Until the middle of the 20th century, the Ismailis were studied and judged almost exclusively on the basis of evidence collected or fabricated by their detractors. As a result, a variety of myths and legends circulated widely, both in Muslim societies and in the West, regarding the teachings and practices of the Ismailis. The breakthrough in Ismaili studies came with the recovery and study of numerous genuine Ismaili texts that had been preserved in private collections in India, Central Asia, Syria, Yaman and other regions.
This valuable collection of essays on Ismaili themes, focused on the mediaeval period in chronological order, is an indispensable tool for modern historians of the Ismailis, in particular, and for students of Islamic Shi‘i esotericism, in general. It presents a most useful overview of the mediaeval history of this community, containing a wide variety of topics, reflecting diverse disciplines and methodologies.
[Adapted from the Preface]
The transformation of Islam into one of the great civilisations of the world has been the subject of many studies in recent decades. As Islam spread beyond the Arabian peninsula into the neighbouring regions of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and beyond to North Africa and Central Asia, it became enriched by the intellectual contributions of a multitude of individuals, communities and cultures in regions that eventually comprised the Muslim world.