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Title: A Short History of the Fatimid Khalifate
Author: O'Leary, De Lacy
Language: English
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_Demy 8vo, dark green cloth, gilt._

ALBERUNI: =India=. An Account of the Religion, Philosophy, Literature,
Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, Customs, Laws, and Astrology of India,
about A.D. 1030. BY DR. EDWARD C. SACHAU.

ARNOLD (Sir E.): =Indian Poetry and Indian Idylls=. Containing ‘The
Indian Song of Songs,’ from the Sanskrit of the Gita Govinda of Jayadeva;
Two Books from the ‘Iliad of India’ (Mahabharata); ‘Proverbial Wisdom,’
from the Shlokas of the Hitopadesa, and other Oriental Poems.

BARTH (Dr. A.): =The Religions of India=. Authorised Translation by REV.

BIGANDET (B. P.): =Life or Legend of Gaudama, the Buddha of the Burmese=;
With Annotations, the Ways to Neibban, and Notice on the Phongyies or
Burmese Monks.

BEAL (Prof. S.): =Life of Hiuen-Tsiang=. By the Shamans HWUI LI and
YEN-TSUNG. With a Preface containing an Account of the Works of I-Tsing.

BEAL (Prof. S.): =Si-Yu-Ki=: Buddhist Records of the Western World.
Translated from the Chinese of Hiuen-Tsiang.

BOULTING (Dr. W.): =Four Pilgrims=: I., Hiuen Tsiang; II., Sæwulf; III.,
Mohammed ibn abd Allah; IV., Ludovico Varthema of Bologna.

COWELL (Prof. E. B.): =Sarva-Darsana-Samgraha=; or, Review of the
Different Systems of Hindu Philosophy. BY MADHAVA ACHARYA. Translated by
Prof. E. B. COWELL, M.A., and Prof. A. E. GOUGH, M.A.

DOWSON (Prof. J.): =Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology and Religion,
Geography, History, and Literature=.

EDKINS (Dr. J.): =Chinese Buddhism=: A Volume of Sketches, Historical,
and Critical. New and Revised Edition.

ROCKHILL (W. W.): =The Life of the Buddha and the Early History of his
Order=. Derived from Tibetan works in the Bkahhgyur and Bstan-hgyur.
Followed by notices on the early history of Tibet and Khoten.

HAUG (Dr. M.): =Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion of
the Parsis=.

WEBER (Dr. A.): =History of Indian Literature=. Translated by JOHN MANN,
M.A., and THEODORE ZACHARIAE, Ph.D. Fourth Edition.

O’LEARY (De Lacy): =Arabic Thought and its Place in History=.

_Other Volumes to follow._



                         A SHORT HISTORY OF THE
                            FATIMID KHALIFATE

                          DE LACY O’LEARY, D.D.
           _Lecturer in Aramaic and Syriac, Bristol University
          Author of “Arabic Thought and its Place in History”_

                 KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO., LTD.
                      NEW YORK: E. P. DUTTON & CO.

                       Printed in Great Britain by
                   John Roberts Press Limited, London.


The following pages present a brief outline of the history of the Fatimid
Khalifs who were ruling in Egypt at the time of the First and Second
Crusades. Too often the student of European history gleans his knowledge
of the oriental powers with which the West was brought into contact by
the Crusades from western Christian writers, who do not fairly or truly
describe those powers, and do not set forth clearly the strong and weak
points which are so important in interpreting the actual forces with
which the Crusaders were brought into contact. These pages are drawn
from the Arabic and Persian historians so as to present a picture which,
though inaccurate in some points, nevertheless shows the other side not
perceived by the historians who wrote the narrative of the Crusades from
a western standpoint. Directly, therefore, they supplement the western
history, but are still more important in their indirect bearing as an
effort has been made to show the rise and development of the Fatimid
Khalifate and sect as a rival to the orthodox Abbasid Khalifate of
Baghdad, which is most essential to the right understanding of the world
into which the Crusaders penetrated, whilst at the same time it shows a
curious and important phase of Muslim tendencies which are not without a
bearing on the later history of Islam. The present essay does not claim
to be an original study in a field hitherto unexplored, but simply aims
at bringing together in an accessible form material which will be of
service to the student of mediaeval western history and to those who are
interested in the development of Islam, and to do so with such comments
as will enable it to be co-ordinated with contemporary European history.


  CHAP.                                                             PAGE

      I THE SHIʿITES OR SCHISMATICS OF ISLAM                           1

     II THE ISMAʿILIAN SECT                                           12

    III THE QARMATIANS                                                39


      V THE FATIMID KHALIFS OF KAIRAWAN                               74

     VI THE SECOND FATIMID KHALIF, AL-QAʾIM                           88

    VII THE THIRD FATIMID KHALIF, AL-MANSUR                           91

   VIII THE FOURTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-MOʿIZZ                          93

     IX THE FIFTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-ʿAZIZ                           115

      X THE SIXTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-HAKIM                           123

     XI THE SEVENTH FATIMID KHALIF, AZ-ZAHIR                         189

    XII THE EIGHTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-MUSTANSIR                      193

   XIII THE NINTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-MUSTALI                         211

    XIV THE TENTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-AMIR                            218

     XV THE ELEVENTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-HAFIZ                        222

    XVI THE TWELFTH FATIMID KHALIF, AZ-ZAFIR                         227

   XVII THE THIRTEENTH FATIMID KHALIF, AL-FAʿIZ                      233



     XX THE LATER HISTORY OF THE ISMAʿILIAN SECT                     257

        BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                 262

        INDEX                                                        266



Islam appears first on the page of history as a purely Arab religion:
indeed it is perfectly clear that the Prophet Mohammed, whilst intending
it to be the one and only religion of the whole Arab race, did not
contemplate its extension to foreign communities. “Throughout the land
there shall be no second creed” was the Prophet’s message from his
death-bed, and this was the guiding principle in the policy of the early
Khalifs. The Prophet died in A.H. 11, and within the next ten years the
Arabs, united under the leadership of his successors, extended their rule
over Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia. To a large extent it was
merely an accident that this rapid expansion of Arab rule was associated
with the rise of Islam. The expanding movement had already commenced
before the Prophet’s ministry, and was due to purely secular causes to
the age long tendency of the Arabs,—as of every race at a similar stage
of economic and social development,—to over-spread and plunder the
cultured territories in their vicinity. The Arabs were nomadic dwellers
in a comparatively unproductive area, and had been gradually pressed back
into that area by the development of settled communities of cultivators
in the better irrigated land upon its borders. These settled communities
evolved an intensive agriculture, and thus achieved great wealth and an
advanced state of civilization which was a perpetual temptation to the
ruder nomads who, able to move over great distances with considerable
rapidity, were always inclined to make plundering incursions into the
territories of the prosperous agricultural and city states near at hand.
The only restraint on these incursions was the military power of the
settled communities which always had as its first task the raising of a
barrier against the wild men of the desert: whenever the dyke gave way,
the flood poured out. In the seventh century A.D. the restraining powers
were the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Persia, and both of these,
almost simultaneously, showed a sudden military collapse from which, in
the natural course of events they would, no doubt, have recovered after a
short interval; but the Arabs poured in at this moment of weakness, just
as the Teutonic and other groups of central Europe had broken through the
barriers of the western half of the Roman Empire; and at that moment,
in the course of their incursion, they received a new coherence by the
rise of the religion of Islam and, by the racial unity thus artificially
produced, became more formidable.

In their outspread over Egypt and Western Asia the Arabs adopted the
policy, partly deduced from the Qurʾan and partly based on the tradition
of the first Khalif’s conduct in Arabia, of uncompromising warfare
against all “polytheists,”—the creed of Islam was a pure unitarianism,
and could contemplate no toleration of polytheism,—but of accommodation
with those possessed of the divine revelation, even in the imperfect and
corrupt form known to Christians and Jews. These “People of the Book”
were not pressed to embrace Islam, but might remain as tribute-paying
subjects of the Muslim rulers, with their own rights very fully secured.
In all the conquered lands the progress of the Muslim religion was
very gradual, and in all of them Christian and Jewish communities have
maintained an independent continuous existence to the present day. Yet
for all this there were very many conversions to the religion of the
ruling race, and these were so numerous that within the first century of
the Hijra the Arabs themselves were in a numerical minority in the Church
of Islam. The alien converts, socially and intellectually developed in
the culture of the Hellenistic world or of semi-Hellenistic Persia,
were very far in advance of the ruling Arabs who were little better
than half savages at the commencement of their career of conquest:
and the unexpected inclusion of this more cultured element acted as a
leaven in the Islamic community, and forced it to a rapid and somewhat
violent evolution. It is wonderful that Islam had sufficient vigour
and elasticity to be able to absorb such fresh elements and phases of
thought, but that elasticity had its limits, and at a very early date
sects began to form whose members the orthodox felt themselves unable to
recognise as fellow Muslims.

These early sects which were generally regarded as heretical were, in
most cases, reproductions of older pre-Islamic Persian and Mesopotamian
religious systems, with a thin veneer of Muslim doctrine, and, in the
second century of the Hijra, when they became most prominent, they were
strongly tinctured with Hellenistic philosophical speculations which
had already exercised a potent influence in Mesopotamia and Persia. In
theory these sects were “legitimist” in their adherence to the principle
of hereditary descent. Orthodox Islam accepted as a constitutional
principle the leadership of an elected _khalif_ or “successor,” a natural
development of the tribal chieftainship familiar to the pre-Islamic
Arabs. Amongst them the chief was elected in a tribal council, in
which great weight was given to the tried warriors and aged men of
experience, but in which all had a voice, and choice was made on what
we should describe as democratic lines, and this remained the practice
in the earlier age of Islam. Such a constitutional theory was no great
novelty to those who had lived under the Roman Empire, but was entirely
repugnant to those educated in Persian ideas, and who had learned to
regard the kingship as hereditary in the sense that the semi-divine
kingly soul passed by transmigration at the death of one sovereign to
the body of his divinely appointed successor. This had been the Persian
belief with regard to the Sasanid kings, and the Persians fully accepted
Yazdegird, the last of these, as a re-incarnation of the princes of
the semi-mythical Kayani dynasty to which they attributed their racial
origin and their culture. Yazdegird died in A.H. 31 (= A.D. 652), and his
death terminated the male line of the Persian royal family, but it was
generally believed that his daughter, Shahr-banu, was married to Husayn,
the son of the fourth Khalif ʿAli, so that in his descendants by this
Persian princess the claims of Islam and of the ancient Persian deified
kings were combined. Historically the evidence for this marriage seems
to be questionable, but it is commonly accepted as an article of faith by
the Persian Shiʿites.

At a quite early date the house of ʿAli began to receive the devoted
adherence of the Persian converts. That ʿAli himself had been prominent
as a champion of the rights of alien converts to equality in the
brotherhood of Islam, and still more his harsh treatment by Muʿawiya, the
founder of the ʿUmayyad dynasty, caused his name to serve as a rallying
point for all those who were disaffected towards the official Khalifate.
It is now the general Shiʿite belief that ʿAli, the cousin and son-in-law
of the Prophet, was his chief companion and chosen successor, the three
preceding Khalifs being no more than usurpers who had kept him out of
his just rights, and whose wrong doing he had borne with exemplary
patience. ʿAli himself does not seem to have taken so pronounced a
view, but he certainly regarded himself as injured by his exclusion
from the Khalifate. It is not true to say with Muir (_Caliphate_, p.
301), that the idea of a divine Imamate or “leadership” was entirely the
invention of later times because, as early as A.H. 32, in the reign of
ʿUthman, the Jewish convert ʿAbdu b. Saba of Yemen,—a district which had
been conquered by the Persian king Nushirwan, and settled by Persians
for nearly a century before the coming of Islam, and so thoroughly
impregnated with Persian ideas,—preached the divine right of ʿAli. This
view he maintained afterwards when ʿAli was Khalif, in spite of ʿAli’s
own disapproval, and at ʿAli’s murder in A.H. 40, he reiterated it in a
more pronounced form: the martyred Khalif’s soul, he said, was in the
clouds, his voice was heard in the thunder, his presence was revealed
in the lightning: in due course he would descend to earth again, and
meanwhile his spirit, a divine emanation, was passed on by re-birth to
the imams his successors.

Certainly the tragedy of Kerbela, which centred in the pathetic
sufferings and death of ʿAli’s son, Husayn, as he was on his way to
claim the Khalifate, produced a tremendous wave of pro-ʿAlid feeling:
indeed a popular martyr was the one thing needed to raise devotion to
the house of ʿAli to the level of an emotional religion, though many,
no doubt, supported the ʿAlid claims simply because they formed the
most convenient pretext for opposing the official Khalifate, and yet
remaining outwardly within the fold of Islam.

After the death of Husayn there were three different lines of ʿAlids
which competed for the allegiance of the legitimist faction, those
descended from (i.) Hasan, and (ii.) Husayn, the two sons of ʿAli by his
wife Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet, and both therefore representing
the next of kin to the Prophet who left no son, and (iii.) the house
of Muhammad, the son of ʿAli, by another wife known as the Hanifite.
Of these three we may disregard the descendants of (i.) Hasan, who
ultimately migrated to Maghrab (Morocco), and became the progenitors
of the Idrisid dynasty and of the Sharifs of Morocco: they formed a
very moderate branch of the Shiʿite faction, adopted many practices of
the orthodox or Sunni party, and had no part in the peculiarly Persian
developments of the Asiatic Shiʿites. The first ʿAlid faction to become
prominent was (iii.) the partisans of Muhammad, the son of the Hanifite,
who were formed into a society by Kaysan, a freedman of ʿAli, for the
purpose of avenging Hasan and Husayn. They recognised a succession of
four Imams or valid commanders, ʿAli, Hasan, Husayn, and Muhammad, the
son of the Hanifite, and maintained that, at Husayn’s death, Muhammad
became _de jure_ the Khalif and the divinely appointed head of the Church
of Islam. Muhammad himself entirely disowned these partisans, but that
was a detail to which they paid no attention. At Muhammad’s death in A.H.
81 this party, “the Kaysanites” as they were called, recognised his son
Abu Hashim as the fifth Imam until A.H. 98, when he died childless after
bequeathing his claims to Muhammad b. ʿAli b. ʿAbdullah (d. A.H. 126),
who was not of the house of ʿAli at all, and who became the founder of
the ʿAbbasid dynasty which obtained the Khalifate in A.H. 132. It was
under Abu Hashim that the party, now changed in name from Kaysanites to
Hashimites, became an admirably organised conspiracy which contributed
more than anything else to the overthrow of the ʿUmayyad Khalifs.
Throughout the Muslim dominions there was deep and ever-increasing
dissatisfaction with the ʿUmayyads, who represented an arrogant _parvenu_
Arab aristocracy, ruling over races who enjoyed an older and richer
culture, and were by no means effete. The Hashimites seized hold of this
discontent and sent out their missionaries (_daʿi_, plur. _duʿat_) in all
directions disguised as merchants and pilgrims who relied upon private
conversations and informal intercourse rather than public preaching,
and thus began that unostentatious but effective propaganda, which has
ever since been the chief missionary method of Islam. Hashimite teaching
centered in the doctrines of _tawakkuf_ or the theory of a divinely
appointed Imam, who alone was the rightful Commander of the faithful and
their authoritative teacher, of _hulul_ or the incarnation of the Divine
Spirit in the Imam, and of _tenasukhu l-Arwah_ or the transmigration of
that Spirit from each Imam to his valid successor, doctrines alien to
Islam proper. With the death of the Abu Hashim this party passed over to
the service of the ʿAbbasids to whom it was a source of great strength,
and at their accession to the Khalifate it ceased to exist as a sect.

The most important sect, or group of sects, of the Shiʿites was (ii.)
the faction which recognised Husayn as the third Imam, and his son, ʿAli
Zayn al-Abidin (d. 94 A.H.) as his successor, the son of the Imam and of
the royal princess of Persia. But at al-Abidin’s death this party split
into two, some following his son Zayd (d. 121), others his son Muhammad
al-Bakir (d. 113). The former or Zaydite party established itself for a
considerable period in North Persia, and still maintains itself in South
Arabia. Zayd himself was the friend and pupil of the Muʿtazilite or
rationalist leader Wasil ibn ʿAta, and the Zaydites have generally been
regarded as more or less free thinkers. The majority of the Shiʿites,
however, recognised Muhammad al-Bakir as the fifth Imam, and after his
death Jaʿfar as-Sadiq (d. 148) as the sixth, though here again there was
a schism, some regarding Abu Mansur, another son of Muhammad al-Bakir,
as the sixth Imam. Abu Mansur seems to have been one of the first ʿAlids
to endorse the divine rights claimed for them by their followers, and
did so in an extreme form, asserting that he had ascended to heaven
and obtained supernatural illumination. At this time all the extremer
Shiʿites regarded the Imam as an incarnation of the Divine Spirit passed
on from ʿAli, and many believed that ʿAli was the true prophet of God
whose office had been fraudulently intercepted by Muhammad.

The Mansuris, however, were a minor sect, the majority of the Shiʿites
followed Jaʿfar who was Imam at the time of the ʿAbbasid revolution.
He was one of those who were deeply influenced by the traditions of
Hellenistic philosophy and science, and was the author of works on
chemistry, augury, and omens: he is usually credited with being the
founder, or at least the chief exponent, of what are known as _batinite_
views, that is to say, the allegorical interpretation of the Qurʾan as
having an esoteric meaning, which can only be learned from the Imam who
is illuminated by divine wisdom, and who alone is able to reveal its
true sense. The inner meaning thus revealed was usually a more or less
imperfect reproduction of Aristotelian doctrine as it had been handed
down by the Syriac writers. Like his brother, Abu Mansur Jaʿfar fully
endorsed the doctrine of a divine Imamate and the transmigration of
the Divine Spirit, then tabernacled in himself, and it seems probable
that Van Vloten (_Recherches sur la domination arabe_, 1894, pp. 44-45)
is right in suggesting that the general promulgation of these beliefs
amongst the Shiʿites was largely due to the labours of the Hashimite

The contemporary establishment of the ʿAbbasids made a far-reaching
change in the conditions of Islam. The Arabs began to take a secondary
place, and Persian influences became predominant. In 135 the noble
Persian family of the Barmecides began to furnish _wazirs_ or Prime
Ministers to the Khalifate, and controlled its policy for a period of
fifty-four years. Nearly all important offices were given to Persians,
and a distinct anti-Arab party was formed, known as the _Shuʿubiyya_,
which produced a prolific controversial literature which expressed the
hatred stored up under generations of ʿUmayyad misrule: the Arab was held
up to derision, his pretensions to aristocratic descent were contrasted
with the much more ancient genealogies of the Persian nobles, and he was
portrayed as little better than an illiterate savage. In literature, in
science, in Muslim jurisprudence and theology, and even in the scientific
treatment of Arabic grammar, the Persians altogether surpassed the Arabs,
so that we must be careful not to talk of Arab philosophy, Arab science,
etc., in the history of Muslim civilization, but always of Arabic
philosophy, etc., remembering that it was not the science and philosophy
of the Arabs, but that of the Arabic speaking people, amongst whom only
a small minority were actually of Arab race: and this applies to the
“golden age” of Arabic literature (A.H. 132-232). On the other hand it
must be remembered that, indirectly and unintentionally, the ʿUmayyads
had helped towards this result. It was under their rule that the Arabic
language had been introduced into the public administration, and in due
course replaced Greek and Persian in all public business, so that it
became the common speech of all Western Asia, or at least a common medium
of intercourse between those who used various languages in their private
life, and thus the brilliant intellectual and literary renascence was
rendered possible by a wide exchange of thought.

We may rightly refer to this period as a renascence, for it meant
quickening into new and other life the embers of the later Hellenistic
culture, and especially of the Aristotelian philosophy and medical and
natural science, which had never quite died away in Western Asia, but had
been checked by its passage into Syriac-speaking and Persian-speaking
communities, amongst whom the language in which the original authorities
were written was only imperfectly known. Thus Hellenism suffered a
phase of provincialism, which came to an end when Arabic appeared as a
more or less cosmopolitan language, and thought began to be exchanged
by different races and social groups. Under the early ʿAbbasids, and
especially under the Khalif al-Maʾmun (A.H. 198-218), there was a vast
amount of translation from Greek into Arabic until the greater part of
Aristotle, of the neo-Platonic commentators on Aristotle, of Galen, some
parts of Plato, and other material, were freely accessible to the Muslim
world: whilst at the same time translations were made from Indian writers
on mathematics, medicine, and astronomy, some directly from the Sanskrit,
and others from old Persian versions.

As a result the philosophical speculations of the Greeks began to act
as a solvent upon Islamic theology, and from this doctrinal discussions
and controversies arose which, on the one side, produced a series of
rationalistic heresies, and on the other side laid the foundations of an
orthodox Muslim scholasticism. Long before this Hellenistic influences
had permeated Persia and Mesopotamia, and these now revived and resulted
in a philosophical presentation of religion which, under the veil of
allegorical explanations of the Qurʾan, was really undermining orthodox
doctrine, and heading towards either pantheism or simple agnosticism.
With these tendencies the pro-Persian party was particularly associated.
The Khalifs who, in spite of Arab birth, were most devoted to Persian
ideas, largely because the Persians were subtle courtiers and were the
champions of absolutism, were amongst those most ardent in promoting the
study of Greek philosophy; and the Imams, such as Jaʿfar and his brother
Zayd, were even more devotedly attached to this type of philosophical
speculation which was acting as a powerful solvent on the traditional
beliefs of orthodox Islam.

At Jaʿfar’s death another schism took place, indeed the perpetual
sub-division into new sects has always been a salient characteristic
of the Shiʿiya. Jaʿfar had nominated his son Ismaʿil as his successor,
but afterwards disinherited him because he had been found in a state
of intoxication and chose as heir his second son, Musa al-Qazam. There
were some, however, who still adhered to Ismaʿil, and refused to admit
that his father had power to transfer the divinely ordained succession
at will; they asserted indeed that the son’s drunkenness was itself
a sign of his superior illumination as showing that he knew that the
ritual laws of the Qurʾan were not to be taken literally, but had an
esoteric meaning which did not appear on the surface. Musa, the seventh
Imam as generally reckoned, and his son, ʿAli ar-Rida (p. 202), the “two
patient ones,” suffered harsh treatment at the hands of the contemporary
ʿAbbasid rulers; they were brought from Madina by Harun ar-Rashid so as
to be under the observation of the court, and in 148 Musa was poisoned
by the wazir Ibn Khalid. His son ʿAli married the daughter of the Khalif
Maʾmun, and was intended to be the heir to the throne. But Maʾmun very
nearly provoked civil war by his strong Shiʿite sympathies, and when
he perceived how dangerous a storm the projected accession of ʿAli
was beginning to arouse, he extricated himself from the difficulty by
procuring the Imam’s death. ʿAli al-Qazim was usually reckoned as the
eighth Imam, the ninth was Muhammad al-Jawad (d. 220), the tenth ʿAli
al-Hadi (d. 254), and the eleventh al-Hasan (d. 260), these two latter
being buried at Samarra, which replaced Baghdad as the ʿAbbasid capital
from A.H. 222 to 279. The town afterwards fell into decay, but has been
colonised by Shiʿites, and is one of the places of Shiʿite pilgrimage.
The twelfth Imam was Muhammad al-Muntazir, who in A.H. 260 “disappeared.”
The mosque at Samarra is said to cover an underground vault into which
he went and was no more seen. The “twelvers,” or _Ithna ʿashariya_,
who to-day form the main body of the Shiʿites, and whose belief is the
official religion of modern Persia, suppose that he is still living, and
the place where he is to re-appear when he emerges from concealment is
one of the sacred spots visited by the Shiʿites.

But, as we have already noted, some of the Shiʿites did not accept
Jaʿfar’s transference of the Imamate from his son Ismaʿil to his second
son Musa, but recognised Ismaʿil still as heir. Ismaʿil died in 145
whilst his father was still alive, leaving a son named Muhammad. Although
Ismaʿil’s body was publicly shown before its burial at al-Bakiʿ, many
persisted in believing that he was not dead, and asserted that he had
been seen in Basra after his supposed funeral; others admitted his
death, but believed that his Imamate had passed to his son Muhammad;
others again believed that his soul had migrated to Muhammad, so that
they were in reality one person. These adherents of Ismaʿil, or of his
son Muhammad, or of Ismaʿil-Muhammad, formed the sect known as the
Ismaʿilians or the _Sabʿiya_, i.e., “seveners,” accepting the six Imams
to Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, and adding his son or grandson as the seventh and

These “seveners” seem to have been a comparatively minor sect of the
extremer Shiʿites. Some members of the sect are still to be found in the
neighbourhood of Bombay and Surat. But, about 250 this comparatively
obscure sect was taken in hand and organised by a singularly able leader,
and became for a time one of the most powerful forces in Islam.


                            (1) ʿAli d. 41.
                     |                             |
              marr. (i) Fatima           (ii) al-Hanifiya
           +---------------------+                 |
           |                     |                 |
   (3) Hasan d. 50.       (3) Husayn d. 61.    Muhammad
           |                     |
         Hasan                   |
    +-------------+              |
    |             |              |
  Muhammad    Abd Allah       (4) ʿAli Zayn d. 94.
    |             |            +-------------------+
    |             |            |                   |
  (Sherifs of   Idris        Zayd              (5) Muhammad
  Morocco)        |            |               al-Bakir d. 113.
              (Idrisids     (Zaydites              |
            of N. Africa)  of N. Persia     (6) Jaʿfar as-Sadiq
                          and S. Arabia)          d. 148.
                                          |                  |
                                     (7)* Ismaʿil       (7) Musa
                                          |               d. 183.
                                      Muhammad               |
                                          |          (8) ʿAli ar-Rida
                                      (alleged             d. 202.
                                     descent of              |
                                      Fatimids)   (9) Muhammad al-Jawad
                                                           d. 220.
                                                    (10) ʿAli al-Hadi
                                                           d. 254.
                                                    (11) al Hasan al
                                                    Askari d. 260.
                                                      (12) Muhammad
                                                        A. H. 260.



From the beginning the neo-Ismaʿilian sect showed all the characteristics
of the ultra Shiʿite bodies: it accepted the _ʿalim l-batin_, or the
principle of allegorical interpretation which is especially associated
with Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, the doctrine of incarnation, and of the
transmigration of the Imam’s soul. But underneath all this, borrowed from
current Shiʿite ideas, it had a strong element of agnosticism, a heritage
of the philosophical ideas borrowed from Greek scientists, and developed
in certain directions by the Muʿtazilites. As organised by its leader,
whose name was Abdullah b. Maymun, it was arranged in seven grades to
which members were admitted by successive initiations, and which diverged
more and more from orthodox Islam until its final and highest stages
were simply agnostic. According to Stanley Lane-Poole “in its inner
essence Shiʿism, the religion of the Fatimids is not Mohammedanism at
all. It merely took advantage of an old schism in Islam to graft upon
it a totally new and largely political movement” (Lane-Poole: _Story
of Cairo_, Lond., 1906, p. 113). In this passage “Shiʿism” is taken as
denoting the sect of the “Seveners,” and the “political movement” is
simply disaffection towards the Khalifate. Similarly Prof. Nicholson
considers that “Filled with a fierce contempt of the Arabs and with a
free-thinker’s contempt for Islam, Abdullah b. Maymun conceived the
idea of a vast secret society which should be all things to all men,
and which, by playing on the strongest passions and tempting the inmost
weaknesses of human nature, should unite malcontents of every description
in a conspiracy to overthrow the existing _régime_” (Nicholson: _Literary
History of the Arabs_, pp. 271-272).

Undoubtedly the ideas involved in the Ismaʿilian doctrines were
totally subversive of the teachings of Islam, but so were those of
the “philosophers,” and in exactly the same way. The views of Ibn
Tufayl (d. 531 A.H.) and of Ibn Rushd (Averroes, d. 595 A.H.) were
purely Aristotelian in basis, and on this foundation was built up an
agnostic-pantheistic superstructure. Ibn Tufayl particularly makes it
quite clear that his teaching is not consistent with the Qurʾan which
he treats as setting forth a system of doctrines and ritual precepts
suitable for the unlearned who ought not to be disturbed in their
simple faith, but quite inadequate for the satisfaction of the more
intelligent: the mysteries of the universe, revealed through Aristotle
and his followers, furnish a sounder religion, but it is expedient
that this be reserved for the enlightened and not divulged to the
illiterate who are unable to appreciate or understand its bearing. Such
teaching is subversive of orthodox Islam, and consciously so: in the
case of ʿAbdullah it may, perhaps, be described as a conspiracy against
religion. In one sense it was the final product of the rationalism of the

Admittedly the Ismaʿiliya worked as a political conspiracy against
the ʿAbbasids, but this was true of every Shiʿite sect: the ʿAbbasids
had used the Shiʿites in seating themselves on the throne, and then
discarded them. Still it seems that we have no reason to question the
perfect sincerity of the Ismaʿilians in their agnostic principles:
those principles were the product of the solvent influence of Greek
philosophy upon the religion of Islam: Islamic thought was too simple and
primitive to be able to adapt itself to that philosophy in its entirety,
hence some such position as that of Ibn Tufayl, or of Ibn Rushd, or
of the Ismaʿilians, was inevitable. It was equally a necessary result
of the time and circumstances that these rationalists tended towards
the Shiʿites. In spite of weird superstitions, especially current in
Khurasan, the Shiʿites represent the Muslim element most kindly disposed
towards freedom of thought. This seems a bold statement to those familiar
with Shiʿites of the present day, but it must be noted that the Shiʿites
whom the European most frequently meets are either the devotees who have
settled in places like Samarra, or those who seem to be more exclusive
than the orthodox Muslims, chiefly because they have as yet had much
less intercourse with foreigners. In 2-3rd cent. Islam it was the
Shiʿite princes who invariably did their best to foster philosophical
and scientific research, whilst, after A.H. 232, the orthodox party, as
it gets in the ascendent, becomes distinctly reactionary, and tends to
repressive persecution.

The most difficult task for us is to appreciate the strong appeal which
the doctrines of incarnation and transmigration made to the Persian
and Mesopotamian mind. Both these doctrines had figured prominently
in pre-Islamic religions in Western Asia; and both recur in most
religious movements from the coming of Islam to the present day in that
particular area. We may note a few instances to illustrate this, and show
incidentally the strong attraction these doctrines had for the Persian

Abu Muslim was the general who more than any other helped to seat the
ʿAbbasids on the throne, and suffered death at the hands of the first
ʿAbbasid Khalif, who was jealous,—with good cause, it would appear,—of
his excessive power. But Abu Muslim had exercised an extraordinary
influence over men during life, and was treated as a quasi-divine hero
after death, his admirers regarding him as not really dead but as
having passed into “concealment,” some other having been miraculously
substituted for him at the moment of execution. This resembles the theory
which the pre-Islamic Persian teacher Mani held as to Christ. Mani fully
accepted Christ as a religious teacher, side by side with Zoroaster and
Buddha, but he could not admit the reality of his death, for a material
body capable of death was in his view unworthy of one purely good. He
supposed, therefore, that at the crucifixion Simon of Cyrene was at the
last moment substituted for Christ, and this Persian idea has actually
obtained a place in the Qurʾan (cf. Sura 4, 156).

Not long after Abu Muslim we hear of a pseudo-prophet named Bih-afaridh,
a Zoroastrian who had travelled in the far East, and afterwards accepted
Islam at the hands of two _duʿat_ who were preaching the cult of Abu
Muslim. Very little is known of his teaching, but he certainly maintained
the doctrine that the Imam is an incarnation of the Deity, and seems to
have attached a particularly sacred signification to the numeral seven.
This superstitious reverence for particular numbers was a common feature
in the pre-Islamic religions of Mesopotamia, and we shall meet it again
in the doctrines of the Ismaʿilians.

Another sect, of similarly pre-Islamic origin, was that known as the
_Rawandiyya_ from its origin at Rawand near Isfahan. Its members were
king-worshippers in the old Persian sense, and a body of them travelled
to Hashimiyya, where the Khalifs then had their residence, and tried
to acclaim the Khalif al-Mansur as a god. He not only rejected the
proffered adoration, but cast the leaders into prison. This was followed
by an attempt to attack the palace, the Rawandis considering that, as
the prince had disclaimed deity, he could be no valid ruler. For some
centuries the sect, strongly disaffected towards the Khalifate, lingered
on in Persia and had many sympathisers.

Under the next Khalif al-Mahdi, came the still more serious rebellion
of _al-Muqannaʿ_, the “veiled prophet of Khurasan,” who asserted his
own deity. He was killed in A.H. 169, but his followers, as usual,
believed that he had not really suffered in person, but had passed into
concealment and would in due course return again: they continued to form
a distinct sect for some three hundred years.

Another pseudo-prophet of the same type was _Babak al-Khurrami_, who
was executed in A.H. 222 or 223. He also declared himself to be an
incarnation of the Divine Spirit, and asserted that the soul within him
had already dwelt in his master Jawidan.

We might continue to extend the series very considerably by enumerating
the various prophets and sects which reproduce these same general
characteristics. The latest example occurs in the Babi movement, which
still flourishes and has many converts in this country and in America.
The first teacher of the Babists, Mirza ʿAli Muhammad (A.D. 1820-1851)
claimed only to be a Mahdi or fore-runner of One who was to come, but
his successor, Mirza Husayn ʿAli, declared himself to be the expected
One, the incarnation of the Divine Spirit, which is an emanation of the
Deity and is fairly equivalent to the Reason, Word, or Spirit of the
Plotinian philosophy. In later times this doctrine has rather fallen
into the background, perhaps as the result of western influences, but the
earlier phase shows a repetition of the traditional Persian position.
All these sects show common matter in the doctrines of incarnation, of
transmigration, and of an esoteric teaching to be revealed only to the
elect. Such were the extremer Shiʿite sects of mediaeval times, and such
are their descendants of modern times. Even in Persia to-day, side by
side with the more orthodox “Twelvers” of the state church and off-shoots
such as the Babists, the latest of a long series of mystical developments
from the Shiʿite stock, are the ʿAli Allahis who believe in the deity
of the Imam ʿAli, and combine with this belief many elements from the
ancient Zoroastrian religion, a survival of the older mediaeval Shiʿism
which caused so much trouble to the Khalifate of Baghdad.

In the teaching of most of the Shiʿites it is believed that some deceased
Imam was an incarnation of deity, and it is he who, not really dead as
men suppose, has passed into concealment, to return again in the fulness
of time, when this evil age in which the true Khalifate no longer exists
has passed away. Meanwhile there is no valid Khalif or Imam upon earth,
but only some Shah or king who acts as vicegerent of the hidden Imam
until his return.

This digression serves to show us how strongly Persian thought always
has inclined towards the idea of a divine incarnation in the honoured
religious teacher, and towards that of transmigration of the soul
from one such teacher to his successor. In the 3rd century A.H.
probably no sect which did not hold such theories could have obtained
a favourable hearing amongst the Persians who found Islam of the Arab
type unsatisfying, and every radical religious movement was necessarily
compelled to assume at least the externals of Shiʿism.

The Shiʿite party organised by ʿAbdullah is known by various names. It
is called _Ismaʿilian_ as representing the party adhering to Ismaʿil,
the son of Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, and his son Muhammad, as against those who
continued the succession of the Imamate through Musa; but the name is not
strictly accurate as it seems that there was an Ismaʿilian sect proper
existing before ʿAbdullah, and that his re-organisation was so drastic
that we may regard the continuity as being severed; and it seems certain
that some part of the earlier sect continued to exist independent of his
reforms. It was, no doubt, its attachment to a deceased or “hidden” Imam
which made it a more promising field for the advocates of a speculative
philosophy than any sect whose Imam was living and might dissociate
himself from the doctrines held. It was also called the _Sabʿiya_ or
“Seveners” because it accepted seven Imams, and also because it attached
a sacred significance to the numeral seven; there were seven prophets,
seven Imams, seven Mahdis, seven grades of initiation (afterwards changed
to nine), etc. In many respects _Sabʿiya_ is the most accurate name, but
it is open to the same objection as Ismaʿilian. More commonly its members
are called _Fatimites_ as recognising Fatimid Imams who claimed descent
from ʿAli and Fatima: but this, although convenient because of its
frequent use amongst mediaeval Arabic writers, is peculiarly inaccurate.
The Ithna ʿashariya or sect of “Twelvers” was equally Fatimite, and so
were the Zaydites, indeed these last were the true Fatimites as holding
that _any_ person descended from ʿAli and Fatima might be a valid Imam:
but common usage allows the use of “Fatimites” for the sect organised by
ʿAbdullah. Another name is _Batinites_ or advocates of an allegorical
interpretation, but this also applies to other Shiʿite groups. Sometimes
they are called _Qarmatians_, but this name is only applicable to one
branch of the sect which originated in the district of Sawad between
Basra and Kufa, and should be reserved for that branch which at a later
period became alienated from the main Ismaʿilian body.

The new sect carried out its propaganda by means of missionaries (_daʿi_)
on the lines developed by the Hashimites. In this, as in most of its
external features, it reproduces the characteristics usual amongst the
mediaeval Shiʿites.

The organiser of the sect or masonic fraternity was ʿAbdullah, who
is stated to have been the son of one Maymun. Sometimes ʿAbdullah is
surnamed _al-laddah_ (“the oculist”), as is done by Abu l-Feda, but more
often this surname is given to his father Maymun. Maqrizi, referring
to the Fatimids, says, “this family was traced to al-Husayn, the
son of ʿAli ibn Abi Talib, but men are divided in the matter between
two opinions: some treat it as true, but others deny that they are
descendants of the Prophet and treat them as pretenders descended from
Daysan the Dualist, who has given his name to the Dualists, and (say)
that Daysan had a son whose name was Maymun al-Qaddah, and that he had a
sect of extreme views. And Maymun had a son ʿAbdullah, and ʿAbdullah was
learned in all the canon law and customs and sects” (_Maqrizi_, i. 348).

The reference to “Daysan the Dualist” is pure fable. This Daysan appears
frequently in Arabic history as the legendary founder of the _Zindiqs_, a
name given to the followers of the pre-Islamic cults of Mesopotamia and
Persia, who found it convenient to make external profession of Islam.
Thus Masʿudi (_Muruj adh-Dhahab_, viii. 293) says that “many heresies
arose after the publication of the books of Mani, Ibn Daysan, and
Marcion, translated from Persian and Pahlawi by ʿAbdullah ibn al-Muqaffaʿ
and others.” Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ was a converted Zoroastrian who took a
leading part in translating Persian and Syrian works into Arabic under
the first two ʿAbbasids, and was generally regarded as privately adhering
to his earlier religious views.

It will be noted that Zindiqism is mentioned as propagated by Ibn
al-Muqaffaʿ, and is traced to Ibn Daysan amongst others, and this
is precisely the same as the one whom Maqrizi names as the reputed
progenitor of Maymun. Evidently the charge which lay at the bottom of
this latter statement originally meant that Maymun was a Zindiq, and so
could be described as a follower of Ibn Daysan, not that he actually was
Ibn Daysan’s son, which would be an absurd anachronism. For the name
Ibn Daysan refers to a perfectly genuine historical person: the Ibn
Daysan of the Arabic writers was the Bar Daisan of Syriac literature, a
convert from paganism to Christianity who died about A.D. 222, and whose
followers formed an important sect at Edessa for several centuries,
though in Muslim times he appears as a semi-legendary character. We
possess a work probably written by one of his pupils called “A treatise
on Fate” in the Christian writers, from which two lengthy extracts
appear in Eusebius: _Praep. Evangel._ vi. 9, one of which is cited
also in _Clementine Recognitions_ ix., but is headed “Book of the Laws
of Countries” in the Syriac text discovered by Cureton, and published
by him in 1855. Various references are made to Bar Daisan in Euschius,
Epiphanius, and other Church Fathers, as well as in the dialogues
ascribed to Adamantius, but our best information as to his teaching is to
be obtained from Moses bar Kepha (_Patrol. Syr._, I., ii. 513-5), whose
summary is fully endorsed by the controversial essays of St. Ephraim, who
settled at Edessa in 363 when the Bar-daisanites were a real force there.
Bar Daisan’s doctrine, which is a kind of Christianized Zoroastrianism,
is described by Prof. Burkitt in his introduction to Mitchell’s edition
of St. Ephraim’s _Prose Refutations_.

Marcion represents an earlier and more definitely Christian system which
at one time had a very wide extension, and probably was the medium
through which Bar Daisan learned Christianity. It was a kind of dualistic
system with two powers, the Good God and the Evil One. The Evil One was
the creator whom the Jews worshipped as God, and the Good God sent his
Son on earth to save men from this delusion: as in Zoroastrianism the two
rival powers maintain an unceasing strife until the day of judgment when
the good God will be finally victorious. From St. Ephraim we learn that
the Marcionites long retained their hold in Northern Mesopotamia side by
side with the Bar-daisanites.

Mani shows very much these same views in a Zoroastrian setting, but
with a strong element of Marcionite Christianity. Mani’s work came some
twenty years later than Bar Daisan, and he, in his early days, had been a
disciple of the Mandeans, the Gnostic sect which Justin Martyr calls “the
baptists” βαπτισταί (_Justin M. Dial._ 80) from their frequent ablutions,
who were settled in the marsh land between Basra and Wasit on the lower
Euphrates. All three, Bar Daisan, Marcion, and Mani, draw largely from
the same source the eclectic mixture of old Babylonian religion, of
Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity, which developed in the lower
Euphrates valley, though Marcion claimed to be, and no doubt believed
himself, an orthodox member of the Catholic Church, whilst Mani was no
less confident in regarding himself as a Zoroastrian. The whole of the
different religious ideas of the Euphrates valley were welded together by
an element of Greek philosophy of the neo-Pythagorean type, which seems
to have filtered in through the Jews who were settled there in force, and
had shared in the common life of the Hellenistic world at the time when
the neo-Pythagorean school was taking form, and showing marked sympathy
towards the various forms of Eastern religious speculation. All this
kind of eclectic speculation, half religious and half philosophical,
lived on, and was still alive in the third cent. of the Hijra; indeed,
it had spread and formed a new centre at Harran, quite distinct in its
character, but obviously drawing from the same sources, and, moreover, it
quickened into new life when the speculations of the neo-Platonic school
were introduced through a Syriac medium. Traditionally all this type of
thought prevalent in Mesopotamia was connected with the names of Marcion,
Mani, and Bar Daisan, though probably very few Muslims had any clear idea
of the respective parts these three characters had played, but simply
cited them as heresiarchs of exceptional notoriety.

But Maymun was without doubt a real character. Abu l-Feda refers to him
as a native of Qaraj or Ispahan, who professed to be a Shiʿite, but was
really a Zindiq, _i.e._, a follower of the heresies of Marcion, Bar
Daisan, and Mani, or else a materialist (_Abu l-Feda, Annales Moslem_.,
ii. 311). Used in this sense “materialist” means an Aristotelian, _i.e._,
one who believed in the eternity of matter and so did not accept the
Qurʾanic teaching of creation _ex nihilo_. Ibn Khaldun states that Maymun
migrated to Jerusalem with a number of his disciples and became well
known as a magician, fortune teller, astrologist, and alchemist (cf.
Quatremère: _Journ. Asiatique_, Aug., 1836). The Fatimid advocates, as
represented by the Druze writers, fully admit the descent of the Fatimids
from Maymun, but claim that he was of the family of ʿAli (cf. De Sacy:
_Chrestom._, ii., note 3 on page 95), which seems as though Maymun’s
position as an ancestor of Abdullah’s family was beyond question.

In the passage already quoted Maqrizi describes ʿAbdullah as “learned
in all the canon law and customs and sects,” so that it seems that he,
the fortune teller’s son, was credited with being the original teacher
and founder of the sect. Perhaps Maymun himself was the founder of a
minor off-shoot of the Ismaʿilian body,—we hear of followers who went
with him to Jerusalem,—and ʿAbdullah succeeded him as head of this group
but, himself a student of philosophy like so many other Shiʿites, and
participating in rationalistic opinions, used his position to form a
kind of free-masonry, in which he developed more fully the principles
already indicated by Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, and so made the Aristotelian and
neo-Platonic teaching somewhat modified in a Persian guise, the “hidden
meaning” of the Qurʾan. Probably he too was responsible for the efficient
organizing of the sect, although its missionary propaganda was, as has
been noted, reproduced from that of the Hashimites. He is said to have
been the author of a book called _al-Mizan_, “the balance” (Abulfeda:
_Ann. Mus._, ii. 310). According to Nuwairi, who used the history of
Abu l-Hasan b. ʿAli Akhu-Muhsin, himself a descendant of Ismaʿil b.
Jaʿfar and a contemporary of the chief activity of the Ismaʿilian sect,
ʿAbdullah assumed Shiʿite views, not because he wanted to get men to
recognise the Imamate of Ismaʿil or his son Muhammad, but simply as a
device to attract adherents: such was Akhu-Muhsin’s view, no doubt a
prejudiced one, but of some weight as undoubtedly the judgment of many
contemporaries. It is, however, quite as probable that the ʿAlid theories
were derived from the existing sect of which Maymun had been head, and
were left unaltered by his son when he took it in hand.

In order to make proselytes, ʿAbdullah’s missionaries used to propose
obscure questions about the Qurʾan and the doctrines of traditional
Islam, with the object of showing that as generally held these doctrines
were contrary to reason, and so required an explanation. The revelation
of Islam, they said, was difficult, and hence there was much diversity
of opinion and many sects and schools of thought, all of which caused
an infinite amount of disedification and much trouble. The reason of
these diverse opinions is that each man follows his own private judgment
and forms his own conjectures, with the result that many end in utter
unbelief. But God would not give a revelation full of such obscurity
and ambiguity as the only guidance for men. It must be that there is
some available guidance, some authoritative teacher who can explain the
doctrine so that it may be both clear and certain, and such an infallible
teacher implies an Imam. The _daʿi_ then gave illustrations of the
obscurities and difficulties which men are not able to understand by the
light of their own reason. The pilgrims at Mecca throw stones and run
between the two hills, Safa and Merwa,—what is the purpose and meaning of
this? Why is it that a woman who has omitted a fast and prayer because
prevented by reasons of personal impurity is required to fast afterwards
to make up for her omission, but is not required to make up for the
omitted prayer? Why did God take six days to create the world when he
could quite well have created it in an hour? What does the Qurʾan mean
when he refers in a figurative manner to the “way”? What is the meaning
of the reference to the two angels who write and take note?—why cannot
we see them? What really are the torments of hell? What mean the words
“and over them on that day eight shall bear up the throne of thy Lord”?
(Qur., 69, 17). What is Iblis?—Who are Yajuj and Majuj (Qur., 18, 93),
and Harut and Marut (Qur., 2, 96)? Why have there been created seven
heavens, and seven earths, and why are there seven verses in the Fatha?
and many similar questions all designed to show that the Qurʾan is full
of references to things which are not explained and need explaining, but
to which the orthodox teachers are unable to give an explanation. All
these are the conventional arguments which are commonly employed to prove
that revelation is incomplete without an authorised teacher.

They then continued to ask other questions which throw a curious light
on the kind of problems which interested the Muslims of the day, or
which could be thought as deserving of attention. Why have men ten
fingers and ten toes?—why are four fingers on each hand divided into
three phalanges, whilst the thumbs have only two each?—why has the face
seven openings?—why are there twelve dorsal vertebrae and seven cervical
vertebrae? etc., constantly suggesting some mystic meaning as lying
under particular numbers. They cited “on earth are signs of men of firm
belief, and also in your own selves; will ye not then consider them?”
(Qur., 51, 20-21): “God setteth forth these similitudes to men that haply
they may reflect” (Qur., 14, 30), and “we will shew them our signs in
(different) countries and among themselves, until it become plain to them
that it is the truth.”

These suggestions produced doubt in the minds of many hearers, and
gave the impression that the missionary had thought more deeply on the
problems of religion than the ordinary teachers; and so the hearers were
induced to ask the _daʿi_ to instruct them and reveal the answers to
some of the problems he proposed. Forthwith he would begin a discourse
dealing with some of these questions, and then suddenly check himself:
the religion of God is too precious to be disclosed to those who are
not worthy and who may, perhaps, treat it with contempt: God has always
required a pledge of those to whom he has disclosed his mysteries. Thus
we read, “And remember that we have entered into covenant with the
prophets and with thee, and with Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Jesus
the son of Mary; and we formed with them a strict covenant” (Qur., 33,
7), and again “some there were among the faithful who made good what
they had promised to God” (id., 23),—“O believers, be faithful to your
engagements” (Qur., 5, 1),—“be faithful in the covenant of God when ye
have covenanted, and break not your oaths after ye have pledged them: for
now ye have made God to stand surety for you” (Qur., 16, 93), and many
similar passages. “So now,” the _daʿi_ said, “pledge yourself, putting
your right hand in mine, and promise me with the most inviolable oaths
and assurances that you will not betray our secret, that you will assist
no-one against us, that you are laying no snare for us, that you will use
the truth only in speaking with us, and that you will not join any of our
enemies against us.” By this means they discovered how far the would-be
proselyte was ready to be submissive and obedient, and accustomed him to
act in absolute conformity with his superiors. If the proselyte readily
took this pledge, the missionary next said, “Give us now an offering
from your goods and first fruits which shall be a preliminary to the
disclosure which we are about to make to you of our doctrine, and a
pledge which you will give for it.” By this they tested how far the
proselyte was prepared to make sacrifices to join the sect, and how far
he could be trusted to be a loyal and devoted member. Thus the proselyte
was admitted to the _First Grade_ which consisted of those who accepted
the principle that the Qurʾan has both an external literal sense and an
inner esoteric meaning which needs the help of an interpreter. The inner
meaning was termed _batin_, or _iman_, “faith,” as distinguished from the
external _islam_, and this distinction was justified by the words of Qur.
40, 14. “The Arabs of the desert say, ‘we believe.’ Say: ‘Ye believe not,
but rather say, ‘we profess Islam’; for the faith has not yet found its
way into your hearts.’”

The _Second Grade_. When the disciple had fully adopted the ideas
taught in the first grade, and was convinced that men have fallen into
error by accepting the traditional teachings of Islam, the _daʿi_ used
the ordinary arguments to persuade them that there was need of an
authoritative teacher, and without such a teacher men are unable to
please God or obey His laws. Great stress was laid upon the unreliability
of private judgment and the need of guidance and authoritative teaching.

_Third Grade._ The _daʿi_ next proceeds to point who can be accepted
as the desired teacher and infallible guide, the Imam of Islam. There
have been seven such Imams, as worthy of reverence by their religious
characters as by their number, for the most important things in the
universe, such as the planets, the heavens (Qur. 2, 29; 67, 3), the
earths (id. 65, 12, of Bukhari _Sahih_ 59, 2) are invariably in sevens.
He then enumerates the seven Imams, the first six being ʿAli to Jaʿfar
as-Sadiq, the seventh _al-Kaʾim_, “the chief,” whom some understand to be
Jaʿfar’s son Ismaʿil, others his grandson Muhammad, whilst others again
regard these two as but one. He next endeavoured to show that the other
Shiʿites, who regard Musa as the seventh Imam, cannot be correct as they
do not limit the Imams to the sacred number seven, but continue until
twelve are reckoned in all. He then was accustomed to speak against the
character of Musa, the son of Jaʿfar, asserting that Ismaʿil had deep
knowledge of secret things, whilst Musa possessed no such supernatural
enlightenment: he told anecdotes which placed Musa in an unfavourable
light, and even attributed to him grave sins, so that it was impossible
to regard him as the true Imam. Moreover it was agreed that, since
Husayn, the Imamate can only be passed by direct succession, so it is
not possible that it could be taken from one and given to his brother.
The Ismaʿilians alone have inherited the accurate knowledge of secret
mysteries bequeathed by Jaʿfar as-Sadiq to his son Ismaʿil.

_Fourth Grade._ In this grade instruction was given in the history of
God’s revelation. The age of the world is divided into seven stages, each
under the guidance of a prophet whose teaching surpassed that of his
predecessors and abrogated it. Between each pair there were but “silent”
guides who did not add to nor alter the revelation of the prophet who
inaugurated that age. Each of these seven prophets had a coadjutor who
was his authorised exponent to mankind at large. These seven prophets and
coadjutors were—

    (_i._) Adam, with coadjutor Seth.
    (_ii._) Noah, with coadjutor Shem.
    (_iii._) Abraham, with coadjutor Ismaʿil.
    (_iv._) Moses, with coadjutor, at first Aaron, then Joshua.
    (_v._) Jesus, with coadjutor Simon Sifa (Cephas).
    (_vi._) Muhammad, with coadjutor ʿAli.
    (_vii._) al-Kaʾim, with coadjutor ʿAbdullah.

Thus the seventh prophet al-Kaʾim, _i.e._, Ismaʿil or his son Muhammad,
has abrogated the teaching of the Prophet Muhammad, and has given a new
revelation. At this point, therefore, the convert was entirely separated
from orthodox Islam which accepts Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets,”
that is to say, the final completer of revelation, and was taught to
regard his religion as obsolete.

_Fifth Grade._ In this grade it was taught that the traditional practices
of the religion of Islam were merely temporary, a concession to the
uninstructed multitude who could not yet understand the spiritual
principles of _iman_: they were useful as an educative influence with
the ignorant, but the Qurʾanic precepts on which some of them were based
had an esoteric meaning quite other than their literal form, whilst the
traditional rules which had added so much detail to the laws of the
Qurʾan were baseless and negligible. The disciple was taught to replace
the external precepts of Islam by inner convictions. If he was a Persian
he was reproached with the servile submission which the Persians had
rendered to an Arab Khalif: if he were an Arab he was instructed that
the privileges of the Arabs have now been transferred to the Persians.
In addition to this he was taught certain principles of geometry and the
properties of numbers, all applied in a mystical manner to the claims
of the Imamate. He was further informed that each prophet had twelve
_hujjaj_ corresponding to the twelve signs of the zodiac, to the twelve
months of the year, to the twelve tribes of Israel, and to the twelve
_nugabaʾ_ whom Muhammad chose from the _ansar_ or “helpers” at Madina.
These numerals “seven” and “twelve” which have been shown to possess
sacred meanings, were now cited to explain why men have twelve dorsal
vertebrae, seven cervical vertebrae, etc. It is as well to note that when
these teachings were first put forth the other Shiʿites who followed Musa
and his successors had not yet made up the number of twelve Imams.

_Sixth Grade._ The missionary did not admit the postulant to this grade
until he was perfectly assured as to his discretion and secrecy. In it
the teaching that the ritual precepts of Islam as generally understood,
were abrogated, was carried to its logical conclusion, and the convert
was instructed to abandon the observance of prayer, fasting, pilgrimage,
and all the other external practices of religion; or at least to observe
them only in so far as they served as a bond of social usage or as
expedient as a concession to their uninstructed companions. At the same
time the teacher professed the utmost veneration for the men who had
established these practices, and for the wisdom which had led them to
do so. The _daʿi_ then described to his pupil the doctrines of Plato,
Aristotle, Pythagoras, and other philosophers, and exhorted them not to
follow the traditions of religion which have been passed down as mere
hear-say, but to test them by the methods of philosophy and to accept
only those things which are endorsed by reason. Changing his former
attitude, he then began to criticize the Imams unfavourably, and to
contrast them with the philosophers to their disadvantage.

_Seventh Grade._ Some of the missionaries were not themselves instructed
in the doctrines of the highest grades, and only a select number were
able to initiate converts into this seventh stage. This serves as the
probable explanation of some events in the history of the sect which
appear strange at first sight such, for example, as the estrangement of
the most faithful and successful missionary Abu ʿAbdullah who, no doubt,
revolted when he found the difference between the actual beliefs of the
Mahdi ʿUbayd allah, and the doctrine which he himself had learned and
taught. In initiating a disciple into this highest grade the _daʿi_ first
pointed out that there are in this world always correlatives, of which
one is the cause, the other the result, as giver and recipient, teacher
and taught, etc. Thus the Qurʾan tells us of God that “when he decreeth
a thing he only saith ‘be’ and it ‘is’” (Qur., 3, 42), in which God, the
First Cause, is the greater, the thing created only derives its being
from him: and again, “all things have we created after a fixed decree”
(Qur., 54, 49), and again, “he who is God in the heavens is God in earth
also” (Qur., 43, 84). Hence, following a teaching of the philosophers, it
is clear that from a Being who is only One, only one thing can proceed:
but the world contains many things, so it cannot be the work of the One,
but needs at least two Beings. Moreover, creation is not the bringing
into being that which did not previously exist, but only the arrangement
and disposing of things. At bottom this was intended to be a statement of
the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of matter, and shows striking
resemblances with the speculations of the Muʿtazilites. Thus Abu Hudhayl
(d. circ. 226) held that before the creation the world existed, but in a
state of perfect quiescence; creation was the introduction of change and
movement, and this theory, in one modification or another, recurs in all
the speculations of the later Muʿtazilites. Very similar is the teaching
of al-Farabi (d. 339), who was himself a member of the Ismaʿilian
sect, and held that the world proceeded from God in an instant of the
immeasurable eternity which preceded time, but remained at rest until at
creation God introduced movement and so produced time and change.

Such was the teaching of the seven grades which formed the original
constitution of the sect. Later on two higher grades were added which,
for the sake of completeness, we may consider here although they were no
part of the original scheme.

_Eighth Grade._ In this the disciple learned that there are two
Principles, the original and primary Cause, without name or attribute,
the pre-existent (_as-sabiq_) who seems to be very much the same as “the
first God” of Plotinus, and a Second proceeding from this First Cause,
due to a thought in the pre-existent, _i.e._, as an emanation, just as
the spoken word proceeds from the thought in the mind of the speaker. Of
the pre-existent nothing can be stated but what is negative. The “Second”
seems to be very similar to the Reason or Active Intelligence as defined
by the philosophers on the basis of Alexander of Aphrodisias’ explanation
of the teaching in Aristotle’s _de Anima_; not, as in the Zoroastrian
system, a rival power, but an emanation which is an intermediary between
the unknowable God and man. The true prophet, the _daʿi_ declared, is
shown, not by working miracles which impress the vulgar, but by the
establishment of political institutions which equip a stable and well
disposed government, and by the teaching of spiritual doctrines which
give an explanation of the phenomena of nature. Then, as Nuwairi and
Maqrizi state, the Qurʾan, the resurrection, the end of the world, the
last judgment, and such like doctrines of Islam are explained away as
having allegorical meanings: according to the _batinite_ doctrine, all
these things signify only the revolutions of the planets and of the
universe in regular rotation, or the production and destruction of things
according to the arrangement and combination of elements, as explained in
the teachings of the philosophers.

_Ninth Grade._ In this grade the disciple was taught the doctrines of
the philosophers and what they have stated about the heavens, the stars,
the soul, the intelligence, and other like things: in all he was made
grades which were a later addition were more definitely based on the
teachings of the Greek philosophers which had been popularised in the
Muslim world. At the same time the disciple learned that Abraham, Moses,
and the other prophets were only founders of legal and social systems;
they had received their learning from Plato, and the other philosophers
who consequently are more important than the prophets commonly revered.
He was especially taught to abhor the Arabs because they had been
responsible for slaying Husayn, for which crime they were deprived of
all rights to the Khalifate and Imamate, which were transferred to the

Maqrizi says that the members of ʿAbdullah sect who attained to the
highest grade became _muʿattil_ and _ibahi_ (Maq. i. 348). Strictly
speaking the former term denotes one who denies that the universe has
a creator, and therefore implies that the initiated held the doctrine
common to most of the Arabic “philosophers” of the eternity of matter.
This teaching was one of the leading charges brought by the orthodox
Muslims against Aristotle. The second term seems to mean “one who
admits as (or makes) allowable,” and implies what would be described as
antinomianism. Maqrizi continues that the initiated “did not any longer
recognize any moral law, nor expect either punishment or future reward”
(id.). The historian Nuwayri gives the same account of the Qarmatian
branch of the Ismaʿilian sect. Such antinomianism is not at all unknown
amongst Muslim devotees: thus Maqrizi (ii. 432) in another passage refers
to the Qalandariya darwishes as a type of Sufis who disregard fasting and
prayer, and have no reluctance to use any form of self-indulgence, saying
that it is sufficient that their hearts are at peace with God. These
darwishes were of Persian origin and appeared in Syria in the 7th cent.
A.H., but their order had its beginning in the 5th cent. Antinomian ideas
appear with the later Murjiʿites of the 2nd cent., and are represented in
the doctrines of Jahm b. Safwan, who was put to death about 131, and was,
characteristically enough, a Persian convert in rebellion against the
Arab Khalif. Amongst these Murjiʿites we find the doctrine to assume the
system of those who believed in the eternity of matter. Thus it will be
seen the two highest _taqiya_ or “concealment,” which afterwards became
common amongst the Shiʿites, the doctrine, namely, that profession of
faith means only the confession of the soul to God, it being allowable
that the true believer outwardly conforms to any religion.

Nuwayri also gives the form of contract proposed to a convert at the
time of his initiation. This appears in two parts, to each of which the
convert gives assent. They may be summarised thus:

(1) A promise before God, and before his Apostle, his prophets, angels,
and envoys, to inviolable secrecy as to all the convert knows about the
missionary, about the representative of the Imam in the district where he
lives, as well as regarding all other members of the sect. A pledge to
accept all the orthodox teachings of Islam, and to observe all its rites,
both matters which, as we have seen, were required of the lower grades
and disregarded by the higher ones.

(2) A pledge to loyalty towards the missionaries and the Imam, and the
invocation of the curse of Iblis if this pledge is broken. “If you have
any reservation, in will or thought, this oath nevertheless has full
binding force upon you, and God will take no satisfaction other than the
complete fulfilment of all it contains and of the agreements made between
you and me.”

This oath, it will be observed, is intended for those initiated into
the first grade, and so conforms to the idea of orthodox Islam, though
including the Shiʿite doctrine of an Imam, but covers all that is to be
taught later with a veil of secrecy. The plan was to adapt the earlier
teaching to the beliefs and capacity of the proselytes, and this method
is further illustrated by the _kitab as-siyasa_ or “book of policy,” a
manual for the guidance of the _duʿat_, which Nuwayri describes on the
authority of Abu l-Hasan.

