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The 'Alids

The 'Alids: The First Family of Islam, 750-1200

Teresa Bernheimer
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    The 'Alids
    Book Description:

    This first in-depth study of the 'Alids focuses on the crucial formative period from the Abbasid Revolution to the end of the Seljuq period. Exploring their rise from both a religious point of view and as a social phenomenon, Bernheimer investigates how they attained and extended the family’s status over the centuries. The 'Alids are the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad, the elite family of Islam. The respect and veneration they are accorded is unparalleled in Islamic society, regardless of political or religious affiliation. And they have played a major role Islamic history, from famous early rebels to the founders and eponyms of major Islamic sects, and from 9th-century Moroccan and 10th-century Egyptian rulers to the current King of Jordan, the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Aga Khan.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3848-2
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The respect and veneration accorded to the family of the Prophet Muḥammad are unparalleled in Islamic society. Political or religious affiliations notwithstanding, the Prophet’s family – most importantly his descendants through his daughter Fāṭima and his cousin ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, collectively known as the ʿAlids – were held in high esteem even by those who rejected their claims to the leadership of the Muslim community. Within the hierarchy of Islamic society, the ʿAlids were ‘a blood aristocracy without peer’.¹

    Although they clearly occupied a privileged place among Muslims from the earliest period of Islam, the social prominence of the...

  5. 2 Genealogy, Money and the Drawing of Boundaries
    (pp. 13-31)

    Central to the ʿAlids’ claims to social distinction and entitlement to a variety of privileges was their close genealogical connection to the Prophet. With the dispersal of the family to all parts of the Islamic world, which accelerated after the failed revolt of Ḥusayn b. ʿAlī at Fakhkh in 169/789, the establishment of certain controls over this connection became increasingly important. This concern is reflected in the appearance of Ṭīlibid genealogies, genealogical works focusing explicitly on the Ṭīlibid branch of the Banū Hāshim, from the mid-third/ninth century onwards. The ʿUmdat al-ṭālibof Ibn ʿInaba (d. 828/1424–5), which dates from...

  6. 3 Shifting Hierarchies and Emphasising Kinship: ˁAlid Marriage Patterns
    (pp. 32-50)

    In 1905, the Islamic reformer Rashīd Riḍā published in his journalal-Manāra response to a question posed to him by a reader in Singapore. It concerned the marriage of asayyidafrom the Ḥaḍramī community in South East Asia. The marriage had been publicly denounced by the Ḥaḍramī ʿAlids because of its unsuitability: The groom was an Indian Muslim of non-sayyid descent. RashÐd RiÃÁ sanctioned the marriage, arguing that there was nothing in Islamic law to prohibit it. Riḍā’s opinion was strongly contradicted by the leading Ḥaḍramī scholar of the time, Sayyid ʿUmar al-ʿAṭṭās, who declared that a marriage...

  7. 4 The Niqāba, the Headship of the ˁAlid Family
    (pp. 51-70)

    The emergence of theniqāba, the ‘headship’ of the ʿAlid (or Ṭālibid) family, was a clear indication that the kinsfolk of the Prophet had come to be perceived as deserving special treatment on account of their genealogy. Within 100 years of their initial appearance in the late third/ninth century,nuqabāʾ (sing.naqīb) were found all over the Islamic world. In various ways, the office gave the family a certain selfdetermination over its affairs, not least in administering its privileges. No other social group could claim such exceptions and exemptions. While Morimoto has traced the rapid dispersion of the niqāba across...

  8. 5 The ˁAlids as Local Nobility
    (pp. 71-86)

    Much of the secondary literature on local notables in medieval Islam has focused on the question of the extent of state authority versus local autonomy. The role of local elites has been examined mainly with regard to their relationship to the centre. There has been less discussion of who those elites were and from where their authority derived.¹ There is little doubt that scholarship was an important factor in determining one’s social standing in medieval Islamic society: As Richard Bulliet has shown, the local elites in fifth-/eleventh-century Nishapur were almost entirely made up ofqāḍīsand scholars, and it was...

  9. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 87-90)

    It is difficult to estimate how many ʿAlids there were by the late fifth/eleventh century. Al-Ṭabarī reports that al-Maʾ mūn had the ʿAbbāsids counted in 200/815–6 and that this count yielded 33,000 men and women. If we assume that there were as many ʿAlids around that time, there must have been thousands more some 200 years later.¹ This is a vast number of people, some of whom significantly shaped the history of Islam. Yet whether or not they became well known as rebels or rulers or eponymous founders of Islamic sects or were recorded in the history books, the...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 91-112)
  11. Index
    (pp. 113-120)