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The 'Alids

The First Family of Islam, 750-1200

Teresa Bernheimer

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The first social history of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad in early Islam

This first in-depth study of the 'Alids focuses on the crucial formative period from the Abbasid Revolution of 750 to the Saljuq period of 1100. Exploring their rise from both a religious point of view and as a social phenomenon, Bernheimer investigates how they attained and extended the family’s status over the centuries.

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1. The 'Alids from the 'Abbasid Revolution to the Seljuqs
2. To Be or Not to Be: Genealogy, Money, and the Drawing of Boundaries
3. Kinship and Social Hierarchy: Marriage Patterns
4. The Headship of the 'Alid Family
5. The 'Alids as Local Nobility
6. 'Alid Dynasties

About the Author

Teresa Bernheimer is Senior Lecturer in the History of the Near and Middle East at SOAS, University of London. She is co-editor of Late Antiquity: Eastern Perspectives (2012) and Early Islamic History. Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies (2014).


This book gives us a fresh and fascinating insight into the formation of Islamic society...and the spread of Arabic lineages through the emerging Muslim World.

- Professor Hugh Kennedy, SOAS, University of London

"The study is meticulousand well-referenced, with ample support from primary sources in addition to active engagement with contemporary literature… valuable to anyone wishing to study the social phenomenon of the ‘Alids or medieval Islamic history in general."

- Amina Inloes, The Islamic College, London, United Kingdom, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences (Volume 31, Number 3)

'Bernheimer has produced a short, readable, and captivating study of an often overlooked aspect of medieval Islamic societies … In particular, the book would supplement a class on Shiʿism, elegantly making a point about the extent to which most Muslims held the family of the Prophet in high esteem, regardless of their sectarian affiliation.'

- Adam Gaiser, Journal of the American Oriental Society
'Bernheimer’s book will (and should) be one of the first secondary sources students and researchers reach for when pursuing the history of ʿAlids in the medieval Islamic world.'
- Ahmad Khan, Universität Hamburg, Der Islam