MOʾAYYAD FI’L-DIN ŠIRĀZI

(ca. 1000-87), outstanding and multitalented representative of the Fatimid religious and political mission (daʿwa) in the service of the Caliph/Imam Mostanṣer bi’llāh (r. 1036-94).

 

MOʾAYYAD FI’L-DIN ŠIRĀZI (ca. 1000-87), outstanding and multitalented representative of the Fatimid religious and political mission (daʿwa) in the service of the Caliph/Imam Mostanṣer bi’llāh (r. 1036-94). Moʾayyad excelled as missionary-agent (dāʿi), statesman and scholar. In his theological and philosophical writings he brought the Ismaʿili spiritual heritage to its pinnacle. As prose author and poet he shows a masterful command of Arabic literary style and rhetoric.

Born into an Ismaʿili family in Shiraz, the capital of the Buyid province of Fars in south-western Persia, his full name is Abu Nāṣer Hebat-Allāh b. Musā b. Abi ʿEmrān b. Dāwud al-Širāzi. The honorific name Moʾayyad fi’l-Din (“The one aided” – by God – “in religion”) was probably bestowed upon him when he was appointed the highest rank of chief missionary (dāʿi al-doʿāt) in the central administration of the Fatimid daʿwa (see Canard, “Daʿwa”) in Cairo in 1059.

Moʾayyad is the author of a unique work of memoirs known as Sirat al-Moʾayyad fi’l-Din (The life of Moʾayyad fi’l-Din), a personal and thrilling work of history that mirrors, in the life and destiny of a dāʿi, the mutual relationship between Fatimids, ʿAbbasids and Buyids under the growing pressure of the Turkmen invasion from Central Asia into the heart-lands of the Islamic world. Furthermore, the Sira is a rich source for the organisation and the norms of the clandestine network of the Ismaʿili daʿwa. The book covers, in three main parts, more than twenty years of Moʾayyad’s career. The first part is an account of his temporary successful, but lastly failed missionary work in favour of the Fatimids at the court of the Buyid prince Abu Kālijār Marzobān (r. 1024-48) of Fars. Moʾayyad further reports his experiences after his flight to Cairo, where envious and egoistic court-officials directed the young Caliph/Imam Mostanṣer according to their own interest and tried to prevent the continuation of the ambitious arrivals career. Against his own will, Moʾayyad was sent as head of a diplomatic delegation to northern Syria in 1056-58. There, at the fringes of the Fatimid empire, he was to build up an alliance under Fatimid command between the rebellious ʿAbbasid general Abu’l-Ḥāreṯ Basāsiri (see Canard, “Al-Basāsīrī”) and local Bedouin chiefs against the Turkmen Sunnite Saljuqs who already had made an end to Buyid rule and taken over power in the ʿAbbasid capital in 1055. In the epilogue of the Sira Moʾayyad celebrates the triumph of Basāsiri who - without further support from the Fatimids - occupied Baghdad, exiled the Caliph and established the Friday prayer in the name of Mostanṣer for a year (1058-59).

As a reward for his merits during his political mission in Syria, Moʾayyad was appointed chief dāʿi after his return to the Fatimid capital. In that office, he was administering the affairs of the daʿwa, teaching missionaries from both inside and outside the Fatimid empire, as the philosopher-poet Nāṣer Ḵosrow of Badaḵšān and Lamak b. Mālek Ḥammādi, a high representative of the loyal Solayhid state in Yemen. Moʾayyad is also the author of eight hundred lectures (Majāles al-ḥekma, i.e. “sessions of wisdom”) he held in front of the community of believers every Thursday in Cairo. These sermons, which are the largest collection of this genre in the literary heritage of the Ismaʿilis, contain the essence of his religious and philosophical thinking.

In addition to the Majāles, Moʾayyad is the author of religio-philosophical treatises, prayers and more than sixty Arabic qaṣidas (panegyrics) that contain a wide range of Fatimid theological and ideological motives. Moʾayyad’s poems still play a prominent role in the ritual liturgy of the Ismaʿili Bohrās (see on them Fyzee, “Bohorās”) in India today. Among them, he is still praised and respected today as spiritual guide and leader.

 

Bibliography:

Primary sources: Abu Naṣr Hebat-Allāh Moʾayyad fi’l-Din al-Širāzi, Diwān al-Moʾayyad fi’l-Din dāʿi al-doʿāt, ed. M. Kāmel Hosayn, Cairo, 1949.

Idem, al-Majāles al-moʾayyadiya, I and III and 3, ed. Moṣṭafā Ḡāleb, Beirut, 1974-84; I and II, ed. Hātem Ḥāmed-al-Din, Oxford and Bombay, 1975-86.

Idem, Sirat al-Moʾayyad fi’l-Din dāʿi al-doʿāt, ed. M. Kāmel Hosayn, Cairo, 1949.

Secondary sources: M. Canard, “Al-Basāsīrī,” EI2.

Idem, “Daʿwa,” EI2. Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs. Their History and Doctrines, Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne, 1990.

A. A. A. Fyzee, “Bohorās,” EI2. Verena Klemm, Memoirs of a Mission: The Ismaili Scholar, Statesman and Poet al-Muʾayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi, London, 2003.

I. Poonawala, “Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din,” EI2. Bazat-Tahera Qutbuddin, Al- Muʾayyad fi al-Din al-Shirazi: Founder of a New Tradition of Fatimid Daʾwa Poetry, Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1999.

 

November 16, 2004

(Verena Klemm)

Originally Published: July 20, 2004

Last Updated: July 20, 2004