According to this the teacher is told to emphasize his zeal for Shiʿite
theories if he has to deal with a Shiʿite, to express sympathy with
ʿAli and his two sons, and repugnance towards the Arabs who put them
to death. If he has to deal with a Sabian, emphasis was laid on the
reverence paid to the numeral seven. If his conversation was with a
Zoroastrian, his principles are at the basis very similar to those of
the Ismaʿilians, and with him the _daʿi_ may commence at the fourth
grade. If his business is with a Jew, he should explain that the Mahdi
Muhammad b. Ismaʿil is the Messiah expected by the Jews and speak much
against the Muslims and Christians, especially about their erroneous
beliefs as to the unique birth of Christ, making it plain that Joseph the
carpenter was undoubtedly his father. With Christians, on the contrary,
it is advised to speak ill of the Muslims and Jews, explaining that the
Ismaʿilians recognise the Christian creed, but giving it an allegorical
interpretation, and showing that the Paraclete is yet to come, and is
the true Imam to whom they are invited to come. In dealing with dualists
or Manichaeans the _daʿi_ may begin at the sixth grade of initiation,
or if the convert seems worthy of confidence, the whole doctrine may be
revealed at once. With one of the “philosophers” who, in true Muslim
fashion, are treated as a distinct sect, emphasis is to be laid on the
fact that the essential points of the Ismaʿilian faith are based on the
teachings of philosophy, and the sect agrees with them in everything
concerning the prophets and the eternity of the world; but some of the
philosophers differ from the Ismaʿilians in admitting a Being who rules
the world, though confessing that he is unknown. With “dualists,” _i.e._,
Muslims of the sect so called (cf. De Sacy: _Druses_, p. lxviii., note
3), victory is sure; it is only necessary to dwell on the doctrine of the
pre-existing and the second. With orthodox Sunnis the missionary is to
speak with respect of the early Khalifs, avoid eulogies upon ʿAli and his
sons, even mentioning some things about them which call for disapproval:
great pains should be taken to secure Sunni adherents as they form
most useful defenders. When dealing with a Shiʿite who accepts Musa,
the son of Jaʿfar, and his descendants, great care is necessary: the
_daʿi_ should dwell on the moral laws of Islam, but explain the sacred
associations of the number seven. With some it is impossible to venture
further and show that the religion of Muhammad is now abrogated, with
others it is possible even to show that the ritual laws of the Qurʾan are
obsolete, with a few he may proceed to admit that the _Kaʾim_ is really
dead, that he comes back to the world only in a spiritual manner, and
explain allegorically the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Each
is to be dealt with according to his beliefs, and care must be taken not
to offend his religious prejudices. The _daʿi_ is advised to study the
history of ancient legislators, their adventures, systems and sects, so
as to have a fund of illustration which will arrest the attention of
their pupils.

Such was the system formed by ʿAbdullah, probably somewhere before
A.H. 250, and by him grafted on the already existing sect of Shiʿites,
which upheld the claims of Ismaʿil, the son of Jaʿfar. In the reign
of Maʾmun (A.H. 198-218) ʿAbdullah had joined the revolt of Ishaq b.
Ibrahim at Karkh and Ispahan, and formed a close friendship with the
wealthy Muhammad b. Husayn b. Jihan-Bakhtar ad-Didan, a Persian prominent
for his intense hatred of the Arabs, and it was he who first supplied
ʿAbdullah with funds to begin his propaganda (cf. Quatremère in _Journ.
Asiat._, Aug., 1836). It is not easy to form any clear scheme of the
chronology of the sect in its early days, nor to follow the details of
its history: conspiracies and secret societies do not leave much in the
way of documentary evidence of their first formation. That ʿAbdullah
was associated with a rebellion in the reign of Maʾmun is hardly
likely; it seems rather that Muhammad b. Husayn ad-Didan (Dandan, or
Zaydan) was so associated, and he afterwards befriended ʿAbdullah. This
Muhammad was secretary to Ahmad ibn ʿAbdu l-ʿAziz ibn Abi Dolaf, who
became prince of Karaj in A.H. 265. No doubt ʿAbdullah was a younger
contemporary, assisted by the old anti-Arab agitator. Certainly ʿAbdullah
was established at Basra, whither he had removed from Persia, before 261
(_Fihrist_, 187), lodging there with the family of ʿAgil ibn Abi Talib.
Thence he went to Syria, presumably finding suspicion aroused at Basra,
and made his headquarters at Salamiya in the territory of Emessa (Maq.
i., 348-9: ii., 11), and from there sent out missionaries who preached
the claims of Muhammad b. Ismaʿil b. Jaʿfar as the “concealed” Imam, and
of ʿAbdullah himself as the Mahdi or “guide,” who was to prepare men for
the Imam’s return to earth (Maq. i., 348). At Salamiya he had a son named
Ahmad, and when he died Ahmad succeeded him as head of the sect.

Ahmad, like his father, sent out missionaries, and one of these was
instrumental in founding the important branch known as the _Qarmatians_,
a branch so important and prominent that some, e.g., Jamal ad-Din, have
regarded the Ismaʿilians as their off-shoot. The fact seems to be that
there were at first members of one body, then circumstances gave the
Qarmatians a political opening in Syria and ʿIraq, and, in a position of
independence, they developed their doctrines more openly than the rest of
the sect and, being drawn from the peasant class, these assumed a grosser
form: whilst the other or parent community found a career in Africa
but, as they became there a ruling minority with a subject majority of
orthodox type, they were induced to observe some semblance of orthodoxy.

ʿAbdullah was succeeded as head of the Ismaʿilian sect by his son Ahmad.
According to the _Fihrist_ he was succeeded first by his son Muhammad,
then by a second son Ahmad, the latter being also described as the son of
Muhammad, and so grandson of ʿAbdullah (_Fihrist_, p. 137). This Ahmad
may be the one who was at Basra for some time, then at Kufa, whence in
266 or thereabouts he sent missionaries to Yemen; possibly he was the
Ahmad al-Qaiyal who wrote a book on the Imamate, which was refuted by
Razi (d. 320).

After Ahmad came his son Husayn, who died not long afterwards, leaving a
son named Saʿid, who subsequently took the name of ʿUbayd Allah, and was
the Mahdi who established the Fatimid State in North Africa, dying in
A.H. 323 (= A.D. 934). That he was originally called Saʿid is generally
admitted, but he appears variously as Saʿid son of Husayn son of Ahmad,
and Saʿid son of Ahmad, and Saʿid son of Abu Shalaghlagh. The explanation
given for these different names is that Ahmad had two sons, of whom the
elder, Husayn, died whilst Saʿid was still young, and the son was adopted
by his uncle Muhammad, the second son of Ahmad, who was also known as Abu

There is a story that Saʿid or ʿUbayd Allah was the son of an obscure
Jewish smith, whose widow was married to Husayn, son of Ahmad, and that
he was adopted by his step-father. This is one of the three forms of
what we may call the “Jewish legend,” the attempt to trace the Fatimid
dynasty to a Jewish source. These three attempts are: (i.) that Maymun b.
Daysan the oculist was a Jew; (ii.) that ʿUbayd Allah was really the son
of a Jewish smith; and (iii.) that he was killed in prison at Sijilmassa,
and afterwards personated by a Jewish slave. Probably the “Jewish legend”
was associated with the fact that the renegade Jew, Ibn Killis, was the
one who encouraged the Fatimids to invade Egypt and did most to organise
their government there, and with the undoubted favouritism which the
early Fatimids showed the Jews.

A new development in the teaching of the sect took place under Husayn,
or possibly commenced under his father Ahmad. ʿAbdullah had been content
to describe himself as the “Mahdi” or guide, who was to lead men to
the Imam, who was Ismaʿil, or his son Muhammad; he made no claim to be
himself a descendant of the Imam. Probably it was a later theory that
the Imam was “concealed” only in the sense that he had to hide himself
from the ʿAbbasid Khalif. Later still, when a Fatimid Khalif was actually
ruling in Cairo, the claim to descent from ʿAli through ʿAbdullah and his
family became a matter of heated controversy.

Historians differ very much as to how far the Fatimids succeeded in
proving their ʿAlid descent, and contemporary opinion was quite as
varied. Abu l-Hasan Muhammad Masawi, commonly known as Radi, born at
Baghdad in 359 and dying in 406, was himself an undoubted descendant of
Husayn the son of ʿAli, and was official keeper of the records of ʿAlid
genealogy. As Abu l-Feda notes (_Ann. Mosl._, ii. 309) he, in one of his
poems, fully admits the legitimate descent of the Fatimids of Egypt from
ʿAli, and the actual passage is extant (cf. _Diwan_ of Radi, Beirut, p.
972): but in 402 this same Radi joined with other ʿAlids and certain
canonists in a proclamation denouncing the Fatimids and declaring their
claimed genealogy as baseless. It is natural to suppose that in this
he was actuated by fear or complaisance, and this difficulty meets us
throughout; the whole question was so much a matter of current political
controversy that it was practically impossible to get anything like an
unbiassed opinion. Maqrizi, the leading Egyptian authority of a later
age, was strongly pro-Fatimid, but he claims the noble rank of _sayyid_
on the ground of descent from ʿAli through the Fatimids, and so is
prejudiced in their favour. He argues that the ʿAlid descent of the
Fatimids was never attacked by the acknowledged ʿAlids who then existed
in considerable numbers (Maq. i., 349), an argument which is far from
being true.

Elsewhere Maqrizi defends the Fatimid claims by saying that the ʿAlids
were always suspected by the ʿAbbasid Khalifs, and so “they had no resort
but to conceal themselves and were scarcely known, so that Muhammad b.
Ismaʿil, the Imam ancestor of ʿUbayd Allah, was called the ‘concealed’”
(Maq. i., 349). But this tells the other way: it admits that the ʿAlid
genealogy was not well known: and the mere fact that ʿAbdullah was sought
for by the Khalif simply shows that his pretensions were known to be
dangerous, as a Mahdi with a body of followers would necessarily be,
and is no proof of the validity of the descent afterwards claimed by
ʿAbdullah’s descendants. The obscurity of the ʿAlid genealogy afterwards
favoured the Fatimid claims, but it does not seem that that claim was
part of their original programme. The first idea was to support the
claims of the vanished Imam, claims selected in all probability because
of the convenient fact that he had vanished, and to represent ʿAbdullah
and his descendants simply as Mahdis, viceroys to guide and direct the
people of Islam until the day came for the concealed Imam to be revealed

After the Fatimid claims had been laid before the world the ʿAbbasids
brought forward many calumnies (Maq. i., 349). The strongly anti-Fatimid
Ibn Khallikan relates a story that when the first Fatimid Khalif to
enter Egypt, al-Moʿizz, came to Cairo, the jurist, Abu Muhammad ibn
Tabataba, came to meet him, supported by a number of undoubted members
of ʿAli’s family, and asked to see his credentials. Al-Moʿizz then drew
his sword and cried, “Here is my pedigree”: and scattering gold amongst
the by-standers added, “And this is my proof.” The story is an improbable
legend, and even Ibn Khallikan rejects it on the ground that when
al-Moʿizz entered Cairo, Abu Muhammad the jurist (d. 348) had been many
years in his grave (Ibn Khall. iii., 366).

The weakest part of the Fatimid claim, as we have remarked, lies in the
great diversity of forms the claim takes in different writers. When
ʿUbayd Allah or Saʿid, ʿAbdullah’s great-grandson, established himself
in Africa, the genealogy began to call for serious attention, and came
to be examined, not by uncritical members of the sect, but by all the
historians and genealogists of the Muslim world. It then appeared in no
less than nine divergent forms.

(1) Traced through Jaʿfar as-Sadiq the sixth Imam, then through
his son Ismaʿil, his son Muhammad “the concealed,” then Jaʿfar
al-Musaddiq—Muhammad al-Habib—and then ʿUbayd Allah. Thus Maqrizi and
Ibn Khaldun. According to this ʿAbdullah and Ahmad do not appear in the
descent at all.

(2) Traced through Jaʿfar to Muhammad “the concealed” as in the
preceding, then ʿAbdullah ar-Rida (the accepted of God),—Ahmad al-Wafi
(the perfect),—al-Husayn at-Taki (the pious),—and ʿUbayd Allah the Mahdi.
This appears in Ibn Khallikan and Ibn Khaldun, and seems to have been
more or less the official version. According to this ʿAbdullah, the
father of Ahmad, was the son of Mohammad “the concealed,” not of Maymun.
Similarly the pro-Fatimid author of the _Dastur al-Munajjimin_ (MS. of M.
Schefer, cited by de Goeje, _Qarmates_, pp. 8-9), who says that Muhammad
b. Ismaʿil took refuge in India; he had six sons, Jaʿfar, Ismaʿil, Ahmad,
Husayn, ʿAli, and ʿAbdu r-Rahman, but does not mention ʿAbdullah nor say
which of these sons was the Imam: he then refers to the three “mysterious
ones” as succeeding Muhammad. Tabari (iii., 2218, 12) says that Muhammad
b. Ismaʿil had no son named ʿAbdullah.

(3) As before, but Maymun as son of Muhammad “the concealed,” then
ʿAbdullah—Muhammad—Ubayd Allah; thus in Abu l-Feda. Maymun is made
the son of the seventh Imam (which is impossible), and the Mahdi is
represented as ʿAbdullah’s grandson (see below).

(4) Ismaʿil, son of Jaʿfar,—Muhammad “the
concealed,”—Ismaʿil,—Ahmad,—Ubayd Allah. This also occurs in Abu l-Feda,
and in ʿUbayd Allah’s “Genealogy of the ʿAlids” (MS. Leiden, 686—cited
by de Goeje, _Qarmates_, p. 9) Muhammad had three sons, Ismaʿil II,
Jaʿfar, and Yahya; Ismaʿil had a son named Ahmad, who dwelt in the

(5) Ismaʿil—Muhammad “the concealed,”—Ismaʿil
II,—Muhammad,—Ahmad,—ʿAbdullah,—Muhammad,—Husayn,—Ahmad or
ʿAbdullah,—Ubayd Allah the Mahdi. This is the genealogy given in the
sacred books of the Druses, and rests on the theory that there must
have been seven “concealed Imams” intervening between Jaʿfar as-Sadiq
and the Mahdi. It is merely an instance of the mystic value attached
to the sacred numeral. Like (3) it gives Muhammad for Ahmad which is a
permissible variant.

(6) The five preceding genealogies are distinctively Ismaʿilian in
character, but there are others which show adaptations of the “Twelvers”
accounts, and these cannot be much more than later attempts to connect
the Fatimid line with that recognised by the other Shiʿites. First we
have the idea that the descent from Jaʿfar as-Sadiq was through Musa,
not Ismaʿil, then following the next three Imams ʿAli ar-Rida—Muhammad
al-Jawad—ʿAli al-Hadi (see above)—al-Hasan al-Askari—Ubayd Allah the
Mahdi. According to this the Fatimite Mahdi in Africa was the son of the
eleventh Imam of the “Twelvers,” and thus replaced Muhammad al-Muntazar.

(7) The same line as the preceding, but admitting Muhammad al-Muntazar
as twelfth Imam who “disappeared” in 260, and asserting that ʿUbayd
Allah who appeared in North Africa was this same Muhammad emerging from
concealment, after an interval of 29 years.

(8) The same line as far as ʿAli al-Hadi, then Husayn, presumably a
brother of Hasan al-Askari, and ʿUbayd Allah as son of this Husayn.
This is given by Ibn Khallikan on the authority of a reference in Ibn
al-Athir. All these three last genealogies must be dismissed as later
suggestions since it is clear that the Ismaʿilian sect rejected the Imams
of the “Twelvers” after Jaʿfar as-Sadiq: but it may be that Ahmad’s first
claim was simply to be an ʿAlid, and not necessarily the son of the house
of Ismaʿil.

(9) Finally we have another theory, mentioned by Ibn Khallikan, that the
Mahdi was descended from Hasan, a brother of Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, and so an
ʿAlid but not an Imam, and from this Hasan came ʿAbdullah, Ahmad, Hasan,
and then ʿAli or ʿUbayd Allah the Mahdi. Back to ʿAbdullah this was
the generally asserted genealogy of the Mahdi’s family, but Hasan, the
brother of Jaʿfar, replaces Maymun.

The chief point is that there were so many alternative forms of the
genealogy, and close scrutiny shows very weak points in every one
of them. To the fully initiated this was a very small matter, as no
importance was attached to the claim to the Imamate or to the descent
from ʿAli at all. No doubt all these pedigrees served their purpose in
dealing with the different types of proselytes, and their very diversity
tends to prove that they were actually accepted and circulated in a sect
which adapted its teachings to suit the opinions of the different classes
with which it came into contact. It was not until the Fatimids became a
political power that any need was felt to bring these various genealogies
into any kind of agreement, and then, no doubt, the variant forms
circulated by the different missionaries were a source of embarrassment.



We turn now to the formation of the important branch of the Ismaʿilian
sect known as the Qarmatians, which is particularly interesting as we
have detailed accounts of its formation which show how the propaganda
worked, and illustrate the ease with which an armed group could set up an
independent robber state in this period of the decay of the Khalifate. Of
the history of their founding there are two leading narratives slightly
divergent in details,—which De Goeje (pp. 13-17) calls A. and B. A. given
by De Sacy (_Druses_, pp. clxvi., etc.) is that of Nuwayri, who drew his
information from Akhu Muhsin, who obtained it from Ibn Razzam, and the
substance, drawn from the same sources, appears in the _Fihrist_. B.
(in De Sacy clxxi., etc.) is really the account given by Tabari, and is
based on the description given by a person who had been present at the
examination of Zaqruyah the Qarmatian by Muhammad b. Dawud b. al-Jarrah.
The A. account is as follows.

One of Ahmad’s missionaries named Husayn Ahwazi was sent to labour in the
district of Kufa known as the Sawad. As he was travelling he met a man
named Hamdan b. Ashhath al-Qarmati, who was leading an ox with forage
on its back. Husayn asked him the way to a place named Kass-Nahram, and
Hamdan replied that he was going there himself. Then Husayn asked him
where was a place named Dawr, and Hamdan told him that was his home. So
they went on together. Then Hamdan says: “You seem to have come a long
way and to be very tired: get on this ox of mine.” But Husayn declined,
saying that he had not been told to do so. Hamdan remarked: “You speak
as though you acted according to the orders which some one had given
you.” Husayn admitted that this was so. “And who,” Hamdan asked, “it
is then from whom you receive these orders and prohibitions?” Husayn
replied: “It is my master and yours, the master of this world and of the
world to come.” After some reflection Hamdan said: “There is only God
most High who is master of all things.” “True,” replied Husayn, “but God
entrusts control to whom he pleases.” Hamdan then asked, “What do you
intend to do in the village to which you have asked to be directed?”
“I am going,” said Husayn, “to bring to many people who dwell there a
knowledge of the secrets of God. I have received orders to water the
village, to enrich the inhabitants, to deliver them, and to put them in
possession of their masters’ goods.” Then he began to persuade Hamdan to
embrace his teaching. Hamdan said: “I beseech you in the name of God to
reveal to me what you possess of this wisdom: deliver it to me, and God
will deliver you.” “That,” said Husayn, “is a thing I cannot do, unless
I previously get from you an undertaking and bind you in the name of God
by a promise as an oath like that which God has always exacted from his
prophets and apostles. After that I shall be able to tell you things
which will be useful to you.” Hamdan continued to urge, and at last
Husayn gave way, and as they sat by the roadside Husayn administered the
oath to him and asked his name. Hamdan replied that he was commonly known
as the _Qarmat_, and invited Husayn to take up his abode with him. So
Husayn went to his house and gained many converts from Hamdan’s kinsmen
and neighbours. There he stayed for some time, arousing in his host and
others the strongest admiration of the ascetic and pious life he led,
fasting by day, and watching by night. He worked as a tailor, and it was
generally felt that the garments which had passed through his hands were
consecrated. When the date harvest came a learned and wealthy citizen
of Kufa named Abu ʿAbdullah Muhammad b. ʿUmar b. Shabab Adawi, hearing
good reports of him, made him guardian of his date garden, and found him
scrupulous in his attention and honesty. Husayn revealed his doctrines
to this employer, but he saw through the piety which had impressed the
villagers and understood that he was a conspirator. Before his death
Husayn appointed Hamdan as _daʿi_ in his place. This is an outline of the
narrative of the origin of the Qarmatians, so called as the followers of
Hamdan the Qarmat, according to the Sherif Abu l-Hasan as reported in the
history of Nuwayri.

Gregory Bar Hebraeus gives a different account which appears also in
Bibars Mansuri and in another part of Nuwayri who cites the authority
of Ibn Athir, and this is the second account which de Goeje calls B.
According to it a Persian of Khuzistan established himself in the Nahrayn
or district between the rivers, near Hufa, and soon drew attention by
the asceticism and piety of his life. When anyone went and sat by him
he used to discourse about religion and try to induce his hearers to
renounce the world; he taught that it was a matter of obligation to
pray fifty times a day, and that it was his office to guide men to the
true Imam whose abode he knew. Some merchants purchased the produce of
the garden in which this recluse had taken up his abode, and enquired
for a trustworthy watchman to look after their property. The gardener
introduced the recluse to them, and they gave him charge of the produce.
When they came to take away their dates they paid the watchman, and he,
on his part, paid the gardener for the dates supplied to him, deducting
a rebate for the stones. The merchants saw this reckoning going on, and
supposed that he had been selling some of their dates, so they struck
him, saying, “Is it not enough that you have eaten our dates?—is it for
you also to sell the stones?” The gardener then spoke up and told them
the facts, and when they perceived their error they made their apologies
and conceived a very high opinion of his rectitude and probity. Some
time later he fell ill, and the gardener sent for a certain villager
commonly known as _Qaramita_, a word which in the Nabataean language
means a man with red eyes. This villager’s real name is not given, but
Tabari adds that Muhammad b. Dawud b. al-Jarrah said to someone that he
was called Hamdan. He was an owner of oxen which were used to carry the
produce of Sawad to the city of Kufa. He took the sick man to his house
and there the devotee stayed until he was quite well, and whilst there
taught the Qaramita the doctrines of the sect to which he belonged,
and also instructed the villagers. From amongst his converts he chose
twelve _nakibs_, in imitation of Moses and Jesus, and sent them out as
missionaries. He required his followers to pray fifty times a day, and as
a result the work of the villagers fell into arrears. A certain Haysam
who possessed property in the village perceived this and made enquiry
as to the reason; this led him into contact with the devotee who was
induced to reveal to him his peculiar doctrines. Haysam perceived their
subversive character and took him to Kufa where he locked him up in his
house, but a female servant who was moved by the captive’s apparent
piety stole the key and set him free. In the morning the room was found
empty, and this was reported as a miracle. Soon afterwards the devotee
re-appeared to the villagers and told them that he had been set free by
angels, and then he escaped to Syria. After his departure the Qaramata
continued to preach and expand the doctrines which he had learned, and
in this was assisted by the other nakibs. According to Ibn Athir, cited
by Nuwayri, this Qaramat or Hamdan was a man who “affected a religious
life, detached from the world and mortified,” and “when anyone joined his
sect Hamdan took a piece of gold from him, saying that it was for the
Imam. From them (_i.e._, his followers) he chose twelve _nakibs_ whom he
charged to call men to his religion, saying that they were the apostles
of Isa b. Maryam.”

The A. text refers to Husayn’s death, the B. text says that he went to
Syria. Tabari speaks of the devotee as coming from Khuzistan, but Akhu
Muhsin says that he was sent by Ahmad from Salamiya. De Goeje (p. 18)
suggests that he may have been Ahmad’s son Husayn. According to the
_Kitab al-Oyun_ (MS. Berlin, 69—cited by de Goeje) Saʿid, the son of
Husayn, the son of Ahmad, the son of ʿAbdullah, was born at Salamiya
in 259 or 260. But evidently there is some error here. Husayn was the
grandson, not the son, of Abdullah, and the head of the sect did not
leave Askar Mokram before 266: probably not until after the repression
of the slave rebellion in 270. No open revolt of the Qarmatians took
place until 286.

In his _Chronicle_ Bar Hebraeus applies to the sect of the _Nusayri_
all that he says about the Qarmatians, and so the books of the Druses
in their references to the Nusayri prove that they hold very much the
same doctrines as the Ismaʿilians. It is supposed that the Nusayri sect
is a survival of an ancient pagan community (cf. René Dussand: _Hist.
et religion des Nosairis_, _Paris_, 1900). This fits in with the advice
given to the missionaries that Manichaean converts may be admitted to a
higher grade without hesitation.

After this rather confused account of the foundation of the sect of
Qarmatians we find ourselves on surer ground. It is clear that Hamdan
surnamed the Qarmati was the convert chosen to act as head of the branch
founded near Kufa, and he seems to have been diligent in sending out
missionaries throughout the whole district of Sawad, where success was
easy as the oppressed Nabataean villagers were still groaning under the
tyranny of the Arab colonists of the two camp-cities, Kufa and Basra.
Not only were the peasants won over in large numbers, but many of the
dissatisfied Arab tribes were also gained: these, it will be understood,
were those tribes which had had no share in the wealth acquired by the
Khalif and his followers. At first Hamdan required each proselyte to
pay a piece of silver, corresponding to the _fitr_ or legal alms which
Muslims are expected to pay at the end of Ramadan. Then he exacted a
piece of gold from each person on attaining the age of reason, a tribute
which he called _hijra_ or “flight,” perhaps because intended for the
maintenance of a place of refuge called the “house of flight.” Later
again he demanded seven pieces of gold which he termed _bulgha_ or
“livelihood.” He prepared a choice banquet, and gave a small portion
to each of those who gave him the seven pieces of gold, saying that it
was the food of the dwellers in paradise sent down to the Imam. He next
levied a fifth of all their possessions, basing his claim on the words
of the Qurʾan, “And know ye, that when ye have taken any booty, a fifth
part belongeth to God and to His Apostle” (Qur. 8, 42). Next he required
them to deposit all their goods in a common fund, a reminiscence of the
communism taught in pre-Islamic times by the Persian prophet Mazdak, and
justified this by the passages, “Remember God’s goodness towards you, how
that when ye were enemies, He united your hearts, and by His favour ye
became brethren” (Qur. 3, 98), and “Hadst thou spent all the riches of
the earth, thou couldst not have united their hearts; but God hath united
them, for He is Mighty, Wise” (Qur. 8, 64). He told them that they had
no need of money because everything on earth belonged to them, but he
exhorted them to procure arms. All this took place in the year 276.

The _daʿi_ chose in each village a man worthy of confidence, and in
his charge they placed the property of the inhabitants. By this means
clothes were provided for those who were without, and all had their
needs supplied so that there was no more poverty. All worked diligently,
for rank was made to depend on a man’s utility to the community; no
one possessed any private property save sword and arms. Then it is
said the _daʿi_ assembled men and women together on a certain night,
and encouraged them to indulge in promiscuous intercourse. After this,
assured of their absolute obedience, he began to teach them the more
secret doctrines of the sect, and so deprived them of all belief in
religion, and discouraged the observance of external rites such as
prayer, fasting, and the like. This was the distinctive mark of the
Qarmatian branch: the initiated were no longer a small minority living in
the midst of their fellow sectarians who still adhered to the external
forms of Islam, but amongst the Qarmatians all were initiated to the
fullest extent in all the teachings of the sect. Before long they began
to steal and to commit murders, so that they produced a reign of terror
in the vicinity. Then the _daʿis_ felt that the time was ripe for open
revolt, and selected a village in the Sawad called Mahimabad, near the
river Euphrates, and within the royal domain as their rallying place or
“house of flight”: thither they carried large stones, and in a short time
surrounded it with a strong wall and erected a building in the midst, in
which a great many persons could be assembled and where goods could be
stored. This took place in 277.

At this time the Khalifate was weak, and this favoured the lawless
movements of the villagers who now came to be known as Qarmatians from
their leader. Their head, Hamdan the Qarmati, meanwhile kept up constant
correspondence with the leaders of the sect at Salamiya. After the death
of Ahmad his son and successor wrote a letter to Hamdan, but he was
not satisfied with its contents: he observed that this letter differed
considerably in expression from those which he had previously received,
and contained matters which did not seem to agree with the teaching he
had received, so he concluded that the responsible heads had changed
their policy. To make sure he sent a trusty follower named Abdan to
Salamiya to find out how matters stood. Abdan arrived there, learned
about the death of Ahmad and the succession of his son Husayn, and had
an interview with this latter. In that interview he asked who was the
Imam to whom they owed obedience, and Husayn replied by the counter
question, “Who then is the Imam?” Abdan replied, “It is Muhammad the son
of Ismaʿil the son of Jaʿfar, the master of the world, to whose obedience
your father called men, and whose _hujja_ he was.” Husayn showed some
annoyance at this reply, and said: “Muhammad the son of Ismaʿil has no
rights in all this; there has never been any other Imam than my father
who was descended from Maymun b. Daysan, and to-day I take his place.”
By this reply Abdan discovered the real nature of the sect, or at least
its present policy. He then returned to the Qarmati and told him what he
had discovered, and by his orders all the _duʿat_ were called together
and informed of what Abdan had discovered and advised to stop their
propaganda. As a result the preaching came to an end in the districts
about Kufa, but they were not able to check it in remoter parts, and they
ceased all correspondence with the leaders at Salamiya.

Then one of the sons of Ahmad who had been on a visit to Talakan tried
to see the Qarmati on his return journey, but was unable to find him. He
therefore called on Abdan and reproached him for ceasing to correspond
with Salamiya. Abdan replied that he had left off preaching and desired
to sever his connection with the sect as he had discovered that they
were not really loyal to the house of ʿAli, but were supporting an Imam
of the family of Maymun: he only asked God’s pardon for what he had
previously done in error. When the visitor saw that he had nothing to
hope from Abdan, he turned to another _daʿi_ named Zaqruya b. Mahruya and
discussed with him Abdan’s attitude. Zaqruya received him well, and it
was agreed that he should be established as chief _daʿi_ in the district
and, in return would resume the former relations with Salamiya. To this
Zaqruya assented, but objected that, so long as Abdan was alive all
efforts would be fruitless, as all revered him as a leader. They agreed
therefore to get rid of Abdan. For this end Zaqruya collected a number of
his neighbours, informed them that the _hujja_ or earthly representative
of the Imam was dead, and that his son was now occupying his place.
The people expressed the greatest respect towards the new _hujja_, and
declared their readiness to carry out his commands. He told them that
they were to kill Abdan as he had proved to be a rebel and apostate.
Next night Abdan was killed. When, however, it came to be known that it
was Zaqruya who had brought about his death the Qarmates were indignant,
and Zaqruya had to flee for his life and hide himself, and advised the
representative from Salamiya who seems to have remained with him, to
leave the neighbourhood. This took place in 286.

During the rest of that year, and the year following, the Qarmatians were
busy hunting for Zaqruya who was compelled to move from place to place,
and finally retired to a subterranean retreat. When he went into the
village near his hiding place a woman who lived in the house used to make
bread on the stone which covered the entrance to the concealed cave so as
to disarm suspicion.

In 288 the search seemed to be relaxed, and then Zaqruya sent his son
Hasan to Syria with a companion named Hasan b. Ahmad, and told them to
preach to the Arabs of the B. Kalb tribe, inviting them to recognise
Muhammad b. Ismaʿil as the Imam. These two envoys obtained many
followers. The envoy who had made plans with Zaqruya had meanwhile gone
back to Talakan, and now, annoyed at Zaqruya’s silence, went to the Sawad
and discovered his place of concealment. When Zaqruya told him of the
success of his mission to the Arabs he was delighted and determined to
join the envoys himself. Zaqruya approved this plan and sent with him
his nephew Isa b. Mahwayh, surnamed Mudatthar, and another young man
surnamed Mutawwak, at the same time writing a letter to his son bidding
him render obedience to the leader of these new comers whom he termed
_Sahib al-Nakat_. When they reached the B. Kalb they were welcomed and
received with every profession of loyalty, and the tribe prepared for
war. This took place in 289. The resulting conflict with the authorities
was, however, unsuccessful: the sectaries were not able to repeat their
brigandage which the weakness of the central authority had been unable
to prevent about the Sawad, and the leader, the kinsman of the Mahdi at
Salamiya, was killed, and the Arabs scattered.

Nuwayri says that this leader had struck money, both gold and silver, and
that the coins were inscribed on one side: “Say, the truth has come and
falsehood has disappeared” (Qur. 17, 83): and on the other: “There is no
God but God; Say, ‘for this I ask no wage of you, save the love of my
kindred’” (Qur. 42, 22).

After this leader’s death Hasan, son of Zaqruya, took command of
the Qarmatians and assumed the name of Ahmad. The general Muhammad
b. Sulayman had a great victory over him and, as he was unable to
reconstruct his forces, he left for Baghdad where, he said, he had many
followers, and put his son Kasam in charge as his deputy, promising to
write to him. This was, however, only a pretext as he intended to seek
safety in flight, but was caught by Mudatthar and Mutawwak and put to

This check caused the Arabs to keep quiet for some time. Then they
received a letter from Zaqruya saying that he had heard of the death of
Hasan and Isa by revelation, and that after their death the Imam was
going to be revealed and would triumph with his followers. Kasam was now
getting anxious, and thought it well to visit his grandfather Zaqruya in
the Sawad; but Zaqruya disapproved the course of events and rebuked him
severely, sending another disciple, an ex-schoolmaster named Muhammad b.
Abdullah, to replace him. At first this new commander met with success,
then came reverse and he was killed. At this news Zaqruya sent back
Kasam to collect the remnants of the party which he did and brought them
to ad-Derna, a village in the Sawad. Here they were joined by Zaqruya,
who was hailed by the Arabs as their _wali_, and all the Qarmatians in
the Sawad came out to join them. The rising in the Sawad was a mere
_jacquerie_ of Nabataean peasants, and the Qarmatian movement proper
never rose much above this level. At the head of his men Zaqruya attacked
the caravan of pilgrims on their way to Mecca in 294, plundered it, and
slew twenty thousand pilgrims. The Khalif then sent out forces to put
down these troublesome brigands, the Qarmatians were severely punished,
Zaqruya was taken prisoner and sent in chains to the Khalif, but died of
his wounds on the way (Abu l-Feda: _Ann. Mosl._, ii. 299).

In 295 a man named Abu Khatam founded a new sect of Qarmatians in the
Sawad, and these were known as the _Buraniyya_ after Burani, who was the
most active _daʿi_ in organising them. Abu Khatam forbade his followers
to use garlic, leeks, or radishes, and prohibited the shedding of any
animal’s blood; he made them abandon all the religious observances of
Islam, and instituted rites of an entirely new character. We shall
find these prohibitions of particular vegetables in the ordinances
of the Fatimid Khalif Hakim later on, but there justified by certain
Shiʿite theories. At the end of the year Abu Khatam drops out of sight
entirely. The movement is of interest only in showing the tendency of the
Ismaʿilians to form new schisms.

Another off-shoot of the Qarmatians established itself in the Bahrayn,
the land between the Tigris and Euphrates. In 281 Yahya, a son of the
Mahdi, whom de Sacy supposes to have been the same individual who advised
Zaqruya and who was killed near Damascus in 289, the one of whom we
have already heard as the Sahib an-Nakat, although no mention of his
real name is given in any account of Zaqruya’s rising, came to al-Katif
and lodged in the house of a Shiʿite called ʿAli b. Maʿli b. Hamdan. He
told his host that he had been sent by the Mahdi to invite the Shiʿites
to recognise him, the representative of Ismaʿil, as the Imam, and to
announce that the public appearance of the “concealed one” was near at
hand. ʿAli gathered together the Shiʿites of the locality, and showed
them the letter which Yahya had given him to be read to them: they
promised obedience and declared themselves ready to take up arms as soon
as the Mahdi’s representative appeared amongst them. Very soon all the
villagers of the Bahrayn were induced to join in these undertakings.
Yahya then went away and returned with a letter, which he stated that he
had obtained from the Mahdi authorising him to act as their leader, and
calling on them to pay him six pieces of gold and two-thirds for each
man. This they did, and then Yahya brought a new letter bidding them give
him a fifth of all their goods, and this they did also.

Ibn al-Athir says that Yahya went to the house of Abu Saʿid al-Jannabi,
one of these Shiʿites, and that his host gave him food, and then told
his wife to go in to Yahya and not refuse him her favours. News of this,
however, came to the governor of the town, and he had Yahya beaten and
his hair and beard shorn off as a punishment for the scandal caused.
After this Abu Saʿid fled to his native town of Jannaba, and Yahya went
out to the Arab tribes of Kalab, Oqayl, and Haras, who rallied round him,
so that he found himself at the head of a considerable force in 286. It
will be noted that the desert tribes, even though the most purely Arab,
were always ready to join revolutionary movements, anti-Arab as well as
other; in fact they were simply marauders, and fell in with any plans
which offered promise of a period of successful brigandage, irrespective
of any political or religious movements involved.

Nuwayri supposes either that Abu Saʿid had previously learned Qarmatian
ideas in the Sawad, or had been initiated by Hamdan and appointed _daʿi_
for the district of al-Katif. Most of his followers were drawn from the
lowest classes, butchers, porters, and such like. The Sharif Abu l-Hasan
says that Abu Saʿid regarded the _daʿi_ Zaqruya as a rival and felt a
jealousy towards him, so that, having contrived to get Zaqruya into a
house belonging to him, he starved him to death.

When he had gathered a considerable following Abu Saʿid established
himself at the town of al-ʾAhsa, besieged Hajar, the capital of the
Bahrayn, for a matter of two years, during which his followers were
considerably increased, and finally captured the town by cutting off its
water supply. Some of the inhabitants escaped to the islands in the river
near by, others embraced Abu Saʿid’s doctrines, whilst others were put
to death. The town was pillaged and ruined, and thus al-ʾAhsa afterwards
replaced it as the capital of the Bahrayn. According to Ibn Khallikan Abu
Saʿid first appeared as _kabir_ or “great man” of the Qarmatians in 286.
In 287 they made an attempt on Basra, and though they defeated the forces
sent by the Khalif to repel them, they were unable to take the city (Ibn
Khall., i. 427).

Abu Saʿid then attempted to get possession of Oman, but was obliged to
abandon this scheme. He was slain in 301 with several other Qarmatian
leaders, and was succeeded by his son Abu l-Kasam Saʿid, who held the
leadership until his second son Abu Tahar, who had been designated
successor, was old enough to take up the task, which happened in 305. The
Qarmatian risings which take a position of considerable prominence in
later history all took place under the successors of Abu Saʿid, who may
be regarded as the founder of the Qarmatians as a revolutionary force,
although there had been an earlier beginning of the sect as an off-shoot
of the Ismaʿilians under Hamdan and his missionaries.

According to Ibn Khallikan Abu Saʿid entered Syria in 289, and in 291
he was slain in his bath by one of his eunuchs. He left six sons. It
was Abu Tahar who marched on Basra in 311, occupied it without serious
resistance, and plundered the city. But to these doings of the Qarmatians
we shall return later.



The political career of the Fatimids centres in North Africa and Egypt,
and commences with the activity of Ibn Hawshab, who himself never visited
those parts. This man, whom Maqrizi calls Abu l-Kasam Hasan b. Farash
b. Hawshab, and Abu l-Fera and Bibars Mansuri, referred to as Rustam b.
Husayn b. Hawshab b. Zadam an-Najjar (“the carpenter”), was a follower
of Ahmad whom we have seen as succeeding his father ʿAbdullah, and
accompanied him on a pilgrimage to the sacred sites of the Shiʿites,
the tombs of Hasan and Husayn and of several of the later Imams, all
in the neighbourhood of Kufa and Samarra,—ʿAli’s own tomb is not known
for certain, but is commonly believed to be at Najaf, near Kufa. Whilst
there they noticed a wealthy Shiʿite of Yemen named Muhammad himself
remarked by his tears and display of grief (Maqrizi i. 349). According
to this Yemenite’s own account he had just read the Sura of “The
Grotto” (Qur. 18), when he noticed an old man with a young companion
close at hand. The old man sat down, his companion sat near, but kept
on observing Muhammad, until at last he left the old man and drew near
him. Muhammad asked him who he was; he gave his name as Husayn, and
hearing this sacred name Muhammad could not restrain his tears. The old
man observed this very attentively, and bids the young man ask him to
join them. When Muhammad did so he asked who and what he was. The man
replied that he was a Shiʿite, and gave his name as Hasan b. Faraj b.
Hawshab. The old man said that he knew his father, and that he was a
“Twelver.” Did the son hold the same views? Hasan replied that he always
had held them, but that of late he had felt much discouragement (cf.
extract in Quatremère, _Journal asiatique_, for Aug., 1836). From this a
conversation commenced, and as a result Hasan was converted to acceptance
of the Ismaʿilian creed. Further, Ahmad drew the conclusion that Yemen
would offer a promising field for Shiʿite propaganda, and decided to
send Ibn Hawshab to act as _daʿi_ in Yemen, and about A.H. 270 (= A.D.
883) he appears there as settled in the district of the B. Musa tribe at
Sana (Maq. i. 349). At first he claimed to be simply a merchant, but his
neighbours soon penetrated his disguise and urged him to act openly as a
Shiʿite missionary who, they assured him, would be in every way welcome
(Bibars Mansuri). Thus encouraged he declared himself a Shiʿite agent,
and soon gathered a considerable band of followers drawn, not only from
the immediate vicinity, but also from the Qarmatians of Mesopotamia. As
soon as they were strong enough Ibn Hawshab’s companions took up arms and
began raids upon neighbours who had not accepted the Shiʿite creed and
met with much success in obtaining plunder.

From the earliest period of Muslim history North Africa has been the
favourite field of exploitation of every sect and political party which
found itself in opposition to the official Khalifate, and there has
always been very close intercourse between that area and South Arabia;
indeed, there are even common peculiarities of dialect between the two.
Thus we find that as soon as the new Ismaʿilian sect was established in
Yemen, Ibn Hawshab sent two missionaries, Hulwani and Abu Sufyan (Maq.
ii. 10) to preach in the province of Ifrikiya, the modern Tripoli and
Tunis, where their work seems to have lain particularly amongst the
aboriginal Berber population, for the Berbers were always more disposed
to any heresy or rebellion which would give them a good pretext for
making war against the ruling Arabs. Nothing is known of the subsequent
history of these two missionaries save that after a brief career during
which they seem to have made a deep impression, especially on the Katama
tribe, they died. This Katama tribe lived in the broken territory
north-west of the town of Constantine, in what would now be north-east

As we shall have to refer more than once to the geography of North Africa
it will be convenient here to make a brief statement of its political
divisions and condition in the fourth century A.H. By North Africa we
understand the whole territory lying between the land of Egypt on the
east and the Atlantic on the west, bounded by the Mediterranean on the
north and by the great desert on the south. Previous to the Arab invasion
this land was inhabited by the Berbers or Libyans, the same who, under
the name of _Lebu_, had constantly threatened Egypt in the days of the
Pharaohs. As a race these Berbers seem to have progressed little since
neo-lithic times, and were still in the condition of nomadic tribes like
the Arabs of the pre-Islamic period. Their language was not Semitic,
but it has many very marked Semitic affinities and, although language
transmission is often quite distinct from racial descent, it seems quite
probable that in this case the race bore a parallel relation to the Arab
stock. This would be best explained by the supposition that both were
derived from a neo-lithic race, which at one time spread along the whole
of the southern coast of the Mediterranean and across into Western Asia,
but that some cause, perhaps the early development of civilization in
the Nile valley, had cut off the eastern wing from the rest, and this
segregated portion developed the distinctive characteristics which we
term Semitic.

Along the coast there had been a series of colonies, Greek, Punic,
Roman, and Visigothic, but these left no permanent mark on the Berber
population, language, or culture. Although at the time of the Arab
invasion the country was theoretically under the rule of Byzantium, and
the invaders had to meet the resistance of a Greek army, the early defeat
of the Greeks brought an immediate end to Greek influence in the country,
and left the Arabs face to face with the Berber tribes.

The Arab invasion of North Africa followed immediately after the
conquest of Egypt, but the internal disputes of the Muslim community
prevented this invasion from resulting in a regular conquest, much less
in settlement. It was not until the second invasion took place in A.H.
45 (= A.D. 665) that we can regard the Arabs as really beginning the
conquest of the country and its settlement. For centuries afterwards the
Arab hold was precarious in the extreme, and many Berber states were
founded from time to time, some of which had an existence of several
centuries. As a rule there was a pronounced racial antipathy between Arab
and Berber, but this was mild compared with the tribal feuds between
different Berber groups, and Arab rule was only possible by temporary
alliance with one or other of the quarrelling factions. Strangely enough
the religion of Islam spread rapidly amongst the Berbers, but it took
a peculiar development which shows the survival of many pre-Islamic
religious ideas and observances. The worship of saints and the reverence
paid to their tombs is a corruption of Islam which appears in most lands,
but in the West it takes an extreme form, although there are tribes
which reject it altogether. Similar worship, often in a revolting form,
is paid to living saints or _murabits_ (marabouts), who are allowed to
indulge every passion, and to disregard the ordinary rules of morality:
very often these reputed saints are no more than insane persons, for the
Berbers, like many other primitive people, regard insanity as a form of
divine inspiration. Such saints, even those living to-day, are credited
with miraculous powers, and especially with the power of surpassing the
limitations of time and place, and so to pass from one place to another
in an instant of time, and to be in two places at once.

These ideas, of course, are no legitimate development of Islam, to
which they are plainly repugnant, but represent the survival of older
pagan beliefs which Islam has not been able to eradicate. At the same
time, as we have noted, there are tribes which are completely free from
these ideas, and there is, especially in the towns, an element which is
strictly orthodox in its rejection of alien superstitions, and there
have been many learned theologians and jurists of the Berber race, for
the most part of a reactionary and conservative school of thought.
The conquest of Spain was carried out by Muslims, amongst whom the
Berbers were in the numerical majority, and the Berber element always
predominated in Spain, where some of the most brilliant philosophy,
literature, and art of the Islamic world was produced.

North Africa was always the home of the lost causes of Islam. Whenever
the Khalifs of Baghdad tried to exterminate some obnoxious sect or
dynasty, the last survivors took refuge in the remoter parts of the
West, and there managed to hold their own, so that even now those parts
show the strangest survivals of otherwise forgotten movements. But North
Africa always gave its readiest welcome to those sects which show a
strongly puritan character: though anyone in revolt against the Khalif or
other recognized authority could count on a welcome in North Africa for
that very fact.

In race, language, and religious ideas the Berbers of the North are one
with the Berber tribes of the great desert which spreads to the watershed
of the Benwe and connects, by regular trade routes following the ridges
which traverse North Africa from north-west to south-east, with the Horn
of Africa. But these desert dwellers of the south do not enter into the
subject of our present enquiry.

The Arab conquerors settled along North Africa and down to the desert
edge in sporadic groups, their tribes as a rule occupying the lower
ground, whilst the older population maintained itself in the mountainous
districts. But this does not mean that the Berbers were held at bay
as a subject people: the Katama, for instance, possessed some of the
best territory in North Africa, and were practically independent of the
Khalif. During the invasion of 45 the city of Kairawan was founded some
distance south of Tunis. The site was badly chosen, and it is now little
more than a decayed village, but for some centuries it served as the
political capital of _Ifrikiya_, the province which lay next to Egypt
and embraced the modern states of Tripoli, Tunis, and the eastern part
of Algeria to the meridian of Bougie. West of this lay _Maghrab_ or “the
western land” which was divided into two districts, Central Maghrab,
extending from the borders of Ifrikiya across the greater part of Algeria
and the eastern third of Morocco, and _Farther Maghrab_, which was the
land beyond to the Atlantic coast.

The Berber tribes were spread over all these provinces. In the eastern
part of Ifrikiya the chief were the tribes of _Hwara_, _Luata_,
_Nefusa_, and _Zuagha_: in Central Ifrikiya the _Warghu_ and _Nefzawa_:
in western Ifrikiya the _Nefzawa_, _Katama_, _Awraba_, and a number of
smaller tribes to the south: the chief tribes of Central Maghrab were the
_Zuawa_ (or Zouaves), _Magbrawa_, and _B. Mzab_: and in Farther Maghrab
the _B. Wanudin_, _Ghomara_ (in the Rif of Morocco), the _Miknasa_,
etc. No satisfactory result has ever been attained by those who have
tried to identify the ancient Numidians, Mauritanians, and Gaetuli with
existing tribes; evidently, as in Arabia, there have been new groupings
and new formations, which forbid the tracing back of the mediaeval
tribal divisions to ancient times; perhaps it was Islam which finally
rendered permanent the divisions as they existed in the first century of
the Hijra. Amongst these Berber tribes were spread the tribes of Arab
invaders and settlers which, even in the 10th century A.D. extended in
scattered groups from the borders of Egypt to the Atlantic. For the
most part each race preserved its own language, the Arabic dialects
being distinguished by archaic forms, and a phonology somewhat modified
by Berber influences; but there are several instances of Berber tribes
which have adopted Arabic, and some of Arabs and mixed groups which have
adopted the Berber language. For the most part the Arabs have had no
reluctance to mingle with the Berbers, but the attitude of the Berbers
varies, and some groups rigidly exclude intermarriage between themselves
and the Arabs or any others.

The Kharijites, the oldest and most turbulent dissenting sect of Islam,
the reactionaries who opposed the modification of Muslim customs under
Hellenistic influence, had appeared in Maghrab early in the 2nd century
of the Hijra after their suppression in Asia, and were still a living
force there in the fourth century, when their very name was almost
forgotten elsewhere. A small group of the less extreme branch of that
sect, the Ibadites, still survives in strict isolation in South Algeria.
The Idrisids, a dynasty descended from the house of Hasan the son of
ʿAli, founded by Idris who escaped from the attempted extermination of
his kinsmen at Madina in 169, ruled an independent state in Farther
Maghrab in the fourth century. The Umayyads dethroned by the ʿAbbasids
in 132, had a representative who escaped to North Africa, and then
crossed to Spain where they founded a Khalifate at Cordova which, in
the fourth century, had become a great and flourishing power. Indeed
the Maghrab was too remote from the Khalifs of Baghdad ever to be under
effective control: one after another punitive expeditions marched across
North Africa, the disaffected were defeated, the remnant took refuge in
the hills, and in the course of a few years or even months the former
condition returned again. Obviously those western lands offered a
promising field to the agitator, whether political rebel or sectarian
leader, and Ibn Hawshab’s missionaries had evidently struck a promising
vein in the Berber tribe of Katama.

Amongst those who attached themselves to Ibn Hawshab in Yemen was a
certain Abu ʿAbdullah Hasan (or Husayn) b. Ahmad b. Muhammad b. Zakariya,
afterwards surnamed ash-Shiʿi, a native of Sana and a zealous Shiʿite
who had been inspector of weights and measures in one of the districts
attached to Baghdad. He was a man not only of superior education and
intelligence, but astute and with as good knowledge of how to deal with
men. Before long he became one of Ibn Hawshab’s most trusty companions
and, when the news came of the death of the two missionaries who had
been sent to Africa, Ibn Hawshab determined to send him as _daʿi_,
and provided him with the funds necessary for his enterprise. Later
on we find him in Africa assisted by his brother, but we are without
information as to whether this brother was sent to join him later or set
out with him (Maqrizi ii. 11, Ibn Khallikan i. 465).

Abu ʿAbdullah’s first step was to go to Mecca and to find out where the
Katama pilgrims were lodged. As soon as he discovered this he engaged a
lodging near by and sat as close to them as he could, listening to their
conversation. Before long they began to talk about the prerogatives
of the house of ʿAli, a subject on which they had been instructed by
the two missionaries who had already visited their country, and Abu
ʿAbdullah joined in their conversation. When he stood up to go away
they begged to be allowed to visit him, and to this he assented. They
were delighted with his learning and began to frequent his society,
and one day they asked him where he intended to go when he had finished
his pilgrimage to Mecca. He replied that it was his intention to go
to Egypt, so they begged him to join them as they would have to pass
through Egypt on their homeward journey. They set out together, and
the good opinion they had formed of him was greatly increased as they
observed his piety, his regularity in the exercises of religion, and
his ascetic character. During all this time he mentioned no word of his
real intentions, but constantly directed the conversation to the subject
of the land of Katama, and asked many questions about the neighbouring
tribes and their relation with the governor of Ifrikiya. On this last
subject the Katamites explained that they did not regard the governor
as having any authority over them, his residence was ten days’ journey
from their country, and his control was nil. He further enquired if they
were accustomed to bear arms, and they replied that this was their usual

When they reached Egypt Abu ʿAbdullah said farewell to the Katama
tribesmen but, as they expressed deep regret at the idea of leaving him,
they asked what business he had to attend to in Egypt. He replied that he
had no business there but simply intended to become a teacher. “If that
is all,” they said, “our country will offer you a better field, and you
will find more who are disposed to become your pupils, for we know your
worth.” So as they pressed him warmly, he consented to continue in their
company, and went on until they met some of their fellow tribesmen who
came out to meet them. All these had come under the influence of the two
former missionaries and were devoted Shiʿites and, when they heard the
account given by the returning pilgrims, they welcomed Abu ʿAbdullah with
every demonstration of respect.

At length, about the middle of Rabiʿ I. 288 (Feb., 900 A.D.) they reached
home, and every one of his companions pressed the missionary to be his
guest. He declined all these offers of hospitality and asked them to
inform him where was the valley of _al-Khiyar_ (the righteous men). This
enquiry greatly astonished them as no one could remember that such a name
had ever been mentioned in his presence: they admitted, however, that
there was such a place and described its situation, and he then told them
that he would take up his abode there and visit each of them from time to
time. He then set out with some guides to Mount Inkijan where the valley
is situated, and when they arrived there he told his companions, “Here
is the ‘Valley of the righteous men’ and it is on your account that it
is thus named, for one reads in the traditions that ‘the Mahdi will be
obliged to make his migration, and will be helped in his flight by the
Righteous Men who will be on earth at that time, and by a nation whose
name is derived from _kitman_’; it is because you will rise up in this
valley which has been named ‘The valley of the Righteous Men’” (Maq. ii.
11). The derivation of the Berber name _Katama_ from the Arabic _kitman_
“secret” was, of course, no more than a play upon words.

Very soon the dwellers in the vicinity began to spread Abu ʿAbdullah’s
reputation, men came from all parts to visit him, and he completely
swayed a large body of Berber tribesmen amongst whom the Katama tribe
was most prominent. He made, however, no further mention of the Mahdi,
and did not seem to interest himself in the subject. But he connected
his work with that of the two former missionaries and said: “I am the
man entrusted with the sowing of whom Abu Safyan and Hulwani spoke to
you,” and this increased their attachment towards him and his importance
in their eyes (Maq. id. 37). Some, however, regarded him with disfavour,
for evidently there were Berber tribes which had not adopted Shiʿite
doctrines: but the Katama tribe under its chieftain Hasan b. Harun
supported him, and took up arms against those who tried to interfere with
his work. This inter-tribal dispute was the beginning of a long conflict,
which ultimately made the Shiʿites dominant in North Africa. Supported by
the Katama and a number of Kabyle tribes Hasan attacked and captured the
town of Tarrut, and then advanced against Meila.

Already reports of the religious teacher of Mount Ankijan had spread
through the province of Ifrikiya, and had reached Ibrahim b. Ahmad the
Aghlabi Emir. These Aghlabids were hereditary governors of Ifrikiya
established at Kairawan about 184 by the ʿAbbasid Khalifs, to whom
they paid tribute and were subject. Desirous of obtaining more accurate
information Ibrahim had sent to the governor of Meila to make enquiry
about Abu ʿAbdullah and his doings, but the governor had sent back
to Kairawan a somewhat contemptuous account of him, in which he was
described as a religious fanatic, a devotee revered as a saint by the
ignorant people, and so the political possibilities of his activity were

The taking of Tarrut and the advance on Meila, which city, after a brief
resistance, was betrayed by some of its inhabitants, made a change in
this attitude. Ibrahim sent an army under his brother Ahwal against
Abu ʿAbdullah and his followers, and defeated them, after which Ahwal
returned home fully convinced that the rising had been finally disposed
of. From this defeat Abu ʿAbdullah retired to Mount Ankijan where he
established a “house of flight,” and there he gathered his partisans
around him. As soon as he heard of Ahwal’s retirement he began a series
of forays, pillaging the surrounding districts and annoying those who did
not join the Shiʿite sect. At this Ahwal made a new expedition, but this
time he suffered a repulse, not severe enough to force him to retreat,
but compelling him to be satisfied with a defensive police duty in the
neighbourhood which was, however, effectual in checking the Shiʿite
raids. But this did not last long. In 291 (= A.D. 903) Ibrahim the
Aghlabi died, and the governorship passed to his son Ziadat Allah, a man
indolent and entirely devoted to pleasure, who recalled his brother Ahwal
from his military duties.

This, of course, opened new opportunities for Abu ʿAbdullah, and very
soon his followers were ranging at will through the whole province of
Ifrikiya, and he boldly declared that the Mahdi was now near at hand
and would soon appear in Africa, and would prove his sacred mission by
working miracles (Maq. ii. 11). Common report affirmed that Abu ʿAbdullah
himself had done many wonders, even making the sun rise in the west,
restoring the dead to life, and other marvels. Not only had he now a very
large following amongst the Berber tribesmen, but many of the officers
serving under Ziadat Allah were well disposed towards the Shiʿite
claims, and were secretly in correspondence with Abu ʿAbdullah.

At this juncture, in 291, the Shiʿites were practically supreme in all
the country west of the suburbs of Kairawan, and now Abu ʿAbdullah sent
messengers over to the Mahdi inviting him to cross into Africa. Ismaʿil
had just died at Salamiya, and shortly before his death advised his son
Saʿid to migrate to a distant land. As soon as his father died Saʿid and
his son Abu l-Kasam Nizar set out from Salamiya intending to go to Yemen,
but hearing of the success in North Africa changed their course in that
direction, probably meeting the messengers from Abu ʿAbdullah on the way
(cf. Ibn Khaldun ii. 515-516). The journey was beset with great perils,
especially in the passing through Egypt. At that time the governor of
Egypt was Abu Musa Isa b. Muhammad Nushari, who had been appointed after
the death of Ibn Tulun in 292, and held office until the government was
usurped by Khalanj in 293-4, after which the Khalif al-Muqtadi restored
him to office which he held until his death in 297. Saʿid, or ʿUbayd
Allah as he now preferred to call himself, arrived during this latter
period of office, and the governor had grounds of suspicion about him
without very clear information. The refugees left Misr, the old capital
lying to the south of the present Cairo, but the governor followed
and overtook them. He attempted no violence, but joined their company
and induced them to rest with him in a garden, his guard meanwhile
surrounding the place. He tried every means to win their confidence, and
so to find out who they were and what was the object of their journey: he
tried to coax ʿUbayd Allah to join him in taking refreshment, but ʿUbayd
Allah declined on the pretext that he was then observing a fast: then he
tried to get information by judicious questions, but in vain. At length
he allowed ʿUbayd Allah to go on his way. He offered the travellers an
escort, but this was politely declined. Then the governor assembled
his men to return home, but many of them showed their discontent that
the travellers had been allowed to escape, and on second thoughts the
governor himself regretted that he had not detained them for further
enquiry, and sent a body of men after them, but they had made good use
of their start, and it proved impossible to overtake them. Some said that
the governor had been bribed by ʿUbayd Allah, and this seems to be likely

After this escape ʿUbayd Allah, his son, and Abu l-ʿAbbas, the brother
of Abu ʿAbdullah, went on to Tripoli. The next town on their way would
be Kairawan, and ʿUbayd Allah was distinctly anxious about venturing
there, so he sent forward Abu l-ʿAbbas to obtain information. Now it
appears that Ziadat Allah had much clearer grounds of suspicion than the
Egyptian governor, and Abu l-ʿAbbas was not able to escape suspicion,
and was taken prisoner. Ziadat Allah does not seem to have been so much
interested in the prisoner himself, but made every endeavour to find
out some details about the companions with whom he was travelling. Abu
l-ʿAbbas denied that he had travelled with any companions, or that he
had any knowledge of a fugitive from Syria: he asserted that he was
simply a merchant passing through Ifrikiya on his own business. But
Ziadat Allah’s suspicions were not allayed: Abu l-ʿAbbas was detained in
custody, and a messenger was sent to Tripoli to secure the arrest of the
other travellers. The messenger, however, returned with the reply that
ʿUbayd Allah had already left the city before the order for his arrest
had arrived. Again the suggestion is made that the governor of Tripoli
had been won over by bribes. It is supposed that ʿUbayd Allah had been
able to take with him a great part of his considerable wealth, and that
it was easy for him to corrupt the provincial governors. Certainly he had
information of what had befallen Abu l-ʿAbbas in Kairawan. At first he
retired to Kastilia, but when he made sure that there was no possibility
of Abu l-ʿAbbas getting free and joining him there, he went on to
Sijilmassa (Maq. ii. 11).

At the time of his arrival in this town the ruling prince, al-Yasa b.
Midrar, had no grounds of suspicion, and received the travellers very
kindly. ʿUbayd Allah made him valuable presents, and they soon became
intimate. One day, however, as they were sitting together, a letter from
Ziadat Allah was put into al-Yasa’s hand, and in it the Aghlabi related
the suspicions he had formed about ʿUbayd Allah. The governor immediately
ordered the arrest of ʿUbayd Allah and his son, questioned them closely
about their relations with Abu l-ʿAbbas, and the suggestion that they
were in some way associated with Abu ʿAbdullah, but ʿUbayd Allah denied
any knowledge of either of these. The father and son were then separated
and confined in separate quarters, and the son, Abu l-Kasam, was examined
apart, but no information of any sort could be obtained from him.

Meanwhile, since the departure of the messengers from Abu ʿAbdullah to
ʿUbayd Allah, the former had continued his career of conquest. Meila,
Satif, and other towns immediately near the Katama territory were taken,
and the governor at Kairawan was no longer able to disguise from himself
that the Shiʿite revolt was threatening the very basis of Arab authority
in Ifrikiya. Under these circumstances Ziadat Allah assembled a council
of canonists to advise him about the Shiʿite claims. The meeting took
place in the house of the prince’s chief adviser, Abdullah b. Essaig,
and, after considering the religious character of Abu ʿAbdullah’s
movement, and especially the report that “he cursed the Companions,”
_i.e._, that he was a Shiʿite who cursed the first three Khalifs as
usurpers who had excluded ʿAli from his rights, regardless of the fact
that they had been the companions of the Prophet, they decided that Abu
ʿAbdullah and his followers must be publicly denounced as heretics.
Fortified with this decision which was necessary to stop the tendency of
his own people to favour the Shiʿites, the Aghlabid assembled an army
of 40,000 men whom he placed under a kinsman named Ibrahim b. Habashi
b. ʿUmar at-Tamimi, and sent them against the Katama. Ibrahim took up
his quarters at Konstantina l-Hawa, on the western edge of the Katama
country, and there he stayed six months without actually attacking
the Shiʿites, but serving as a check upon their movements. As soon as
he appeared Abu ʿAbdullah retired to his usual retreat, “the house of
flight,” and no further advance was made on either side. As Ahwal had
already proved, this kind of patrol work was the most effective. But
Ibrahim desired a decisive punishment of the revolted tribes, and rashly
resolved to move out and attack Kerma, one of the cities occupied by the
Shiʿites. On the way Abu ʿAbdullah met and defeated him, and he had to
flee with the remnants of his army to Kairawan.

Matters were now becoming extremely serious, and Ziadat assembled a new
force which he entrusted to Harun b. Tabni. Harun marched upon Daralmoluk
and took it, but immediately afterwards Abu ʿAbdullah arrived with his
main band, and a general engagement ensued, in which Harun was killed and
his forces completely routed. After this victory Abu ʿAbdullah marched
upon Banjas, which capitulated, and then was in a position to threaten
Kairawan itself. We have now reached the year 295, and at this point
Ziadat Allah raised a third army and took command himself. He advanced
to Elaris, but there his courtiers began to remonstrate with him: if any
disaster took place and he were involved it would mean the downfall of
the Aghlabid dynasty, a result which would not necessarily proceed from
the defeat of a subordinate general. Persuaded by his entourage Ziadat
Allah appointed his kinsman Ibrahim as commander-in-chief, and himself
retired to Raqada to the south-west of Kairawan, and gave himself over
entirely to a life of pleasure.

