Keywords: Fatimid caliphate, North Africa, Egypt, Mediterranean, Mu‘izz li-Din Allah, Fatimid imam-caliph, Aziz bi’llah, Fatimid imam-caliph, Ismai‘li, Shi‘a, Idrisids, Abbasids, Ashraf, social group
Abstract: The founding of the Fatimid caliphate across the southern Mediterranean, and then in Egypt, Syria and the Hijaz at the turn of the fourth AH / tenth CE century, necessitated its negotiation with the ashraf, those who claimed lineal descent from the Prophet Muhammad, and who by this time had gained significant influence as a social class based on their charismatic descent. While other dynastic powers fostered relationships with various members of the ashraf, the Fatimid-ashraf dynamics were distinctive in that the Fatimids legitimised their rule as Ismai‘li Shi‘i imam-caliphs, based on their claim of descent from the Prophet Muhammad, and as the sole successors to his authority and leadership over the Islamic world. Consequently, Fatimid-ashraf relations were permeated by fraternal camaraderie as well as competing contestations based on their shared claim of Prophetic lineage.
Dr Shainool Jiwa is the Head of Constituency Studies and a Senior Research Fellow 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 at the IIS (2002-2005).