I.B. Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies
Emerging from a period of long seclusion, the leader of the burgeoning community of Ismaili Shi‘i Muslims was declared the first Fatimid Imam–caliph in the year 909. Abd Allah al-Mahdi founded the only sustained Shi‘i dynasty (909–1171) to rule over substantial parts of the medieval Muslim world, rivalling both the Umayyads of Spain and the Abbasids. At its peak, the Fatimid Empire extended from the Atlantic shores of North Africa, across the southern Mediterranean and down both sides of the Red Sea, covering also Mecca and Medina.
This accessible history, the first of two volumes, tells the story of the birth and expansion of the Fatimid Empire in the 10th century. Drawing upon eyewitness accounts, Shainool Jiwa introduces the first four generations of Fatimid Imam-caliphs – al-Mahdi, al-Qa’im, al-Mansur, and al-Mu‘izz – as well as the people who served them and those they struggled against. Readers are taken on a journey through the Fatimid capitals of Qayrawan, Mahdiyya, and Mansuriyya and on to the founding of Cairo. In this lively and comprehensive introduction, readers will discover various milestones in Fatimid history and the political and cultural achievements that continue to resonate today.
1. The Origins
2. Towards a Mediterranean Empire
3. The Fatimid State in Transition
4. The Making of an Empire
5. The Fatimid Venture in Egypt
List of Illustrations
Note on the Text
'In bringing the Fatimids' history to a new audience, Shainool Jiwa's book performs an important service. It should be on the reading list of all serious students of Islamic history.'
– History Today
'The Fatimids is fresh, exciting and eye-opening; it is nothing less than a new way of looking at the Mediterranean in a crucial period of history of the Western world. This thrilling story, giving us evocative descriptions of the key regions, is all told with a feel for the intense drama which gave birth to this new empire. For many readers, this will be a revelation.’
– Michael Wood, historian and broadcaster
‘This lucid introduction to the Fatimids offers us a compelling account of their remarkable rise and achievements in the 10th century.’
– Professor Ali Asani, Harvard University
‘This fascinating book brings alive the complex history of the Ismaili Fatimid dynasty in North Africa. Dr Jiwa draws on many years of profound thought and devoted research. This is not just a guide to key events; it is also an insightful meditation on the Fatimids' role in Islamic history.’
– Professor Carole Hillenbrand, St Andrews and Edinburgh Universities
Shainool Jiwa is a senior faculty member at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London. As a specialist on the Fatimids, she has written and lectured extensively on medieval Islamic history and has edited and translated key medieval Arabic texts relating to Fatimid history, including The Founder of Cairo (2013) and Towards a Shi‘i Mediterranean Empire (2009). Dr. Jiwa is also the co-editor of The Shi‘i World: Pathways in Tradition and Modernity (2015).