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Technical Glossary


Expert in Islamic law. Until the twentieth century A.D., a faqih could function as a qadi, judge, and mufti, juriconsultant. As a judge he would be responsible for supervision of charitable trusts, acting as a trustee of orphans' property, and other similar tasks in addition to regular court duties. The faqihs represented an important and powerful segment of the community, and were considered protectors of the community and religion. With the advent of modern legal forms, the role of the faqih has been decreased in power and importance, where his duties have been taken over by modern judges, jurists and lawyers. A faqih is now restricted to the function of juriconsultant.  


Arabic for poor and means a Sufi. The Persian equivalent is Dervish, also spelled Darwish


A composite word meaning the warehouse of furniture and tents.  

Fatimids (969-1171 A.D.) 

One of the most important Shi‘i dynasties that ruled in the Muslim world. They were prominent patrons of festivities, art and architecture. Their history can be divided into two periods. First the Ifriqiyya period, when they ruled between 908-973 A.D. from Tunisia. Despite the ambiguity of their origin we do know that their founder started in Salamiyya in Syria, where he alleged descent from 'Ali and Fatima and claimed to be the only rightful ruler of Islam. He had many followers, all Isma‘ilis (Seven-Imam Shi‘i), and helped build a strong military base from which he overruled the Aghlabids in Tunisia. In 910 A.D. a descendant of his, named himself ‘Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi, made Raqqada his capital until al-Mahdiyya was built. During his 25 year reign ‘Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi sent two expeditions to Egypt, in 914 A.D. and 919 A.D., but both failed. Another attack in 935 A.D. also failed. Egypt was finally conquered by al-Mu‘iz li-Din illah in February 969 A.D. when the commander of the armies Jawhar al-Siqilli marched into the country removing the Ikhshidids with very little effort. This marks the second period of the Fatimid history, which ended in 1171 A.D. After marching into Egypt Jawhar al-Siqilli built the city of al-Qahira and from there they ruled Greater Syria and were the guardians of the Holy Places in Hijaz. Fatimid caliphs claimed themselves the true caliphs as opposed to the Abbasids in Baghdad. Their da‘is for Isma‘ili ideology were sent by the Fatimids as far as Yemen and Sind. Despite all their efforts the people directly under their rule remained Sunni. The economy of Egypt witnessed a boost with Fatimid administration and trade links were well maintained and supported with the main centers in the world. Some of the finest examples of Islamic art were a product of Fatimid workshops. The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo has a vast collection of Fatimid woodwork and luster, at which they excelled. Their architecture was greatly influenced by the style of North Africa, mainly that of the Aghlabids. Mosques usually followed the riwāq style with the protruding entrances and the tower-like minarets. Muqarnas first appeared in Egypt during their rule. They mastered stucco carving and all the extant Fatimid mihrābs are a proof to that. Their style was influenced by the Samarra style of carving and then Persian influence took the lead, as can seen from the mihrāb in al-Juhyūshi.  


A ornamental part usually placed at the top of an architectural structure such as a minaret or canopy. It can also refer to an ornamental piece ending at the top of a post or a piece of furniture. 


The scienc of Islamic law; jurisprudence. 


In architecture the word has several meanings. It means either a basin for ablutions, a fountain or a small grave.  

Fleur de Lis 

French royal lily. Frequently used in Mamluk crenellations. 


From the Latin 'folium'; it means a sheet in a manuscript. Sheets are numbered consecutively while the front and back are given letters a and b or r and v (recto and verso).  


A hard, whitish, kind of pottery made of quartz, white clay and frit. Frit itself is made of quartz with soda flux. 


The first page of a manuscript. Also means the pediment over doors and the gable on top of the middle part of a building.  


A North African complex used by merchants for lodging or storage. It is usually a multi-story building contructed around a central courtyard. Such complexes are also known as caravanserais, wikalas, ribats, or khans according to regional differences. 


Arabic for oven or bakery.  


Mosaic. In Egypt the use of mosaic began during the Roman era in Alexandria, especially in baths. The design employed then influenced to a great degree Coptic textile designs.  


Chivalry order, usually associated craft guilds or Sufi orders.