Founding the Fatimid State: The Rise of an Early Islamic Empire by Hamid Haji is the first complete translation into English of Iftitah al-da‘wa (Commencement of the Mission) by al-Qadi al-Nu‘man, who was one of the most important exponents of Fatimid jurisprudence and an official historian of the Fatimid caliphate. This publication provides interesting insights into the social and political conditions at the time when the Fatimids began their rule.

Al-Qadi al-Nu‘man entered the service of the first Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Mahdi billah (r. 297-322 AH/ 909-934 CE) in Ifriqiya (present-day Tunisia and eastern Algeria), and served the first four Fatimid Caliph-Imams in various capacities for almost fifty years until his death. He reached the height of his career during the reign of the Caliph-Imam al-Mu‘izz li-din Allah (r. 341-365 AH/ 953-975 CE) under whose close supervision he composed his Da‘a’im al-Islam (The Pillars of Islam) which represents a culmination of more than thirty years of effort to codify Fatimid jurisprudence. His work was proclaimed the official code of the Fatimid state.

The complete translation of the Iftitah al-da‘wa provides non-Arabic readers and scholars a critical pathway to the historical richness of this primary source. Al-Nu‘man had access to official archival and biographical documents from the Fatimid Caliphate which have not survived, thereby making his work of unique significance in providing details contemporary to the time of the establishment of the Fatimid state.

The material has been organised into numbered chapters, with subdivisions introduced in some chapters to make the text more readable and accessible. The publication includes genealogical charts, maps of Ifriqiya and eastern Maghrib, as well as a chronology summarising the complex chain of events and battles that led to the establishment of the Fatimid state.

This new publication is a critical contribution to the scholarship in Islamic Studies and in Fatimid history. It is essential reading for those interested in the circumstances that gave rise to the state, law and culture of the Fatimid Caliphate-Imamate in the 10th century CE.