Lessons from the Fatimid Empire for Today: a Conversation with Dr. Shainool Jiwa of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London

The.Ismaili presents an exclusive interview with Dr. Shainool Jiwa, Head of Constituency Studies at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, and a specialist of the Fatimid Empire.

The Fatimid empire began in North Africa in 909 CE with the emergence of Imam al-Mahdi and continued till the Imam Mustansir-Billah until 1094.
Dr. Jiwa has remarked that Mawlana Hazar Imam has referred to the significance of the Fatimid era, a significant precursor of attitudes that are appropriate for the 21st century. It was a time in which intellect played a major role in society, and when relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were admirable, warm, and respectful. So, there is much to be learned from the Fatimid period that can help inform the way we live our lives today.

Notes to video:
0:20 -- Part 1: The history of the Fatimid Empire
10:34 -- Part 2: What we can learn from the Fatimids: the role of the intellect and discussions/debates
24:03 -- Part 3: Emotionally driven and narrative-based approaches as part of developing one’s faith
31:44 -- Part 4: Dr. Jiwa’s personal journey and her vision for the future

About the Author:
Dr Shainool Jiwa
is the Head of Constituency Studies and a Senior Research Fellow at The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Prior to this, she was the Head of the Department of Community Relations from 2005 to 2012. She was also the founding coordinator of the Qur’anic Studies Project at the IIS (2002-2005). Dr Jiwa is a specialist in Fatimid history, having completed her Master’s degree from McGill University and her doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. As a senior faculty member, Dr Jiwa teaches on the IIS graduate programs (GPISH & STEP) and contributes to the development of the IIS Secondary Curriculum.

About the interviewer:
Sahil Badruddin is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Chemical Engineering, Religious Studies, and History. As the host of Candid Insights with Sahil Badruddin, he conducts interviews of influencers, leaders, and intellectuals for their deeper insights and wisdom with thought-provoking questions. Some of his interview guests, among others, include Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Karen Armstrong, Hasan Minhaj, and Eboo Patel.

Additional resources: 
World of Islam Series publication published by the IIS. See also: The Fatimid Caliphate: Diversity of Traditions, co-authored by Dr Jiwa; The Fatimids: The Rise of a Muslim Empire, authored by her and available online as a book, eBook and audiobook; and The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, by Prof. Heinz Halm.

This interview was conducted at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, Houston

  1. World of Islam Series publication from the IIS.
  2. The Fatimids: The Rise of a Muslim Empire, by Dr. Shainool Jiwa, available online as a book, eBook, and audiobook.
  3. Religious Pluralism in Egypt: The Ahl al-kitab in Early Fatimid Times. by Dr. Shainool Jiwa. 
  4. A Reading Guide on Dr.Jiwa’s book: Towards a Shi`i Mediterranean Empire‐Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo.
  5. The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, by Prof. Heinz Halm.
  6. Online Timeline of Fatimid Caliphate by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
  7. Online Images of Artefacts from the Fatimid Era in the Aga Khan Museum.