Fatimids and Umayyads: Abstracts





On the Fatimid Kufic from Ifrīqiya: Definition and Context

Lotfi Abdeljaouad

The aim of this study is to provide a precise redefinition of the Ifrīqī lapidary script in the period of the Fatimid caliphinfo-icon-imams, starting from an updated epigraphic database that has been enriched by surveys carried out in the last ten years (undocumented funerary steles, collections of epigraphic stucco from Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya, etc.)

In the absence of official Fatimid texts, which were probably destroyed after the break with the Zīrids in 440/1049, it is difficult to speak of a ‘state script’. However, a study of the funerary steles can lead to a palaeographic evolution which took place within the workshops inherited from the Aghlabid period, at least up until 308/920-921 and especially after 336/949–48. These dates, which coincide with the founding of Mahdiyya and al-Manṣūriyya, mark a turning point in the history of Kufic script. During the Ifrīqī period of the Fatimidsinfo-icon, it took on a different style from that of the preceding periods, marked by more delicate shapes with systematic vegetal decorative elements. Can we thus speak of a distinctly Fatimid style? Can one use the official script styles of the first successors of the Zīrids to define it?

Secondly, this script should be seen within the artistic context of the Muslim East and the Muslim West of the time. In this manner, one can study the impact of the Ifrīqī style on Egyptian Kufic, above all after the departure of the Fatimids to Cairo. It is also possible to examine the impact of political relations with the Andalusi Umayyadsinfo-icon, in order to discover whether it existed some form of competition or exchange between the graphic styles of the two caliphates. For this purpose, one needs to provide a comparison of the epigraphic styles of the two caliphal cities, Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya and Madīnat al-Zahrāʾ.


The Ibāḍī Communities of the Muslim West, between Fatimids and Umayyads

Cyrille Aillet

Ibāḍī sources contain information about the rise of the Fatimids, while Andalusi sources provide evidence of the link between the Umayyads and Tāhart before 269/909. Through this school’s particular case, this paper focuses on Fatimid Empire building, the reaction of Ibāḍī communities, and the Umayyad intervention in Central Maghribinfo-icon.

The Fatimid conquest of Tāhart clearly represented a turning point in Ibāḍī historical memory. The destruction of the Rustamid State corresponded with the beginning of its idealisation within the scattered communities. Far from being homogenous, the response to the imperial threat ranged from revolt to negotiation, following the inner political and doctrinal divisions of the Ibāḍīyya. While the Nukkāriya came to embody the Khārijī ethos of rebellion against the ‘injust rulers’ and the hope for a restored imamateinfo-icon under Abū Yazīd’s leadership, the Wahbiyya mainly chose to negotiate with the Fatimid State. The episode of ‘resistance’ of Bāghāya (356/969) was celebrated by Ibādī dominant tradition, but this should not let us forget that, a part of the Nukkār had to take refuge in Córdoba and that peaceful relations developed between the Ifrīqī elites of the Wahbiyya and the Fatimid caliph-imaminfo-icon al-Muʿizz (r. 341–365/953–975).

The Ibāḍī redeployment in the northern central Sahara and the increasing activity of some key oasis (like Wārjlān, where the archaeological site of Sedrata is included as a witness of this period) should be examined under Fatimid expansion towards the East, which opened new opportunities for trade. The era of kitmān (concealment) was in fact a period of intense social, economic and religious reorganisation within North African Ibāḍism.


The Agency of Fatimid and Umayyad Textiles in the Visual Construction of Authority and Power

Miriam Ali de Unzaga 

This paper has a twofold objective. The first is to contextualise the production and circulation of objects through Fatimid and Umayyad encounters as they have been documented in textual sources. The second is to focus on tangible material sources and to show the case study that constitute the extant textiles – ṭirāz (with inscriptions) and non-ṭirāz – produced under the two caliphates during the 4th–5th/10th–11th centuries.

This includes previously neglected, overlooked or forgotten textiles, such as extant ṭirāz most probably made for al-Muʿizz in Ifrīqiya to be used before the move to Egypt (362/973). The paper explores and attempts to answer questions such as such as why have all those textiles been forgotten? Do they deserve to be studied as a significant corpus of material culture in the medieval Islamic world? Is there more than one way in which they can shed light on the visual construction of authority within the contemporaneous competing powers at the two sides of the Mediterranean?


