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Egypt and the Imamat


Chapter 4

14th Imam Mowlana al-Muiz
15th Imam Mowlana al-Aziz
16th Imam Mowlana al-Hakim bi-Amrillah
17th Imam Mowlana az-Zahir
18th Imam Mowlana al-Mustansir bil-Lah
19th Imam Mowlana Nizar 

History of the Ismaili Imams Tarikh-e Imamat

By Al-Waez Alijah Hasan Husayn Nazar Ali

Table of Contents

Firman Mubarak
Message from The Chairman
Chapter I - Arabia and Imamat 1
Chapter II - Syria and Imamat 14
Chapter III - N.W. Africa and Imamat 21
Chapter IV - Egypt and Imamat 26
Chapter V - Alamut and Imamat 67
Chapter VI - Persia and lmamat 67
Chapter VII - Indo-Pak and lmamat 74
Chapter VIII - Mowlana Shah Karim Al-Husayni Aga Khan IV 86
Holy Ginan

MOWLANA AL-MUIZ 14th Imam 4th Fatimid Caliph - (341 A.H. - 365 A.H.)

Early Life:

Imam Abu Tamim Maad bin al-Mansoor al-Muiz Li-din-Allah was born in the Fatimid capital, Mehdiya on 11th Ramadhan, 319 A.H., during the life of Imam al-Mahdi. Imam al-Muiz got a thorough training in Ismaili religious doctrines and the fine arts. As a young Imam, he added the religious and cultural qualities to the tradition of the soldier and administrator which his forefathers had so ably set forth. He is said to have learnt seven languages, and took much interest in law, even as a young Imam. He succeeded to the Caliphate and Imamat on 28th Shawwal, 341 A.H., at the age of 22.

Preparations in North Africa for Invasion of Egypt:

Previous attempts to conquer Egypt were made in the time of Imam al-Qaim and Imam al-Mahdi. Imam al-Muiz now prepared for another invasion. Imam spent two years in having roads constructed, wells dug, rest houses built, etc., to make it easy and organized for his troops for their march towards Egypt. The ports were ready with the fleet, the bases were ready for sending reinforcements, and a big army was recruited from the Berber tribes.

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The general, Jawhar, was put in charge of the invasion. Imam al-Muiz waited until Jawhar recovered from his sickness. He visited Jawhar everyday. On the day of Jawhar's departure in 357 A.H., the Imam gave him a most honoured send-off by asking the princes and all the officials and the troops to dismount and salute the general.

Conquest of Egypt:

Qazi Jawhar reached Alexandria and after occupying it peacefully, he proceeded immediately to Fustat. There, some people decided to put up a resistance, but they were soon put down. The town finally surrendered to Jawhar, who declared a general pardon. All the officials and ' honourables came out to receive him on 18th Shaban, 358 A.H. Qazi Jawhar immediately ordered the Khutba (a speech that traditionally precedes prayers), to be read in the name of Imam al-Muiz and chose a large area near Fustat to build the new Fatimid capital.

Construction of Cairo:

The building of the new town started at the time which the astrologers thought was inauspicious, because it was governed by the planet al-Kahir (Mars). The city was named after the planet as al-Kahira (Cairo), or more fully as al-Kahira al Mahrusa (the Guarded City of Mars). The city was built according to the plan previously prepared by Imam al-Muiz himself. It contained large squares, palaces and official buildings.

Al AzharThe al-Azhar University:

One of the most important constructions in Cairo was that of the chief mosque, Jamia al-Azhar, which is the oldest mosque in the city. It set forth a style of architecture, which characteristically became Fatimid. General Jawhar himself supervised its construction. Later, in the time of Imam al-Aziz, he built a huge library and a university, which is the oldest existing university in the world.

Qazi Jawhar's Reforms in Egypt:

The evils of famine, shortage, theft, looting, etc., which are the usual consequences of war, also afflicted Egypt; it required the administrative genius of Jawhar to control and improve the situation. He made many reforms in the system of distribution of food, in suppression of corruption and in installation of officers to supervise the work.

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Imam al-Muiz's Departure from North Africa to Egypt:

Before leaving North Africa for Egypt, Imam had to make the country secure by suppressing the revolt of Muhammad bin Khizr and by appointing a governor over North Africa.

The Imam then started his journey towards Sardinia, one of his Mediterranean bases. He regulated the affairs of Sardinia and Sicily and then went to Tripoli, where a section of his army revolted. From here he proceeded to Barqa on the borders of Egypt, where two of his eminent followers died.

Imam al-Muiz arrived at Alexandria, where Commander group of prominent citizens received him. Many of the officials were honoured with gifts by the Imam. Then they proceeded towards Cairo and entered the city on 7th Ramadhan, 362 A.H. Imam took over the administration in his own hands, while Jawhar returned to his work as the Commander-in-Chief of the army.


