these private lectures developed into an elaborate programme of instruction for a variety of audiences including the initiates, courtiers, high officials, and women.
The private lectures were delivered by the chief da’i in a special hall of the Fatimid palace. The texts for the these lectures, addressing a wide variety of theological, philosophical, and ethical issues as well as the esoteric interpretation (ta’wil) of the Qur’an, were pre-approved by the Imams.
The external law was accessible to all as it was the legal basis for the daily life of the citizens. But since it was new – the qadi al-Numan (d. 974) himself had compiled it based on the Shi’i tradition – it had to be made known to everyone at public teaching sessions on Fridays after the midday prayer at the mosque in North Africa, and subsequently at the Al-Azhar in Cairo or at the Mosque of Amr in Fustat, and later at the Mosque of al-Hakim.
In these sessions, excerpts from al-Numan’s Da’a’im al-Islam, which served as the religious and civil code for the Fatimid administration, were read and explained. The Da’a’im’s esoteric counterpart, better known as Ta’wil da’a’im al-Islam (Hermeneutics of the Pillars of Islam) comprises 120 lectures, or majalis.
Pages from al-Majalis of the da’i al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi. Photo: The Ismailis: An Illustrated History
This tradition of learning culminated in the al-Majalis al-Mu’ayyadiyya, a collection of eight volumes comprising one-hundred lectures in each volume. This work was composed and delivered by Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi (d. 1078), chief da’i during the time of Imam al-Mustansir bi’llah (r. 1036-1094).
Farhad Dafary, Zulfikar Hirji, The Ismailis: An Illustrated History, Azimuth Editions
Heinz Halm, The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, I.B. Tauris, London, 1997
Rock crystal has been used for centuries for its ‘magical’ qualities
|Posted on May 25, 2016
Rock crystal. Image: Wikipedia
Rock crystal has been worked since the third millennium BCE. A pure form of the silica mineral quartz, rock crystal has been valued for its transparency and flawless structure. The Babylonians (ca. 2000 BCE) thought that owning items of rock crystal would increase a person’s wealth; in ancient China, rock crystal was used to symbolise victory; the Egyptians used it in their jewellery and in the eyes of their sculptures. In some cultures, the rock crystal was considered a symbol of purity and a divine stone, used by some mediums to communicate with the forces of nature.
Rock crystal ornament inscribed with the name of Fatimid Caliph Imam al-Zahir (r.1021-1036), Nuremberg, Germanisches Museum
The term is derived from the Greek word for ice, krystallos, because the Greeks thought that the rock crystal was formed by water frozen on mountaintops at extreme temperatures that it could no longer melt.
In medieval times, the production of rock crystal can be traced to the Sasanians (ruled Iran 224-651 CE) and continued in Basra, Iraq by the Abbasids (750-1258 CE). Basra may have been the major centre for art, however, craftsmen moved to the Fatimid capital of Cairo which was a major centre of art, commerce, and scholarship. Although no tools or workshops of the medieval manufacturing process have survived, Fatimid rock crystal objects were among the finest and most desired items produced.
About the rock crystal, Alain Boucheron, a Paris jeweller stated:
“A rock crystal represents at once both turbulence and limpidity, and its dual, even ambiguous nature is the very essence of the mineral’s magic… It conjures up all that is finite yet never-ending, instantaneous though eternal; both heat and cold, immobile yet changeable. This explains why Georges Sand said that it represented the limit between ‘the visible and the invisible.'”
Delegation of Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa. Image: RAIC Architecture Canada
At the inauguration of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa, His Highness the Aga Khan explained the mystery of rock crystal:
“When I invited Professor Maki, a master of form and light, to design this building, I made a suggestion to him – one that I hoped would help connect this place symbolically to the Faith of Islam. The suggestion I made focused on creating a certain mystique, centred around the beautiful mysteries of rock crystal.
Why rock crystal? Because of its translucency, its multiple planes, and the fascination of its colours – all of which present themselves differently as light moves around them. The hues of rock crystal are subtle, striking and widely varied – for they can be clear or milky, white, or rose coloured, or smoky, or golden, or black.
It is because of these qualities that rock crystal seems to be such an appropriate symbol of the profound beauty and the ever-unfolding mystery of Creation itself – and the Creator.”