Gilded Swords, Silken Fabrics, High Taxes, City Building and the Allegiance of the Berbers: The Umayyad–Fatimid Contest in the Maghrib during the 10th Century

Xavier Ballestín

The main framework of this paper is the war between two caliphal powers in the Western Mediterranean, the Umayyads of Qurṭuba (today’s Cordoba) and the Fatimids of al-Mahdiyya, and how both of them managed to fight this war by winning the allegiance of Berberinfo-icon tribal groups.

Umayyads and Fatimids claimed their own Islamic credentials and political legitimacy. This paper focuses on the tools used by Qurṭuba and al-Mahdiyya in order to fulfill their policies and win over the Berber countryside. Qurṭuba and al-Mahdiyya followed the same strategic approach: distributing robes of honour (sing. khilʿa), establishing a sound taxation system and, eventually, city building. Military power and the dispatch of supplies, money, weapons, and eventually armies, as well as the ability to provide intelligence to their Berber followers, allowed Fatimids and Umayyads to wage an uninterrupted war – an investigation of this war constitutes an important issue that nevertheless goes beyond the scope of this paper – and enabled them to make their call to prayer – daʿwa – heard in the Maghrib.

First, Fatimids and Umayyads provided the most active Berber chiefs with luxurious presents. Gilded swords, horse harnesses, horses, coins, brocade silks produced in state owned factories, so called ṭirāz in al-Andalus – that is, khilʿas – were received by Zanāta, Ṣinhāja, Miknāsa, Kutāma and Maṣmūda chieftains, who felt their own authority enhanced amongst their fellow tribesmen and viewed themselves backed by the legitimacy of a caliphal power. By the bestowing of khilʿas, the political acumen and fighting ability of the most active Berber chieftains became focused on the establishment of either Fatimid or Umayyad authority in the countryside.

Second, coins delivered as khilʿas (gifts) must not be conceived only as a reward, but as the main tool for establishing a sound and comprehensive taxation system in the areas under the sway of the Berber chieftains, who aimed, on the one hand, to make the countryside makhzan (tribute paying area) land, on the other, to crush disaffected tribes through heavy taxation.

Third, the building of new cities or the renewal of ancient ones was the keystone of Umayyad and Fatimid policies in the Maghrib, and elsewhere in the Islamic world, as these provided both caliphates with a place to settle loyal followers and where wealth could be assessed and taxes collected, a task accomplished with the help of the Berber chiefs and their large retinues of horsemen.

The cities of Ifukkān, al-Masīla/al-Muḥammadiyya, ʿAshīr, Wujda will receive due attention according to their building as seats of power of loyal Berber chiefs, staunch followers of either the Fatimids or the Umayyads; such as for example, Zīrī ibn Manād al-Ṣinhājī and his son Buluqqīn ibn Zīrī allies of the Fatimids, and Yaʿla ibn Muḥammad al-Ifranī and Zīrī ibn ʿAṭiyya allies of the Umayyads.


Melchizedek: King and Priest. Caliphal Variations on the Biblical Theme of Religious and Political Authority

Michael Brett

The elements of the Biblical religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that is, divine law, sacerdotalism and sacramentalism, sacred monarchy and messianism, have been variously combined in all three, with the emphasis placed on divine law in Judaism and Islam, and on sacerdotalism and sacramentalism in Christianity. All have nevertheless subscribed to the belief in sacred monarchy and messianism, in the here and now or in the future.

At the head of this tradition stands the figure of Melchizedek, king and priest, a prototype of David and of Christ, who was invoked by the mediaeval popes, the ‘vicars of Christ’, to justify their claim to authority over the Emperor in the government of Christendom. Conversely, the Byzantineinfo-icon emperors claimed authority not only over the Church but for the doctrines laid down by the Councils they convened. A similar authority for the faith was claimed by the Umayyads and after them the messianic Abbasidsinfo-icon, until the development of legal scholarship and the accompanying failure to impose the doctrine of the created Qur’aninfo-icon left the Abbasids to uphold a law which they had not made.

The Fatimids, on the other hand, more thoroughly messianic, claimed supreme religious as well as political authority in their dual role as imam and caliph, pope and emperor in one, ‘after the order of Melchizedek’, as an Ismaili source has it. In response to their challenge, the Umayyads of Spain transformed themselves from an amirate into a caliphateinfo-icon with similarly Mahdist claims, which nevertheless endorsed and defended the Malikite version of the law rather than proclaiming one of their own. In so doing, they were at one with a majority of their subjects in a way that the Fatimids were not. Without a doctrine and a following of their own, however, the Umayyads vanished without trace, while the Fatimid dynasty survived (in Egypt) as did their following down to the present day.