Meanwhile Abu ʿAbdullah was extending his authority over the whole
country. He was invited to Bagaya which he occupied, then took by force
the small towns of Majana, Sash, and Maskanaya. His politic clemency at
Bagaya produced a good impression, and did much to assist him in gaining
over other towns. His success caused great alarm to Ziadat Allah, and
he consulted ʿAbdullah b. Essaig, who advised him to retire to Egypt
and leave a general in charge of the army, but Ibrahim persuaded him to
abandon this idea. Soon afterwards Abu ʿAbdullah advanced to Merida,
where were many refugees from the towns already taken. The inhabitants
asked for terms, and Abu ʿAbdullah’s lieutenants agreed, the leader
himself being absent. When the envoys from the citizens returned and the
gates were opened to admit them, the attacking army made a sudden rush,
forced their way in, and pillaged the city.

Abu ʿAbdullah now resolved to attack Raqada where Ziadat Allah was
established. As he marched towards that town Ibrahim tried to intercept
him, and for this purpose left al-Arbes where he was encamped, and
occupied Derdemin, which lay near the route which Abu ʿAbdullah would
have to take. On his way the Shiʿites sent a detachment to take Derdemin,
without apparently being aware that this was now Ibrahim’s headquarters.
The detachment was repulsed and put to flight. Abu ʿAbdullah was unable
to understand why the detachment did not return, and went after them with
reinforcements to find out. On the way they met their comrades in full
flight from Derdemin, but at their arrival the fugitives stopped, turned
back, and with the help of the new-comers inflicted a severe defeat on
Ibrahim. This was followed by the submission of Qafra and Qastilia,
the latter place being a general depot for Ziadat Allah’s munitions,
provisions, and money, all of which fell into the Shiʿites’ hands. For
the moment, however, Abu ʿAbdullah refrained from further advance: he
settled at Bagaya and established his headquarters there, and then
retired for a time on his own account to Mount Ankijan.

Ibrahim then decided to take the offensive and laid siege to Bagaya, news
of which quickly brought Abu ʿAbdullah back from his retirement, bringing
12,000 newly enrolled tribesmen with him. But Bagaya was offering such a
sturdy resistance to Ibrahim that the besieger was both astonished and
discouraged, and, hearing of Abu ʿAbdullah’s approach, retired again to

In the spring of the following year, A.H. 296, the two armies of Ziadat
Allah and Abu ʿAbdullah both took the field. The historians state that
the former numbered 200,000 men, the latter many more. It must, of
course, be remembered that figures of this sort by oriental writers are
hardly deserving of the least attention. An engagement took place with
results unfavourable to Ibrahim, who forthwith retired to Kairawan,
the strongest military stronghold in Africa. As a consequence of this
Abu ʿAbdullah was enabled to enter al-Arbes, and a great massacre of
the inhabitants took place, some 3,000 it is said being killed in the
principal mosque. The following morning Abu ʿAbdullah retired to Bagaya.
Next day the news reached Ziadat Allah. For some time ʿAbdullah b.
Essaig endeavoured to conceal it from the citizens, but when he offered
20 dinars to each volunteer willing to serve in the cavalry, and 10
dinars to each recruit for the infantry, the citizens perceived that
the state was reduced to the last extremities and a panic ensued, many
of the nobles and their dependents leaving for Raqada. Ziadat Allah
himself packed up his valuables, and with the favourite ladies of his
harim set out for Egypt. ʿAbdullah b. Essaig was put in charge of the
prince’s goods, and these were loaded on thirty camels, but unfortunately
they missed their way as they started in the dark, and arrived at Susa
where the governor impounded them, and they finally fell a prey to Abu
ʿAbdullah. ʿAbdullah b. Essaig himself tried to escape by sea, but a
storm drove his ship ashore at Tripoli just as Ziadat Allah, angry at
missing his goods, was stopping there. The unfortunate minister was
brought before the prince as a deserter, but made so good a defence that
Ziadat Allah decided to pardon him; the courtiers, however, intervened,
and he was beheaded.

After reaching Egypt, Ziadat Allah passed on to Rakka and sent forward
messengers to the Khalif asking permission to present himself at
Baghdad. A reply came forbidding him to attend at court and ordering him
to await further instructions at Rakka. He stayed there a whole year
which he spent in pleasure, and then received instructions to return
to Africa, the governor of Egypt being directed to prepare supplies to
equip him for an expedition against the Shiʿites. In accordance with
these orders he travelled back to Egypt, where the governor told him to
wait for the supplies at Dhatu l-Hammam. He waited there a long time
in vain, and then, as he was now in broken health he started out for
Palestine, but was taken worse on the way and died at Ramla. With him the
Aghlabid dynasty of hereditary governors of Ifrikiya, under the ʿAbbasid
Khalifate, came to an end.

When Abu ʿAbdullah heard of the Emir’s flight he went at once to Wady
an-Namal, and sent forward 1,000 men under Arunaba b. Yusus and Hasan
b. Jarir to Raqada. The news soon reached Kairawan, and a deputation
was sent out to congratulate the Shiʿites. These emissaries thought to
ingratiate themselves by making contemptuous and hostile reflections upon
the late ruler, but Abu ʿAbdullah rebuked them, stating that Ziadat
Allah had lacked neither courage nor intelligence, but that defeat had
overtaken him because it was the will of God. His gracious reception of
the envoys from Kairawan caused great annoyance to the Katama tribesmen,
to whom he had made a promise that they would be allowed to plunder the

In Rajab I. 296 Abu ʿAbdullah, at the head of 300,000 men, entered Raqada
to find the town entirely deserted by its inhabitants. He established
himself in one of the empty mansions, and the leaders of the Katama
occupied others (Maq. ii. 11). He then sent to Tripoli to fetch his
brother Abu l-ʿAbbas and Abu Jaʿfar, as well as ʿUbayd Allah’s mother,
who had apparently accompanied her son, though we hear no more about her.
Abu ʿAbdullah was a fervent Shiʿite and established a strict puritan
rule in Kairawan, death being the penalty for drinking wine or bringing
it into the city. The Shiʿite formula was used in the call to prayer,
which implied the addition of the words “come to the excellent work”
to the orthodox call, and the names of ʿAli, Fatima, Hasan, and Husayn
were inserted in the _Khutba_ or public prayer at the Friday service. As
in modern Persia the supreme authority was attributed to the concealed
Imam, and the civil government based its rights on the claim to act as
his deputy until the day of his revealing. In Kairawan the proper deputy
would naturally be the Mahdi ʿUbayd Allah, but no public announcement
was made of this as yet. The Khatibs of Kairawan and Raqada were ordered
to omit the name of the ʿAbbasid Khalif from the _khutba_, but no other
ruler’s name was inserted in its place. A new coinage was prepared, and
this similarly bore no prince’s name; simply it had the inscription on
one side, “I have borne my witness to God,” and on the other “May the
enemies of God be scattered.”

During these events ʿUbayd Allah remained still imprisoned at Sijalmasa,
but now the time had arrived for his supporters to rescue him. Abu
ʿAbdullah’s two brothers, Abu l-ʿAbbas and Abu Zakir, who had hitherto
taken no very prominent position, were left as deputies at Raqada, and
Abu ʿAbdullah with a large body of followers marched towards Sijalmasa.
The object most desired was of course the liberation of ʿUbayd Allah,
and the danger was that the governor might put him and his son to death
before the Shiʿites could rescue them. It was necessary, therefore, to
avoid irritating al-Yasa the governor. Abu ʿAbdullah halted his army at
some distance from the city, and sent forward envoys bearing a letter in
which he assured al-Yasa that he desired no conflict, but only asked that
ʿUbayd Allah and his son might be set free. Al-Yasa only threw the letter
on the ground and had the envoys put to death. A second letter produced a
similar result, and then Abu ʿAbdullah advanced and camped his men before
the city, intending to make an attack on the following day. During the
night al-Yasa escaped with all his portable goods and relatives. Next
morning the inhabitants sent out and informed Abu ʿAbdullah, who went at
once to the prison whence he liberated ʿUbayd Allah and his son. Leading
the Mahdi out he showed him to the people, saying: “This is the Mahdi to
whose obedience I invited men.” He then set him and his son on horses and
paraded them through the streets, crying, “This is your lord,” frequently
interrupting his cry with tears of joy. He conducted them to a tent
which had been made ready for them, and sent a body of men in pursuit of
al-Yasa (Maq. ii. 11-12). The fugitive governor was overtaken, brought
back, and executed.

Ibn Khallikan gives another account of the taking of Sijalmasa, in
which it is related that, before leaving the city al-Yasa executed
ʿUbayd Allah, and when Abu ʿAbdullah entered his cell he found only the
dead body and a faithful Jewish slave. Knowing that the absence of the
Mahdi would be fatal to the whole Shiʿite scheme, he seized the slave,
compelled him to silent acquiescence, and leading him out declared, “This
is the Mahdi” (Ibn Khall. ii. 78). This is another form of the “Jewish
legend,” to which we have already referred (cf. p. 47, above).

For forty days ʿUbayd Allah remained at Sijalmasa, and then, towards the
end of Rabiʿ II. 297 he was conducted by Abu ʿAbdullah to Raqada. Here
he assumed the title of “al-Mahdi, Commander of the Faithful,” and on
the following Friday was prayed for under that title in the mosques of
Raqada and Kairawan. On the same day the Sherif and the _duʿat_ held
a public meeting, at which they tried to persuade the people of Raqada
to become professed members of the Ismaʿilian sect. In this, however,
they were only partially successful, although lavish rewards were
offered to those who joined, and many of those who definitely refused
were imprisoned, some even put to death. In fact we are now in quite
different surroundings: the Mahdi was a successful adventurer, and had
every prospect of establishing a principality quite as stable, and more
independent than that of the Aghlabids: the religious pretensions of
the Shiʿite party were only an embarrassment. From this time forward
the Ismaʿilian sectaries form a privileged class, on the whole disliked
and despised by the people generally, who were quite ready to submit to
the Mahdi’s government, though deriding its spiritual claims; and the
tendency is for the ruler rather to disembarrass himself of the sectaries.

Ziadat Allah’s harim was then presented to the Mahdi who, after selecting
such women as met with his approval for himself and his son, distributed
the remainder amongst the chief men of the Katama.

As soon as ʿUbayd Allah had entered Raqada the citizens had waited on
him to obtain the renewal of the amnesty accorded by Abu ʿAbdullah. He
replied to them, “Your lives and your children are safe.” They asked him
if he would give them a similar assurance as to their property, but this
he refused. This caused great anxiety amongst the citizens, who gathered
that their property was regarded as at the disposal of the Shiʿites. At
first ʿUbayd Allah showed a much more violent Shiʿism than Abu ʿAbdullah,
although we seem justified in supposing that he was merely an adventurer
who was entirely without religious convictions, whilst Abu ʿAbdullah
seems to have been a devout Shiʿite: but this is by no means the only
instance in history where religious persecution was carried out most
severely by unbelievers. He caused the “Companions,” _i.e._, the three
Khalifs preceding ʿAli, to be reviled openly, just as ʿAli himself had
formerly been cursed publicly every Friday in the mosque of Damascus; and
he strictly prohibited the canonists from teaching or using any system of
jurisprudence other than that attributed to Jaʿfar as-Sadiq.

Year 298 (= A.D. 910). Abu ʿAbdullah had proved himself a loyal and
efficient helper, and had done more than any other to establish the Mahdi
in Africa. It seems that he was a sincere Shiʿite, and acted throughout
in perfect good faith and in attachment to the Mahdi with whom he had
corresponded, but probably had never seen before he entered the prison
at Sijilmasa. In 298 these feelings changed. One account is that Abu
ʿAbdullah and the chiefs of the Katama began to feel doubts about the
Mahdi’s claim because he proved unable to work any miracles, and ability
to perform miracles had always been assumed as one of the evidences of a
Mahdi’s claims. Working miracles always has been and still is the primary
essential of a _murabit_ (marabout) in North Africa, and there need be
no reason to doubt that the non-fulfilment of the probably extravagant
Berber expectations must have caused serious disappointment amongst the
Katama. Then again, the Berbers, like the Arabs, are naturally fickle
and insubordinate; in the ordinary course of things they would be sure
to murmur before long against any ruler, especially against one near
at hand. Did Abu ʿAbdullah share their feelings? or did he excite them
for his own ends? Ibn Khallikan states that when the Mahdi was firmly
established at Kairawan, Abu l-ʿAbbas reproached his brother that “You
were master of the country and uncontrolled arbiter of its affairs,
yet you have delivered it over to another and consent to remain in the
position of an inferior,” and at this Abu ʿAbdullah began to regret that
he had handed everything over to the Mahdi and commenced plotting against
him (Ibn Khall. i. 465). But it must be remembered that Ibn Khallikan
shows a very marked anti-Fatimid bias. It seems more likely that both
Abu ʿAbdullah and the Berbers were really disappointed to find the Mahdi
an ordinary mortal. The matter was debated in the presence of the chief
sheikh of the Katama, and Abu ʿAbdullah expressed his doubts, saying:
“His actions are not like those of the Mahdi to whom I used to try to
win you: I am afraid I have been mistaken in him, and have suffered a
delusion similar to that of Ibrahim al-Khalit when the night closed over
him and he saw a star and said, ‘This is my lord’ (Qur. vi. 76). It is
therefore incumbent on me and you to examine him, and to make him show
those proofs which are known to the genealogists as those to be found
in the Imam” (Arib b. Saʿid, _Nicholson_, pp. 120-121). As a result
the Sheikh of the Katama waited upon ʿUbayd Allah and asked for the
performance of a miracle as a proof of his claim to be the Mahdi. The
reply was the immediate execution of the Sheikh. This gave serious alarm
to Abu ʿAbdullah and his brothers, who held a meeting by night in the
house of the youngest brother Abu Zakir. This night meeting may have been
merely a conference to discuss changed conditions, or it may have been in
the nature of a conspiracy. Such meetings continued for some time, and
very probably treasonable plans were suggested, even if not seriously
adopted: at any rate suspicion was aroused, the brothers were watched,
and full information of their proceedings was carried to the Mahdi. One
morning Abu ʿAbdullah appeared at court with his garment turned inside
out, the Mahdi took no notice. Next day the same thing happened, and so
on the third. On the last of these occasions the Mahdi asked him why he
wore his garment so. He replied that it was an oversight; he had not
noticed that it was turned the wrong way. The Mahdi continued, “Did you
not pass the night at the house of Abu Zakir?”—he replied, “Yes,”—“Why
did you do so?”—Abu ʿAbdullah answered that he did so because he was
afraid. The Mahdi remarked that one only feared when there was cause
to believe that there was an enemy. He then showed that he was fully
aware of the meetings, that he knew the names of those present, and the
subject of their conversation. As a punishment he declared that the three
brothers should be expelled from Kairawan, and that Abu Zakir, who seems
to have been the moving spirit, should be sent to Tripoli as governor.
There had been a revolt of the Hawarite tribe in Tripoli, and so it
seemed that Abu Zakir was to be sent on military service as a punishment,
replacing the governor who was his uncle. At Kairawan this seemed a just
and proper measure, for conspiracy could hardly be passed over, but the
penalty involved no disgrace or apparent severity. So Abu Zakir set
out for Tripoli bearing a letter to the governor. But unknown to him
the letter contained orders for his instant execution. As soon as the
governor read the letter he sent for Abu Zakir and showed it to him; the
nephew admitted that it was the will of God and submitted to be beheaded.
News of this was sent by carrier pigeon to the Mahdi, who perceived that
it was now time to get rid of the other two brothers before they took
the alarm. He invited them to a repast, but sends two officers, Garwaih
al-Mulusi and Jaʿbar al-Mili, to conceal themselves behind the castle of
as-Sachu and way-lay them as they passed. They did so and killed them
with pikes. The bodies laid uncared for at the brink of a cistern until
after the following noon, then the Mahdi orders them to be taken up and
given a public funeral at which he himself officiated. In explanation of
his action the Mahdi wrote a letter to the Shiʿites of Asia in which he
said: “Ye know the position in which Abu ʿAbdullah and Abu ʿAbbas stood
with regard to Islam; but Satan hath caused them to stumble, and they
have been punished with the sword. Farewell” (Arib b. Saʿid, _Nicholson_,
p. 128).

But the murder of Abu ʿAbdullah was not taken easily by all the Katama
tribe, and a riot followed the funeral. At this the Mahdi showed the
personal courage which, equally with a total absence of scruple or
gratitude, became characteristic of his dynasty. Mounting his horse he
rode out into the streets, and declared that now justice was satisfied,
and that no further enquiry would be made or punishments inflicted. He
was so far successful that the people dispersed quietly.

We may take the murder of Abu ʿAbdullah as marking the establishment of
the Khalifate at Kairawan. Hitherto it had been more or less surrounded
with a religious atmosphere; it had been essentially connected with a
particular religious sect. Now, with the death of Abu ʿAbdullah it is
established frankly as a secular power, although the religious claims
are still maintained in the background. The Shiʿite position, however,
now appears rather as political than sectarian. The orthodox Khalif was
ruling at Baghdad, but the Mahdi’s followers regarded him simply as a
usurper. The same view was taken by the Umayyad rulers in Spain, although
at this time they had not yet ventured to assume the title of Khalif.
Amongst the Shiʿites proper the Khalif exists only as the “concealed”
Imam, and the visible ruler on earth is merely his viceroy: but the Mahdi
claimed to be not only Mahdi, but the heir of the Imams, and thus assumed
the Khalifate as the legitimate heir of ʿAli.



Led by religious enthusiasms, the Berber tribes had succeeded in sweeping
away the Arab government of the province of Ifrikiya. To a very large
extent, however, this was as much a racial and anti-Arab movement of
the Berbers as a religious one: of course, very much the same has been
true of every Mahdist movement in Africa. The history of Islam is full
of similar revolts, for the most part either with a religious motive,
or at least a religious pretext. Now the destructive work was finished
and the Mahdi settled at Kairawan, having damped or perhaps quenched the
religious fervour of his followers by the execution of Abu ʿAbdullah and
the implied shelving of the miraculous powers which his earlier followers
had associated with him, was faced with the task of constructing an
orderly and stable principality out of what must be confessed to have
been rather unpromising materials. More than once the Semitic and Berber
tribes have shewn themselves quite capable of nation-building, and their
work has not always been short-lived. The religious motive was effective
in arousing the enthusiasm of fighting men, the task of framing political
institutions demanded different qualities. At this time, no doubt, we
must regard the Mahdi as primarily a political adventurer: that he had
any serious regard for Shiʿite principles is incredible; that he was the
missionary of an enlightened philosophy which would deliver men from the
fetters of religion,—a position which may have been true of his ancestor
ʿAbdullah,—is extremely improbable in his case. Unexpected circumstances
had given him an exceptional opportunity as the founder of a dynasty, and
we have now to see how he used this opportunity.

Towards religion the Mahdi’s attitude had been at first one of rabid
Shiʿism, though he, as one of the fully initiated, could not have been
sincere: no doubt he was acting up to what he expected to be the feelings
of his subjects so far as he had observed the Katama and the immediate
followers of Abu ʿAbdullah: closer acquaintance with the people of
Kairawan showed him that he had been mistaken, the people generally were
quite ready for a Mahdi, or anyone else, who could establish and maintain
an orderly government, but as Muslims they were orthodox by a large
majority, and by no means willing to accept the rather fantastic theories
of incarnation and transmigration which appealed to the Persian mind.
As soon as this was made clear the Mahdi formulated a definite policy
in religion, enforcing strictly all the outward observances of Islam,
rigidly punctilious in the prohibition of forbidden food and drink, and
punishing severely those of the Ismaʿilian sect, who tried to practice
the freedom of the higher grades of the initiated. It was no doubt
possible for the initiate to disregard the rites of religion in their
private life, but any external neglect, likely to cause scandal amongst
the populace at large, was treated as a criminal offence: there was none
of the open lawlessness of the Qarmatians tolerated in Ifrikiya: the
inner grades of the sect were distinguished from other Muslims only by
their reverence for the family of ʿAli, whom all revered to some extent,
by their repudiation of the first three Khalifs, which was offensive to
the orthodox but not intolerable, and by a few minor differences in the
ritual of prayer, and in the treatment of the problems of the canon law.

The most difficult problem demanding the new ruler’s immediate attention
lay in the lands to the west, for the Mahdi claimed to control all the
territory to the Atlantic, over which the Aghlabid princes had pretended
to rule. The first difficult task came in the revolt of Tiharet.

For long past the Berber lands of North Africa had afforded a refuge
for every persecuted sect and dynasty of Islam. The earliest sect, the
Kharijites, the wild men of the desert who adhered to the oldest form of
purely Arab Islam, had entered Africa after they had been hunted down and
slaughtered in Asia by the Umayyad Khalifs. In the days of the Mahdi
they still held their own in the district of Tiharet in the mountainous
country of Central Maghrab. They threw off all allegiance to the ruler at
Kairawan and invited Muhammad b. Khazar to be their Emir. The Mahdi sent
the Katami Aruba b. Yusuf against them: after three days siege the city
was taken, plundered, and some 8,000 of the inhabitants slain.

The Umayyads who had put down the Kharijites in Asia had been compelled
by the course of events to seek a refuge in Africa for themselves, and
thence had passed over to Spain which was regarded as the remotest of
the western parts. At this time they were ruling at Cordova (they did
not assume the title of Khalif until A.H. 317), and held also some
possessions in Africa about Oran. The same Karmati leader who had taken
Tiharet was able to seize Oran.

The Idrisid dynasty, descendants of ʿAli by Hasan, expelled from Madina
in 169, had founded a state in the remoter part of Morocco where they
were still ruling. This state also was attacked by Aruba and reduced, so
that all the western lands to the Atlantic coast was brought under the
control of the Mahdi (Ibn Khald. i. 244-5, 267-8, etc.).

This course of consolidation of the most loosely held part of the Muslim
world speaks well for the organising ability of the general Aruba, and
established the Mahdi’s authority upon a sound foundation. It was,
however, disturbed by domestic difficulties in the capital. Kairawan was
an Arab colony, but under the Mahdi the Berbers were in the ascendant,
and racial disputes were inevitable. One day a Katama tribesman treated a
city merchant with insolence; a riot ensued, and some 1,000 of the Katama
were slain. After this had been repressed the governor rode through
the city and ordered the dead bodies of the Berbers to be removed. The
workmen who carried out this order threw the bodies into the channel
which served as the city sewer. At this the Katama tribesmen removed from
the city in indignation, and declared that they would no longer submit
to the Mahdi’s rule, and chose a youth named Kadu as their emir. Very
soon this rebel was in possession of the whole province of Zab, and the
Mahdi sent several generals against him without result. Some of these
generals, indeed, deserted to the enemy, for the Berbers were the main
fighting force in Africa, and there was a general indignation amongst
them at the way in which the Katama rebels in Kairawan had been treated,
and there were many followers of Abu ʿAbdullah still who threw in their
lot with the revolted Berbers. At length ʿUbayd Allah sent his son Abu
l-Qasim, and he, with some difficulty, managed to reduce the tribesmen.

In 300 the colony of Tripoli revolted. There, as in Kairawan, there had
been riots between the Berbers and Arabs. When Abu l-Qasim returned from
punishing the tribes he advanced to attack Tripoli, whilst the Mahdi
at the same time sent a fleet against it, and after some delay it was
reduced. Then Sicily revolted, and this proved to be a permanent loss
to the Fatimid Khalifs. At first the Sicilians invited Ahmad, a son of
Ziadat Allah, the former emir of Kairawan, to take charge. He refused,
but after some time, as the invitation was repeated, he consented to
be recognised as emir of Sicily. As soon as he was established he sent
a letter to the Khalif of Baghdad professing loyalty and asking to be
confirmed as emir by the Khalif. Thus Sicily broke away from the Fatimid
dominions and became once more a part of the empire of the ʿAbbasid

In 301 the Mahdi founded a new city on the coast near Kairawan, and gave
to it the name of al-Mahadiya. The site was very badly chosen, and the
place afterwards decayed completely, although it served as the Fatimid
capital for some generations. At the same time he commenced building a
fleet, by the help of which he hoped to make an attack upon Egypt in
due course; no doubt he was by this time convinced that his kingdom in
North Africa was not likely to be a stable one, just as it had been
held precariously by the Arab rulers who preceded him: in fact it was
an unsettled and savage country, which could be under control only so
long as under actual military occupation. Probably, also, he hoped that
the prospect of conquering Egypt would attach the Berbers to him more
successfully. The weak point in these plans was that the building and
manning of a fleet depended almost entirely on what Greek help he could
hire. Soon afterwards he sent his general Khubasa eastwards and extended
his authority, somewhat precariously, to Barqa. In the summer of 302
he made his first attempt against Egypt, sending forces by land under
his son Abu l-Qasim, and Khubasa against Alexandria. The inhabitants
of that city were obliged to take refuge in the ships in the harbour,
whilst the invaders plundered their houses. The invading army then passed
southwards to the Fayyum, but here they were met by an Egyptian army
strongly reinforced from Baghdad, and compelled to retire. The effort,
however, had brought the invasion of Egypt within the sphere of practical
politics, and the plunder of Alexandria raised much enthusiasm amongst
the Mahdi’s followers. At that time the ʿAbbasid Khalifate was in its
decline: in Baghdad the government was in the hands of the military
guard, the commander of that guard was the real ruler, the Khalif being
no more than a figure head liable to be deposed and replaced at the will
of the soldiery. The provinces were semi-independent, in most cases ruled
by hereditary emirs who paid no more than a formal tribute of respect
to the Khalif; indeed, in many cases it meant simply that his name was
mentioned in the Friday prayer. Of all the provinces Egypt was, perhaps,
the worst administered, and the ripest for falling away from the ʿAbbasid
dominions. It was on the verge of disintegration by natural decay,
whilst the Fatimid state which coveted it, though outwardly strong and
efficient, had already showed that it had the seeds of internal weakness
in the tribal jealousies of Berbers and Arabs.

In 307 the Mahdi’s armies made another attempt on Egypt, this time
supported by a fleet of 85 ships, which passed along the coast from
al-Mahadiya and anchored in the harbour of Alexandria. The Khalif’s
officers at Baghdad could only get together 25 ships which were assembled
at Tarsus and sailed over to Alexandria. But those twenty-five ships were
manned by experienced Greek mariners, and inflicted a decisive defeat on
the Mahdi’s fleet.

As Egypt now enters very directly into the affairs of the Fatimids, it
will be necessary to consider its condition. For the last four years it
had been governed by the Emir Dhuka ar-Rumi, _i.e._, Ducas the Roman
(or Greek). Before the defeat of the Mahdi’s fleet Dhuka resolved to
check the invaders who had followed their former route to the Fayyum,
and were laying waste and plundering at will. He had great difficulty
in inducing the Egyptian army to move at all, but at last marched out
to Giza and encamped on the same side of the Nile as the Mahdi’s army.
Soon afterwards he died, and the governorship was taken over by Tekin
al-Khassa, who had been governor before from 298 to 303 and had been
associated with the former victory over the Shiʿites. Immensely popular
with the soldiery, his resumption of office made an immediate change,
and he was able to take the offensive and inflict a serious check upon
the invaders, about the same time as the naval victory at Alexandria.
Although the Fayyum was cleared the Fatimid forces were still in control
in Upper Egypt, whither their cavalry had pressed on whilst others stayed
in the Fayyum. There the extreme narrowness of the Nile valley and the
exposed condition of the Bahariya and the other oases always meant a
minimum of defence, and the invaders were able to hold their own until
the next year. That meant that the whole area was infested by bands of
light cavalry, rapidly moving Bedwin, both Berber and Arab, always able
to retreat at will into the neighbouring desert and very difficult to be
restrained by any ordinary military force. In our own dealings with the
Sanusi in 1916 we had experience of such difficulty. The only possible
solution is a system of organised military patrol, which takes some
little time to dispose efficiently. That Egypt was cleared after a few
months’ interval shows that Tekin had considerable ability in handling
the military task with which he was confronted.

These attacks of the Shiʿites revealed another weakness in Egypt. There
was strong reason to suspect that they had many sympathisers there.
There was an active branch of the Ismaʿilian propaganda at work in the
country, and all who were initiated in the sect were of necessity spies
and helpers of the invaders. Two at least of the leading officials, the
Qadi and the Treasurer were in correspondence with the Mahdi and in his
employ: this does not mean that they were converts to the Shiʿite sect,
but simply that they were disloyal to their own service as the result
of personal jealousies and rivalries, the perennial bane of all oriental
governments. It was only the support of the army which maintained
Tekin, and even so he was not in a position to attack his rivals in the
government. When he had been successful in clearing the country of the
Mahdi’s forces, he had his reward in dismissal from the governorship in
which he was succeeded by Muhammad b. Hamal, but three days later he
was restored, to be deposed again soon afterwards as the result of more
palace intrigues. The two following governors, Hilal b. Badr and Ahmad
b. Kayghalagh, held office, the first for two years, the other for one,
and then in 312 Takin was restored and remained governor until his death
in 321. Conditions indeed were such that only a military leader with the
support of the army could exercise any effective control in the country.
The reinforcements sent from Baghdad in 302 had done more harm than the
Shiʿite invaders; they had totally demoralised the native soldiery, and
the army was now no more than a large troop of brigands who lived on
the plunder of the country. At his appointment in 312 Takin established
the army in camps around his own palace as well as in quarters in the
building itself, and, more by the force of his own personality than
anything else, managed to keep them fairly in hand until his death. It
was no small feat, for he was utterly unable to provide them with their
pay, which was many years in arrear. At his death the governorship
was assumed by his son Muhammad, but he had not his father’s power or
popularity, and was soon mobbed and driven out by the discontented
soldiers clamouring for their pay. The Treasurer Madaraʿi, who was in the
Mahdi’s employ and largely responsible for the disorder in the finances,
was obliged to hide himself. Several ambitious officers assumed the
title of Governor and tried the expedient of raising funds by brigandage
organised on a larger scale than usual, and the country had relief only
in the fact that these were soon occupied in war against one another.
It is not difficult to understand that the eyes of many Egyptians were
turned longingly towards Kairawan, where the Mahdi, in an efficient
though somewhat brutal manner, was administering a firm and well ordered
state, maintaining civil law and peace. This is the easier to appreciate
when we remember that Ismaʿilian missionaries were busy in Egypt, and
the orderly government at Kairawan would naturally form one of their

At this juncture, when Egypt was plunged in anarchy, the Khalif at
Baghdad intervened and appointed as governor Muhammad b. Tughj the
Ikhshid, son of the Emir of Syria, who had himself been governor of
Damascus since 318. As his name denotes, this new governor was of Turkish
birth. For some time now the Khalifs, seriously alarmed at the growing
independence of the various dynasties of hereditary governors, especially
in Persia and the neighbouring lands, had been introducing Turkish
mercenaries, reckless of the inevitable consequences.

The conditions of the Khalifate at this time show a close parallel
with those prevailing in Europe under the later Karlings, when “the
governor,—count, abbot, or bishop—tightened his grasp, turned a delegated
into an independent, a personal into a territorial authority, and hardly
owned a distant and feeble suzerain” (Bryce: _Holy Rom. Empire_, p.
79). So each governor appointed by the Khalif became the founder of an
independent dynasty, barely conceding the mention of the suzerain’s name
in the _khutba_ and on the coinage. Such were the Tahirids who ruled in
Khurasan from 205 to 259, the Saffarids in Persia from 254 to 290, the
Samanids in Transoxiana and Persia from 288 to about 400, the Hamdanids
who established themselves at Mosul in 292, at Aleppo in 333, and ruled
there until 394, and the Aghlabids whom we have seen in Kairawan.

The Ikhshids claimed to be descended from the ancient kings of Ferghana
on the Jaxartes, a district inhabited by fighting races, from whom
the Khalif al-Muʿtasim (218-227) drew many mercenaries. The first of
the Ikhshids to serve the Khalifs was a mercenary named Juff, and he
continued in the Khalif’s employ until his death in 247. One of his sons
named Tughj was in the service of Luʿluʿ, who acted as squire to Ibn
Tulun in Egypt, and, when his master died, in that of Ishaq b. Kundaj,
and afterwards in that of Ibn Tulun’s son, Abu l-Jaysh Khumasawaih,
who regarded him with great favour and formed a very high opinion of
his military abilities, in consequence of which he procured for him
the governorship of Damascus and Tiberias. At his patron’s death Tughj
offered himself to the Khalif al-Muktafi, who considered this an act of
marked loyalty, and was greatly pleased with him, and made him one of
his confidential officers. These favours provoked the jealousy of the
wazir al-ʿAbbas, and he succeeded in getting Tughj cast into prison where
he died. He left two sons, Muhammad and ʿAbdullah, who burned to avenge
their father’s death, and their resentment was gratified when they saw
al-ʿAbbas executed by the Hamdanid al-Husayn.

After this the elder son, Muhammad, went to Syria and joined himself to
Takin, who was governor of Syria as well as of Egypt. In this service he
prospered and was made governor of Amman. Then in 316 he was appointed to
Ramla, in 318 he was transferred to Damascus, which led the way to his
appointment as Emir of Egypt. This last charge was given him in 321, but
the state of Syria did not allow his immediate departure, and Egypt was
left for a while in the hands of Ahmad b. Kayghalagh, who returned to
office temporarily. By 324 Syria had been reduced to order, and Muhammad
the Ikhshid went over to Egypt to assume his governorship in person,
leaving his brother ʿAbdullah in Syria.

There were some in Egypt who did not like the prospect of this new
governor, and amongst these was the Treasurer Madaraʿi, who induced the
acting governor, Ibn Kayghalagh, to take up arms to resist his entry.
The Egyptian army marched to the frontier and engaged the Syrians and
Turks under the Ikhshid at Farama, the ancient Pelusiun, now more
generally known as Tineh (Arabic _tîn_ = Greek πηλός “mud”), near the
Egyptian end of the “short desert route,” _via_ al-Arish from Syria.
The result was a complete defeat of the Egyptians, and so Muhammad the
Ikhshid continued on his way to the capital Fustat (“Old Cairo”) without
further opposition. Meanwhile the Syrian fleet had sailed up the Nile and
anchored off Giza, thus commanding the city until the Ikhshid marched up
his forces and took possession. The arrival of the new governor and his
army, largely Turkish in composition, established a firm and efficient
government in Egypt again until his death in 335. At their first arrival
indeed the Turkish troops began plundering the city, but they were soon
called to order and then, although the new governor was severe and
exacted heavy contributions, this stern rule was welcomed as it recalled
the peace and prosperity of the golden days of Ibn Tulun. The resultant
peace very soon opened up the way to literary activity and scholarship,
and Egypt began to follow, though at a distance, the culture of ʿIraq.
This literary development, as well as theological discussion and debates
on jurisprudence, centered in the “Old Mosque,” which was also the scene
of the most important state functions.

Although the establishment of the Ikhshid rule in Egypt gives the
appearance of supreme power to the Khalif at Baghdad, who seems thus able
to dispose of provinces and appoint governors at discretion, his position
at the time was really very precarious. The Buwayhid dynasty of governors
had established itself in ʿIraq in 320 (= A.D. 932), but Baghdad itself
remained under the Khalif until 334, though generally he was only a tool
in the hands of the commander of the garrison. These Buwayhids claimed
descent from Buwayh, a prince in the hill country of Daylam, and so
ultimately from the ancient kings of Persia. They appeared as rivals of
other Daylamites led by Bajukin, who was _Emir al-Umara_ or “Supreme
Prince,” and had control of the government under the Khalifs ar-Razi and
al-Muttaqi. Alarmed at the progress of the Buwayhids, Bajukin took up
arms against them in 327, but was compelled to abandon his efforts by
the report of disorders in Baghdad. Soon afterwards Bajukin was killed
by a band of Kurdish marauders, and the capital was left in a state of
anarchy. Then Baridi became Chief Emir, but was expelled a few weeks
later: then the Daylamite Kurtakin, who turned out to be a tyrant. At
this the Khalif appealed to Ibn Raiq, the Emir of Syria, and he expelled
Kurtakin. Not long afterwards Baridi attacked Baghdad and Ibn Raiq had to
flee, taking the Khalif with him to Mosul, which was in the hands of the
Hamdanids. As champions of the Khalifate the Hamdanids marched against
Baghdad, took it, and ruled there for a short time, until the Turk Tuzun
drove them out and made himself _Emir al-Umara_ in 331. Then another
revolt drove him out, and the Khalif appealed again to the Hamdanids
and escaped to Mosul; but when peace was concluded between Tuzun and
the Hamdanids the Khalif remained in their hands. At this time, indeed,
the Khalifate was very far from showing the character of an absolute
monarchy. All over the Muslim world the Sunni, or orthodox party,
recognised the Khalif as the Commander of the Faithful, except of course
in Spain where the Umayyads of Cordova assumed the title of Khalif in
317. Enjoying great dignity and prestige in an office which combined many
of the characteristics of the Pope and Emperor in the West, he was in
fact no more than a puppet, a valuable asset in the hands of any one of
the warring dynasties of Asia, but possessing no real authority. Yet his
formal recognition was eagerly sought as a precious endorsement of _de
facto_ rights by Muslim rulers, and even princes in far-off India humbly
begged his approval of their titles. It seems indeed as though the office
of Khalif gained in spiritual influence as it lost in political authority.

Whilst in exile and in Hamdanid’s hands, the Khalif appealed to the
Ikhshid whom he had set over Egypt, and Muhammad visited him at Riqqa and
invited him to take refuge in Egypt; but al-Muttaqi, though anxious for
help to recover the external symbols of authority at Baghdad, was not
willing to put himself so entirely in the Ikhshid’s hands; he knew that
Ikhshid and Hamdanid alike only desired to possess his person as a kind
of imperial regalia, and so he preferred to entrust himself to the Turk
Tuzun, who at least could establish him in the capital. He reigned in
Baghdad in name only until 333, when Tuzun deposed him, put out his eyes,
and enthroned al-Mustakfi in his place. But this was followed by a period
of anarchy in Baghdad, until in 334 the Buwayhid prince took the city. A
few months later al-Mustakfi was deposed and replaced by al-Muʿti, whose
position under the Buwayhid princes was parallel to that of the Frankish
kings under the “Mayors of the Palace,” with the aggravated condition
that the Khalifs were spiritual pontiffs and the Buwayhids were, like
the Hamdanids, Shiʿite heretics of the “Twelvers” sect. Buwayhid’s rule
over Baghdad lasted from 384 to 447, when the Emir was displaced by the
Saljuk Turks under Tughril Beg. Throughout this period the Buwayhids were
content with the title of _Emir al-Umara_; they never assumed that of

It has been necessary for us to turn aside to note the position of the
Khalifate at the time, for otherwise we should have some difficulty in
understanding the course of events in Egypt, which now takes the foremost
place in the policy of the African Shiʿites. It is often possible to
ignore the contemporary history of Spain and of North Africa when
following the course of events in Egypt, but Egypt forms so integral
a part of the world of Islam that it is never possible to treat its
history, even during the comparative isolation of the Fatimid period,
without some passing note of the contemporary history of the Baghdad

Whilst these changes were taking place in Asia and the Ikhshid was
consolidating his power in Egypt, the Mahdi continued ruling at Kairawan,
and, though North Africa was one of the most turbulent and the least
civilized parts of the Islamic world, his rule was stable and orderly.
In 312 he added a suburb to the city which he called al-Muhammadiya, and
which served as a kind of royal cantonments closed against the ordinary
citizens, and used only as an official settlement of those engaged in the
public administration and as the site of the various public offices. Such
official suburbs were very frequent in oriental capitals, and become a
regular feature of the great Muslim royal cities. The Mahdi’s later years
were somewhat clouded by his relations with the Qarmatians, who were
still active in Asia, and who caused the whole Ismaʿilian movement to be
regarded with grave suspicion by the Muslim world at large.

Since 311, as we have seen, the Qarmatians had occupied Basra. In 317
they had spread down into the Hijaz, and on the 8th of the month of
the pilgrimage in that year the pilgrims who had come up to Mecca were
attacked by them. The Sherif of Mecca, many of his attendants, and many
of the pilgrims, were killed: the sacred spring of Zamzam was choked
up with the bodies of the slain which were tumbled in: the door of the
“House of God” was broken open, the veil which covered the House was
torn down, and the sacred black stone was removed from the Kaʿaba and
carried away to the Qarmatian headquarters at Hajar. Never in the history
of Islam has there been sacrilege at all comparable to this, and never
before had the Qarmatians advertised so boldly their contempt for the
Muslim religion. Begkem, the Emir of Baghdad, offered them a reward of
50,000 dinars to restore the sacred stone, but the offer was refused.

According to Ibn Athir, quoted by Ibn Khallikan (i. 427, etc.) the
Mahdi then wrote to them from Kairawan: “By what you have done you have
justified the charge of infidelity brought against our sect, and the
title of ‘impious’ given to the missionaries acting for our dynasty;
if you restore not what you have taken from the people of Mecca, the
pilgrims and others, if you replace not the Black Stone and the veil
of the Kaʿaba, we shall renounce you in this world and the next.” This
letter was more effectual than Begkem’s proffered reward, and the
Qarmatians restored the Black Stone with the statement, “We took it by
order, and by order we return it.” It was restored either in Dhu l-Kaada
or Dhu l-Hijja of 339. Of the year there seems no question, and Ibn
Khallikan points out that the Mahdi died in 322. He suggests, therefore,
that the letter and the Qarmatian reply were fabrications, presumably for
the purpose of throwing the odium of sacrilege on the Mahdi. But it is
not necessary to suppose that the Black Stone was returned immediately in
response to the Mahdi’s request. A more likely interpretation is given
by Macdonald, who accepts the letter as genuine and comments: “When an
enormous ransom was offered for the stone they (_i.e._, the Qarmatians)
declined—they had orders not to send it back. Everyone understood that
the orders were from Africa. So ʿUbayd Allah found it advisable to
address them in a public letter, exhorting them to be better Muslims. The
writing and reading of this letter must have been accompanied by mirth,
at any rate no attention was paid to it by the Qarmatians. It was not
till the time of the third Fatimid Khalifa that they were permitted to do
business with that stone” (Macdonald: _Muslim Theology_, pp. 46-47). This
suggests a plausible explanation, that the letter was sent by the Mahdi,
but was only intended to disclaim any responsibility for the taking of
the stone on his part; that it was not intended to be heeded, and was not
taken seriously, the stone being detained until long after the Mahdi’s
death. This theory would fit in with the policy of the Fatimids at
Kairawan, which carefully avoided anything likely to offend the orthodox,
and would dispose of Ibn Khallikan’s objection, which is based on the
supposition that the date of the return of the stone was shortly after
the writing of the latter. The letter assumes that the Qarmatians and
the Fatimids were members of the same sect. Undoubtedly they had been so
originally, but later on they definitely separated, and we are not clear
as to the time of this division. It seems probable that the external
quasi-orthodoxy of the Fatimids in Africa was the cause of its separation
from the Qarmatians, who had made more open profession of the destructive
elements of their religion.

The Mahdi died in 322 (A.D. 933), and was succeeded by his son Abu
l-Kasim, who assumed the name of al-Qaʾim.



(A.H. 322-335 = A.D. 933-946)

The new Khalif, al-Qaʾim, had already shown himself an efficient leader
in the two expeditions against Egypt, and in the vigour with which he
repressed the simmering revolts in Africa. His accession was marked by
two expeditions; a naval attack on the south of France, the coast of
Genoa and Calabria, which resulted in the bringing home of many slaves
and plunder: and another attempt on Egypt, which, however, was promptly
checked by the Ikhshid’s brother, ʿUbayd Allah.

At the moment Egypt was too well administered to allow opportunity for
invasion such as had taken place in 307-8. The Ikhshid was doing his best
to hold Syria and to bolster up the tottering throne of the Khalifs,
but had forces to spare for the protection of Egypt. It is true that he
was defeated shortly afterwards by Ibn Raiq, who had seized Damascus
and was compelled to pay tribute, but after two years’ payment Ibn Raiq
died (A.H. 326), and then the Ikhshid was able, not only to recover all
that he had temporarily been compelled to yield, but was in a position
to extend his dominions, and brought Syria under his control. Not long
afterwards the Khalif entrusted him with the guardianship of Mecca and
Madina. At that time the Ikhshid was the only loyal supporter on whom the
Khalif could rely, chiefly, of course, because of his jealousy towards
those who threatened the throne of Baghdad.

Unable to divert his subjects by the long hoped for conquest of Egypt,
al-Qaʾim had to meet more serious rebellions in the west than his father
had experienced. The principal revolt took place amongst the Zenata tribe
of Aures and Zab, south of the Katama territory, nearly all members of
the Kharijite sect, led by a darwish named Abu Yazid, who assumed the
title of “Sheikh of the true believers,” but was better known as “the man
with an ass.” This movement was mainly of a nationalist character, and
aimed at establishing a purely Berber state in which Arabs should have no
place. The Berbers had won Spain, and had done most to place the Fatimids
on the throne of Kairawan, but in both cases they seemed to have been
cheated out of the fruits of their labours by wily Asiatics, and so the
motive in this revolt was the assertion of their racial rights.

In 332 Abu Yazid marched northwards at the head of most of the Zenata
tribe of the south, hereditary rivals of the Katama, and many other
Berbers. In rapid succession he took Baghai, Tabassa, Mermajenna, and
Laribus. The Fatimid forces tried to prevent his advance upon Baja, but
were repulsed. It was the story of Abu ʿAbdullah over again, but this
time it was a Berber at the head of Berber tribes, and the religious
motive assigned was the restoration of the primitive ideals of Islam,
the democratic election of the Khalif, and all the reactionary programme
of the Kharijites which was, and is, the most congenial to the nomadic
tribes of Africa and Arabia. We have seen very much the same programme in
the history of the Sanusi in recent times. The successful repulse of the
Fatimid army made a great impression, and all the Zanata tribes of Zab,
the Hwaras of the Aures, and many others, rallied round Abu Yazid. At the
head of a large, but undisciplined force, he marched towards Kairawan:
on the way he met a Fatimid army, but this time suffered defeat. It was,
however, no more than a temporary check; he soon rallied, took Raqada,
and then pressed on to Kairawan, defeated the forces of the Fatimid
Khalif, and captured the city. Al-Qaʾim was obliged to take refuge in
al-Mahadiya, which Abu Yazid forthwith besieged. At this juncture the
Katama and Sanhaja tribes came in mass to relieve the city, and Abu
Yazid’s followers, demoralised by the steady resistance of the defenders,
were obliged to retire. As they retreated al-Qaʾim followed, and was soon
able to recover the whole of Tunisia, but after an interval Abu Yazid
rallied and laid siege to the town of Susa.

At this juncture al-Qaʾim died, and was succeeded by his son, who took
the name al-Mansur (the protected).

Al-Qaʾim had accompanied his father, the Mahdi, in his flight from
Syria, and had proved himself a trusty and competent general before his
accession to the throne. He figures in history solely as a fighting man:
we hear nothing of any development either in the Ismaʿilian sect or in
the organization of the Fatimid state.



(A.H. 335-342 = A.D. 946-953)

The stability of the Fatimid Khalifate was problematical when al-Qaʾim
died at the height of Abu Yazid’s rebellion. The first task of the
new Khalif al-Mansur was to relieve Susa, and he was fortunate enough
to inflict a severe defeat on Abu Yazid, and to drive him back to the
mountains of Kiana in the extreme west of Ifrikiya. There a stubborn
struggle followed which lasted a whole year, but was terminated by the
final defeat and complete rout of the insurgent Berbers, Abu Yazid
himself being mortally wounded in the final engagement and dying soon

This revolt, however, begins the decay of Fatimid authority in the
west. The Zanata tribes of Maghrawa and B. Ifrene were able to form a
separate state in the neighbourhood of Tlemsen, whilst the Umayyads of
Spain established a colony at Fez, where they placed the descendants
of Musa ibn Abi l-Afia and his followers, Syrian Arabs who had been
invited to Spain but had become obnoxious, and whom it was advisable to
segregate from the earlier settlers in Spain. Central Maghrab, roughly
corresponding to the greater part of Algeria, was held by the Sanhaja
tribe, steady allies and supporters of the Fatimid Khalifate, under the
government of Ziri b. Menad, who built the town of Achir as his capital.

Such was the position when al-Mansur died in 342 and was succeeded by
his son Maʿad, who took the name of al-Moʿizz. Al-Mansur’s reign had
been occupied entirely in dealing with Abu Yazid’s rebellion, and in the
consolidation of the country after this rebellion had been put down. It
cannot be said that he left the Fatimid state in a strengthened position
when compared with conditions under the Mahdi, for already independent
states had begun to be formed in the West, but he had dealt successfully
with the emergency existing at the time of his accession.

The Fatimid state was essentially an hereditary one, for the Shiʿite
theory implied the legitimate descent of the Imam. The recognition of
Ismaʿil, the son of Jaʿfar, clearly showed that the father’s claimed
right of disposing of the succession was invalid in the eyes of the sect
of Seveners. From that time the succession had been strictly hereditary.
But the Fatimids, seated in power, borrowed the constitutional usage of
the Khalifs of Baghdad, and secured the succession by obtaining formal
recognition of the heir during their lifetime. Thus Maʿad was formally
recognised as next in succession on Monday, the 7th of Dhu l-Hijja 341,
and came to the throne in the following year. In the ʿAbbasid Khalifate
this recognition was a relic of the earlier election, and meant that the
next Khalif was formally elected by the princes during his predecessor’s
lifetime, the orthodox Khalifate not being professedly hereditary. The
case was otherwise with the Fatimids who were legitimist, and could only
have as Imam the one chosen by God, and to whom alone the Divine Spirit
could pass at the preceding Imam’s death. No doubt the formal recognition
during the father’s life was adopted as a measure of precaution;
theoretically it might be defended by the supposition that its point was
the father’s public recognition of his son and heir, but the real case
seems to be that it was simply borrowed from the usages of the court of
Baghdad, and marks a relaxation of the theocratic and sectarian character
of the Fatimid state which is gradually inclining towards becoming a
purely secular one, differing from the Baghdad Khalifate in little more
than in that it professed Shiʿism as the established religion.



(A.H. 342-365 = A.D. 953-975)

The new Fatimid Khalif was of a type somewhat different from his
predecessors. Like them, indeed, he proved an able and efficient ruler,
but unlike them he was a man of cultured tastes and of considerable
literary ability. His heart was set on the conquest of Egypt, the great
dream ever present before his father and grandfather, which seemed now
coming within the bounds of possibility.

To understand this we must turn for a while to the course of events
in Egypt. The Ikhshid Muhammad b. Tughj had died in 335, and had been
succeeded by his son Abu l-Qasim Unjur, a child of 15, who was kept in
a state of pupilage by a black eunuch named Abu l-Misk Kafur, _i.e._,
“Camphor, the father of musk.” This Kafur was an ungainly black slave, of
ponderous bulk and mis-shapen legs, who had been purchased as a boy of
ten in the year 310 and sent one day with a present to the Ikhshid; the
present was returned, but the messenger was retained. Little by little he
rose in the service, first of the Ikhshid’s household, then in that of
the state, conciliating everyone by his pleasing manners and fair words,
and was finally appointed by the Ikhshid _atatek_, or guardian, to his
two sons. At the Ikhshid’s death a riot broke out, and this Kafur put
down with such tact that he was regarded with even greater favour and
consideration by all the public officials. Soon afterwards news arrived
that the Hamdanid Sayf ad-Dawla ʿAli had taken Damascus, and was marching
upon Ramla. At once Kafur set out at the head of the army and checked
ʿAli, returning home with considerable booty. This greatly increased
his reputation, and, although holding no constitutional authority he
was able to get all the business of the state into his hands, and was
generally conceded the title of _ustad_ or “tutor,” a word often used
in the same sense as _patron_ in French, and under this title he was
mentioned in the _khutba_ or Friday prayer. As his ward Unjur grew
older, however, a more or less veiled hostility arose between them, each
on his guard against the other, until the titular prince died in 349,
not without suspicion of being poisoned by the ustad, although such
suspicions were usual in every case where a death seemed to be timely:
the oriental world has always had an obsession for poisoning.

Kafur was now strong enough to control the appointment of the next heir
and, as Maqrizi expresses it, appointed the deceased prince’s brother
Abu l-Hasan ʿAli to succeed him, paying him an annual pension of 400,000
dinars, and reserving the whole administration in his own hands. The
new Emir, though 23 years of age, was kept shut up and was permitted
to see no-one. However, the same strained feelings arose between him
and the ustad as in the case of his brother, and when he died in 355
there were the same suspicions. For some time Egypt remained without a
regular governor,—it must be remembered that the Emir was theoretically
no more than a viceroy appointed by the Khalif at Baghdad,—and all the
power continued in Kafur’s hands as he declined to proclaim Anujin’s
son, saying that he was too young to occupy the position of Emir. About
a month after Abu l-Hasan ʿAli’s death he displayed a pelisse of honour
sent from Baghdad and a charter nominating himself governor under the
title of ustad, and on Tuesday, the 10th of Safar 355 (Feb., 966), he
began to wear the pelisse in public (Ibn Khall. ii. 524, etc.).

Before long the Khalif al-Moʿizz made another attempt upon Egypt, and his
army advanced to the oases before the western frontier, but Kafur checked
the advance and slew several of the invaders, but received at his court
some of the Fatimid missionaries whom al-Moʿizz sent as envoys to invite
Kafur to recognise his authority. The Ustad received them favourably,
and most of his entourage and the chief officials gave their promises
of homage to the Fatimid. It seems, indeed, that Kafur had formed the
definite plan of transferring allegiance from the ʿAbbasid Khalif to the
Fatimid, or rather that such a transference should take place at the next
vacancy in the governorship of Egypt.

Kafur never repeated the military enterprise or success of his two
earlier expeditions, his defeat of the Hamdanid and his repulse of the
Fatimid, if indeed this latter can be regarded as a success. He was
unable to prevent the Qarmatians who had raided Syria in 352, from
capturing the caravan of Egyptian pilgrims on their way to Mecca in 355.
Nor could he restrain a Nubian invasion into Egypt which plundered the
more southern districts and took home much booty. Still more serious
misfortunes which were not under his control were the two low Niles,
producing famine and misery, and a severe fire which destroyed parts of
Fustat, as well as an earthquake. On the whole the four years of Kafur’s
rule were a period of distress and discontent.

Yet many in after days looked back to those years as a kind of golden
age. It was a period in which the later growth of Arabic literature was
in full tide, that later literature which contrasted with the ancient
Arabic poetry of the more strictly classical period, when both prose
and poetry were manipulated mainly by men who were not Arabs by race,
but obtained a greater technical skill than the earlier writers had
achieved. To that later literature the negro ruler of Egypt showed
himself a generous patron and his court was filled with poets, wits,
and men of letters who were attracted to Egypt by the liberality of
the black Maecenas. Like most of his race he was passionately fond of
music; and the beautiful gardens which he laid out on the north of
Fustat, gardens which the Fatimids incorporated in their royal city of
Cairo, transmitted his name to succeeding generations. He was lavish
in his expenditure,—the negro is always ostentatious,—and especially
so on the daily provisions of his kitchen, but this was counted in his
favour, for the Arabic tradition was that princes should dispense an
open handed hospitality, and the Egyptians of ancient and modern times
have had a strong inclination to appreciate feasting and the indulgence
of the appetite. But most welcome of all to his table were poets and
epigrammists, who rarely went away without some substantial rewards
for their literary efforts. One poet was able to leave behind him a
hundred suits of robes of honour, twice that number of vests, and five
hundred turbans. Such literary courtiers naturally turned their genius to
complimentary verses about their patron. One, playing upon his name Kafur
or “camphro,” composed verses on the fragrant scented gardens which he
had laid out, and which long stood for the ideal gardens in the Egyptian
mind: another explained in verse how the shocks of earthquake had been
caused by the Egyptians dancing for delight as they contemplated Kafur’s
merits, an effusion which caused the delighted Ustad to throw him a
purse containing a thousand dinars. Amongst his pensioners was the poet
al-Mutanabbi, who had left the court of the Hamdanid Sayf ad-Dawla in
anger at the smallness of his presents, and thought little of a prince
who did not come up to his very high standard of generosity. At first
Kafur used to smile graciously at him, but the poet wanted presents and
not mere compliments. “When I went into Kafur’s presence,” he said, “with
the intention of reciting verses to him, he always laughed at seeing me
and smiled in my face, but when I repeated to him these lines:—

    ‘Since friendship has become a mere deception, I am repaid
    for my smiles with smiles; but when I choose a friend my mind
    misgives me, for I know he is but a man’:

he never did so again as long as I remained with him. I was astonished
at this proof of his sagacity and intelligence.” He was very quickly
dissatisfied with Kafur. “What I want,” he said, “I declare not; thou
art gifted with sagacity, and my silence is a sufficient explanation,
nay a plain request.” At length he left Kafur’s court, dissatisfied at
the liberal gifts he received because they were not ample enough, and
revenged himself by writing satires on Kafur, such as:—

    “Who could teach noble sentiments to this castrated negro?—his
    white masters?—or his ancestors who were hunted like wild

The poet finally settled at the court of Adud ad-Dawla at Shiraz (Ibn
Khall. ii. 524, sqq.).

But Kafur, though easy going and with many of the weaknesses of the
negro, was a man who had the wit to acquire more than a superficial
education by the right use of opportunities which were often available
to the ambitious slave, and which indeed form one of the redeeming
features of slavery as it existed in Muslim lands. Besides this he was
a painstaking and efficient administrator, and a man of deep religious

In all Kafur ruled the country twenty-two years, part of the time as
tutor to the two sons of the Ikhshih, part as independent viceroy in all
but name. During the closing years of this period he became unpopular.
Feeling had been strained by the famine due to the bad Niles, and the
reports of the Qarmatians’ advance into Syria bred disaffection amongst
the Turkish and Greek mercenaries. On Tuesday, the 20th Jumada I. 356
(May, 967), he died at the age of sixty, leaving property to the value of
700,000 dinars of gold, and goods, furniture, jewels, slaves, and animals
valued at some 600,000 dinars.

Kafur’s death left Egypt in a state of confusion. The court assembled
to elect a governor; a significant mark of the times, for no reference
was made to the Khalif at Baghdad, who was a mere phantom. The choice
fell on Abu l-Fawaris Ahmad, grandson of the Ikhshih Muhammad b. Tughj,
who was a mere child. Soon after this, however, there arrived in Egypt
Husayn, the son of ʿAbdullah, the brother whom Muhammad had left in Syria
in 321. During the thirty years which had elapsed since then ʿUbayd and
his son had had a chequered military career, and the son now arrived
as a fugitive, fleeing from the Qarmatians. His arrival was welcome to
the Turkish troops who forthwith elected him their general, and he at
once assumed the supreme power. The use he made of this authority was to
arrest the wazir Ibn al-Furat and torture him until he wrung from him
a large sum of money with which he departed at once to Syria. During
his brief stay in Egypt he had been guilty of other acts of cruelty and
rapacity, and when a year later he was himself sent a prisoner to Egypt,
there was a general feeling of satisfaction that he was himself treated
with severity. His departure for Syria took place on the first of Rabiʿ
II. 358 (Feb., 969). The rule of the Ikhshids, or at least their nominal
authority, continued for five months more until the summer of the same
year (Ibn Khall, Life of Tughj).

It was a time of acute disorder. Famine had followed the failure of the
Nile, and plague had followed the famine. The soldiers had their pay
diminished, their customary gratuities were in arrear, and they were in
open mutiny, for there was no controlling hand to restrain them. The
administration was in the hands of the wazir Ibn al-Furat, who had been
plundered by ʿAbdullah, and he was unable either to pay the troops or
to relieve the distress of the people. It was clear that under these
conditions the country would be in no condition to offer effective
resistance to an invader, and this was the moment chosen by the Fatimid
Khalif to make his attack.

For two years (356-357) al-Moʿizz had been making detailed preparations
for the invasion of Egypt. In 356 he had commenced constructing roads,
digging wells along the roadside, and building rest-houses at regular
intervals. At the same time he began collecting funds for the necessary
expenses and paying substantial sums to the Katama leaders, who were
thus enabled to arm and equip their followers. As we have already seen,
there had been Fatimite missionaries for some time at work in Egypt,
and al-Moʿizz had even made formal advances to Kafur and had been well
received, and his proposals for coming to Egypt had been heard with
politeness: he certainly had many strong adherents in high office in
Egypt. Now the general disorder following the famine and plague, and
the disorganization after Kafur’s death seemed to furnish the right
opportunity, just as all his preparations were mature.

An even more important task had been performed in bringing all North
Africa into complete subordination. Cultured literary man as the Fatimid
Khalif was, he was also a most efficient organizer, and was well served
by officials whom he treated with generous confidence. The disciplining
of Africa was a necessary preliminary to an expedition outside the bounds
of the country, which might well be of protracted duration and uncertain
issue. For this he had the assistance of an able general, Abu l-Hasan
Jawhar b. ʿAbdullah, commonly known as “Jawhar the Greek scribe,” as he
was a liberated slave trained as a secretary, whose father had been
subject of the Byzantine Empire. Like Kafur he shows that the slave
in Islam was not merely treated as a fellow man, but had a career of
ambition open before him, in which his servile origin was no obstacle;
even in modern times slaves have risen to high office, and have sometimes
married princesses. There was no colour barrier nor any racial feeling:
no reluctance was felt at white men being ruled by a negro ex-slave.

Marching to the Maghrab, Jawhar joined forces with the Sanhaja chieftain
Ziri, who was one of the most faithful allies of the Fatimids (cf. p.
123), and together they advanced upon the Umayyad colonies at Fez and
Sijilmasa. These they took and thus prevented the possibility of Spanish
interference in Africa for the time. Continuing westwards they reduced
the whole Maghrab to the coast. As a sign of the extent of the expedition
fish were caught in the ocean, and sent in jars to the Khalif in company
with the princes of Fez and Sijilmasa, who were conveyed in an iron cage.
The only town left to the Umayyads was Sibta (Ceuta). The Idrisid princes
of the far west, descendants of Hasan, the son of ʿAli, were put down,
and thus their independent rule which had lasted just over two centuries
came to an end. It was a more thorough reduction of the country than had
ever been made previously, and when Jawhar returned to Kairawan al-Moʿizz
was recognised as the unquestioned ruler of all North Africa.

The Khalif determined to entrust the invasion of Egypt to Jawhar, who
had so clearly proved his efficiency in the reduction of the Maghrab,
but just about this time Jawhar fell ill. Al-Moʿizz was not willing
to replace him, and continued his preparations, assembling troops and
supplies at Raqada: every day he visited the general who, as soon as his
health was sufficiently restored, the order to advance was given.

Jawhar was the commander of the Fatimid force, but with him was another
who played an important part in the subsequent construction of the
Fatimid state in Egypt. Yaqub b. Killis was a native of Baghdad, by
origin and for many years by religion a Jew. His father sent him first
to Syria, then to Egypt, where he became a chamberlain to Kafur, then
received a seat on the privy council and acted as accountant and
treasurer. He became a Muslim in 356. At Kafur’s death he was arrested
by his rival the wazir Ibn al-Furat, but by bribing his gaolers he
managed to escape and fled to Kairawan. The expedition against Egypt was
already in full preparation, but he joined himself with Jawhar and proved
a useful adviser. He was commonly regarded as the instigator of the
enterprise, but this does not seem to be accurate.

