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|First Arabic Edition of ‘Uyun al-akhbar in collaboration with IFPO|
The ‘Uyun al-akhbar wa-funun al-athar, by the Tayyibi Musta‘lian Ismaili da‘i, Idris ‘Imad al-Din, occupies a central position in Ismaili historiography. This major publication project is an outcome of collaboration between the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Damascus and The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS).
This text, composed by the Ismaili da‘i-scholar in seven volumes, presents the most comprehensive history of the Ismaili imams and da‘wa, from the earliest period of Muslim history until the late Fatimid period. Idris ‘Imad al-Din (born 1392 CE) was descended from the prominent al-Walid family of the Quraysh in Yemen, who led the Tayyibi Musta‘lian Ismaili da‘wa for more than three centuries. This gave him access to the literary heritage of the Ismailis, including the majority of extant Fatimid texts transferred to Yemen.
This edition is primarily based on manuscripts from the IIS Library collections and forms part of the IIS’ Ismaili Texts and Translations Series. For the first time, the text has been critically edited by a team of Syrian and Egyptian Arabic scholars, coordinated by Dr Nader El-Bizri (IIS) and Dr Sarab Atassi-Khattab (IFPO).
The first volume of ‘Uyun al-akhbar, on the life of the Prophet Muhammad, is particularly valuable in reflecting Ismaili tradition. Similarly, Volumes Two and Three portray the Ismaili perspectives on Imam ‘Ali b. Abi Talib (d. 661 CE) and his battles against his opponents.
The fourth volume covers the biographies of the early imams, from al-Hasan b. ‘Ali (d. 669 CE) and al-Husayn b. ‘Ali (d. 680 CE) until al-Husayn b. Ahmad, the last Ismaili imam of the dawr al-satr, or period of concealment.
The fifth volume deals with the initiation of the Ismaili da‘wa in Yemen and North Africa, and the establishment of the Fatimid state in 909 CE, with the reigns of the Fatimid Ismaili caliph-imams al-Mahdi (909–934 CE), al-Qa’im (934–946 CE) and al-Mansur (946–953 CE).
The sixth volume covers the reigns of the next four Fatimid caliph-imams, al-Mu‘izz (953–975 CE), al-‘Aziz (975–996 CE), al-Hakim (996–1021 CE), al-Zahir (1021–1036 CE) as well as the early years of al-Mustansir (1036–1094 CE).
Finally, the seventh volume of the ‘Uyun covers the remaining period of al-Mustansir’s reign, the establishment of Sulayhid rule in the Yemen and the Musta‘lian–Nizari schism following al-Mustansir’s death in 1097 CE. The volume also deals with the reigns of the next two Fatimid caliphs recognised also as imams by the Musta‘lian Ismailis, namely, al-Musta‘li (1094–1101 CE) and al-Amir (1101–1130 CE), as well as the commencement of the Tayyibi da‘wa in the Yemen and the collapse of the Fatimids in Egypt. Furthermore, the volume contains important details on the various da‘is of the Yemen. It remains a basic source for the history of the Ismaili da‘wa in the Yemen under the Sulayhids.
Five volumes of the set of seven have already been published, between 2007 and 2009, in Arabic critical editions. The remaining two (Volumes 3 and 5) are due to be published in 2010. They are part of the exciting ongoing collaboration between the IIS and IFPO.