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An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire$
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Jamel A. Velji

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780748690886

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748690886.001.0001

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From ẓāhir to bāṭin: An Introduction to Fatimid Hermeneutics

From ẓāhir to bāṭin: An Introduction to Fatimid Hermeneutics

Chapter:
(p.14) 1 From ẓāhir to bāṭin: An Introduction to Fatimid Hermeneutics
Source:
An Apocalyptic History of the Early Fatimid Empire
Author(s):

Jamel A. Velji

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748690886.003.0002

This chapter discusses the details of the early Fatimid interpretive process. It emphasizes how the process of taʾwīl or esoteric interpretation was related to Fatimid conceptions of sacred history and allegiance to the imams. This taʾwīl was an interpretive modality that envisioned the Quran as having a multiplicity of hidden meanings whose true nature can be derived only by the imam of the time and his authorized agents. The true nature of this interpretation was hidden; it is bāṭin, and is distinct from what is outwardly apparent, the ẓahir; thus the true meaning of things could be known only by the elect. This interpretive modality was fused to Fatimid conceptions of sacred history, a history punctuated primarily by seven law-giving prophets. The sixth law-giving prophet was Muḥammad, who entrusted the esoteric elements of divine revelation to ʿAlī, the first imam. The last speaker-prophet was the mahdi whom organizers of the Fatimid movement claimed would reappear soon.

Keywords:   taʾwīl, ẓahir, bāṭin, walāya

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