Imam Muizz's Love for Books and Reading

In his Book of Assemblies and Travels, the tenth-century Fatimid jurist, al-Qadi al-Nu’man, recounts an illuminating episode from the life of the Fatimid Imam- al-Mu’izz.

One day, the Imam was searching for a book in the palace library. In its time, this was possibly the largest trove of literature anywhere on earth. The Twelver Shi’i chronicler Ibn Abi Tayyi’ had described it as a “Wonder of the World.”

When the librarian came back empty-handed, Imam Mu’izz decided to take a look for himself, though it was already past nightfall. He set himself in front of one of the cabinets, where he thought the book may be, and pulled a volume off the shelf.

As he leafed through it, he became fascinated by certain passages and began to read more closely. Before he knew it, he was reaching for another volume, and then another, and another. In the Imam’s own words:

“I completely forgot why I was there and didn’t even think of sitting down. It wasn’t until I felt a shooting pain in my legs from standing so long that I even realized where I was!”

Book enthusiasts will immediately identify with the Fatimid sovereign’s absorption in his reading till the late hours of the night, sometimes stretching to the morning hours.

The enchantment of the written word transcends boundaries of space and time.

The Fatimids and their successors at Alamut were great lovers and patrons of books, and their vast libraries attracted scholars of every creed from far and wide.


Reading Adapted from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover – May 3, 2007

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