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Ismāʿīlī Manuscripts from Yemen

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The Fāṭimid dynasty was founded in North Africa by the Ismāʿīlī movement in 297/909. Qāʾid Ǧawhar, the commander of the Fāṭimid forces conquered Egypt and built the new capital Cairo in 358/969 from where the Fāṭimid imām-caliphs ruled a vast empire until their fall in 567/1171. The Ayyūbids, who succeeded them, ruthlessly destroyed the Ismāʿīlī heritage to such an extent that not a single book dealing with their doctrines survived in Egypt. In fact, the Ismāʿīlī legacy experienced the same fate across North Africa. This paper, therefore, poses the question: How did the Ismāʿīlī works, composed by their duʿāt in North Africa, Egypt, Iran and other places come to be preserved in Yemen, having completely vanished from their countries of origin? In response to this intriguing question, this essay seeks to scrutinise the Ismāʿīlī history from the very beginning of its religio-political activities until the present times and its close connection with the history of Yemen. According to a modest estimate, about seventy works belonging to the pre-Fāṭimid and Fāṭimid periods are still preserved, in addition to an equal number of books produced in Yemen following the collapse of the Ṣulayḥid dynasty in 532/1138 and the ensuing Mustaʿlī-Ṭayyibī daʿwa before the entire legacy was transferred to India.

Affiliations: 1: University of California at Los Angeles ismailp@gmail.com

10.1163/1878464X-00502007
/content/journals/10.1163/1878464x-00502007
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/content/journals/10.1163/1878464x-00502007
2014-01-01
2018-09-26

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