This lecture discusses 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.