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The Proclamation of the Fatimid Caliphate

Compiled by: Syed Muhammad Bokreta
Algiers, Algeria

*Further to the consecutive repression by both the Ommayad and Abbasid dynasties against the Descendants of the Household of the Beloved Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) or Ahl Al Bait as popularly known, the area of Central Maghrib became an asylum land for the Blessed Ahl Al Bait Descendants, the great tragedy of Kerbala on the 10th of October 680, 10 Moharram 61 and the other big drama that had occurred in Fakh in the 762 year in which two of the most prominent of Imam Hassan‘s progeny were martyred: Mohamed Annafs Azzakiya and later on Al Hussain Ibn Ali Al Abid led to earnest thought and ever increasing demand from Muslims in Hidjaz that the outcome lied in emigrating to the Maghrib.
* Idriss , Mohamed’s Annafs Azzakiya brother went to Volubilis or Zerhoun Mount what is now present Morocco while his brother Suleyman took refuge in Ain Al Hut, near Tlemcen in western Algeria , where the Noble Prophet’s great grandson laid the foundations of the oldest Mosque in Central Maghrib in a place called Aghadhir(Tlemcen, Western Algeria), from where he made his celestial messages of his blessed forefathers until his death in 795, thus conveying this Divine energy from his Noble lineage, as all the other branches have inherited the majestic Alawi and Fatimi genealogical tree.
* Abu Abdallah Al Hussain bin Mohamed bin Zakiraya, commonly known as Abu- Abdallah Al Shi’i was hailed from Kufa, where he had been an inspector of weights and measures, after settling in Yemen for further training in Islamici esoteric doctrines as well as affairs of the state and during a trip to Makkah for Hajj, he contacted the Kutama pilgrims of the Maghrib who were lodging in Mina, and impressed them with his vast knowledge about the merits of Ahl Al Bait, hence he gained the admiration of his fellow travellers as he was taking the route to Egypt, after a short stay in Egypt, he reached the Maghrib in the Kutama homeland (Present Jijel & Bijaya- Eastern Algeria) on the 03rd of June 893.
*It is worthy noting, that the name Maghrib (the land of sunset) was given by the Arabs to that virgin part of Africa, the Europeans called it Barbery or Africa minor (the French Afrique du nord), whereas the word Berber is derived from Latin as Barbari, an appellation equivalent to the English Barbarian”, which the Romans used to call peoples who spoke neither Latin or Greek. The great Muslim Sociologist Ibn Khaldun distinguished three major divisions among the Berbers , the Zanata, Sanhadja and Masmuda; the Zanata whose original home was in Tripolitania and southern Tunisia were predominantly nomadic, the Sanhadja were split into two main branches: the Kabylia Berbers , who were sedentary and the nomadic Zanaga whose traditional home had been the western Sahara desert, the Masmuda were the sedentary Berbers of Morocco, so it was the Kutama Berbers (Eastern Algeria) who were deeply influenced by the cause of Ahl Al Bait therefore took a prominent role in the foundation of the Fatimid Caliphate in the Maghrib.
* Abu Abdallah established his base in Ikjan (the Tzajjan of the Romans) between Bejaia and Setif, a mountain stronghold that dominated the pilgrimage route and spent seven years in propagating the cause of Ahl Al Bait among the old people as well as the youths of the Berber tribes, he completely swayed a large body of Berber tribesmen amongst whom the Kutama tribe was very powerful and prominent. The report of the tremendous popularity of Abu Abdallah began to filter through to the Aghlabid ruler Ibrahim bin Ahmad in neighbouring Tunisia, who wrote to his governor of Meila to subdue Abu Abdallah, but of no avail the latter ‘s success in overcoming the major internal opposition movements led to a confidence that the mission organisation as well as the basic framework of the state were clearly emerging with optimistic good results, he therefore deputed some prominent leaders of Kutama tribe led by his brother Abul Abbas in Salamia in Syria and sent an invitation to Said ibn Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Ismail ibn Jaffar Assadiq ibn Mohamed Al Baqir ibn Ali Zayn Al Abidin ibn Al Hussain ibn Ali Ibn Abi Taleb and Fatima bint Mohamed (PBUH) who was hailed as the Mahdi and took the name of Ubaid Allah in order to take over the reigns of the new Caliphate.