Jawhar’s start was made on the 14th of Rabiʿ II. 358 (A.D. 969).
Al-Moʿizz attended with his court to bid him farewell. During this
meeting the general stood before the Khalif, who leaned down on his
horse’s neck and spoke to him privately for some time. The Khalif then
ordered his sons to dismount and give Jawhar the salutation of departure;
this obliged all the great officers of state to dismount also. Jawhar
then kissed the hand of the Khalif and the hoof of his horse and,
mounting at his master’s command, gave the word for the whole force to
march. When al-Moʿizz returned to his palace he sent as a present to
Jawhar all the clothes he had been wearing at the farewell interview,
save only his drawers and signet ring. At the same time he sent forward
orders to Aflah, the governor of Barqa, that he should set out to meet
Jawhar and kiss his hand. Aflah offered a gift of 100,000 dinars to be
permitted to escape this act of homage, but was obliged to submit (Ibn
Khall. i. 341-2).

Jawhar first advanced upon Alexandria. The city capitulated on liberal
terms; there was no pillage and no violence to any of the inhabitants, as
Jawhar was able to restrain his well-paid army in admirable discipline.

The news of Jawhar’s approach caused great dismay in Fustat. It was
decided that the wazir Ibn al-Furat should write to him and ask for peace
with security for the lives and property of the citizens. At the same
time Abu Jaʿfar Muslim b. ʿUbayd Allah, an emir of high standing, and an
acknowledged descendant of Husayn the son of ʿAli, was asked to go in
person to plead with Jawhar, it being assumed that an ʿAlid envoy would
carry weight with the Shiʿites. Abu Jaʿfar consented on condition that a
company of citizens went with him (id.).

The deputation set out on Monday, the 18th of Rajab 358 (= 18 June,
969) and met Jawhar at Taruja, a village not far from Alexandria. They
delivered their appeal to him, and he immediately granted all their
requests, and confirmed his promised by a written statement. With this
the envoys returned to Fustat, where they arrived on the 7th of Shaban.
The wazir Ibn al-Furat rode out to meet them, read Jawhar’s statement,
and handed to each of his companions who had written to Jawhar asking
for appointments under the new government his replies, which were in
all cases favourable. Some time was spent then in discussion, but the
informal gathering dispersed without agreeing to any uniform attitude
towards the invaders. The city was still in great alarm, and the
adherents of the Ikhshids, the officers who had served under Kafur and
some of the army, determined to reject Jawhar’s proffered peace and to
make armed resistance. Valuables were concealed, a camp was formed, and
Nahrir ash-Shoizai was chosen general. Under his leadership the Egyptian
army marched out to Giza and set companies to guard the bridges.

On the 11th of Shaban, Jawhar arrived, having been informed of the
intended resistance. He took several prisoners and marched to Muniat
as-Sayadin (the village of the fishermen) and seized the ford of Muniat
Shalkan. At this some of the Egyptian troops passed over in boats and
surrendered, but the men on the Fustat side put a guard at the ford. Then
Jawhar stripped to his trousers, and at the head of his men waded into
the river, and thus arrived at the other side where they attacked the
defenders and killed a considerable number. Night had now approached,
and under the cover of darkness the rest of the defenders fled from the
city, carrying off from their houses whatever they could. A deputation of
wives waited on Abu Jaʿfar asking him to write to Jawhar and obtain, if
possible, a renewal of his previous offers of peace. Abu Jaʿfar wrote as
requested: the Fatimid general readily assented, and issued an order to
the troops forbidding pillage and violence. At this the city recovered
its confidence, the bazars were re-opened, and commercial life went on
its normal course (Ibn Khall. i. 343).

On Tuesday, the 17th Shaban, by Jawhar’s order, a deputation of leading
officials, sharifs, the learned, and prominent citizens went out to
Giza. By orders announced by a herald everyone except the wazir Ibn
al-Furat and the Sharif Abu Jaʿfar, dismounted and saluted Jawhar in
turn, the Fatimite general standing with the Sharif on his right hand,
the Wazir on his left. After this ceremony was concluded the envoys
returned to the city, and the troops commenced their entry with arms and
baggage. After the ʿAsr or hour of mid-afternoon prayer Jawhar himself
made his entry preceded by drums and flags; he wore a silk dress heavily
embroidered with gold, and rode a cream coloured horse. He rode straight
through the city with his men, and passing out on the north-east side
pitched camp there.

Late in the evening in the camping ground he marked out a great square of
1,200 yards base, and men were stationed, spade in hand, ready to start
the foundations of this new city, or rather royal suburb, when the signal
was given. The projected lines, all sketched out by al-Moʿizz himself
beforehand, were marked with pegs, and bells were hung from connected
ropes so that a signal might be given for the simultaneous turning of the
first sod. Meanwhile the astrologers were busy calculating the propitious
moment for the birth of the city. Unexpectedly, however, a raven settling
down on one of the ropes set all the bells jingling, and the men at once
thrust their spades into the soil. It was too late to check them, though
the astrologers found that it was a most inauspicious moment as the
planet _al-Kahir_ (Mars) was in the ascendant. There was nothing for it
but to accept the omen, and the city thus commenced was named _al-Kahira_
(Cairo), or more fully _al-Kahira al-Mahrusa_ (the guarded city of Mars).
It was designed as a royal suburb to be entirely devoted to palaces and
official buildings, inaccessible to the general public, similar to the
city of al-Muhammadiya outside Kairawan. In course of time, however, the
main part of the population of Fustat migrated to Kahira, and it is now
the most populous city in the whole of Africa.

Fustat, or Misr al-Atika, or simply Misr, was the old Arab city founded
in A.H. 21 soon after the conquest. In 133 the suburb of al-ʿAskar to the
north-east was added, but this was simply cantonments for the government
officials, and was not accessible to the ordinary citizens. Al-Qataiʿ
“the wards,” a kind of additional cantonments intended for the foreign
mercenary troops, was added in 256, but was partially destroyed by the
later ʿAbbasid governors and finally abandoned. Al-Kahira stood further
to the north-east, and it was after the burning of Fustat in 564 that the
population generally began to colonize this suburb.

When the people came out from the city next morning to Jawhar’s camp they
found, to their unbounded surprise, that the foundations of the new city
had been dug during the night. For six days after the troops continued
entering the old city, passing through, and going out to the new suburb
where was Jawhar’s camp. News of the successful occupation of Egypt was
without delay sent to the Khalif, and with it were the heads of the
Egyptians slain at the ford.

Jawhar now issued orders that all mention of the ʿAbbasid Khalif at
Baghdad in the Friday prayer must cease, and in place of his name the
coinage must bear the inscription _bi-smi mulaʿi l-Moʿizz_, “in the name
of my master al-Moʿizz.” At the same time the preachers in the mosques
were forbidden to wear the black garments usual under the ʿAbbasids,
and were ordered to use white, a similar order being issued to public
officials generally. It was ordered that every Sunday a court should be
held for the “Inspection of complaints,” for the hearing of petitions
against officials and against the administration, the Kaʾid or military
governor, _i.e._, Jawhar himself, being present as well as the Wazir,
Qadi, and a number of men learned in the law, so that those who had
complaints against officials which lay outside the scope of the ordinary
law courts might obtain redress. The court did not try cases, but on
hearing a complaint referred it to the proper qadi with orders to see
that it received attention. The decision was then sent to the court of
“Inspection of complaints,” and written out in substance by a secretary,
and then passed on to another secretary who put the summary in full
legal form. This was taken to the Khalif who confirmed it, and this
authoritative decision was then communicated to the petitioner, who had
the whole protection of the state behind him in putting it into effect.

On Friday, the 8th of Dhu l-Kaada, in the _khutba_, the words were added,
“O my God, bless Muhammad the chosen, ʿAli the accepted, Fatima the pure,
and al-Hasan and al-Husayn, the grandsons of the Apostle, whom thou hast
freed from stain and thoroughly purified. O my God, bless the pure Imams,
ancestors of the Commanders of the faithful” (Ibn Khall. i. 344). This
was at once a profession of Shiʿite faith, and an assertion of the claim
of al-Moʿizz to be descended from the house of ʿAli. There is no sign
that any appreciable number of the Egyptians became converts to Shiʿite
views: for the most part these claims were regarded with complete apathy
until the celebration of the great Shiʿite festival of the Muharram, when
there was some rioting. The people at large acquiesced in the new rule
without paying any attention to its religious claims.

On Friday, the 18th of Rabiʿ II. 359, the Kaʾid Jawhar himself presided
at the public prayers and sermon in the Old Mosque, that is the Mosque
of ʿAmr. The building then existing had been erected by ʿAbdullah b.
Tahir in 212, and is still standing. It escaped destruction when the city
was burned, but suffered a disastrous restoration in A.D. 1798. At this
service many soldiers were present. The preacher was ʿAbdu s-Sami b. Umar
al-ʿAbbasi, who in the _khutba_ made especial mention of the “people
of the house,” _i.e._, the family of ʿAli, and prayed for the Kaʾid,
although Jawhar did not approve of his own name being thus mentioned,
saying that no authority for it had been given in the instructions he
had received from al-Moʿizz. In the call to prayer the Shiʿite custom of
adding the words “come to the excellent work” was adopted. In the month
of Jumada I. this addition was made in the call to prayer at the Old
Mosque, at which Jawhar was greatly pleased, and made a report of the
circumstance to the Khalif (Ibn Khall. i. 344-5).

Meanwhile progress was being made with the building of al-Kahira. The
new city was surrounded with a wall of large bricks, of which the last
fragments were observed by Maqrizi in A.D. 1400. In the middle of the
great enclosure was an open space, the _Bayn al-Kasrayn_, “between
the two palaces,” as it was afterwards called, large enough for 10,000
troops to be paraded: a small portion of this open space remains as the
Suq an-Nahhasin. On the east was the Khalif’s palace; one corner of
its site is now marked by the Khan al-Khalili, another by the Husayn
Mosque. The name of the square was of later date, and due to the fact
that al-Moʿizz’s successor built a lesser palace on its west side, at the
beginning of the beautiful garden which Kafur had laid out, and which the
Fatimid Khalifs maintained. A great thoroughfare led through the midst
of Kahira from the Bab al-Zuwayla on the south side, communicating with
the old city of Fustat, and passing through the Bayn al-Kasrayn to the
Bab al-Futah, which led out to the open country on the north. To the
north of the Khalif’s palace lay the Wazir’s official residence, and to
the south the mosque of al-ʾAzhar, which Jawhar commenced soon after the
foundation of Kahira and finished on the 7th of Ramadan, 361. Although
the existing building has been much modernised it retains enough of the
older structure to show the typical character of Fatimid architecture.
The horse shoe arch, commonly regarded as of Persian origin, seems to
have been developed in Egypt, and appears first in the Nilometer and
then in the mosque of Ibn Tulun: it had an Indian parentage, and was
not introduced into Persia until it had already been employed in Egypt
(Rivoira: _Moslem Architecture_, E.T. 154, etc.), at least no dated
example is found until later than the mosque of al-ʾAzhar. The Fatimid
style shows this horse-shoe arch combined with high imposts which occur
in the mosque of Ziadat Allah in Kairawan (A.H. 816-837); “nor does it
seem an unnatural conjecture that it was Jauhar, not only a distinguished
general, but also a man of letters, and therefore of culture, who
suggested the form to some Christian architect of Egypt: and that, under
these circumstances, the designer of the building, wishing to endow it
with some distinctive feature marking the accession of the new dynasty,
modified the pointed arch of Tulun’s time under the influence of the
Indian ‘cyma reversa’ or ogee arch” (Rivoira: op. cit. 157).

In general plan, style, the use of brick piers, etc., the mosque of
al-ʾAzhar followed the model of the mosque of Ibn Tulun, and so was a
development of Egyptian native taste. The minaret was of heavy square
type with outside stairs which has always remained popular in western

The most novel feature introduced by the Fatimid architects was the
pendentive, the pensile cusped framing arch over a recessed angle. This
appears clearly in the interior of the dome of the mihrab in the mosque
of al-Hakim, commenced in 380 but not completed until 404. But this
reproduces the pendentive as it appears in the mosque of Cordova (A.H.
350-366) in the bay in the front of the mihrab, and had its precursor
more than four centuries before in the church of St. Vitale at Ravenna.

It is impossible, therefore, to connect Fatimid architecture with Persia:
obviously it was developed out of the older Egyptian Muslim style under
the influence of western and European, _i.e._, Italo-Greek, models. As
usual, art is a clear indication of the general line of culture contact
and intellectual influences. Though Asiatic and Persian in origin the
Fatimids were, by their heretical character, entirely cut off from the
Islamic world in Asia, a severance which the Fatimid rule in Syria, being
one of purely military occupation, did not bridge over. Isolated in art,
it was isolated in philosophy and literature, although this isolation
from the Muslim world at large was richly compensated by its close
contact with Shiʿite circles, and by some contact with the Greek and
Roman Empire along the shores of the Mediterranean.

The wall surrounding the whole city of Kahira was finished in 359. To its
south-east lay the old city which remained the centre of commercial and
non-official life until the end of the Fatimid dynasty, and to the west
the suburbs of Maqs, which extended down to the river and remained the
port of Cairo until the shifting of the Nile in the 13-14th cent. A.D.
gave the opportunity for the building of Bulaq.

The first serious problem with which Jawhar had to deal was the famine
due to the successive bad Niles. Fortunately al-Moʿizz had sent a number
of ships laden with grain as soon as he heard that Jawhar had occupied
the country, and this caused some temporary relief in the city, and
showed the people that they had a ruler anxious to assist them. At the
same time Jawhar established a public corn exchange under an inspector
(_muhtasib_), who had to prevent hoarding and excessive prices, and
several offending millers were flogged. Of course these primitive
expedients produced no serious relief, although they evoked the sympathy
of the people, and a state of famine continued until the end of 360, and
there were still cases of plague. In the following winter, _i.e._, in
the early months of 361 (October, etc., of A.D. 971), the famine came to
an end, and in the course of the next few months the country began to
recover, and as a consequence the plague disappeared.

In the year 361 an Ikhshid officer in the district of Bashmur revolted,
but was put down, chased to Palestine, captured there, and put to death.
So far there had been very little reluctance to the change of government,
in this insignificant revolt as in the first efforts to oppose Jawhar it
is only a few of the Ikhshid officials who seem to feel the slightest

Jawhar now felt anxious to raise the prestige of Egypt, which had
suffered greatly since the death of the first Ikhshid governor. In 355
the Nubians had invaded the country, so now in 362 he sent an embassy to
king George of Nubia, inviting him to become a Muslim and to pay tribute.
The Nubians, it must be noted, remained Christians down to the 14th cent.
A.D. The embassy was politely received, tribute was paid, but no further
reference was made to religious differences.

Jawhar found that as ruler of Egypt he was necessarily involved in the
politics of Syria, some portions of which had been, at least nominally,
part of the Ikhshid dominions. Indeed, Egypt never has been free from
Syrian connections, either in ancient, mediaeval, or modern history. At
this time independent Shiʿite princes were ruling at Aleppo, and Husayn
the Ikhshid, who had returned to Syria after plundering the Wazir Ibn
al-Furat, held his own at Ramla. Against him Jawhar sent his lieutenant
Jaʿfar b. Fellah, who attacked and defeated him. Husayn was brought a
prisoner to Fustat, publicly exposed as a proof of the power of the
Fatimids, and viewed with great satisfaction by the inhabitants of the
Egyptian city who remembered his cruelties. He was then sent on to a
prison in Ifrikiya, where he died in 371. After defeating Husayn, Jaʿfar
marched north and occupied Damascus. But this brought the Fatimids
into conflict with the Qarmatians, for Damascus had for some time past
been paying tribute to the Qarmatian leader Hasan b. Ahmad, and this
payment was now stopped. After the death of Abu Saʿid, the _kabir_ of
the Qarmatians, in 301, as we have already noted, the leadership was
held temporarily by Abu l-Kasim Saʿid, and then passed to Abu Tahir
Sulayman who attacked Mecca. Abu Tahir died in 332, as well as a third
son of Abu Saʿid named Abu Mansur Ahmad. Then the eldest brother, Abu
l-Kasim, resumed the leadership. In 360, the date we have now reached,
the chieftain was Hasan b. Ahmad (Abu l-Feda, _Ann. Moslem._ ii. 325,
350, 509). It seems that at this time there had been a complete rupture
between the Shiʿites of Africa and the Asiatic Qarmatians, though we are
quite in the dark as to when or why this took place. It may have arisen
from this attack upon the tribute paying city of Damascus, which the
Qarmatians regarded as aggressive: or it may have had an earlier origin,
perhaps in the relaxation of Ismaʿilian doctrine and practice amongst the
African Shiʿites when they accommodated themselves to the tone generally
current at Kairawan. Now Hasan had no hesitation in proposing an alliance
with the orthodox Khalif of Baghdad against the Fatimids, but this
was rejected by the Khalif with contempt. The Shiʿite Buwayhid prince
who was the real ruler of ʿIraq, however, was more complaisant, and a
third ally was found in the Hamdanid prince of Rabha on the Euphrates,
whilst various Arab tribes, always ready to join in any fighting and
usually as much an embarrassment to their allies as to their enemies,
readily agreed to take part. Thus helped Hasan captured Damascus and
celebrated his achievement by the public cursing of al-Moʿizz in the
great Mosque. Theoretically, the Qarmatians professed to believe in the
divine right of the Fatimid Imam, and so this cursing seems strange. It
may be that the people of Damascus, who were fanatically anti-Shiʿite,
were responsible, or it may be that the Qarmatians no longer troubled to
pretend an attachment to the reputed house of ʿAli, but displayed their
total indifference to all religious considerations without reserve.
After taking Damascus Hasan marched south rapidly and, avoiding Jaffa
where Jaʿfar and his army were stationed, passed through Ramla and made
a lightning descent on Egypt itself. He surprised Kulzum (Suez) and
Farama (al-Arish), and thus commanded the whole Isthmus of Suez, whilst
Tinnis declared in his favour. He then advanced into the country and
encamped at ʿAyn Shams (Heliopolis), and threatened Cairo. Jawhar had
commenced defensive measures as soon as he heard that Hasan had reached
the Isthmus and had made a trench before the city. The real danger lay in
the possible treachery of officials of the old régime, and a spy was told
off to watch Ibn al-Furat. At the same time men were sent to Hasan’s army
who, under the pretence of being discontented citizens, made treacherous
overtures to its officers. After some delay Hasan attempted to storm
the trench, but was driven back with heavy losses, the most surprising
incident being the unexpected courage shewn by the Egyptian volunteers
who were enrolled in Jawhar’s army. A number of Ikhshid officers who were
serving with Hasan were taken prisoner, and Hasan was compelled to retire
to Kulzum, leaving his baggage to be plundered by the Egyptians.

News of the attack on Egypt had been sent to al-Moʿizz, and soon after
the defeat reinforcements arrived from Kairawan under Ibn ʿAmmar. Thus
supported Jawhar advanced on Tinnis, which was now penitent for its
defection and was pardoned. A Qarmatian fleet which had sailed up the
Nile to support Hasan fled hurriedly, and was obliged to abandon seven
vessels and some 500 prisoners.

Jawhar had effectively repelled the Qarmatian invasion, and acted
prudently in following up the retreating enemy and relieving Jaffa. Hasan
fell back upon Damascus, but after some delay there began to recover and
commenced preparations for a new attempt.

At this juncture Jawhar felt that the time had arrived when al-Moʿizz
ought to be commanding in Egypt in person, and wrote earnestly entreating
him to come and take up the reins of government, and this appeal decided
the Khalif to remove from Kairawan to Cairo.

Early in 363 al-Moʿizz appointed Bolukkin b. Ziri of the Sanhaja tribe
as deputy in Ifrikiya, advising him “never cease levying contributions
on the nomadic Arabs, and keeping the sword on the (necks of the)
Berbers; never appoint any of your own brothers or cousins to a place of
authority, for they imagine that they have a better right than you to the
power with which you are invested; and treat with favour the dwellers in
towns” (Ibn Khall. i. 267).

Having thus provided for the government of Ifrikiya al-Moʿizz then
set out. Passing by Qabus, Tripoli, Ajdabiya, and Barqa, he reached
Alexandria in the course of the spring, and there received the Qadi of
Fustat and other officials. At the beginning of the summer he encamped in
the gardens of the monastery at Giza, and there received Jawhar who came
out to welcome him on his arrival. After resting a short time he made
his solemn entry into the capital. Although Fustat was decorated ready
for his coming, he paid it no visit, but marched straight to his palace
in Kahira where he took up his abode. In this solemn entry the coffins
of the three Khalifs who had been his predecessors were carried in the
first ranks, escorted by two state elephants, and the Khalif himself
rode surrounded by his four sons and other kinsmen. He entered the royal
city by the “gate of the arch,” one of the two openings in the Bab
az-Zuwayla. The other opening which no longer existed in Maqrizi’s time
was generally regarded as unlucky. This _bab_ is now commonly regarded
as the mysterious dwelling place of the head of all the darwishes who,
wherever he may be, is supposed to be able to fly in spirit to this
abode, and there the spirit is placated. The legends connected with this
gate seem to have varied from age to age, but it has always been regarded
as haunted by mysterious presences.

Soon after taking up his abode in the royal palace, on the great feast
day which terminates the fast of Ramadan, al-Moʿizz conducted prayers in
the newly finished mosque of al-ʾAzhar which, it will be remembered, lay
within the guarded precincts, and so was not accessible to the public.
The mosque, commenced by Jawhar in 360, had been completed in 361. In 378
the following Khalif, al-ʿAziz, devoted it especially to the learned,
and from this it has gradually become the leading university of Islam.

But al-Moʿizz was not able to remain as a sacred character in the
seclusion of the guarded city, although that perhaps was his first
intention. The Qarmatians were still threatening. Al-Moʿizz wrote to
Hasan proposing negotiations, but the Qarmati chief merely replied, “I
have received thy letter, full of words, but empty of sense: I will bring
my answer.”

In the following spring the Qarmatians appeared again at ʿAyn Shams,
and helped by Ikhshid partisans, spread far and wide through Egypt.
Al-Moʿizz sent his son ʿAbdullah with some 4,000 men into Lower Egypt and
he gained several minor advantages over some of the marauding bands of
Qarmatians, but this did not prevent the main body from assembling before
Jawhar’s trench which they prepared to assault. By means of spies the
Khalif managed to bribe the Arab tribe of B. Tayy, the strongest factor
in Hasan’s army, allies but not themselves of the Qarmatian sect, to
desert, the price being 100,000 dinars. As the treasury did not contain
sufficient gold these coins were specially struck of lead and gilt. In
the next attack the B. Tayy rode away and Hasan was routed, his camp
plundered, and some 1,500 of his irregular followers slain. The advantage
was pressed home by the Egyptians who advanced into Syria, but after this
defeat the Qarmatians began to fall to pieces as the result of internal

The defeat of the Qarmatians was followed by the appearance of a new
danger in the person of the Turkish leader Haftakin. This man had been a
slave in the service of the Buwayhid prince, Moʿizz ad-Dawla, and rose to
a leading position in command of the Turkish mercenaries under his son
Azz ad-Dawla Bakhtiar (Maq. ii. 9). In the course of a battle which took
place outside Baghdad between the Turks and the Daylamites, Haftakin,
though himself acting with exemplary courage, was deserted by most of his
men and compelled to flee with a small body of some 400 followers. At
first he took refuge at Rabha on the Euphrates, but afterwards moved to
Syria. The Syrian Arabs were alarmed at his approach, and appealed for
help to Ibn Jaʿfar, the Fatimite governor of Damascus, who was easily
convinced that Haftakin was acting on behalf of the ʿAbbasid Khalif of
Baghdad, and so took the field against him. But the Emir of Aleppo sent
a force under the eunuch Bashara to the help of Haftakin, and as soon as
this became known the Arabs deserted Jaʿfar and went home. Bashara then
escorted Haftakin to Aleppo (Abu l-Feda) or Emessa (Maqrizi), where the
Emir received him well and bestowed on him many presents.

At Damascus Jaʿfar was faced with a discontented group of citizens, and
they even formed themselves into armed bands under the leadership of one
Ibn Maward. As soon as these men heard of Haftakin’s arrival in Syria,
they opened negotiations with him and invited him to Damascus, promising
to join him in expelling the Fatimid garrison and to recognise him as
emir. Damascus, it must be remembered, was fanatical in its hatred of
the Shiʿites. Haftakin agreed to these proposals, and towards the end of
Shaban 364 proceeded as far as Thaniyyat al-Okab on the road to Damascus.

At this juncture Ibn Jaʿfar heard that the Greeks were intending to
make an attack upon Tripoli in Syria, and so marched his forces out of
Damascus to intercept them. This gave Haftakin his opportunity, and he
was able to enter Damascus without opposition. After a brief stay there
he went down to Baʿalbak to chastise the Arabs who had taken up arms to
assist Jaʿfar against him, but was surprised by a large Greek force,
which was pillaging Baʿalbak and laying waste the surrounding country:
he was only just able to escape before them and seek safety in Damascus
whither the Greeks soon followed him. The citizens sent out an embassy
to ask for terms, and were informed that the city would be spared in
return for a substantial fine. Soon Haftakin went out to the Greek camp
and explained that he was unable to raise the promised fine because
of the obstacles put in his way by Ibn Maward and his partisans, the
free militia of Damascus. As a result of this the Greek Emperor, John
Tzimisces, sent officers into the city, who arrested Ibn Maward and
brought him out a prisoner. By this means the city was cleared of its
irregular forces and Haftakin took full possession, raising the sum of
30,000 pieces of gold as a fine with great rigour. He paid the sum to
the Greeks, who forthwith retired to Beirut and thence to Tripoli.

Thus Haftakin became absolute master of Damascus, and formally recognised
the suzerainty of the ʿAbbasid Khalif of Baghdad. He was afraid, however,
that the Fatimid Khalif would before long take steps to recover his hold
over Syria, and so wrote to the Qarmatians at Lahsa, their headquarters
in the Bahrayn, asking them to ally themselves with him against
al-Moʿizz. They accepted these proposals and a large body of them arrived
before Damascus in 365, where they encamped for a few days; after resting
and conferring with Haftakin they passed on to Ramla, where the Fatimid
general Ibn Jaʿfar was in command, and at their approach he retired to
Jaffa, and they occupied Ramla. Meanwhile Haftakin, as agreed with the
Qarmatians, marched along the coast, and at Saʿida (Sidon) engaged two
subordinate Fatimite generals, Dhalim b. Marhub and Ibn ash-Sheikh, whom
he defeated. Dhalim then withdrew to Tyre, and Haftakin had the hands of
the slain of the Fatimite army cut off and sent as a trophy to Damascus
(Maq. ii. 9).

Just about this time the Khalif al-Moʿizz died, his son ʿAbdullah having
pre-deceased him. He had spent only two years in Egypt but, besides the
decisive repulse of the Qarmatians, he had established a government,
which on the whole was a fair one and kept good order in the land. To
avoid racial disputes, such as had disturbed Kairawan, he settled his
African troops at al-Khandaq near ʿAyn Shams and, although they were
allowed to visit Fustat freely during the day, all were required to leave
the city before nightfall. In dealing with the inhabitants of Egypt
both al-Moʿizz and Jawhar put aside all prejudices, whether of race
or religion, and took a simply practical attitude, at heart no doubt
regarding all religions as equally worthless. The Copts were as a rule
far more efficient as clerks, accountants, and scribes, than their Muslim
fellow countrymen, and they, as well as some Greek Christians, were
largely employed in all the subordinate branches of the administration,
and even to rise to some of the higher offices. As a practical measure
this was thoroughly satisfactory, but the fact that the tax collectors
and practically all the finance officials were Christians or Jews, caused
the gradual evolution of a strong feeling of dislike against members of
these two religions. Undoubtedly also the methods of oriental finance
gave opportunity for much oppression and dishonesty, and the Copts
and Jews were unable to avoid these temptations, so that much of the
prejudice felt against them was justified. Although the employment of
Christians and Jews in the civil service is more or less an established
tradition in Muslim lands, it was carried much further by the Fatimids
than had been usually the case.

Al-Moʿizz entrusted the task of organising a new system of taxation to
the converted Jew, Ibn Killis, who had had experience of administrative
work under Kafur, and to ʿAsluj. The old system of farming out the
taxes was abolished and the whole was centralised, whilst at the same
time a new assessment of land and taxable sources was made. All arrears
were rigorously called up, but very careful consideration was given to
every appeal and complaint. The whole system of taxation was strictly
enforced, but efforts were made to protect the tax-paying community from
unjust exactions. As a result the revenue of the state was considerably
increased, the daily takings in the city of Fustat alone ranging between
50,000 and 120,000 dinars. At the same time, however, al-Moʿizz commenced
an extravagant expenditure on the erection of the royal suburb of
Kahira, and this was followed by ostentatious and luxurious outlay on
an unprecedented scale, so that the actual financial position of the
government was not much improved on the whole. A taste for display became
a characteristic of the Fatimid dynasty, and this tended to exert a
demoralising influence on the community generally by raising the general
standard of expenditure.



(A.H. 365-386 = A.D. 975-996)

Al-Moʿizz was succeeded by his son Nizar, who took the name _al-Imam
Nizar Abu Mansur al-ʿAziz bi-llah_, and so is generally known as
al-ʿAziz. Although his father’s death took place in the early part of
365, it was concealed for some time until it seemed that the succession
was secure, and the formal proclamation was deferred until the Feast of
Sacrifice on Thursday, the 4th of Rabiʿ II. 365. The traditional picture
of al-ʿAziz represents him as humane, generous, a fearless hunter, and a
successful general. Like his father he had a strong taste for building,
and erected a great mosque in Kahira, generally known as the Mosque of
al-Hakim, as it was finished by his son Hakim, near the Bab al-Futuh:
besides this he built the “Palace of gold” facing his father’s palace
across the great square in the midst of Kahira, also a mosque in the
cemetery of al-Karafa, and a palace at ʿAyn Shams (Ibn Khall. iii. 525).
These can hardly be called public buildings in the true sense as they
were all connected with the royal court, and as such were within the
precincts of the “guarded city” and inaccessible to the public generally.
In person al-ʿAziz was tall, broad shouldered, with reddish hair, and
eyes large and of a dark blue colour: in Arab opinion there is something
sinister in such hair and eyes. He was not only fond of sport, but
had also a marked taste for literature, and was particularly adept at
composing epigrams. According to Ibn Khallikan, who, as a partisan of
the ʿAbbasids, delights in reporting anecdotes to the detriment of the
Fatimid Khalifs, he once addressed a derisive and sarcastic letter to
al-Hakim, the Umayyad of Spain, who replied, “You satirize us because
you have heard of us; had we ever heard of you we should reply” (Ibn
Khall. iii. 525).

The Fatimid Khalifs were not able to maintain their somewhat dubious
pedigree above the reach of criticism. In Egypt there were many undoubted
descendants of ʿAli, and some of these, as well as other people, were
strongly inclined to resent the Khalifs’ pretensions. No serious credence
can be given to the story that al-Moʿizz was examined on this subject
at his first entry into Egypt, and simply displayed his sword as his
title to the throne (cf. 49, above), but no doubt many criticisms were
passed in private. One day, when al-ʿAziz ascended the pulpit in the Old
Mosque he found before him a paper on which was written: “We have heard
a doubtful genealogy proclaimed from the pulpit of the mosque: if what
you say be true, name your ancestors to the fifth degree. If you wish to
prove your assertion, give us your genealogy, one that is as certain as
that of at-Taʿi. If not, leave your pedigree in the shade and enter with
us in the great family which includes all mankind. The most ambitious
vainly strive to have a genealogy like that of the sons of Hashim” (Ibn
Khall. iii. 525). The “sons of Hashim” means the ʿAbbasids, of whom
at-Taʿi was then the reigning Khalif. The incident seems probable enough
as the Egyptians generally were not at all in sympathy with Shiʿite
claims; it seems, however, that there was a growing feeling even amongst
Fatimid supporters that the Khalif would do well to discard the Shiʿite
religious theories which were now of no assistance to the dynasty, and
that he would do better if he posed frankly as a secular ruler. Probably
this feeling had commenced to form soon after the execution of Abu
ʿAbdullah in the time of the first Fatimid: we shall see it gathering
force under the son of al-ʿAziz, and finally deciding the Fatimids to
cast aside all the quasi religious and mystical pretensions which had
been adopted at the formation of the sect by ʿAbdullah, the son of Maymun.

Like his father, al-ʿAziz was favourably disposed towards the Copts and
other Christians, but in his case a pro Christian attitude was emphasized
by the fact that he had a Christian wife whose two brothers were, by
the Khalif’s influence, appointed Malkite patriarchs,—that is to say,
patriarchs of the church in communion with the orthodox Greek Church as
distinguished from the Jacobite body to which the Copts belonged,—the one
at Alexandria, the other in Jerusalem. The Khalif’s favour was extended
to the Coptic Church as well as to the Malkite body to which his wife
belonged, and permission was given to the Coptic patriarch Efraim to
rebuild the ruinous church of Abu s-Seyfeyn in Fustat. Al-ʿAziz exceeded
his predecessors in the ostentatious display of wealth, introducing
new fashions of Persian origin, such as turbans of cloth of gold, gold
inlain armour, and other splendours which were copied by the courtiers
and nobles. At one time he spent a sum nearly equivalent to £12,000 on a
magnificent silk curtain from Persia.

Al-Moʿizz had left his successor a difficult problem in Syria. From the
first Syria was the hardest burden which the Fatimids had to assume by
their entry into the heritage of Egypt, and it is worth remembering
that, of the three pieces of advice which Ibn Killis gave to the Khalif
as the great wazir was on his death bed, the two first were, try to
keep peace with the Greeks, and “be content if the Hamdanids of Aleppo
mention your name in the Friday prayer and put it on their coinage.” The
ambition to control Syria has always been the fatal temptation of the
sovereigns of Egypt, in the days of the ancient Pharaohs as at every
period of subsequent history, and the great minister was undoubtedly
wise in advising the Khalif not to seek more than a formal recognition
of suzerainty. At this moment, however, it was no matter of choice. The
Qarmatians had threatened the gates of Cairo, and were now in alliance
with Haftakin, who had ejected the Fatimid governor from Damascus: it
seemed that the prestige, and perhaps the existence of the Fatimids,
depended on their dealing with Haftakin.

Al-ʿAziz entrusted the problem of Syria to the general Jawhar who was
put at the head of a large army. The news of his approach found the
Qarmatians at Ramla, and Haftakin encamped before Acca. The Qarmatians
fell into panic when they heard of Jawhar’s coming, fled from Ramla
and allowed him to take possession of the town. Some of the Qarmatians
retired to their own territory of al-ʾAhsa in the Bahrayn, whilst others
dispersed in all directions. Haftakin heard of this and saw himself
deprived of his allies, and so retired to Tiberias where he rallied round
him some of the scattered Qarmatians and then, helped by his own Turkish
levies, prepared to give battle to Jawhar. First he raised supplies
from the Hauran and from Bathniyya, one of the districts near Damascus
and then, having provisioned the city for a siege, determined to wait
the Egyptian general there. Towards the end of the month of Dhu l-Kaada
Jawhar arrived and pitched camp before Damascus, surrounding his camp
with a deep trench and making regular openings for his men to pass in
and out. Haftakin entrusted one Qassam Sharrab a leader of the local
irregular force which had evidently been revived in the city, with the
task of arranging sorties and attacks on Jawhar’s camp, and these went
on until the 11th of Rabiʿ II. of 366, when the local captain became
disheartened as these sorties did not produce any favourable results, and
Haftakin himself was beginning to consider the expediency of attempting
to escape from the city. Before abandoning Damascus, however, he made
every effort to obtain assistance, and at last was cheered by the news
that the Qarmatian Hasan b. Ahmad was marching to his relief. When Jawhar
heard this he thought it prudent to propose terms to Haftakin, the more
so because his own supplies were running short and, to Haftakin’s great
delight, proposed to retire if he would refrain from pursuit. As this
offer was at once assented to, Jawhar withdrew on the 3rd of Jumada
I. and went to Tiberias. As soon as the Qarmatians heard of this they
followed to Tiberias, but found that Jawhar had passed on to Ramla.
They pursued as fast as they could, and a small engagement took place.
The Qarmatian leader Hasan b. Ahmad died at Ramla, and the office of
_kabir_ passed to his cousin Jaʿfar, the army being under the command of
Yusuf, the last survivor of the six sons of Abu Saʿid (Abu l-Feda: _Ann.
Moslem_, ii. 535). After this it became the custom for the Qarmatians
to put their forces under the control of six _saʿids_, who formed a
kind of elective military council. Very soon after Hasan’s death they
quarrelled with Haftakin and deserted him. Although the retirement of
the Qarmatians left Haftakin in a less favourable position he decided to
give battle to Jawhar, with the result that he defeated him, and Jawhar
was obliged to flee to Ascalon, leaving a vast booty in the victor’s
hands (Maqrizi, ii. 9-10).

Elated by this success Haftakin advanced to besiege Ascalon, but the
Khalif al-ʿAziz had heard of the late reverse and prepared to march to
his general’s relief. The preparations in Egypt seem to have been delayed
for some reason, and so Jawhar sent to Haftakin proposing terms of peace.
It was agreed that Jawhar should pay a compensation to Haftakin and then
both he and his men should be allowed to go away in peace, but should
pass under Haftakin’s sword. This was agreed and Haftakin’s sword was
suspended over one of the gates of Ascalon, and the Egyptian army moved
out through this gate and marched homewards by the road through Ramla. On
the way they met al-ʿAziz marching to their relief, and the two forces
joined together and turned back upon Haftakin. He was at Tiberias when
he heard of this meeting and at once set out, and before long came into
contact with the Fatimite army, with the result that the Turks were put
to flight after an engagement lasting only a few minutes. This took place
on Thursday, seven days before the end of the month of Muharram 368.
Haftakin’s body was sought amongst the many slain but was not found:
later on he was brought in a prisoner by some Arabs who had taken him in
flight. He was led before al-ʿAziz, who ordered him to be paraded through
the troops, during which he had his beard pulled, and had to endure blows
and insults of all sorts. The Fatimite then returned to Egypt carrying
with it Haftakin and many other prisoners.

When the Khalif reached Cairo he treated Haftakin with every
consideration, supplying him with garments and presents, and assigned
him a residence. In after times Haftakin, admitted to the Fatimid court
as an honoured guest, used to say: “I blush to mount my horse in the
presence of our lord ʿAziz bi-llah, and dare not look at him because of
the gifts and favours with which he overwhelms me.” When al-ʿAziz heard
this he said to his uncle Haydara: “By God, my uncle. I love to see men
covered with favours, shining with gold and silver and precious stones,
and to think that all their fortune comes from me.” The Khalif heard that
some people found fault with his conduct towards Haftakin, and ordered
him to be escorted through the city in magnificent apparel, and on his
return presented him with a large sum of money, a number of robes of
state, and ordered the chief men of the court to show him hospitality.
After the courtiers had feasted him the Khalif asked him how he approved
of their banquets, and Haftakin replied that they were magnificent and
that his hosts had loaded him with presents and compliments. It was the
Khalif’s project to form a Turkish faction of military capacity which
would counterpoise the weight of the Berber element which he regarded
with some distrust. He put the Turks and Daylamites who were in Cairo as
prisoners under Haftakin’s command, and thus formed a bodyguard which
was independent of the Berbers, on whom he and his predecessors had
hitherto relied. Haftakin enjoyed the Khalif’s favour until his death in
372. Al-ʿAziz suspected the wazir Ibn Killis of having caused him to be
poisoned, as it was said that Haftakin had behaved scornfully towards
him, and cast the wazir into prison, but after a short confinement the
wazir was set at liberty as the Khalif found that he could not dispense
with his services.

Ibn Killis served as wazir in all for fifteen years (d. 368), and it
was largely due to him that the country enjoyed internal peace and that
the public revenue was largely increased. For the next two years the
wazir was the Christian ʿIsa b. Nestorius, who was supported by harim
influence. In fact the only efficient administrators were to be found
amongst the non-Muslims and renegades: the Turks and Berbers were all
right as fighting men, but could never learn to act efficiently as civil
servants. But these appointments were not popular, and evidences of
resentment appear from time to time. When, towards the end of the reign,
preparations were being made against the Greeks, and a fleet of 600
ships lay ready at Maqs to support the army in an expedition to Syria,
eleven of these ships were set on fire, and popular feeling ascribed
this disaster to the Greek inhabitants living in the neighbourhood, with
the result that there was a riot in which many Greeks were murdered and
their houses pillaged. It is not fair, however, to represent this as an
anti-Christian movement, although no doubt most of those who suffered
were Christians. The riot was soon put down, for al-ʿAziz brought out his
bodyguard of Turks and Berbers, and within six months the energy of Ibn
Nestorius produced six new vessels of the newest type.

Al-ʿAziz shared the besetting weakness of all the Fatimids in his
uncontrolled love of ostentatious display. In his case this not only took
the form of magnificent dresses and lavish generosity, but he showed a
marked passion for rarities of every sort. At his table there were the
most curious and foreign dainties, strange animals were imported to
grace his public processions, and robes of costly and hitherto unknown
materials were procured from the most distant lands. At the same time
al-ʿAziz was an expert in precious stones and articles of _vertu_, and
formed a collection of such things in his palace. On the other hand he
was a strict reformer in matters of finance, putting down the taking of
bribes and presents with severity, and introducing the custom of paying
every official and household servant a fixed salary.

Syria still remained subject to Fatimid rule, but was held only by force
of arms. In 368 al-ʿAziz judged it expedient to visit the country where
hostile movements were taking place on the part both of the Turks and of
the Greeks. At the beginning of the journey, however, he was taken ill at
Bilbays. For some time he lay in a dubious state, then rallied, and then
became worse again. On Sunday, the 23rd of Ramadan, he rode to the bath,
and thence to the lodgings of Barjawan his treasurer with whom he stayed,
but next morning was very seriously worse. The complaint was stone with
pains in the bowels. On the following Tuesday he felt that his end was
near and sent for the Qadi Muhammad b. an-Numan, and the general Abu
Muhammad al-Hasan Ibn ʿAmmar, to whom he commended the care of his son,
then only eleven years old. After this he sent for his son, al-Hakim,
and of that interview al-Musabbihi said: “In a conversation I had with
al-Hakim, we happened to speak of the death of al-ʿAziz, on which he said
to me: ‘O Mukhtar, my father sent for me before he breathed his last, and
I found him with nothing on his body but rags and bandages.’ I kissed
him, and he pressed me to his bosom, exclaiming: ‘How I grieve for thee,
beloved of my heart,’ and tears flowed from his eyes. He then said: ‘Go,
my master, and play, for I am very well.’ I obeyed and began to amuse
myself with sports such as are usual with boys, and soon after God took
him to himself. Barjawan then hastened to me, and seeing me on the top of
a sycamore tree, exclaimed: ‘Come down, my boy; may God protect you and
us all.’ When I descended he placed on my head the turban adorned with
jewels, kissed the ground before me, and said: ‘Hail to the Commander of
the faithful, with the mercy of God and his blessing.’ He then led me out
in that attire and showed me to all the people, who kissed the ground
before me and saluted me with the title of Khalif” (Ibn Khali, iii. 529).

Al-Musabbihi says that after this interview with his son he became worse.
For some time he remained in his bath, and then as he left it, suddenly
expired. The historian of Kairawan says that the physician prescribed
a potion which was wrongly made up and that this was the cause of his



(A.H. 386-411 = A.D. 996-1021)

Al-Mansur Abu-ʿAli al-Hakim bi-amri-llah (“ ... ruling by God’s
command”), commonly known as Al-Hakim, was only eleven years old when
he was saluted as Khalif at Bilbays on Tuesday, the 23rd of Ramadan 386
(October, 996 A.D.). Next day he proceeded to Cairo with all the court.
Before him went his father’s body in a litter borne on a camel, the two
feet protruding. The young prince was clothed in a woollen shirt split
up the front and adorned with buttons and button holes, and on his head
was the jewelled turban which served as the official diadem; in his hand
he bore a lance and a sword depended from his neck (Maqrizi ii. 285). He
reached Cairo and entered the palace a little time before the hour of
evening prayer, and the following night was occupied with the funeral
of the deceased Khalif. Ibn an-Numan washed his late master’s body,
which was then buried in a chamber of the palace beside the tomb of his
predecessor, al-Moʿizz (Maqrizi _loc. cit._, Ibn Khallikan _loc. cit._).

On Thursday morning the whole court attended early at the palace. A
golden throne covered with cushions of cloth of gold was placed in the
great portico which al-ʿAziz had constructed in 369. Al-Hakim started out
from the palace on horseback wearing the jewelled turban. At his approach
all the courtiers kissed the earth, and then walked at his side or before
and behind until he reached the portico, where he dismounted and took his
seat on the throne, the courtiers taking their places according to rank,
and each in turn did homage. Barjawan, the white eunuch whom al-ʿAziz had
appointed to act as _Ustad_ or “tutor,” administered the oath, and the
young Khalif was proclaimed with the title _al-Hakim bi-amri-llah_.

There is no doubt that al-ʿAziz, in appointing Barjawan as tutor intended
him to act as regent until the young prince was old enough to assume
the power himself, although Ibn ʿAmmar and the Qadi Muhammad b. Nuʿman
were associated with him as guardians. But at this point Ibn ʿAmmar, the
acknowledged leader of the Katama party in Cairo, seized the office of
_Wasita_ or chief minister, to which was united the office of _sifara_ or
secretary of state, ejecting Isa b. Nestorius, and assumed the title of
_Amin ad-Dawla_ or “the one trusted in the empire.” This was the first
time that the term “empire” was employed in the Fatimid state and, as De
Sacy points out (_Druses_ i. cclxxxv.), its use shows the appearance of
a new tendency. So far the Fatimids had been the leaders of a sect of
which the Imam was supreme pontiff: circumstances had enabled the sect
to establish a state, first in Ifrikiya, then in Egypt, but it retained,
at least in theory, a quasi-religious character, and its professed duty
was to maintain the divine right of the Mahdi and his descendants. It
seems, however, that by this time there were some who had out-grown this
sectarian point of view and desired the Fatimid state to pose frankly
as a secular power. The Berber tribe of Katama appears to have been the
centre of this change of view; they considered no doubt that they had
been the conquerors of Ifrikiya and of Egypt, and by their conquest had
established a Berber monarchy: why should the fruits of this conquest be
laid at the feet of an Arab dynasty whose supernatural claims they no
longer believed?—the Fatimid Khalifs had given no evidence of miraculous
powers, but were evidently ordinary human beings whose kingdom had been
secured by the ready credulity of their forefathers. Ibn ʿAmmar comes
forward as the leader of what we may term the secular party, and his
programme seems to have been to dispense with the religious claims of
the Fatimids, and to treat Egypt and its subject provinces simply as a
_dawla_ or temporal kingdom. No doubt these views had been gathering
force for some time past, and certainly al-ʿAziz had been more prominent
as the secular ruler and had allowed the sectarian propaganda to drop
into the background, but his death and the accession of a child Khalif
offered exceptional opportunities for modifying the policy of the state.
De Sacy suggests that Ibn ʿAmmar’s party was disposed to get rid of the
young sovereign and to establish a purely Berber government, a suggestion
which has every appearance of probability. With the disappearance of the
divinely appointed Mahdi and the end of the Fatimid line the country
would be set free from the peculiar religious views of the Ismaʿiliya,
which were an actual barrier to the progress of the state and alienated
from it the bulk of the subject population. It seems a very probable
picture of the tendencies prevailing at the moment and rests upon rather
more than simple conjecture, though it must be admitted that none of the
native historians attach this deep significance to the introduction of
the term _dawla_.

It is not necessary to suppose that Barjawan was a devout supporter
of Ismaʿilian views, but he certainly was the decided opponent of Ibn
ʿAmmar who had curtailed his power and thrust him into the background,
leaving him to be no more than the private tutor of the young prince. By
force of circumstances he was compelled to become the champion of the
young Khalif, so that this first period of al-Hakim’s reign centres in
Barjawan’s intrigues to get rid of Ibn ʿAmmar.

Very early in al-Hakim’s reign there came to Egypt as a refugee the
eunuch Shakar, who had been a servant of the Buwayhid prince Adhad
ad-Dawla, but who had been taken prisoner by the rival prince Sharif
ad-Dawla, from whom he had escaped. He was a friend of Manjutakin, the
governor of Syria, and Barjawan, having enlisted his support, used him
as the medium of sending an appeal to Manjutakin to deliver him and
the Khalif from the bondage in which they were kept by Ibn ʿAmmar.
Manjutakin, who was naturally inclined to be a partisan of the Turks and
the Turkish mercenaries whom al-ʿAziz had introduced into Egypt as a
counterpoise against the influence of the Katama and other Berber tribes,
readily espoused Barjawan’s faction and assembled troops preparatory to
an advance upon Egypt. As soon as Ibn ʿAmmar heard of this he treated
it as a revolt, and sent out an army under the command of Sulayman b.
Jaʿfar b. Fallah, a Berber of the Katama tribe and one of his supporters
to check the revolted Manjutakin. Thus the palace intrigue between Ibn
ʿAmmar and Barjawan was fought out by their respective supporters in

Sulayman met Manjutakin either at Ascalon or Ramla, and there he
inflicted a defeat upon the Turks in which Manjutakin himself was
taken prisoner and sent captive to Egypt. He was well received by Ibn
ʿAmmar, who wanted to see Berbers and Turks united in resistance to the
established Khalifate, and perceived very clearly that his plans could
not be successful unless he enlisted the sympathy of the Turkish faction
which was very strong in Cairo.

After his victory over Manjutakin Sulayman was made governor of Syria
and proceeded to Tiberias, sending his brother ʿAli to act as his
deputy in Damascus. But the citizens of Damascus, always turbulent and
independent, refused to accept ʿAli as governor or to allow him to enter
the city until they received a threatening letter from Sulayman which
thoroughly frightened them and put an end to their opposition. ʿAli
entered Damascus in no pleasant mood, and made his irritation felt by
turning his soldiers loose, so that many of the citizens were slain and
some parts of the city burned, after which he withdrew and pitched camp
outside. Not long afterwards Sulayman himself arrived and received the
apologies and protestations of loyalty of the citizens and was pleased to
express his pardon. It was his aim at this time to continue the policy of
al-ʿAziz and to hold the sea coast as a check upon the Greeks, and thus
had no desire to be embroiled with a city in his rear which he left to
be dealt with at a more convenient time. The Syrian Tripoli was the most
important coast town held by the Muslims, and this he now handed over to
his brother ʿAli, dismissing the governor Jaysh, although he was a fellow
Berber and a tribesman of the Katama, with the result that Jaysh went
back to Egypt with a grievance and joined himself to Barjawan’s faction.

Barjawan’s intrigues had now so far succeeded that he had a strong
following, and as most of Ibn ʿAmmar’s troops were absent in Syria it
seemed a favourable moment to strike his rival. For some time there were
street riots between Berbers and Turks, indeed, this seems to have been
more or less the normal state of Cairo at the time, for in spite of
the good treatment accorded to Manjutakin, the Turkish mercenaries were
deeply jealous of the favour shown by Ibn ʿAmmar to his fellow Berbers.
When Barjawan felt that the time was ripe he secretly distributed largess
amongst the Turks, and they made an open attack upon Ibn ʿAmmar which
compelled him to conceal himself and to retire from public life.

At Ibn ʿAmmar’s downfall, for this it actually was, Barjawan assumed
the offices of Wasita and Sifara, thus becoming practically regent of
the state, on 28 Ramadan 387, after Ibn ʿAmmar had held office for a
little less than eleven months. He treated the fallen minister as a kind
of usurper who had tried to make the Khalif a prisoner and celebrated
his own accession, or rather restoration to office—for he had certainly
acted as chief minister for the first few days of al-Hakim’s reign—as a
vindication of the Khalif’s rights. He brought forth al-Hakim in public,
had him again proclaimed Khalif, and displayed him as sovereign.

But it was in Syria that the two factions were really fighting out their
quarrel, and Barjawan’s first act of policy was to write to the citizens
of Damascus urging them to resist Sulayman, and assuring them of the
support of the home government as the Katama faction had now fallen from
power. Thus encouraged the people of Damascus pillaged Sulayman’s goods,
slew many of his men at arms, and expelled him from the city.

Neither faction at Cairo was strong enough to proceed to extremities, and
Barjawan had reason to dread the return of the Berber troops from Syria.
For a while Ibn ʿAmmar was treated as a prisoner of state and confined to
his house, but all his fiefs and sources of income were secured to him
and, after an interval, he was allowed to go about as he pleased and to
present himself at court.

In Syria a period of disorder followed the fall of Sulayman, and the
Bedwin phylarch Mufarraj b. Daghtal b. Jarrah broke out in revolt,
established his headquarters at Ramla, and made forays in the Bedwin
fashion through the surrounding country. At the same time Tyre revolted
under the leadership of a peasant named Olaka, and the Greeks, led by
the Emperor Ducas, laid siege to Apamea. It seemed, therefore, that
Barjawan’s success involved the practical loss of control over the
Asiatic provinces. But though Barjawan had encouraged the turbulence of
the Damascenes for his own purpose, and had thus got rid of Ibn ʿAmmar’s
chief supporter Sulayman, he had no intention to lose hold of Syria
permanently, and sent up Jaysh b. Samsama as governor: probably this
appointment was Jaysh’s stipulated fee for assisting Barjawan. At the
head of a large force Jaysh proceeded to Ramla where he found Sulayman
whom he made prisoner and sent to Egypt. He then sent a detachment under
Husayn b. ʿAbdullah against Tyre, and proceeded himself against Mufarraj.

At Husayn’s approach Olaka appealed for help to the Greek Emperor, and
in response a fleet of Greek ships was sent to his assistance. These
ships, however, were met off Tyre by an Egyptian fleet and defeated. The
Tyrians, now thoroughly discouraged, made an unconditional surrender and
Husayn entered their city, pillaged it, and sent Olaka a prisoner to
Egypt where he was flayed and crucified.

Meanwhile Jaysh had been advancing against Mufarraj but, as he approached
with so large an army, Mufarraj became frightened and fled. Jaysh did
not pursue him but passed on to Damascus where the inhabitants received
him with some anxiety, although in their recent revolt against Sulayman
they had been acting with the approval and encouragement of Barjawan’s
faction, and so in alliance with Jaysh. They remembered, however, that
Jaysh was a Berber of the Katama, and that tribal prejudices were
stronger than any temporary association in palace factions. As soon as
Jaysh entered the city he made a reassuring speech to the people, and the
citizens were fully convinced that he intended only friendly relations.
At the moment he was most anxious to be free from any minor troubles
with the cities of Syria in order that he might deal effectually with
the Greek attempts upon the country which, for some years past, had been
growing more serious. He proceeded therefore to Apamea, and before long
joined issue with the Greek forces under Ducas, and received at their
hands a severe defeat. Whilst the Muslims were in full flight and the
Greeks were occupied in plundering their baggage, a young Kurd named
Ahmad ibn ʿAbdu-l-Haqq, with a small band of followers of the tribe
of Bashara advanced to where the Emperor stood surrounded by officers
amongst whom was his son. The Emperor paid no attention to the Kurd,
supposing him to be one of the defeated enemy coming to make formal
surrender, but as Ahmad drew near he fell upon the Emperor with his sword
and killed him instantly. At this the Greeks were thrown into confusion,
the Muslims rallied, and the conflict closed with a victory for the

Jaysh, thus unexpectedly the victor, proceeded to Antioch, but did not
think it worth while to spend time in a siege without which it would have
been impossible to enter the city, and so taking what booty and prisoners
he could get in the neighbourhood, he went back to Damascus. He was now
free to give vent to his long standing grudge against that city. Refusing
all invitations to enter within its walls he pitched camp outside, but
continued his friendly attitude towards the citizens, and frequently
inviting the leaders of the local bands,—whether they should be called
militia or brigands is dubious,—entertained them in his tent. On these
occasions the guests feasted with Jaysh and then, instead of having
water brought round to wash their hands, they used to be conducted to a
separate room and washed there. This went on for some time, and then one
day the door of the room where they had retired was closed, the guests
were trapped and led out one by one to execution. As soon as the citizens
heard of this they were thrown into great alarm. Next day Jaysh entered
the city, executed as many leaders of the local bands as he could find,
seized many of the prominent citizens and sent them prisoners to Egypt,
and then pillaged their houses.

Thus Syria was brought to a condition of comparative order. Meanwhile
Barjawan had sent forces to reduce Barqa and the African Tripoli, and
thus the whole Fatimid Empire was brought to subjection. The Katami Fahl
b. Ismaʿil was appointed governor of Tyre, the eunuch Yanas was put in
charge of Barqa, and the eunuch Maysur was given the African Tripoli,
whilst the frontier posts of Gaza and Asqalon were entrusted to the
eunuch Yaman. But more important than any of these arrangements was
Barjawan’s great achievement in sending an embassy to the Greek Emperor
and concluding with him a truce for five years.

Although Barjawan remained for nearly three years regent of Egypt,
Syria, North Africa, and the Hijaz, his position was far from secure.
His danger came from an unexpected quarter; not from the Katama faction
and Ibn ʿAmmar, but from the young Khalif who was beginning to resent
Barjawan’s conduct as regent. According to one account the feeling was
personal and largely due to Barjawan’s manner towards his ward, whom
he seems to have treated with contempt and active dislike, applying to
him the nick-name of “lizard.” For a long time al-Hakim nourished his
resentment in secret and then, four days before the end of Rabiʿ II., in
the year 390, he sent to him the message, “The little lizard has become
a great dragon and wants you.” Much alarmed, Barjawan presented himself
before the Khalif, and was slain by Abu l-Fadl Raydan, the bearer of
the royal parasol, who stabbed him in the belly with a knife (cf. Ibn
Khallikan, i. 53). Whatever measure of truth there is in this account
it probably hits off some salient features in the way that a caricature
sometimes gives a truer portrait than a photograph. Undoubtedly al-Hakim
was quick to feel resentment, many proofs of this appear in his later
life; and undoubtedly there was already something uncanny in his actions
and manners, the symptoms in all probability of incipient insanity; and
no doubt interested persons were busy in fanning the smouldering embers
of resentment. Other accounts, reported by Nowairi and Bar Hebraeus,
the former always a most weighty authority for this period, represent
al-Hakim as chafing at Barjawan’s control, at his confinement to the
precincts of the palace and at the prohibition against his riding
abroad, the declared reason being the fear of assassination at the hands
of the Katama partisans, which may have been not without good ground.
According to these two historians the whole plot was due to the parasol
bearer Raydan, who had become the Khalif’s confidant, Barjawan being
occupied with matters of state and wasting no time with the youth who
was the titular sovereign and who, it may be supposed, was a moody and
unpleasing personage, and thus the parasol bearer was able to persuade
his master that Barjawan was trying to emulate Kafur, and intended to
make the Khalif a merely ornamental figure kept in the palace, and
brought out from time to time to grace some state function. It lent
colour to this, that Barjawan’s mode of life was strangely reminiscent
of Kafur; after he had secured the command of the government he had
gradually relaxed his attention to public business, until at last his
life was spent entirely in pleasure, but he never attained the literary
interests of the former negro ustad.

Nowairi tells us that al-Hakim, influenced by the suggestions of Raydan,
had consulted Husayn, the son of the great general Jawhar, and that he
frankly advised him to get rid of Barjawan. Although the minister no
longer troubled to supervise the Khalif’s education, it was his custom
to take him from time to time for a walk in the gardens which had been
laid out by Kafur, the gardens of the Pearl Palace, as they were called.
It was decided that some such occasion should be used to dispose of
Barjawan, and so one day as he was thus walking with al-Hakim Raydan
suddenly attacked him and drove a lance into his back, then al-Hakim’s
servants crowding round cut off his head.

Barjawan’s assassination was followed by a riot. The people of Cairo
were not insensible of the general security and peace which his rule had
secured, and feared a return of disorder. But Nowairi tells us that the
report went abroad that Ibn ʿAmmar had made an attempt on the Khalif’s
life. This is likely enough, for Barjawan had constantly kept alive the
idea that the Khalif lived in perpetual danger of Katama attacks. Other
accounts attribute the riot to Barjawan’s popularity and to resentment
at his murder and fear of resulting relaxation of the strong hand which
had guided the country into ways of peace and prosperity. This riot was
al-Hakim’s first lesson of the need of tact in dealing with his subjects.
He was never lacking in personal courage, and on this occasion he went
out to the people and declared, “I have been informed of an intrigue
which Barjawan made against me, and for that I caused him to be executed.
I beg you to take my part and not to be hard on me, for I am yet a
child,” and he burst into tears. The “intrigue” thus referred to was no
doubt the conspiracy which Raydan maintained that Barjawan had formed to
treat the Khalif in the same way as Kafur had treated the later Ikhshid

Although al-Hakim was now in the fifth year of his reign he had as
yet taken no part in the government, which was of course the result
of his tender years. It is obvious, however, that he had come under
the influence of Barjawan and then of Raydan and Husayn, who had all
endeavoured to develop his self-assertion for their own ends. As yet
his personal character was quite unknown, and the expansion of his
personality lies within the period following Barjawan’s assassination.

Thus the death of Barjawan marks the beginning of the second period of
al-Hakim’s reign, during which he began to assert himself and to display
his own character, although in this we see very distinct graduations
which tend to produce marked differences of policy. The first phase
covers the years 390-395, in which he shows marked peculiarities, and we
note an increasing fanaticism in upholding Shiʿite views, but for the
most part he is inclined to pleasure, and seems to have been popular.
In 395-396 there comes a puritan reaction, associated with a time of
distress and famine in Egypt, which becomes more pronounced as he has to
meet revolt at home and hostile invasion from the west.

After Barjawan’s death al-Hakim chose Husayn, the son of Jawhar, as his
chief minister, the same adviser whom he had consulted about Barjawan,
and who had advised his murder. Husayn received the title of _Qaʾid
al-Quwwad_, “general of generals,” or Commander-in-Chief, and a Christian
named Fahd acted as his lieutenant. Fahl b. Tamim was made governor of
Damascus but, as he died shortly afterwards, he was replaced by ʿAli b.
Fallah. An order was made very early in this period forbidding any person
to address the Khalif as “our lord” or “our master,” and requiring them
to confine themselves to the simpler title “Commander of the Faithful,”
and this order was enforced with the penalty of death.