The debate about mutʿa and Ismaili doctrine

Agostino Cilardo 

One of the issues debated during the formative period of the Islamic system of law (in the 1st/7th century and first half of the 2nd/8th century) was the lawfulness of the nikāḥ al-mutʿa (temporary marriage). This paper presents a historical overview of the doctrinal development on this subject, emphasising the legal diversity and the plurality of approaches in the interpretation of the sources of law. On the issue under consideration, the legal schools can be divided into two groups: those that rejected the mutʿa, on the one hand, and the Imāmī school, on the other. A comparison between the methodologies used by each group makes clear why divergent solutions are given.

This divergence stems from different interpretations of Q. 4:24. Therefore, the paper first examines the following Qur’an commentaries: Jāmiʿ al-bayān ʿan taʾwīl āy al-Qurʾān by Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923); al-Tibyān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān by Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067); two Ibāḍī tafsīrs, namely the the Tafsīr of Abūʾl-Ḥawārī Muḥammad b. al-Ḥawārī al-ʿUmānī (fl. 3rd/9th century), and the Tafsīr Kitāb Allāh al-ʿAzīz by Hūd b. Muḥakkim al-Huwwārī (fl. 4th/10th century).

Ḥadīth literature offers a cross-section of doctrinal elaboration during the first century and a half of Islam, until the emergence of schools of law based on eponymous founders. Indeed, collections of traditions give a clear picture of the debate among the geographic schools (Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Basra). The main Sunni sources considered here are the Muṣannafs by ʿAbd al-Razzāq (d. 211/827) and Ibn Abī Shayba (d. 235/849), while the definite Imāmī elaboration is in the works of al-Ṭūsī’s al-Istibṣār fī-māʾkhtalafa min al-akhbār and Tahdhīb al-aḥkām. However, only al-Ṭūsī’s Kitāb al-khilāf devotes a short section to the debate between Imāmīs and Sunnisinfo-icon. On these premises, the doctrines held by of Sunni schools of law, starting from the oldest of them, the Ḥanafī school, then the Mālikī, Shāfiʿī and Ḥanbalī schools, are examined.

The legal literature of the Ismaili school presents an evolution in its doctrine concerning the mutʿa. The two Ismaili works, Kitāb al-Iqtiṣār and Yanbūʿ, do not mention explicitly nikāḥ al-mut‘a rather, they consider contracts submitted to a condition, applying the general principle that a condition is lawful only if it conforms to the Qurʾan. The subsequent works of al-Qāḍī al-Nuʿmān, Mukhtaṣar al-āthār and Daʿāʾim, state that mutʿa is a mere zinā (unlawful intercourse). In his Mukhtaṣar al-āthār, al-Nuʿmān also refutes some doctrines that he attributes to anonymous advocates of the mutʿa (presumably Twelver Shiʿis). Apart from these legal works, another first-hand Ismaili source by al-Nuʿmān is his Kitāb al-Majālis waʾl-musāyarāt, where, in two passages, the caliph-imam al-Muʿizz expresses his view on the issue.


Multiple Identities: The Pisa Griffin and Fatimid and Umayyad Metalwork

Anna Contadini

Over time, several origins have been proposed for the Pisa Griffin, attributing it to Iran, Spain and various places in between. The Griffin has experienced changes in function and meaning along with its various physical relocations. The results of recent research relating to function as well as production practices may help us to better understand this wonderful bronze sculpture within its historical and cultural context.


Concept, Function and Usage of the Fatimid (and Umayyad) Caliphal Palaces in the Islamic West (in French)

Patrice Cressier 

The field of study that considers palaces to be sites of political power in the Islamic world –as articulated by the discipline of archaeology– has advanced immensely over the last decades; nevertheless, it still suffers from numerous and varied obstacles. One of these obstacles is intrinsic to the disciplines here treated (textual history versus archaeology) rather than to the objects of study (buildings, institutions): namely, the difficulty of establishing a balance between written sources and material sources. This situation is further exacerbated by the widespread polysemy of the terms used in the textual sources as well as the paucity of the archaeological documentation obtained in methodologically satisfactory conditions.

In addition, we are confronted with the prime interest of archaeologists and art historians towards the noble areas of palatial complexes at the expense of morphologically more modest buildings dedicated to housing and domestic or craft activities. Taking all this into account, the palaces subject of this discussion are to be considered not only as places of representation of power in which elaborate ceremonial took place; but also as space dedicated to living quarters that housed a diverse population, which, very probably, included spaces for the production and supervision of luxury goods, among other economic activities. Therefore, we intend to analyse the current data available about Fatimid palaces in Ifrīqiya with a double prism: one aspect is the design and construction of a ‘stage-platform’ for the caliphate and the other aspect is the material substrate on which the caliphate relied for its successful functioning. This analysis is carried out by considering the work of the Cordoban Umayyad buildings, which is substantially better know.


