The Fatimid period was the golden age of Ismaili thought and literature, when the Shiʿite Ismaili Imams ruled over the vast areas of the Muslim world as the Fatimid caliphs and the Ismailis made important contributions to Islamic civilization.

In this book, Heinz Halm investigates from a historical perspective the intellectual traditions that developed among the Ismailis from the rise of the Fatimid state in North Africa to the cultural brilliance of what the author calls ‘one of the great eras in Egyptian history and in Islamic history in general.’

The topics discussed include the training of the Ismaili dāʿīs or missionaries, the establishment of academic institutions such as al-Azhar and the Dār al-ʿIlm (House of Knowledge) through which the Fatimids encouraged learning, and the special ‘sessions of wisdom’ (majālis al-ḥikma) for advanced instruction in Ismaili esoteric teachings.