Three events held in two cities last month presented new books from IIS’s World of Islam and Living Ismaili Traditions series. Authors Dr Jiwa’s The Fatimids 2: The Rule from Egypt was published in January 2023 and Dr Remtilla’s Experiences of the Jamatkhana: Stories of the East African Jamat in October 2023.

Dr Shainool Jiwa and Prof Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, President of Beït al-Hikma, discuss The Fatimids 2. Photo credit: Rehana Virani.

Discussion at the Beït al-Hikma Palace

On 11 October in the Beït al-Hikma Palace, met Professor Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, President of The Tunisian Academy of Sciences, Letters, and Arts (known locally as Beït al-Hikma), Professor Raj Israr, Head of Education for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and other academics to discuss her 2023 publication Fatimids 2 and The Fatimids 1: The Rise of a Muslim Empire.

The event, attended by 60 academics and IIS Short Course participants, and viewed by over 500 people online, featured discussions on the Fatimid empire and its impact on history, archaeology, philosophy, linguistics, and more. “The contributors have added a few new and different perspectives in the light of the recent archaeological findings,” noted Moncef Ben Abdeljelil, one of the organizers of the event.

I feel a duty to thank Prof. Shainool Jiwa for having given us such an opportunity: bringing Fatimid history and civilisation to the front of our academic interest!

Watch the discussion with Dr Jiwa, Prof Romdhane, Prof Israr, and Zulfiqar Khimani. (Please note that speakers presented in Arabic, English, and French).

Book launch in Dar es Salaam

On 25 October, Dr Jiwa attended a book launch in Dar es Salaam, hosted by the Aga Khan Development Network. The Tanzanian Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, and the Honourable Ambassador Dr Pindi Chana attended, praising AKDN for its role in promoting education in East Africa and around the world.

“We must write [history] as much as we can,” said Ambassador Chana. “Remember, our Father of the Nation [Mwalimu Julius Nyerere] used to write.” She continued: “Many people in this room have history, it is a high time to write books focusing on different issues.” (from Daily News)

Ambassador Chana held up Dr Jiwa as a role model for Tanzanian women, saying “Dkt. Shainool Jiwa… pia umeleta chachu kwa mabinti zetu ambao wako shuleni na vyuoni kuona kwamba Wanawake wanaweza kutoa mchango mkubwa kwa jamii.” (Dr Shainool Jiwa… has also inspired our daughters who are in school and college to see that women can make a great contribution to society.) (translated from Matukio Live Media on Instagram)

From left to right: Dr Aliaa Remtilla, Dr Shainool Jiwa, and Dr Farouk Topan. Photo Credit: The Ismaili Tanzania.

Meeting the jamat in Upanga, Tanzania

The book tour concluded in Upanga Jamatkhana, Tanzania, where Dr Jiwa, Dr Aliaa Remtilla and Dr Farouk Topan, director of the Swahili Centre at the Aga Khan University, met nearly 320 jamati members to discuss the importance of the new IIS publications : The Fatimids 2 and Experiences of the Jamatkhana. “One of the questions we had was: how do we take serious academic research and make it so that mom wants to read?” notes Dr Remtilla, pointing to her own mother in the crowd.

“We have now carried out a significant amount of scholarship in Ismaili studies, in Shi’i studies and in Qur’anic studies,” continued Dr Jiwa. “How do we make this material — which, as Dr Remtilla said, is academically robust, purposive, engaging, interesting, and of relevance to our jamat worldwide as well as to those among whom we live?”

The Fatimids 2: The Rule from Egypt and Experiences of the Jamatkhana: Stories of the East African Jamat are now available for purchase.