• The Fatimid Empire flourished from the early 10th into the second half of the 12th century CE. Under the enlightened rule of this dynasty, Fatimid imaminfo-icon-caliphs governed, first from North Africa and later from Cairo—a city founded by them — a domain extending from Arabia in the east to present-day Morocco in the west. As living imams of the Isma‘ili branch of Shi‘ainfo-icon Islam, they exercised dual authority over both spiritual and secular realms.

    The great majority of Fatimid documents were the product of the royal chancery; they were composed by those employed in it and thus not by the imam-caliphs, at least not directly. But, while voicing his sentiments and that of the tradition to which the Fatimidsinfo-icon ascribed, few actually conveyed the imam’s own words. Except for a tiny few, the imam-caliphinfo-icon rarely wrote them himself. In general, however, the opposite was true of the sermons prepared for the two Muslim ‘id festivals, which were not only delivered by the imams in person whenever possible, but also composed by them. Therefore we have the possibility, in this case, of listening (more precisely of reading) to the very words of the imams themselves.

    The sermon, in Arabic the khutbainfo-icon, was (and is) a standard feature of Friday congregational observance and was offered every week. The Fatimid caliphs naturally did not deliver such sermons that often. However, the duty to do so on the twice-yearly occasion of the festivals—the two Muslim ‘ids, the feasts of the breaking of the fast and of sacrifice—was taken quite seriously and seldom missed by the imams. In later Fatimid times, some Friday sermons were added for Ramadan. From all such opportunities, we have precious few examples. The text of most of these sermons, even those by the imams, simply did not survive. Still, those that have come down to us are more than enough to begin to appreciate the event and the words uttered on it. It is, therefore, the principal purpose of this book to provide access to them by presenting the Arabic original and a complete English translation of all those sermons now available.

    To understand the context of these sermons, it is also necessary to learn as much about the practice and its history as possible. The first two chapters constitute, first, a history of the Fatimid khutbas, what was said, by whom and on what occasions, and second, an analysis of the themes and rhetorical strategies given expression in the surviving examples.

    Chapter One, ‘A History of the Fatimid Khutba’ includes a discussion of the following topics: a unique example of a Fatimid khutba in Abbasid Iraq; khutbas and khatibs (the preachers who delivered them); festival khutbas by the Fatimid caliphs; Fatimid khutbas in North Africa; khutbas by imam-caliphs al-Mansur and al-Mu‘izz; the first Fatimid khutbas in Egypt; khutbas by imam-caliphs al-‘Aziz, al-Hakim and al-Zahirinfo-icon; the eyewitness testimony of al-Musabbihi; the khutba from caliph-imam al-Mustansir to al-Amirinfo-icon; khutbas from the reign of caliph al-Hafiz onward; the eyewitness testimony of Ibn al-Tuwayr; and the very last Fatimid khutba.

    Chapter Two, ‘The Rhetoric of the Surviving Khutbas’ covers separately: the audience; double meanings for different audiences; Qur’anic references and language; praising God; Prophet Muhammad as grandfather; Imam ‘Ali as father; Fatimainfo-icon al-Zahra, Imam al-Hasan and Imam al-Husayn; the imams, before caliph-imam al-Mahdiinfo-icon and after; the terms fatimi and mahdiyin; Umayyad and ‘Abbasid dynasties; the Dajjal; advice for the occasion of the sermon; pilgrimage; death and loss; and miscellaneous themes.

    Part Two comprises the translations of khutbas by caliph-imams al-Qa’iminfo-icon, al-Mansur and al-Mu‘izz, plus one by Qirwash and two by al-Amir, while Part Three contains the Arabic texts of the same khutbas.

  • Preface and Acknowledgements xi

    List of Abbreviations xvii

    Part One: Introductions

    Chapter 1: A History of the Fatimid Khutbainfo-icon 3

    A Fatimid khutba in Abbasid Iraq. Khutbas and khatibs. Festival khutbas by the Fatimid caliphs. Fatimid khutbas in North Africa. Khutbas by al-Mansur and al-Mu‘izz. The first Fatimid khutbas in Egypt. Khutbas by al-‘Aziz, al-Hakim, and al-Zahirinfo-icon. The testimony of al-Musabbihi. The khutba from al-Mustansir to al-Amirinfo-icon. Khutbas from the reign of al-Hafiz onward. The eyewitness testimony of Ibn al-Tuwayr. The last khutba.

    Chapter 2: Rhetoric and Themes in the Surviving khutbas 55

    The audience. Double meanings for different audiences. The address to God: the khutba as a prayer. Qur’anic imagery and language. Praising God. Muhammad as grandfather. ‘Ali as father. The Companions of the Cloak (ashab al-kisa’). Fatimainfo-icon as mother. Al-Hasan and al-Husayn. The imams from al-Husayn to al-Mahdiinfo-icon. The imams from al-Mahdi onward. The name of the dynasty. Enemies. Death and loss: fathers and imams. Pilgrimage. Miscellaneous themes.

    Part two: The Khutbas

    1. Khutba of al-Qa’iminfo-icon: 87

    On the ‘Id al-fitr, 302 (19 April 915) at Alexandria

    2. Khutba of al-Qa’im: 93

    Rajab 333 (March 945). During the siege of al-Mahdiyya. Read by al-Marwadhi

    3. Khutba of al-Mansur: 95

    As waliinfo-icon li’l-‘ahdinfo-icon (Heir-apparent) on the ‘Id al-fitr, 334 (6 May 946) at al-Mahdiyya

    4. Khutba of al-Mansur: 99

    On Friday 14 Muharraminfo-icon 335 (16 August 946). Read by Ja‘far b. ‘Ali, the Chamberlain, in the Mosque of Qayrawaninfo-icon

    5. Khutba of al-Mansur: 101

    On the ‘Id al-fitr, 335 (25 April 947). During the siege of Abu Yazid at Kiyana

    6. Khutba of al-Mansur: 107

    On the ‘Id al-adha, 335 (2 July 947). During the siege of Abu Yazid at Kiyana

    7. Khutba of al-Mansur: 112

    On the ‘Id al-fitr, 336 (14 April 948) at al-Mahdiyya

    8. Khutba of al-Mansur: 120

    On the ‘Id al-nahr, 336 (21 June 948) at al-Mahdiyya

    9. Khutba of al-Mu‘izz: 126

    On the ‘Id al-nahr, 341 (28 April 953) at al-Mansuriyya

    10. Khutba of al-Mu‘izz: 135

    11. Khutba of Qirwash: 138

    On 4 Muharram 401 (18 August 1010) at Mawsil

    12. Khutba of al-Amir: 142

    On a Friday, during Ramadan

    13. Khutba of al-Amir: 146

    On the ‘Id al-fitr



    English Index

    Arabic Index

    Arabic Texts


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  • Paul E. Walker

    An historian of ideas with a focus on Mediaeval Islamic History, Paul E. Walker has taught at McGill University, Columbia University and the University of Michigan. For several years Dr Walker was the Director of the American Research Centre in Egypt, and is currently a Visiting Scholar with the University of Chicago's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He has authored and edited many books on Fatimid history and the formative period of Ismaili thought including Early Philosophical Shi'ism (Cambridge University Press, 1993), The Wellsprings of Wisdom: A Study of Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani's Kitab...Read more


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