A dream come-true: empowerment through dreams reflecting Fāṭimid-Ṣulayḥid relations

Cortese, Delia (2011) A dream come-true: empowerment through dreams reflecting Fāṭimid-Ṣulayḥid relations. In: Fortresses of the intellect: Ismaili and other islamic studies in honour of Farhad Daftary. Ali-De-Unzaga, Omar, ed. I.B. Tauris, pp. 387-402. ISBN 9781848856264

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to revisit the early political history of the Sulayhī dynasty of Yemen (439/1047 - 532/1138). I will deal in particular with the dynamics that brought an Ismaili activist (dā‘ī), ‘Alī b. Muhammad al-Sulayhī (d. 459/1067), to rise from obscurity to become the founder of an important – yet short lived- vassal dynasty in Yemen of the Shi‘a Ismaili Fatimid rulers of Egypt. If of limited consequence for the Fatimids per se, the narratives informing us on the relationship between the Sulayhīs and their Egyptian masters played a foundational role in the Tayyibī Ismailis’ reconstruction of their own origins and of their sacred history as a distinctive branch of Ismailism. In this paper I will explore the relationship between ‘Alī al-Sulayhī and his master, the Cairo-based Caliph-Imam al-Mustansir (d. 487/1094), as illustrated in narratives of dreams attributed to, and/or claimed to have been dreamt by, ‘Alī himself following the sudden death of his son and heir apparent al-A‘azz (d. 458/1065). When contrasted with the portrayal of this master-vassal relationship featured in ayyibī sources containing coverage on the Sulayhīs, these dream narratives provide us with some valuable insights. They show us how in the face of spatial and temporal distances, ‘Alī is portrayed as legitimising his political and spiritual charismatic credentials on the basis of visionary proximity to the imam and how his authority to rule is ultimately endorsed by God. How ‘Alī is invested with the power to avert or discourage tribal dissent and to secure the genealogical transmission of his authority within his bloodline. The contextualised analysis of these dream narratives will serve as the basis for remarks on the Tayyibīs’ self-understanding of their history and of the spiritual pedigree of their leaders.

Item Type:Book Section
Research Areas:Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Law > Criminology and Sociology
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > Perspectives in Religion group
Middlesex University Schools and Centres > School of Health and Education > Education > Interpreting and Translation group
ID Code:9039
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Deposited On:23 May 2012 11:06
Last Modified:12 Dec 2014 10:39

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