Book review by: Shafique N. Virani, Distinguished Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto.
The Fāṭimid caliphate was the apogee of Shīʿī Ismaili political successes. Among the dynasty’s most illustrious dāʿīs, or “inviters,” was al-Muʾayyad fi’l-Dīn Shīrāzī (d. 470/1078), whose writings are a milestone in Islamic intellectual history. His poetry and autobiography were both edited in 1949 and the first few volumes of his eight hundred lectures at the Ismaili “sessions of wisdom” began to be published in 1974 by various editors.
Verena Klemm’s Die Mission des fāṭimidischen Agenten al-Muʾayyad fī d-dīn in Šīrāz (Peter Lang, 1989) and Memoirs of a Mission (I.B. Tauris, 2003) shed much light on the biography of this talented personality, and Tahera Qutbuddin’s al-Muʾayyad al-Shīrāzī and Fatimid Daʿwa Poetry (Brill, 2005) is a penetrating study of his poetic omnibus. Though a small handful of scholars, including Henry Corbin, Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, and this reviewer have previously written about selections of al-Muʾayyad’s lectures, Elizabeth R. Alexandrin’s Walāyah in the Fāṭimid Ismāʿīlī Tradition is the first book-length study dedicated to this major collection of Islamic esoteric thought. Based in part on her 2006 doctoral dissertation, the volume specifically focuses on al-Muʾayyad’s understanding of walāyah, the concept of divine authority and leadership. It includes an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion, along with extensive notes, a list of works cited, and three indices.
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About the Author:
Elizabeth R. Alexandrin is associate professor of Islamic studies and senior fellow at St. John’s College, the University of Manitoba, Canada.