Now al-Hakim, feeling himself free from restraint, began to show
evidences of peculiarities which caused many of his day and many since
to regard him as a person of disordered intellect. His first peculiarity
was a preference for night over day. He began to hold meetings of the
“council” by night, whether of the council of state or the religious
assembly of the Ismaʿilian sect does not seem quite clear, he rode
abroad in the city by night, and by his orders the streets were brightly
illuminated, the shops opened, and business and pleasure followed by
artificial light. The citizens vied with one another in hanging out
lights and illuminating their houses to win the Khalif’s approval. This
continued for about five years, during which al-Hakim seemed disposed
to encourage every kind of pleasure, and every night saw both Cairo and
the old city of Fustat refulgent with artificial illumination. In his
conduct generally the Khalif was tolerant, as his predecessors had been,
towards the Christians and Jews as well as towards the Muslims who did
not embrace the peculiar tenets of the Shiʿa sect. His mother was a
Christian. Towards his officials his conduct was generous, and he seems
to have been distinctly popular. Thus, when Jaysh died in 390 his son
went to Cairo with a paper on which his father had written his will and a
detailed statement of all his property: all this, he declared, belonged
to the Khalif his master; his children had no rights. The property thus
valued was estimated at 200,000 pieces of gold. The son brought all this
before the Khalif, but al-Hakim said, “I have read your father’s will
and the statement of the money and goods of which he has disposed by
his will: take it, and enjoy it in tranquility and for your happiness.”
Indeed, all through his career the chief charge made against him was
his reckless generosity, which often reduced the government to serious
inconvenience: it was, indeed, a species of megalomania.

No doubt the nocturnal festivities of Cairo, well suited to the pleasure
loving character of the Egyptians, led to many abuses, and so in 391 a
strict order was issued forbidding women to go out of doors by night,
and a little later this was followed by a general order prohibiting the
opening of the shops by night (Maq. ii. 286). Al-Hakim himself continued
his nocturnal tastes and nightly wanderings in the city until 393, when
he entirely ceased riding about by night and forbade any person to be out
after sunset.

In 393 al-Hakim began to show other curious developments in his conduct,
the external signs, it would appear, of a growing disorder of the mind.
We do not know what grounds Barjawan had for calling him a lizard; very
possibly there was something furtive and uncanny in him even in his
boyhood. In the early years following the death of Barjawan he seems to
have been genial and generous, but all this changed in 393, when his
character began to show a rigorous puritanism and signs of religious
fanaticism, which indeed need be no sign of a disordered intellect, but
which, suddenly developed, might very well accompany such a thing. It was
in this year also that he began to be active as a mosque builder and as a
generous benefactor of existing mosques, though this again is no evidence
of disordered mentality. At the same time he became fanatical in his
support of the peculiar tenets of the Shiʿite sect to which he belonged,
and began to show great severities towards Christians and Jews, although
in this last item he seems to have acted under the pressure of public
opinion, which was very decidedly irritated by the favouritism which the
Fatimids had so far shown to non-Muslims. But side by side with this
sudden puritanism and fanaticism appeared a vein of capricious cruelty
which has a very sinister bearing. Such cruelty begins to be prominent
in 393 when many persons were put to death, some on religious grounds,
others it would appear merely by a passing caprice of the Khalif. Amongst
these was the Ustad Raydan, the royal parasol bearer who had counselled
the murder of Barjawan.

In 394 the Chief Qadi Husayn b. Nuʿman was deprived of his office and
replaced by ʿAbdu l-ʿAziz b. Muhammad b. Numan, who had been acting as
Inspector of Complaints. In every Muslim country the Qadi who administers
the sacred law is a person of very great importance, but under the
Fatimids the Chief Qadi very often also held the office of Chief Daʿi
or Supreme Missionary, as was the case with Husayn. If the two offices
were held by different persons the Chief Daʿi ranked next after the
Chief Qadi, and wore a similar official costume. It was the duty of the
Chief Daʿi, who had under him twelve assistants as well as subordinate
daʿis in the different provinces, to receive the conversions of those
who joined the Ismaʿilian fraternity, and to deliver regular courses of
instruction to those who were members, according to their grades in the
society. His official income was derived from a fee of three and a half
pieces of silver from each member. In earlier times, as we have seen, the
daʿis were chosen from the most earnest proselytes, but at this period
the office of Chief Daʿi was hereditary in the family of the B. ʿAbdu
l-Kawi, and in them we may be disposed, perhaps, to recognise “the power
behind the throne.” Still it does not seem that this hereditary right
was treated as essential for the office, but only that it was usually
regarded as giving a normal qualification.

The appointment of a new Chief Daʿi brings us to the period of al-Hakim’s
puritanism. It was a time of great dissatisfaction. Even a people so
habitually patient as the Egyptians were beginning to feel irritation at
the expense involved in the nightly illuminations so long continued. A
more serious cause of discontent was that which usually lies behind every
disaffection in Egypt, a failure of the inundation of the Nile. For three
years in succession the Nile flood had been exceptionally low, and so
food was scarce and dear.

In 395, when a great number of people were executed, the ex-Qadi Husayn
b. Nuʿman was put to death and his body burned. We note elsewhere the
peculiar pro-Ismaʿilian legislation of 394 against various vegetables
which were traditionally associated with persons who appeared in history
as hostile to the house of ʿAli (cf. p. 141 below). At the same time a
prohibition was issued against the slaying of oxen, other than those
injured or diseased, save at the Feast of Sacrifice (Maq. ii. 286, Ibn
Khallik. iii. 450), a prohibition perhaps connected with the scarcity due
to the bad Niles.

We have already seen that strict laws against going out at night were
made as the result, no doubt, of abuses arising from the nightly
illuminations and merry-making. Now, in 395, more stringent regulations
were made. It was enacted that no women were to appear in the street
unveiled, and that no persons were to use the baths without wearing
wrappers. In Jumada II. of this year, a general prohibition was issued
against any persons going out of doors after sunset, so that the streets
were deserted by night. In accordance with another law all vessels
containing wine were seized, the vessels broken, and the wine poured out
(Maq. ii. 286). Another law dealt with the dogs which roam about most
eastern cities and who, in Muslim lands are savage because they lack
human intercourse, for the religion of Islam has placed the dog and the
pig apart as animals who are in all circumstances unclean, so that no one
who has touched either of these is able to pray or eat without formal
ablution. Now al-Hakim commenced a war of extermination against dogs,
with the result that in Cairo many were slain and very few could be seen
in the streets. Severus says that this rule was made because al-Hakim’s
ass had taken fright at a dog barking at it: in strict accuracy the
Khalif had not at this time adopted the custom of riding an ass, but this
is a minor detail.

Stricter rules also were made excluding ordinary civilians from Kahira,
from which it appears that the seclusion of the guarded city had been
somewhat relaxed. In future no one was to be allowed to ride into it,
but must dismount and proceed on foot, and all those who let out asses
for hire were to be excluded from its precincts, whilst no one was to be
allowed to pass in front of the royal palace even on foot.

We must now turn to consider conditions in Syria, for it is always
impossible to understand Egyptian history unless the course of events
in Syria is kept in view. At the time of Barjawan’s death Syria was
under the governorship of Jaysh, but when he died in 390 it became
necessary for al-Hakim to nominate a successor for this important post.
He chose Fahl of the B. Tamim, but Fahl died after only a few months. The
Khalif then appointed ʿAli b. Fallah of the Katama. In 392 the Hamdanid
prince of Aleppo, Saʿid ad-Dawla, and his wife, were poisoned by his
father-in-law Luʿluʿ, who desired to obtain the throne for himself. He
did not seize the supreme power immediately, but proclaimed Saʿid’s two
sons ʿAli and Sharif as joint rulers, retaining the real control in
his own hands. This continued for two years, then in 394 he sent them
together, with the whole of the harim of the Hamdanids to Cairo, and
assumed to himself the office and title of Emir in conjunction with his
son Mansur, and these two ruled as Emirs under the protection of the
Fatimid Khalif until Luʿluʿ’s death in 399. Then Mansur became sole
ruler under the title of _Murtada l-Dawla_ which was conferred on him
by al-Hakim, and he had the name of the Fatimid Khalif inserted in the
Friday prayer and inscribed on the coinage so that by 399 Aleppo was
fully admitted as a part of the Fatimid empire, having been a protected
district for the previous five years, before which it had for forty years
been included in the Byzantine Empire.

The first evidence of al-Hakim’s strong religious interest appears in his
diligence as a builder of mosques, and in the completion or adornment of
those already erected.

A mosque near the Bab al-Futuh, the second congregational mosque of
Kahira, had been commenced by al-ʿAziz and the Wazir Ibn Killis in 380,
and was sufficiently advanced to allow the Friday prayers to be held
there in 381. In 394 al-Hakim added the minarets and the decorations
so that Maqrizi describes him as reconstructing the building. The work
was not completed until 404. At first known as the “New Mosque” or as
_al-Anwar_ “the brilliant,” it afterwards generally bore the name of
Hakim’s Mosque. Desecrated by the Crusaders, severely injured by an
earthquake in 703, it was in a semi-ruinous condition by fire and neglect
with its roof falling to pieces when Maqrizi wrote his description
of it about A.H. 823 (= A.D. 1420. Cf. Maqrizi ii. 277, sqq.). After
even worse decay in later days it was temporarily converted in recent
times to a museum of Arabic art, the collection being removed to its
present quarters in 1903. The mosque is now abandoned and in ruins. Its
general plan follows that of the mosque of Ibn Tulun, a square courtyard
surrounded with arcades, the centre open to the sky. A considerable part
of the east _liwan_ remains, with a few fragments of the north _liwan_,
of the other two sides only portions of the exterior walls survive.
Two towers can be seen standing at the ends of the west wall, but the
open-work minarets which crown these towers are additions made some three
centuries later and alien to the style prevailing in the time of the

In the year 393 al-Hakim also began to rebuild the mosque in the district
of Rashida to the south of Kataiʿ near the Mukattam hills, on a ground
where a Christian church had once stood. The mosque had been built of
brick; this al-Hakim destroyed and reconstructed on a larger scale and of
more imposing appearance. It was known as the mosque of Rashida from its
position, the ground being so called after a person of that name who had
once been its owner. This mosque was commenced in Rabiʿ I. 393, and the
position of the _mihrab_ was carefully adjusted by the astronomer ʿAli b.
Yunus. Two years later the Khalif made this mosque a present of carpets,
curtains, and lamps.

Besides this building al-Hakim made many gifts to various mosques,
especially to those he purchased for the special purposes of the Shiʿite
sect, presenting them with copies of the Qurʾan, silver lamps, curtains,
Samanide mats, etc.

The earlier Fatimids in North Africa present rather a brutal appearance
and, so far as we can see, their one ideal was the establishment of
political power. But that was not the original character of the movement
which had distinct intellectual tendencies, and to this earlier type
al-Moʿizz had reverted. Since the dynasty had been established in Egypt
the humane side had been more prominently in evidence, and especially
in the encouragement of medicine and natural science. The Khalif
al-Moʿizz employed the Jewish physician Musa b. al-Ghazzan and his two
sons Ishaq and Ismaʿil: these were not only eminent practitioners but
Musa was distinguished as a writer on the pharmacopoeia, and all three
were regarded as leading authorities on medicine. Another distinguished
physician was the Christian Eutychius or Saʿid b. Batriq, patriarch of
the Malkite church of Alexandria who died in 328 (= A.D. 943), the author
of a history of which an edition in Arabic and Latin was published at
Oxford in 1654.

Al-Hakim himself was anxious to encourage scholarship in accordance
with the traditions of the sect of which he was the head. The mosque of
al-ʾAzhar had been especially devoted to the learned by his father,
and now in Jumada II. 395 he founded an academy on the lines of similar
institutions already existing at Baghdad and elsewhere. This new
foundation was named the _Dar al-Hikma_ or “house of wisdom.” To it were
attached a number of professors, both of the traditional sciences and
Qurʾan and canon law, and also of the natural sciences. A library was
connected with it and was filled with books transferred from the royal
palace near by. All who came to it were supplied with ink, pens, paper,
and rests for books.

It seems probable that the intellectual efforts of the Fatimids should be
connected with the _Ikhwanu s-Safa_, “the brotherhood of purity” and with
the Assassins. The former began as a kind of masonic society at Basra
soon after the capture of Baghdad by the Buwayhids in 334. Undoubtedly
it had some connection with the sect established by ʿAbdullah the son of
Maymun, but it is not possible to specify accurately what that connection
was. It may have been a more cultured off-shoot, just as the Qarmatians
were a cruder branch; but the more probable explanation is that it was a
descendant of the movement which produced ʿAbdullah, but free from the
Shiʿite elements which he inherited from the sect founded by his father
Maymun. To a large extent it seems that the “Brotherhood” displayed the
true principles adopted by the Ismaʿilians free from the Shiʿite ideas
and free from the political opportunism which marked the development of
the Fatimids in Africa and Egypt. To the Assassins we shall have occasion
to return at a later stage. The “Brethren of purity” were disposed in
four grades, the highest of which was composed of those who desired
the union of their souls with the world-spirit, so that their final
doctrine was a species of pantheism. They were a body of religious and
ethical reformers, a purified and gentle society, at the opposite pole
to the fierce Qarmatians. On the literary side they are best known as
the producers of the fifty-one “Epistles of the Brethren of Purity,” an
encyclopaedia of philosophy and science as known in the Arabic speaking
world of the fourth century. These “Epistles” were edited and translated
by Prof. Dieterici between 1858 and 1879, and show a general scheme
of education in grammar, theology, philosophy, and physics, the latter
including mineralogy, chemistry, botany, and zoology. It is in no sense
an original work, but simply an encyclopaedic compilation of all the
material then available.

The whole Fatimid movement took place in an atmosphere saturated with
Hellenistic thought, and the revived study of the Greek material was the
direct inspiration both of the Ismaʿilian sect as organised by ʿAbdullah
and of the “Brethren.” But the influence of these latter was checked
by the strong tendency towards reaction in Muslim theology and thought
generally which was gathering even in the fourth century in Asiatic
Islam. The future of the philosophers lay in the far west: Ibn Sina (d.
428) was the last of the Muslim philosophers in the east, and he was
associated with Shiʿite circles, whilst al-Farabi had lived under the
shelter of the Shiʿite Hamdanids, and the “Brethren” flourished under the
Buwayhids who also were Shiʿites. For the most part the study of Greek
philosophy, therefore, progressed under Shiʿite influences.

The “House of Wisdom” continued until 513 when the reactionary wave of
orthodoxy had reached even Fatimid Egypt, and in that year it was closed
as a home of heresy by the Wazir Afdal. Four years later a new academy
near the great palace was founded by the Wazir Maʾmun, but this adhered
more strictly to the traditional lines of Muslim study.

In the line of philosophers strictly so-called, that is to say, of those
who worked from the basis of Greek science, one is associated with
al-Hakim and the Cairo of the Fatimids, namely, Ibn al-Haytsam, known
to the mediaeval Latin writers as Alhazen. He was born at Basra in 354,
and became distinguished as a student of the Greek philosophers. At that
time the path of philosophy was beset with many difficulties owing to the
orthodox reaction.

Ibn Sina was a wanderer in many lands, and Ibn al-Haytsam found it more
prudent to seek a refuge in Cairo where he made his home amongst the
learned of the al-ʾAzhar mosque. He died in 430. We have a long list
of the works he produced, all of the type usually associated with the
Arabic philosophers, manuals, commentaries, and discussions of questions
arising from the teaching of the ancients. In his case these deal chiefly
with mathematics, physics, the Aristotelian logic, and the medical works
of Galen. The Bodleian contains a MS. of his commentary on Euclid. To the
mediaeval west he was best known as the author of a treatise on optics
which was translated into Latin and used by Roger Bacon. Occasionally
this optical work of “Alhazen” appears in the curricula of the mediaeval

Various evidences of a fanatical spirit in maintaining the doctrines
and usages of Shiʿism begin to appear in al-Hakim about 393. In Syria
a person was arrested on the charge that he denied that any special
devotion was due to ʿAli. The offender was imprisoned by the authority
of the Chief Qadi of Egypt who acted as pope over all the territories
subject to Fatimid rule, and was examined by four jurists who did their
best to persuade him to recognise the Imamate of ʿAli, but, as he
remained stubborn, he was beheaded.

In Cairo thirteen persons were arrested for having observed the _Salat
ad-Duha_ or “mid-morning prayer,” one of the voluntary observances
sometimes added to the five canonical daily prayers, but disapproved by
the Shiʿites. The offenders were paraded through the streets, beaten, and
detained three days in prison.

In the month of Rabiʿ II. of this same year (393) a man named Aswad
Hakami was punished for some offence of which the details are unknown,
but which probably was a public championship of the three first Khalifs
whom the Shiʿites regarded as usurpers. He was paraded through the city
and a herald cried before him: “This is the reward of those who are the
partisans of Abu Bakr, and Umar,” after which he was beheaded (As-Suyuti,
_History_, chap. I., Qadir bi-llah).

In 395 al-Hakim re-enforced many old laws against Christians and Jews,
and the decrees ordering the strict observance of these penal regulations
contained many abusive expressions against Abu Bakr and Umar. A new
decree of 395 forbade the use of _malukhiya_ or “Jews’ mallow” as food
because it was traditionally stated to have been a favourite article of
Muʿawiya the opponent of ʿAli. Similarly the use of _jirjir_ (_girgir_)
or “watercress” was forbidden because it had been introduced by
ʿAyesha: and of _mutawakkiliya_, a herb named after the ʿAbbasid Khalif
Mutawakkil. The sale or making of beer (_fuqqaʿ_) was severely prohibited
because it was especially disliked by ʿAli: it was forbidden to use
_dalinas_, a species of small shell fish, for some reason not known: and
very strict orders were made against the sale or use of any fish which
had no scales.

In the same year a law was published that the noon prayer was to be said
at the seventh hour and the afternoon prayer at the ninth, that is to say
the modern way of counting the correct hours was to be observed instead
of the traditional method of observing the sun. In these cases tradition
allowed the noon prayer to be said as soon as the sun is actually seen
to begin its decline from the meridian (Bukhari: _Sahih_ ix. 11), and
the afternoon prayer after it has declined (id. 13, 13A). Orthodox Islam
allows the former at any time between noon and the hour when the shadow
of a thing is equal to the thing itself in length, and the latter at any
time between the moment of equal shadow and the sunset (cf. id.). The
Fatimid Khalif now replaced these very primitive methods of reckoning,
which are still in force, by the observance of fixed hours as marked by
the dial.

In the month of Safar of 395 al-Hakim caused inscriptions cursing the
three first Khalifs, the “usurpers,” and certain others such as Talha,
Zubayr, Muʿawiya, and Amru, all regarded as enemies by the Shiʿites,
to be written up on the doors of the mosques and of shops, and on the
guard houses and in the cemeteries, and compelled the people to display
similar inscriptions in gold lettering and bright colours (cf. Maq. ii.
286, As-Suyuti: _al-Qaʾim_. Ibn Khall. iii. 450). These were extremely
offensive to the Sunnis or orthodox who formed the large majority of the
people, indeed at the present day the attitude to be observed towards the
first three Khalifs is the sorest point of difference between the Sunnis
and Shiʿites, and even in recent years more than one Shiʿite has risked
death for the sake of spitting on the tomb of ʿUmar. At the same time
efforts were made to induce citizens to join the Ismaʿilian sect, and two
days were set apart every week for the admission of those who desired to
be initiated. On some of these occasions the crowds were so large that
several people were crushed to death (Maq. ii. 286).

Those who were keen Shiʿites naturally were encouraged by this
legislation to become somewhat aggressive in their attitude. When the
caravan of African, that is to say Moroccan and Tunisian, pilgrims on
their way home from Mecca passed through Egypt and rested at Cairo, some
of the more ardent Shiʿites tried to induce them to utter curses against
ʿUmar and the other early Khalifs, and the refusal of the pilgrims to do
so led to some disturbances.

At the beginning of the year 396 the usual Shiʿite feast of the _Ashura_
commemorating the martyrdom of ʿAli and his sons, a regular occasion for
an outbreak of Shiʿite fanaticism at the present day, was duly celebrated
on the first ten days of Muharram. This time the offensive attitude of
the Shiʿites caused a good deal of annoyance, and one man was arrested
for shouting: “Such be the recompense of those who curse ʿAyesha and her
husband.” For this he was beheaded.

In 393 al-Hakim commenced the strict observance of the old laws, now
long obsolete, against the Christians and Jews. We are left in no doubt
as to the reason why these ancient penal laws were revived and strictly
enforced. Maqrizi tells us that it was due to the arrogance and wealth of
those Christians and Jews who had been unduly favoured by the Fatimids.
The greater part of the civil service was filled by them, and some
Christians, such as ʿIsa b. Nestorius and Fahd b. Ibrahim, were then
acting as ministers of state. To a large extent we may ascribe al-Hakim’s
treatment of Christians and Jews as due to the pressure of public
opinion, and it is rather interesting to observe how such opinion was
brought to bear upon a mediaeval Khalif.

One day as al-Hakim was riding through the streets he was confronted by
a female guy made of paper bearing in her outstretched hand a document
which Hakim took, and read: “In the name of him who has honoured the Jews
in Manasseh, and the Christians in ʿIsa b. Nestorius, and has dishonoured
the Muslims in himself, deliver us from the evil state we are in, in good
time” (Abu l-Feda, _Annal. Mosl._ ii. 591).

Hakim’s first step was to endeavour to bring pressure to bear upon his
chief officials in order that by getting them to profess Islam he
might remove the objection felt towards them. One of these was Fahd
b. Ibrahim, a Christian who had been _raʾis_ or lieutenant under the
commander-in-chief Husayn b. Jawhar since 389. He, however, proved
stubborn in his adherence to the Christian religion and so was beheaded
and his body burned, an act of severity which was not justified by Muslim
law. As soon as the execution was over Hakim sent for Fahd’s children,
assured them of his protection, and forbade any one to do them harm. Fahd
was succeeded in his office by the Muslim ʿAli b. ʿUmar al-ʿAddas. Hakim
then made a similar attempt to convert ʿIsa b. Nestorius and with similar
result, so ʿIsa also was beheaded. Bar Hebraeus puts this event in the
period 386-389, but as Maqrizi mentions it just before his reference to
the execution of Fahd it is more probably dated 393.

Al-Hakim had ten of the chief Christian clerks, including Fahd, arrested.
The first of these to be brought before him was Abu Najah, who was a
member of the Greek Church. Hakim urged him to become a Muslim, and
promised him rapid promotion and immediate rewards if he would do so. Abu
Najah asked that he might be allowed a day’s delay, and this was granted
him. He then went home and, gathering together his kinsmen and friends,
told them what had taken place, and assured them that he had asked for
this delay, not because he was in any doubt as to what he would do,
but in order to meet them and exhort them to remain steadfast in their
faith in the persecution which he fore-saw was about to fall upon the
church. He then entertained them all to a feast and next day presented
himself before the Khalif. Al-Hakim asked him if he had made his choice:
he replied that he had done so:—“And what is your intention?”—“It is to
remain firm in my religion.” Al-Hakim then tried promises and threats,
but without result. He then had him stripped and scourged until he had
received five hundred stripes, so that his flesh was torn and the blood
flowed freely. As the torturers stopped al-Hakim ordered them to continue
until the sufferer had received a thousand lashes. After three hundred
more Abu Najah cried out that he was in thirst and, as this was reported
to al-Hakim he ordered one of the men to give him a drink of water. But
when the water was offered Abu Najah said: “Take away his water. I have
no need of it, because Jesus Christ the true King has given me to drink,”
and then he died. When this was reported to Hakim he ordered the thousand
strokes to be completed on the dead body.

Of the other eight clerks remaining after Fahd and Abu Najah, four
remained firm and were executed, and four turned Muslim. Of these latter
one died during the night after making his profession of faith, the other
three remained conforming Muslims until the penal laws were relaxed in
the latter part of Hakim’s reign when they returned to the Christian
Church, the Khalif protecting them from the legal penalties to which this
exposed them.

Towards the end of 394 Hakim began collecting a large store of wood
on Mokattam, and this was completed in Rabiʿ I. 395. A rumour went
abroad that this was intended to provide a general holocaust of
non-Muslim clerks and civil officials, and a panic took place amongst
the Christians. On the 5th of that month a large number of clerks
assembled at the ar-Riahin and went in procession through the streets
with lamentations and cries for mercy, and finally assembled before
the palace imploring the Khalif’s mercy. At the palace they were met
by the Commander-in-Chief, Husayn b. Jawhar, who undertook to present
their petition to the Khalif. Next day they returned and Husayn gave
them letters of protection written out in three forms, one for Muslims,
another for Christians, and another for Jews (cf. Maq. i. 286, sq.).
Although it was the clerks employed in the public service who were
chiefly concerned in this, there were also merchants and private citizens
who had dealings with the court who joined in the appeal and received
letters of protection. Maqrizi has preserved a specimen of these letters
from which we gather that they were by way of licences of toleration
granted, in the case of Muslims, to those who had not become members of
the Fatimite sect. The example he gives reads: “In the name of God, etc.
This letter is from the servant of God and his wali Mansur Abu ʿAli the
Imam Hakim bi-amrillahi, Commander of the faithful, to the people of the
mosque of ʿAbdullah: You are amongst those who are in safety with the
security of God, the King, the evident Truth, and with the security of
our ancestor Muhammad, the seal of the prophets, and of our father ʿAli
the best of his heirs, and of the line of the prophets, and of the people
of the Mahdi our ancestor, may God be gracious to the Apostle and his
envoy, and to all others of them; and the security of the Commander of
the faithful is upon you yourselves, upon your kindred and property. Do
not fear for yourselves, let no hand be raised against you save for the
punishment of wrong-doing, or for a claim made and proved. Confidence
must be given to this, and one must count on the accurate fulfilment
of what is above, God willing. Written in the month of Jumada II. 395.
Praise be to God, may he be gracious to Muhammad the chief of the
apostles, to ʿAli the best of his successors, and to the Imams of the
house of the Mahdi, kinsmen of the prophet, and may abundant peace be
upon them” (Maq. i. 286). We note that Muhammad is described as “the seal
of the prophets” quite in the orthodox way which gives no indication of
the Fatimite teaching of a subsequent prophet of greater importance in
Abdullah b. Maymun. The general tone is distinctly Shiʿite, but Fatimid
only in the reference to the family of the Mahdi.

Was there any basis to the rumour that a general holocaust was intended?
Such a thing seems almost incredible, but there are certain signs which
point in its favour. Soon after the appeal made to the Khalif in Rabiʿ
I. he made a huge bonfire of all the wood collected, and for this there
was no obvious purpose, and it is certain that he had developed a
tendency to use burning as a form of punishment. We are not prepared to
say, therefore, that the rumours circulated about the store of wood on
Mokattam were entirely baseless.

Al-Hakim was particularly severe upon the inferior servants of the court,
and especially on the runners or footmen, many of whom were put to death
whilst others obtained letters of protection. This may have been an
instance of religious intolerance, or simply a case of the capricious
cruelty which now began to appear in Hakim’s conduct and contributed so
much to the theory that he was suffering from a disordered mind.

In 395 the old penal laws dating from the year 36 were re-enforced
against Christians and Jews. Both were required to wear a distinctive
dress, the Christians to have turbans of black or dark blue, a custom
which the Christians seem to have adopted voluntarily in the first place,
and which the Coptic clergy retain to the present day, the Jews to wear
yellow turbans: the women of both religions were forbidden to wear the
waist sash which was a characteristic part of female attire, and the men
were required to adopt it. At the same time it was forbidden to sell
slaves to Christians or Jews.

The citizens of Fustat, sorely tried by the scarcity and dearness of
food resulting from the bad Niles, groaned in secret over the caprices
and severities of their ruler, but did not yet venture to express their
dissatisfaction openly. It was otherwise with the free Arab tribes
settled in the country, and in 395 the B. Qorra in Lower Egypt broke
out in open rebellion. Al-Hakim had no great trouble in punishing
these rebels but his severity in doing so, although it checked the
movement, only left them ready to take up arms again on a more promising
opportunity, and for this they had not long to wait.

A serious revolt took place in North Africa in 396, which before long
seemed to threaten the very existence of the Fatimid Khalifate. In its
first inception this revolt connected with far off Spain. There the
Umayyads had been reigning since 138, but were now in their decline.
The supreme power at this time had passed into the hands of the Wazir
Mansur ibn Abi ʿAmir, who treated the Khalif of Cordova very much in the
same way as Kafur had treated the later Ikhshids, but, more cruel and
unscrupulous, was steadily getting rid of every one who stood in the way
of his ambition. Many of the Umayyad kindred were put to death, whilst
others left the country. Amongst these latter was one commonly known as
Abu Raqwa, “the man with the leather bottle,” because he carried a bottle
like that used by the travelling darwishes. As a darwish he journeyed
to Egypt, thence to Mecca, Yemen, and Syria, everywhere observing the
possibilities of forming a party to support the claims of the Umayyad
family and the evidences of discontent and probabilities of stirring up
civil strife. In all his wanderings, however, he met with no success: the
Umayyads had long passed out of the main current of Islamic life, and it
did not seem that their name could anywhere be used as a rallying cry
for the dissatisfied; there was no religious attachment to the Umayyads
like there was to the ʿAlids. At last he came back to Egypt at the time
when the B. Qorra were smarting under the severe chastisement they had
received from Hakim, and this seemed to him to offer some promise.
Passing westwards he took refuge amongst the Berber tribe of Zanata where
he obtained great esteem for his piety, acting as Imam in the services
of the mosque and teaching the Qurʾan to the children. It is perhaps as
well to note that “Imam” in this connection means no more than customary
leader in prayer; it has nothing in common with the “Imam” as understood
by the Shiʿites, save that both imply the general idea of religious
teacher. At length he managed to get a following, and proclaimed himself
as Emir under the title of “he who is sent by the order of God” and “he
who has victory over the enemies of God,” both titles common enough
amongst the Shiʿites but strange as applied to an Umayyad. His supporters
were chiefly drawn from the Zanata, but before long he was joined also by
other Berber tribes and by the B. Qorra.

At the head of a considerable army of the usual undisciplined Berber
type Abu Raqwa advanced eastwards and took Barqa where he was careful to
prevent all pillage and violence, and thus proclaimed that he was not
a mere leader of tribes on the war path, but aimed at establishing an
orderly government. At the fall of Barqa Hakim saw that the rebellion
had to be taken seriously, and sent out an army under the command of
Inal. This Egyptian force had to cross a considerable stretch of desert
before it could reach Barqa, and Abu Raqwa sent a rapidly moving body of
cavalry across the route to fill in the wells, and then waited at the
end furthest from Egypt. At length Inal’s force appeared, exhausted and
thirsty from its desert march, and the engagement which followed left
the advantage with Abu Raqwa. Before the action commenced a number of
the Katama tribesmen serving with the Egyptians deserted and joined the
enemy, induced to do so by disgust with the conduct and now notorious
cruelties of Hakim. When they presented themselves before Abu Raqwa their
first act was to intercede with him on behalf of their fellow tribesmen
still serving in the Fatimid army, and as he promised them a favourable
reception they called out to them and they deserted also. After this Abu
Raqwa joined battle and inflicted a serious defeat on Inal. The news of
this disaster caused great alarm in Cairo; there was an immediate rise
in the prices of provisions, and preparations were made for another
expedition to North Africa.

After his success Abu Raqwa made his residence at Barqa and seemed
disposed to establish a kingdom in Ifrikiya. Before long, however, he
received letters from several leading men in Egypt, including Husayn b.
Jawhar who was Hakim’s Commander-in-Chief, begging him to invade Egypt
and assuring him of a welcome and substantial support. This, more than
anything else, shows to what an extent the strange conduct of Hakim
had now alienated his subjects and even those who, like Husayn, were
his chief ministers and were, or had been, his personal friends. If
we suppose that, by this time, Hakim had given unmistakable signs of
disordered intellect we shall find in that a reasonable explanation
of the desire for some one to come and deliver the country from what
threatened to be a serious danger.

In response to this invitation Abu Raqwa started his advance into Egypt.
The news of his undertaking threw the country into great alarm. The
Druze books describe Hakim himself as completely unmoved, but other
writers speak of him as seriously frightened and even planning to retire
to Syria if all came to the worst. Meanwhile he sent to Syria for the
Hamdanid armies, and put the general Fadi b. Salih in command of the
native forces. With these Syrians and such other levies as he could raise
Fadl went out and encamped at Gizeh, waiting for the invaders. At their
arrival Fadl did not give battle, but manoeuvred so as to evade them,
and by his position at Gizeh prevented them from being able to make a
crossing of the river as that would have exposed them to his attack
whilst going across. Meanwhile he managed to open up correspondence
with some of the subordinate officers, amongst them with a certain
captain of the B. Qorra named Mahdi, who agreed to keep him informed of
all Abu Raqwa’s plans. After some delay the invaders advanced direct
upon the Fatimid general who was unable to evade the movement, and so
an engagement was forced near Kum Sharik. It was not decisive, but it
was very severe, and caused Fadl to determine not to give battle again
if he could possibly avoid doing so. Owing to his severe losses he was
compelled to retire, but still lay between Abu Raqwa and the river so as
to be able to make a flank attack if the Berbers tried to cross.

Abu Raqwa and his men, however, were perfectly confident that success
was assured, and made plans for their future policy as conquerors. They
decided to settle in Egypt and rule that country and the adjacent North
Africa, leaving Syria to the Arabs. This scheme repeated the old plan of
a purely Berber state in Africa with the Arabs excluded and sent back to
their own country. Fadl received full information as to these projects.
But there was treachery in his own army also: the Arab leaders brought
from Syria had been tampered with by Abu Raqwa’s agents who tried to
persuade them that they were making a mistake in fighting for the Fatimid
state, and that it would be more satisfactory to divide its territories
between them, the Africans under Abu Raqwa taking Egypt, the Asiatic
Arabs taking Syria. It was agreed therefore that Abu Raqwa should make
a night attack on Fadl’s army and, as soon as the attack commenced, the
Syrian leaders were to march their men over to the enemy and thus an easy
victory would be assured. But Fadl was fully informed of this plan, and
the evening before the projected attack he invited the Arab leaders to
dine with him. When the dinner was over and the guests wished to retire
he detained them and, on one pretext or another, kept them near him until
the enemy attacked. Even then he still detained them and sent orders to
the Syrians to engage their opponents, and the Syrians, ignorant of the
private plans of their leaders, did so. The followers of Abu Raqwa were
surprised at the unexpected resistance and were finally driven off.

Meanwhile Hakim succeeded in raising reinforcements of 4,000 horsemen,
which he tried to send across the river to Fadl. Abu Raqwa heard of this
and determined to intercept them, setting out so quickly that Mahdi was
unable to send a message to Fadl until he was already on the way. When
the message reached Fadl it was too late, he could no longer get into a
position to protect the new force from the fierce onset of the Berbers,
and about a thousand of them were slain. The news of this misfortune,
which Fadl contrived to conceal from his men for a time, caused great
alarm in the city: the people were seized with panic, they feared an
immediate assault, they were too much alarmed to remain in their houses
and camped for the night in the streets.

Even yet the way to the river was not clear, for a considerable force
remained ready to attack the Berbers if they tried to get down to the
ford, and Abu Raqwa found it impossible to get to grips with them. So the
Berbers were moved nearer and took up their position before the pyramids.
Fadl followed at a distance. Then Abu Raqwa thought that he could force
an engagement by leading him into an ambush. He passed on, therefore,
towards the Fayyum, and at a place called Sabkha stationed a body of men
in concealment and sent another company back towards Fadl. This body made
a perfunctory attack and then turned to flight so as to draw the pursuers
to the place of ambush. Unfortunately the whole plan had not been clearly
explained to the men beforehand, and when those in ambush saw the others
in flight they thought there had been a real defeat and, coming out of
concealment, joined their retreat. This change in the arranged programme
threw Abu Raqwa’s men into confusion, and Fadl profiting by the disorder
fell upon them and inflicted a severe defeat. This took place on the 3rd
of Dhu l-Hijja in 396. As a result Fadl was able to send to Cairo 6,000
heads of enemy slain and 100 prisoners.

This severe engagement was decisive, although Abu Raqwa himself
escaped and fled, first to Upper Egypt, then to Nubia. Here he went
to Hisnaljebel where the Nubian king lay ill, and pretended to be an
ambassador sent by the Khalif Hakim. Owing to the king’s illness he
was not able to see him and thus, ostensibly waiting for an interview,
he was able to live for some time in security. Fadl had followed close
behind to the Nubian frontier and managed to find out where he was. As
soon as he knew this he sent a messenger to the governor of the palace
informing him of the facts, and the governor had Abu Raqwa kept under
close observation. In due course the king died and his son ordered the
fugitive to be conducted across the frontier, and so he was taken across
and conducted to Fadl’s camp. The Fatimid general received him with
every courtesy and, fully supposing that Fadl’s conduct represented
the attitude of the Khalif the prisoner, as he was in spite of polite
treatment, wrote a letter to al-Hakim appealing to his generosity and
begging that he might be pardoned for his rebellion with protestations of

The letter was duly sent and Fadl marched down towards Cairo with his
prisoner who was still treated with every consideration. When they had
passed Gizeh and were about to enter Fustat, on Saturday the 27th Jumada
II. 397, orders were received by Fadl from the Khalif that Abu Raqwa was
to enter the city riding on a camel, wearing Abzari’s turban, and with
Abzari and his monkey mounted behind. Abzari’s turban was one of many
gaudy colours which it was customary for those condemned to death to
wear on their final parade to the place of execution, and the monkey was
specially trained to strike with a whip across the face of a criminal set
in front of him. For this performance Abzari was to receive 500 pieces of
gold and ten pieces of cloth.

Thus Abu Raqwa entered Fustat in the midst of the army, preceded by
fifteen elephants. The whole city was adorned as for a public holiday,
and the population lined the streets to see Abu Raqwa paraded until he
was brought to a balcony where al-Hakim was seated. The Khalif then
pronounced on him the sentence that he was to be conducted to a piece of
elevated ground before the mosque of Raydan and there beheaded. But when
they reached the place of execution and the camel knelt for Abu Raqwa to
dismount it was found that he was already dead. The body was stretched
out, and the head cut off and carried to the Khalif.

This success raised Fadl’s reputation, and for a time al-Hakim showed
great appreciation of his services. When the general fell ill the Khalif
visited him several times, and when he recovered he presented him with
gifts of large estates. Two years later, however, Fadl was put to death.

Severus of Ashmunayn relates an anecdote about al-Hakim which is commonly
supposed to refer to Fadl, but it is not certain that it does so refer,
and many things related by Severus seem to be open to question. According
to this anecdote a certain favourite, who may have been Fadl or may not,
once entered al-Hakim’s presence and found him with a comely child whom
he had bought for 100 pieces of gold. He had just cut the child’s throat,
and had opened the body and taken out the liver and entrails which he was
cutting up as the visitor entered. At the sight the onlooker could not
repress an involuntary movement of repulsion and hastily withdrew. He
knew quite well that his discovery and expression of disapproval meant
his execution, and at once went home, put his affairs in order, and
waited for his summons. Before long a messenger from the palace arrived,
and the minister who had seen too much was led away and put to death.
Whether Fadl was the hero of this anecdote, or whether the story has any
basis at all, remains uncertain, but it is known that he was executed by
the Khalif’s orders.

Abu Raqwa’s rebellion certainly makes an important turning-point in
Hakim’s reign. After it he made certain concessions to prevailing Muslim
opinion, that is to say he relaxed some of his Shiʿite prejudices and
left off some of the practices, such as the cursing of the early Khalifs,
which were most offensive to his orthodox subjects, but at the same
time he increased in severity towards the Christians and Jews who were
generally hated as forming the greater part of the civil officials and

As might be expected the rebellion was followed by several changes in
the personnel of the court. The Commander-in-Chief, Husayn b. Jawhar,
was deprived of his office on the 10th of Shaban 398, ordered to remain
in his house, and forbidden to take part in the public processions
which accompanied the Khalif on his visits to the principal mosques:
but shortly afterwards he was pardoned and ordered to resume his place
in these functions. As we have seen, it was Husayn who took part in the
invitation to Abu Raqwa. Whether this was known at the time to the Khalif
or not does not appear, but it is very probable that he had reasons for
suspecting his fidelity. The office of Commander-in-Chief was given to
Salih Rudbari b. ʿAli.

On the 16th of Rejeb 398 the Chief Qadi and Daʿi ʿAbdu l-ʿAziz also
was deprived of office, perhaps here again there was reason to suspect
correspondence with the enemy, and his place given to Malik b. Saʿid
al-Faraqi. About three years later, as we shall see, both Husayn and
ʿAbdu l-ʿAziz were so much alarmed that they fled the country, but
afterwards returned and were put to death in 401. A change was made also
in the important governorship of Damascus to which ʿAli b. Falah was
appointed in 398.

We may trace a connection between the anxiety caused by Abu Raqwa’s
revolt, complicated by growing dissatisfaction amongst the people, with
Hakim’s abandonment of his more aggressive Shiʿite attitude and partial
return to Sunni practice. In 397 he ordered all the inscriptions reviling
the early Khalifs to be effaced, and all persons who cursed them were
punished by flogging and paraded through the streets in disgrace (Maq.
ii. 286, Ibn Khall. iii. 450). This year (397) he sent a white veil to
cover the “House of God” at Mecca, white being more or less the official
colour of the Fatimids. Perhaps this more orthodox attitude should be
connected with his severer treatment of the Christians which dates from
398, and both were bids for popularity.

The year 398 had a particularly bad Nile, the river rising only sixteen
yards and sixteen fingers of the seventeenth yard, with the result that
there was a great rise in prices and consequent hardship. Complaint
was made to the Khalif that the dearness of corn was largely caused
by dealers hoarding supplies so as to force an increase, and al-Hakim
announced that he would ride through the city himself and make enquiry,
and would behead anyone he found with a hoard of corn. Next day he
rode from his palace and passed through Fustat and out to the mosque
of Rashida, his attendants entering houses and searching for stores of
corn. None, however, were found, and the result of this was that popular
feeling was pacified and the idea that the scarcity was artificially
produced removed. In 399 the Nile suffered an unexpected check and there
was increased anxiety. Twice the Khalif conducted public prayers for a
good Nile. Several taxes were remitted, but bread became so dear that it
could be obtained only with the greatest difficulty. On the 4th of the
Egyptian month of Tot (circ. 1st September) the canal was opened, but the
river had then risen only 15 yards. On the 9th of Muharram, the middle of
Tot, the waters began to go down, the total rise having reached only 16
yards: as a result food became even dearer and the famine was followed by

It was no doubt as an act of mourning that Hakim issued orders forbidding
the holding of pleasure parties, excursions, or concerts on the river or
its banks.

Although al-Hakim, by ordering the removal of the imprecatory
inscriptions against the early Khalifs had done something to conciliate
public opinion, he continued to enforce strictly the regulations against
wine, beer, and the various kinds of food disapproved by the Shiʿites,
and many fishmongers were arrested for selling fish without scales.
Indeed the city was thrown into consternation by the extreme severity
with which these and other rules were enforced. It was in this year (399)
that the general Fadl was executed, and many other persons were punished
by having their hands cut off. A decree published this year allowed
the fast of the month of Ramadan to finish at the date as obtained by
astronomical calculations, without waiting for the actual appearance of
the new moon, a Fatimid novelty which was regarded with disapproval and
is still not admitted by the orthodox. New regulations allowed the use
of the Shiʿite formula in the call to prayer, or the Sunni call at the
muezzin’s discretion; no complaint was to be made in either case. No
one was to utter any imprecation against the early Khalifs, and if any
one liked to use the reverent formula “God have mercy on them” in using
their names, thus treating them as saints, they were allowed to do so: if
on the other hand they chose to use the more honourable formula “God be
gracious to him” after the name of ʿAli, there was full liberty to do so.
Every Muslim was free to follow Sunni or Shiʿite usage as he preferred
(Ibn Khall. iii. 451).

Al-Hakim’s more definite anti-Christian and anti-Jewish policy began
in 398. In that year he seized the property of the churches and placed
it under the control of the state treasury. He forbade the public
processions which had generally been observed at the feast of Hosannas
(Palm Sunday), at the feast of the Cross, and at the Epiphany. By his
orders a large number of crosses were publicly burned before the doors of
the Old Mosque, and orders were sent out that the same was to be done in
the provinces. In some of the churches little mosques were constructed,
and from these the usual call to prayer was given. Severus tells us that
the use of bells was now prohibited.

The churches on the road to Maqs were destroyed, as well as the Coptic
church of al-Maghitha in the Street of Rome, and all their contents were
seized. Many other churches were pillaged and destroyed, the sacred
vessels, furniture, and goods being handed over to Muslims, and the
vessels often sold in the public markets. Amongst these were the churches
at Rashida outside Fustat and the convent of Dayr al-Kasr on Mokattam,
all these being given over to the people who plundered them.

Various persons sent in petitions to search churches and monasteries
in the provinces for hoarded wealth, and received permission to do so
(cf. Maq. _Hist. of Copts_). It is clear that this kind of persecution
was generally popular, at least in its earlier stages, for it was
generally believed that the Christians had used their opportunities as
tax collectors to defraud the country to a serious extent. This no doubt
contained a measure of truth, although the Fatimid government kept a
closer and more careful control over its officials than has always been
done by oriental powers. But it must be noted that resentment was felt
towards the Christians and Jews, not for their religious beliefs, but
because they were revenue officials.

In 400 Salih b. ʿAli Rudbari was deprived of his office as chief minister
and replaced by Mansur b. ʿAbdun, a Christian clerk, for at no time
did the persecution take such a form as to prevent the advancement of
Christians and Jews to high and responsible offices in the state. The
new minister was hated by the nobles who made accusations against him
and brought forward his religion as one of the grounds of attack. This
caused a brief but severe outburst against the Christian officials. Many
of them were scourged to death and their bodies thrown to the dogs, and
Mansur himself was beaten and left for dead, but as his friends stood
round they perceived that there were signs of life in him, so they took
him up and carried him home. After some time he recovered and went back
without remark to his duties. Such a state of affairs seems to us almost
incredible, for his duties were practically those of a prime minister,
and that he should have been thus scourged, left to the dogs, as was the
intention, and then when he was well enough go back to the highest office
in the state without any particular remark seems to present al-Hakim’s
court rather in the light of a lunatic asylum: practically it was very
near that, for it can hardly be doubted that the Khalif at this time was
definitely insane.

Orders were sent to Jerusalem for the destruction of the church of
_al-Qayama_ “the resurrection,” the most famous and honoured sanctuary
of Christendom. In accordance with these orders it was plundered and
then pulled down, an act which produced a deep feeling of anger in the
Christian community generally, as well as amongst the subjects of the
Greek Empire as amongst those who lived in Hakim’s dominions. Indirectly
it caused the Christian world to form an idea of Islam as a persecuting
power, and so paved the way to the Crusades. The cause of the destruction
of this sanctuary is said to have been a malicious report which alleged
that the Christians practised a fraud in connection with the “holy fire”
given out at Easter in that church. This blessing and distribution of
new fire is a prominent part of the Easter Eve ceremonies of the Greek
and of the Gallic churches, and from the latter afterwards passed into
the Roman rite where it originally had no place. A common but apparently
unauthorised superstition amongst the Greeks represents this “new fire”
as distributed in the Church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem as sent
down from heaven, and this superstition was already in existence in the
days of Hakim. A certain chaplain of the church, suffering from some
grievance, declared to the Muslim authorities that the canons of the
church practised a fraud to play upon this superstition. He said that
they used to anoint the iron chain by which the great lamp was suspended
in the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, and that after the Muslim governor
had closed and sealed the door of the church, as was the custom, they
used to get at the chain from the roof and so the fire was passed
along the anointed surface and reached the wick of the lamp which was
thus lighted, whilst the chaplains sang _Kyrie eleison_ and wept, and
pretended that the fire came down from heaven, thus confirming the
Christians in their religious errors (Bar Hebraeus: _Chron._, pp. 215

Severus attributes the outbreak of this persecution to a monk named John
whom the Patriarch steadily refused to ordain bishop and who, on this
account, made his complaint to the Khalif. He waylaid Hakim as he was
walking on the Mokattam hills and called on him for assistance, at the
same time presenting a petition in which he said: “You are the ruler of
this country, but the Christians have a king who is more powerful than
you by reason of the immense wealth he has acquired. He sells bishoprics
for money and acts in a way displeasing to God.” Influenced by this
petition Hakim ordered the churches to be closed and the Patriarch to be
brought before him. The Patriarch Zacharias was a man far advanced in
years and now, by the Khalif’s order, was cast into prison. The very day
after the Patriarch’s arrest Hakim sent the letter to the governor in
Jerusalem ordering the destruction of the Church of the Resurrection, the
clerk who prepared the letter being a Christian named Ibn Sharkin.

Shortly after this Hakim sent out notices to all the provinces that
churches were to be destroyed and their gold and silver vessels
confiscated, that all bishops were to be arrested, and that no one was
to buy from or sell to Christians. At this many Christians conformed to
Islam, whilst in most places they left off the distinctive outward signs
of their religion as laid down in the revived penal laws, and popular
usage evidently connived at this.

The Patriarch remained three months in prison; each day he was threatened
with burning or being cast to wild beasts if he did not conform to Islam,
whilst he was promised that if he did conform he would be made Chief
Qadi and covered with honours, but neither threat nor promises made
any impression on him. His gaoler visited him frequently and treated
him roughly, but this he bore with patience and resignation. A Muslim
fellow-prisoner tried to persuade him to conform, but he only replied,
“All my confidence is in God who is almighty; it is He who will help me”

A certain Christian who had been collector of taxes was in the same
prison suffering the penalty for a deficit of 3,000 pieces of gold in
his accounts. This prisoner was a friend of a noble Arab of the B. Qorra
tribe, named Mahdi b. Mokrab, perhaps the same who had assisted Fadl at
the time of Abu Raqwa’s revolt, and he stood high in the Khalif’s favour.
One day he visited his Christian friend and promised to ask the Khalif
for his release. The prisoner said, “I should not be willing to go out
of this and leave here the Patriarch, the old man whom you see.” Mahdi
enquired why the Patriarch was in prison, and when he heard the reason
he judged that it would not be prudent to speak about him by name to
Hakim, but he asked the Khalif to grant the liberty of all those who were
detained in that prison. The Khalif consented and so the Patriarch was
set free and went to Fustat, a thing which was the cause of great joy
to all the Christians. But as his freedom had been granted only by an
oversight it was judged expedient for him to go away and hide himself,
so he retired to the valley of Habib where he lived in retirement for
nine years. In that particular part the churches had not been destroyed.
Officials and workmen had been sent to do so, but they were afraid of the
Bedwin of the desert near and retired without doing anything.

The Khalif issued orders forbidding the Christians to observe the
“Feast of Baptism,” _i.e._, the Epiphany, on the banks of the Nile,
and prohibited the games and amusements which usually accompanied the
celebration of that feast. He also forbade the observance of the “Feast
of Hosannas,” _i.e._, Palm Sunday, and the Feast of the Cross in the
autumn. At that time it was customary for Muslims and even the Khalifs
themselves, to take part in the public festivities with which the
Christians celebrated their greater festivals.

The destruction of churches was general during the course of this
persecution, especially in the year 403. By 405 some 30,000 had been
pillaged and pulled down in Syria and Egypt, and many of the Jewish
synagogues were treated in a similar manner. Very often mosques were
erected on their sites. The great church of the _Muʿallaqa_ was taken
from the Christians, and the Muslim call to prayer was made in the
Church of Shenuda in Fustat. In many places people presented petitions
asking permission to seize one of the churches or monasteries, and
these petitions were invariably granted. The furniture of the churches
and their vessels of gold and silver were confiscated and sold in the
markets, the price obtained being paid into the treasury or given to some
of the Khalif’s retainers. A special board was established to deal with
the confiscated property and the goods belonging to those who had been
put to death.

We turn now to Hakim’s dealings with the Muslims during the year 400.
In the earlier part of the year many persons who had been detected in
possession of beer, malukhia, etc., were arrested and beaten. There was
a growing disquiet at Hakim’s severity, and a large number of people
thought it well to take out letters of protection. Panic seized Husayn
b. Jawhar the ex-Commander in Chief, ʿAbdu l-ʿAziz b. Nuʿman, and Abu
l-Kasam Husayn b. Maghrabi, and they fled the country. The laws against
intoxicating drinks were executed with great rigour, and a number of
eunuchs, clerks, and footmen were put to death. In the month of Shawal
Salih b. ʿAli Rudbari was put to death. On the 19th of this same month
an order was published dispensing with the payment of the fifth levied
on the Shiʿites, of the sum paid at the end of Ramadan as alms, and
of the _nejwa_, or “voluntary contribution,” all sums collected from
the Ismaʿilian sect. About the same time the “conferences of wisdom,”
the regular meetings of the sect which were held in the palace, were
discontinued. This seems like an anti-Shiʿite change of attitude on the
Khalif’s part, but the only reasonable explanation of the numerous and
arbitrary developments which took place about this time is that which
commended itself to many contemporary observers, namely, that the Khalif
was insane, and the disorder of his mind was growing worse.

Later in the year Hakim abandoned the enforcement of several
distinctively Shiʿite usages. He ordered the restoration of the formula
known as the _tethwib_ in the call to prayer; the muezzins were forbidden
to add “Come to the most excellent work” to the call, and were ordered
party badges. Permission was given for the use of the _salat ad-Duha_
or voluntary fore-noon prayer which had been strictly forbidden in 393,
and also for the use of the prayer known as _kunut_. In the course of
the year Hakim presented lamps and a large candelabrum to the Mosque of

The result of these events was that Hakim fell into ill repute with the
Shiʿites who had come to Cairo from many parts, and now found themselves
in a town veering round to orthodox Muslim customs. Other events,
however, quickly made him even more obnoxious to the orthodox. He had
sent officials to Madina to open the house which had formerly belonged
to Jaʿfar as-Sadiq and to bring away whatever might be found there. When
the house was opened the officials found in it a Qurʾan, a bed, and some
furniture, and the _Daʿi_ Khatkin, who superintended the opening, carried
away these articles, and at the same time helped themselves to the taxes
which the _sharifs_ paid. Khatkin then returned to Egypt accompanied
by a large number of sharifs, all descendants of ʿAli, who were led to
expect generous treatment from Hakim. But when they reached the Khalif’s
presence he gave them only a very small part of the money Khatkin had
brought back and kept the bulk for himself, saying that he deserved
it more than they did, as he, the true heir of ʿAli, was the head of
the _sharifs_. The _sharifs_ at this left Cairo and returned to Madina
cursing him (Abu l-Mahasin).

Hakim then decided to remove the bodies of the two first Khalifs, Abu
Bakr and Umar, who were buried at Madina. His envoys bribed an ʿAlid who
lived in a house close by the burial place, and with his help they began
digging a passage through to the tombs. But a violent storm arose which
so terrified the citizens that many of them sought refuge in the holy
place where the Prophet and the early Khalifs were buried. The storm
still continued until at last the ʿAlid who had assisted Hakim’s envoys
himself became alarmed, and revealed the project on which they were
engaged to the governor who had him punished, and provided that the plan
should not be carried out (Mirkhond on the authority of the _Istidkar_ of
the Qadi Ahmad Damagini).

On the whole Hakim seems at this time to have been endeavouring to
conciliate Sunni opinion, perhaps he had even intended to honour Abu
Bakr and ʿUmar by shrines in one or other of the burial places of Cairo.
Certainly he was trying to please the Sunnis when, in this same year
(400), he founded a college for instruction in the Malikite system of
jurisprudence, the form of canon law in vogue before the arrival of the
Fatimids, and the one to which the Egyptians were most attached. He
presented the college with a library, and appointed Abu Bakr Antaki as
its principal, and bestowed robes of honour on the principal and the
lecturers whom he welcomed at court. For three years Hakim continued to
favour the Sunnis, and then he suddenly changed his attitude. In the
following year indeed the pro-Sunni decrees began to be modified. On the
12th of Rabiʿ II. 401 the call to prayer was again ordered to be made in
the Shiʿite form, the _tethwib_, and the words “Prayer is better than
sleep” were again forbidden, and the formula “Come to the excellent work”
was restored. The fore-noon voluntary prayer was prohibited and so the
_Tarawih_. When Hakim found that the latter form had been used in the Old
Mosque in spite of his prohibition during the whole of Ramadan he had the
leader of the prayer put to death. At the same time the “Conferences of
wisdom” were restored in the palace, and the various subscriptions due
from the initiated of the Ismaʿilian sect were again collected. It is
impossible to follow anything like policy or purpose in these incessant
changes; it can only be supposed that the Khalif’s mental malady was
getting worse.

In the following year (401) new laws were published forbidding all
pleasure parties on the banks of the canal and requiring all doors and
windows opening on the canal to be kept closed: other laws forbade music,
games, or meetings for pleasure at Sahra: and others forbidding loose
entertainments anywhere or the sale of singing girls.

Changes in the personnel of the administration now begin to become more
numerous and capricious. At the beginning of 401 the chief minister,
Mansur b. ʿAbdun, the one who had once been scourged and left for dead,
was deprived of his office, and later in the year was put to death and
his goods confiscated. He was replaced by Ahmad b. Muhammad Kashuri, who
was beheaded after ten days. The next minister was the clerk Zara, son
of Isa b. Nestorius. Husayn b. Jawhar and ʿAbdu l-ʿAziz b. Numan, who
had fled the country in the previous year were invited to return and
were received with honour; only to be put to death and have their goods
confiscated a few months later. The third fugitive, Abu l-Kasam Husayn,
had gone to Syria and declined to come back. We shall find him a little
later stirring up trouble for Hakim.

Turning to Syrian affairs we find similar rapid and frequent changes.
In 400 Abu l-Jaysh Hamid b. Masham was replaced by Muhammad b. Nazae as
governor of Damascus. In 401 Luʿluʿ b. Abdullah was appointed governor,
reaching Damascus in the month of Jumada II. On the 10th of Dhu l-Hijja
at the “Feast of Sacrifice” he was replaced by Dhu l-Karnayn.

The most important event of 401 was the revolt of Hasan b. Mufarraj
b. Daghfal b. Jarrah Taiy (cf. year 387). He was persuaded to this by
Husayn, the one of the three who fled from Egypt in 399 and was not
willing to return. His two sons and two brothers had been put to death
at the request of the minister, Mansur b. ʿAbdun, his mortal enemy, and
it was this which had alarmed him and caused his flight in the first
place. He took refuge with Hasan, and used every persuasion to induce
him to revolt. The rebel faction was headed by Hasan’s father Mufarraj,
and was joined by a number of Arabs, and very soon by the whole of the
tribes of the Hijaz under the leadership of the Sultan of Mecca, Husayn
b. Jaʿfar. Hakim sent Yarakhtakin to Aleppo with a large army to put down
this movement. As soon as he arrived in Syria Mufarraj and his son became
extremely anxious but, between Gaza and Ascalon they managed to get him
into an ambush, and in the ensuing battle the Fatimid general was slain.
The rebels then besieged Ramla and, as new recruits pressed in every day,
they soon took it. Hakim sent them letters of remonstrance, but these
were disregarded, and they invited the Sultan of Mecca to assume the
Khalifate. This he was perfectly ready to do and, leaving a deputy in
the city, joined the army of Mufarraj, and was saluted “Commander of the

But Hakim wrote again to Hasan and Mufarraj promising them estates and
other gifts if they would cease from rebellion, so they resolved to
abandon the newly proclaimed Khalif and returned to their allegiance.
The result of this was a violent dispute between them and the man they
had just invited to be Khalif. In the end he left them and returned to
Mecca, taking Husayn Maghrabi with him. Not long afterwards Hakim sent
an army under Jaʿfar b. Fallah to Syria, and expelled Hasan and his
followers from Ramla. For two years Hasan remained in exile then, at the
intercession of his father Mufarraj, Hakim pardoned him and gave him
an estate in Egypt. Ultimately Mufarraj was poisoned by the Khalif’s
orders. The anti-Khalifate of Mecca continued until 403, when the prince
requested to be reconciled to Hakim, and when this was granted put
Hakim’s name on his coinage and inserted it in the _khutba_.

In 401 Karwash b. Mukallad, chief of the Arabs of Okayl, revolted against
the ʿAbbasid Khalif and transferred his allegiance to Hakim, whose name
was inserted in the _khutba_ in Mosul, Anbar, Madayn, and other towns. In
Mosul the form commenced: “Praise be to God, by whose light the shadows
of tyranny have been scattered, by whose greatness the foundations of the
heresy of the enemies of ʿAli have been rooted up, by whose power the sun
of truth has risen in the west (_i.e._, in Africa).” Baha d-Dawla, the
ʿAbbasid Khalif’s guardian, ordered the Emir al-Joyush to march against
Karwash, who at once sent his apologies to the Khalif of Baghdad, and the
recognition of the rival Fatimid Khalif ceased.

Next year (402) Hakim made more rigorous decrees against beer, vegetables
disapproved by the Shiʿites, and the use of fish without scales. He
further forbade women to go to funerals or to visit the cemeteries. He
strictly suppressed the playing of chess, and caused chess-boards to be
burned. Gathering the fishermen together he exacted from them a pledge
that they would not take any fish without scales, and further threatened
them with death if they were found selling any such.

He had already forbidden the use of beer, and the usual law against
wine was strictly enforced. Now he forbade the sale of dried raisins
because they were used by some for the making of wine: he forbade their
importation into the country, and ordered all found in stores to be
destroyed, in consequence of which some 2,340 boxes of dried raisins were
burned, the value being put at 500 pieces of gold. He next forbade the
sale of fresh grapes exceeding four pounds at a time; in any case grapes
were not to be exposed for sale in the markets, and strict prohibition
was made against squeezing out the juice. Very many grapes found on
sale were confiscated, and either trodden in the street or thrown into
the Nile. The vines at Gizeh were cut down and oxen employed to tread
the fruit into the mire. Orders were issued that the same was to be
done throughout the provinces. But honey as well as grapes can be used
in preparing fermented liquor, so the Khalif’s seal was affixed to the
stores of honey at Gizeh, and some 5,051 jars of honey were broken and
their contents poured into the Nile, as well as 51 cruises of date honey.
The sale of fresh dates was then forbidden, and many dates were collected
and burned (Maq. ii. 287, Ibn Khall. iii. 450).

A curious story is told by Severus of Ashmunayn in connection with
these laws of 402. A certain merchant had all his money invested in the
prohibited fruit, and lost everything by the seizure and destruction of
his goods. He appeared before the Qadi and summoned Hakim to appear and
make good the destruction caused by his officials. The Khalif appeared
to answer the charge preferred against him, the Qadi treating him like
any other citizen against whom complaint had been made. The merchant
asked for compensation to the amount of 1,000 pieces of gold. Hakim in
his defence says that the fruits destroyed were intended to be used in
the preparation of drinks forbidden by the law of the Qurʾan, but that
if the merchant will swear that they were not intended for this purpose
but only to be eaten he was willing to pay their price. The merchant
refuses to take the oath until the Khalif actually produced the money
before the Qadi. Hakim ordered the money to be brought into court, and
when it is produced the merchant swore that the fruit was intended only
for eating. He then received the money and gave the Khalif a formal
receipt. He then demanded letters of protection from the Khalif that he
might not incur any retaliation for his suit, and these were given. When
the case was concluded the Qadi, who had up to this point treated both
parties as ordinary suitors, rose from his seat and gave the Khalif the
salute customary at court. Hakim admired the Qadi’s conduct, and made him
valuable presents in recognition of his treatment of the case.

This year the ʿAbbasid Khalif assembled the leading ʿAlids and several
prominent canonists at Baghdad, and prepared a manifesto against the
ʿAlid claims of the Fatimid Khalifs. To this we have already referred
(cf. p. 48 supra): how much weight should be attached to it is doubtful,
for the motives and pressure brought to bear are obvious. We know,
however, that Hakim was greatly annoyed by it.

