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

Head of Constituency Studies Research Unit and Associate Professor

Dr Shainool Jiwa is a specialist in Fatimid studies, and an Associate Professor at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Dr Jiwa’s latest publication, The Fatimids 2: The Rule from Egypt (2023), is a World of Islam series title, for which she also serves as the series General Editor. She is the author of The Fatimids: The Rise of a Muslim Empire (2018), and co-editor of The Shi‘i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity (2015), and The Fatimid Caliphate: Diversity of Traditions (2017).


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