Those few students in Britain who study Islamic history by and large learn the Sunni version. This is the familiar story of the four ‘rightly-guided’ caliphs who succeeded Muhammad and the Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman caliphates that followed them. When Shia dynasties, like the Buyids of Iraq and Iran, the Fatimids of Egypt and North Africa, the Hamdanids of Northern Iraq and Northern Syria or even the Safavids of Iran, feature in this version of Islamic history, they appear mainly as foils for the Sunni narrative.
Given that Sunni-Shia sectarianism is a key factor in the politics of the Middle East, thinking about Islamic history in this skewed way is unhelpful.
One institution working to highlight the Shia contribution to Islamic civilisation is the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, which, since its founding in 1977, has produced specialist studies on Ismaili Shia theology and culture. Through its new World of Islam series, the Institute is seeking to reach a broader readership.
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The Fatimids: The Rise of a Muslim Empire
by: Dr. Shainool Jiwa
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.
Click here to learn more about this book.