We have come now to the year 403, another bad year of great scarcity and
famine. Early in the year (on the 2nd of Rabiʿ I) the minister, Zara b.
Isa b. Nestorius, was put to death and his place given, twenty-seven
days later, to Husayn b. Taher al-Wazzan, who received the title of Emir
al-Umara “Prince of the empire.” This Husayn began to make a careful
survey of the income and expenditure of the state, and expressed his
plain opinion that Hakim’s constant and lavish presents were unwise, some
measure of economy was urgently called for. It seems that these acts of
generosity had now become excessive. In after years the sacred books of
the Druses in praising Hakim lay especial emphasis on his unexampled
generosity in presenting not only honours and titles but also pensions,
estates, fiefs, etc. upon all his friends (cf. de Sacy: _Chrestom._ ii.
69-70). The Emir even suspended payment of the orders brought to the
treasury bearing the Khalif’s seal, and addressed a remonstrance to
the sovereign. Hakim replied in a tone of kindly remonstrance urging
the treasurer to pay the orders. The Emir did so, but sent in a full
statement of the sums paid and of the gifts made to strangers.

Extravagance was the besetting fault of all the Fatimids, but it reached
its extreme in Hakim. Whilst he was alienating large portions of the
public property which was not, of course, distinguished from his own
private possessions, he was also making lavish gifts to the mosques of
Fustat and Cairo. In Jumada II. of this year he resolved to furnish
the mosque which he had completed in Cairo and which bears the name of
Hakim’s Mosque. A preliminary estimate of the cost of the lamps, chains,
mats, etc. came to 5,000 pieces of gold. Early in Ramadan he presented a
_tannur_ or large candelabrum to the Old Mosque in Fustat. This _tannur_
weighed 100,000 drams and had 1,200 lights. It was carried to the mosque
to the sound of drums and trumpets and with cries of _tehlil_ (“there
is no power or might but in God”) and _takbir_ (“God is great”), the
procession being led by the Kaʾid (Commander-in-Chief). When they came
near the mosque it was found necessary to remove the mastabas or stone
benches outside the houses on the way, and to dig up the roads to enable
the _tannur_ to be brought to the door, and then the upper part of the
door had to be removed by masons to get the lamp in. The Khalif presented
the mosque at the same time with 1,290 copies of the Qurʾan, some of
which were written in letters of gold.

At the beginning of his reign Hakim had forbidden the use of the
honorific titles customarily applied to the Fatimid Khalifs. He now
forbade the custom of kissing the ground before him, and of kissing
his hand or stirrup. These customs, he stated, were imitated from the
Byzantine court and so not seemly for Muslims. In salutation he desired
the use of the simple formula: “Hail to the Commander of the faithful;
may the mercy and blessing of God be on him.” Never in speech or in
writing might the formula be used, “God be propitious to him,” as this
was applied to the patriarchs and saints. In writing petitions, etc.,
the formula should be, “May the peace of God, his abundant favour and
blessing, rest upon the Commander of the faithful.” Similar forms, and no
others, were to be used in praying for the Khalif: in the _khutba_ the
form approved was, “O God, be propitious to Muhammad thy chosen; grant
peace to ʿAli the first of believers, whom thou hast honoured with thy
bounty: O God, grant peace to the princes of the believers, the fathers
of the Commander of the faithful: O God, may thy most excellent peace
rest on thy servant and vicar” (Maq. ii. 288, Ibn Khall. iii. 451).

At the palace the use of cymbals and trumpets when the guard made the
rounds was forbidden, all was to be done without music. A new seal was
engraved for the use of the Khalif bearing the inscription, “By the help
of God most high and beneficent, the Imam ʿAli will be victorious” (Maq.

Various events of passing interest are associated with the month of
Jumada II. of this year, the month, it will be remembered, in which the
Emir of Mecca abandoned his claim to the Khalifate and was reconciled
to Hakim. On the very day on which the Emir’s envoy was received Hakim
commenced building an observatory at Karafa. This observatory was
never finished. It should be noted in passing that various occasional
references in the historians justify us in regarding Hakim as greatly
interested in astrology as well as in other branches of natural science,
and in this he was true to the Fatimid tradition. After receiving the
submission of the Emir of Mecca Hakim wrote a letter to the Sultan,
Mahmud of Ghazna, the great champion of orthodoxy, asking for his
allegiance. It could hardly be expected that Mahmud would tolerate or
recognise any Shiʿite, least of all the head of the Fatimid dynasty.
On receiving the letter the Sultan tore it in pieces and spat on the
fragments, afterwards sending them to the ʿAbbasid Khalif al-Qadir.

It was perhaps in this year, as De Sacy thinks, although Abu l-Mahsin
refers to 400, the Tarikh Jafari to 404, that a crowd of men, presumably
Shiʿites, came to the palace demanding justice against the Egyptians.
It seems that, as Hakim was now passing through an orthodox phase and,
as we have seen, had abandoned some of his pro-Shiʿite legislation, the
orthodox Egyptians had been teasing the Shiʿites and paying them back for
the insults they had ventured upon in the time of their ascendancy. They
were not able to obtain an interview with the Khalif, but were told to
come again next day. Some go away, but many pass the whole night before
the palace. Next day the clamours recommenced, until at length the Kaʾid
appeared and ordered them to withdraw. They then went to the Qadi who
assured them that he had no power of dealing with their complaints, and
they left his court cursing the “Companions,” that is to say, the early
Khalifs who, though regarded by the Shiʿites as usurpers and enemies of
ʿAli, were admittedly companions of the Prophet (Maq. ii. 288).

This was followed by an order strictly forbidding any persons to curse
the “Companions,” and before long several persons were punished for
this offence. One day Hakim saw such curses written up on a public
inn, no doubt so written at the time when he had commanded the putting
up of inscriptions of this sort. These he ordered to be effaced and
sent officials through the streets reading out an order that all such
inscriptions on inns, shops, streets, etc. must be removed, and great
care was taken to see that the order was carried out. All this was a bid
for popularity with the orthodox, and this year he made a further bid by
assigning property for the support of the indigent, and for the doctors
in the various mosques and the muezzins.

It was in Ramadan of 403 that Hakim showed the zenith of his passing
orthodoxy. Each Friday during this month he attended the Mosque of
Rashida clad simply, with a turban without jewel and having a sword
adorned only with bands of silver, and himself led the public prayers.
During his progress to and from the mosque any person who desired to do
so was free to approach him, and he took the memoranda and petitions
which they presented him, conversing with the petitioners. On Friday the
10th he did thus, clothed plainly in a garment of white wool and riding
to the mosque on an ass. On the 27th of Ramadan he went to the Old Mosque
and made there the _khutba_ and led the Friday prayer, a thing which
no Fatimid had done before. This visit was made without any display;
there was no cortège or led horses, save only ten horses whose saddles
and bridles were plainly adorned with silver; over his head was borne a
plain white parasol without the usual gold fringe; there was no jewel in
his turban, and the pulpit in the mosque was without hangings. The same
simplicity was observed at the Feast of Sacrifice, at which the victims
were slain by the heir, ʿAbdu r-Rahim (Maq. ii. 288). The ceremonial thus
observed at the close of Ramadan was to a large extent of Shiʿite origin,
but it was a concession to the feelings of the people that the Old Mosque
was used. It will be remembered that it was during this month that Hakim
presented the great _tannur_ to the same mosque.

The persecution of Christians and Jews continued, and even became more
severe, during this year (404). The order that Christians should wear
black robes and turbans was renewed; they had to bear crosses of wood a
yard long and a yard wide, and to carry them so that they could be seen.
This was done to many Christians wearing small crosses as ornaments, and
often carrying them beneath the outer garment. Jews received similar
orders as to the billets of wood which served as their distinctive
badge. According to Severus both cross and billet had to be marked with
a lead seal bearing the Khalif’s name: this no doubt means that those
of the proper size and material received this seal as a mark that they
were approved. Both Christians and Jews were forbidden to ride horses;
the mules and asses which they used must have plain saddles of wood and
stirrups of sycamore wood without any ornament. Neither were allowed to
have Muslim servants or to buy a slave of either sex. Muslim owners of
riding animals were forbidden to let on hire to Christians or Jews, and
Muslim sailors similarly were forbidden to take them in their boats. Both
Christians and Jews were forbidden to wear rings on their right hand. All
these orders were proclaimed in the streets of Fustat and Kahira, and
great pains were taken to see that they were rigorously enforced. Many
Christians turned Muslim in order to avoid these vexations (Maq. _loc.

It is not easy to date precisely all the anti-Christian and anti-Jewish
legislation. It is certain that it commenced in 393 and came to an end
in 405, that for the most part it increased in severity up to 403, and
then slightly relaxed, but there are various divergences of detail in
the accounts as to the actual orders enforced in each of the intervening

De Sacy thinks that it was about this time (404) that the conference
of the Christians and Jews with Hakim to which reference is made in the
books of the Druses, took place. One day as the Khalif was walking at
Karafa, in the cemetery Kibab attair, a band of representatives of the
two persecuted religions waited upon him. He permitted them to speak
with him and assured them that they might talk freely without fear. They
pointed out to him that his conduct towards them was very different from
that of the Prophet and of his early successors; they asked how he could
justify his policy which was so opposed to the compacts which had been
made with them. Hakim asked them to retire and meet him again in the same
place the following night, to bring their learned men with them, and
assured them again of his protection under which they might speak freely.
Next night Hakim relates to them the conferences which the Prophet had
with Christians and Jews in his day, conferences which were designed to
bring about their conversion but which failed in this result; for four
hundred years Islam has been available, and the reasons brought forward
by the Prophet had been under consideration: now you are offered the
choice of Islam again after all this delay, if you do not now accept the
punishment can be no longer postponed. The representatives admit the
truth of this and retire from Hakim’s presence. It is very doubtful,
however, whether we can regard this description as given in the sacred
books of the Druses as in any way belonging to serious history.

The Khalif this year gave permission to the Christians who wished to do
so to emigrate to the land of the Greeks, or to Nubia, or Abyssinia,
permission which had previously not been conceded, and many did thus
emigrate. De Sacy connects the incident which we have related above with
this permission to emigrate.

Although Hakim had been, and still continued, devoted to the study of
astrology, he now made a decree against the astrologers who are to be
banished. Many of these astrologers went to the Qadi and entered into a
solemn undertaking not to practise their art, and on the strength of this
promise were allowed to remain. Maqrizi notes it as a strange thing that
after this decree one could no longer see astrologers in the streets.
Perquisition was made and any of these found were brought before the
Qadi and expelled from the country. The same treatment was meted out to
professional musicians (Maq. ii. 288, Ibn Khall. iii. 450).

A general report began to circulate in the course of this year that Hakim
intended to have a great massacre of many people, and the report, though
vague, was readily believed, with the result that multitudes fled from
Cairo, so that the markets were suspended and all business came to an end
for the time (Maq. ii. 288).

On the 12th of Rabiʿ I. ʿAbdu r-Rahim, who had killed the victims at
the preceding Feast of Sacrifice and was a great grandson of the Mahdi
who had been the first Fatimid Khalif, was publicly declared heir to
the throne to the exclusion of the Khalif’s infant son. Orders were
given that he was to be saluted in the form: “Hail to the cousin of the
Commander of the faithful, the designated successor of the sovereign of
the Muslims.” His name was placed on the coinage, he received apartments
in the royal palace, his name was inserted in the _khutba_, and he acted
as the Khalif’s deputy in all business of state. Business was at this
time little regarded by Hakim, who spent much of his time riding about in
the city and in the country round, sometimes by day, often also by night.

In the following month he cut off the hands of the Kaʾid’s secretary, Abu
l-Kasim Jarjarai. This secretary had been in the service of the Princess
Hakim’s sister, but fearing that this was a dangerous place had left her
for the service of the Kaʾid. The Princess desired to know the reason
of this change, and the secretary sent her a letter in which he made
reference to a certain matter which he had discovered,—probably Hakim’s
intention to change the succession—and this letter the Princess, fearing
a trap, showed to the Khalif, at which he was very greatly annoyed. ʿAyn
had been Kaʾid (Commander-in-Chief) since 402, and had had one of his
hands cut off in 401, and now on the 3rd of Jumada I. Hakim cut off his
remaining hand, after which he sent him a present of 5,000 pieces of gold
and 25 horses; on the 13th of the same month he had his tongue cut out
and then sent other gifts, but after this the Kaʾid died. Very many were
put to death about this time, for the Khalif seemed to be suffering from
an insane impulse to torture and slay; so great was the alarm that many
fled from the city.

Since 400 the Khalif had been showing favour to the orthodox, but in the
course of this year he changed his attitude, ceased to make gifts to
the mosques, to the muezzins, doctors, etc., and disbanded the college
which he had founded for teaching the Malikite canon law. More than this
he treated the lecturers with great severity, and put to death Abu Bakr
Antaki, the principal, and one of his assistants.

Either in this year or in 405 Hakim made very strict rules about women.
He forbade them to go about the streets at all. The baths used by
women were closed; boot-makers were forbidden to make outdoor boots
for women, and so some of the boot-makers’ shops were closed entirely.
Women were forbidden to look out of doors or windows, or to go out on
terraces. These laws continued in force until the close of the reign. A
case occurred in which some old women who lived by spinning and selling
their work to the merchants were neither able to dispose of it to their
customers nor go out to buy provisions, and remained inside until their
bodies, which showed that they had died of starvation, were found by
the neighbours. When this was reported to the Khalif he conceded that
merchants who bought or sold with women might go to the doors of their
houses and the women might pass out goods or money and receive its
exchange, provided they did not show their faces or hands to the merchant
or any passer-by in the street.

One day Hakim was passing the “Golden Baths” and heard a great deal of
noise within. On making enquiry he found that there were women inside.
He ordered the doors and windows to be walled up and left the inmates
to perish of hunger. The pretext given for these new regulations was
the libertinage of the Egyptian women. Hakim employed many harim spies,
and by means of these old women he heard of various assignations and
intrigues. On several occasions he sent a eunuch with a guard of soldiers
to wait in concealment at the place of assignation, and when the woman
appeared had her seized and thrown into the Nile. On other occasions he
sent guards to private houses to demand by name women whose conduct had
been unfavourably reported, and they were disposed of in the same manner.
It seems almost impossible to excuse Hakim’s conduct at this period
by the supposition that he was an earnest but fanatical puritan: the
frequency of new regulations, the constant changes in so many details,
and the capricious character of his conduct all tend to make the theory
of so many contemporaries that he was insane the more plausible.

In Syria the prestige of Egypt increased. Mansur, the son of Luʿluʿ at
Aleppo, had to ask Hakim’s help against Abu l-Hayja, the grandson of Sayf
ad-Dawla, and this was given. In Ramadan of this year (404) Hakim issued
a charter granting to Mansur Aleppo and its dependencies which were thus
held as tributary to Egypt.

Early in 405 the Chief Qadi, Malik b. Saʿid al-Faraki, was put to death
after holding office for six years, nine months and ten days. His income
was estimated at 15,000 pieces of gold. In Jumada the chief minister,
Husayn b. Taher, was put to death and replaced by the two brothers,
ʿAbdu r-Rahim and Husayn, sons of Abu Saʿid. After holding office for
sixty-two days they were put to death and replaced by Fadl b. Jaʿfar,
who held office only five days and was put to death; then ʿAli b. Jaʿfar
b. Fallah. Maqrizi mentions no other holder, but it does not follow that
ʿAli held the post to the end of the reign as, for some reason, he omits
all mention of Hakim’s later years: no doubt the reason is to be found in
his unwillingness to treat the closing phase of Hakim’s strange career,
and to these last years he makes no reference in any part of his work.

The Chief Qadi was replaced by Ahmad b. Muhammad ibn Abi l-Awwam, who
retained his office until 413, the year following the close of Hakim’s

Hakim now increased his habit of riding out. He began to use asses in
preference to horses, and went out clothed plainly in black, wearing on
his head a little linen cap without a turban. Orders were given that when
he went out the officials were to remain in their offices and not form
an escort as had been the custom. As the year went on he went out more
and more frequently until he was usually out six or seven times a day,
sometimes riding on his ass, sometimes borne in a litter, and sometimes
going in a boat on the Nile. He became more lavish than ever with his
gifts, and presented estates to the owners of boats, to subordinate
officials of various kinds, and to the Arab tribesmen of the B. Qorra.
Amongst the gifts he made to these latter was the overlordship of the
city of Alexandria and its suburbs.

In Syria Saktekin Shams ad-Dawla was made governor of Damascus, and this
office he held until 408. He was a tyrannical and cruel man. Towards
the end of his career he built the “New Bridge” below the citadel at
Damascus, intending himself to be the first to cross it. One day when
it was nearing completion he saw a horseman riding across the bridge.
In great anger he sends down a messenger to arrest him. But the strange
horseman turned out to be a messenger from Egypt with orders for his
deposition from office.

At Aleppo Murtada ad-Dawla raised up many enemies. The Arabs of the B.
Kalab tribe took up arms against him; he pretended to agree to their
terms and invited them into the city to a feast: as soon as they entered
he had the gates shut, arrested the chief men, and slew about one
thousand. This took place in 402. Salih b. Mirdas, one of the chief men
who had been imprisoned, filed through his irons and escaped in this
year, 405. When he is at large he ravages the whole country, and when
Murtada goes out to check him he is himself taken prisoner by the Arab.
Salih, however, really desired peace, and agreed to liberate Murtada
for a ransom of 15,000 pieces of gold, 120,000 pounds of silver, and
500 pieces of stuff, the freedom of the women and others of his tribe
who were still in prison, the equal division of the towns and lands of
Aleppo between himself and Murtada, and the gift of Murtada’s daughter
in marriage. These extraordinary conditions were granted and Murtada was
set free. But then he proved unwilling to divide the lands and towns of
his principality or to give his daughter in marriage, so Salih makes war
again and blockades Aleppo and starves it into unconditional surrender.

In 406 a quarrel sprung up between Murtada and Fatah Kalai who was the
governor of the citadel. Murtada considered that he had been instrumental
in fomenting Salih’s rebellion. Finally Fatah openly revolted against
Murtada and sent him the message, “Go out of Aleppo, or I give the
citadel to Salih.” Soon after this, as Murtada was in his palace near the
gate Bab al-Jinan, he heard drums and trumpets and cried out: “Hakim, O
Mansur: Salih, O Mansur,” believing that the citadel was in the hands of
the Arab chieftain: so greatly was he frightened that, without enquiring
what was the real cause of the drums and trumpets, he fled out of the
city with his family and escaped to Antioch, where he was given an asylum
by the Greek Emperor. As soon as Fatah heard of his flight he proclaimed
Hakim as sovereign over Aleppo, made terms with Salih and gave him half
the revenues of the city and its suburbs, and presented to him the ladies
of Murtada’s harim whom he had not taken with him in his flight. Salih
sent all Murtada’s wives and the other ladies to Antioch, retaining only
Murtada’s daughter whom he married.

Fatah wrote an account of these events to Hakim, and the Khalif was
very well pleased that he was now not merely suzerain over the ruler
of Aleppo but the actual owner of the city. He conferred the title of
_Mubarak ad-Dawla wa-Saidha_ on Fatah. In the following year (407) Hakim
wrote to the citizens of Aleppo abolishing the imposts and various taxes
which had been paid. Fatah was given all the goods which had belonged to
Murtada and was sent as governor to Tyre, after handing over the citadel
of Aleppo to the Emir ʿAziz ad-Dawla, an Armenian slave who had belonged
to Manjutakin. On this slave Hakim conferred the title _Emir ul-Umara_
or “Supreme Prince,” and presented him with a pelisse of honour, several
horses with harness adorned with gold, and a sword of state. Later on the
Emir revolted against Hakim.

Meanwhile very curious events were taking place in Egypt. In the course
of 407 (though al-Maqin says 408), a Persian _daʿi_ named Muhammad
b. Ismaʿil Darazi arrived in Egypt, a Batinite who believed in the
transmigration of souls, and hoped to find at the Fatimid court a
congenial atmosphere for his mystic creed. He attached himself to the
Khalif, over whom he soon began to have great influence, and from whom he
received many gifts and favours. In due course he succeeded in persuading
the prince that he was an incarnation of the deity, and wrote a book in
which he taught that the Divine Spirit which God had breathed into Adam
had passed on in due succession from prophet to prophet, through the Imam
ʿAli, until at length it found its abode in the Imam Hakim. So great was
his influence over the Khalif that much of the public business was given
into his hands, and all who desired to approach the Khalif had to pay
court to the _daʿi_. The heir elect seems to have fallen into disfavour
about this time. He was sent away from Cairo but given the important
post of governor of Damascus. After he had been in Syria for some time
he was suddenly attacked by a band of men who, after slaying several of
his companions, put him in a box and carried him to Egypt. There he was
released and, a little later, was sent back to Damascus. No explanation
of this strange event is suggested, but it was generally believed that he
was thus treated by the Khalif’s orders.

Amongst some of the more advanced Shiʿites many were found to follow
the new doctrines of Darazi, and the _daʿi_ accompanied by a band of
followers went down to the Old Mosque where he read from the book he had
written. According to an account given by al-Masin a Turk, shocked at the
blasphemies which occurred in this reading, fell upon Darazi and killed
him, after which his house was pillaged, and a tumult followed which
lasted for three days. The Turk was arrested and put in prison, and was
then brought to trial on another charge for which he was executed. For
a long time the Turk’s grave was visited by the orthodox who regarded
him as a martyr. But this account is not strictly correct, for Darazi
was not killed at that time. According to Abu l-Mahsin, the most weighty
authority, Hakim did not openly endorse Darazi’s teaching; when the
tumult arose in the mosque Darazi escaped and received money from Hakim,
and with this retired to Syria where he preached in the mountainous
parts where the people were very ignorant, and amongst them he obtained
many disciples and founded a sect, the Druses, which still exists in the
Lebanon. In religion these Druses hold a kind of pantheism, which in
many respects verges upon agnosticism, but has a pure morality, in spite
of the many charges which have been made against this as against every
other religion which keeps its creed a secret from the outside world.

About the same time, or perhaps a little after, a Persian from Farghana
named Hasan al-Akhram, also appears as using his influence to persuade
Hakim of his deity, or to develop the ideas which Darazi had already
instilled into him. This man formed a party on the conventional lines
of the extremer Shiʿites, entirely discarding all the traditional
observances of the Muslim religion. One day he went with a band of fifty
followers to the Old Mosque, where he found the Qadi sitting and hearing
cases. After treating the by-standers roughly, they present a question to
the Qadi, beginning their words with the form “In the name of Hakim, the
merciful, the compassionate,” applying to him the terms usually applied
to God. The Qadi raised his voice and protested against this with great
indignation. The people were so angry at the blasphemy that they fell
upon Akhram and his followers: of the latter several were killed, but
Akhram escaped.

The most famous of these duʿat, who at this time advocated the
deification of Hakim, was Hamza b. ʿAli b. Ahmad Hadi, a native of
Zawzan in Persia. The Druses regard him as their founder, and date their
years from the “Era of Hamza,” which is placed in A.H. 408. It seems
that his teaching was earlier than that of Ahmad the Qadi (405), and so
probably he was in private conference with Hakim from somewhere about
405 until he made public declaration of his doctrine in 408. He dwelt in
the Mosque of Bir at Mantarea, originally the tomb of an ʿAlid who had
been put to death in 145, afterwards known as the Mosque of Tibr after a
minister who served under Kafur, and was one of those who had tried to
resist the entry of Jawhar. He preached and invited the people to accept
the teaching already expounded by Darazi, and sent out missionaries of
his doctrines to various parts of Egypt and Syria. Hakim was greatly
influenced by Hamza, and was induced by him to discard all the outward
observances of Islam, ceasing to visit the mosques, or to take part in
prayer. Under the pretext that the Arabs were a danger to travellers
he suppressed the pilgrimage to Mecca and ceased to send the veil to
the “House of God,” all of which caused great disgust to the orthodox.
Hamza and twelve of his disciples, the traditional number of the Shiʿite
_nakibs_, were in constant attendance on Hakim. It seems that Hamza was
the real founder and teacher of Hakim’s deity, and that Darazi was one
of his converts. But the details of the formation of this sectarian
development during the years 405-408 are full of obscurities: it does
not seem safe to follow the sacred books of the Druses who idealised
the whole matter. We do not find ourselves on solid ground until 408,
when the claims of Hakim to deity were publicly proclaimed and admitted
by the Khalif himself. It is said (by Severus) that Hakim claimed to
have a knowledge of secret things, and tried to support this claim by
evidence which he gleaned from his spies. But Severus’ evidence must be
regarded with some suspicion: a Syrian Christian he heard of the events
in Egypt only at second hand, and is very obviously influenced by strong
prejudices. He refers to this claimed omniscience of Hakim the incident
of the letter which read: “We have endured injustice and tyranny, but
we are not willing to endure impiety and folly. If thou knowest hidden
things, say the name of him who wrote this letter,” an incident which
seems to belong to the early days of the Khalif al-Mahdi in Kairawan.
Severus further tells us that when Hakim’s name was mentioned in the
_khutba_ all present rose out of respect; but in Fustat the people made a
prostration at this name. He is referring, no doubt, to reported conduct
of Hamza’s followers. He says further that there were some people who,
when Hakim appeared in the streets, used to prostrate themselves on
the ground and cry out: “O thou only one, thou alone, thou who givest
life and death”: this is exactly what might be expected of the extremer
Shiʿites, and is in no way incredible. At this time all persecution of
Christians and Jews entirely ceased; obviously the Khalif no longer
regarded Islam as in any way superior to those other religions. Persons
who had turned Muslims were permitted to return to their former beliefs;
contrary to Muslim law they were protected from all punishment, but it is
obvious that at this juncture Muslim law was not in any sense observed in
the Fatimid state. Severus tells us that some Christians and Jews came to
the Khalif and said: “My God, I desire to return to my former religion”:
and Hakim replied: “Do as seems good to you.” According to the books of
the Druses: “Although it is a precept to make war with the unbelievers,
our lord has abolished this precept so far as concerns Jews and
Christians.” The Druses refer this to the era of Hamza, _i.e._, 408 A.H.,
but Severus puts it in the year 736 of the “era of the Martyrs,” that is
A.H. 411, the closing year of Hakim’s reign, and dates the beginning of
the persecution of Christians from 402, taking the destruction of the
great Church in Jerusalem as the beginning of the persecution, that is to
say, the beginning of the time when active steps were taken which reached
to Syria as well as Egypt, and in this agrees with Abu l-Mahsin, but
Maqrizi puts the destruction of the Church of the Resurrection in 400 so
that the end of the persecution, which lasted nine years, would come in
408-409, when Hakim had assented to the public declaration of his deity
which seems to be the more probable date.

Towards the end of the nine years of persecution it was reported to Hakim
that some converts from Christianity had been celebrating the rites
of their former religion privately in houses, but he took no steps to
punish them, and this emboldened others to do likewise. If this was so
it would seem that there was no formal decree of toleration but simply
that the penal regulations were permitted to sink into oblivion. Then
some attended on the Khalif and asked permission to revert to their
former religion. Hakim asked where were their girdles, crosses, and
other badges?—they produced them from under their clothes. The Khalif
made no rebuke but told them that they could do as they pleased, and
sent them with an attendant to the office where they obtained letters of
protection. After this many unwilling converts did the same, until most
of those who had changed their religion from fear had returned to their
former faith.

The monk Yamin next procured the exiled Patriarch Zacharias an interview
with the Khalif, which took place in the monastery of St. Mercurius
at Sahran. In the course of this interview Hakim gave permission to
the Christians to re-open their churches, to restore those which had
been destroyed, to recover building material removed at the time when
churches were being demolished, and to regain possession of gardens
and property attached to the churches and monasteries. The Christians
were no longer required to wear distinctive badges, or rather the
disuse of those badges was tacitly condoned, and were allowed to sound
bells. Ibn Khallikan refers this toleration to 411, which agrees with
Severus and with Bar Hebraeus, who speaks of this change as taking place
shortly before Hakim was killed, and adds that at this time many of the
Christians who had gone abroad returned to Egypt. Probably breaches of
the persecuting laws began to be condoned in 408 or soon after, and these
increased gradually as it was seen that they could be made with impunity.

Meanwhile the extremes to which the followers of Hamza were prepared
to go also increased. Some of the courtiers on entering the Khalif’s
presence saluted him, “Hail to thee, only and unique one, hail to thee
who givest life and death, who bestowest wealth and poverty.” Having in
view the peculiar religious tendencies of the extremer Shiʿite sects, it
must not surprise us that there were some apparently sincere in their
acceptation of the divine character of the Imam, although the bulk of
the people remained sober and orthodox Muslims. One of the adherents of
Hamza’s doctrines who was at Mecca struck his lance on the sacred Black
Stone and said: “Why, O foolish ones, do you adore and kiss that which
cannot be of any use to you nor injure you, whilst you neglect him who is
in Egypt, who giveth life and death?”

Ibn Khallikan tells us that one day a Qurʾan reader was reading at court
the verse: “And they will not—I swear by the Lord—they will not believe,
until they have set thee up as judge between them on points where they
differ” (Qur. iv. 68), pointing the while towards the Khalif. Ibn
al-Mushajjar, a devout man who was present, then recited the verse: “O
men, a parable is set forth to you, wherefore hearken to it. Verily, they
on whom ye call beside God, cannot create a fly, though they assemble
for it; and if the fly carry off aught from them, they cannot take it
away from it. Weak the suppliant and the supplicated” (Qur. xxii. 72). At
this the Khalif changed countenance; to Ibn al-Mushajjar he presented
100 dinars, to the reader he gave nothing. But afterwards a friend said
to Ibn Mushajjar: “You know al-Hakim’s character, and are aware of his
frequent prevarications: take heed lest he conceive a hatred for you and
punish you later. You would then have much to suffer from him. My advice
is that you get out of his sight.” Ibn al-Mushajjar took this advice
seriously and set out on the pilgrimage to Mecca, but was ship-wrecked
and drowned.

The years 408 to 411 were entirely abnormal in the history of Egypt.
It has been suggested that the entire change in Hakim’s conduct during
these years was due to his being now initiated into the higher grades
of the Ismaʿilian sect, and thus he was now disposed to disregard all
forms of religion. But it seems to be very dubious how far the regular
Ismaʿilian system had remained in vigour in Fatimid Egypt. The state
was professedly Shiʿite, the Chief Daʿi held the regular conferences
required by the rules of the brotherhood, and undoubtedly initiates
were admitted: but since the sojourn in Egypt it rather seems that the
sect as a religious organization had greatly weakened, save in the one
respect that it was regarded with loyalty by the extremer Shiʿites in
Persia, and that from Persia more especially there was a constant stream
of pilgrims, enthusiastic sectaries whose enthusiasm was, if anything, a
source of embarrassment to the Egyptian government, whose interests were
now plainly political. Hamza, Darazi, and, later on, the originators of
the sect of Assassins, were all Persian Shiʿites who came to visit Egypt.
It seems more probable that Hakim’s new attitude was entirely due to the
influence of these Persian visitors.

In the year 409 Hakim was riding in the streets and saw what he supposed
to be a woman standing in the street, a plain breach of the regulations
in force. At once Hakim rode over to her and found that she was holding
out a petition in her hand. He ordered one of his attendants to take the
paper and arrest the woman. When they laid hands on her it turned out
that it was only a guy of paper, and the document she held out was full
of charges against the chastity of the Princess Hakim’s sister. Hakim
went home in a towering rage. He abused his sister for giving ground for
such reflections to be made on her honour, and spoke to her many harsh
words. More than once before this he had treated her harshly when she had
ventured to remonstrate with him on his various cruelties, but this was
an attack graver than he had ever made previously.

Next day Hakim turned loose his mercenaries, Arabs, Berbers, Greeks, and
negroes, upon the city. For three days they broke open houses, pillaged,
slew those who resisted them, violated women, and carried off maidens of
the best families, and burned a great part of Fustat. Each day Hakim rode
out to the cemetery of Karafa and looked down on the suffering city. Many
of the citizens came around him to implore mercy, but he remained unmoved
and gave no sign of hearing them. On the fourth day the Sherifs assembled
in the mosques lifting Qurʾans to heaven and implored divine assistance.
So piteous was the condition of the people that many of the Turkish
guards were moved and took their part, and in this they were soon joined
by the Berbers, both doing their best to restrain the bestial ferocity
of the negroes, until the whole place was raging in civil war. At length
some of the Turks went to Hakim, and in no measured terms called on him
to interfere and stop this terrible state of affairs. Hakim replied quite
coolly deploring the excesses of the soldiery, and agreeing with the
Turks that it ought to be stopped. He then rode down into the city on his
ass and stopped the conflict. After that he called the Turks and Berbers
round him, expressed the greatest regret for the suffering which the
city had had to undergo, protested that he did not at all desire such an
unhappy event, and that it could not be avoided, and published a general
amnesty. As soon as things settled down it was found that about a third
of the city had been burned, and about a half pillaged. The citizens had
much trouble in recovering their ravished wives, daughters, and sisters,
most of whom had been dishonoured by the negro soldiers. Some of the
women had committed suicide to avoid this shame. Many of the citizens
went to Hakim and asked him to get back their women for them. Hakim told
them to ransom them from their captors and promised to reimburse any
sums which were laid out in this manner. One of the townsmen reproached
him very harshly for this great disgrace to a Muslim community, and
expressed the hope that the women of the Khalif’s own family would suffer
the same as their wives and daughters. Hakim bore this reproach patiently
and made a mild reply.

Although this atrocious deed had made Hakim feel that he had revenged
himself on those who had reflected on his sister, he had by no means
forgiven her. After upbraiding her in no measured terms he informed her
that he would send some women to examine her and find if she really
were a virgin or not. The Asiatic historians who make most reference
to the Princess describe her as a woman of the noblest character and
of the highest chastity, and represent this as a deliberate and insane
insult offered by her brother. It is not at all clear that this is a
true estimate. Later on we find her as a woman of undoubted ability,
but unscrupulous character. At the same time it is extremely probable
that the members of Hakim’s family had graver reasons for alarm than
anyone else, if indeed it be true that he was now showing plain signs
of a disordered brain. At any rate when Hakim made this threat she was
greatly alarmed; it may be that she feared such an examination, or it
may be that she deeply resented the insult. In her alarm she went to
Yusuf b. Dawwas ad-Dawla. Although one of the great nobles of Egypt Yusuf
abstained from attending the court and had so abstained for some time,
being thoroughly alarmed at Hakim’s conduct, and was careful to meet the
Khalif only at public functions which he could not avoid. One time Hakim
at such a parade asked him to visit him in his palace, but Yusuf did not
make the desired visit. The next time they met in public Hakim reproached
him for this, and Yusuf replied plainly that he would rather not go to
the palace; if Hakim had any evil intention towards him he would rather
wait at home to be summoned to death than to go to the palace, be killed
there, and thrown to the dogs. At this reply Hakim only laughed, but
Yusuf had serious fears that sooner or later the Khalif would have his
revenge, and probably a cruel one.

The Princess sent to Yusuf and asked for an interview with him at night.
This was arranged and she went to Yusuf’s house and explained to him
the great dangers threatening them both. The best thing to do would
be to arrange Hakim’s death: “You,” she said, “will be made general of
the armies, minister of the empire, and guardian of the young prince.
I shall live quietly in my palace as befits my sex and take no part in
business.” Some reports say that she also promised to marry Yusuf. To
all this Yusuf agreed. She asked him to supply two absolutely trusty
men, and these he provided. A plan of assassination was agreed upon, and
the two cut-throats were presented by her with a Maghrabi dagger each.
With reference to this account, which is given by Bar Hebraeus, and
outlined by al-Makini, Maqrizi says: “No credit should be given to what
the Asiatic writers say in their books, that this prince perished by
the plots of his sister. But God alone knows the whole truth” (Maq. ii.
289). It is important to note that Severus of Ashmunayn, who wrote only
thirty years after these events, makes no mention of the Princess in this
connection, though his tendency is to repeat all gossip unfavourable to
the Fatimids: he simply states that the details of Hakim’s disappearance
were unknown.

According to Ibn Khallikan, Hakim went out late in the night of 27th
Shawal 411, and spent the whole night going about on the Mokattam hill.
At daybreak he was near the tomb of Fokkai, and thence went east to
Hulwan, about five miles from Cairo, accompanied by two attendants. He
then met a company of Arabs, nine in number, who had a request to make
of him. He told them to go to the palace, and sent one of his attendants
with them. For some time he continued with the second attendant, then
told him to go back also. At that time he was still near the tomb of
Fokkai. The second attendant returned to the palace and left the Khalif
alone on Mokattam. Next morning he did not return, and for three days
no sign of him was seen; then, on Sunday, the 2nd of Dhu l-Zaʿda, the
eunuch Nesim, who was the chamberlain, and a number of other officials,
went out on the hills to make a search. At length they reached the
monastery known as Dayr al-Kosayr, and near there they found Hakim’s ass
with its saddle on but its legs hacked off. Following the footsteps of
the ass, which were accompanied by the footprints of two men they came
to a hollow where they found the Khalif’s clothes with marks of cuts,
but the buttons not undone. No body was ever found. It was assumed that
Hakim had been murdered, and that his arms had been cut off before the
clothes were removed. After the discovery of the ass and of the clothes
had been reported, the Princess considered it expedient to have Hakim’s
infant son proclaimed Khalif, thus avoiding the claims of ʿAbdu r-Rahim,
the heir designated by Hakim, and it seems that the main evidence for her
supposed complicity with the murder rests on this act which assumed that
he must be dead, though it is difficult to see how she could have acted
differently under the circumstances.

Al-Mahsin is reported as saying that Hakim went out, and that after
sending back Nesim and his squire, he had as companions only a page
and a young slave: at the time he was filled with apprehensions as he
knew from his horoscope that the night was one of great peril to him.
When he was on Mokattam he said: “We belong to God and return to him”:
then clapping his hands together he added, “Thou hast appeared then,
O dismal sign,” referring to the star whose appearance he took as the
warning of his death. Going along the hillside he met ten men of the B.
Qorra who had a request to make to him, and said that they had often
waited in vain at his palace door. Hakim orders them to be paid 10,000
pieces of silver from the treasury, and directs his page to go with them
and draw the money for them. They objected that it might be that the
Khalif was angry with them for interrupting his walk, and that perhaps
the order in the page’s hand might privately direct that they were to
be put to punishment, so they requested that he would also give them a
safe conduct, and this the Khalif gave. Hakim and the young slave then
go on and enter a valley where the two men sent by Yusuf are lying in
ambush. They came out and fell upon him just as the day was dawning. At
their appearance he cried out, “Wretches, what do you want?” They cut
off his two arms, open his stomach, and tear out the entrails, and wrap
the body in a robe. They then slew the slave, cut the traces of the ass,
and carried off the body to Yusuf. He took it to the Princess, who made
presents to him and to the two murderers. She then sent for the wazir,
revealed to him what had happened, and made him promise secrecy. She
persuaded him to write to ʿAbdu r-Rahim at Damascus, and at the same time
sent an officer named ʿAli b. Dawud to Ferma to seize ʿAbdu r-Rahim on
his way to Egypt and carry him to Tannis; and also she sent instructions
to the governor of Tannis. Next day it was observed that Hakim did not
return. Abu Arus would not allow the gates of Kahira to be opened,
stating that the Khalif had ordered them to be closed the day before, and
no search was made until the following day. The Princess had conferences
with the chiefs of the Katama tribe and other leading persons and, with
the help of lavish presents, induced them to recognise Hakim’s son as his
successor, although they had already given formal recognition to ʿAbdu
r-Rahim. On the seventh day she dressed the child in rich robes and sent
for Yusuf, whom she declared to be ustad or guardian. Then the child
was taken out in state, the wazir proclaimed him as Khalif, and he was
generally recognised.

The facts of Hakim’s disappearance were never fully known. One report,
as we have seen, was that he was murdered. Of the murder Maqrizi gives
another account which exculpates the Princess. He says: “Masihi relates
that in the year 415 a man of the family of Husayn was arrested after
raising up rebellion in the southern part of Upper Egypt. This man
confessed that it was he who had killed Hakim. He said that there were
four accomplices of the crime, and that they afterwards fled to different
parts. He showed a piece of the skin of Hakim’s head and a fragment of
the piece of cotton with which he had been clothed. He was asked why he
had killed him. He replied: “Out of zeal for the glory of God and of
Islam.” Further questioned as to the way in which he had committed the
crime, he drew out a dagger and striking it to his breast he cried, as he
fell dead, “That is the way I killed him.” His head was cut off and sent
to the Khalif with all that was found in him” (Maq. ii. 290).

The Druses of course believe that he disappeared like others of the Imams
before him, going away in sorrow from a world which was not worthy of his
pure doctrine and that he lives still in concealment to reveal himself in
due time when the world is ready for him. Other persons believed that
he had hidden himself because he was disgusted at the state of affairs
and weary of the throne, and was living contentedly in obscurity. Bar
Hebraeus tells us of a widespread belief in Egypt that Hakim had been
recognised as a Christian monk at Sketis. Severus says that for sixteen
years there were constant rumours of his return. A certain proselyte from
Christianity named Sherut claimed to be the Khalif and called himself Abu
l-ʿArab. In voice and appearance he very closely resembled Hakim and had
many followers. About 427 he was in Lower Egypt, and a certain Arab who
believed in him provided him with a tent where he lived for some time.
Very often he used to give the Arab rich presents of clothes and arms,
but himself lived in the strictest simplicity. At last the government
heard of him and he fled, after some twenty years’ personation of the
ex-Khalif. Abu l-Feda tells us of a pretender named Sikkin who revolted
in 434, and was seized and hanged (_Annal. Moslem_ iii. 119). De Sacy
thinks that this Sikkin was the same as the Sherut of Severus. Strangely
enough every one of these claimants found enthusiastic supporters, as
though Hakim had been the most popular of all the Khalifs of Egypt.



(A.H. 411-427 = A.D. 1021-1035)

On the “Day of Sacrifice,” 411, seven days after Hakim’s disappearance,
his son Abu l-Hasan ʿAli az-Zahir li-ʿizazi-dini-llah (“the triumphant in
strengthening God’s religion”), then a boy of sixteen years of age, was
recognised as Khalif. The heir designated by Hakim, ʿAbdu r-Rahim, was
still in Damascus, but the Princess wrote to him ordering his immediate
return to Egypt. Instead of obeying this summons he declared himself
the independent ruler of Damascus, and made himself popular amongst the
citizens by repealing the many vexatious regulations which Hakim had put
in force. But this popularity did not last long: he soon made himself
odious by his avarice and grasping extortions, and craftily utilising
this, and the discontent of the soldiers who did not receive the
gratuities which they expected, the Princess contrived to gain a party
of supporters, and by their help had him arrested and sent in chains to
Egypt where he was imprisoned for some four years, then fell ill and
died, perhaps poisoned, three days before the Princess herself died.

For the first four years of az-Zahir’s reign the whole power was in the
hands of his aunt, the Princess Royal. According to Ibn Khallikan the
Princess sent for Yusuf b. Dawwas, the noble who the Syrian writers
describe as having conspired with her to arrange the murder of Hakim, and
made him a present of a hundred slaves. After the wazir had gone home she
sent the eunuch Nesim after these slaves, and conveyed her orders to them
that it was their duty to slay Yusuf, as he was the person responsible
for the late Khalif’s assassination. In consequence of this Yusuf was put
to death. Soon afterwards the Princess contrived the death of two of the
wazirs who succeeded him, and throughout the whole four years of her rule
she showed herself cruel and vindictive. She died in 416, and the chief
control then passed into the hands of a committee of three sheikhs who
paid a daily visit to the Khalif, but excluded him from all participation
in the administration.

The year of the Princess’ death saw the beginning of a terrible famine
in Egypt as the result of a series of bad Niles, and the resultant
distress lasted all through 416 and 417. In many cases the starving
villages took to brigandage, an evil to which the country is always more
or less exposed. Sometimes outbreaks are due, as in this case, to dire
distress and consequent recklessness; sometimes it means the revival of
ancient feuds between village and village, or family and family, so that
it is no more than an outlet for intermittent inter-tribal feuds and
private quarrels between villages or families; but in time of distress
these become more acrimonious and turn against strangers and travellers.
Even the pilgrims on their way through Egypt were attacked. Regulations
were passed to prevent the slaughter of cattle for fear that they would
be exterminated altogether; camels were scarce as many were killed
because it was impossible to provide them with food, and poultry could
hardly be procured. Crowds assembled before the palace crying, “Hunger,
hunger. O Commander of the faithful, it was not thus under thy father
and grandfather.” Then the slaves, starving and miserable, revolted and
swelled the numbers of brigands on the roads. In many places the citizens
formed themselves into “Committees of safety,” and the government
allowed them to arm and slay revolted slaves in self defence. The state
treasury was practically empty, for it was impossible to collect taxes,
and even the palace slaves and officials were in a starving condition.
The misery reached its height in 418 when ʿAli b. Ahmad al-Jarjarai,
the same whose hands had been cut off by Hakim, was appointed wazir. As
the year began (in the early part of February) the conditions were such
that barricades were erected across the streets of Cairo to keep out the
brigands and slaves, and the wazir himself was for some time a prisoner
in his official palace. Later in the year, however, there was a good
inundation, and this restored plenty, so that in 419 the country was once
more under normal conditions and order was restored.

A curious event of 416 was a persecution of the Malikite school of
jurists. At that time the Maliki system was the prevailing school of
thought in orthodox Egypt, though now it is for the most part confined
to Upper Egypt, the Shafiʿi system replacing it in Lower Egypt. Neither
of these, of course, was acceptable to the Shiʿites, who demanded that
the problems of canon law should be treated according to the teaching
of Jaʿfar as-Sadiq (cf. p. 96 above). Hakim had, in 400, founded and
endowed a college for instruction in the Malikite system, but in 404 it
was suppressed and its head was put to death. Nothing of this sort was
attempted now, but all the canonists of the Maliki school were banished
from Egypt. No doubt they were regarded as leaders of the Sunni element
as against the Shiʿite Khalifate.

In 418 when there was every prospect of a return to prosperity as the
result of an abundant Nile, the Khalif was able to make a satisfactory
treaty with the Greek Emperor, Constantine III. It was agreed that the
Fatimid Khalif should be prayed for in the _khutba_ in every mosque in
the Byzantine dominions, and permission was given for the restoration of
the mosque at Constantinople, which had been destroyed in retaliation for
the destruction of the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem; whilst,
on the other side, the Khalif agreed to permit the rebuilding of the
Church at Jerusalem. This freed the Khalifate from one source of anxiety.

At the time of az-Zahir’s accession the authority of the Fatimids was
hardly recognised in Syria, but this was soon altered by the ability
and enterprise of Anushtegin ad-Dizbiri, who was the governor of
Caesarea. His first important action was against Salih b. Mirdas, the
Arab chieftain who had taken Aleppo from Murtada and had now established
himself as an independent prince. In 420 Anushtakin met him at
al-Ochuwana, a village near Tiberias, and defeated and killed him. He had
next to deal with Hasan b. Mufarraj, who was once more in revolt. This
he did so effectually that Hasan was obliged to flee and take refuge
amongst the Greeks. It is worth noting that the old mischief maker,
Husayn al-Maghrabi, who had fled from Egypt in 400, ended a career of
great vicissitudes in 418. After the failure of the revolt under Hakim he
had gone to the court of the Daylamite prince Baha ad-Dawla, and stayed
with his wazir Fakhr al-Mulk. But the Khalif of Baghdad suspected him
of being a Fatimite spy, and ordered Fakhr to get rid of him. Fakhr,
however, pleaded on his behalf, and at length obtained the Khalif’s
favour for the fugitive who was kindly received in Baghdad.

During the latter part of az-Zahir’s reign Fatimid influence had become
supreme in Palestine and Syria, save only in the few northern districts
which remained subject to the Greek Empire. It seemed indeed to be the
triumph of the Fatimids, but the appearance was fallacious. The Fatimid
Empire in Asia was held together only by the genius of Anushtegin, who
was able to avail himself of the favourable conditions which preceded the
great Turkish storm, which was even then gathering in the east.

It was the policy of the Princess Royal and of the committee which held
supreme power after her death to keep the Khalif in the background, and
exclude him from all real part in the work of government. It was as well,
perhaps, that his freedom was rather circumscribed for, as he grew up,
he gave signs of a cruel temperament which in some directions surpassed
that of his father. He was wholly occupied with the pursuit of pleasure,
finding his interest in the company of singing girls, buffoons, and
others of like kind, and showed no desire to take part in public affairs.
In 424 he invited the palace girls to the number of some 2,660 to a
festival: when they came to the feast they were led to one of the mosques
and taken inside; the doors were then bricked up and the unfortunate
girls were left to starve. For six months the mosque was left unopened
and the bodies unburied. Many other instances of wanton cruelty are
related of him.

In 427 az-Zahir fell sick of the plague, and as he grew worse he was
taken to the “Garden of the Strand” at Maqs, then the port of Cairo,
where he died on the 15th of Shaban, leaving the Khalifate to his son
al-Mustansir, then a child seven years of age.



(A.H. 427-487 = A.D. 1035-1095)

Abu Tamin al-Mustansir bi-llah (“the seeker of aid from God”) was
proclaimed Khalif at his father’s death on Sunday, the 15th Shaban, 427
(14 June, 1035). His reign has the distinction of being the longest of
all the Khalifates either in Egypt or elsewhere.

Again we find the influence of a woman of the royal family predominant
in the state, this time of a black ex-slave woman. In Cairo there were
two Jewish merchants, Abu Saʿd Abrahim and his brother Abu Nasr Saʿd
ad-Dahir, sons of Sahl. The Khalif az-Zahir had bought a black Sudani
slave girl from Saʿd ad-Dahir, and she was the mother of al-Mustansir.
During the earlier years of the reign the influence behind the throne
was in the hands of the Sudani Queen Mother and her former master, the
Jewish slave merchant. This influence was restrained so long as the wazir
al-Jarjarai lived, but all check upon it came to an end at his death in

The old faction fights between Turks and Berbers had now long passed
away. Under Hakim we have seen the formation of new parties, Turks
and negroes, rival groups of mercenaries in the Khalif’s employ; the
Arabs and Berbers, so far as they were not absorbed in the mass of the
population, joining with the Turks in opposition to the negro regiments.
The Queen Mother, herself a Sudani negress, threw the whole weight of her
influence on the side of the black troops.

The period of al-Jarjarai’s administration was one of prosperity in Egypt
and, for the most part, of success in Syria. Syrian affairs mainly centre
round Aleppo where Hakim had appointed ʿAziz ad-Dawla governor in 406,
but his subsequent conduct was far from pleasing to the Khalif. After
renewing the fortifications and making his own treaty with the Greeks, he
commenced striking an independent coinage and then ceased to pay tribute
to Egypt. Indeed, at the time of his disappearance Hakim was actually
preparing an army to send against Aleppo. ʿAziz ad-Dawla, however,
managed to make peace with az-Zahir and the Princess Royal, and nothing
of importance transpired until his murder in 413 which popular opinion
ascribed to Badr the governor of the citadel. No doubt Badr expected
that getting rid of ad-Dawla would leave him supreme in the city, but
next year he was expelled by the Fatimid government and two entirely
independent governors were appointed, one for the city, the other for the

Within the next few months a formidable rising took place in which all
the Arab tribes of Syria joined. They acted in three bodies, one led
by Salih b. Mirdas, who thought this a good opportunity of recovering
his former fief, attacked Aleppo; a second led by the old agitator
Hasan b. Mufarraj overran Palestine; and a third under Sinan moved
against Damascus. The Khalif sent his general Anushtakin to deal with
these revolts, but he received a serious check, and Salih, after taking
possession of Aleppo, passed on to Hims, Baʿalbak, and Sidon, so that in
416 the Fatimid power in Syria had almost passed away. In 420 Anushtakin
reinforcements had recovered possession of Damascus. Advancing against
Salih he had an engagement at Uqhuwana in which Salih fell, although
Asushtakin was not able to press on to Aleppo. The government of the city
was now divided between Salih’s two sons, Muʿizz ad-Dawla taking the
citadel, his brother Shibl ad-Dawla holding the city. After a short time,
however, Shibl ad-Dawla took command of the citadel as well, compensating
his brother with possessions outside the city. After this he commenced a
series of successful raids against the Greeks, and was able to inflict a
defeat upon the governor of Antioch. These raids became so serious that
the Greek Emperor made an expedition against Aleppo, but was defeated by
Shibl ad-Dawla and forced to retreat.

When al-Mustansir succeeded to the Fatimid throne in 427 Shibl ad-Dawla
thought it prudent to conciliate him by large gifts of booty won from
the Greeks, and the Khalif confirmed him as governor of Aleppo. Two
years later Anushtakin considered that the time had come to make another
attempt on Aleppo, and advanced against the city with a large army. Shibl
ad-Dawla went out against him, and a battle took place near the Orontes
in the month of Shaban 429, in which the forces of Aleppo were defeated,
Shibl ad-Dawla slain, and his brother Muʿizz ad-Dawla compelled to flee.
After this Muʿizz ad-Dawla went to ʿIraq, leaving deputies in charge of
Aleppo under whose rule the city quickly fell into a state of anarchy,
so that Anushtakin was able to take possession and appoint his own
governors, and thus Aleppo once more became part of the Fatimid empire.

This was the zenith of the Fatimid power in Syria and was mainly due to
the capacity of Anushtakin, and after this the Fatimid Empire began a
rapid decline. Anushtakin had himself aroused the jealousy and suspicion
of the wazir al-Jarjarai, and had to meet his most serious opposition
from the court at Cairo. Ill-advised by his wazir, al-Muntasir granted
Aleppo as a fief to Muʿizz ad-Dawla, and Anushtakin was compelled to
conduct him to the city to be invested. On the way Anushtakin, already
ill and much mortified by the deliberate destruction of the work he had
so efficiently executed, died (_A.H._ 433), and his successor Nasir
ad-Dawla, whom we shall see afterwards as a sinister character in Egypt,
placed Muʿizz ad-Dawla in possession of the city.

To survey briefly the subsequent history of Aleppo which now ceased to be
of primary importance to Egyptian history: Muʿizz ad-Dawla was confirmed
in his appointment by the Khalif in 436, and at the same time made good
terms with the Greek Empress Theodora, and with the Saljuk Tughril Beg
who was Sultan at the court of the ʿAbbasid Khalif. In 449 he exchanged
Aleppo for Bairut, ʿAkka, and Jubail, being replaced by two Fatimid
governors at Aleppo. In 452 Mahmud, his nephew, tried to seize the city
and succeeded in occupying it for a short time, after which it was
re-taken by Muʿizz ad-Dawla, who then held it until his death in 453.
Before he expired he appointed his brother ʿAtiya as his successor, but
Mahmud made war against his uncle and, helped by the Greeks, recovered
Aleppo in 457. Soon after this, as Mahmud was convinced that the Fatimid
rule in Syria was in its final decay, he made his submission to the
Khalif of Baghdad and his Sultan Alp Arslan. This change was unpopular
in Aleppo where the people were attached to the Shiʿite sect; there was
no open resistance but clearly expressed discontent. The worshippers
stripped the great mosque of its prayer mats, saying that these had been
bought or given for Shiʿite services; let those who wished to pray in the
Sunni fashion buy others for themselves.

The wazir al-Jarjarai died in 436, the year following the death of
Anushtakin. His disappearance opened the way to an increase of faction
fighting and court intrigue in Cairo. The next wazir was Ibn al-Anbari,
who soon provoked the enmity of the Queen Mother. It seems that Abu Nasr,
Saʿd ad-Dahir’s brother, was insulted by one of the wazir’s servants,
and when Abu Nasr complained he only obtained a rough answer from the
wazir. By the plots of Sʿad ad-Dahir and harim influence, Ibn al-Anbari
was deposed and replaced by the renegade Jew, Abu Mansur Sadaqa, in whom
the Queen expected to find a docile instrument. But Abu Saʿd continued
his intrigues against Ibn al-Anbari, and finally secured his execution
in 440. But this proved his undoing, for Sadaqa began to fear that the
same fate might lie in store for him also, so he bribed the Turkish guard
to assassinate Abu Saʿd, and Abu Nasr was put to death on the same day.
In retaliation the Queen Mother procured the assassination of Sadaqa.
The next wazir was a mere creature of the Queen and imported more negro
troops in large numbers to counterbalance the Turkish guard, whilst
the Khalif and his supporters brought in more Turks and had the wazir
murdered. The next wazir held office only three months and then was
deposed. For the six years following (436-442) the domestic politics of
Egypt centered entirely in the struggle between the Turkish mercenaries
and the negro troops.

Then in 442 there came forward once more a capable wazir in the humble
fisherman’s son al-Yazuri, as his name denotes a native of the coast
village of Yazur, near Jaffa, and he held office more or less firmly for
a period of eight years.

There can be no doubt that he was a perfectly earnest reformer, so far
as his knowledge extended, and that some of his experiments were rash
and unsuccessful does not detract from his personal sincerity. One of
his first measures was to sell the government stores of corn at the
lowest current prices, thus bringing down the price of corn throughout
the country and forcing the merchants to put their stock upon the market
at prices which suited the people. Incidentally this involved a severe
loss to the revenue, and, a more serious result, there was nothing
available when soon afterwards a bad Nile produced general scarcity,
so the country had again an experience of famine and then of plague.
In these circumstances he appealed to the Greek Emperor, Constantine
Monomachos, and arrangements were made for a supply of some two million
bushels which eased the situation. For several seasons when the Niles
were bad this assistance continued until Constantine died in 447. The
next Greek ruler, the Empress Theodora, tried to drive a harder bargain
and stipulated for a full alliance, defensive and offensive, as the
price. To this the wazir was not willing to agree, for shortage in Egypt
might not happen every year, whilst such an alliance would be permanent.
As a result the supplies were stopped and minor hostilities took place in
the neighbourhood of Antioch. The stoppage was not of great importance
as next year there was an exceptionally good Nile and Egypt was filled
with abundance. Taught by experience the wazir bought freely and laid up
stores for next year’s possible requirements. At the same time he took
active measures to prevent money-lenders seizing the standing crops or
merchants buying the unreaped corn as it stood at a low figure, and so
protected the thriftless people from the wrongs which had most preyed
upon them in the past.

In his dealings with the Copts he was harsh. Again as in the
anti-Christian legislation of Hakim we observe the great unpopularity
of those who were hereditary tax-collectors and who were suspected, no
doubt with excellent reason, of defrauding the revenue. The strict
organization introduced under the first Fatimid Khalif had been allowed
to grow slack, its continuance meant constant effort and unceasing
supervision, and this sustained effort hardly lies within the oriental
character. As wazir Yazuri himself amassed great wealth, far beyond
what could possibly have come to him from the regular emoluments of his
office: a certain amount of perquisites, of a kind which the western
would be inclined to describe as bribery, is known and tolerated in
oriental administration and Yazuri, a minister who must be regarded as
a good and beneficent ruler in spite of this, was not the one to take
a high ground of morality in such matters. He imprisoned the Patriarch
Christodoulos whom he accused of persuading the Nubian king to withhold
tribute, a charge which does not seem to have had any foundation; then
laid heavy fines on the whole Coptic community, no less a sum than 70,000
dinars, and closed churches until none were left in use, and imprisoned
the bishops, all it would appear in the attempt to make the Copts pay
up the fine or, as Yazuri would no doubt have described it, to disgorge
some part of their plunder filched from the public revenue. It does not
seem that there was any sectarian motive or feeling in these measures,
although they are sometimes made to figure as religious persecution.

In 450 Yazuri died, poisoned by order of the Queen Mother with the
consent of the Khalif. The ostensible charge was that he had been
detected in treasonable correspondence with the court of Baghdad, but the
real reason seems to have been that his inordinate wealth, which could
only have been attained by defrauding the public revenue on a gigantic
scale, had awakened jealousy and suspicion.

It is interesting to turn aside for a moment to the Persian poet
Nasir-i-Khusraw, who visited Cairo in the years just preceding the
ministry of Yazuri and who left a most graphic account of the wealth and
splendour of the Fatimid court and the prosperity of Cairo even at that
period of comparative disorder. In the eyes of this traveller, familiar
with the most prosperous and cultured cities of Persia and ʿIraq, the
magnificence of Cairo and its court seemed astonishing, and exactly the
same impression was made years afterwards, after the Fatimids had long
passed the zenith of their glory, on the Crusaders from the west. Under
Fatimid rule, apparently, Cairo surpassed all the cities of the then
known world in its luxury, magnificence, and wealth. As we have already
noted ostentatious display was the besetting fault of the whole Fatimid
dynasty, but this, it must be remembered, is usually popular in oriental
circles. Nasir-i-Khusraw was a devout Ismaʿilian and regarded Cairo as
the metropolis of his religion and the Khalif as the true Imam, religious
beliefs which he expresses freely in his works. He was a secretary under
the government in Khurasan until he experienced a conversion to the
religious life and, resigning his office, became first a pilgrim and then
a _daʿi_ of the Ismaʿilian sect. In his best known work the _Safarnama_
he describes how, after he had turned to religion, he set out for Mecca
in 437, and relates the experiences of his journey. He reached Mecca in
439 and returned thence to Damascus, then went to Jerusalem, and then by
land to Cairo where he remained two or three years, and during his stay
was initiated into the higher grades of the Ismaʿilian fraternity. As
his work was intended for general reading he is cautious in referring to
the more intimate matters of religion, but makes it quite clear that he
believes in the allegorical interpretation of the Qurʾan, that he accepts
the Fatimid Khalif as the true Imam, and adheres whole-heartedly to the
doctrines of the Fatimite sect. He gives a most glowing description, not
only of the splendours; of the Cairene court, but of the extraordinary
wealth and prosperity of the bazars and their merchants, and this at a
time (circ. 440) which we generally regard as one of the less fortunate
periods of Fatimid rule. It is particularly interesting to note his
observations on the Egyptian army at the time when its factions were at
the bottom of all the domestic troubles of Cairo. He estimates the whole
army as about 215,000 men. Of the cavalry 35,000 came from North Africa,
Berbers and Arabs, 50,000 were Arabs from the Hijaz, and 30,000 were of
mixed composition. Of the infantry, where the racial elements are more
significant, 20,000 were black troops raised in North Africa, 30,000
were Ethiopians by which we must understand Nubians, Sudanis, etc.,
10,000 were Syrians, Turks and Kurds, 30,000 were slaves presumably from
central Africa for the most part, and 10,000 are described as the “palace
guard,” which seems to have been a kind of foreign legion of adventurers
from various parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. We shall have to return
again to Nasir-i-Khusraw, for after leaving Cairo he became a _daʿi_ of
the Ismaʿilians in western Asia, and indirectly played an important part
in the formation of the off-shoot of the Ismaʿilians, which afterwards
became notorious as the “Assassins.”