Crossing Words and Swords: Umayyads and Fatimids in the 10th Century

Maribel Fierro 

This paper presents information from various sources that tell us how Umayyads and Fatimids projected their claims to genealogical, religious and political legitimacy. In turn, this information is used to explore how both dynasties interacted with each other in those claims. The data considered here is as inclusive and varied as possible: titles, coins, architecture, religious rituals, and literary texts. A comparative approach is the main focus of this paper.


al-Qarāfa al-Kubrā, where Fatimids were Laid to Rest

Roland-Pierre Gayraud

Egypt was conquered in 358/969 by Jawhar al-Ṣiqillī on behalf of the Shiʿi Fatimid dynasty. It was not until 362/973 that the Fatimids arrived in Egypt to settle in their new capital, al-Qāhira, recently constructed north of al-Fustāt. Arriving from Sabrā al-Mansūriyya, their capital in Ifrīqiya, they brought with them the remains of their ancestors, including the first three Fatimid caliph-imams: ʿUbayd Allāh al-Mahdī, al-Qāʾim bi-Amr Allāh and Ismāʿīl al-Mansūr Biʾllāh. This act can be interpreted as a sign that the dynasty did not intend to return to Ifrīqiyya and also as a way to assert their legitimacy.

A specific burial place was constructed for the transported bodies of the caliphs in al-Turba al-Zaʿfarān in al-Qāhira, the site of the present Khān al-Khalīlī. The caliph al-Muʿizz li-Dīn Allāh asked his wife Taghrīd, mother of the future caliph al-ʿAzīz Biʾllāh, to find a burial place for other members of the family. She chose the site of a necropolis that had been abandoned, south of al-Fustāt, on the plateau of Isṭabl ʿAntar.

This part of al-Fustāt had been granted to Yemeni tribesmen, in particular to the Maʿāfir’s. The large mausolea of this necropolis probably belonged to the notable families of this tribe. Excavations have shown that it was built between 132/750 and 145/762. The tombs had slowly been abandoned during the 3th/9th century, probably because the families either died out or left to settle elsewhere.

However, when the Fatimids arrived, the necropolis was probably not in bad shape or they would not have reused the buildings. On the contrary, they restored them, or altered the plans by extending them, built new ones, and gave the aspect of a necropolis stricto sensu by paving the streets and creating a homogenous structure. This necropolis, to which large funerary buildings such as the Sabʿ Banāt or Hadrāʾ al-Sharīfa were added, was called al-Qarāfa al-Kubrā, in contrast to al-Qarāfa al-Sughrā, which lay to the east. Today, only the latter is still standing, and it is known simply as al-Qarāfa.

The residential aspect of the necropolis during the Abbasid period was maintained, emphasised and systematised in the Fatimid period. The tombs contained several burials, collective or individual with coffins, and were furnished with gardens and water basins. One of them has a ḥammām. A sophisticated system of water distribution and drainage was set up. Water was brought to the plateau by several aqueducts following a tradition that went back to the early 2nd/8th century.

The necropolis has provided a great deal of new information through its equipment and functions concerning architectural history, as well as funerary customs and the perpetuation of social hierarchies post mortem. This unique ensemble was sacked and destroyed during the events that took place following the crisis of the long reign of the caliph al-Mustanṣir Biʾllāh between 454/1062 and 462/1070. The remaining traces of the necropolis can still be interpreted by thorough archaeological investigations. With the termination of the excavation process, the ensemble has suffered further destruction due to the invasive growth of the adjacent residential district.


Implications of Fatimid Rule in the Evolution of the Mālikī School

Nejmeddine Hentati

Towards the middle of the 3rd/9th century, Mālikīsm became predominant in Ifrīqiya. Having established good relations with the Aghlabidsinfo-icon, Maliki scholars partially controlled religious positions. The fall of the Aghlabids, once the Fatimids took up power in 296/909 put an end to the status quo. The Fatimids attempted to impose, to a certain degree, their Ismaili legal doctrines. However, the majority of Mālikī scholars opposed those attempts and in so doing Malikism was further developed in Ifrīqiya. This paper deals with the following aspects: The roots of Malikism in Ifrīqiya; changing alliances of the Mālikīs with other Sunni legal schools and the legal and dogmatic evolution of Malikism.

