The process of becoming an important player in a court of the Islamic Middle Period was a complicated and hazardous business. As a foreigner, newly arrived in Egypt, Mu’ayyad fi al-Din al-Shirazi, the famous Fatimid da‘i, first rose to prominence in the court of the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir billah in the period AH 436/1045-448/1056 CE. Subsequently, he related some of his experiences as a courtier in his autobiography. This paper looks at his experience and analyses it in the context supplied by the standard bibliographical sources in order to map the factions that were active in the Fatimid court of this period. The court at the time of al-Mustansir underwent a number of changes between the start of his reign in AH 427/1036 CE and his death in AH 487/1094 CE. However, no time is more pivotal than the period between AH 436 and 448. During this period the tension between the civilian branches of the government – such as the Queen mother’s divan, the chancery and the judiciary – and the Turkish military establishment become more and more apparent, although ultimately the tension between them never approached the chaos that marks the period after AH 448. The reasons why the earlier period is relatively stable while later periods are chaotic remains unclear. The situation is made murky by the lack of reliable sources and by the dearth of later authors who understand the tensions within the Fatimid court. Luckily for the modern reader, the autobiography of al-Mu‘ayyad sheds some light. Al-Mu‘ayyad came to Cairo in AH 436 as an exile from Persia and began the frustrating process of becoming a courtier in a new court. He later became the head of the Fatimid da‘wa organization and as such held a high position in the state. His work, therefore, displays a greater understanding of the workings of the Fatimid court and the tensions within it than more standard historical works. When read against the standard historical and bibliographical sources, his autobiography shows us that the growing tensions within the Fatimid court were the result of an increasing dependence upon single individuals rather than the bureaucracy to keep the state upon an even keel.