Fatimids and Umayyads

23–25 September 2016, The Institute of Ismaili Studies


Relations between the Fatimid caliphate and its neighbour and opponent, the Umayyad caliphate of al-Andalus constitute a field of study that merits careful and extensive consideration. Scholarship has tended to study both dynasties separately and the existing entanglements between the two caliphates have been noted, albeit briefly, in a number of academic publications. The very few studies that have made a comparative and detailed exploration of the documentary and material evidence have suggested that conflict and rivalry did not override the cross-currents that operated across Fatimid and Umayyad landscapes. These studies have provided indications of the potential as to how the two caliphates could be better understood in relation to each other.

Taking its cue from all this, the project Ismaili caliphs in North Africa (from 909) and later in Egypt (973–1171), who claimed descent from the Prophet Muhammad through ‘Ali and derived their name from the Prophet's daughter, Fatima. Fatimids and Umayyads: Competing Caliphates endeavours to place both dynasties in context by creating an academic forum in which to reflect upon and illustrate the processes and mechanisms of interaction, and also to explore and problematise the existence of cross-pollination.

Various scenarios (historical, social, intellectual, economic, legal, theological, religious, cultural, technical, visual, and artistic) are considered in order to assess affinities, as well as discrepancies, connections and contrasts with regard to how these shaped the Fatimid impact on Umayyad dominions and vice versa. To this end, the contributors’ workshop and the subsequent publication of the proceedings have been conceived as a truly collaborative and comparative undertaking. Interactions between domains that have tended to be separately compartmentalised are put into perspective, and the exchange and circulation of ideas, people, practices, objects, resources and styles are discussed as presented by textual sources and epitomised by the extant arts and material culture. Fatimids and Umayyads:

Competing Caliphates addresses the comparative study of the two dynasties with an analytical and interdisciplinary approach to make state of the art research accessible to a variety of academic constituencies. Students can learn in an appealing and contextualised manner about the importance of the two caliphates, their institutions, societies, individuals and their cultural output inter alia within their cosmopolitan and pluralistic environment.­­

For further information or to register please email Naushin Shariff at nshariff@iis.ac.uk