Orations of the fatimid caliphs: Festival sermons of the ismaili imams.

Author:Alexandrin, Elizabeth R.

Ed. and tr. PAUL E. WALKER. Ismaili Texts and Translations Series, vol. 10. London: 1. B. TAURIS, with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2009. Pp. xvii + 162 + 58 (Arabic). [pounds sterling]29.50, $51.29.

The volume under review is composed of a select set of Fatimid-period orations (sg. khutba) and provides a valuable edition and polished translation of the texts in question. The orations--in fact, a combination of sermons, public statements, and festival orations--were delivered in Egypt during the reign of the Fatimid caliphs (969-1171), albeit primarily during the tenth century. Paul Walker's compilation is drawn from the extant works of Fatimid authors, the notable works of Mamlak historiography, chancery manuals, and the Yemeni histories of Isminli authors.

Walker first took note of the above-mentioned orations due to Muhammad al-Ya'lawi's work on North African Fatimid literature (pp. xii-xiii). The texts selected for edition and translation reflect the fact that while there is a wide array of available orations for the Fatimid period, the Fatimid caliphimams wrote and delivered fewer of the extant orations than did Fatimid officials and, as historically corroborated, on the occasion of particular religious festivals (pp. 7, 55). The nature of the sources is, of course, open to historical scrutiny and questioning, as Walker and Tahera Qutbuddin have addressed in recent articles, and as this review likewise underscores. Other orations are derived from the fifteenth-century Yemeni history Uyun al-akhbar. Concerning the orations, Walker states: "In short, except for a small handful, the caliph rarely wrote them himself. However, the opposite was true of the sermons, which were not only delivered by the imams in person whenever possible, but also composed by them. Therefore we have the possibility, in this latter case, of listening to (or more precisely of reading) the very words of the imams" (p. xi). Walker advances the critical claim that a firm distinction can be made between the orations delivered by prominent Fatimid officials and the Fatimid caliph-imams.

The volume is divided into two parts. The first part comprises two introductory chapters, "A History of the Fatimid Khutba" and "Rhetoric and Themes in the Surviving Khutbas," which present a thematic discussion of the orations delivered by thirteen Fatimid caliphs. In chapter one, Walker's introduction to the Fatimid khutba highlights themes of particular interest, and is...

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