On the basis of Mālik’s opinion, Mālikī jurists showed reticence towards the science of scholastic theology (kalām). This attitude had to be abandoned during the Fatimid period. Ashʿarism was adopted in kalām and provided jurists with the resources to confront the Ismailis, while approaching the Abbasids who supported this theological school. All these factors may lead to the conclusion that Fatimid rule thus contributed in a relevant but indirect way to the development of Mālikīsm.


Ibn Hāniʾ al-Andalusī: Arab Ismailis as Interlocutors in the Fatimid–Umayyad Rivalry

Shainool Jiwa

The Fatimid court poet Muḥammad Ibn Hāniʾ al-Andalusī (d. c. 362/973) is well known as the chief panegyrist of the Fatimid caliph-imam al-Muʿizz li-Dīn Allāh (d. 365/975). His renowned poetry encapsulates Fatimid doctrine in verse while also serving as potent propaganda against their rival caliphates – the Abbasids and the Umayyads of al-Andalus.

Ibn Hāniʾs own origins and the trajectory of his career reflect a distinctive social group in the Mediterranean milieu; that of an Arab urban elite, of which many were invested with a notable tribal lineage (nasab), and who adhered to the Ismaili Fatimid cause. Alongside Ibn Hāniʾ, other notable contemporary Arab Ismailis included the qāḍī al-Marwarrudhī, the governors al-Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. Abī Khinzīr and his brother Ali, the dāʿī Ibn al-Haytham and al-Qāḍī al-Nuʿmān, among others. Crucially, many of these Arab Ismailis came to function as interlocutors in the dialectic between the Fatimids and the other major stakeholders in the region.

This paper seeks to examine the career of Ibn Hāniʾ as a manifestation of the role played by the select class of Arab Ismailis of Fatimid North Africa. It investigates their role as cultural mediators and interlocutors with their Umayyad counterparts. Ibn Hāniʾ is therefore examined as a flag-bearer of Arabian ‘nobility’ (sharaf), through whom were conveyed Fatimid notions of authority and legitimacy to the Arabian intelligentsia of the time. In particular, Ibn Hāniʾs corpus of poetry drew upon the quintessential Arabic literary expressions to counterpoise the Fatimids with the Umayyads of al-Andalus.


The Fatimid Attitude toward the Umayyad Caliphate as Reflected in the Sermons of Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Shīʿī and the attitude of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ

Wilferd Madelung 

The pre-Fatimid Ismaili movement split in the late 3rd/9th century over the identity of the legitimate imam. Before the split, the early hidden imams were residing in Khurāsān, while a branch of the imam’s family had moved to Salamiyyainfo-icon in Syria, from where it propagated revolutionary Shi‘i teaching in support of the hidden imam who was about to appear as the Mahdī. The split occurred when the head of the family branch in Salamiyya, the later Fatimid caliph-imam ʿAbd Allāh al-Mahdī, claimed to be the rightful imam. This claim was rejected by the majority of the Ismaili communities in Iran and Iraq. The movement supporting al-Mahdī was militantly revolutionary, aiming to overthrow the existing Muslim and non-Muslim rulers and to establish a universal Fatimid caliphate. It saw the both the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs as usurpers of the rightful position of Ali, who had been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad as his successor, and of the line of legitimate imams descending from Ali and Fatimainfo-icon. This view of the Umayyads as usurpers and enemies of Islam is reflected in the extant sermons of Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Shīʿī, the leader of the Fatimid Ismaili movement in the Maghrib.

In contrast, the Ismaili imam living in concealment in Khurāsān, who was widely recognised by the Ismaili communities in the east, became the founder of the fraternity of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ. He taught his followers to seek to restore true Islam by studying and teaching the philosophy of the Ancients, i.e. the Greek and Hellenistic philosophers. Their philosophical teaching alone could cleanse revealed religion from its corrupt state and revive the true understanding of the Qurʾan and other divine messages. The brotherhood should not aim to overthrow established rulers by revolution, but to transform humankind by their teachings into a peaceful society living in concord without violence and destructive physical conflicts. In the epistles of the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʾ, the caliphates of Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, the Umayyads and Abbasids were generally appreciated as legitimate governments establishing sound order and deserving the obedience of good Muslims.


