A comprehensive survey of Fatimid history and its sources, this book combines an introduction to the subject as a whole with a broad overview of Fatimid history from the time Abū ʿAbdallāh al-Shīʿī began his mission in North Africa, leading to the foundation of the Fatimid state in 909, until the fall of the last caliph in 1171. Its major emphasis, however, is a systematic presentation of different categories of sources relevant to the study of Fatimid history.

Exploring an Islamic Empire surveys the shape and content of Fatimid history, covering the three main phases of the dynasty. These are, first, the period from 909 to 973 when the Fatimids established themselves in North Africa and the Maghrib; second from 973 to 1074, a centre of empire; and finally, from 1074 to 1171, a century of military wazirs.

The book further examples various kinds of sources that provide information for historical reconstruction and analysis. They are, first, coins and other artefacts – ṭirāz, building dedications, art objects and archaeological finds – that supply direct evidence of historical events; second, documents and letters, both originals and copies; third, eyewitness and contemporary accounts; fourth, histories, topographies and biographical dictionaries; fifth, scientific and literary writings; and last, the work of the modern scholars who have contributed most to this subject. It also offers an extensive bibliography of both medieval sources and modern studies, of the whole range of what has been written to date about the Fatimids.

This comprehensive work is a valuable addition to the historiography of the Fatimids and the Muslim world and will prove essential reading to scholars of Islamic history.