Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo

By Paula Sanders | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Ceremonial as Polemic

Among the ceremonies that were unique to the Fatimids, and that were not continued in some fashion after the fall of the dynasty, was the celebration of the Festival of Ghadīr. Unlike other Fatimid celebrations, which were indigenous to Egypt (like the festivities at the inundation of the Nile) or were broadly Islamic (like the celebrations of Ramadān, the two festivals, and the Islamic New Year), the Festival of Ghadīr had a specifically Shi'i origin. Nonetheless, the festival underwent changes similar in character to those of other Fatimid ceremonies. At the beginning of the Fatimid period, the Festival of Ghadīr, like the observance of the 'Āshūra fast commemorating the death of Ḥusayn, was primarily a popular celebration. By the twelfth century, the celebration of the Festival of Ghadīr was orchestrated by the government and modeled on the celebrations of the two festivals; in spite of its Shi'i origins, it became a part of the ritual lingua franca created during the reign of al-Āmir. Near the end of the Fatimid period, the Festival of Ghadīr was appropriated by the Hāfizī Fatimid imamate into its rhetorical arsenal for use against its detractors. This chapter traces the route of the Festival of Ghadīr from popular celebration, to court ritual, and finally to polemic.


THE EVENT AT GHADĪR KHUMM AND
ITS IMPORTANCE IN ISMA'ILI THOUGHT

It is reported in the traditions of the Prophet's life (ḥadīth) that on the eighteenth day of Dhu'l-ḥijja, in the year 10/ 632, Muhammad stopped at the Pool of Khumm ( Ghadīr Khumm) on his return from the Farewell Pilgrimage. The heat was sweltering that day, and his followers took refuge under a grove of trees. A platform was raised for the Prophet, who wished to make a pronouncement before the large assembly dispersed. He called them together for the noon prayer, and, when it was finished, he raised 'Alī's hand in full view of the congregation, saying: "Do you not recognize that I

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Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ritual, Politics, and the City in Fatimid Cairo *
  • Contents *
  • Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Short Titles *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Ceremonial Idiom 13
  • Chapter 3 - The Ritual City 39
  • Chapter 4 - Politics, Power, and Administration: the New Year's Ceremony 83
  • Chapter 5 - The Urban River 99
  • Chapter 6 - Ceremonial as Polemic 121
  • Chapter 7 - Epilogue 135
  • Notes *
  • Selected Bibliography *
  • Index *
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