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An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire

Jamel Velji

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Explores the role of apocalyptic symbolism in the formation and maintenance of a medieval Islamic empire

How can religion transform a society? This book investigates the ways in which a medieval Islamic movement harnessed Quranic visions of utopia to construct one of the most brilliant and lasting empires in Islamic history (979-1171). The Fatimids’ apocalyptic vision of their central place in an imminent utopia played a critical role in transfiguring the intellectual and political terrains of North Africa in the early tenth century. Yet the realities that they faced on the ground often challenged their status as the custodians of a pristine Islam at the end of time.

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Contents

Acknowledgments
Introducing Ismaili Apocalypses
1. From ẓāhir to bāṭin: An Introduction to Fatimid Hermeneutics
2. Oaths, Taxes, and Tithes: Organizing an Imminent Utopia
3. Taʾwīl of an Apocalyptic Transcript I: Kitāb al-kashf (Book of unveiling)
4. Taʾwīl of an Apocalyptic Transcript II: Kitāb al-rushd wa-l-hidāya (Book of righteousness and true guidance)
5. To Temper an Imminent Eschatology: The Contributions of al-Mahdī and Qāḍī l-Nuʿmān
6. A Spiritual Progression to a New Eschatological Center: The Taʾwīl al-daʿāʾim on the Hajj
7. Actualizing the End: The Nizari Declaration of the Resurrection
8. From Movement to Text: The Haft-bāb
Conclusion.

About the Author

Jamel Velji is an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. In addition to his interests in Shia materials and Islamic intellectual history more broadly he is interested in apocalypticism, method and theory in the study of religion, and religion and violence.

Reviews

'An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire makes a compelling case for the prominence of messianic hopes and eschatological expectations in the rise and early rule of the Fatimids.'
- Mehdy Shaddel, Reading Religion (American Academy of Religion)

‘[Velji’s] analysis is insightful and provocative. In demonstrating the ways in which Fatimid and Nizari texts collapse and elide various temporal registers, he makes these complicated and perplexing texts sing for his readers…[Velji’s] approach will provoke incisive and important questions about apocalyptic phenomena that can easily appear as bizarre and unsettling. Readers will benefit from the glimpse that An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire offers of both the seething creativity and logical elegance of these Fatimid sources.’

- William E. B. Sherman, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Religion

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