The Fatimid Imam and Caliph held the final supreme spiritual and temporal powers in his own hands. The administration, however, was divided among various officers as follows:

a) The Vazir: He was the chief political head of the administration. Although Qazi Jawhar was the real power behind the office, the Vazirate was given to the famous Yaqub bin Killis.

b) The Qadi: The real power of this office was retained by Qadi Nauman, the celebrated author of the principle Ismaili law book, Daim al-Islam and of many other standard works on law and history which have survived to this day, and which are our main source of history of the Ismailis during the early Fatimid period.

i) The Muhtasib (anti-corruption officer): This officer belonged to the department of the Qadi. He was like a magistrate who looked into cases. He was similar to an inspector of weights and measures, public morals, markets and money changers. He was kind of an anti-corruption officer, security officer and secret olice.

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ii)  The Court of Mazalim: This was a special court set up for complaints against the officials of the administration. Its purpose was to check the high-handed rule and inefficiency.

c)  Sahib al-Kharai (Financial administrator): The financial administration was the most centrally controlled. The local revenue officers in the provinces were directly responsible to the centre.

d)  The Qaid (Commander-in-Chief): The policy of the Fatimids was to recruit loyal Berber tribes to their regular standing army and to have loyal commanders in full charge, without making any compromise on the point.

i)  Qazi Jawhar: Jawhar, originally a Sicilian, was brought in the service of Imam al-Muiz as a young slave. By his able suppression of revolts in North Africa, he earned his position of importance and through his conquest of Egypt, he became the most influential man in the whole Fatimid Empire. He was not only a good soldier, but also an able administrator; he ruled Egypt for many years until Imam al-Muiz's arrival, at which time he withdrew to his military duties and remained the Commander-in-Chief until his death in 381 A.H., during the time of Imam al-Aziz.

ii)  Navy: The Fatimids laid particular stress on the navy because of the East-West trade on which they depended and also in preparation for their invasion of Egypt. In Imam al-Mahdi's time, Sicily was made a Fatimid base, and in Imam al-Muiz's time, Crete was also added. From the very beginning, the towns of Mehdiya and Mansooriya were built as naval bases, besides Susa which was already a naval base.

A large fleet of different kinds of ships was under construction for many years in the factories at Mehdiya and Susa. Thus Imam al-Muiz prepared a solid fleet for the encirclement of Egypt via Alexandria.

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The admiral of the Fatimid fleet was called Qaid al-Qawad and had ten commanders subordinate to him. The Qaid also controlled the entire secretariat of all the armed forces.

e)  Sahib as-Shurta (the police department): The police department was made subordinate to the Courts of Law and the police were made to carry out the orders of the Qadis. The department was divided into lower and higher police, roughly corresponding to our civil and military police and were coordinated first by Jawhar himself and later by Yaqub bin Killis.

The Da'wa under Imam al-Muiz:

i)  Central Da'wa: In the time of the first four Fatimid Caliphs, the central Da'wa was actively controlled by the Imams with the help of two important people, well-versed in Ismailism, namely Qadi Nauman and Ja'far bin al-Yemeni. Imam al-Muiz appointed Dai Ja'far as the head of the entire Da'wa organization throughout the Empire, while Qadi Nauman concentrated on writing historical and legal literature.

ii)  The Da'wa in India: In India, the Da'wa began from Imam al-Mahdi's time, when Yemeni Dai, Ibn Hawshab sent his nephew Dai al-Haytham to Sind, where he preached Ismailism. From there, the Ismaili faith spread to Multan and other parts of North India, and towards Gujrat as well.

Cultural Progress:

Literature of all kinds was produced in the time of Imam al-Muiz. The center of gravity shifted to Cairo, where Fatimids became the champions of a new scientific and literary renaissance. Imam al-Muiz himself was a learned man; he knew many languages, namely, Nubian, Latin, Spanish and Slavonic. His libraries at Mansooriya and Cairo became famous for their rich treasures of books on almost any science. Learned people were given all the encouragement to use these libraries. Imam al-Muiz himself spent much of his time in the libraries reading.

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Imam al-Muiz encouraged and handsomely rewarded the writers under his patronage. We have already noted the literary output of the Da'wa as well as secular sciences of Qadi Nauman and Dai Ja'far bin Mansoor.

There were many other minor writers, Dais, as well as others. Two important poets were Ibn Hani and Tamim bin al-Muiz.


Morale and enthusiasm were kept up by the observance of various festivals of general Islamic nature; particularly those of Shia and Ismaili. Fridays and the two Idd days were the days of festivity. Moreover, the Shia festival of Idd-e-Ghadeer al-Khumm and the 10th of Muharram were also observed.

Birthdays of the Ahl-e-Bayt (the Prophet's family) and the Imams and certain important dates of the year were celebrated. Imam took part in the celebrations of the festivals. Local festivals of secular origin, like the "Flooding of the Nile" and "Navroz" (beginning of spring) were also encouraged by the Imam. Imam al-Muiz would hold huge receptions at his palace; processions were taken through the town and the whole town was illuminated.

Death of Imam al-Muiz:

After a glorious Imamat of brilliant achievements, Imam al-Muiz died on 11th Rabbi-ul-Akhar, 365 A.H., at the age of 45 years. Before his death, Imam al-Muiz appointed his son Nizar as the next Imam, who assumed the title of al-Aziz bi-Allah. The news of Imam al-Muiz's death was not announced for eight months; the Imamat and Caliphate of Imam al-Aziz was declared on Idd-ul-Azha in 365 A.H.

