Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam – book review by Dawn Pakistan

Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam
By Delia Cortese and Simonetta Calderini
Oxford University Press, Karachi
ISBN 978-0-19-547464-0
269pp. Rs495
Reviewed by Rizwana Naqvi / Dawn Pakistan

On the sunny day of January 23, 1958 a large crowd gathered in a colourful assembly in the National Stadium of Karachi. To the sound of music played by the tuxedoed musicians of the Prince Aly Khan Orchestra, women in gleaming and flowing attire, men wearing elaborate headgear and playful children awaited in trepidation on the stands. A handsome young man made his way towards the centre of the pitch where a pulpit had been built for the occasion.

Walking by the young man’s left side was a statuesque woman, with her head uncovered, wearing a stunning white sari, which further enhanced her mature beauty.

The young man donned the robe that had been worn by his grandfather and finally sat on a throne-like chair, basking in the admiration of those tens of thousands of people around him. The formal ceremony over, the stadium resounded again to the music of a Scottish bagpipe band while the young man, followed by the dignitaries, made his way out of the stadium escorted by the same woman who had accompanied him at the start of the event.

The young man was Prince Karim and the event formally celebrated his appointment as the fourth Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of some 15 million Shi’a Imami Isma’ili Muslims worldwide who believe him to be the 49th imam in a direct line of descent originating with ‘Ali b. Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The event celebrated the transfer of spiritual leadership from one of the most influential Muslim men of our time to another; however, our interest here is on the stunning woman who so prominently figured throughout the ceremonial. She was known as Princess Taj al-Dawla and was the mother of H. H. Karim Aga Khan IV.

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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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