The Fatimid Petition

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The Cairo Geniza preserved hundreds of Arabic-script petitions to officials at the Fatimid palace. These petitions are more elaborate than those written during the rule of earlier Islamic dynasties. This essay asks three questions about Fatimid petitions and their development: Who were the scribes who wrote them? When (and why) did Arabic petitions assume the elaborate form and format characteristic of the Fatimid period? And why did Fatimid high officials hold the petition-and-response procedure to be so central to governance? The essay includes an edition and translation of an unedited petition to Sitt al-Mulk, the sister of the caliph al-Ḥākim (386–411/996–1021), who ruled the state for more than two years after her brother’s death. A comparison between this petition and another I edited in 2010 sheds light on all three questions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)351-372
Number of pages22
JournalJewish History
Issue number2-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


  • Arabic state documents
  • Cairo Geniza
  • Fatimid caliphs
  • Papyrology
  • Petitions


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