|Towards a Shi‘i Mediterranean Empire:
Fatimid Egypt and the Founding of Cairo|
I.B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies.
ISBN (Hardback): 1845119606
Al-Mu‘izz’s li-Din Allah (341-365 AH/ 953-975 CE), the fourth Fatimid Imam-caliph, transformed the Fatimid state from a North African regional power to a Mediterranean empire which, at its height, extended from present-day Morocco in the west to Syria and Yemen in the east. His vision and dynamism contributed to the high watermark of Fatimid achievement to establish a Shi‘i state, which contributed to the cultural and intellectual efflorescence of the Muslim world. Among the crowning achievements of this Ismaili imam-caliph was the peaceful conquest of Egypt, a cherished goal of the Fatimids, which they ruled for over two centuries. Al-Mu‘izz’s successful move to Egypt and the founding of Cairo marked a high point of the Fatimid Empire, fostering an enduring legacy in the region. The reign of this illustrious Fatimid sovereign, as narrated by al-Maqrizi, is the focus of this work. It provides the first annotated translation of the chapter on Al-Mu‘izz from the only complete history of the Fatimids written by a mediaeval Sunni historian.
Taqi al-Din Ahmad b. 'Ali al-Maqrizi, the erudite Sunni scholar of the Mamluk period maintained a distinctive interest in the Fatimids. As such, his writings represent the most comprehensive account of the Fatimid era. His Itti‘az al-hunafa’ bi-akhbar al a’imma al-Fatimiyyin al-khulafa’ (Lessons for the Seekers of Truth in the History of the Fatimid Imams and Caliphs) focuses principally on the Fatimid age, and so it is a particularly valuable historical source on this dynasty. Al-Maqrizi carefully compiled his narrative from a wide range of materials then available to him, many of which are no longer extant, demonstrating a scholarly discernment regarding the value and limitations of his sources that was unusual among medieval Muslim historians. Moreover, he records a number of official documents, letters and sermons of the Fatimids in their entirety, often making his works the only surviving source for this material. As such, it is a rare work of its kind and makes a significant contribution to the study of the Fatimid era.
Towards a Shi‘i Mediterranean Empire centres on the reign of Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz li-Din Allah as relayed in the Itti‘az. It provides an extensive introduction to the rise of the Fatimids, their establishment in North Africa prior to their peaceful conquest of Egypt and the significant milestones of Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz and his rule. It then examines al-Maqrizi’s scholarship and interest in the Fatimids noting his Khaldunian approach to history. Although al-Maqrizi begins his chapter on Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz with events in North Africa, the narrative moves swiftly to the Fatimid preparations to transfer their seat of authority to Egypt, which is the primary locus of al-Maqrizi’s interest. His work provides the most comprehensive extant account of the meticulous planning and preparations that the Fatimid sovereign undertook to extend his sovereignty over Egypt.
A distinctive feature of the Itti‘az is that it preserves a number of early Fatimid decrees, letters and sermons delivered by Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz. The guarantee of safety (aman) which the Fatimid commander, Jawhar al-Siqilli (d. 381/922), issued to the Egyptian populace is one example of this. Preserved in its entirety, it delineates the principles upon which Fatimid policies in Egypt were instituted for their subsequent two-hundred-year reign. Its notable features include the perceived sacredness of the Fatimid mission, which is articulated in their divinely designated duty of care and protection of the cosmopolitan Egyptian populace. Accordingly, the document outlines the Fatimid commitment to establish just governance for all their subjects including members of the Ahl al-Kitab (The People of the Book), and their inclusive and tolerant attitude to all Muslim communities.
The origin, evolution and splintering of the Qaramita from the Fatimids form a third of this translated work. Embedded in this account is the letter to the Qaramita, ascribed to Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz, which provides one of the earliest articulations of the Fatimid notion of the imamate by an Ismaili Imam.In reviewing the reign of Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz, al-Maqrizi candidly discusses the biases permeating the reports of certain historians and provides a reasoned argument for his views. However, while al-Maqrizi’s critique of his sources is extremely valuable, he does not use criticism as a pretext to circumvent or even marginalise those authors or their writings. Instead, he draws on the full range of Sunni and Shi‘i, eastern and western, sources to present a comprehensive and balanced overview of Imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz’s reign and character.
The Fatimids 2
Origins of the Fatimids. The Fatimids in North Africa.
Al-Mu‘izz li-Din Allah 11
The accession of al-Mu‘izz. Egypt and the founding of Cairo. Al-Mu‘izz and the Qaramita. Accomplishments of al-Mu‘izz. Al-Maqrizi’s portrayal of al-Mu‘izz.
Al-Maqrizi and the Fatimids 32
Al-Maqrizi and the Ahl al-Bayt. Al-Maqrizi’s scholarship on the Fatimids. A paradoxical Fatimid scion? The Khaldunian protégé.
Note on the Translation 49
TRANSLATION OF THE TEXT FROM THE ITTI‘AZ AL-HUNAFA’ 51
Establishing the Imamate of Al-Mu‘izz 53
Jawhar’s campaign in the Maghrib. Circumcision of the Princes. Al-Mu‘izz’s counsel to the Kutama.
Preparations for the Transfer to Egypt 58
Jawhar’s march to Egypt. A test of Kutama loyalty. Al-Mu‘izz’s advice to Jawhar. Appointment of a viceroy in the Maghrib. Al-Mu‘izz exhorts the Kutama. Al-Mu‘izz’s departure for Egypt. Episode of the two Slavs. Resolution of a Hasani-Ja‘fari feud in the Hijaz.
Fatimid Administration and the Building of Cairo 66
Proclamation of the aman. Revolt of the Ikshidiyya and Kafuriyya. Jawhar’s arrival in Futsat. The foundation of Cairo. Jawhar’s first year in Egypt.
Then Began the Year 359 [969–970] 86
Jawhar’s administration of Egypt. The Fatimid invasion of Syria.
Then Began the Year 360 [970–971] 96
More on Jawhar’s administration. Qaramita incursion into Egypt.
Then Began the Year 361 [971–972] 98
The Qaramita besiege Cairo.
Then Began the Year 362 [972–973] 101
More on Jawhar’s administration. Al-Mu‘izz’s departure for Egypt.
The Arrival of Al-Mu‘izz in Egypt 104
Al-Mu‘izz leads ‘id prayer in Cairo. Inauguration of the Nile Canal. Display of the Fatimid shamsa. Celebration of ‘Id al-Ghadir.
Then Began the Year 363 [973–974] 113
The collection of land-tax. Audiences with al-Mu‘izz.
An Account of Some News on the Qaramita 122
The conversion of Hamdan Qarmat. The Qarmati leader ‘Abdan. The Qarmati leader Abu Sa‘id al-Jannabi. Abbasid attempts to curb the Qaramita.
Al-Sanadiqi [Ibn Hawshab] 139
The Ismaili-Qaramita split. The Qarmati leaders Zikrawayh and al-Hasan b. Zikrawayh. The Qarmati leader Abu Tahir al-Jannabi. The Qaramita in Iran. Fatimid forces battle the Qaramita in Syria. Al-Mu‘izz’s letter to the Qaramita. Defeat of the Qaramita in Egypt. The Qaramita defeat in Syria. The Qaramita defeat in Iraq.
The Final Phase of Al-Mu‘izz’s Reign 187
Turmoil in Damascus.
Then Began the Year 364 [974–975] 195
Demise of Prince ‘Abd Allah b. al-Mu‘izz. The rise of Aftakin in Syria. The year of the comet. The final year of al-Mu‘izz’s reign. The demise of al-Mu‘izz.
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Content Date: August 2009