Shi'i Muslims believe that by divine decree, at a place called Ghadir Khumm, the Prophet Muhammad declared his cousin and son-in-law 'Ali as his successor, and the first in a lineage of Imams to whom the Muslim community should owe its allegiance. The Ismaili branch of the Prophet's descendants founded the Fatimid Empire, which claimed dominion over much of the Muslim world, and later established a state administered from the fortress of Alamut. The Mongol onslaught devastated the Ismailis, and it was long believed that the Imams and their community had been annihilated. Only in recent times has the community's continued existence become apparent, but research into the lost centuries of their history has just begun.
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