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 15th Imam 5th Fatimid Caliph - (365 A.H. - 386 A.H.)

Early Life:

Mowlana Abu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz bi-Allah was born on 14th Muharram, 344 A.H., at Mehdiya. He came to Egypt with his father, Imam al-Muiz, and succeeded to the Fatimid Caliphate and Imamat upon his father's death on 11th Rabbi ul-Akhar, 365 A.H. The formal declaration of his succession took place eight months later on Idd-ul-Azha in 365 A.H.

The Maghrib (North Africa):

Bulkin was ruling the Maghrib as the governor of the Fatimids. The Zanata tribe of the Berbers again tried to create trouble, but was again suppressed by Bulkin. Shortly afterwards, Bulkin died; his son Mansoor succeeded him as the governor.

Mansoor, however, got a Fatimid revenue officer killed, and also showed disloyalty to the Imam. Imam al-Aziz sent a Dai to the Kutama tribe with whose help Mansoor was to be suppressed. However, the Dai was killed and Mansoor remained in power.

In 386 A.H., both the Imam and Mansoor died and the matter of the governorship of the Maghrib remained unsettled. The next Imam, Mowlana al-Hakim appointed Mansoor's 12-year old son as the governor of Maghrib.

Vazirate - Yaqub bin Killis:

Yaqub bin Killis was a Jew from Baghdad. He went to Maghrib and entered into the service of Imam al-Muiz. The Imam appointed him his financial administrator. He carried out his work with utmost efficiency and loyalty. He came to Egypt with Jawhar's army and actually controlled the administration of Egypt.

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During the last years of Imam al-Muiz's rule and the first two years of Imam al-Aziz's Caliphate, Yaqub rose to a position of greater and wider influence and in 367 A.H., Imam al-Aziz made him the chief Vazir. We have noticed how the institution of Vazirate had developed from the small beginning in the time of Imam al-Mahdi until it became established as a recognized and distinct office of supreme importance in the time of Imam al-Muiz. Yaqub bin Killis thus became the first Chief Fatimid Vazir in the true sense of the term.

Yaqub organized the revenue administration throughout the Empire. He directed the trade of the Empire, controlled the income from different provinces and introduced a "Currency Reform", thus swelling the state treasury with enormous revenue. He encouraged religious education at Jamia al-Azhar and under his orders a regular university was instituted at al-Azhar.

In 373 A.H., he was deposed from Vazirate and imprisoned by the orders of Imam al-Aziz, as he was suspected of murder. The Imam, however, released him after a few months, returned his money and honoured him. His services towards administration of the Empire were indispensable. Yaqub bin Killis continued to serve as the Chief Vazir until he died in 380 A.H., after 15 years of service under Imam al-Aziz.

The Qadi:

After Qadi Nauman's death in 363 A.H., his son succeeded him in the office of the Chief Qadi. When the son, Aly bin Nauman, died in 374 A.H., he was followed by his brother, Muhammad bin Nauman. The new Qadi was a very learned man. He continued in the office in the time of the next Caliph, Imam al-Hakim and died in 389 A.H.

The famous General Jawhar also died in 381 A.H., during Imam al-Aziz's time.

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Death of Imam al-Aziz:

Imam al-Aziz died at Bilbays while on his way to meet the Byzantine forces in Syria. He died of a stomach ailment on Tuesday, 25th Ramadhan, 386 A.H. When on his death-bed, he called his treasurer, Barjuwani, his Qadi, Muhammad bin Nauman, and the Amir, Hasan bin Ammar and entrusted to their guardianship the next Imam, Mowlana al-Hakim, who was only 11 years old.


16th Imam 6th Fatimid Caliph - 386 A.H. - 411 A.H.)

Early Life:

Mowlana al-Hakim bi-Amrillah was born on 23rd Rabbi-ul-Awwal, 375 A.H., in Cairo. In 383 A.H., when he was only 8 years old, his father Imam al-Aziz declared him as his successor. Upon Imam al-Aziz's death in 386 A.H., Imam al-Hakim became the next Imam and Caliph at the age of 11 years. The power rested mainly with the council of guardianship in which Barjuwani and Ibn Ammar were the prominent figures.

Barjuwani, whose ethnic origin is uncertain, was in charge of the Turkish guards of the Empire. He was also the treasurer and the tutor of Imam al-Hakim, and as such, held great influence. Ibn Ammar belonged to the Kutama Berber tribe and held control over the Berber guards of the Imam. Both, Barjuwani and Ibn Ammar, were trying to depose each other and in this struggle, both of them were killed.

Imam al-Hakim boldly acknowledged responsibility at the young age of 15 years and began to take direct interest in the affairs of the state. He appointed Husayn, the son of the famous General Jawhar, as his new Vazir.

The business of the country was conducted at night, after the court. Imam al-Hakim would ride through the town to see for himself the condition of his people and to hear their complaints.

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As negligence and pleasure-making increased among his people, the Imam ordered his people to revert to conducting their business during daytime. The Ismaili laws on prohibition of certain vegetables, fish and wine, and the introduction of certain forms of prayer, were now implemented.

