[P4157] Identity Politics in the Fatimid Ismaili Tradition

Created by Paul E. Walker
Sunday, 11/22/15 4:30pm


Contested and constructed identities have played a major role in political formation and governmental policy throughout Islamic history. The Ismailis are no exception. Fatimid claims to the imamate and Abbasid rejection of them relied on a rhetorical strategy aimed at undermining the opposition. In the modern world, by contrast, both surviving branches of the Ismailis have accomplished the task of identity formation less by confrontation with opponents and more by the cultivation of a symbolic tradition built on reclaiming positive aspects of the ancient legacy of the Fatimids.
For this panel we offer first a pair of studies, one from each side, of Abbasid-Fatimid polemical exchanges. The issuing of the famous Baghdad Manifesto that sought to delegitimize Fatimid genealogy is often noted as an important event but as yet it has not been fully investigated for its political background and social context. On the Fatimid side a wealth of new material now permits us to explore in detail the special language employed in public pronouncements to demean the Abbasids and other opponents of the Ismailis. A second paper thus provides a close look at this facet of the contest between them.
The modern Ismailis belong to two branches: the Nizaris and the Tayyibis. Both have in recent times made notable use of a reclaimed legacy of the Fatimids in order to build with it a stronger and more vibrant tradition in their respective communities. The two final papers here deal separately with what are actually different traditions but both in effect reveal remarkably similar recourse to the restoration of an ancient heritage.


Institute of Ismaili Studies