*Al Mahdi rode into Raqada (Tunisia) from there to Ikjan (Algeria) a certain date of the 09th of January 910 and laid the first foundations of the Fatimid Caliphate, all the notables both Arabs and non-Arabs and many other people came out to receive him, he took oath of allegiance from them and began to develop the barren land of Maghrib he dominated while imposing strict Islamic laws.
*Al Mahdi built a new capital in Tunisia named Mahdia after himself, his controversial execution of Abu Abdallah al Shi’i one year after led to a short –lived rebellion among many tribes who had first supported the Fatimid claims, then he gradually went to rule from his fortress capital of Mahdia his reign was extended to a 24 year period until his death in 934.
*It would be important to stress that the Fatimid state was so central that the great Arab Sociologist Ibn Khaldoun counted the Fatimids among the Berber dynasties. The Fatimids existed during the Islamic Golden Age,and Abdullāh al-Mahdi's control soon extended over all of central Maghrib, an area consisting of the modern countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, which he ruled from Mahdia, his newly built capital in Tunisia.
*Under Al-Muizz Lideenillah, the Fatimids entered Egyptin the late 10th century, conquering the Ikhshidid dynasty, and founding a new capital at Al-Qāhira (Cairo) in 969. The name was a reference to the planet Mars, "The Subduer", which was prominent in the sky at the moment that city construction started. Cairo was intended as a royal enclosure for the Fatimid caliph and his army, though the actual administrative and economic capital of Egypt was in cities such as Fustat until 1169. After Egypt, the Fatimids continued to conquer the surrounding areas until they ruled from Tunisia to Syria, and even ruling Sicily, and southern parts of the Italian Peninsula.
*Under the Fatimids, Egypt became the centre of an empire that included at its peak North Africa, Sicily, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Red Sea coast of Africa, Hejaz, and Yemen. Egypt flourished, and the Fatimids developed an extensive trade network in both the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Their trade and diplomatic ties extended all the way to China and its Song Dynasty, which eventually determined the economic course of Egypt during the High Middle Ages.
*The Fatimid focus on long-distance trade was accompanied by a lack of interest in agriculture and a neglect of the Nile irrigation system,unlike other governments in the area, Fatimid advancement in state offices was based more on merit than on heredity. Members of other branches of Islam, like the Sunnis, were just as likely to be appointed to government posts as Shiites. Tolerance was extended to non-Muslims such as Christians, and Jews, who occupied high levels in government based on ability. However tolerance was set into place to ensure the flow of money from all those who were non-Muslims too in order to finance the Fatimids Caliphs' large army of Mamluks brought in from Circassia by Genoese merchants.
* There were, however, exceptions to this general attitude of tolerance, most notably Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah although this has been highly debated, with Al-Hakim's reputation among medieval Muslim historians conflated with his role in the Druze faith.
*The Fatimids were also known to a great extent for their exquisite arts. A type of ceramic, lustreware, was prevalent during the Fatimid period. Glassware and metalworking was also popular. Many traces of Fatimid architecture exist in Cairo today, the most defining examples include the Al Azhar University and the Al Hakim mosque. The Al Azhar University was the first university in the East and perhaps the oldest in history. It was founded by Caliph Muizz and was one of the highest educational facilities of the Fatimid Empire.
*The Fatimid palace in Cairo had two parts. It stood in the Khan el-Khalili area at Bin El-Quasryn street, as for the Fatimids military was originally based largely on the KutamaBerber Tibesmen of Eastern Algeria brought with them on their march to Egypt, and they remained an important part of the Fatimid military even after Tunisia itself began to break away, after their successful establishment in Egypt, local forces were also incorporated into their army, though they remained a relatively minor part of the Fatimid (and in fact, succeeding dynasties as well) forces.
*A fundamental change occurred when the Fatimid Caliph attempted to push into Syria in the later half of the 10th century, here they were faced with the now Turkish dominated forces of the Abbasid Caliph and the powerful Byzantium armies, and began to realize the limits of their current military, thus during the reign of Abu Mansoor Nizar al-Aziz Billah and Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah the Caliph began incorporating armies of Turks and later Black Africans (even later, other groups such as Armenians were also used).
