The Fatimid Caliphs of Egypt
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
Abu Taher al-Jannabi, the chief of the Ismaili sub-sect called Qarameta
On 8th of the Islamic month of Zil-Hajjah in 317 AH, Abu Taher al-Jannabi, the chief of the Ismaili sub-sect called Qarameta, in a ruthless attack on the holy city of Mecca during the Hajj, massacred pilgrims, desecrated the Well of Zamzam by throwing their corpses into it, sacrilegiously ripped apart the Hajar al-Aswad or the Sacred Black Stone from the holy Ka'ba, and took it to his base in the eastern parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The world of Islam was shocked. Some 22 years later, the Hajar al-Aswad was returned to the holy Ka'ba by paying a heavy ransom through the mediation of the Fatemid caliph of North Africa.
Afzal Shahanshah, the famous vizier of the Fatemid Shi'ite Dynasty of Egypt-North Africa-Syria-Hijaz
On December 11, 1121 AD, al-Afzal Shahanshah, the famous vizier of the Fatemid Ismaili Shi'ite Dynasty of Egypt-North Africa-Syria-Hijaz, who brought about the Ismaili split into the Musta'li and Nizari sects that still persists, was assassinated at the age of 55. Born in Acre in Palestine, he was the son of Badr al-Jamali, an Armenian convert to Islam who was vizier of the Fatemids for 20 years from 1074 until his death in 1094, when Afzal succeeded him. The 8th ruler and 18th self-styled caliph, Ma'ad al-Mustansir-Billah, died soon afterwards, and Afzal by-passed the elder son Nizar and installed as caliph, the younger son al-Musta'li, who was a child. Nizar revolted and was defeated in 1095.
His supporters fled eastwards. In Iran, the Cairo-trained Iranian Ismaili missionary, Hassan Sabbah (a close confidant of Nizar during his stay in Egypt), established in mountainous Alamout the Nizari community – whose present leader is Karim Agha Khan who lives in Europe and styles himself as the 49th Imam.
At this time Fatemid power in the Levant had been reduced by the arrival of the Seljuq Turks. In 1097, Afzal captured Tyre from the Seljuqs and in 1098 retook Bayt al-Moqaddas, thus restoring most of Palestine to Fatemid control. A year later in 1099 the Fatemids lost Bayt ol-Moqaddas to the Crusader invaders from Europe, whom Afzal Shahanshah misunderstood to be nothing more than Byzantine mercenaries. This misperception, coupled with his slow march from Cairo with a large army of Egyptians, Berbers, Iranians, Turks, Armenians, Kurds, and Ethiopians, resulted in the loss of the Battle of Ascalon (Asqalan in Arabic), although the Fatemids continued to hold this city, which is near Gaza.
The death of Afzal Shahanshah started the decline of the Fatemid Empire, which fifty years later, was seized by the Kurdish adventurer Salah od-Din Ayyubi. The present Musta’li leader is the Mumbai-based Dai al-Mutlaq Sayf od-Din.
The Fatemid Caliph’s name in the Friday Prayer Sermon in the mosque of Constantinople
On December 15,1025 AD, the Byzantine Emperor, Basil II, died at the age of 67, after a reign of almost 50 years, during which he somewhat extended the shrinking borders of the Eastern Roman Empire by crushing the Bulgars, taking control of southern Italy and regaining from the Abbasid caliphate some of the territories lost in Anatolia and northern Syria. He, however, came into conflict with the Fatemid Ismaili Shi'ite Dynasty of Egypt-North Africa-Hijaz-Syria, resulting in inconclusive wars in Syria that led to a 7-year truce, followed by a ten-year truce.
The terms of the truce were exchange of prisoners, the recognition of the Byzantine emperor as protector of the Christians in lands under Fatemid rule, and the recognition of the Fatemid Caliph as protector of the Muslims living in lands under Byzantine control, as well as the replacement of the Abbasid Caliph's name by that of the Fatemid Caliph in the Friday Prayer Sermon in the mosque of Constantinople. It is not known whether the Azaan (call to the daily ritual prayer) at the mosque of Constantinople replaced the Baghdad version with the version of Cairo, where the Fatemids had restored the phrase of the Prophet’s days “hayya ala khayr-il-amal” (hasten towards the best of deeds), in addition to bearing testimony to the God-given authority (wilayah) of Imam Ali (AS), after testifying the monotheism of the One and Only God and the mission of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA).
The 8th caliph of the Fatemid Ismaili Shi'ite Dynasty of Egypt-North-Africa-Syria-Hijaz
On January 10, 1094 AD, the 8th self-styled caliph of the Fatemid Ismaili Shi'ite Dynasty of Egypt-North-Africa-Syria-Hijaz, Abu Tamim Ma'ad al-Mustansir-Billah, died in his capital Cairo, at the age of 65, after a reign of 58 years. He was only 7 when he succeeded his father, Abu'l-Hassan Ali az-Zahir, and in the early years of his rule, his mother administered state affairs. The Iranian philosopher-poet, Hibatullah ibn Musa Mu'ayyad fi'd-Din ash-Shirazi, served him as the "da‘i" (chief missionary), eventually attaining the highest rank of "Bab al-Abwab" (Gate of Gateways). Son of Musa Ibn Dawoud, the chief Ismaili missionary in the Fars region of Iran, he was the main ideologue and was also in charge of the "Dar al-Ilm" (House of Knowledge) in Cairo, where missionaries from both inside and outside the Fatemid Empire were trained. In the last twenty years of Mustansir's reign, following the death of Mu'ayyad Shirazi in 1078, the caliph's Grand Vizier and head of the armed forces, the Armenian Muslim, Badr al-Jamali, became the supreme temporal authority, and succeeded in taming the turbulent Turkic Mamluks, who through constant infighting, had drained the treasury and destroyed the famous library of the Fatemids, scattering precious books and even using them to light fires. Many Iranians served in various capacities in the Fatemid in Cairo, including the Arabic Grammarian Taher Ibn Ahmad Ibn Babshad.