[P4784] Fatimid Studies

Created by Paul E. Walker
Monday, 11/20/17 10:30am


Despite important recent advances in the investigation of the Fatimid caliphate partly as the result of new editions and/or translation of primary texts, several major book-length studies, and many smaller publications, there remain serious gaps in our knowledge of certain aspects of their rule and old interpretations that are now badly in need of revision. For this panel we bring together four papers each of which addresses one area where previous work is either lacking or ought to be revisited.
Because the Fatimids governed the Maghrib for more than a century, communities of Ismailis once flourished in the region but later disappeared entirely. We have known that they were exterminated in an ugly spate of pogroms commencing in 407/1016 but the details of what exactly happened and most critically who was responsible have remained in part a mystery. Using all the available Arabic materials, many not consulted previously for what they report about this matter, our first paper provides the answers.
Our second paper reappraises the reign of the fifth caliph al-'Aziz. The standard depiction of him would limit his role in the actual conduct of government in favor of activities which, although princely, such as hunting and elaborate processions, did not deal directly with the actual affairs of ruling. That impression should be challenged.
Yet another paper presents new research on internal state documents, meaning memoranda exchanged among state officials with an eye toward possible typologies. Which documents can be stabilized with formal typologies and which ones are more amorphous (like generic letters). But in additional to petitions and various kinds of decrees, there are tax receipts, multi-handed procedural documents (for the processing of petitions and the like), tax receipts, fiscal registers, administrative registers. At least a preliminary mapping seems feasible and helpful, and it offers a glimpse of the complexity of Fatimid government.
A fourth paper analyses titles of honor and status (alqab) in the Fatimid realm. Their use, allocation and control constituted a major feature of governing policy and the awarding of a title or titles, or the augmentation of them, became a prominent event, often with elaborate ceremony and protocol. A newly developed catalog-index of all those mentioned in our sources, produced for this purpose, provides a tool for understanding the ramifications of these titles both in the specific context of Fatimid administrative strategies and in comparison with other dynastic practice.


Institute of Ismaili Studies





Farhad Daftary

(The Institute of Ismaili Studies)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Paul E. Walker

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Shainool Jiwa

(The Institute of Ismaili Studies)
Dr Shainool Jiwa is the Head of Constituency Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Prior to this, she was the Head of the Department of Community Relations from 2005 to 2012. She was also the founding coordinator of the Qur’anic Studies Project...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Mohamad Ballan

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;