Social Aspects of the Conflict between Umayyads and Fatimids in North Africa

Eduardo Manzano Moreno 

This paper seeks to describe the social landscape that framed the conflict between Umayyads and Fatimids in North Africa during the 4th/10th century. It argues that this conflict was adapted to the peculiar conditions that prevailed in the area, which were very different to those that existed in both Ifrīqiya and al-Andalus. By focusing on this issue the aim is to describe the tribal milieu that shaped political and social relations during this particular period. 


The Early Coinage of the Fatimids of Ifrīqiya and the Umayyads of Cordoba: A Comparative Study

Fátima Martín Escudero and Tawfiq Ibrahim 

This paper provides a short comparative study of the early coinage of the Fatimid al-Mahdī and the Andalusi Umayyad al-Naṣīr. First, in relation to the foundational coinage of the Umayyads of Damascus and early Abbasid coinage, followed briefly by the coinage of the Aghlabids, their immediate predecessors in the area and whose minting style was initially imitated. It also includes a brief mention of the earlier Idrīsid coinage, as well as a passing mention on the Midrārid’s of Sijilmāsa and their numismatic response to the formation of the above first mentioned political entities.

The paper intends to study ideological choices, as expressed in coins, taken first by the al-Mahdī, and later by al-Naṣīr, with special emphasis on the titles and attributions written on their respective coinage. All this is contrasted with contemporary Islamic coinage of the period, that is, the long established and complex tradition of Abbasid coinage.


The Epigraphy of Madīnat al-Zahrāʾ in the Context of the Rivalry between the Fatimid and the Umayyad Caliphates 

Maria Antonia Martinez Nunez

The epigraphy of Madīnat al-Zahrāʾ, the foundational city of the Umayyad caliphate of al-Andalus, constitutes a pertinent scenario for the representation of power. It shows how this caliphate was configured with all the formal characteristics of the institution by the 4th/10th century. Indeed, the epigraphic record shows the abandonment of the Umayyad tradition of Syria by the Andalusi caliphs, both in calligraphic styles and forms.

In order to analyse Umayyad epigraphy in the context of its rivalry with the Fatimid caliphate it is essential to specify the chronology of buildings in both caliphates. The foundational epigraphy of Madīnat al-Zahrāʾ provides us with the following dates: 333/944 for the congregational mosque; 342–345/953–956 for the construction of the high garden complex, and 351–362/962–973 for the building period of the second caliph al-Ḥakam). These dates are later than those provided by other written sources (324/936).

In comparison, the construction of Mahdiyya was completed in the year 308/921 and that of Ṣabra al-Manṣūriyya began in 334/946 with the Fatimid caliph-imam al-Manṣūr (as has been well documented by P. Cressier and M. Rammah (Tunisia, 2015); the Jawarnaq palace was completed in the year 336/948 and the mosque in 341/953); its construction continued during the caliphate of al-Muʿizz (with the Qaṣr al-Baḥr completed in 342/954) until 361/972 when the process of the transfer to Egypt began.

Therefore, much of the Umayyad city was built around the same time or immediately after Fatimid constructions. In this scenario, it is necessary to note three things: firstly, both caliphates took on Abbasid eastern epigraphic models; Secondly, the Umayyad epigraphic repertoires, in form and text, were progressively updated as a reaction to Fatimid propaganda; and thirdly, we can talk of competition, and not mere imitation, in the employment of similar resources, maintaining in turn the ideological and apologetic peculiarities of each caliphates.

The epigraphy of the majlis (the official reception hall) of caliph ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III – which is the focus of this contribution – provides us with some clues about the Umayyad reaction to the Fatimids. The majlis was built between 342/953 and 345/956. This was a period when the ideological dispute about the legitimacy and the right to hold caliphal prerogatives increased and when the first military confrontations between Umayyads and Fatimids took place). Subsequently, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III, the first Umayyad caliph, chose the highest visual epigraphic sections in his official reception hall to display the title of Imām and the honorific laqab al-Nāṣir li-dīn Allāh.

In addition, in the epigraphic bands he is also described as al-ṣāḥib al-madīna (director of the construction) a fact that can only be explained by the predominance that this position acquired within the context of the recrudescence of persecution against the followers of Ibn Masarra, who were accused of bātinī affiliation. Besides the written formulas, the majlis was the site of the first solemn but flowery Kufic, which also introduced numerous calligraphic innovations. This style can be seen as an Umayyad reaction to the Kufic used by the Fatimids.