The Christians and Jews who were accustomed to very lenient treatment were put under certain restrictions. The Sunnis also followed many aspects of the Ismaili laws. In 394 A.H., when Imam al- Hakim was collecting large quantities of wood on Mt. Muquattam for some scientific purpose, the people panicked, thinking that probably the wood was being gathered for burning of all the opponents of the Caliph. Imam had to assure those people that he had no such intention.

Many of the restrictions, however justified, had to be removed in 397 A.H., in order to please the people. All this happened during the Vazirate of Husayn bin Jawhar, whose mismanagement had brought much discredit to the Imam. Husayn was dismissed from his position and later executed when he secretly took part in Abu Rakwa's revolt.

Abu Rakwa's Revolt:

Abu Rakwa was an Ummayyad prince from Spain who had taken refuge in North Africa with the Zanata people, the traditional enemies of the Fatimids. His original name was Walid bin Hisham; he was called Abu Rakwa because he carried a leather bottle and lived like a Darwaish. Banu Qurra on the Egyptian border joined Abu Rakwa and they occupied the town of Barqa. Imam al-Hakim sent Inai with an army to meet the forces of Abu Rakwa, but he was defeated at Barqa and killed.

When Abu Rakwa came close to Alexandria, the Imam sent an army under the faithful general Fadl bin Hasan bin Saleh, who met Abu Rakwa on the banks of the Nile. The two armies, separated only by this great river, proceeded southwards on the opposite banks, until they were just outside Cairo, where they camped. Abu Rakwa tried to stage a diversion, but his main army was defeated by Fadl and he fled to Sudan. There he pretended to be a Fatimid envoy, but when the Nubian King came to know his true identity, he handed him over to the Fatimid General Fadl, who had come to Sudan. Abu Rakwa was taken back to Cairo where he was sentenced to death.

Egypt was in a state of bankruptcy after the revolt of Abu Rakwa. The state treasury was empty, food was scarce. The Nile failed to rise and the country was caught in the clutches of famine and plague. To keep up the morale of his people, the Imam removed all the restrictions imposed upon different sects of Muslims and severely punished the Christian and Jewish revenue officials.

Abbasid Manifesto of 406 A.H.:

In the time of Abbasid Caliph, Qadir bi-Allah, an official manifesto was issued, declaring the Fatimids not to be the genuine descendants of Hazrat Aly and Fatima, but of Daysan bin Said. However, history has proved this manifesto to be a slander and not a fact.

The Institutions Under Imam Hakim bi-Amrillah:

a) Religious Contributions:

 The mosque begun by Imam al-Aziz known as Jamia al-Anwar, was completed by Imam al-Hakim in 393 A.H., and renamed Jamia al-Hakim. In the same year, Imam al-Hakim had another mosque built, known as Jamia Rashida, of which there is no trace now. At a place called Maqs, another mosque was built by the Imam, and also a group Of other mosques called Masajid Muallaqa, which have all been destroyed. A list of mosques was compiled and sum of 9,220 dirhems a month was alloted for their upkeep.

Imam al-Hakim spent large sums of money for theologians, muezzins, Quran readers and for maintaining wells, roads, hospitals and centres for providing free Kafans to the poor people. Most of the money for these and other such purposes came from Imam's private treasury.

b) Dar-ul-Ilm or Dar-ul-Hikma (Academy of Sciences):

The famous academy of sciences, called the Dar-ul-Ilm, or the Dar-ul-Hikma was built by Imam al-Hakim in 395 A.H.

It became the biggest centre learning and research in the whole Muslim world. However, the academy was destroyed by Afzal Shahin Shah, the son of Badr al-Jamali. It was later revived on a different site but was completely wiped out with the end of the Fatimid Caliphate.

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Large treasures of books were preserved there; scientists and learned men used it as an academy of sciences. People who visited Dar-ul-Ilm were provided with ink, paper and pen free of charge. Lavish gifts were given to the scholars attached to this academy.

Dar-ul-Ilm was also used as the headquarters of Da'wa, which was under Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad bin Nauman's charge.

c)Scientific Activities:

i)  A huge canal at Alexandria at the cost of 15,000 dinars.
ii) An observatory at Qarafa.
iii) The famous astronomer Ibn Yunus prepared the astronomical tables (Zij) in four volumes.
iv) The principle of a fixed calendar (not necessarily depending on the appearance of the moon), probably first adopted in the time of Imam al-Muiz, was put into practice by Imam al-Hakim.
v) Ibn Haytham: The famous scientist and engineer, Ibn Haytham, was invited toCairo by Imam al- Hakim. Ibn Haytham left his native town Basra and when he approached the limits of Cairo, the Imam came personally to receive him. Ibn Haytham was entrusted with the task of finding the source of the Nile; however, he returned from Aswan abandoning the project. Cairo, Ibn Haytham was put in charge of the scientific activities. After the death of al-Hakim, he took residence in Jamia al-Azhar and wrote many books on Scientific subjects. He died in 430 A.H. Ibn Haytham became famous due to his works on Geometry. He is known as al-Hazen in Europe

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Da'wa Under Imam al-Hakim:

The Central Da'wa:

a) Sayyedna Hamidud-din-al-Kirmani:

 Two important Dais preceded al-Kirmani as the heads of the entire Da'wa organization. Later al-Kirmani took over the charge of the central Da'wa under Imam al-Hakim.

