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Article

Abstract

This article discusses the significance of the writing and transmission of two accounts recording disputations (munāẓarāt) that took place in 909 CE, the year of the Fatimid revolution, in Qayrawān (modern Tunisia). These debates, in which local scholars of all politico-religious factions participated, were organized by the agents of the Fatimid daʿwa as part of their attempt to establish a Shīʿī caliphate. But the accounts themselves, written at different times and for different motives, were triggered by personal trauma and responded to broader political and religious issues, which helps to explain their inclusion in later narratives of defiance and hagiography. The first was authored by a local Mālikī debater, Saʿīd b. al-Ḥaddād, and immediately went into circulation. It then became part of the North African biographical tradition and was regularly quoted as a brilliant (if paradoxical) defence of Mālikī belief against “heretics and tyrants.” A different account of these disputations was written nearly forty years later by Ibn al-Haytham, a local Fatimid dāʿī. Unlike that of Ibn al- Ḥaddād, Ibn al- Haytham’s memoir, entitled Kitāb al-Munāẓarāt, was written to commemorate an older generation of dāʿīs, especially the revolutionary brothers Abū- l- ʿAbbās and Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Shīʿī, both of whom had been executed in 911. Also unlike the previous record, this one circulated privately and only became known to modern scholars in the 1990s.

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The Medieval Globe

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