This book is a history of the rituals of Islamic monarchy which legitimised the rule and authority of the Muslim monarchs. Like other monarchies, the caliph of the first Muslim empire was acclaimed by his followers and received oaths of allegiance from them. He appeared before them enthroned n both religious and royal settings, bearing the insignia of his office. This caliph was both a monarch and a king. However the Islamic political thought on the notion of kingship (mulk) was merely temporal power while the legitimate authority of the caliphate (khalifa) which was derived from God can obscure the important continuities between the caliphal authority and that of the ancient Near Eastern monarchy. The difference between monarchy from mere secular powers is the performance of symbolic acts of communication that establish recognition of the monarch's sacred status as a divinely favoured. In this book, the focus is on the rituals which signify the communicative performance of gestures and other symbolic exchanges. One of these rituals is the ceremony of inauguration or accession. This ceremony, which usually entails a sequence of ritual acts, is variously referred to as unction, enthronement, coronation, acclamation, or investiture. A form of the same rituals was very often used to establish the succession through the recognition of a ‘crown prince’, ‘co-emperor’ or ‘heir apparent’. This book seeks to establish what was distinctive about this inaugural ritual in early Islamic monarchy, and how it evolved during the formation, consolidation and decline of the first Muslim empire. This introductory chapter provides an overview of Iran, Rome and Arabia in late antiquity; royal accession in Rome; the origins of the Muslim empire; and the sources for the history of the Muslim empire.
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