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  1. Ismailis in Medieval Muslim Societies
  2. Ismailis in medieval Muslim societies - University Of Pikeville
  3. Shafique N. Virani
  4. Shafique N. Virani

As an academic work, it fulfills its main objective which is to present the results of a meticulous description and observation of these fortified sites. The considerable amount of information contained in the volume reflects a near life-time of research devoted to the subject. Each remaining element of structure is analyzed and appropriately resituated in the initial order both of the architectural organization of the building itself and of its broader setting within the coherent chain of fortresses spread over Ismaili territories.


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Willey restitutes the very meaning of the architecture he studies through the history of its builders and inhabitants, pointing out the most significant events of their lifetimes and portraying the great spiritual and political leaders of the Ismaili community. Where evidence lacks or where persistent misconceptions require redress, the author proposes and defends critical hypotheses. In this way, the author makes us relive the extraordinary event in a human atmosphere that is quite uncommon in scholarly works.

Ismailis in Medieval Muslim Societies

First, he pays considerable attention to the actual environment of the castles he visits, their awesome natural frame and the rural or urban settings of the surroundings that are presented with delight and consideration. Although most of the time the Ismaili vestiges are ghost constructions in remote, isolated regions, they are not at all presented by Wiley as still life portraits.

Rather, each fortress is an element in a busy, human landscape. As an example, where appropriate Willey writes about agriculture and local conditions in the surrounding villages for fortresses located in rural areas. In this way, Wiley underscores the support of both his team and the local community in contributing to the success of his research.

Ismailis in medieval Muslim societies - University Of Pikeville

Particularly moving is his attitude toward the people who help him visit inaccessible locations under difficult conditions and various orders, especially his work partner Adrianne Woodfine. More broadly, the practical aspects of each journey, the general organization and unexpected situations and encounters are meticulously recounted so that the book offers the live texture of a human adventure together with its purely scholarly content.

A brief statement on the main phases of his research and acknowledgments complete this introduction. Chapter 1 presents the early history of the Ismailis. The introduction forms a prelude to Part One, that, from Chapter 2 to Chapter 5, focuses on the history of the Nizari Ismailis following the Fatimid episode. Willey explains the foundation and step-by-step evolution of their state led by the two major figures, Hasan Sabbah in Iran, and Rashid al-Din Sinan in Syria.

Shafique N. Virani

Through these fascinating pages the reader can follow the development of a bright culture promoted and defended by exceptional individuals under the toughest of circumstances. Willey shows well how this culture actually arose out of regional conflicts involving the diverse components of a heterogeneous Muslim society on the one hand, and foreign invaders from both Europe and the Far East Crusaders and Mongols on the other. The Nizari civilization is in fact characterized by intense efforts to cultivate a solid elite, secretive religious practices, complex relationships with the dominant Muslim communities and particular methods of warfare and survival.

Chapter 6 introduces the reader to the sophisticated strategy of building and capturing these fortresses as elaborated by the Nizaris in order to structure their State and shelter centers of Ismaili culture and spirituality. In this chapter, Willey underlines the essential principles of this strategy such as the careful choice of a location which was difficult of access while offering natural resources sources of food and water. To help the reader comprehend the siting of Ismaili castles, the author cleverly locates these within the wider network of military architecture as general phenomenon of the historical period.

Shafique N. Virani

Crusaders and Muslims alike built remarkable fortresses in the Middle East. Western memory however, has selectively retained the architectural achievement of the Latins while underestimating that of the Muslims. Willey corrects this view by means of an overall comparative analysis of existing fortresses, a useful critical approach that he applies with good results to case studies in the subsequent part of the book. Alamut fortress constituted the very heart of the Nizari State in Iran and was the seat of Hasan Sabbah. Alamut and its sister fortresses represented the epitome of Ismaili military science.

His Highness The Aga Khan IV Services for Ismaili Muslims (Ismailis) and Humanity - Documentary

In the course of their long history the Ismailis have often been accused of various heretical teachings and practices and - at the same time - a multitude of myths and misconceptions have ciculated about them. This state of affairs reflected the fact that the Ismailis were, until the middle of the twentieth century, studied and judged almost exclusively on the basis of evidence collected, or even fabricated, by their enemies.

As the most revolutionary wing of Shi'ism, with a religio-political agenda that aimed to uproot the Abbasids and restore the caliphate to a line of 'Alid imams, the Ismailis naturally from early on aroused the hostility of the Sunni establishment and majority.

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Farhad Daftary here separates myth from fact, propaganda from actuality, in a work characterised by his customary mastery of the sources and literature. The Early and Fatimid Phases. The Nizari Phase. Aspects of Ismaili Thought.


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