The Fatimids were an Islamic dynasty that reigned in North Africa and later in Egypt from 909 until 1171. The Fatimid Caliphate was the political pinnacle of the Ismailis, a group of Shiites who expected the appearance of a messiah descended from the marriage of Ali, the fourth caliph, and Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Fatimids initially established a North African empire centered in Tunisia, from which they planned to move eastward and supplant the Abbasids. Consequently, they conquered Egypt in 969 and created Cairo as their capital. They then extended their influence to Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. They reached the zenith of their power in the reign of al-Mustansir (1036-94). The dynasty enjoyed generally peaceful relations with the Byzantines and cooperated with the Turkish rulers of Syria against the Crusades.
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Michael W. Dols
Lewis, Bernard, The Origin of Isma'ilism (1975); O'Leary, De Lacy, A Short History of the Fatimid Kaliphate (1923).
The Fatimids were a Muslim dynasty claiming the caliphate, successors of Muhammad through descent from Fatima, Muhammad's daughter.
In the 10th century, Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi, head of a sect of Syrian Shiites, traveled to northwest Africa to head a movement started among the Berbers, a non-Arabic North African tribe. Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi was proclaimed the Muslim messiah, Mahdi, and by 909 had secured control of a substantial portion of North Africa. He pushed eastward as far as Egypt and consolidated the empire under his son al-Qa'im and grandson al-Mansur. Egypt was conquered in 969.
In 972 al-Mansur's son Moizz was recognized as caliph in Egypt and made the new city of Cairo his capital. Morocco, Tripoli, and Sicily then became Muslim provinces, developing into semiautonomous dynasties of their own. In the 11th century Sicily fell to the Normans, and in the following century Roger II of Sicily completed the conquest of Morocco. Al-Hakim, the third Fatimid caliph, supported the university in Cairo and founded the fatimid library. He persecuted Christians, destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and in 1020 claimed personal divinity.
At its height, the Fatimid dynasty was recognized throughout much of Arabia, but it declined and was eventually crushed by the rising forces of Normans, Turks, and Venetians. After 1129 the Fatimid caliphs were merely puppets in the hands of the army and powerful viziers (Muslim government officials). Adid, last of the Fatimids, died in 1171. Upon his death, the vizier Saladin won the title of Sultan by recognizing the Abbasid caliph of Baghdâd.
Unfortunately, we are not aware of any scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.
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