Commercial Exchanges, Maritime Policy and Imperial Construction in the Fatimid Caliphate

Annliese Nef and Daniel Bramoullé

The Fatimid settlement in Ifrīqiya in 297/909 and move towards Egypt in 362/973 transformed these provinces into central territories for a new caliphate claiming its Ismaili faith. The Fatimids wished to challenge the Abbasids and Umayyads in all possible areas. They did so by competing with the Umayyads in the Maghrib, but also by constructing an empire in the Mediterranean and beyond. This paper investigates this challenge through the main dimensions of their maritime and commercial policy.

Regarding the military dimension, Ifrīqiya saw the birth of the Fatimid caliphate and the emergence of its naval superiority over Umayyad and Christian navies based in this region. The Fatimid caliphate took control of the strait of Sicily, the same way the caliphate in al-Andalus did with the strait of Gibraltar; the jihād led by the Umayyads against the north of the Iberian peninsula can also be compared to the jihād led by Fatimids in southern Italy; after the establishment of the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, the central Mediterranean remained important, nevertheless they developed a policy orientated more towards the Oriental part of the world.

Regarding the commercial dimension, competition against the Umayyads assumes that the Fatimids exploited a pre-existing ‘zone of prosperity’ in the central Mediterranean and reinforced it. This also required a specific commercial policy in which geographical ambitions were far greater. The quality and the variety of the products available on the markets of the Fatimid capital cities were a main issue for this Ismaili dynasty who wanted to overshadow Baghdad’s reputation as the treasure-house of the world as well as to compete with the Umayyads in maritime trade.

Such a goal could not be reached by only relying on serendipity and on the mercantile element of the population, but it was Egypt, at the interface between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which made demands of the elites increase and which took benefit from the favourable economic context in Christian Europe. Western Europeans were very attracted by the luxury goods coming from the Orient; and in this context, Egypt imposed itself as the main marketplace between Orient and Occident. The sources, ranging from classical Arabic geographers to fiscal surveys such as Makhzūmī’s treaty and of course, the Geniza letters show how the Fatimids, having arrived in Egypt, developed, orientated and controlled trade flows according to the political context and the dynasty’s interest.

All these political choices are intertwined with the progressive elaboration of a political and ideological framework, which can be qualified as imperial: the geography and cartography promoted by or favourable to the dynasty clearly illustrate the conception of a world no longer seen from Baghdad. A comparison with the conceptions developed in al-Andalus is also quite revealing.


The Portrayal of the Prophet and the Ahl al-Baytinfo-icon in the ʿIqd al-Farīd. Some Considerations about its Connection to the Neo-Umayyad Discourse of the Caliphate

Isabel Toral-Niehoff

The multivolume miscellaneous adabinfo-icon encyclopaedia al-ʿIqd al-Farīd, composed by the Cordovan Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih (d. 348/940) is an extensive compendium providing the reader with a panoramic survey of the knowledge that an adīb (a man of letters) was expected to acquire. It is divided into twenty-five monographic books (sing. kitāb) that are ordered according to a hierarchy of importance. Apparently, history was part of Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih’s encyclopaedic ideal of adab, since in addition to numerous historical anecdotes about caliphs, viziers and poets that are spread over the whole work, the ʿIqd al-farīd incorporates two kitābs on history, namely no. 15: The Book of the Second Adorable Jewel on caliphs, their histories, and battles (kitāb al-masjada al-thāniya fī’l-khulafāʾ wa’l-tawārīkh wa ayyāmihim), and no. 16: The Book of the Second Unique Jewel on reports about Ziyād, al-Hajjāj, the Ṭālibids and the Barmakids (Kitāb al-yatīma al-thāniya fī akhbār Ziyād wa’l-Ḥajjāj wa’l-Ṭālibiyyīn wa’l-Barāmika)”. Both denote a very peculiar vision of Islamic history and legitimacy that I propose to interpret as a reflection of political discussions in the contemporary Umayyad Caliphate of al-Andalus.

This paper discusses those passages that focus on the persona of the Prophet and his family, since these were particularly sensitive questions for the Umayyads’ confronting the challenge of the Fatimid caliphate. Several aspects are noteworthy: In Book 15, he constructs an uninterrupted chain of Qurayshī caliphal legitimacy that starts with the Prophet and ends with caliph ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III al-Nāṣir, which puts the Prophet in a framework that portrays him as the ‘first caliph’. Another important point is the centrality of al-Ḥasan b. ʿAlī (whom he mentions as a caliph) who functions as a central link of legitimacy that connects Ali with Muʿāwiya. It is less surprising that neither the Abbasids nor the Fatimids appear in this section.

