Dr. Shainool Jiwa And Naguib Kheraj in a book launch at the Ismaili Centre

Credit: Rehana Virani, IIS

On April 27 The Ismaili Centre in London hosted the UK launch of The Fatimids: 2. The Rule from Egypt. The event delved into the salient features and values underpinning the Fatimid Empire, their impact on Islamic civilisation and their relevance to the world in which we live today.  

The Fatimids: 2. The Rule from Egypt is the latest IIS publication in the World of Islam series. To mark its publication, author and historian Dr Shainool Jiwa was in conversation with IIS Governor and Senior Advisor to the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), Mr Naguib Kheraj. Together they explored the achievements of the Fatimids, discussing the dynasty's contributions to intellectual and social developments as well as architecture, literature, science, and governance.

Dr Jiwa emphasised the continuity of values from the time of the Fatimids to today, saying that the history of the Ismaili Imamate: “is not simply about the events and the personalities of that period. It is also about the attitudes that prevailed at the time, and the relevance of these attitudes for our times.”

The book focuses on the Egyptian period of Fatimid history.  The Fatimid Ismaili Imam-caliphs traced their descent from Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Fatima. They established their caliphate in Tunisia in 909 CE. Subsequently, they extended their rule to a remarkable, two-century long empire in Egypt from 969 to 1171 CE. They founded the city of Cairo, which became a thriving metropolis, and the al-Azhar Mosque, which became a principal centre of communal worship and learning. Drawing upon a range of primary sources, Dr Jiwa vividly charts the Fatimid expansion, the empire’s efflorescence and its challenges, and the legacy that continues with the living Ismaili communities today.

Mr Kheraj emphasised the book’s contribution to the IIS’s mission of producing authoritative sources about Ismaili history in an engaging format for non-specialist readership.  He said “Fatimids 2 alongside its predecessor Fatimids 1, truly lays out the scale and scope and impact of the Fatimid period… I was captivated, and I learned an incredible amount.”

The Ismaili Centre provided a befitting venue to showcase the vibrant dialectic between the past and the present. The event was also hosted live on The Ismaili TV. The audience had the opportunity to engage in a wide-ranging question-and-answer session after the discussion, covering topics from the role of women to the threads of continuity from the Fatimid period that underpin the ethos of the Ismaili Imamat today.