Al-Kirmani was from the province of Kirman in Persia. It is not known when he was born. During Imam al-Hakim's time, he became the Chief Dai of Iraq and Persia.

Dai Kirmani came to Egypt after the revolt of Abu Rakwa to strengthen the Da'wa under the guidance of the Imam. He re-started the Dawat work at Dar-ul-Ilm which had temporarily closed down. Here he worked under Khatgin, who was Dai Du'at.

b) The Da'wa in India:

 Besides the central Da'wa, the Ismaili Da'wa was active in Syria, Yemen, North Africa, Persia, Iraq and India.

During this time, Northern India was the scene of great dawat activity. Multan had an Ismaili dynasty of Dais from 354 A.H., to 401 A.H.

The Last Years of Imam al-Hakim (407 A.H. - 411 A.H.)

a) Toleration:

 During these years, Imam al-Hakim gave a very liberal new deal to the Christians and Jews. Their churches were restored and rebuilt and many of the restrictions were removed. The Sunni population was allowed to pray in their own way and even the rising Druze community was not interfered with.

This toleration was, however, not appreciated by the people, and they spread a scandal about the chastity of Imam al-Hakim's sister. The Imam wanted to punish the wrongdoers, but his guards went to such an extent in their revenge that Imam had to ask them to stop the conflict.

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Another false story was spread to the effect that Imam's sister, being thus exposed of her crime in front of her brother, got the Imam killed; however, the real circumstances of Imam al-Hakim's death will be discussed later.

b) The Rise of the Druzes:

 It was during Imam al-Hakim's reign that the sect of the Druzes came into existence. The word Druze appears to have been derived from the name of Persian missionary, Muhammad bin Ismail Darazi, who arrived in Egypt in the year 407 A.H. Ismail Darazi was a Batinite who believed in the transmigration of the soul. He 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, then to Hazrat Aly until at length it had found its abode in Imam al-Hakim. All those who conformed to Darazi's teachings, became known as Druzes and are still found in very large numbers in Lebanon and other places.

c) Disappearance and Death of Imam al-Hakim bi -Ambrillah:

 In 415 A.H., a man was brought before Imam Zahir who confessed killing Imam al-Hakim for religious motives. This is an authentic report. There was a Kutami Amir, Yusuf bin Dawwas in the court of Imam al-Hakim. He was charged with corruption and was also suspected of having instigated this assassin to kill Imam al-Hakim.

It was Imam al-Hakim's custom to go out at night to his observatory at Mt.Muquattam for meditation and for observing the stars. On one such visit, he was surprised by four assassins on the way, three of whom escaped. The one who was caught was brought to Imam az-Zahir, together with the blood stained shirt of Imam al-Hakim.

The later Christian historians spread a malicious story, which was reproduced by many Muslim writers, that the Imam's sister, Sitt-al-Mulk, was in love with Yusuf bin Dawwas. This matter had come to the knowledge of the Imam, but before Imam al-Hakim could take any action, his sister conspired with Yusuf to have her brother, the Imam, killed.

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The Druzes believe that Imam al-Hakim did not die, but was taken away from Mt. Muquattam to the high heavens. They believe that he still lives in concealment and will reveal himself in due time when the world is ready for him.

Character and Personality of Imam al-Hakim:

Tall, fair and strong, with sparkling blue eyes and grave face, Imam al-Hakim had a towering personality, which imposed its stamp of genius on every person he came across. He was brave, generous, learned and a just ruler. Imam al-Hakim's reign was marked not only by revolts, but also by the scarcity of rains and by famine and plague. How he maintained his authority through all these difficulties is a wonder.


7th Fatimid Caliph (411 A.H. - 427 A.H.)

Early Life and Succession:

Mowlana Abu Maad Ali az-Zahir was born in Cairo on 3rd Ramadhan, 395 A.H. When his father Imam al-Hakim died on 27th Shawwal, 411 A.H., Imam az-Zahir was 17 years of age. Before his death, Imam al-Hakim had already appointed az-Zahir to succeed him as the next Imam.

The news of Imam al-Hakim's death and Imam az-Zahir's succession were kept secret from the people for three months according to the usual Fatimid tradition, for the sake of security and unity. In the month of Safar, 412 A.H., it was publicly announced that Imam az-Zahir had succeeded his father to the Imamat and the Fatimid Caliphate. Imam took the title of az-Zahir li-Aziz din-Allah.

Sitt al-Mulk:

Because the Imam was still young, his aunt, i.e. Imam al-Hakim's sister, Sitt al-Mulk, ruled the Empire for five years i.e. until 416 A.H., when she died. After that, Imam az-Zahir took the reigns of Government in his own hands. At that time he was 22 years old.

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Saif-ad-Dawla Yusuf bin Dawwas:

We have seen in the previous chapter that Saif-ad-Dawla was responsible for getting Imam al-Hakim killed. (It should be noted that Saif-ad-Dawla was not the killer, but one who may have instigated the killing.) Saif-ad-Dawla was a powerful Amir and could not be dealt with immediately. So Sitt al-Mulk waited for an opportunity to avenge her brother, Imam al-Hakim's death. One day, she invited Saif-ad-Dawla to the palace to present him with gifts. However, on his return journey from the palace, she sent a party of slaves to surprise Saif-ad-Dawla and kill him. This was done in 412 A.H.

