A distinguished scholar, author and statesman, al-Muʾayyad fī’l-Dīn al-Shīrāzī (c.997–1078 CE) lived during one of the most turbulent periods inIslamic history. The 11th century was characterized, among other things, by an acute struggle for supremacy between the Sunni and Shiʿi branches of Islam, represented politically by the Abbasid and Fatimid caliphates. al-Muʾayyad was a Fatimid Ismaili dāʿī (missionary) who first rose to prominence in the service of Abū Kālījār, the Būyid ruler of the Fārs region in south-west Persia, which was then part of the Abbasid empire. Al-Muʾayyad’s proselytizing activities, however, incurred the hostility of the local political and religious establishment. After enduring much persecution, he was forced to flee his homeland for Fatimid Egypt, where he offered his services to the Imam-caliph al-Mustanṣir bi’llāh.

Despite initial setbacks, al-Muʾayyad’s outstanding intellectual and literary skills soon came to be recognized and he was appointed to important positions in the Fatimid administration. Eventually, he attained the highest ranks in the religious hierarchy, including that of chief dāʿī and director of the Dar al-ʿIlm (House of Knowledge) academy in Cairo. During the twenty years he served in these positions until his death at an advanced age, he won widespread acclaim for his scholarship and sagacity, as well as his authorship of a number of theological, devotional and literary works.

The Dīwān of a al-Muʾayyad al-Shīrāzī is notable for its exceptional poetic quality as well as a personal testimony of his career as a Fatimid dāʿī. Comprising a total of 62 qaṣīdas (odes) of varying length, the Dīwān covers a wide range of political and religious issues, from al-Muʾayya’s intellectual disputations and personal experience of persecution to devotions in praise of the Prophet Muḥammad and his family. In doing so, he provides a rare, first-hand description of some of the political and sectarian tensions that polarized the Muslim community of his time. Al-Muʾayyad’s poetry is rich in imagery, rhetorical techniques and symbolic allusions to the esoteric lore of the Fatimid Ismailis.This first complete English translation of the Dīwān seeks to recapture some of the poetic power and flavour of what is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of medieval Arabic literature.