Part of the Islamic History and Thought Lecture Series
This lecture will discuss the contents and context of The Book of Interim Times and Planetary Conjunctions as well as the state of current scholarship on it. While engagement with astrology and other occult sciences was popular during the era of Fatimid flourishing, there are few surviving texts that document the Fatimid engagement with these philosophical trends. The Book of Interim Times and Planetary Conjunctions, popularly attributed to Ja‘far b. Mansur al-Yaman, represents one such confluence of the assertion of the necessity of the Fatimid imamate bolstered through engagement with the occult sciences. This engagement demonstrates both an awareness of the utility of the occult sciences as a political tool—as astrology was used by the Abbasid caliphate—and a creative re-interpretation of how the occult sciences could be appropriated into the existing metaphysics of Ismaili theology and philosophy.
In its capacity as a political tool, astrology is used to directly confront the Abbasids, the primary political rival of the Fatimids at the time of the text’s writing; as a metaphysical framework, it presents a new system of symbols to be understood through the lens of zahir and baṭin, affirming the imam as the divine conduit through the language of the zodiac. Further, the text demonstrates an engagement with Fatimid history uncommon in philosophical texts of its day, calling into question the sharp scholarly division between dawla and da‘wa.
Date: 9 June 2022
Time: 2.00 pm – 4.00 pm GMT
Location: Online (Zoom)
Q&A: At any time during the lecture, attendees can submit questions to the speaker through the Q&A option at the bottom of the control panel. As time allows, the speaker will address as many questions as they can during the Q&A session at the end of the presentation.
Recording: Please note that the session will be recorded and published on the IIS website, and on the IIS YouTube channel.
Discussants: Dr Fârès Gillon (The Institute of Ismaili Studies, UK), Dr David Hollenberg (University of Oregon), Dr Liana Saif (University of Amsterdam)
Alex Matthews is a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Her work focuses on Faṭimid history, Ismaili philosophical thought, and the occult sciences in medieval Islamic society.