Yazuri’s wazirate saw a great limitation of Fatimid control over
North Africa, where in 443 Ifrikiya definitely repudiated the Shiʿite
doctrines. At that time the ruler of Ifrikiya settled now at the town of
Mahadiya which had replaced Kairawan, was Muʿizz al-Himyari as-Sanhaji,
the hereditary chieftain of one of the more prominent Berber tribes,
and more or less hereditary governor of Ifrikiya. Hakim had conferred
on him robes of state with the title _Sharaf ad-Dawla_ (“nobleness
of the empire”) in 407. Up to this time the Hanifite system of canon
law had prevailed through North Africa, for the Shiʿite attempt to
introduce the system ascribed to Jaʿfar as-Sadiq seems to have been a
failure, but Muʿizz introduced the Malikite jurisprudence throughout his
governorate; this, it will be remembered, was the system banned by the
Khalif az-Zahir in Egypt, and by thus acting Moʿizz showed very plainly
his entire disregard of the Fatimid who claimed to be his suzerain. Now,
in 433, Muʿizz formally repudiated Fatimid authority, omitting the name
of Mustansir from the _khutba_, and replacing it with the name of the
ʿAbbasid Khalif of Baghdad. At this Mustansir wrote: “Thou hast not trod
in the steps of thy forefathers, showing us obedience and fidelity?”—but
Muʿizz replied: “My father and forefathers were kings in Maghrab before
thy predecessors obtained possession of that country. Our family rendered
them services not to be rewarded by any rank which thou canst give. When
people attempted to degrade them, they exalted themselves by means of
their swords.” Thus the Fatimids lost what had been the earliest part of
their dominions in Africa, although the loss was not without its benefit,
for Ifrikiya had always been a course of trouble and of little real

The defection of Ifrikiya was not followed in all parts of North Africa.
There were still devoted Shiʿites in those parts, and they revolted from
Moʿizz when the Fatimid sent the Arab tribe of Hilal to win back the
country. The Arabs succeeded in recovering Barqa and Tripoli, but were
unable to advance further west. At the same time various independent
states, for the most part professing to be Shiʿite, arose in Maghrab.

In 448 the Turk, Tughril Beg, was recognised in Baghdad as the Sultan and
lieutenant of the Khalif. The Saljuq Turks were strictly orthodox, and
indeed at this time recognised themselves as the champions of orthodoxy.
When, two years later, the general of the troops in Baghdad, a Turk named
Arslan al-Basasiri, revolted against the Khalif al-Kaʾim and expelled him
from Baghdad, he put the seal on his revolt by causing the _khutba_ to
be said throughout Mesopotamia in the name of the Fatimid al-Mustansir,
and sent him his protestation of allegiance. The expelled ʿAbbasir Khalif
took refuge with the Emir of the Arabs and stayed with him one year,
and then the Saljuq Tughril Beg came to his relief, and having attacked
and slain al-Basasiri, reinstated the ʿAbbasid in Baghdad. The Khalif
made his entry into the city exactly one year after his expulsion, so
that Fatimid al-Mustansir had just one year’s nominal recognition in
Mesopotamia, but this cannot be seriously regarded as an extension of the
Fatimid dominion.

The proclamation of the Fatimid Khalifate in Baghdad and the exile of
the ʿAbbasid Khalif from his capital raised unduly high expectations
in Egypt. The more so as the official robe and jewelled turban of the
Baghdad Khalif, as well as the iron lectern, were carried off to Cairo,
and remained there until the fall of the Fatimids. Al-Mustansir was
confident that these symbols would be soon followed by the ʿAbbasid in
person, and laid out a large sum, stated to be no less than two million
dinars, in preparing the second palace which stood facing his own
dwelling across the great square in Kahira for the occupation, as he
hoped, of his illustrious captive.

In fact, however, the Fatimid Khalifate had already passed its happiest
hours and was rapidly approaching its decline. The Arabs still held
Tripoli and Barqa as subjects of Egypt, but this was the western limit
of Fatimid rule and the death of Anushtakin had practically ended its
authority in Syria.

Just about this time, however, there was a temporary restoration of
Fatimid authority in the Hijaz, and this not due to a rebel like
al-Basasiri, but to the work of a devout and earnest Shiʿite. Abu l-Hasan
ʿAli b. Muhammad b. ʿAli as-Sulaihi was the son of a Qadi of Yemen, a
strict and orthodox Sunni. The son, however, came under the influence
of an Ismaʿilian missionary named ʿAmir b. ʿAbdullah az-Zawwahi who,
concealing his Shiʿite opinions, was received into great favour by the
Qadi, but in private intercourse with the son taught him the Fatimid
system of canon law and the _tawil_ or allegorical interpretation of
the Qurʾan. For fifteen years as-Sulaihi acted as guide to the Meccan
pilgrims along the road between as-Sarat and Taif, then in 429 he broke
out in revolt against the established government and, at the head of
sixty followers, whom he bound by oath, seized upon Mount Mashar.
Secretly he supported the Khalifate of Mustansir, but this he concealed
for fear of Najah, the Chieftain of the Tihama. In 452 he presented Najah
with a beautiful female slave who, acting under his directions, poisoned
Najah and then released from all need of concealment openly proclaimed
the Fatimid Imamate. Three years later we find him the master of all
Yemen, having his headquarters at Sanaʿa, and for nearly twenty years
the _khutba_ in the cities of Yemen, and for part of that time also in
the holy cities of the Hijaz made mention of the name of the Khalif

After the death of Najah he offered to give the chieftainship of the
Tihama to anyone who would pay him 100,000 dinars of gold. The sum was at
once paid by his wife on behalf of her brother Asaad b. Shihab. “Where
didst thou get this, mistress?” asked as-Sulaih. “From God,” she replied,
“God is bounteous without measure to whom he will (Qur. ii. 208).”
Perceiving that the money came from his own treasury as-Sulaihi smiled
and took it saying, “Here is our money returned to us” (Qur. xii. 65).

In 473 he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, taking with him his wife and all
the princes whom he thought at all likely to revolt during his absence.
Having appointed his son al-Malik al-Mukarram as his deputy at home he
set out with 2,000 horsemen and encamped outside al-Mahjam. Whilst there
he was sought out and found by Saʿid, the son of the poisoned Najah, who
had been roving about the country but had managed to evade the soldiers
of as-Sulaihi. At the very moment when Saʿid entered as-Sulaihi’s tent
5,000 horsemen were out in search of him. Entering his enemy’s tent
Saʿid at once cut off his head and then, escaping, went out and joined
himself to the horsemen who were searching for him; he announced to them
as-Sulaihi’s death, declared who he was himself, claiming to be one of
their own race and simply acting to avenge his father’s death. At once
the horsemen placed themselves under his command, and returning to the
camp fell upon as-Sulaihi’s guards and defeated them. As-Sulaihi’s head
was placed on the top of his own state umbrella and carried round to the
chanting of the verse, “O God, possessor of all power, thou givest power
to whom thou wilt, and from whom thou wilt thou takest it away. Thou
raisest up whom thou wilt, and whom thou wilt thou dost abase. In thy
hand is good; for thou art over all things potent” (Qur. iii. 25). Thus
as-Sulaihi’s kingdom came to an end and with it ceased the recognition of
the Fatimid Khalif in Arabia (Ibn Khall. 512, etc.).

Thus, from time to time, Muntasir received temporary recognition in
various unexpected quarters and seemed to bulk more prominently than any
of the preceding Fatimid Khalifs in the history of Islam, but meanwhile
his kingdom was on the decline and in Egypt was in evil condition, indeed
the period 450 to 466 shows the nadir of their authority in Egypt itself.

The death of Yazuri in 450 was a very serious loss as it once more
liberated the factions and forces of disorder, the evil influence being
the Turkish general Nasir ad-Dawla, the same who had succeeded Anushtakin
in Syria. After the murder of Yazuri there were forty different wazirs in
the space of nine years, many of these being put to death at the end of
their term of office, although about this time the more humane practice
came into force of appointing the deposed minister to some minor post,
very often some provincial government, from which it was quite possible
for him to rise to the wazirate again. None of these was a man of any
great weight or marked personality, so that the Khalif fell entirely into
the hands of mere court flatterers, altogether obscure and incompetent
persons, and himself developed a childish and petulant attitude. He was
especially annoyed at the frequent interference of the Queen Mother in
the affairs of the state, but had not the strength or courage to check

The faction fights between the Turkish mercenaries and the negro troops
became more constant and violent under this weak and incompetent rule. At
length in 454 the Turks, led by Nasir ad-Dawla the Commander-in-Chief,
drove the negro regiments out of Cairo and chased them to Upper Egypt
where they were kept, although for some years they made regular attempts
to recover their footing in Lower Egypt. The victorious Turks dominated
Cairo, held the successive wazirs in subjection, treated the Khalif with
contempt, and used their power to deplete the treasury by increasing
their pay to nearly twenty times its former figure. At last Nasir
ad-Dawla’s tyranny made him offensive even to his own officers, and gave
the Khalif the opportunity of getting rid of him in 462. Though deposed
in Cairo he was able to hold his own in Alexandria where he had the
support of the B. Qorra Arabs and the Lawata Berbers. Thus the Arab and
Berber tribes under Nasir, helped by some of the Turkish mercenaries,
were in command of Alexandria and a considerable portion of Lower
Egypt, whilst the expelled negro troops were in possession of Upper
Egypt, the Khalif’s authority being limited to Cairo and its immediate
vicinity. Added to this was the fact that beginning with 458 there had
been a series of bad Niles followed by a famine of seven years duration
(459-465), whose later period was aggravated by Cairo being practically
isolated by the rebel forces to the north and to the south, the Berbers
in Lower Egypt deliberately aggravating the distress by ravaging the
country, destroying the embankments and canals, and seeking every way to
reduce the capital and the neighbouring districts by sheer starvation.
In the city a house could be bought for 20 pounds of flour, an egg was
sold for a dinar, a cake of bread for fifteen dinars, and even horses,
mules, cats, and dogs were sold at high prices for food. In the Khalif’s
own stable where there had been 10,000 animals there were now only three
thin horses, and his escort fainted from hunger as it accompanied him
through the streets. Many great princes and ex-officials of the court
gladly filled menial offices in the few houses where food was still
found, and sought employment as grooms, sweepers, and attendants in the
baths. Of all the Fatimids Mustansir had at one time enjoyed the largest
revenues and in 442 he had inherited the almost incredible wealth of two
aged ladies descended from his ancestor Moʿizz. But most of this had long
since been plundered by the Turkish guard, and now he also was reduced
to dire poverty. The Queen Mother and other ladies of the Khalif’s
family made good their escape and took refuge in Baghdad. At length the
people of Cairo were reduced to feeding on human flesh, which was even
sold publicly in the markets. Wayfarers were waylaid in the lonelier
streets, or caught by hooks let down from the windows, and devoured. As
an inevitable result of this protracted famine plague broke out, whole
districts were absolutely denuded of population, and house after house
lay empty.

Meanwhile the Turkish mercenaries had drained the treasury, the works of
art and valuables of all sorts in the palace were sold to satisfy their
demands; often they themselves were the purchasers at merely nominal
prices and sold the articles again at a profit. Emeralds valued at
300,000 dinars were bought by one Turkish general for 500 dinars, and in
one fortnight of the year 460 articles to the value of 30,000,000 dinars
were sold off to provide pay for the Turks. But this selling of the
valuable collections accumulated in the palace was as nothing compared
to the damage done wantonly by sheer mischief or unintentionally by
carelessness. The precious library which had been rendered available to
the public and was one of the objects for which many visited Cairo was
scattered, the books were torn up, thrown away, or used to light fires.

At length, after the Queen and her daughters had left Cairo, the Turks
began fighting amongst themselves. Nasir ad-Dawla attacked the city
which was defended by the rival faction of the Turkish guard and,
after burning part of Fustat and defeating the defenders, entered as
a conqueror. When he reached the palace he found the Khalif lodged in
rooms which had been stripped bare, waited on by only three slaves, and
subsisting on two loaves which were sent him daily by the charitable
daughters of Ibn Babshad the grammarian.

After this victory over the unhappy city Nasir ad-Dawla became so
over-bearing and tyrannical in his conduct that he provoked even his own
followers, and so at length he was assassinated in 466. But this only
left the city in a worse condition than ever, for it was now at the mercy
of the various Turkish factions which behaved no better than troops of

At this desperate juncture al-Mustansir was roused to action and wrote to
the Armenian Badr al-Jamali, who had once been purchased as a slave by
Ibn ʿAmmar and was now acting as governor of Tyre, begging him to come
to the rescue. Badr replied that he would do so if he were allowed to
bring his own army with him and were given a free hand. This was granted,
and soon Badr was on his way. With courage quickened by the approach of
rescue the Khalif ventured to arrest Ildeguz, the Turkish governor of
Cairo, and thus put some check on the military tyranny. At his arrival
Badr was well received by the Turkish mercenaries who had no idea that he
had been invited by the Khalif. His first act was to invite the Turkish
leaders to a conference: each of his own chief officers was told off to
deal with one of these leaders and, at a given signal, each slaughtered
the man who had been designated. Badr then set himself to restore order
in Cairo, and this he did efficiently but with the severity rendered
necessary by the desperate condition of the city, and thus re-established
the Khalif as master. The grateful prince could not do too much to show
his appreciation of these services, and Badr was created wazir of the
sword and of the pen, _i.e._, chief minister of affairs military and
civil, Chief Qadi and Chief _Daʿi_. After reducing Cairo to complete
order he proceeded with his troops through Lower Egypt, putting down
brigandage and disorder until he reached Alexandria where he had some
resistance to overcome, but in due course that also was reduced. The
settlement of Cairo and Lower Egypt occupied the greater part of 467:
then in 468 he proceeded to Upper Egypt and succeeded in disbanding the
black troops which held out there, and reduced those parts also to good
order. Thus, once more, Egypt was under an efficient and firm government.
It is true that his efforts were greatly assisted by the fact that the
year 466 saw an exceptionally good Nile, so that prosperity and abundance
once more reigned through the land. It is interesting to note that the
Khalif set himself to the formation of a new library at Cairo as one of
his first tasks; it helps us to realize that the Shiʿites were then as
always the friends of learning.

Meanwhile difficult problems had arisen in Syria. The Saljuq Turks,
who were now dominant in Baghdad, were fanatically orthodox and set
themselves deliberately to root out the Fatimids from Islam. In 461,
during the period of disorder in Egypt, they had gained possession of
Jerusalem, and in 466 they took Damascus which never again acknowledged
a Fatimid ruler. The Saljuq general Atsiz then planned an expedition
against Egypt itself, and as this threat came just at the moment when
Badr was setting himself to the task of restoring order in Egypt he was
not in a position to attempt an expedition against the Saljuk Turks.
Ships were made ready to remove the court to Alexandria, and messengers
were sent out to attempt to bribe the Turkish general to retire. In
fact Atsiz was not well supported and felt himself not in a position
to press forward, so that this danger was averted. As soon as Badr had
reduced Lower Egypt he sent an expedition to recover Palestine and
Syria, and his army was able to gain possession of Jerusalem, where
Atsiz had been governor since 468. Hard pressed by the Egyptians Atsiz
appealed for help to the Saljuq general Tutush who had entered Syria
with large reinforcements, and at length evacuated from Jerusalem and
marched out to join with him. He met Tutush at Damascus, but the Saljuq
Commander-in-Chief severely rebuked Atsiz for quitting Jerusalem and
arrested and executed him (A.H. 471), and then himself took possession
of the whole of Syria. In 478 Tutush, now ʿAbbasid viceroy in Syria took
Aleppo, but soon after this he found himself opposed by his nephew
Barkyaruk, with whom he was compelled to wage war for some time until
he was slain in battle by his nephew’s forces in 488. Taking advantage
of this civil war Badr made another attempt upon Damascus, but this was
unsuccessful, although the Egyptians recovered Tyre and Akka. Shortly
after this success, in 487, Badr died and was succeeded as wazir by his
son Abu l-Kasim Shahanshah, commonly known as al-Afdal; and the wazir’s
death was soon followed by that of the Khalif Mustansir.

The rule of Badr was especially associated with a great development
of building, and especially with the construction of new walls and
gates round Cairo. In this work Badr employed Syrian architects who
introduced Byzantine styles of architecture and of fortification, and
made a greater use of stone in place of the brick which predominated in
the older constructions. The existing gates known respectively as the
Bab an-Nasr, the Bab al-Futuh, and the Bab az-Zuwayla, are specimens of
Badr’s work, and show an almost purely Byzantine style in marked contrast
to the native Egyptian work, and so the outpost tower called by the
unintelligible name of the Burg adh-Dhiffir. All these formed part of the
south boundary of the ancient Kahira, but are now included within the
area of the modern city. To the same period belongs the restoration of
the Nilometer in the island of Roda (A.H. 485).

In 483 Badr made a new assessment and return of taxation for Egypt and
Syria. Under his rule the annual revenue had risen from 2,000,000 dinars
to 3,100,000, and peace and prosperity reigned in all the land of Egypt,
though war prevailed in Syria, the mark of the first waves of Saljuq

Before closing the narrative of the reign of Mustansir we must take
note of a visit to Egypt paid by a Persian missionary in 471, closely
connected with the visit of Nasir-i-Khusraw some years before, and
important in its bearing upon events which followed soon after
Mustansir’s death.

This Persian missionary, Hasan-i-Sabbah by name, was born in Qum whither
his father had removed from Kufa. Like his father he was a Shiʿite of
the “Twelver” sect, but came under the influence of Nasir-i-Khusraw who
was an active propagandist, although at the time Ismaʿilian doctrines
were not making much progress in Asia. After considerable hesitation he
became a proselyte of the Ismaʿilians and took the oath of allegiance to
the Fatimid Khalif. In 464 he came under the notice of the overseer of
the mission work in the district (_bahr_, literally, “sea”), of Isfahan,
and was advised by him to make a pilgrimage to Egypt. After spending
two years as assistant to the overseer of Isfahan he set out in 467 and
reached Cairo in 471 where he was well received by the Chief _Daʿi_ and
other leading persons, but was not allowed to have an interview with
the Khalif. At the time, it appears, the court was divided into two
factions over the question of the succession, the one party holding to
the Khalif’s elder son Nizar, the other to a younger son named Mustali.
In one place Nasir-i-Khusraw says that the Khalif told him that his
elder son Nizar was to be his heir, and the succession of the older son
would be in accordance with the doctrines of the sect as already proved
by their adherence to Ismaʿil, the son of Jaʿfar as-Sadiq. But Badr and
the chief officials were on the side of the younger son Mustali, and
it was probably the knowledge that the Persian visitor was opposed to
them on this question which stood in the way of a personal interview
with Mustansir. After eighteen months in Egypt Hasan-i-Sabbah was forced
to leave because, according to his own statement, he had provoked the
suspicion of Badr. So in 472 he embarked at Alexandria. His ship was
wrecked on the coast of Syria, and after much wandering he at length
made his way overland to Isfahan where he arrived in 473. At once he
commenced propaganda amongst the Ismaʿilians in favour of Nizar as the
chosen heir to the Imamate. In this work he was successful, and in 483
he obtained possession of the castle of Alamut (“the eagle’s teaching”)
which he made the headquarters of his branch of the Ismaʿilian sect. As
supporters of the claims of Nizar the members of this branch were known
as “Nizarites,” but later the name of “Assassins” became their commoner
designation. This term represents the Arabic _Hashishi_, that is to say,
user of Indian hemp or the “Faqir’s herb” (_cannabis Indica_), as this
was used as a means of intoxication and exaltation to arouse the members
of the sect charged with peculiarly difficult duties. In a later chapter
(cf. pp. 213, etc.) we shall see that these duties, the acts which are
now especially associated with the term assassin, were performed by
quite subordinate members of the sect; but these members entrusted with
the performance of deeds of violence and daring were prepared by being
worked up into a frenzy by the use of this drug whose peculiar influences
are well known in the east. From 473 to the date of Mustansir’s death
in 487 these “Assassins” were occupied in preaching the claims of the
prince Nizar to the Imamate, but they did not definitely separate from
the Ismaʿilian body or from their allegiance to the Fatimid Khalif until,
at Mustansir’s death, the elder son Nizar was formally excluded from
the succession, so that our further consideration of the sect is best
deferred to the next reign. A large literature exists on the history of
the Assassins. The most important authority is the “Adventures of our
master” (_i.e._, of Hasan-i-Sabbah), a lost work included amongst the
books in the great library at Alamut and examined by ʿAta Malik Juwayni
before it was burned with other heretical works, and from it he makes
important citations.

The longest Khalifate of Muslim history closed with the death of
Mustansir on the 18th of Dhu l-Hijja, 487 (A.D. 1094), and at once the
wazir al-Afdal announced the accession of the younger son al-Mustali.



(A.H. 487-495 = A.D. 1094-1101)

As soon as al-Mustansir was dead the wazir al-Afdal al-Juyush entered
the palace and placed Abu l-Kasim Ahmad al-Mustali, a youth of eighteen
years of age and the youngest son of the late Khalif on the throne. At
the same time he sent for the other sons of Mustansir who were near at
hand, Nizar the eldest son, and his brothers ʿAbdullah and Ismaʿil,
bidding them come quickly. As soon as they entered the room where the
wazir awaited them and saw their youngest brother enthroned they were
filled with indignation, and when al-Afdal bade them do homage to Mustali
as the new Khalif, Nizar burst out, “I would rather be cut in pieces
than do homage to one younger than myself, and moreover I possess a
document in the handwriting of my father by which he names me successor,
and I shall go and bring it.” At this he went out, presumably to get
the document, but as he did not return the wazir sent after him, and it
was found that he had left the city. Very soon afterwards he appeared
at Alexandria, supported by his brother ʿAbdullah and an emir named Ibn
Massal, and there he assumed the title of Khalif with the surname of
al-Mustafa li-dinillah (“the chosen for God’s religion”), and received
the oath of allegiance from the Alexandrians. He promised Nasir ad-Dawla
Iftikin, the Turkish governor of Alexandria, that he should be wazir.
As we have already seen, there was a party ready to support Nizar even
before Mustansir’s death, and his claims seemed to have fair prospects
of success. No doubt we may say that the sectarian supporters of the
Fatimid Imamate were with him, whilst al-Afdal headed the secularist
party: but there would, no doubt, be many aggrieved with the existing
administration, and even perhaps remnants of those whom al-Afdal’s father
had suppressed with such severity, who were ready to throw in their lot
with the opposition to the wazir’s nominee in Cairo.

In 488 al-Afdal found it necessary to take the field against Nizar and
his followers, but suffered a sharp repulse in the first engagement.
Encouraged by this the Nizarites laid waste the country north of Cairo.
Again al-Afdal prepared his forces and marched this time to Alexandria
and laid siege to it. During this siege Ibn Massal had a dream in which
he seemed to be riding on horseback and al-Afdal was following him on
foot. He consulted an astrologer as to the meaning of this dream, and
was informed that it signified the ultimate success of al-Afdal, for
those who walk the earth are those who will possess it. Ibn Massal took
this very seriously and thought it prudent to leave Nizar’s party, so
he departed and retired to Lukk near Barqa. This defection marked the
turning point of Nizar’s career for, after losing Ibn Massal and his
men, his fortunes gradually declined. Convinced that resistance could
not endure for long he sent out and asked al-Afdal if he would spare
his life if he submitted. Receiving a favourable answer the gates of
Alexandria were opened to the wazir who took possession of the city and,
after putting an end to all resistance, returned to Cairo with Nizar and
ʿAbdullah. Nizar’s subsequent life is totally unknown. He was either
imprisoned in absolute secrecy, or put to death: stories were told of
both these ends, but nothing was ever known for certain. A certain
Muhammad afterwards claimed to be Nizar’s son, and had a following in
Yemen: he was brought to Cairo and crucified in 523. In all probability
he was an imposter.

The suppression of Nizar and his partisans meant the triumph of al-Afdal,
and during the rest of Mustali’s reign the Khalif was entirely without
authority in the state, and came out only as required at public functions.

The suppression of Nizar involved a definite separation between the
Fatimids of Cairo and their court on the one side and the Asiatic
adherents of Nizar’s Imamate on the other, and so from 488 onwards the
Assassins formed a distinct sect, as much opposed to the Fatimids and
their followers as to the orthodox Muslims. The founder, Hasan-i-Sabbah,
had now fully organised that sect on lines which were in general outline
imitated from the traditional system of the Ismaʿilians, but differed in
detail. There were grades and successive stages of initiation, and the
real beliefs of the higher grades were of the same pantheistic-agnostic
type as in the Ismaʿilian body, and similarly the members of those upper
grades were keen students of the science and philosophy which had been
derived from Hellenistic tradition. When the headquarters of the sect at
Alamut were finally taken they were found to contain a vast library as
well as an observatory and a collection of scientific instruments. In
fact we may say with confidence that the Assassins represent the highest
level of scholarship and research in contemporary Asiatic Islam, if we
can indeed regard them as within the Islamic fold; an island of culture
and learning in the midst of reactionary orthodoxy and actual ignorance,
the result of the submerging of Asiatic Islam beneath the flood of
Turkish invasion. Far away in the west a purer culture was beginning
to dawn in Muslim Spain, but in Asia philosophy and science were being
rapidly obscured by the reactionary flood.

As organised by Hasan-i-Sabbah the Assassins appear in six grades. The
highest of these was filled by the “Chief Daʿi” who recognised the Imam
alone as superior on earth. So long as Mustansir lived he was regarded
as the true Imam; after his death Nizar was his successor, and later on
we find the Chief Daʿi claiming descent from Nizar, but this was as yet
in the future. It was the same development as that which we have already
observed in the history of the Shiʿite sect founded by ʿAbdullah b.
Maymun. Amongst outsiders the Chief Daʿi commonly went by the name of
“Sheikh of the mountain,” _i.e._, of the mountain stronghold of Alamut
which formed the headquarters of the sect, and this is reproduced as “the
old man of the mountain” in the records of the Crusaders. Under the Chief
Daʿi were the “Senior Missionaries” (daʿi-i-kabir), each supervising
a diocese or _bahr_ (“sea”), and under these were the ordinary
missionaries. Thus far the organization merely reproduced that already
prevalent in the Ismaʿilian propaganda. Beneath the missionaries were the
ordinary members in two main grades known respectively as “companions”
(rafiq) and “adherents” (lasiq), the former more fully initiated in the
batimite or allegorical interpretations of doctrine than the latter.
The sixth grade, theoretically the lowest, was peculiar to the Assassin
sect, and consisted of “devoted ones” (fidaʿi) who do not seem to have
been initiated, but were bound to a blind and unquestioning obedience
which has its parallel in the discipline of the various darwish orders,
but was here carried to exceptional extremes. These _fidaʿis_ were
carefully trained and were especially practised in the use of various
forms of disguise, after all only a more perfect refinement of the
methods originally evolved by the Hashimite missionaries; but these were
not disguised for the purpose of acting more efficiently as missionaries
and for penetrating different communities as teachers, but solely for
the purpose of carrying out the specific orders of the Chief Daʿi, and
thus formed a most formidable branch of what soon became an exceptionally
powerful secret society. In many cases the acts entrusted to the
_fidaʿis_ were acts of murder, and it is from this that the name of
“assassin” has received its peculiar meaning in most of the languages of
Western Europe. The _fidaʿi_, trained to the use of disguise, sometimes
as a servant, or as a merchant, or darwish, or as a Christian monk, was
able to penetrate into almost any society and to strike down suddenly
the victim marked out; and counted it a triumphant success if this act
involved his own death as well. A deliberate effort was made to surround
the sect with an atmosphere of terror; a Muslim prince would be struck
down whilst he was acting as leader at prayer, or a Crusading knight as
he was attending high mass at the head of his troops, or if there was
not actual murder, a leader might wake up in his tent to find a message
from the Assassins pinned by a dagger to the ground beside his couch, or
a doctor of the law would find a similar message between the pages of
the text book from which he was lecturing. All this was developed more
elaborately as time went on, but already in the days of Mustali the sect
had rendered itself prominent by getting rid of some leading men whom it
regarded as its enemies, such as in 485 Nidhamu l-Mulk the great wazir
of the Saljuq sultans, in 491 ʿAbdu r-Rahman as-Samayrami the wazir of
Barkiyaruq’s mother, and in 494 Unru Bulka, the rival of Nidhamu l-Mulk
and the emir of greater influence in Isfahan. The higher members of the
sect were domiciled at Alamut, or in some one or other of the various
mountain fortresses they secured in Northern Persia and afterwards in
Syria, but adherents were found everywhere scattered through western
Asia. In its development the sect of Assassins was almost entirely
Asiatic, but as professed adherents of Nizar the eldest son of Mustansir,
the Assassins were, at least nominally, of Egyptian origin.

So far the danger most threatening to the Fatimids had been the advance
of the Saljuq Turks, pledged to the destruction of the Ismaʿilian heresy,
from the east: but in the fourth year of Mustali’s reign a new danger
appeared. This was the appearance of the Franks embarked on the First
Crusade, who reached Syria in the year 490, when the Saljuq influence was
already on the decline. The great Saljuq leader Tutush had died in the
preceding year, and his two sons at once became rivals, the one, Duqaq,
established at Damascus, the other, Rudwan, at Aleppo. Rudwan was anxious
to obtain Fatimid assistance and inserted Mustali’s name in the _khutba_,
but the Fatimid state regarded the Saljuqs with dread and suspicion, and
was disposed to welcome the Franks as possible allies against the Turks.
Jerusalem remained in Saljuq hands under the control of the sons of Ortuk
b. Aksab who had governed in the name of Tutush, and they formed an
outpost of the Saljuq empire which the Fatimid government regarded as its
chief enemy in the east.

The Crusaders professed to be the champions of the Christian religion
and declared their aim as being the deliverance of the sacred sites from
the occupation of the Muslims. Before reaching Syria, however, they had
made it plain that this was not to be understood in a literal sense, for
they had shown marked hostility towards the Greek Church, and throughout
the whole of their career they were the uncompromising enemies of all
the eastern churches. No doubt this can be partly explained by a total
lack of understanding or sympathy towards religious bodies whose general
customs and external organisation, and more particularly whose liturgy,
differed so markedly from the forms developed in the west; but the fact
remains that their fellow Christians in the east soon came to regard the
Crusaders with as much dislike as the Muslims. This antagonism towards
the Greek and eastern churches generally was fully defined before their
arrival in Syria. But in fact they were not even the champions of Latin
Christianity. Some, no doubt, were sincere in their desire to rescue
the Holy Land from non-Christian occupation, but for the most part
they were adventurers desirous of carving out principalities in lands
which they were well aware were much richer and more prosperous than
their own countries in the west. From their own point of view the time
at which this Crusade arrived was exceptionally promising: the Saljuq
power was broken and there was a temporary lull in the migration of the
virile and warlike Turkish races westwards, whilst the Muslim community
was divided between ʿAbbasids and Fatimids beyond the possibility of
united resistance. Twenty years earlier, or fifty years later they would
certainly not have been able to establish themselves in Palestine, but
just at the moment circumstances were favourable.

Arriving in Syria in A.H. 490 the Crusaders under Baldwin (or Bardawil
as he appears in the Arabic writers) took the city of Edessa and then
proceeded to lay siege to Antioch which fell into their hands on the 16th
of Rajab 491 (20th June, 1098). News of their arrival and first successes
had early reached Egypt, and al-Afdal prepared to welcome them as likely
auxiliaries against the Turks: it seemed fully possible that the Franks
and Fatimids might divide Western Asia between them, and such indeed
would have been feasible. Under this impression al-Afdal sent an army
into Palestine and wrested Jerusalem from Sokman the son of Ortuk, who
held it as a part of the Saljuq empire, at the same time sending forward
an embassy to the Franks welcoming them and asking to make an alliance
with them. The Franks absolutely rejected these proposals and declined to
accept any friendly overtures from Muslims. Very soon they proceeded to
attack Jerusalem, and in the month of Shaban, 492, took it, plundering
the mosques, slaughtering the Muslim population, and showing themselves
hostile to orthodox and Shiʿite alike. This disillusioned al-Afdal
and made it clear to him that it was impossible to expect any sort of
alliance with the new-comers. After taking Jerusalem and expelling the
Fatimid government the Franks elected Godfrey king of Jerusalem, a rank
which he held until the following year, and during this time he did his
best to introduce western customs and jurisprudence in the city as well
as the Latin rite in the churches.

In the following year (493) the Franks attacked the Egyptian army before
Ascalon, which now remained the only important possession of the Fatimids
in Palestine. Before the battle the wazir sent an envoy with a flag of
truce, but this the Franks disregarded and made an assault upon those
who, according to the customary usages of war, should have been sacred.
In the ordinary way such attacks made in disregard of a flag of truce,
reported in practically every war, ought not to be treated too seriously
by the historian: it is almost impossible, even in the best disciplined
army, to make sure that no abuse of this kind shall ever occur, but in
the case of the Crusaders there seems to have been a deliberate intention
to treat the Muslims as outside the ordinary conventions which were
more or less observed amongst Christian nations: although it must be
remembered that we are dealing with times before the rise of chivalry
and the humaner attitude which characterised mediaeval warfare, all more
fully developed after contact with the Muslims who did much to refine
Frankish manners and usages; and, moreover, the very mixed multitude
loosely held together in the Crusading ranks was undisciplined even
beyond the wont of those days. In the succeeding engagement the Franks
defeated al-Afdal and his forces, and he was compelled to embark for
Egypt. Ascalon, however, was not taken as the citizens, alarmed by the
recent savagery of the Franks in Jerusalem and perceiving that they were,
for the most part, simply out for booty, bribed them to leave the city

Two years later (495) the Franks gained another victory over the
Egyptians near Jaffa and began seriously to consider the prospect of
invading Egypt.

At this juncture al-Mustali died. At the moment, fortunately, the wazir
al-Afdal was in Egypt, and on the day of his death proclaimed his son
al-Amir Khalif in his place.



(A.H. 495-524 = 1101-1131 A.D.)

At Mustali’s death al-Afdal at once proclaimed Abu ʿAli al-Mansur al-Amir
bi-ahkami-llah (“the ruler by the decrees of God”), then only in his
fifth year, as Khalif, retaining the government in his own hands as had
now become the established custom at the Fatimid court. Al-Afdal was
an able and efficient ruler, whilst the young Khalif was of the type
so common in oriental courts, a mere votary of pleasure and an idler.
The wazir restrained the indulgence of his tastes and kept him closely
confined in the palace. Al-Amir does not seem to have been at all
aggrieved at being excluded from the government, but he certainly chafed
at the restrictions which the wazir considered suitable to apply to his

The centre of interest still lies in the Crusaders who had now
established a firm hold in Palestine and were threatening Egypt. In 497
they took possession of Akka (Acre), and this increased the anxiety
felt in the Fatimid court. In the same year al-Afdal sent his son in
command of an army to Palestine, and he was successful in inflicting a
severe defeat on the Franks: many were put to flight, and Baldwin, who
had succeeded Godfrey as king of Jerusalem, was compelled to hide in a
haystack. The Egyptians then advanced and took Ramla and, after slaying
a large number of the vanquished, sent three hundred knights prisoners
to Egypt. Later in the year both sides were reinforced, the Egyptians
receiving an accession of four thousand cavalry as well as the support
of a fleet, but no decisive step was taken and no progress made on
either side. At this time nearly all Palestine was in the hands of the
Franks save the coast towns, and the struggle centered round Ramla. The
Fatimids had the advantage of an alliance with Tughtegin, the Saljuq
governor of Damascus, for the Turks had at last perceived that it was
necessary for all Muslim powers to unite against those who had proved to
be a common enemy. A battle took place between Ascalon and Jaffa, but
without any important result.

Nothing of marked importance took place during the next three years,
but in 502 the Franks succeeded in taking the important coast town of
Tripolis on Monday, the 11th of Dhu l-Hijja. When they entered the town
they plundered and slaughtered indiscriminately and seized many of the
inhabitants for slaves; they destroyed the library of the college and
tortured their prisoners in a barbarous manner. The Egyptian wazir had
sent an army to the relief of the town, but it arrived too late to be of
any service.

After the fall of Tripolis the Muslim forces centered at Tyre. In the
following year (503) the Franks took Bairut, and in the year after Sidon,
so that the Fatimid possessions were reduced to a precarious hold on

Thus affairs stayed for some six years, then in 511 Baldwin attempted
the invasion of Egypt. He took Farama, burning the mosques, houses, and
suburbs, and then advanced to Tinnis. Near this town he was taken ill,
and shortly afterwards died at al-Arish. At his death the projected
invasion was abandoned and the Frankish army retired, bearing with it the
king of Jerusalem’s body which was ultimately buried in the Church of the

Egypt had practically lost all hold upon Palestine, but yet the
threatening horde of Franks was held off from Egypt itself, and this
check was in no small degree creditable to the wazir al-Afdal, who
meanwhile maintained a firm though not absolutely pure government at
home. But gradually the Khalif became more and more restive under the
severe tutelage of his wazir, and always there were intrigues of the
aggrieved and the ambitious to urge him on, as well as the ever present
influence of the harim which, in almost all oriental countries, is the
centre of intrigues against the established powers. In 515 the Khalif
began to plot definitely against his wazir, and one day as al-Afdal rode
out towards the Nile he was attacked and severely wounded, so that he
was carried home to die. The Khalif visited him on his death-bed and
expressed great sympathy and regret for the accident which had befallen
him, an accident whose real nature was perfectly well known to both: as
soon as the wazir breathed his last the Khalif commenced plundering his
house which was the depository of enormous wealth, and this occupied him
forty days (Ibn Khall. i. 614, cf. Jamal ad-Din).

After al-Afdal’s death al-Amir appointed Muhammad b. Abi Shujaa b.
al-Bataihi al-Maʾmun as wazir. This new officer was a capable financier
but harsh and tyrannical, and restrained the Khalif more rigorously than
his predecessor had done. He was the builder of the “grey mosque” (Jamiʿ
al-Akmar), so called from its being one of the earliest buildings in
which stone was used almost exclusively, and completed the “Mosque of the
Elephant” (Jamiʿ al-Fil) which had been commenced by al-Afdal in 498. He
held office until 518 when he was arrested and his property confiscated.
Three years later, in 521, he and five of his brothers, as well as the
pretender who claimed to be Nizar’s son, were put to death.

After the fall of Ibn al-Bataihi the Khalif determined to act as his own
wazir, and in this was assisted by the Christian monk Abu Najah b. Kanna,
who undertook the department of finance. The monk’s method was to farm
out the taxes to Christian collectors for a net sum of 100,000 dinars,
which he paid in to the treasury. But Abu Najah made himself extremely
offensive by his arrogant airs and by being the scape-goat of the harsh
exactions of the collectors, the inevitable result of this system, and
after a brief try the Khalif was persuaded to depose him, and he was
flogged to death. Al-Amir continued, however, to act as his own wazir
until his death in 524, and this made his office universally detested and
justifies the custom of appointing a wazir or deputy on whom the odium of
the harsher details of the executive should lie, and against whom there
might be, at least in theory, an appeal to the throne. Indeed, during
these years 519 to 524 the Khalif seems to have been more heartily hated
than any other of his dynasty before or after. At length the end came in
524 by the hands of Ismaʿilian Assassins who had undertaken the duty of
ridding the country of the tyrant. On Tuesday, the 3rd of Dhu l-Qaʿdah,
the Khalif proceeded to Fustat and thence to the island of Roda, where
he had built a pleasure house for a favourite Baidawi concubine. “Some
persons who had plotted his death were lying there concealed with their
arms ready; it being agreed among them that they should kill him as he
was going up the lane through which he had to pass in order to reach the
top of the hill. As he was going by them, they sprang out and fell upon
him with their swords. He had then crossed the bridge and had no other
escort than a few pages, courtiers, and attendants. They bore him in a
boat across the Nile, and brought him still living into Cairo. The same
night he was taken to the castle and there he died, leaving no posterity
... al-Amir’s conduct was detestable: oppressed the people, seized on
their wealth and shed their blood: he committed with pleasure every
excess which should be avoided, and regarded forbidden enjoyment as the
sweetest. The people were delighted at his death” (Ibn Khall. ii. 457).

During the latter part of al-Amir’s reign the Franks continued to
consolidate their kingdom in Palestine. On Monday, the 22nd of Jumada II.
518, they took Tyre, and only Ascalon remained to the Fatimids of their
former possessions in Asia. About this time the Franks began to strike
their own coinage, after issuing coins in the name of the Fatimid Khalif
for three years.



(A.H. 524-544 = A.D. 1131-1149.)

The Khalif al-Amir left no son, but at the time of his death one of his
wives was pregnant, and it was possible that she might give birth to
an heir. Under these circumstances Abu l-Maymun ʿAbdu l-Hamid al-Hafiz
li-dini-llah (“the guardian of the religion of God”), son of Muhammad,
one of the brothers of Mustali, and consequently cousin to the late
Khalif, was declared regent, and as such received the oath of allegiance
from the citizens of Cairo on the very day of al-Amir’s murder, and on
the same day the wazir Abu ʿAli Ahmad, son of al-Afdal, received the
oath of allegiance from the troops. The regent al-Hafiz expressed his
confidence that the child about to be borne to the deceased Khalif would
be a son. “No Imam of this family,” he said, “dies without leaving a
male child to whom he transmits the Imamate by special declaration” (Ibn
Khall. 430). Although the late Khalif’s cousin was thus declared formal
regent the wazir Ahmad put him in confinement and took the whole power
into his own hands, and this received the ready acquiescence of the court
and of the troops and people, for everyone regarded the late experiment
of the Khalif acting as his own wazir as disastrous. The new wazir
ruled justly and well, and restored to each the property which had been
confiscated by al-Amir, so that as a ruler he was greatly esteemed.

In other respects, however, his conduct throws a strange light on the
conditions prevailing in the Fatimid state at this period. The Fatimids
claimed to be not only rulers of Egypt, but the legitimate Khalifs in
true descent from the Prophet, and also Imams divinely appointed as
guides and teachers of Islam. The whole Fatimid state was bound up with
this religious theory, although it was one which did not command the
sympathy of the bulk of the subject population, and a distinct tendency
had more than once appeared to discard it for frankly secular claims.
Under the wazir Ahmad this theory on which the Fatimid claim rested was
formally discarded by the government. Ahmad himself was a Shiʿite, but
of the sect of the “Twelvers” and so a follower, not of the Fatimid Imam
under whom he held office, but of the hidden and unrevealed Imam who,
under the name of Muhammad al-Muntazir, had disappeared in 260. For the
present, therefore, the Friday prayer in the mosques was offered for the
invisible “al-Kaʾim,” and his name appeared on the coinage. To us such
a condition seems almost incredible, even though during the time the
titular head was merely regent and not fully recognised as Khalif. When
al-Amir’s wife was delivered her child was a daughter, but for all that
al-Hafiz remained simply regent until 526.

Dissatisfied with his dubious position and the restrictions imposed by
the wazir Hafiz plotted against him, and Ahmad was assassinated in the
“Great Garden” as he was on his way to play polo on the 15th of Muharram
526 (Dec., 1131). At his death Hafiz received the oath of allegiance as
Khalif, and was acclaimed by his bodyguard, the “Young Guard,” although
his reign is usually dated from the date of his cousin’s death. At this
time al-Hafiz was fifty-seven years of age.

He appointed as wazir an Armenian named Yanis who had been a slave of
al-Afdal, one of the Armenian mercenaries whom he had brought from Syria.
Yanis turned out to be a severe and hard ruler, and in the following
year he was poisoned by the Khalif’s order. In spite of the warning of
al-Amir’s reign al-Hafiz then resolved to act as his own wazir, and in
this he did well and was generally regarded with respect and attachment.
His court was, however, divided into factions as the result of quarrels
about the heirship between his two sons Hasan and Faʿiz, each supported
by one of the two great bodies of negro mercenaries, the elder Hasan by
the Rayhaniya regiment, the younger by the Juyushiya. At length these
quarrels resulted in open warfare, and the victorious Juyushiya to the
number of 10,000 assembled before the royal palace and demanded the
head of the prince Hasan. The Khalif was not in a position to refuse
this demand and sent for one of the court physicians, a Jew named Abu
Mansur, and asked him to poison Hasan, but the Jew prudently declined the
dangerous task. He then sent for a Christian physician named Ibn Kirfa
who performed it, and the dead prince’s head was given to the rebels.
But the Khalif never forgave Ibn Kirfa for what he had done, and before
long an excuse was found to imprison the Christian physician, and in due
course he was executed.

After their successful revolt the troops elected as wazir the Armenian
Bahram. But he very soon made himself unpopular by showing marked
favouritism towards his fellow countrymen who, for the most part, had
entered the country in the company of the Armenian Badr al-Jamali. As
a result he was deposed and most of the Armenians expelled from the
country. Bahram ended his life as a monk.

In 532 Rudwan was appointed wazir and was the first official in Egypt to
assume the title of “king.” But he held office only for a few months, and
in 534 was cast into prison.

Meanwhile the Franks had met with several checks. The Turks under Zengi
defeated them at Atharib in 525, and in 539 took Edessa from them.
Thus the Franks began to be threatened from the north-east, and their
opponents were consciously making plans for their final subjugation or
expulsion. In 541 Zengi died and was succeeded by his son Nur ad-Din,
who becomes the decisive factor in the affairs of western Asia and Egypt
within the course of the next few years. At this time the Franks were
distinctly on the decline, and the hopes built on the foundation of
Jerusalem and other Latin kingdoms in Palestine and Syria were not being
realised. The West began to feel that the First Crusade had failed in
its effort, and so the Second Crusade, mainly the work of St. Bernard
whose aims and intentions were above question, set out in 542 and
attacked Damascus in the following year, the Crusaders then marching on
Jerusalem. But the Second Crusade was an immediate and marked failure.
Conditions were greatly changed from what they had been when the former
Crusade arrived: there was now a strong Turkish power in Syria, and
this was inclined and prepared to be aggressive. The Second Crusade was
necessarily a failure. The only important result of Frankish invasion was
the kingdom of Jerusalem which had been the work of the First Crusade.

At this period of Egyptian history we are able to avail ourselves of
the very interesting record which Osama has left of his own experiences
in Syria and Egypt, a record which has been rendered accessible in the
French translation of Derenbourg (_Vie d’Ousama_, Paris, 1886-93). Osama
left Damascus in 538 and went to Cairo, where he was well received by
al-Hafiz, who gave him a robe of honour and a house and other gifts. So
long as Hafiz ruled Osama took no part in the public affairs of Egypt,
but has left observations upon the course of events, but in the next
reign he comes forward prominently as an adviser, and usually as an
adviser of evil.

When the ex-wazir Rudwan had been ten years in prison he contrived to
bore his way out through the prison walls by the help, it is said, of a
rusty nail, and, joined by many of his friends, went to Gizeh intending
to seize the wazirate by force. There was a great ferment in Cairo;
many persons went out to join themselves with him, whilst the Khalif’s
guards prepared for defence. At the head of a large band of followers he
forced his way across the Nile, defeated the Khalif’s army, and marched
into Cairo where he made his headquarters in the Grey Mosque. There he
was joined by many of the emirs who brought supplies of men, arms, and
money. The Khalif assembled his negro troops, treated them to wine and
then, in a half intoxicated state, they marched out and demanded the head
of Rudwan. A great tumult ensued in which the emirs, frightened by the
apparent ferocity of the negro guard, left Rudwan, and his supporters
were scattered. Rudwan himself was alarmed and went out of the mosque
intending to escape, but his horse which should have been at the gate was
missing. A young guard offered his horse, and as the ex-wazir approached
to avail himself of this offer, he cut him down. Very soon the negroes
came up and finished him, then “the people of Misr share the morsels of
his flesh which they eat to give themselves courage” (Derenbourg: _Vie
d’Ousama_, p. 212).

This took place in 543 and led to a period of general disorder, for the
negro troops called out by the Khalif soon passed beyond his control,
the streets became unsafe, and faction fights between the Rayhamites who
were loyal to the Khalif and the Juyushites, Alexandrians, and Farhites
once more broke out just as sixteen years before. Again the Juyushites
were victorious, greatly to the annoyance of al-Hafiz who determined to
revenge himself upon them. But this resolve he was not able to carry out
as he died in 544.

Al-Hafiz was an old man at the time of his decease, fully seventy-six
years, and for some time had been in failing health suffering from
colic. It is said that Shirmah the Daylamite, or else Musa an-Nasran,
made for him a drum of seven metals, each welded at the moment when the
appropriate planet was in the ascendant, and that this drum when beaten
relieved the wind from which the Khalif suffered. After his death this
drum was preserved in the treasury, but was incautiously tapped by a
Turkish soldier at the time of Sala d-Din’s conquest, and that he,
astonished at the surprising result produced, dropped it and it broke to

The writer Abu Salih describes Hafiz as particularly well disposed
towards the Christians, and especially fond of visiting the gardens of
some of the monasteries near Cairo, where he showed his goodwill by many
gifts and acts of kindness. He even visited the Christian churches, but
was careful to enter backwards lest the stooping necessitated by the low
door-ways might appear to be an act of reverence to the cross which stood



(A.H. 543-549 = A.D. 1149-1154)

At the death of Hafiz in October, 1149, _i.e._, A.H. 543, his youngest
son Abu Mansur Ismaʿil az-Zafir li-ʾAdai dini-llah (“the conqueror of
the enemies of God’s religion”) was proclaimed Khalif in accordance
with the late sovereign’s orders. The new Khalif was then only sixteen
years of age, frivolous in his tastes, and much given to the society of
concubines and to listening to vocal music. One of his first acts was to
select Najm ad-Din b. Masal as his chief minister, thus displacing the
Emir Sayf ad-Din Abu l-Hasan ʿAli as-Sallar, whom he sent to a provincial
administration. This new minister Ibn Masal was a native of Lukk, near
Barqa, where he and his father had been horse breakers and falconers.

But Ibn Sallar was not disposed to take his deposition from office
tamely, and soon assembled a band of armed supporters to help him to
recover the wazirate. When the news of this revolt was brought to
Cairo the Khalif assembled a council of all the emirs of the state and
discussed with them the measures necessary to be taken. All professed
unqualified loyalty to the Khalif’s nominee Ibn Masal, until a certain
aged emir proposed that, if this profession represented their real
attitude, they should join in passing a decree of death against the
ex-wazir Ibn Sallar. This they unanimously refused to do. “Very well,”
said the old emir, “then act accordingly.” At this the council broke up,
all the emirs leaving the city and joining themselves to the party of Ibn
as-Sallar. The Khalif gave large sums of money to his nominee Ibn Masal,
but it was impossible to raise any supporters in Cairo. Meanwhile Ibn
as-Sallar was gathering his forces at Alexandria and advanced along the
left side of the Nile until he reached Giza on the 14th of Ramadan, 544,
and the following day entered Cairo without meeting with any resistance
and established himself in the official residence of the wazir, taking
over the control of the affairs of state. At Ibn as-Sallar’s advance Ibn
Masal fled, having held office only fifty days, and went to the Hawf east
of the capital where, with the help of the funds supplied by the Khalif,
he raised a force of supporters. As soon as he was firmly established
in Cairo Ibn as-Sallar went out to deal with his rival, but Ibn Masal
evaded him and took refuge in Upper Egypt whither Ibn as-Sallar followed
him. A pitched battle took place at Dilas, south of Wasta, in which
Ibn Masal was killed, his forces scattered, and his head cut off to be
carried to Cairo as a trophy. Thus Ibn as-Sallar was left without rival,
and the Khalif was compelled most reluctantly to recognise him as wazir.
Naturally the young sovereign had no love towards such a minister, and
almost immediately began to make plots to rid himself of him.

Although wazir under a Fatimid Khalif, Ibn as-Sallar was strictly
orthodox and gave the whole of his patronage to orthodox teachers of
the Shafiʿite school. This position in Alexandria gained him many
adherents, and their attachment was still more secured by his foundation
of a Shafiʿite college there. He continued the same attitude after his
assumption of office at Cairo, so that he was regarded by the people of
Egypt as an orthodox champion against the heretical Khalifate. By nature
he was cruel and vindictive. An anecdote is related of him that when he
was in the army in the days before he held office he had to apply to Ibn
Masum, the Secretary of War, for help to defray extraordinary expenses
incurred by him in the administration of the province of Gharbiya, as
the result of which he found himself heavily in debt. The Secretary only
replied: “By God, thy discourse entereth not my ear,” and Ibn as-Sallar
left his presence full of indignation. Long afterwards, when he had
risen to a high position, he made search for Ibn Masum, who hid himself
fearing retaliation from the one whom he had treated contemptuously as
a petitioner. At last the Secretary was found and brought before the
wazir who had him lain on a board and a nail driven through his ear, Ibn
as-Sallar asking him at each cry he uttered, “Doth my discourse yet enter
thy ear or not?” (Ibn Khall. ii. 351).

In the plots against the wazir, az-Zafir’s chief confidant was a young
man of his own age, Nasir ad-Din Nasir, the son of the general ʿAbbas
who, next to the wazir, was the most powerful man in Egypt. About this
time ʿAbbas was setting out with an army against the Franks taking with
him his son Nasir. For a moment we must pause to consider the position
of this son, the favourite of the young Khalif. Many years before, in
503 Bullara, the wife of Abu l-Futuh had come to Egypt with a child
ʿAbbas. Some time afterwards the wazir as-Sallar married her, and in due
course his step-son ʿAbbas grew up and became a general in the Egyptian
army, and had a son, Nasir, who was brought up by his grand-mother in
the house of Ibn as-Sallar. Now this youth went with the army which Ibn
as-Sallar was sending against the Franks in the company of his father
and the Syrian Osama. At Bilbays, on the point of quitting the land of
Egypt, ʿAbbas can only talk about the delightful climate of Egypt, its
many beauties, and regret that he is being exiled to the comparatively
unattractive land of Syria. But Osama interrupted his discourse and asked
him why, if he liked Egypt so much, did he not get rid of the wazir Ibn
as-Sallar and take the wazirship himself, then he would be settled in
Egypt permanently. ʿAbbas gave serious attention to these proposals and
brought in his son Nasir, and the project was discussed by the three, the
father ʿAbbas presumably being well aware of his son’s plotting with the
Khalif against the wazir who had sheltered that son in his home and was
the husband of his grand-mother. It was finally agreed that Nasir should
go back to Cairo and murder the wazir. He, as an inmate of the house,
would be the best able to get into his presence and do the deed without
premature discovery. So the army remained at Bilbays and Nasir returned.
The wazir’s house was guarded, but Nasir was well aware of the minister’s
habits and went direct to the harim which was in a detached building.
He had brought a small body of men with him, and together they went
through the grounds to the harim, where Nasir found the wazir asleep
and murdered him. As soon as the guards learned what had happened they
broke out in disorder and began to search for the assassins, but Nasir
and his men had made good their escape, and the household guards seem to
have lacked any one to direct their plans, now the master was dead. This
murder took place on the 6th of Muharram, 548.

As soon as the news was brought to ʿAbbas he returned with his forces
to Cairo where he soon restored order, and was without delay invested
with the office of wazir. The change does not seem to have aroused any
other feelings than relief amongst the people at large, for Ibn as-Sallar
had been a harsh and cruel ruler, and many had suffered for suspected
partisanship with the defeated Ibn Masal. Early in his period of office
he had suppressed the Khalif’s bodyguard of young men, and put most of
them to death, and this had been the inauguration of an almost constant
series of executions.

Thus ʿAbbas was made wazir, but this appointment resulted in the Khalif’s
own assassination within the next few months. In the circumstances which
led to this it is clear that the chief factor was a close friendship
between the Khalif and the wazir’s son Nasir, and with this was the evil
influence of Osama. It is said that the Khalif made overtures to Nasir
to slay his father ʿAbbas, presumably intending to make the son wazir
in his place; but the details of this are obscure and seem to be very
much open to question. It is, however, clear that Osama took a leading
part in stirring up the feelings of ʿAbbas and his son and inducing them
to proceed to this murder, and it is he who definitely states that the
Khalif had made overtures to Nasir to assassinate his father, and it
seems likely that he says this to excuse his own bad advice.

Both the Khalif and Nasir were of exceptional beauty, of about the same
age, and living in close intimacy,—so close as to provoke the scandalous
comments of censorious tongues. It seems that Osama was the first to
draw attention to these evil rumours. The Khalif had presented Nasir
with the fief of Qaliub immediately north of Cairo, and in the presence
of his father and Osama Nasir announced this in the words, “Our master
has given me the province of Qaliub”: at which Osama remarked, “That is
not splendid as a wedding gift.” This remark sounded offensive to ʿAbbas
and his son, and in consequence they decided to slay the Khalif. Osama
gives the further account that Ibn Munqidh said to ʿAbbas: “How can you
endure the evil reports I hear about your son?” “What are they?” asked
ʿAbbas. Osama then interposed: “People say that az-Zafir has commerce
with thy son and suspect the Khalif of doing with him what one does with
women.” ʿAbbas was aroused and asked indignantly, “But what can I do?”
Ibn Munqidh replied, “Assassinate the Khalif, then the dishonour will
be purged from thee.” Ibn Khallikan (i. 222), in his life of az-Zafir,
states that ʿAbbas said to his son, “You are ruining your reputation by
keeping company with az-Zafir; your familiarity with him is the subject
of public talk; kill him then, for it is thus that thou wilt vindicate
thy honour from these foul suspicions.”

When Nasir had made up his mind to the murder he invited the Khalif to
visit him in his house in the Armourers’ Market, and there he concealed
a band of confederates. On Thursday, the last day of Muharram, 549 (15th
April, 1154), the Khalif went privately with a single black slave to
Nasir’s house and there the conspirators fell upon him, slew him, and
buried his body beneath the floor of the room; according to Osama they
slew the black slave at the same time, but this does not seem to have
been the case as we find the slave afterwards showing the place where the
body was buried. The same night Nasir went to his father and informed him
of what he had done.

Next morning ʿAbbas went to the palace and asked for the Khalif with
whom, he said, he had important business. The household slaves went
in search of him but could not find him either in his own rooms or in
the harim, and brought the wazir word that they were unable to find
where he was. At this ʿAbbas, who had remained at the palace gate,
dismounted and went into the palace with a band of trusty followers
and asked for the Khalif’s two brothers, Jibrila and Yusuf, who were
soon brought. According to one account he bade one or the other then
assume the Khalifate as the state could not go on without a head, but
they declined. “For,” they said, “we have no share in the government,
az-Zafir’s father disinherited us when he passed it to az-Zafir: after
him it is to his son that the authority belongs” (Osama, _op. cit._).
According to the much more likely account given by Ibn Khallikan ʿAbbas
asked the two brothers where az-Zafir was, and they replied that he
ought rather to ask his son, thus making it clear that they knew whither
he had gone the night before. At once he declared, “These two are his
murderers,” and at his command they were beheaded. ʿAbbas then sent for
the late Khalif’s son al-Faʿiz, then aged five (or two) years, set him
on his shoulder and sent for the emirs. As soon as they had assembled
he said, “Here is the son of your master: his uncles have murdered his
father, and I put them to death as you may perceive. What is essential
now is, that the authority of this infant should be fully recognised.”
The emirs reply, “We hear and obey.” They then gave a great shout
which so troubled the infant on the wazir’s shoulder that he was ever
afterwards subject to fits of trembling (Ibn Khall. ii. 425-6). ʿAbbas
then took charge of the government, but subsequent events rather belong
to the reign of al-Faʿiz.

Az-Zafir was only twenty-two years of age at his death. His tastes
had been frivolous, and it would not seem that there was much reason
to regret him, but the circumstances of his murder and the general
detestation of ʿAbbas threw round his memory a halo of loyalty. He was
the founder of a mosque known as the az-Zafiri mosque, near the Bab



(A.H. 549-555 = A.D. 1154-1160.)

In spite of ʿAbbas’ attempt to throw the guilt of the Khalif’s murder
upon his two brothers, it was well known both in the palace and in the
city that the wazir was the culprit, and both were aroused to the deepest
indignation. The emirs in the palace almost at once began to conspire
against the wazir, and decided to appeal to as-Salih b. Ruzzik the
Armenian, who was then governor of Munya Bani Kharib in Upper Egypt. The
letter they sent was coloured black as a sign of their deep mourning, and
with it they sent their hair cut off, the ancient Arab symbol of dire
distress. As soon as as-Salih received this message he assembled the
soldiers who were with him, and read the letter to them asking whether
they were ready to support him. They all declared their readiness to
follow his lead in avenging the Khalif’s murder and in liberating the
young successor from the baleful influence which at present overshadowed
the throne. With his men as-Salih then marched to Cairo. As he approached
the city all the emirs and their henchmen came out to join him as well
as many of the citizens, so that ʿAbbas found himself deserted. At
this ʿAbbas took to flight, accompanied by his son Nasir and the evil
counsellor Osama, and betook himself to Syria.

As-Salih was thus able to enter Cairo without opposition, which he did on
the 14th of Rabiʿ I. 549 (May, 1154), and took charge of the government.
Guided by the young eunuch who had been present at the murder of az-Zafir
he went to Nasir’s house and lifted up the stone under which lay the
body of the late Khalif. This he removed and buried in the midst of a
whole city in mourning. Az-Zafir’s sister wrote a letter to the Franks
at Ascalon, a town which they had captured in 548 when the army setting
out from Egypt under ʿAbbas failed to appear, and offered them a reward
of 60,000 dinars for ʿAbbas and his son. This reward induced the knights
Templars to go out and stop ʿAbbas on his way to take refuge with the
Turks in the north: an engagement ensued in which ʿAbbas was killed and
Nasir taken prisoner. The prisoner was put into an iron cage and sent
with an escort and an accredited envoy to Cairo, and the promised reward
was at once paid. Nasir’s ears and nose were cut off and he was paraded
through the city and then crucified at the Bab Zawila, after which his
body was burned (on the 10th Muharram 551 = March, 1156 A.D.). Osama who
really was the prime instigator of the mischief escaped any punishment.

In the year of Faʿiz’s accession (549) the Turks under Nur ad-Din took
Damascus and thus began pressing on the Franks from the north. The
Egyptian wazir was very anxious to enter into alliance with Nur ad-Din
and employed Osama as an intermediary, sending to the Turkish Sultan
flattering messages, volumes of his own poetry, and the promise of
substantial assistance. But in spite of all these efforts Nur ad-Din
was extremely cautious and deeply suspicious of the Egyptians, as well,
no doubt, as unsympathetic towards the Shiʿite sect. The Egyptian
advances received their best endorsement from a victory gained by the
Fatimid general Dirgham over the Franks in 553, but even then Nur ad-Din
hesitated and would not enter into any definite engagement. This was
undoubtedly a mistake, for united action between the Turks and Egyptians
would probably have definitely cleared out the Frank settlers, and any
further effectual Frankish invasion was impossible in the face of the
Turkish power now firmly established in the north.

In 555 the Khalif al-Faʿiz died (on Friday, 17th Rajab = July, 1160)
whilst in an epileptic fit.