Council of Administration:

The Caliphate of Imam az-Zahir was not safe in the hands of the Vazirs and Sitt al-Mulk had to deal with them firmly. Before her death in 416 A.H., Sitt al-Mulk appointed an administrative council. Imam az-Zahir did not interfere much in the affairs of the administration which were being looked after by the appointed council.


The year 416 A.H., saw the beginning of a terrible famine in Egypt, because the Nile did not rise. The famine lasted for three years; there were no crops; bread was almost impossible to get; animals became so scarce (a cow was sold for 50 dinars), that their slaughter was prohibited by law. Looting and rioting prevailed throughout the country; the army could not be paid; officials fell out with each other; even the pilgrims going to Mecca were attacked and looted; the slaves revolted and became the most dangerous. The Caliph, Imam az-Zahir appealed to the rich for funds, but very little came forth. However, in 418 A.H., the Nile began to rise, the country returned to normal and order was restored.

Syria, Byzantium, and Iraq:

 Because of the insecure conditions in Egypt due to famine, the Syrian towns were getting out of Fatimid control. Before Imam az-Zahir could deal with them, he saw it fit to conclude a truce with Constantine VIII of Byzantine.

After establishing peace with Byzantium in 418 A.H., Imam al-Zahir turned his attention to Syria and brought it under Fatimid rule once more.

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In 425 A.H., Imam az-Zahir sent a group of Dais to Iraq. In Baghdad, they were very successful in converting a large section of people to Ismailism.

Last Days:

Imam az-Zahir is known for his liberal and just rule. Under his Caliphate, the people led a prosperous life, except for the terrible years of famine. He had an artistic temperament and he encouraged art and music. He established a school for slaves in which they were taught the art of fighting and many other crafts. He opened an armament factory in which 3,000 employees worked. He built the Lulu palace and had a hobby of collecting precious stones.

In 427 A.H., Imam az-Zahir caught the plague; he was taken to the "Garden of the Strand" at Maqs and from there to port of Cairo, where he died on 15th of Shaban, leaving the Caliphate and Imamat to his son Mustansir, who was then seven years of age. Imam az-Zahir was 32 at the time of his death; he had ruled for 16 years.


8th Fatimid Caliph - (427 A.H. - 487 A.H.)

Early Life:

a) Accession: In Cairo, there were two Jewish merchants, Abu Saad and his brother. Imam az-Zahir had bought a Sudani slave woman from Abu Saad and had married her. By her he got a son who was named Maad. He was born on 16th Ramadhan, 420 A.H. Eight months later, in 421 A.H., Imam az-Zahir appointed Maad as his successor. On this occasion, Imam az-Zahir gave robes of honour as a gift to nobles and spent a large amount on charity.

When Imam az-Zahir died on 18th Shaban, 427 A.H., his Vazir Jarjarai, in accordance with the previous "nass", took an oath of allegiance from the people for Imam Maad who now adopted the title of al-Mustansir bil-Lah (i.e. the seeker of help from Allah). Thus Imam al-Mustansir came to the throne of Imamat and Caliphate while he was only seven years old.

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b) Queen Mother and the Early vazirs

Since Imam Mustanisir bil-Lah was very young, his mother and her former master, Abu Saad, began to take undue interest in the affairs of the state. As long as Vazir Jarjarai lived, their interference was kept in check.

Jarjarai was a vazir of long standing. He had served under Imam al-Aziz, Imam al-Hakim and Imam az-Zahir and was responsible for successfully installing al -Mustansir on the throne. During his vazirate, Egypt saw peace and prosperity. He died in 436 A.H.

After Jarjarai's death, the influential merchant Abu Saad began his intrigue for power. Dai Muayyad who witnessed Abu Saad's interference, writes, "The Jew (Abu Saad) was outwardly in her (Queen Mother's) service, but in reality had full control of the state." However, Vazir Sadaqa got tired of Abu Saad's overbearing attitude and had him and his brother assassinated. This enraged Imam's mother and she ordered the assassination of Sadaqa, who was followed by two other vazirs. This confusion and chaos finally halted with the appointment of Yazuri, whose administration lasted for eight years, a period of prosperity, efficiency and reforms.

Sikkin the Pretender:

In 434 A.H., a man named Sikkin, who had great physical resemblance to Imam-al-Hakim, declared that he was Imam al-Hakim himself and that he was in hiding after his disappearance in 411 A.H. He gathered some followers and attacked the palace built by Imam al-Hakim but was soon captured and put to death.

The Maghrib (North Africa) and the Eastern Trade:

a) Loss of North Africa:

North Africa gradually became divided into various Shiite and non-Shiite groups and became independent of the Fatimids forever. North Africa was always a liability to the Fatimid Caliphate and now that it had become independent, no effort was made to regain it. However, this had a great effect on the trade policy of the Fatimid State, which we shall examine later.

