The formation of an Islamic sect: The Tayyibī Ismā‘īlīs in medieval Yemen
The concealment of the Fatimid imam al-Tayyib following the assassination of his father al-Āmir in 524/1130 was a major turning point for the Yemeni Ismā`īlīs. They had to manage their lives and religion without the direct guidance of their infallible imam. This affected every aspect of their social and religious life and transformed them from a peripheral Fatimid community into a fully developed religious entity with distinct institutions, doctrines, and historical consciousness.
The period to be covered in this study extends from 532/1137 to 974/1566, that is, from the date of the death of the Sulayhid queen and the consequent fall of the Sulayhid state to the death of the last dā`ī residing in Yemen. This period, which is commonly referred to as the Yemeni da`wa—in contrast to the Indian da`wa that continues to the present day—is characterized by the rule of a line of Yemeni dā`ī mutlaqs who acted as deputies of the imam in his satr. They became the highest religious authorities following the death of the Sulayhid queen, the hujja of Yemen and India under the Fatimids.
The first part covers the politico-religious history of the Tayyibī da`wa focusing mainly on its internal structure and its relations with the local tribes, the Zaydī imams, and the ruling Sunnī dynasties. The second part explores the development of the Tayyibī faith as an elaborate synthesis of the early Fatimid and Persian schools of Ismā`īlī thought. It will focus on the cosmology and the worldly hierarchy of the da`wa, starting with the upper ranks of the Prophet, wasī , and imams, followed by the lower ranks of the da`wa officers, and ending with the lay believers.