This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to provide a social history of the ʻAlids in the crucial five centuries from the ʻAbbāsid Revolution to the Saljūqs (second/eighth to sixth/twelfth centuries). Due to the richness of the source material, this study focuses especially on the eastern part of the Islamic world. The chapter then provides definitions of terms used throughout the book; a historical overview of the ʻAlid family; and reviews studies the role of the Prophet's family in Muslim societies. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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