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b) Loss of Sicily:

 Loss of North Africa affected Sicily also. Fatimid contact with Sicily was mainly through North Africa. When the link snapped, the contact was broken. Thus Muslim Empire in Sicily came to an end and this also affected the Fatimid trade policy towards the west.

c) Diversion of Trade:

 The Fatimid trade was diverted from the west to the east because of the loss of North Africa and the advance of the Saljuqs, which resulted in the thickening of rivalry with the Abbasids and the capture of Baghdad and the decline of the Fatimid Empire.

The Yazuri Administration:

Abu Muhammad Hasan Yazuri became vazir in 442 A.H., and remained in office until 450 A.H. These eight years of his vazirate were marked by peace and prosperity in the country. He was a poor fisherman's son, originally from Yazur. He rose from position to position until he became the Qadi of Egypt. He was subsequently made Chief Dai also. He introduced the policy of agricultural reforms and for that he needed to suppress the factional quarrel and corruption at home and to discontinue the policy of territorial expansion abroad. Although his noble aim kept him in office for eight years, the steps he took towards achieving it, created serious differences of opinion and brought his downfall. In 449 A.H., Yazuri died. It is said that he was poisoned by the order of the Queen Mother. According to another version, he was executed.

Visit of Dai Muayyad:

A Persian Dai, by the name of al-Muayyad Fid-Din as-Shirazi, born in Shiraz of an Ismaili family, had been a Fatimid Dai in Persia and Iraq. He started from Persia in 438 A.H., and arrived in Cairo in 439 A.H. From then on he played a very important role in Fatimid service.

On his arrival in Cairo, he found the administration in a state of chaos. Muayyad, who was the most qualified to become the Chief Dai, was constantly frustrated in his ambition. First Yazuri took over the Da'wa from Ibn Nauman and appointed Muayyad only as his secretary to write lectures (Majalis) for him. Then when his work increased and Yazuri had to give up the Da'wa, Ibn Nauman was brought back and Muayyad, for the second time, was disappointed. After Ibn Nauman's death, his son became the Chief Dai and Muayyad was put in charge of only a section of the secretariat. Shortly afterwards, he was sent away on an expedition against Baghdad.

When he returned in 449 A.H., the situation had not changed much. Yazuri had died and the country was in a state of chaos. He did not receive the welcome he deserved. Muayyad continued with his religious duties in retirement. In 450 A.H., he was appointed the Chief Dai. In 453 A.H., he was sent to Syria in exile by the Vazir. He returned to Cairo in 454 A.H., and the Imam put him in charge of organizing the Fatimid Da'wa abroad.

The period of 454 A.H. to 459 A.H., was a period of chaos and famine, but Dai Muayyad passed it in conference with Dai Lamak at the Dar-ul-Ilm, reorganizing the entire Fatimid Da'wa of the world. Muayyad remained in charge of the entire Da'wa until his death in 470 A.H. He wrote most of his works during his last years of life.

Visit of Dai Nasir Khusraw:

Nasir Khusraw, born in Khurasan in 394 A.H., resided mostly in Balkh, from where he made many journeys. He belonged to Shii Sayyed family of government officials. In his youth, he wrote poems. He was comparatively a less educated man, nevertheless, held a great appeal for the masses. He started on a long journey in 437 A.H., which brought him to Egypt in 439 A.H.

As his work was intended for general reading, he was cautious when referring to the deeper matters of religion. Nevertheless, he made it very clear that he believed in the allegorical interpretation (hidden meaning) of the Quran. He accepted the Fatimid Caliph as the true Imam and adhered wholeheartedly to the doctrines of the Fatimid sect. His book gives us a vivid picture of Egypt. He gives a most glowing description not only of the splendours of the Fatimid court, but of the extraordinary wealth and prosperity of Cairo and of the Bazaars and their merchants. His visit to Egypt inspired him to such an extent that from then onwards, he completely devoted his time to missionary work for the Fatimids. The Ismailis of Central Asia consider Nasir Khusraw as their patron saint even to this day.

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The Palace of Imam Mustansir bil-Lah

Nasir Khusraw gives us a glowing description of Imam's palace. He says that he had an occasion to see the palace the festival of Idd in 441 A.H. The grounds of the palace were as big as the town of Mayyafariqin. It had a mountain like palace in its midst, a building on each side of it called the Little Palace and the Great Palace, with a huge square in front where thousands of troops could parade. Palace guards numbered 500 foot guards and 500 horsemen. So 30,000 people lived in the palace, of whom 12,000 were servants.

The Caliph's throne was 12 feet high and gilded on three sides. It had engravings of hunting scenes and inscriptions in beautiful hand. It had delicate furnishing of silk from Constantinople and steps of silver. The throne glowed with different lights from different angles. Nasir Khusraw remarked that a whole book could be devoted to the description of the throne alone.

From the palace ran a huge tunnel opening outside the palace grounds. Through it, a person could ride on horseback. This tunnel was used by the Caliph (Imam).

Nasir ad-Dawla's Mischief:

Nasir ad-Dawla was appointed the governor of Syria, but on account of his inefficiency, he was deposed and recalled to Cairo, where he was put in charge of the Turkish regiment of the Fatimid Army. He bidded his time for revenge against the Caliph, Imam Mustansir bil-Lah.