*The army units were generally separated along ethnic lines, thus the Berbers were usually the light cavalry / foot skirmishers, while the Turks would be the horse archers or heavy cavalry (known as Mamluks), and the black Africans, Syrians, and Arabs generally acted as the heavy infantry and foot archers. This ethnic based army system, along with the partial slave status of many of the imported ethnic fighters, would remain fundamentally unchanged in Egypt many centuries after the Fatimid caliph's fall.
*While the ethnic based army was generally successful on the battlefields, they began to have negative effects on the Fatimid's internal politics, traditionally the Berber element of the army had the strongest sway over political affairs, but as the Turkish element grew more powerful they began to challenge this, and eventually by 1020 serious riots began to break out among the Black African troops who were fighting back against a Berber/ Turks Alliance.
*By 1060s, the tentative balance between the different ethnic groups within the Fatimid army collapsed as Egypt was suffering through a serious span of drought and famine, the declining resources accelerated the problems between the different ethnic factions and outright civil war began, primarily the Turks and Black African troops were fighting each other while the Berbers shifted alliance in between.
* The Turkish forces of the Fatimid army would end up seizing most of Cairo held the city and Caliph at ransom while the Berbers troops and remaining Sudanese forces roam the other parts of Egypt, making an already bad situation much worse.
*By 1072 the Fatimid Caliph Abū Tamīm Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah in a desperate attempt to save Egypt recalled the general Badr al-Jamali whom was at the time the governor of Acre, Palestine. Badr al-Jamali led his troops into Egypt and was able to successfully suppress the different groups of the rebelling armies, largely purging the Turks in the process.
*Although the Caliphate was saved from immediate destruction, the decade long rebellion devastated Egypt and it was never able to regain much power. As a result of this event, Badr al-Jamali was also made into the vizier of the Fatimid caliph, becoming one of the first military viziers that would dominate the late Fatimid politics.
* As the military viziers effectively became heads of state, the Caliph himself was reduced to the role of a figure head. Badr al-Jamali's son, Al-Afdal Shahanshah, succeeded him in power as vizier.
*In the 1040s, the Berber Zirids (governors of present Algeria under the Fatimids) declared their independence from the Fatimids and their recognition of the Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad, which led the Fatimids to launch devastating the ever Famous Bani Hillal Horsemen invasions.
*After about 1070, the Fatimid hold on the Levant coast and parts of Syria was challenged first by Turkic invasions, then the Crusades, so that Fatimid territory shrank until it consisted only of Egypt.
*The reliance on the Iqta system also ate into Fatimid central authority, as more and more the military officers at the further ends of the empire became semi-independent and were often a source of problems.
*After the decay of the Fatimid political system in the 1160s, the Zengid ruler Nūr ad-Dīn had his general Shirkuh, seize Egypt from the vizier Shawar in 1169. Shirkuh died two months after taking power, and the rule went to his nephew, Salah Eddine, thus began the Ayyubid Sultanate of Egypt and Syria and the fall of the Fatimid Caliphate.*Fatimid caliphs
1. Abū Muḥammad ʻAbdul-Lāh al-Mahdī bi'llāh (909-934) founder Fatimid dynasty
2. Abū l-Qāsim Muḥammad al-Qā'im bi-Amr Allāh (934-946)
3. Abū Ṭāhir Ismā'il al-Manṣūr bi-llāh (946-953)
4. Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mu'izz li-Dīn Allāh (953-975) Egypt is conquered during his reign
5. Abū Manṣūr Nizār al-'Azīz bi-llāh (975-996)
6. Abū 'Alī al-Manṣūr al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh (996-1021)
7. Abū'l-Ḥasan 'Alī al-Ẓāhir li-I'zāz Dīn Allāh (1021–1036)
8. Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh (1036–1094)
9. al-Musta'lī bi-llāh (1094–1101) Quarrels over his succession led to the Nizari split.
10. al-Āmir bi-Aḥkām Allāh (1101–1130)
11. 'Abd al-Majīd al-Ḥāfiẓ (1130–1149)
12. al-Ẓāfir (1149–1154)
13. al-Fā'iz (1154–1160)
14. al-'Āḍid (1160–1171).

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