The next book deals with all sort of political figures that seem to have in common that they were important personalities without being legitimate caliphs. The order and criteria of selection are significant: First, he has a long section on the famous Umayyad governors Ziyād and al-Ḥajjāj, then he passes over to a portrayal of the Barmakids, a topic that leads to the Ṭālibids, and then to a significant chapter on the excellence of Ali. The book concludes with a short list of the Abbasid caliphs until al-Muṭīʿ (r. 334-363), probably a later addition. The Fatimids are remarkably absent. This paper discusses two points in particular: the figure of Ali and the treatment of Ḥusayn (and the Ḥusaynids) in contrast to Ḥasan (and the Ḥasanids). It argues that Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih constructs a harmonising, slightly pro-ʿAlid discourse that mentions and considers the Ḥasanid Idrīsids, who were ruling in North Africa at the time, but that is anti-Fatimid insofar as it blacks them out.


Ideology and Architecture: The Centre of Political Representation of the Umayyad Caliphate

Antonio Vallejo Triano 

The city of Madīnat al-Zahrāʾ was built by Caliph ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III al-Nāṣir as the seat of the new caliphal state competing with the Fatimid caliphate. Recent research has allowed us to identify two main building phases in its citadel: a foundational phase, including the Friday Mosque and the caliphal residence, and a phase where existing buildings were rebuilt. The latter phase, which altered the whole palatial structure, was carried out by the founding caliph himself. It involved, among other similar constructions, the building of a new administrative and ceremonial centre and especially the introduction of new architectural and spatial concepts to symbolise power. 

The courtly terrace presided over by the Hall of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III acquired its definitive form at that time, between the years 341/953 and 345/957. It was established as a vast space with gardens with an integrated building for receiving embassies and holding political audiences, a similar hall to the south surrounded by pools, and a complex of rooms annexed to the northern side of the terrace. The Hall of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III has been studied by various researchers who have pointed to the characteristics of its decorative programme, the role of the capitals in the structuring of the space, the reception ceremonials conducted within it, and the image the caliph portrayed of himself through honorific titles transmitted by epigraphic inscriptions. Except for the capitals, a clear Abbasid influence can be observed in all those architectural elements; as for the epigraphy, it can be compared to the use of titles made by the Fatimid caliph-imams.

Manuel Acién and Maribel Fierro have offered general interpretations of the building. Acién’s is based in the decorative programme, for which he proposes, among other lines of research, a possible astrological and cosmographic reading based on the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm (known in Latin as Picatrix), the work of Maslama b. Qāsim al-Qurṭubī (d. 353/964) This, in turn, is related to the identification made by Fierro, who further adds an interpretation along Qur’ānic lines for the whole terrace.

This paper is based on a decorative analysis and highlights the originality and singularity of the Hall of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān’s ornamental plan. Emphasis is placed not on the floral elements, which have been sufficiently studied, but on its compositions, which bear little relation to earlier Islamic models. The contention is that the representation of certain elements of the ornamental plan may be based in some of the philosophical texts of that time, including the Ghāyat al-Ḥakīm. Finally, this paper also aims to contribute to a complete understanding of the whole terrace by proposing a new interpretation that is linked to the Fatimid caliphate.


Fatimid Portrayals of the Umayyads in Official Pronouncements and in Daʿwa Literature

Paul E. Walker 

Anti-Umayyad polemic occurs often in Fatimid writings, although most commonly aimed at the enemies of Ali and the Ahl al-Bayt in the time long before any confrontation between the two later caliphates. Nevertheless the same or similar attitude of hostility carries over. A khuṭba by the caliph-imam al-Qāʾim condemns “the tyrants of the tribe of Umayya” as “evil doers and their associates”. Some of this rhetoric is generic, a broad denunciation of the Umayya clan. Thus in general the Andalusī caliphate appears somewhat distant to the immediate concerns of the Fatimids and their daʿwa perhaps, because it was represented in North Africa by anti-Fatimid proxies, particularly the local Maliki ʿulamāʾ, rather than the Umayyads themselves. Even so, there are several cases that specifically attack the Umayyads of Spain.

Some important material comes from al-Qāḍī al-Nuʿmān’s Majālis. Another essential passage is by al-Kirmānī who rebukes the Umayyad who resides in al-Andalus for his impure lineage due to his descent from the ‘Tree of Zaqqūm’ and for displaying a contempt for the regulations of God by promoting among his subjects behaviour other than that of the Prophet. An earlier authority quotes a line of poetry that states: “I had hoped that I would die and not witness atop the minibars a preacher for Umayya.” There is more, much of which has yet to be collected, but can and should now be brought out for discussion.