Though deposed in Cairo, he was able to hold his own in Alexandria, where he had the support of the Arab and Berber tribes. Nasir ad-Dawla attacked Cairo, which was defended by the rival Turkish guards. After burning part of Cairo and conquering the defenders, Nasir ad-Dawla entered the City as a conqueror.

After his victory over the unhappy city, Nasir ad-Dawla became so overbearing and tyrannical in his conduct that he provoked even his own followers, and was eventually assassinated in 466 A.H.

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Invitation to Badr-al-Jamali:

The country was torn between the Turkish and the Sudani soldiers, between famine and plague and between the loot and plunder by adventurers like Nasir ad-Dawla. Vazirs followed one after the other in quick succession. There was hardly anyone in the country who could restore it to peace and prosperity. A person with tremendous courage and ability was needed to save the day. At this time, the Imam thought of one such person, Badr al-Jamali, the Fatimid governor of Akka, whom the Imam invited to Cairo. Badr al-Jamali came to Cairo on lmam's instructions and accomplished what he was required to do.

Imam Mustansir bil-Lah's Last Days:

After the death of Dai Muayyad and Dai Nasir Khusraw, the Persian Dai Hasan bin Sabbah came to Egypt in 471 A.H., during Badr al-Jamali's vazirate. Hasan bin Sabbah asked the Imam who his successor would be and the Imam named Shah Nizar as his successor. Badr al-Jamali, however, wanted to see Mustaali, the younger son of the Imam as the next Imam. Badr al-Jamali's and Hasan bin Sabbah's groups clashed on this issue, and Hasan bin Sabbah was expelled from Egypt. Badr al-Jamali, however, did not live to install Mustaali on the throne, for he died a month before Imam Mustansir bil-Lah's death. Imam Mustansir bil-Lah died in Zul-Hijja, 487 A.H.

The Bohras:

After Badr al-Jamali's death, his son, Afzal Shahin Shah, was appointed as the next vazir. Upon Imam Mustansir bil-Lah's death, Afzal Shahin Shah installed Mustaali on the Fatimid throne and the Ismailis became divided into two groups, one accepting the Imamat of Imam Nizar, who was the eldest son of Imam Mustansir bil-Lah and the other supporting Mustaali, the second son, who also claimed the Imamat. The followers of Mustaali are known by the name of "Bohras". Only two more Bohra Imams succeeded Mustaali, and the line of Bohra Imamat came to an end with Tayyeb, who the Bohras believe went into hiding.

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18th IMAM


MOWLANA MUSTANSIR BIL-LAH - MUSTAALI (Bohras) - AMIR - TAYYEB (who the Bohras believe went into hiding (ghayeb)

MOWLANA NIZAR 19th Imam - (487 A.H. - 490 A.H.)

Dai Hasan bin Sabbah was told by Imam Mustansir bil-Lah that his successor would be his eldest son Nizar. This brought Hasan bin Sabbah into conflict with Badr al-Jamali, who ordered Hasan bin Sabbah's arrest; however, Hasan bin Sabbah succeeded in escaping from the prison. He first went to Alexandria and then to Syria, from where he proceeded to Persia. From 473 A.H. to 487 A.H., he preached the Imamat of Imam Mustansir bil-Lah in Persia and Khurasan, where he was appointed as the Chief Dai.

After Imam Mustansir bil-Lah's death in 487 A.H., Dai Hasan bin Sabbah did not accept Mustaali's rule, but declared Imam Nizar as the rightful heir, thus making Persian Ismailis independent of the Fatimid Caliphate. He then began to make a Nizari state in Persia. Hasan bin Sabbah lived in a territory which was surrounded by the Saljuq power. Saljuqs were orthodox Sunnis and wanted to destroy all traces of Ismailism. In spite of their opposition, Hasan bin Sabbah succeeded in occupying Alamut, which was in the mountains of Elburz. He built strong fortresses on top of Alamut and set up Ismaili rule there.

Although in Egypt Badr al-Jamali's son had managed the succession of Mustaali to the Fatimid throne, Dai Hasan bin Sabbah continued upholding the right of Imam Nizar against the claim of Mustaali. He had been told to do so by Imam Mustansir bil-Lah himself. This meant independence from Fatimid discipline just as he was independent of the Abbasid rule.

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In his "History of the Ismailis", A.S. Picklay says, "Although Nizar was the rightful claimant to the throne after his father's death, his younger brother (Mustaali), supported by his father-in-law, the chief Vazir, usurped all the power." He further writes, "Mustaali, feeling insecure during Nizar's existence, plotted against him (Imam Nizar) and finally succeeded in making him a prisoner along with his two sons."

In Egypt, Imam Nizar continued his struggle up to 490 A.H., when he was killed. There have been some incorrect theories that Imam Nizar came to Alamut. Actually, he did not, but his son and successor, Imam Hadi, was brought to Alamut from Egypt by Abdul Hasan Saidi, a trusted Dai of Imam Nizar. Thus the Egyptian period of Ismaili Imams came to an end.

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Fatimid Mausoleum Unearthed
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