Afzal Shahanshah, the famous vizier of the Fatimid Ismaili Dynasty
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
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.