(A.H. 556-567 = A.D. 1160-1171)

At the death of al-Faʿiz at the age of eleven years his cousin Abu
Muhammad ʿAbdullah al-ʿAdid, son of Jibril, one of the murdered brothers
of az-Zafir, and then a child of nine, was proclaimed Khalif. He was
treated simply as a prisoner of state, as indeed had been the case
with his predecessor, and the government was entirely in the hands of
the wazir as-Salih. But as-Salih was not a good ruler; he forestalled
provisions and artificially raised prices, levied frequent fines, and
managed to contrive the execution of various of the great officers of
state whose property was forthwith confiscated. Indeed his besetting sin
was avarice, and the resources of the country were greatly exhausted
by his constant speculations. At length, in 559, “seduced by long
prosperity, he neglected the precautions of prudence” (Ibn Khall. 336),
and plots were formed against him. These plots received the support of
the Khalif, which means in plain words that they were the result of harim
intrigue as is the case with the majority of plots in oriental courts,
and the Khalif’s guard was told off to act as executioners. One day an
attempt was made, but one of the guard accidentally locked a door he
was trying to open, and so the attempt failed. A few days later another
attempt was made, this time with more success, and the wazir was severely
wounded. His attendants managed to kill the attackers and carried the
wounded wazir to his palace, where he died on Monday, the 19th Ramadan,
559 (Sept., 1161). The Khalif visited him on his death-bed, and he gave
the sovereign the final messages of his office: he regretted most that he
had not succeeded in taking Jerusalem and expelling the Franks, as they
formed the most serious problem before the country: and he warned his son
to beware of Shawar, the governor of Upper Egypt, for he was the most
dangerous and unscrupulous rival to the wazir.

As-Salih was succeeded in office by his son Abu Shuja al-ʿAdil Ruzzik,
but within a year he was deposed and executed by Shawar, whose ambition
had been rightly gauged by as-Salih. But Shawar, who was an Arab by
birth, was distinctly unpopular, and within a few months he was driven
out by Dirgham, who was the favourite of the soldiery and commanded the
Barqiya brigade. Expelled from Egypt Shawar went to Damascus and opened
negotiations with Nur ad-Din: he represented to him that Egypt was
inadequately defended, that it would be an easy conquest, and that the
union of the Muslim world would be the best means of effectually getting
rid of the Franks, all the arguments already urged by as-Salih with the
added attractive detail of conquest instead of alliance. But Nur ad-Din
was ever extremely cautious, and moreover he distrusted what he saw of
Shawar, who was very evidently a wily and treacherous man, but the ideas
suggested seem to have sunk into his mind. Meanwhile circumstances began
to force the Egyptian question on Nur ad-Din’s attention by making it
more or less inevitable that Egypt must fall into the hands either of
the Nur ad-Din, or else into those of the Frankish king of Jerusalem. It
seems that a subsidy had been paid by the Fatimids to the Franks, though
when this began is not recorded. Lane-Poole says that it “must have
been recently instituted, for Ibn-Ruzzik, who died in 1161, assuredly
would have paid no such subsidy to the ‘infidels.’ Probably Shawar began
the payment in 1162, but the fact cannot be proved” (_Egypt in the
Mid. Ages_, p. 177, note). At any rate Dirgham, seeking for increased
popularity and confident in the military resources of his country and
in the decadence of the Franks, stopped this payment to Amalric, who
was at this time king of Jerusalem. As a result Amalric invaded Egypt
in the following year (560). Dirgham went out to meet the invaders and
was severely defeated at Bilbays. But it was then the time of the Nile
inundation, and Dirgham had the dykes cut so that the whole country
was very soon under water. This made the Franks ready to listen to some
sort of compromise, and they accepted such payment as Dirgham offered
and withdrew to Palestine. Shortly after their retirement Dirgham was
informed of Shawar’s intrigues at Damascus, and he at once perceived that
his wisest plan was to conclude an alliance with Amalric so that he could
count on Frankish help against a Turkish invasion. No doubt this project
was known to Nur ad-Din, although Amalric’s recent attempt was enough
to force his hand, and he decided to take Shawar’s advice and send an
expedition into Egypt. At the head of the army despatched by Nur ad-Din
was the Turkish general Shirkuh, with his nephew Salah ad-Din (Saladin),
as his lieutenant, and with him was Shawar as guide and adviser.

Dirgham held Bilbays against the Turks, but was defeated, though able to
re-assemble his forces for the defence of Cairo. Shirkuh was able to gain
possession of Fustat, but the fortified Kahira was held by Dirgham and he
was able to resist all the Turkish attacks made upon it. Then Dirgham,
who relied most on the popularity he enjoyed amongst the soldiers,
sorely pressed for funds, laid hands on the _waqf_ or “pious bequests,”
a comprehensive term which in a Muslim land includes all property left
in trust for religious and allied purposes, the salaries of the mosque
officials, the alms bequeathed for distribution amongst the widows and
orphans and pilgrims, the lands left for the upkeep of the mosques and
schools, even the copies of Qurʾans presented to a mosque for the use of
worshippers and teachers contain on the fly-leaf an inscription declaring
them _waqf_ for such and such a mosque; indeed the term includes
everything held in trust for religious, charitable, or educational
purposes, and in a country like Egypt this implies a very vast total,
to-day administered under the supervision of an important department of
the state. The actual seizure of this property by Dirgham, an act almost
without precedent in Islam, caused a general revulsion of feeling amongst
soldiers and people and practically ruined Dirgham’s cause at once. The
army deserted him and the Khalif followed their lead; only a bodyguard
of 500 men was left to the wazir. Conscious of his mistake Dirgham sought
too late to try to repair it. For hours he stood in the great square
before the Khalif’s palace with his faithful bodyguard and called out
like a petitioner for the Khalif’s pardon and help, but without any reply
being sent out to him. Then he noticed that even as he stood there his
men were gradually stealing away from him, until at last only thirty were
left. Suddenly a cry was raised that the besiegers had broken through the
fortifications and had entered the royal city, which indeed was the case,
the Turkish host riding in by the Bab al-Qantara leading from Jawhar’s
bridge over the canal into Kafur’s garden, and at this news Dirgham
turned away and rode out through the Bab az-Zuwila on the south. But
this road took him through part of the old city and he was recognised by
the citizens, pulled from his horse, and beheaded. His head was paraded
through the streets and reviled by all, for the mediaeval Muslim had no
sympathy with ecclesiastical disendowment, whilst the body was left lying
on the ground until it was eaten by the city dogs.

The expedition, though led by Shirkuh, had professedly been to restore
Shawar to the wazirate, and now established in office Shawar only
desired to get rid of the Turks. He kept Shirkuh out of the royal city,
entirely refused to allow him any share in the results of the conquest,
and declined to pay the expected indemnity. He felt, no doubt, that the
decisive factor had been the revolt against Dirgham rather than the help
of the Turks. But Shirkuh was not a likely person to suffer this conduct
with impunity, and sent his nephew Saladin to occupy Bilbays and thus
hold the Sharqiya or eastern province, one of the four great divisions
of Egypt, the other three being Gharbiya or the western province, Qus
or Upper Egypt, and Alexandria or Lower Egypt. This move on the part
of Shirkuh moved Shawar to appeal to Amalric, and an army of Franks
marched down to besiege Bilbays. The siege lasted three months and then
Amalric was obliged to retire and call an armistice as the Turkish hosts
of Nur ad-Din were proceeding south to the relief of Saladin. It was
agreed that the body of Syrians occupying Bilbays should be allowed
to evacuate without interference, and they marched out between the
armies of the Egyptians and the Franks. For the moment matters had
produced a stale-mate, but Shirkuh was fully convinced that Egypt could
be conquered without much difficulty, and that this would be the right
way to check the Franks effectually. Nur ad-Din, with characteristic
caution, hesitated over so great an undertaking which would necessitate
the employment of his forces in the far south and leave the Frankish
kingdom of Jerusalem between his capital and the bulk of his army, but
the project was warmly espoused by the Khalif of Baghdad, and at length
Nur ad-Din acquiesced and a new expedition started from Damascus in the
early part of 562.

This new force was under the command of Shirkuh who had his nephew
Saladin with him as before, but this time he was free from the presence
of the treacherous Shawar. They took the desert route so as to avoid the
Franks by a long detour and thus reached the Nile at Atfih some forty
miles south of Cairo, the ancient Aphroditopolis just north of Wasta,
and there crossed the river and commenced the journey down along the
west side. Hardly had Shirkuh crossed than the Franks who had heard of
the expedition and followed close after appeared on the other side of
the Nile and, not venturing to cross in face of the enemy marched along
the east side, the two armies keeping pace one with the other, the river
between. Both pushed on to Cairo where Amalric encamped near Fustat,
Shirkuh at Gizeh. The Frankish king took advantage of these circumstances
to insist on a clearer understanding with Shawar, and to see that the
terms of the agreement made with him were duly ratified by the Khalif.
It was contrary to all precedent for a foreign and non-Muslim prince to
pay a personal visit to the Imam, but Amalric insisted, and at length
the wazir assented. William of Tyre has left a graphic description of
that visit, and of the astonishing splendours of the palace to which
Amalric and his companions were admitted. There he had an interview with
the Khalif, a young Egyptian of dark colour, the terms of the treaty
were recited, that Egypt was to pay 200,000 pieces of gold at once,
and 200,000 pieces later, whilst Amalric on his side was to expel the
Syrians. Both parties assented and then Amalric held out his right hand
to grasp that of the Khalif whilst a shudder passed round the court at
this apparent profanity. After a brief hesitation the Khalif also held
out his hand covered with a glove. But Amalric exclaimed that as an
honest man he preferred to take the prince’s bare hand; at this again the
court suffered a shock of horror, but the Khalif drew off his glove and
grasped the rough hand of the Frankish king.

Amalric desired now to come to grips with the Syrians immediately and
began constructing a bridge of boats across the Nile, but this was easily
prevented by the Syrians. Amalric then marched his men by night down the
river to where it divided at the commencement of the Delta, and there he
managed to cross without great difficulty, appearing next morning on the
west or left side. At once Shirkuh began retreating southwards towards
Upper Egypt closely followed by the Franks. Amalric overtook the enemy
at al-Babayn near Oshmunayn about ten miles south of Minia, and there
Shirkuh halted and made ready for battle. In the middle he placed his
baggage and on the flank he stationed Salah ad-Din with orders to retreat
as soon as the Franks commenced the attack, so that they might be drawn
off and the Egyptians dealt with alone whilst the Franks were separated
from them. These tactics were followed, and whilst Saladin was leading
away the Franks and skilfully evading them, the Egyptians were completely
routed by the main body of Syrians. As soon as the Franks perceived that
their allies were defeated they began to retreat and abandoned their
baggage to the Syrians, so this was a definite victory for Shirkuh.

The Syrian leader now began marching back along the left bank of the
river but did not continue to follow that route, breaking westwards along
the desert route to Alexandria which in due time he reached and took,
appointing Saladin governor and leaving an adequate body to support him
whilst he retired towards Upper Egypt which he began to lay waste. The
Franks had followed as soon as they could, and the allied Franks and
Egyptians laid siege to Alexandria. For some time Saladin defended the
city with vigour, but the citizens of Alexandria were very soon in revolt
against the military occupation and the inconveniences inevitable from a
state of siege. Alexandria was then, as now, a cosmopolitan town, largely
Levantine in population, and essentially a community of merchants, the
type least likely to be patient in enduring the restrictions and dangers
of a siege. When their discontent broke out in open revolt Salah ad-Din
sent to his uncle Shirkuh for relief, and in response he laid siege to
Cairo. The news of this counter move induced Amalric to raise the siege
of Alexandria and march to the relief of Cairo, first making terms with
Salah ad-Din. It is very difficult to discover the real nature of the
terms under which Alexandria was abandoned by the Franks as both sides
claimed that the operations ended in a victory for themselves. It seems
clear that Alexandria was handed over to Shawar which was a score for
the Franks: at the same time Amalric paid 50,000 pieces of gold. So far
it probably was a bargain struck between the two forces in which we may
regard the city as ransomed for 50,000 pieces of gold. But it seems that
the Franks left a garrison there and increased the subsidy paid by the
Egyptians to 100,000 pieces of gold. No doubt the right interpretation is
that, after the bargain had been made between Amalric and Saladin, the
Syrians made these new terms with Shawar to his disadvantage.

After this, in the latter part of the year, Shirkuh retired to Damascus.
This seems to suggest that the Turks and Syrians had abandoned the
projected conquest of Egypt. But Amalric saw quite clearly that the
possession of Egypt was the crucial point in the struggle between the
Franks and the Muslims, and himself planned to steal a march on Nur
ad-Din and conquer Egypt for himself. With this end in view he raised new
forces and again entered Egypt in 564, taking Bilbays and slaughtering
the inhabitants. This was a more serious danger to the Egyptians than
anything which had happened before, and at once the grouping of parties
was changed by new alliances. Now Shawar made alliance with Nur ad-Din
and invited the Turkish-Syrian army to come to the rescue. Before any
result could be arranged the Franks had pressed on and were threatening
Cairo. To save the city from falling into the hands of the enemy the
Egyptians determined to set fire to the ancient Fustat and abandon it,
the newer Kahira was strongly fortified and could hold out on its own
account. This plan was carried out. For fifty-four days the fire raged
in Fustat abandoned by all its population, and nothing lay before the
invaders but charred ruins and the Old Mosque, and a few other buildings
which more or less resisted the conflagration.

Meanwhile Amalric obtained possession of the country and encamped before
Cairo. The crafty Shawar managed to deceive him and induced him to
consider suggested terms which served to delay operations whilst Shirkuh
was collecting a new force and preparing to come to the relief of the
Egyptians, nor was Amalric undeceived until Shirkuh arrived and joined
the Egyptians. At this the Franks retired and Shirkuh entered Cairo and
then made camp outside. Day by day visits of compliment were exchanged
between Shawar and the Turkish leader, but Shawar constantly postponed
the payment of the money expected and promised for Shirkuh’s help and,
judging from his knowledge of the man Shirkuh was convinced that he was
trying to play off the Frank and the Syrian against one another. At a
conference of his generals Shirkuh announced that it was of primary
importance to put an end to this state of affairs and recommended that
Shawar should be seized and held prisoner. No one was ready to take the
first step in the execution of this proposal until Saladin volunteered to
do it with his own hands. Soon afterwards Shawar was seen coming with a
train of attendants to pay one of his customary visits. Salah ad-Din with
his guard rode out to meet him, and as they rode side by side he suddenly
grasped Shawar’s collar and pulled him off his horse, at the same time
ordering his men to fall on the attendants of the wazir. Shawar was then
taken to a tent and held prisoner. For some time Shirkuh was doubtful
what the result of this measure would be, then an embassy came from the
Khalif bringing the official pelisse, the outward badge of the wazirate,
to Shirkuh and asking for the head of Shawar. This was equivalent to
appointing Shirkuh as ruler of Egypt, and was a final and definite
step in ending the independent existence of the Fatimid Khalifate and
establishing the suzerainty of Nur ad-Din, whose servant Shirkuh was. On
Wednesday, the 17th of Rabiʿ II. 565, Shirkuh was formally invested as
wazir, and aroused popular enthusiasm by permitting a general looting of
Shawar’s palace. Shirkuh, however, held office only two months and died
on Saturday, 28th of Jumada II., being succeeded in his office by his
nephew Saladin. Soon afterwards Aiyub, Saladin’s father arrived in Egypt,
and his son offered to resign his appointment to his father, but Aiyub
refused to accept this sacrifice and urged his son to continue in the
exercise of the functions which he had received as the most trusty and
efficient lieutenant of his uncle Shirkuh.

Two years later (567) a message was received from Nur ad-Din ordering the
_khutba_ in Egypt to be changed and the name of the ʿAbbasid Khalif to be
used in place of the Fatimid. Saladin hesitated fearing a revolt of the
people at this termination of the Egyptian Khalifate and proclamation of
their being incorporated in the Khalifate of Baghdad. But fresh orders
from Damascus insisted. In Cairo there was much reluctance amongst
Saladin’s officers to venture on this change, but at length a Persian
visitor named al-Amir al-Aahin offered to ascend the pulpit next Friday
and pronounce the new _khutba_, and this was accepted. On the following
Friday the Persian did so, and no single word of protest was uttered:
the Fatimid dynasty fell without being the object of more than private
comment, and Egypt acquiesced in the change without discussion or even
taking any particular notice. At the moment the Khalif al-ʿAdid was
ill and confined to his rooms. The members of Saladin’s suite debated
whether he ought to be informed of the change, but it was agreed that if
he recovered it would then be time enough to tell him, and if he did not
recover he might as well die in peace without knowing that his dynasty
had fallen. Shortly afterwards he died in this peaceful ignorance.

This surprisingly commonplace end of the Fatimids is a striking comment
on their history. As organised by ʿAbdullah b. Maymun the Ismaʿilian sect
was a secret society, and this society had established an empire in which
it ruled over subjects who, though loyal to their rulers as political
sovereigns, were totally out of sympathy with the society’s known or
supposed aims. So far as these had become prominent from time to time
they had only produced difficulties and friction, most pronounced in
the incidents connected with al-Hakim; the wiser and saner advisers of
the throne undoubtedly made it their aim to push the sectarian element
into the background, or get rid of it altogether. Yet all through the
history of Egypt, at least up to the time of al-Mustansir, that sectarian
element was very distinctly present and the Fatimid Khalif as the
pontiff of the Ismaʿilians was visited by pilgrims from Persia, Arabia,
and other parts. As a sectarian movement the Fatimid adventure had two
off-shoots which are still to some extent living forces. The Druses of
the Lebanon still form a vigorous and flourishing community of no small
political importance. Their religious tenets have been long a secret,
though many details have leaked forth; but now there is a “modernist”
party, chiefly of the younger men, amongst the Druses, and these desire
to reveal their religious beliefs more fully feeling that secrecy has
only tended to misrepresentation of their community, and believing that
the moral ideals which they hold together with their combination of
agnostic and pantheistic doctrine furnishes a religious system likely to
gain many converts at the present time. How far these modernists will
succeed in divulging their beliefs, and how far their movement will
receive the sympathy of the heads of the sect remains to be seen. It is
understood that Dr. Bliss of Beirut will be the probable intermediary of
communication with the western world if this disclosure takes place.

The second important off-shoot is that of the Assassins. The Syrian
branch of the Assassins was completely exterminated, and the great
headquarters at Alamut was destroyed by the Turks, but besides these two
greater branches there were many minor groups of the sect which have
lived out a secluded existence scattered in various parts of central Asia
and India, and undoubtedly exist at the present day. As late as 1866
an English judge in Bombay was called upon to decide a succession case
according to the jurisprudence of the Assassins. Prof. Browne states,
“remnants of the sect, as I was informed by a very intelligent and
observant Babi dervish of Kirman, of whom I saw a great deal when I was
in Cairo in the early part of the year 1903, still exist in Persia, while
in India (under the name of ‘Khojas’ or ‘Khwajas’) and Chitral (under
the name of ‘Mullas’), as well as in Zanzibar, Syria, and elsewhere,
they still enjoy a certain influence and importance, though it requires
a great effort of imagination to associate their present pontiff, the
genial and polished Agha Khan, with the once redoubtable Grand Masters
of Alamut and the ‘Old Man of the Mountain’—‘Le Vieux’ of Marco Polo’s
quaint narrative” (Browne: _Literary Hist. of Persia_, p. 460).

As a political force the Fatimids rapidly vanished. In the great struggle
between Franks and Turks they had for a while hindered the co-operation
of the Muslims under Turkish leadership, and perhaps had contributed to
the weakness which had allowed the establishment of a Frankish kingdom
in Jerusalem, though this weakness would be sufficiently explained by
the fact that the earlier Turkish migration westwards had just ceased,
and the greater movement which followed had not yet begun. When Saladin
swept aside the remnants of the Fatimid Khalifate it disappeared without
leaving any appreciable mark on contemporary history.

On the religious history of Islam the Fatimids left even less impression.
They were entirely excluded from the theological life of the Muslim
community, save that they probably contributed to the strong disfavour
with which the orthodox regarded philosophical and scientific studies as
these took a suspected colour by reason of the sympathy with which the
Shiʿites generally, and the Ismaʿilians in particular had regarded them.



A few words may be added to define more plainly the part taken by the
Fatimid Khalifate in the general course of history. So long as the
Fatimite movement merely took the form of a sectarian body in Asia it had
hardly more than a local interest, and even the formation of a Fatimid
Khalifate at Kairawan does no more than illustrate the disintegration of
the empire of the Khalifs of Baghdad. But the conquest of Egypt brought
the Fatimids into relation with a wider world and induced them, unwisely
no doubt, to venture on the conquest of Syria. It is a question how
far the power ruling in Egypt ever can be free from Syria: the ancient
Pharaohs were drawn into Egyptian expeditions, and the two lands have
been closely involved one with the other ever since: nearly always Syria
has proved the grave in which the prospects and hopes of Egypt have been
buried. In the days of the Fatimids Syria was the battle ground of the
Near East, and every country from Byzantium to the Oxus was more or less
drawn into the conflicts there, whilst in the later part of the period
the whole of Christendom, except Spain, was involved: and every power
of East or West found there either severe loss or total ruin. The whole
course of the history of the 9-12th centuries of the Christian era shows
the gradual sucking in of Muslim and Christian powers to this maelstrom,
and in every case with disastrous results.

The whole period of the Fatimid Khalifate, from the first formation of
the parent sect or conspiracy to the final downfall before Salah ad-Din,
may be divided conveniently into three periods; (i) the rise of the
Ismaʿilian sect and the establishment of a Khalifate claiming Fatimid
descent at Kairawan, (ii) the conquest of Egypt and the period of more or
less prosperous rule over Egypt and Syria, and (iii) the period of decay
under the attacks of the Saljuq Turks and the Crusaders to its final

(i) _The Formation of the Fatimid Khalifate._ (A.H. 260-356 = A.D.

This was the period during which the Ismaʿilian sect was founded, spread
to North Africa, and a Khalifate was established at Kairawan. It was a
time during which the Khalifate of Baghdad was passing through a course
of rapid decay: under no other circumstances would such progress on the
part of the Ismaʿilis have been possible. The Khalif Harunu r-Rashid died
in 193 (= 808) whilst actually proceeding against a rebellious son in
Khurasan. His death was followed by a civil war at the end of which his
rebellious son was established as Khalif, but soon afterwards in 205 (=
820) Khurasan was practically lost to the Khalifate and passed into the
hands of the independent dynasty of the Tahirites, who ruled nominally in
the Khalif’s name but paid him no obedience. Tahir himself was an Arab,
but his supporters were mainly Persians, and this begins the period of
Persian political supremacy which lasted until the rise of the Turks in
the middle of the 4th cent. The Saffarids who ruled in Khurasan from 260
to 290 A.H. were purely Persian, and so were the Samanids who arose in
288 and ruled until 400. All these maintained themselves in the east, but
in 320 (= 932) the Buwayhids, a Daylamite tribe from the shores of the
Caspian Sea came down into the very heart of the Khalifate, and from 344
until 447 controlled Baghdad, holding the Khalif as an ornamental figure
to adorn the pageant of state. Not only were these Buwayhids Persians
but, like the Saffarids and Samanids, they were Shiʿites, not themselves
recognising the Khalif as the true ruler of Islam, but using him simply
as a tool to give effect to their rule over those who did. This was the
golden period of Arabic philosophy and literature.

In North Africa the Aghlabid dynasty of Zairawan went down before the
followers of the Fatimid Mahdi, who increased in power and prosperity
until they conquered Egypt in 356. Only in the far West the rival
Khalifate of Cordova held its own, minor independent states were formed
in the further parts of North Africa, and in Sicily a popular movement
declared for the orthodox Khalif of Baghdad.

During all this time Islam hardly enters into the political history of
Europe, save in Spain. The Byzantine Empire held its own owing to the
weakness of Islam: the Latin Empire was in process of disintegration and
new states were being formed in the west. Almost contemporaneously two
sturdy races begin to appear at points far removed, the Turks who are
gradually filtering across the Oxus into Persia and becoming Muslims,
and the Northmen who are settling on the sea-board of the North-West of
Europe and becoming Christians.

(ii) _The Golden Age of the Fatimids._ (A.H. 356-469 = A.D. 966-1076.)

During the period of the decay of the Abbasid Khalifate the Fatimids
were able to seize an important part of the Abbasid dominions and make
themselves rulers of Palestine and Syria, with more or less intermittent
control over Arabia. At this time the three leading powers in the Near
East were the Khalifate of Baghdad, the Fatimid Khalifate of Egypt,
and the Byzantine Empire, but of these three the Fatimid Khalifate of
Egypt was the most vigorous and aggressive. Under Karl the Great the
Western Empire had assumed a kind of protectorate over the Christians in
Palestine, but in Fatimid times this had become obsolete. The two rival
Khalifates were separated by a wide gulf of religious difference, how
wide cannot be appreciated without following the history of the formation
and development of the Fatimid Khalifate. Both made overtures to the
Greeks, but the relations of Byzantium with the Muslim world generally
turned on questions connected with Fatimid rule: Fatimids and Greeks
faced one another in North West Syria, and it was only in Sicily that
the Greeks had to deal with the Baghdad Khalifate. Before the beginning
of this period Crete which had fallen into the hands of the Muslims in
A.D. 825, was recovered (in A.D. 961): Sicily, conquered by the Muslims
between A.D. 827 and 878, remained in their hands but, after the Fatimid
conquest of North Africa it revolted and gave in its allegiance to the
Khalifate of Baghdad. North Africa was divided amongst various Muslim
groups, and Spain was fully occupied with its own problems. In A.D. 1038
Byzantium lost control over North Syria, so that on the whole the Greeks
were receding before the Muslims. In A.D. 1029 (= A.H. 419) there was,
however, a _modus vivendi_ reached between the Fatimids and the Greeks
by which, in return for help during famine, the Muslims were allowed to
have a mosque in Constantinople provided prayer was offered there for the
Fatimid Khalif, and, apparently, the Christians were allowed freedom to
visit Jerusalem. The persecution of Christians under Hakim had culminated
in the destruction of the church of the Holy Sepulchre in A.D. 1009,
but this was re-built soon afterwards: the persecution was an isolated
incident: in Muslim lands generally neither Christians nor Jews suffered
any serious disabilities, the penal laws were long obsolete, and the only
penalty enforced was against a Muslim who became a convert to another
religion. An additional tax had to be paid by non-Muslims, but this was
in lieu of military service from which they were exempt.

The real stirring of history lay in the extreme east and west, in the
rise of the Turks and of the Normans, both gradually converging upon
western Asia and at the close of this period are both approaching
Syria, bringing even greater disasters to their co-religionists than to
those whom they regarded as their foes. During the period under present
consideration both were already in this arena in small numbers, employed
as mercenaries by all the three Near Eastern powers, Turkish soldiers
of fortune serving under the Khalifs of Baghdad and under the Fatimids
of Egypt, Northmen serving in the employ of the Emperors of Byzantium,
but neither Turks nor Northmen had as yet moved in in sufficiently large
numbers to become independent factors in politics.

The first assertion of the Turks appears in the career of Mahmud of
Ghazna. Turkish soldiers had been employed by the Samanide of Khurasan,
and one of these, Alptekin, was made governor of Khurasan, but at a
disputed succession in the house of Samani he unfortunately took the
side of the candidate who proved unsuccessful and so had to flee the
country. With a body of followers he established himself in the mountain
fortress of Ghazna (in A.H. 350 = A.D. 961), and there he and his son
Sebektakin held their own, nominally as vassals of the Samanids, really
as an independent brigand state. The third ruler of Ghazna, Mahmud,
declared himself independent in 390 (= 999), and received investiture
directly from the Khalif of Baghdad, assuming the title of Sultan, a
title which he was the first to introduce into the community of Islam.
Mahmud of Ghazna is one of the brilliant figures of history, but one
whose importance can easily be over-estimated. In a series of twelve
expeditions to India he won both fame and booty, but was not in any
real sense a conqueror of India. In A.H. 407 (= A.D. 1016) he extended
his power northwards to the shores of the Caspian Sea, and here before
long he was brought into contact with other kinsmen of his own, Turks
living across the Oxus, and it was the advance of these Turks led by
the Saljuq tribe which, in his son’s days, cut off the Sultanate of
Ghazna from Persia and the West and compelled the Ghazni dynasty to
turn its attention eastwards. This led to the foundation of a Muslim
state in India which, under the successive rule of Turks, Afghans, and
Mongols, had a continuous existence to the time of the Indian Mutiny in
the 19th cent. Although Mahmud and his followers were Turks he gave the
civil administration mainly into the hands of Persian officials, and
thus Persian became the court language of Muslim India, though Arabic
was sometimes employed in important charters,—both foreign languages to
rulers and subjects; and thus, when the native Hindi began to be used
as a literary medium it appeared as a language which, though thoroughly
Hindi in structure and grammar, had a vocabulary full of Persian and
Arabic words, and in this form is known as Urdu or Hindustani. Thus
Indian history, through the pushing eastwards of the Ghazni Turks by the
advance of the Saljuqs, connects with the history of the West.

The Persian dynasties of the Saffarids, Samanids, and Daylamites were
Shiʿite in religion, but the Turks were Sunni, that is to say “orthodox”
in the sense of adhering to the traditional school which was in
communion with the official Khalifate of Baghdad, so that when they came
westwards they came as its champions, in contrast to the Normans who were
unfriendly towards the Greek Church.

The Saljuq Turks migrated from Turkistan to Balkh about 345 (= A.D. 956),
and there accepted Islam. They settled on the farther side of the Oxus
about 20 parasangs from the town of Balkh, and there they were found
by Mahmud of Ghazna. He removed then to the near side of the Oxus and
distributed them through the province of Khurasan where, as they were
broken up into small groups, they were harshly treated, and plundered
until a body of 2,000 fugitives fled to Ispahan for protection. The
governor there wished to employ them in the army, but Mahmud sent orders
that they were to be imprisoned and their property confiscated, and
followed up these orders by sending a force to scatter them. After this
they took to brigandage under a leader named Tughril, and finally were
pardoned by Mahmud on condition that they reduced the whole province
of Khurasan to obedience to him. This work they took in hand but, in
the days of Masud, the successor of Mahmud, they were able to establish
their own independence and compelled the Sultan of Ghazna to abandon all
control over Persia and turn his attention eastwards (Ibn Khall. iii.

The Saljuqs were now so prominent that al-Qaʾim the Khalif of Baghdad
sent to Tughril as a loyal Sunni to deliver him from the tyranny of the
Buwayhids. In response Tughril marched to Baghdad and formally restored
the temporal power of the Khalif in 447 (= A.D. 1055), though this soon
meant simply that the Khalif was under the guardianship of a Saljuq
Turk instead of a Daylamite Buwayhid; though there was this much gain,
that the Saljuqs were theoretically orthodox supporters of the Abbasid

The Saljuqs were now established as the champions and defenders of the
Baghdad Khalifate. Under Tughril’s successor, Alp Arslan, they came into
direct conflict with both the Fatimids and the Greeks. By 457 (= A.D.
1068) they were in possession of Georgia and Armenia, and had become a
very serious and pressing menace to the Byzantine Empire. A few years
later the Emperor Romanus IV. was totally defeated by them in 460 (=
A.D. 1071), and all Asia Minor lay open to the Turks, though the Saljuq
position there was insecure until they took Antioch from the Greeks.
Alp Arslan was succeeded by Malah Shah who, in the course of 467-477 (=
A.D. 1074-1084) established the Saljuq power in Asia Minor, and in 469
conquered Jerusalem from the Fatimids, so that practically the Saljuq
Sultan, theoretically the Commander-in-Chief serving under the Khalif of
Baghdad, was the master of all Western Asia. This brings us to the close
of the second period and to the end of the golden age of the Fatimids.

Meanwhile in the West the Normans, destined to be the protagonists of
the Saljuq Turks, were becoming a leading power in another way. In 1038
we find them serving in Sicily, in 1040 they were conquering Apulia, and
soon afterwards they began minor encroachments on the Byzantine Empire.
Their chief settlement, Normandy, dates from 911, and it is significant
that this was one year after the foundation of the Abbey of Cluny,
from which proceeded a religious reformation which found its warmest
supporters in the Normans. When Pope Leo IX. made an expedition against
the Normans in Apulia and was defeated by them, his greatest surprise
came in finding his victorious enemies ready to pay him a reverent
loyalty far beyond anything he had previously experienced. The recently
converted Normans were no less definite in their orthodoxy as Christians
than the recently converted Saljuqs in their orthodoxy as Muslims.

It is, no doubt, impossible to regard the Crusades as entirely religious
in their spirit and character, but it is equally impossible to ignore
the fact that religious motives played a very large part in their
history. We may venture to say that they commenced under the influence
of the Cluniac reformation, and that most of those who took part in the
First Crusade, if they had any regard for religion at all, accepted the
Cluniac standards: whilst the Second Crusade was still more definitely
associated with the Cistercian order, itself an after-math of the Cluniac
reformation. The attitude of the Latin clergy towards the Greek Church
was exactly the same as that of the Cistercian missionaries towards the
native Keltic clergy of Ireland a few years later: wherever religion
enters into the programme of the Crusaders it is always treated according
to Cluniac standards, and everything is disapproved which does not
conform to those standards. The Normans and Burgundians formed the most
loyal contingent of those who contended for Cluniac ideals, and they, the
Normans especially, formed the real nucleus of the First Crusade. The
Crusading movement cannot be separated from the Cluniac reformation.

In referring to the Cluniacs we do not confine the term to those who were
actually monks in the Abbey of Cluny, nor even to those in the priories
which were in obedience to Cluny, but extend it to all those portions of
the Latin Church which followed the leadership of Cluny in the way of
church reform and saw the ideal Christianity in the Cluniac programme, an
ideal of which we have the fullest expression in the writings of S. Peter
Damian. These reformers were loyal to the Papacy, but to an idealised
Papacy reconstructed on Cluniac lines; they were outspoken in their
criticism of the actual Papacy and its entourage as it existed in the
10th cent. Incidentally Rome ceased to be the chief place of pilgrimage,
not because there was any repugnance felt towards Rome or the Papal
court, but because, in conformity with the spirit of Cluny, a greater
emphasis was laid upon the suffering Christ, and thus greater prominence
was given to the sites connected with the Passion: thus Palestine tended
to become a “Holy Land,” and Jerusalem itself the chief object of the
pilgrim’s devotion. Thus, early in the 11th century, the thoughts of
the leading and most vigorous element in the Latin Church began to turn
towards Jerusalem and predisposed men to regard the liberation of the
holy sites of Palestine from infidel rule as a work of piety.

In 1074 Pope Gregory VII., himself a product of the Cluniac movement,
laid a programme of reform before a council assembled at Rome; the
liberation of Jerusalem did not actually figure in this programme, but
later in the same year (on Dec. 7) we find it expressed in a letter to
Henry IV. (cf. Gregor. Pp. VII. _Epist._ II. 31, in Jaffe: _Mon. Greg._,
pp. 14415, but a previous suggestion had been made by Silvester II. as
far back as 999). No doubt the news of the Saljuq advance into Asia
Minor had something to do with his proposal, the report of vast numbers
of “Christians living beyond the seas” slain by “the pagans” so that
the Christian community was reduced to nothing (id. p. 145), but the
chief point was that Gregory and his party looked at the world through
a Cluniac medium and so to them Palestine was the “Holy Land,” and it
was a terrible thought that the sacred sites of Christ’s passion were in
the hands of unbelievers. The violent storms aroused by the reforming
programme of 1074, however, prevented any action being taken in this

(iii) _Third Period. Fatimid decline._ (A.H. 469-564 = A.D. 1076-1168.)

When Urban II. became Pope in 1087 events had moved forward with
startling rapidity. In 1076 Jerusalem had fallen into the hands of the
Saljuqs, and the Byzantine Empire was practically deprived of all its
Asiatic possessions, so that both Egypt and Byzantium were at bay. In
this desperate crisis the Greeks made an appeal to the West, and this was
laid before two councils assembled in the year 1095, the one at Piacenza
in March, the other at Clermont-Ferrand in November, and from these
councils proceeded the First Crusade.

At the moment the three great powers in the Near East were the Byzantine
Empire, the Fatimid Khalifate, and the Saljuq Sultanate, but of these
the two former were on the defensive and steadily losing ground; the
Fatimids had just suffered the loss of Jerusalem, the Greeks had lost
North-West Syria and practically all of Asia Minor. The Saljuqs were the
leading military power and held the Khalifate of Baghdad absolutely in
subjection, but they already showed signs of decline, their empire was
beginning to be divided amongst provincial rulers known as _atabegs_,
and these were getting to be more or less independent of the central
authority: it was the old story of the Khalifate over again. Both in
Cairo and in Baghdad the real power was in the hands of the wazir or
prime minister.

In 1097 the First Crusade came east: its advent was hailed by Byzantium
and by the Fatimids, both believing that it would prove a check to the
Saljuqs. The Greeks were the first to be undeceived, and soon found
that the Crusaders were extremely undesirable neighbours. The Fatimids
were anxious to join in alliance with the Crusading forces but wanted
to recover Jerusalem. It was a purely religious motive which prevented
this,—the Crusaders were unwilling to leave the Holy Sepulchre in Muslim

So far as the history of Western Asia is concerned the Crusaders produced
very great results, but these were purely destructive in character. They
checked the Saljuqs and effectively broke their power, though that power
had already commenced its decline before the Crusaders’ arrival: but
this only made way for a new Kurdish power. The Crusades as a religious
war provoked an anti-Crusading movement, quite distinctly religious in
its character, on the Muslim side,—a Holy War to resist the champions of
the Cross. The first mover in this was Zengi atabeg of Mosul, and it was
continued by his son Nur ad-Din. In the employ of these atabegs of Mosul
was a Kurdish soldier named Ayyub who, at the death of Zengi in 541 (=
A.D. 1146) moved to Damascus, and eight years later became governor of
the city. From him were descended the Ayyubites, Shirkuh and his nephew
Salah ad-Din, the instruments by which the Fatimid Khalifate was finally
destroyed. It was not the rise of a new power but merely the development
of one of the minor local states formed from the disintegrating Saljuq

The immediate result of the Crusades lay in the formation of Latin states
in Palestine and Syria, at Jerusalem, Edessa, and Antioch, and in the
final exclusion of the Fatimids from Syria, but none of these states
had any stable foundation. Only in quite minor issues can we find any
permanent traces of the Crusaders’ presence in Asia. In the East their
memory lives as a legend of tyranny and religious intolerance, whilst a
few Arab tribes preserve a tradition of Crusading blood. In the West it
may be possible to argue that only the Carmelite Friars show any enduring
trace of the Crusades: almost every influence which has been traced to
the Crusades seems to have been due to intercourse between Muslim and
Christian in Spain, or to Frederick II. in Naples and Sicily,—though, of
course, it might be argued that Frederick himself was a product of the
Crusading age: yet it must be remembered that Frederick came more under
the influence of Jews and Muslims expelled from Spain by the intolerance
of the Muwahhid rulers.

The work of Salah ad-Din who put an end to the Fatimid Khalifate of
Egypt and to the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, restored the semblance
of authority to the ʿAbbasid Khalifate of Baghdad, but the following
period 567-656 (= A.D. 1171-1258) saw no real reconstruction of the
Khalifate: existing conditions were merely bolstered up whilst internal
decay proceeded on its course. In 656 (= A.D. 1258) the Khalif finally
went down before the Mongol invasion which was simply destructive in its
results. It was not until two centuries later that the Ottoman Turks
sweeping westwards evolved a new order from these elements of decay and
founded an empire which has lasted some 500 years, receiving from the
last exiled representative of the ʿAbbasids such title as he could give
to the historic Khalifate, and practically re-organising the Sunni Muslim
world on strictly orthodox and traditional lines so that, in spite of
occasional dissentients, it generally won the esteem and loyalty of the
world of Islam.



The Fatimid Khalifate had its origin in a religious sect which professed
to represent the true Islam transmitted through a line of seven Imams
who alone understood the real meaning of the religion proclaimed by the
Prophet Muhammad: the first of these was the Prophet’s son-in-law ʿAli,
and the last Ismaʿil the son of Jaʿfar as-Sadiq or his son Muhammad,
with whom, according to the earlier teaching, the line ended as the Imam
passed into concealment, the leaders of the sect keeping the teaching
alive and preparing the way for his return to the visible world. At a
later date the leaders claimed themselves to be the Imam’s descendants,
the “concealment” being no more than a hiding from the persecuting
Khalifs of Baghdad, and so they were the continuers of the sacred
tradition, and on this claim rested the Khalifate of Kairawan and of
Egypt. It is, of course, extremely difficult to make anything like a
fair estimate of the religious work and influence connected with such
a movement, and especially because it professed to cover its religious
teaching with a veil of secrecy, and also because, during the duration
of the Fatimid Khalifate in Egypt, the historians are almost exclusively
occupied with recording the political activities of the rulers and make
only occasional and allusive references to the sect as a religious body.
It seems possible to distinguish three different elements in the sect,
(i) the philosophical element which is one of the results of Greek
philosophy and especially of the teaching of Aristotle as interpreted by
the neo-Platonists and represented in an oriental dress after passing
through a Syrian and Persian medium. Such teaching is traditionally
associated with Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, and seems to have been the real
doctrine of the sect at its first formation, but that was revealed only
to the initiated, and apparently it was never checked or restated in the
light of the more accurate study of the text of Aristotle which was the
work of the “philosophers” of the fourth century A.H. (ii) The definitely
Shiʿite doctrine of the incarnation of the divine spirit in the Imam
passed on by transmigration from ʿAli to his descendants. And (iii)
the purely political element which cared nothing about philosophical
speculation or Shiʿite doctrine, but saw in the sect promising elements
of a conspiracy against the ʿAbbasid Khalifate. But it does not seem true
to say that the whole movement was wholly political, as though there were
no reality in the attachment to philosophical or Shiʿite ideas.

When the Ismaʿilian sect emerged first into the open arena in the
Qarmatian rising the doctrinal element, especially (i), had effectively
undermined all adherence to orthodox Islam; how long the Qarmatians
remained attached to Shiʿite claims we do not know, but they do not seem
to have attached much importance to them. In history the Qarmatians
appear as simply anti-Muslim and offensively irreligious: they give
evidence of no ideals whatever beyond the ordinary aspirations of
brigands, though we must bear in mind that the only account of them is
such as their enemies have given us. In fact they seem to have been
simply a robber band released from all pretence of religious beliefs and
inspired by a hatred of Islam due, no doubt, to oppression at the hands
of Muslim rulers.

The Khalifate at Kairawan and Cairo presents a much better test of the
religious tendencies of the Ismaʿilian sect. In this case the sectarian
leaders established a strong government and, on the whole, ruled well.
The government was founded by those who seem to have believed sincerely
in the Fatimid claims, but the great majority of the subject population
had no sympathies in that direction: they were quite willing to be
ruled by Shiʿites, but had no inclination to turn Shiʿite themselves.
The extravagant claims of incarnation etc. which made so strong an
appeal to the Persians found the Berbers and Egyptians irresponsive. The
Ismaʿilians made an attempt to press them into their sect when first the
Mahdi was established at Kairawan, but this policy was soon abandoned
and very rarely tried again, though it seems that the regular meetings
of the sect and the instructions given by the duʿat were continued until
some time after the reign of Hakim. For the most part the Fatimids
were quite content with political power and did not interfere with
the religious convictions of the people. The condition seems to have
been that the Ismaʿilians formed a kind of free-masonry which was, to
some extent, the “power behind the throne,” though it was by no means
necessary for the officers of state to be members of that brotherhood
themselves, and in later times, when the wazirs were practically
independent princes, cases occur in which the official government is
actually unfriendly towards it. In the later part of the Fatimid period
the only mark which distinguished its rule from that of the orthodox
Khalif at Baghdad seems to have been that the _khutba_ before the Friday
sermon was said in the name of the Fatimid, and that of the ʿAbbasid was
not mentioned. The whole sectarian teaching seems to have evaporated
steadily in an Egyptian atmosphere which was one of steady indifference.
The philosophical teaching which had been the first object of the sect,
died away in Asia, and was then transmitted to Spain which formed a kind
of _orbis ulterior_ of Islam, leaping over Egypt altogether, as though
its premature development in the Ismaʿilian sect had inoculated the
Fatimite community against it. The characteristically Persian doctrines
of incarnation and transmigration took no hold in Egypt or Ilfrikiya:
when they were vigorously preached by Persians in Hakim’s time they only
provoked a riot.

We can hardly treat religion as a matter of race, for there seems no good
evidence for extending heredity so as to include matters of cultural
development: culture, which includes religion, is transmitted by contact
not by descent, it is learned not inherited: and it is very doubtful how
far psychological pre-dispositions can be inherited. But culture exists
in different areas with distinctive characteristics so that it is not
easy for persons of one culture-area to appreciate the outlook of those
of another, although there is a constant culture-drift passing between
the two. In North Africa there is a tendency to pay exaggerated honour,
which might be described as actual worship, to the _murabits_ or saints,
but it is quite independent of the incarnation theories which prevail
in Persia and India, and so we may say that this, the characteristic
tenet of the Ismaʿilis as Shiʿites, found itself in Egypt and North
Africa in an unsympathetic atmosphere, and was gradually starved out.
Perhaps we may take the accession of al-Hafiz in A.H. 524 = A.D. 1131,
when the wazir in office was antagonistic to the Ismaʿili doctrines,
as the probable date by which the doctrines of the Ismaʿili sect had
ceased to have any meaning in Egypt, and consequently that in which the
parent Ismaʿili sect was practically obsolete. Whatever may have been the
sincerity of its first founders, of those whom we credit with a desire
to spread the philosophical theories learned from Greek philosophers and
formed into a body of doctrine subversive of the traditional teaching
of Islam, or of those who were attached to the incarnation theories of
the Persians, it is clear that the purely political element finally
gained the upper hand, and in due time discarded all the religious and
philosophical thought which, from their point of view, had outlived its
utility. In Fatimid Egypt the sect was rather like a free-masonry under
royal patronage, and when this patronage came to an end the sect died
a natural death. That the teaching of Duruzi and Hamza in the reign
of Hakim met with such violent opposition is convincing that Shiʿite
teachings were uncongenial to the Egyptians, though it does seem that
under Fatimid rule Cairo was much frequented by Persian visitors and

The subsequent influence of the Ismaʿili sect shows itself in off-shoots
which do not connect with Egypt or North Africa. So far as we know the
first Ismaʿili propaganda in India took place about A.H. 460 = A.D. 1067,
about the time when the Fatimid Khalifate in Egypt was just coming to the
end of its flourishing period. At that time a missionary named ʿAbdullah
came from Yemen and preached in North-West India, and is claimed as the
founder of a sect known as the Bohras which is found scattered through
many of the trading centres of the Bombay presidency, though some
attribute its foundation to a later teacher, the Mullah ʿAli. Many of the
Bohras, however, have become Sunni (cf. Nur Allah ash-Shushtari, quoted
in Arnold: _Preaching of Islam_, pp. 275-7).

The Khojah sect proper was founded by a daʿi named Nur ad-Din who was
sent from Alamut about A.H. 495 (= A.D. 1101), or perhaps later, and so
is an off-shoot of the Assassins (cf. p. 214 supra), Nur ad-Din changed
his name to the Hindu Nur Satagar and made many converts from the lower
castes of Gujerat. About A.D. 1430 the head of this Khojah sect was Pir
Sadr ad-Din who adapted its teachings to suit Hindu ideas; according
to him Muhammad was Brahma, ʿAli was Krisna in his tenth incarnation
(avatar), thus accepting the previous nine incarnations of Hindu
mythology and adding this extra one as an adaptation to Shiʿite ideas,
and Adam was Siva. This Hindu rendering of Ismaʿilian ideas was detailed
in a book which he produced and called the _Dasavatar_, which serves as
the sacred book of the modern Khojahs and is read beside any member of
the sect on his death-bed. In this semi-Hindu teaching it is difficult to
trace any real continuity with historic Islam, and it is rather grotesque
to find that the members of the sect, numerous in the chief trading towns
of western India, have in recent years taken a leading part in Islamic
agitations against British rule.

These Indian Khojahs represent the Assassin branch of the Fatimite wing,
but there are other representatives of the same branch scattered all over
the Muslim world, though nowhere forming an established community quite
in the same way as in West India. The Bohras, or such of them as have not
turned Sunni, represent the older parent stock of the Ismaʿilians. The
Druzes of Mount Lebanon maintain the off-shoot formed during the later
years of al-Hakim, and these show a clearer continuity than any other
relic of the sect which set the Fatimid Khalifate upon the throne of


(A.) Original authorities accessible in translations or extracts.

Abraham the Syrian.

Leroy: Histoire d’Abraham le Syrien patriarche copte d’Alexandrie. (In
“Revue de l’Orient Chrétien”: 1909, pp. 380 sqq.)

Ibn Adhari (d. 662).

Histoire de l’Afrique et de l’Espagne. Dozy. Leide. 1848.

Ahmad b. Yahya al-Baladuri.

Liber expugnationis regionum. Lugd. Batav. 1863-6 (in 3 parts).

Arib b. Saʿd of Cordoba (circ. 366).

Nicholson: Account of the establishment of the Fatemite dynasty
(translation), Tübingen and Bristol, 1840. (The history goes down to the
end of al-Muqtadir’s reign, A.H. 320.)

Edition in Arabic, by de Goeje. (Supplement to Tabari’s history.)

Ibn al-Athir (ʿAli b. Muhammad).

Dozy: Hist. Abbadidarum, vol. ii.

Jornberg: Ibn-el-Athir’s Chronika. Lund. 1851.

Baha ad-Din (Muhammad b. Husayn).

Vita Saladini. Ed. Schultens. Lugd. Batav. 1732.


In Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. ci. pp. 889, etc.

Edit. in Corpus Script. Christ. Orientalium, vol. i. 1906—vol. ii. 1909.
Ed. Cheiko and Carra de Vaux.

Abu l-Feda (Ismaʿil b. ʿAli, king of Hamat in 743, died 749).

Wrote Tarikh Mukhtasir. Ed. Constantinople, 2 vols. A.H. 1329. Text and
Latin trans. by Reiske: Annales Moslemici, 5 vols., Copenhagen, A.D.

Also Taqwimu l-Buldan, ed. with Lat. trans., Graevius, 1650. Republished,
ed. Hudson, Oxford, 1712.

Fihrist. The _Fihrist_ of Muhammad b. Ishaq an-Nadim.

Ed. Fluegel, Leipzig, 1871. Written circ. 378 (= A.D. 988), invaluable
for earlier Shiʿite history. Many authors such as Akhu Muhsin, Ibn
Razzam, etc., are known only by citations in the Fihrist.

Gregory Bar Hebraeus _or_ Abu l-Faraj.

d. A.D. 1286. His great history was planned in three parts, of which part
i. “the history of the dynasties” deals with political history. Syriac
text edited by Bedjan, Paris, 1890. The Arabic translation by the author
is enriched with matter which does not occur in the Syriac, ed. Pococke,
Oxford, 1663; Arabic text Beirut, 1890.

Al-Kairawani. Muhammad b. ʿAli r-Rayni al-Kairawani.

Ed. Pellisier et Rémusat, Sciences hist. et géogr. vii. Paris, 1845.
(Explorat. scientifique de l’Algérie.)

Kamal ad-Din.

History of Aleppo. Ed. and trans. as “Regnum Saad aldawlae.” G. W.
Freytag, Bonn, 1820.

Ibn Khaldun, Wali ad-Din Abu Zayd Abdu r-Rahman ibn Khaldun.

d. 809. Ed. Bulaq, 1284 (= 1867) in 7 vols. Prolegomena, text and French
tr. in vols. 16-21 of Notices et extraits des manuscrits de la bib. nat.

De Slane, Histoire des Berbères, Alger, 1851-2.

Noël des Vergers, Hist. de l’Afrique, Paris, 1841.

Jornberg: Ibn Khaldunnarr de expedit. Francorum in terras Islamismo
subjectas. Upsala. 1840. (Text and Latin trans.)

Ibn Khallikan. Shams ad-Din Abu l-Abbas.

d. 681. Wrote Wafiat ul-Aiyan (Biographical Dictionary), strongly
anti-Fatimid. Ed. Wüstenfeld, Göttingen, 1835. Eng. Trans. (cited in
references) by De Slane, 1835-40.

Khandemir (Khwand Amir).

Persian. Ed. (with German tr.) Die Geschichte Tabaristans, etc., St.
Petersburg, 1850.

Abu l-Mahasin.

d. 875. Ed. J. D. Carlyle, Maured Allatafet Jemaleddim. Cambridge, 1792
(very defective).

Annals, ed. T. G. J. Juynboll, Leiden, 1861.


d. 672. Ed. Erpenius. Historia Saracenica, Lugd. Batav., 1625.

Maqrizi, Ahmah b. ʿAli b. ʿAbdu l-Qadir al-Maqrizi (dz. 845).

Chief authority for the history and antiquities of Cairo. Favourably
disposed towards the Fatimid Khalifs from whom he claimed descent.

Ed. Bulaq, A.H. 1270. Portions translated in De Sacy’s Chrestomathie.
Part by Bouriant (but nothing relating to the Fatimids as yet reached in
this translation. Pub. 1895, etc. in progress). Ed. Wiet, Cairo, 1911,
etc. (a corrected text).

Wuestenfeld: Macrizi’s Geschichte der Copten. (Text and trans.) 1845.


Sefer Nameh, Relation du voyage de Nasir i Khosrau, ed. and tr. C.
Schefer, Paris, 1881.

An-Nuwairi, Ahmad b. ʿAbdu l-Wahhab. (d. 733).

Only portions accessible, no full text published.

Dozy, Historia Abbadidarum, ii. 1846.

Dozy, Historia Siciliae, Arabice et Latine, 1790.

Hist. de la Sicilie, trad. par J. J. A. Caussin, Paris, year x (1802).


Derenbourg, Vie d’Ousama, Paris, 1886.

(Contains Osama’s own memoirs: invaluable for the reign of az-Zafir and
the history immediately following.)


Al-Kalkashandi, tr. Wüstenfeld, Die Geographie, etc. Göttingen, 1879.

(B). Modern Writers.

De Goeje: Mémoires sur les Carmathes du Bahrain et les Fatimides. Leide,

Dozy: Essai sur l’histoire de l’Islamisme. Leide, 1879.

Dussand, R.: Histoire et religion des Nosairis. Paris, 1900.

Guyard: Fragments relatifs à la doctrine des Ismaélis. Paris, 1874.

Von Kremer: Kulturgeschichte des Orients unter den Chalifen. 1875-7.

Lane Poole: Story of Cairo. Lond., 1906.

” History of Egypt. Middle Ages. Lond. New ed. 1914.

” Moslem Dynasties. 1894.

” Art of the Saracens in Egypt. 1886.

” Coinage of Egypt A.H. 358-922. (Vol. ii. of Catal. of Brit. Mus.
Oriental Coins). 1892.

Mann, J.: The Jews in Egypt and Palestine under the Fatimid Caliphs.
Oxford, 1920.

Quatremère: Sur la dynastie des Khalifes Fatimites. (Journal asiat. for
August, 1836. 3rd series, No. 2.)

Ravaisse: Essai sur l’histoire etc. d’après Makrizi.

Rivoira: Moslem architecture. Eng. trans. Oxford, 1918.

De Sacy: Exposé de la religion des Druzes. Paris, 1838 (2 vols.).

De Sacy: Chrestomathie (vols. i. and ii.).

Wuestenfeld: Geschichte d. Fatimiden Chalifen. Göttingen, 1881. (A series
of extracts, not a connected history.)

Wuestenfeld: El-Macrizi’s Abhandlung. 1847.

Zaydam, G.: Umayyads and Abbasids. Lond., 1907.



    ʿAbbas, 229

    —wazir, 230

    Abdan, 45

    ʿAbdullah, founder (or reformer) of Ismaʿilite sect, 16, 17, 21, 32

    ʿAbdullah b. Essaig, minister to the Aghlabids, 66

    Abu ʿAbdullah, missionary in N. Africa, 57 sqq.

    —suspected, 69

    —executed, 71

    Abu Khatam’s sect, 48

    Abu Najah, the monk and minister of finance, 220

    Abu Raqwa, Umayyad claimant in

    —invades Egypt, 149 sqq.

    —N. Africa, 147 sqq.

    —defeated, 151

    —death, 152

    Aghlabid dynasty in N. Africa, 59, 247

    Ahmad, son of Abdullah, 33

    Ahmah, wazir to al-Hafiz, 222-223

    Al-Adid, 235

    Al-Afdal, 216-220

    Al-Amir, Khalif, 218

    —assassinated, 220-221

    Al-ʿAziz, Khalif, 115 sqq.

    —death, 121-122

    Aleppo, 175, 176, 195

    Al-Faʿiz, Khalif, 233

    Al-Hafiz, Khalif, 222

    Al-Hakim, Khalif, 121, 123 sqq.

    —peculiarities, 133

    —mosques, 137-8

    —disappears, 185 sqq.

    —reports that he is still alive, 188

    ʿAli, 4, 5

    ʿAli Allahi, 16

    ʿAlid lines of descent, 5, 11

    Al-Jarjarai, 193, 196

    Al-Mahadiya founded, 77

    Al-Mansur, Khalif, 90, 91

    Al-Moʿizz, Khalif, 93 sqq.

    —goes to Egypt, 109

    —his rule in Egypt, 113

    Al-Mustali, Khalif, 210 sqq.

    Al-Mustansir, Khalif, 88

    Al-Qaʾim, Khalif, 88

    Al-Yazuri, 196, 197, 198, 200, 203

    Amalric, 239-242

    Anushtegin, 191-196

    Arab race, 1

    Armenians in Egypt, 206, 223-224

    As-Salih, 233, 235-236

    Assassins, sect of, 209, 210 sqq., 244-245

    Az-Zafir, Khalif, 227

    Az-Zahir, Khalif, 189


    Babists, 15

    Badr the Armenian, 206, 208

    Bahrayn taken by the Qarmatians, 49-50

    Baldwin, 218-219

    Barjawan, 124, 126, 130

    —assassinated, 131

    Barqa taken by Abu Raqwa, 148-149

    Batinite doctrines, 7, 12, 176

    Berbers, 55-56, 74 sqq.

    B. Qorra, 147-148

    Buraniyya sect, 48

    Byzantium, treaty with, 191


    Cairo founded, 102 sqq., 114

    Christians, 2, 116, 141, 143-145, 155-158, 170, 179-180, 197-198, 226

    —allowed to emigrate, 171

    Cluniac movement, 252-254

    “Companions” cursed, 142

    —cursing stopped, 154, 169

    Crusades, 216-218, 224, 236, 238-239, 241, 255


    Daʿi or missionary of Shiʿite sect, 6, 7

    —arguments used by Ismaʿilian daʿi, 21 sqq.

    —Chief Daʿi, 135

    Darazi, Persian teacher who visited Egypt, 176

    Daylamites, 83

    Daysan, 18

    Dirgham, 236, 238

    Druses, 43, 178-179, 187, 244


    Egypt attacked, 78, 94

    —Shiʿites in, 79

    —disorder in Egypt, 97-98

    —invaded by the Fatimids, 99 sqq.


    Fadl, general under al-Hakim, 149, 152-153

    Famine in Egypt, 190, 204-205

    Fatimid claims, 34 sqq.; cf. ʿAlid lines of descent

    —claims ridiculed, 116

    —manifesto against, 166

    Fatimid architecture, 106

    —decline of Fatimids, 254

    —end of Fatimid rule, 243-245

    Forbidden vegetables, 141-142, 164

    Fustat, 102

    —fired by al-Hakim, 183


    Haftakin, 111 sqq.

    —prisoner, 119

    Hamdan, 39, 40, 43

    Hamza, 178, 179, 181

    Hasan al Akhram, 178

    Hasan b. Mufarraj revolts, 163

    Hasan-i-Sabbah visits Egypt, 208 sqq., 212

    Hasan Qarmatian leader, 47

    Hashimites, 5

    Hijaz, recognition of Fatimids in, 202-203

    “House of Wisdom,” 139-140

    Husayn Ahwazi, 39

    Husayn b. Jawhar, 131, 132, 153-160


    Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, 18

    Ibn ʿAmmar, 124

    —downfall, 126-127

    Ibn Hawshab, 51 sqq.

    Ibn Killis the Jew, 99, 114, 120

    Ibn Nestorius, 120

    Ibn Sallar wazir, 227

    —revolts, 227-229

    —murdered, 229-230

    Idrisids, 76, 99

    Ikhshids, 81, 83, 93, 107

    Ikhwanu s-Safa, 139

    Ismaʿil, 9

    Ismaʿilian sect, 12 sqq., 29

    —doctrine, 257-258

    —off-shoots, 212, 260 sqq.


    Jaʿfar as-Sadiq, 16, 37, 45, 161, 257

    Jawhar, 98

    —invades Egypt, 99 sqq.

    Jerusalem, church of the Resurrection destroyed, 157

    —city taken by the Turks, 207

    —by the Crusaders, 216

    —kingdom of, 216, 255

    “Jewish legend,” 34, 47, 68

    Jews, 2, 155-160, 170, 179-180


    Kafur, 93 sqq.

    —a patron of literature, 95

    Kahira, cf. Cairo

    Kairawan, 61, 64, 76, 85

    —Khalifs of, 74 sqq.

    Kasam, 47

    Katama tribe, 57

    Kaysanite sect, 5

    Khalif, title of, 3

    Kharijites, 56, 75

    —revolt of, 88-89

    “King” as title of the wazir, 224


    Legitimist ideas of the Persians, 3, 14, 15

    Licence issued by al-Hakim to non-Muslims, 145


    Madina officials sent to remove articles from, 161

    Maghrab, 55

    Mahmud of Ghazna, 168, 249-250

    Mani, 19

    Mansuri sect, 7

    Marcion, 19

    Maymun, 18, 20

    Muslim expansion, 2


    Nasir ad-Dawla, 204-205

    Nasir ad-Din, 229

    —murders az-Zafir, 230-232

    Nasir-i-Khusraw visits Egypt, 198 sqq., 209

    Nizar’s revolt, 211-212

    North Africa, 52 sqq.

    —deserts the Fatimids, 200-201

    Nuwayri’s account of oath taken by Ismaʿilis, 30


    Okayl Arabs revolt, 164

    Oman resists the Qarmatians, 50

    Osama, 225 sqq., 230


    Patriarch imprisoned by al-Hakim, 158

    —released, 180-181

    Persians, 3, 7

    Princess Royal al-Hakim’s sister, 182-184, 189

    Palestine and Syria lost to the Fatimids, 219


    Qadi, office of, 134


    Raqada, 64

    —taken by Abu ʿAbdullah, 67, 69

    Rudwan, 224-225


    Sabʿiya, Ismaʿilian sect, 10, 17

    —grades, 21 sqq.

    Saladin, 238-239, 243, 256

    Saljuq Turks, 201, 207, 215, 219, 251, 254

    “Seveners,” cf. Sabʿiya

    Shawar, 236-243

    Shiʿites, 4, 16

    —sects, 6; cf. Ismaʿilians

    —claims, 42

    Shirkuh, 236, 238, 239, 241

    Sicily revolts, 77

    Syria, 102, 117, 126-127, 129, 136, 163, 174, 175, 191-195, 234

    —lost to the Fatimids, 219


    Tekin, 79 sqq.

    Transmigration, 14

    Tripoli, 77

    Turks, cf. Saljuq

    “Twelvers,” 10


    ʿUbayd Allah, 33, 61 sqq.

    —journey to N. Africa, 62

    —imprisoned, 62

    —liberated, 67 sqq.


    Wine, laws against, 165


    Yahya’s sect, 48

    Yemen, Ismaʿilians in, 51 sqq.

    Yusuf, 184


    Zaqruya, 46

    Ziadat Allah, 60, 62 sqq.

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