The Modern Recovery of the Ismaili Legacy and Its Importance for the Study of the Fatimids
A lecture by Paul Walker, University of Chicago
Published: Monday, April 23, 2012
The recovery of Fatimid-era works produced by the Ismaili da’wa substantially improved our understanding of this Shiite dynasty and its history. However, much, perhaps most, of the material we now have for this purpose was all but inaccessible until fairly recently. Previously locked away in sectarian libraries in the Yemen and India, many important books and treatise are now emerging from obscurity and entering the main stream of modern scholarship. Thanks to those who have located, edited and translated this legacy over the preceding three or four decades, we can at last begin to match the literature of the Ismailis with the policies and pronouncements of the government they created and supported.
Paul E. Walker, Deputy Director for Academic Programs, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1974) was director of the American Research Center in Cairo for over ten years (1976-86) and has taught at Columbia, McGill and the University of Michigan. As a specialist in the history of the Islamic thought, he has published dozens of papers and twelve books, among them Early Philosophical Shiism: The Ismaili Neoplatonism of Abū Yaʿqūb al-Sijistānī (Cambridge, 1993); An Ismaili Heresiography: The “Bāb al-Shayṭān” from Abū Tammām’s Kitāb al-Shajara (with Wilferd Madelung) (Leiden, 1998); Ḥamīd al-Dīn al-Kirmānī: Ismaili Thought in the Age of al-Ḥākim (London, 1999); The Advent of the Fatimids: A Contemporary Shiʿi Witness (with Wilferd Madelung) (London, 2000); Exploring an Islamic Empire: Fatimid History and Its Sources (London, 2002); and Caliph of Cairo: al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, 996-1021 (Cairo, 2009). Quite recently he and Prof. Verena Klemm published A Code of Conduct: the Mūjaza al-kāfiya of al-Naysābūrī.