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Technical Glossary

Idrisids (789-985 A.D.) 

This dynasty ruling from North Africa during the ninth century. A.D., was founded by Moulay Idris ibn Abdallah, a descendant of the Prophet. The Berbers in Morocco recognized him as their leader and he founded Fez in 789 A.D., thus creating the first independent Islamic dynasty in Morocco, which continued until 985 A.D. when their last ruler was killed. Moulay Idris's son, Idris II, created the first central government, stressing the Islamic-Arab character of the state, founded Qayrawan and Andalus mosques, and Qayrawan university. The Idrisids were Shi'i, and were thus at odds with all their eastern neighbors. 


Licence or authorization. This is usually in the form of a certificate awarded to a student after successful completion of the study of Islamic law, hadith and Qur'an. It is also awarded to students of calligraphy once they master a certain writing style. The ijaza functioned as a certified qualification.  


Textile technique where threads are tie-dyed before weaving. 

Il-Khanids (1256-1353 A.D.) 

The first Mongol dynasty to rule Iran. In January 1256 A.D. Hulagu the grandson of Jinghis Khan crossed the Oxus River coming from Transoxiana (bilad ma wara’ al-nahr) to Iranian lands to consolidate the victories of his grandfather. The empire founded by Hulagu in Iran was one of the four Mongol empires established by Jinghis Khan’s descendants. The first Il-Khanid to rule after Hulagu was his son Abaqa followed by his grandson Arghun who at a certain stage converted from Shamanism to Buddhism. Ghazan, Arghun’s son, converted to Islam in 1295 A.D. and in so doing the ruling class of Iran were once again Muslims. Ghazan was followed by his brother Uljaytu who made twelver Shi‘i Islam the court religion in 1310 A.D. The Il-Khanids thence became very important patrons of Islamic art and architecture. Many grand examples from the period can still be seen in Iran. The mosque of ‘Ali Shah in Tabriz (the Arg), the Friday Mosque at Kirman, the Friday Mosque at Varamin and the stucco mihrab added to the Masjid-i Jami‘ at Isfahan are some examples of their excellent patronage in the field of architecture. It was during the Il-Khanid period that tile mosaic gradually became the main form of decoration. The Qur’ans commissioned by both Ghazan and Uljaytu are among the summits of illumination and calligraphy.  


A dynasty that ruled Egypt right before the Fatimid conquest. The founder was the general Muhammad ibn Tughdj al-Ikhshid. However the figure that played an important role in shaping the empire was Kafur, a black eunuch who impressed ibn Tughdj greatly and was thence promoted. After the death of Ali al-Ikhshid in 966 A.D. Kafur declared himself as the sole ruler of Egypt. He was able to delay the Fatimid expansion in Egypt until his death. He is known to have sponsored scholars and writers, the most important of which was al-Mutanabbi. It is also known from the sources that he constructed a number of sumptuous palaces, two mosques, a hospital and the Kafuriyya gardens. Unfortunately none of his establishments are extant. 


A religious leader; the preacher of the Friday ceremony or leader of the Muslim community.  


See Ithna 'Asharis


Soup kitchen; a main unit found in Ottoman religious complexes. 


Arabic for arch. Some of the different kinds of arches are: ‘iqd mada’ini: trilobed arch; ‘iqd mudabab: pointed arch; ‘iqd qawsi: horseshoe arch.  


A grant of land given for military officials and is not hereditary. The iqta' system was created by the Buwayhids and was developed extensively by the Saljuks. 


An important Shi'i community whose ideology is based on recognizing the esoteric, batin, and exoteric, zahir, aspect of scripture. Named after the eldest son of Ja'far al-Sadiq (d.765 A.D.), Isma'il, decendents of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Ismailis made significant contributions to Islamic civilization, particularly during the flourishing period when they established the Fatimid caliphate. Over time, the Isma'ilis have been divided into several main branches and minor sects, where currently the two major branches are the Nizaris and the Daudis. The Nizaris recognize the Agha Khan as their imam, while the Daudis belong to the Mustali-Tayyibi branch who recognize a line of da'is in their imam's absence.  



Ithna 'Asharis 

They constitute the largest division of Shi'i Muslims, and are named after their recognition of the twelve imams. They are also known as Imamis or Twelvers.  


A vaulted open hall with a rectangular or arched facade. The iwan is a Persian invention and its origins can be traced back to the palaces of Achaemenid Iran. The ceremonial purpose of the structure is epitomized by its use in Ctesiphon, where we find the magnificent remains of the 6th century palace of Kisra or Taq-i Kisra. The iwan worked well as an entrance of a mosque, an entrance to the prayer hall or the prayer hall itself. The combination of four iwans arranged axially around a courtyard became one of the most important plans of religious buildings in the Muslim world. The qibla iwan (sanctuary iwan) was always the largest and the deepest. The opposite one was next in size and the other two were the smallest. 


A decorative frieze.