His Highness the Aga Khan
Inaugural Ceremony of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa, Canada
December 6, 2008
Speech at Press Centre, AKDN
Jonathan M. Bloom, Arts of the City Victorious, Yale University Press in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, 2007
Antiques: Rock Crystals for Kings and Gods, The New York Times (accessed May 2016)
Rocky Crystal, Little Treasure Chest & Jewels Empire (accessed May 2016)
Compiled by Nimira Dewji
It was the Islamic Golden Age. Across the Middle East and North Africa, mosques and libraries hummed with scholarly activity. But in a small house near the center of Basra, one man, Alhasan Ibn al-Haytham, was troubled by what he read. The ancient Greeks were brilliant abstract thinkers, but their theories remained disconnected from the natural world. Just as Alhasan was setting out on his quest to unite theoretical models with physical reality, he was summoned to Egypt by Caliph Al-Hakim Bi-amr Allah, the sixth ruler of the Fatimid dynasty, to survey the Nile and devise a plan for taming it. He resisted going, but discovered at the end of a dagger he had no choice. Along the way, he was attacked by bandits, laid low by illness, accused of heresy, stripped of his books and papers, and imprisoned. Would he ever find a way to resume his studies? The only person who visited him was Sadeem bint Mourad, the young woman who delivered his meals. Could she help? Would she? He had to take a chance and ask. Little did he know her answer would change his life—and science—forever.
Jonathan M. Bloom, University Professor of Islamic and Asian Art, Boston College
In the center of Cairo, the city that the Fatimids had founded in 969, stood a great palace in which the caliphs assembled many storerooms for their collections of books, banners, weapons, shields, saddles, furnishings, draperies, food, drink, spices, tents, jewels and curios. The Caliphs used to visit these treasuries regularly; in every one there was an upholstered bench; each had an attendant to serve it and keep it tidy all year long. Their contents boggle the mind, for when in December 1068 the troops demanded that the Caliph pay them, they began looting the palace, first for military supplies and then for his personal treasures. As the goods were brought out from the palace, functionaries recorded who took what. The extravagant descriptions of these fabulous treasures appear in various later works, most based on a Book of Gifts and Rarities, composed by an anonymous eleventh-century Egyptian. The goods found in the palace ranged from huge rock crystal jars filled with precious jewels to intricate curios such as a bejeweled ornamental orchard made of silver.
Several carved rock crystal items in European treasuries may have once been in the Fatimid treasuries, passing through merchants in Constantinople before arriving in Europe. These include a ewer in the treasury of San Marco, Venice, which bears the name of the caliph al-‘Aziz, and a crescent in Nuremberg bearing that of al-Zahir. Another ewer now in the Louvre can probably be identified with the flagon that Count Thibaut acquired from Roger II of Sicily, and gave to Abbot Suger (d. 1151) of Chartres, but where and how Roger got it remains unknown.
The Fatimid treasures appear quite incredible to us today—and indeed they were in their own times—but they were probably no more splendid than those collected by their contemporaries in Baghdad or Byzantium. A taste for luxury and excess was neither exclusively Fatimid nor exclusively Egyptian. Many of the treasures appear to have been either received as gifts or were intended to be given as gifts to family members, courtiers, military commanders, and supporters in an attempt to secure their loyalty and foster state policies. The Caliphs exchanged diplomatic gifts with Muslim and non-Muslim rulers, particularly with the Byzantine emperors of Constantinople. Splendid gifts were also distributed on special occasions, such as when the Caliph’s sons were circumcised.
Echoes from the past -- Fatimid Jewellery of Egypt
Created using delicate production techniques, the intricate beauty of Fatimid jewellery has long influenced jewellery production in Egypt, right through to the present day.
The Fatimid Caliphate survived for 262 years, living in extravagance for much of this time; renowned as connoisseurs of jewellery, their treasures were famous throughout the orient and their palaces were loaded with precious objects, gemstones and masterpieces. They were revered not only for their aesthetic value, but also as royal possessions. The Fatimids were also involved in jewellery production and goldsmithing, while the rulers of foreign states even gave them gifts of jewellery, enriching their collections. At first, Fatimid jewellery art reﬂected styles common in neighbouring cultures, such as the Sasanian and the Byzantine. Because they were not thoroughly versed in the decorative traditions of either culture, they created a synthesis of techniques, which ultimately led to a unique and distinctive style. With all this history, one begins to wonder how the Fatimid treasures were identified in modern times. What makes Fatimid jewellery specifically Fatimid? Was there any popular iconography? What about the applied techniques of jewellery production during this period? And, last but not least, was Fatimid jewellery of such high quality as to inﬂuence jewellery production in other periods of history?
The first part of a two-part video series giving an overview of the Fatimid Imam Caliph Al Hakim bi Amr Allah. Al-Hakim was the 6th Fatimid Imam Caliph as well as the 16th Ismaili Imam. He lived during a very turbulent period in Ismaili history.
In the colleges under the Fatimids faculty doctors wore distinctive gowns
Posted by Nimira Dewji
The first revelation to Prophet Muhammad was about knowledge and learning. The value placed on knowledge in the Qur’an and Prophetic Tradition became the foundation for the development of education among Muslims. Initially, mosques were places of learning. However, as the demand for learning grew, new institutions of higher learning emerged, including the madrasah (colleges) and the jamia (universities). Originally teaching Quran, hadith, and jurisprudence, the institutions subsequently taught philosophy, mathematics, sciences, literature, and calligraphic arts.
