• A distinguished Ismaili scholar, author, educator and statesman of the Fatimid era, al- Mu’ayyadfi’l-Dininfo-icon al-Shirazi (1000-1078 CE) lived during one of the most turbulent periods in Muslim history. The 11th century was characterised by, among other things, an acute struggle for supremacy between the Sunni and Shi‘i branches of Islam. The conflict, which was as much ideological as political, manifested itself principally via the two major ruling dynasties of the time, the Abbasidsinfo-icon and the Fatimidsinfo-icon.

    There is little information available about the early life of al-Mu’ayyad other than the fact that he was born to a Daylami Ismaili family in Shiraz, the capital of Farsinfo-icon region in South-West Persia, which was then part of the Abbasid Empire. We also know that his forefathers had a long history of serving the Fatimids as da‘iinfo-icons. In 415 AH / 1025 CE, following the death of his father when al-Mu’ayyad was 25 years old, he too was appointed a da‘i and began to conduct regular majalisinfo-icon (teaching sessions) at his home.

    Al-Mu’ayyad first rose to prominence some 10 years later when he entered the service of the local Buyid ruler of Fars, Abu Kalijar. However, the Ismaili da‘i’s proselytising activities and his attempts to convert the ruler to the Fatimid cause incurred so much hostility from the local Sunni political and religious establishment that the Abbasid caliphinfo-icon in Baghdad issued an order for his immediate apprehension. As a result, al-Mu’ayyad was subjected to considerable persecution and placed under house arrest. As fanatical mobs besieged his house by night and day demanding his death, he managed to escape from his tormentors and flee into exile.

    The next three years were difficult for al-Mu’ayyad as he travelled in disguise across Khuzistaninfo-icon, Iraq and Syria, in fear of being captured anytime by the Abbasid authorities. Finally, in 437 AH / 1048 CE, he sought refuge in Cairo, the Fatimid capital, which he had yearned to visit since his childhood. After introducing himself to government officials, al-Mu’ayyad was given accommodation and a small stipend. But his expectations of an early audience with the Imaminfo-icon-caliph al-Mustansir bi’llah were thwarted by powerful bureaucrats, who regarded the da‘i as either a troublesome upstart or a potential rival.

    Despite such initial setbacks, eventually, al-Mu’ayyad attained the highest ranks in the religious hierarchy of the Fatimid da‘wainfo-icon, second only to the Imam himself, including that of chief da‘i, Supreme Gate and director of the Dar al-‘Ilminfo-icon (House of Knowledge) academy in Cairo. During the twenty years he served in these multiple positions until his death at an advanced age, al-Mu’ayyad won widespread acclaim for his scholarship and sagacity, as well as his authorship of a number of theological, devotional and literary works.

    Significant among al-Mu’ayyad’s works is his Diwaninfo-icon or collected poems, of which many manuscripts have survived from Tayyibi Ismaili sources in Yemen and preserved in Da’udi Bohrainfo-icon libraries in India, as well as at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. The Diwan of al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi is notable for its exceptional poetic quality as well as a unique, personal testimony of his career as a Fatimid da‘i. Comprising a total of 62 qasidainfo-icons of varying length, the Diwan covers a wide range of political and religious themes, from al-Mu’ayyad’s philosophical meditations, religious disputations and devotional praise of Prophet Muhammad and his family to complaints about the da‘is misfortunes, persecution, exile from his homeland and the advance of old age. Among the virtues that he celebrates are knowledge and the intellect, endurance and patience in times of difficulty, and submission to God.

    This first complete English translation seeks to recapture some of the poetic power and flavour of one of the undoubted masterpieces of medieval Arabic literature.


  • Acknowledgements xiii
    Introduction by Kutub Kassam 1
    A Biographical Chronology of al- Mu' ayyad 31
    Diwaninfo-icon al-Mu'ayyad fi'l- Dininfo-icon da'i al-du'at
    The Diwan of the chief da'i al-Mu'ayyad fi'l-Din
    1. Praise be to the Lord, the victorious Authority 35
    2. Abundance of praise and unique thanks are due 49
    3. Old age has eradicated the evidence of youth 63
    4. He said: 'Ask him, you two, if his departure was 69
    5. He said: ' When the load was carried for decamping 75
    6. O two companions! May you greet your 82
    7. May Allah confer victory upon the banner 86
    8. O (the way of) exile, how appalling is your malady 91
    9. Impossible has become the separation in our love 94
    10. Greetings to those beloved to us 97
    11. Is it good to rejuvenate after reaching old age 100
    12. The pen has provided me with good fortune 104
    13. I have been tormented in my love for a long time 108
    14. Allah's religion has been invigorated by al-Zahirinfo-icon 111
    15. O companion of the heart, near and afar 114
    16. Welcome be to those who dwell in my heart 119
    17. O Eastern breeze! Pass by Persia on coming back 122
    18. May my life be sacrificed for the guide of the world 127
    19. A glory so exalted it became a sky for the heavens 128
    20. Verily, Egypt and Syria have come to know 131
    21. O Lord, You are my (only)hope 133
    22. A crescent moon appeared out of the darkness 135
    23. O why is it that the sky does not move to and fro 137
    24. Who is there to take pity on a body emaciated by passion 142
    25. Who is there to take pity on an old man 145
    26. O my Lord! I have made devotions to You, openly and secretly 151
    27. O my God, it is my hope to recieve salvation by 153
    28. O God! If I am always complaining about 155
    29. I swear by God, (the One) who has no partner 157
    30. A soul whose ornaments are the engraving of its Lord's Oneness 159
    31. O my two companions! May you be secure 160
    32. I permitted the sanctuary of my blood to be spilled for their sake 162
    33. High above the stars of Ursa Major is a palace established 163
    34. O descendants of Taha! May I be sacrificed for you 165
    35. O god, how weary have I become of myself 168
    36. I have been guided by Ma'add to the ways of my return 169
    37. O companions! Let us prepare the camels for departure 170
    38. If I were a contemporary of Prophet Muhammad 174
    39. I am pleased with the hard bitter life 176
    40. Generous are my eyes in making the tears flow 178
    41. May peace be upon (the Prophet's) pure progeny 182
    42. O inquisitor who questions me about myself 185
    43. O You who beholds a gnat spreading its wings 186
    44. I dissociate myself from the first Hubal 187
    45. O Abu'l-Hasan! O he who is like the Warner (Muhammad) 188
    46. Come to the holy land, the dwelling place 189
    47. O conspirator! Plot actively as much as you can 194
    48. Justice has become evident in the Imaminfo-icon's domain 195
    49. My love for Ahmad and 'Ali suffices me 197
    50. They took my heart away when they departed 198
    51. God's eye has taken care of you wherever you have settled 199
    52. By (the grace of) our lord, Imam Abu Tamim 201
    53. Allah alone suffices me 203
    54. I have mounted the stallions of hope 204
    55. She saw me when grey hair was dawning upon my head 205
    56. O friends! Separation has become so long for us 210
    57. O community that put up a cruel idol as her arbiter 211
    58. The burdens of Time can be difficult or easy 212
    59. O time, how much enmity and prejudice is there between us 215
    60. I swear by Allah that if you were to crown me 219
    61. O Thursday morning, welcome be to you 221
    62. My tongue begins with Your name, O god 224
    Select Bibliography 237


  • Mohamad Adra

    Mohamad Adra , is an independent scholar of Ismaili literature based in Salamiyya , Syria. A graduate of Damascus University where he studied English language and literature, he is currently preparing an English translation of the first volume of al-Mu’ayyad’s al- Majalis al-Mu’ayaddiya (The Counsels of al-Mu’ayyad).Read more