The Abbasids, Umayyads, Fatimids, and other dynastic rulers founded institutions of higher learning, whose influence spread to Europe along with the academic regalia and terminology.
The term ‘chair’ (as in chairperson) is from the Arabic kursi (literally ‘seat’ or ‘throne’) upon which the alim (teacher) sat and taught the students. The word made its way into other languages including Hindi and Urdu, among others.
The teacher had to acquire an ijaza to teach. Literally meaning permission, the ijaza referred to academic certificates given out in medieval Islamic scholarship and played an important role in the transmission of knowledge in all fields, guaranteeing the accuracy of the materials – from hadith to manuals of jurisprudence. The ijaza were also issued to students who, before embarking on advanced studies, could memorise introductory textbooks and present them in oral tests. The license to teach law and issue legal opinions (ijazah al-tadris wa al-ifta) developed in Islamic regions in the 10th century and was introduced into Europe around the 12th century as Latin licentia docendi.
George Makdisi attributes the origins of the licentia docendi to the ijaza al-tadris, equivalent to the Doctor of Laws degrees (The Rise of Colleges, p 272). When an alim received an ijaza, he was often presented with a robe of honour indicating he was qualified to teach. Henry G. Farmer states that the tradition of the gowns can be traced to Fatimid times (909-1171):
“In the colleges in Cairo under the Fatimids, the doctors in the various faculties wore distinctive gowns (khila’), and it is said that the ordinary gown of British universities retains the original form of the Arabic khil’a” (Historical Facts for the Arabian Musical Influence, p 188).
Caliphs also gave robes of honour as a mark of special favours, to commemorate important events, or when invested with office. At the Fatimid court, robes of honour were made of luxurious fabrics and embroidered in gold, a very expensive commodity at the time. The amount of gold embroidery indicated the individual’s rank – the more gold in the robe, the higher the rank of the person. The production of the gold thread used in the manufacture of textiles was supervised by the director of the Caliph’s mint. White and gold were colours of the Fatimid blazon.
The academic regalia of the Aga Khan University, founded by Mawlana Hazar Imam, is the Jamiapoash – from the Arabic jamia, meaning ‘institution of higher learning;’ and Persian poash, meaning ‘apparel.’ It comprises a Khila’at and a Sirpoash, meaning headwear (from the Persian sar-o-pah, meaning ‘from head to toe’).
The Sirpoash comprises a turban and a kulah, the two forms of head-wear most widely used historically throughout the Islamic regions, with a tassel on the right. The colours of the Sirpoash for each rank follow the colour combination of the Khila’at and its embroidery, with the higher ranks being distinguished by gold bands.
The basic colours of green and white have been derived from the official seal of the University. Similarly, all elements of decoration of the Jamiapoash have been taken from motifs, calligraphy, and art designs used in the architecture and interior of the University.
The main entrance of the Aga Khan University, the Baab-e-Awwal (Arabic –baab meaning ‘gate;’ awwal meaning ‘premier’), incorporates a calligraphic verse of the Quran (2:208):
‘Enter ye here in peace and security’
Aga Khan University gate baab
Baab-e-Awwal of the Aga Khan University. Source: Heritage Reviewed Tradition Revived
Segments of the intricate design have been skilfully carved out and used in the motifs on the academic regalia.
The Khila’at of the students, Faculty, and Trustees are elegantly embroidered in green and gold.
Jamiapoash graduation robe Jamiapoash graduation gown robe Jamiapoash graduation aga khan university
The Khila’at of the Faculty has similar embroidery as the student gown except with increased gold embroidery on the front and on the sleeves, as well as a diamond embroidered in gold on the back. The gowns of the Trustees and Rector include a second gold braid and a richer arm motif. As in the Fatimid times, the higher the rank, the more the embroidery in gold thread in the Aga Khan University’s academic regalia.
Aga khan university sirpoash graduation gown
Motif on the sleeves of the Khila’at of the Trustees and Rector of the University. Source: Heritage Reviewed Tradition Revived
The robe of the Chancellor – Mawlana Hazar Imam – distinguishes itself by its white colour with elaborate gold embroidery. White was the official colour of the Fatimids. During their reign, when the city of Mecca was part of their empire, they adorned the Kaba in a white kiswa with verses of the Quran embroidered in gold thread (Hunsberger, The Ruby of Badakshan, p 156).
AKU Jamiapoash graduation gown
Source: Heritage Reviewed, Tradition Revived
George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West, Edinburgh University Press, 1981
Henry George Farmer, Historical Facts for the Arabian Musical Influence, Benjamin Blom Inc, New York, 1971
Aziz Ali Najam, Heritage Reviewed, Tradition Revived, Elite Publishers (Pvt) Ltd
Academic Regalia, Aga Khan University
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