az-Zāhir li-iʿzāz dīn Allāh

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Abū l-Hasan ʿAlī ibn al-Hākim ( Arabic أبو الحسن علي بن الحاكم, DMG Abū l-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn al-Ḥākim ; with the ruler's name az-Zāhir li-iʿzāz dīn Allāh (الظاهر لإعزاز دين الله / aẓ-Ẓāhir li-iʿzāz dīn Allāh  / 'who appears to exalt the religion of God'), born. June 20, 1005 ; died June 13, 1036 ) was from 1021 until his death the seventh caliph of the Fatimids and the seventeenth Imam of the Shia of the Ismailis .


Early years

Prince Ali was the second-born son of the caliph al-Hakim , but his older half-brother had died in childhood, so that he was the only son. Both on his father's side and on his mother's side, he was of Fatimid descent, since his mother Amina, the daughter of Prince Abdallah (d. 975), was a granddaughter of the caliph al-Muizz (d. 975).

In 1013 the prince and his mother were admitted to the palace of his aunt Sitt al-Mulk , both of whom have been under her protection ever since. This measure coincided with al-Hakim's will in that year the double succession to the throne, in which he excluded his own son in favor of the two cousins Prince Abdarrahim and Prince Abbas from the succession both in the caliphate and imamate of the Ismailites. The chronicler Yahya al-Antaki , who was not very sympathetic to the caliph, claimed in this connection that the caliph had several of his concubines and sons killed, only Prince Ali and his mother rescued his von der Sitt al-Mulk from the terror of his father and been hidden in their palace. However, little credibility is given to this news.

Aunt's reign

After al-Hakim did not return after a nocturnal horseback ride on February 13, 1021 and his murder was accepted, Sitt al-Mulk and the court party she led immediately took over the reins of the action behind the palace walls of Cairo. The alleged perpetrators and potential opponents were eliminated within a few days. The two cousins ​​designated for the successor were eliminated when Prince Abbas was forced to give up his claim "with the sword over his head" and Prince Abdarrahim was locked in a dungeon. On 27 March 1021 the regime of the princess was stabilized so that after the prayer for the victims hard , kept her brother's still in the name, the death of al-Hakim and the enthronement of Prince Ali as the new Caliph as "the appears to exalt the religion of God ” (aẓ-Ẓāhir li-ʾiʿzāz dīn Allāh) could proclaim. For this purpose, the new sixteen-year-old caliph was enthroned under the golden parasol ( miẓalla ) and crowned with the diadem (tā seines) of his great-grandfather al-Muizz and presented to the public. Only a few days later, the princess beheaded the most important aide of her rise to power after accusing him of inciting the murder of al-Hakim. In fact, she herself had been suspected of this by some contemporary observers.

Caliph az-Zahir has remained a zero throughout his life, left to his amusements, such as boat trips on the Nile, horse rides in the old town and the surrounding area of ​​Cairo, or hunting trips in the Nile Delta . His particular passion was collecting rare parrots. Neither his aunt nor his ministers and lackeys have ever thought of including him in active governance. Nonetheless, their government action was publicly announced and legitimized in his name, which is why az-Zahir was positively valued in Christian historiography ( Coptic patriarchal history ) as a tolerant antipode of his hated father, who was branded as a persecutor of Christians. In this appreciation, Sitt al-Mulk, on behalf of her nephew, turned away from the politics of al-Hakim, who still wanted to ban the Christian religion from the public and the state apparatus and had Christian shrines such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem torn down . Although al-Hakim himself had abandoned this discrimination a few years before his death and allowed the churches and monasteries to be rebuilt, this merit was only credited to his son. Apparently the young caliph had approved of his aunt's policy, as he personally attended the Easter festival in Cairo in 1024 and the baptism festival on the banks of the Nile in 1025.

Another component of the revision policy pursued by Sitt al-Mulk was the persecution of the Druze mission , which began in 1021 and which had competed with the Ismaili mission (daʿwa) in previous years under the tolerance of its brother and threatened the internal cohesion of this Shiite religious community. In that year the Druze missionaries in Cairo were either forced to turn away from their doctrine, which had been condemned as erroneous belief, or were executed by crucifixion if they did not want to turn away. Hamza al-Labbad , the author of the Druze canon, was initially able to flee to Mecca , but there fell into the hands of the Sherif, who was loyal to the caliph and was executed. Despite the tough crackdown on the government in Cairo, the Druze doctrine has not been completely eradicated. Their strongly decimated supporters fled Egypt to the provinces of Palestine and Syria by 1030 , which were also subject to the Fatimid caliphate, but had long since ceased to be firmly gripped by the central government in Cairo. In the mountains of Lebanon , the Druze community continues to this day.

Reign of the clique

Even after the death of his aunt on February 5, 1023, az-Zahir stayed away from the government business, which now consists of a four-member camarilla that al-Musabbihi (d. 1029 ) calls "the clique" (al-ʿuṣba) last confidante of the princess was continued. By them the caliph was systematically isolated from the outside world, without whose express permission no one was allowed to appear before him. The spokesmen of this body of regents were the former secretary of the princess, the hand-amputated al- Jardjarai , and the caliph's teacher (ustāḏ) , the black eunuch Midad . The “blacks” (sūdān) had been a separate group at the Kairin court for some time, which gained a dominant influence during the time of az-Zahir. While they were initially acquired primarily as blends (ḫaṣī) or concubines (ǧihāt) for the harem, they were increasingly bought under his aegis as "sales slaves" (ʿabīd aš-širāʾ) by the Nubian kingdoms on the upper reaches of the Nile. In the Fatimid army they were quickly moved up in their strength to the associations of the already tried and tested Turks, which arose a competitive situation that turned out to be fatal for the caliphate. Arabs, on the other hand, had been marginalized to insignificance in the Fatimid army for generations. The Sudanese influence on the caliphate experienced a physical manifestation in the successor of az-Zahir, who was a son of his favorite Sudanese concubine "Talisman" (Raṣad) , who had once been given to him by his aunt. It does not seem to have remained an exception, because even with future Fatimid caliphs such as al-Amir and al-Adid , their strikingly dark skin complexion was recorded by closely observing chroniclers.

The reign of the clique was characterized by incompetence, abuse of power and self-enrichment, which, in combination with a hunger crisis that broke out in Egypt since 1023, led the country into anarchy. In the first year after the death of Sitt al-Mulk, the water level of the Nile was alarmingly low. Then in May 1024 the Nilometer of Roda (ar-Rauḍa) showed the historical low of two yards and five fingers, which led to severe crop failures and price increases. Az-Zahir was not informed in his palace of the famine that was spreading in the old town, nor of the subsequent collapse of state power, after the clique could no longer raise the wages paid to the army. While the people in the old town and the surrounding area of ​​Cairo suffered severe hunger, they were also plagued by plundering soldiers who had now started to take by force what the government no longer saw in a position to give them. The failure of the army resulted in the collapse of state authority not only in Egypt itself, but also in Palestine and Syria. The Bedouin tribes, nomadic as subjects of the caliphate, saw themselves freed from the constraints imposed by the state authorities and began to plunder the regions for their part. On June 30, 1025 the Banu Kilab under their Emir Salih ibn Mirdas conquered the northern Syrian capital Aleppo , who nominally placed himself under the sovereignty of the Fatmidia, but wanted to govern his new principality freed from their authority. The governor of the caliph, the Turk Anuschtegin ad-Duzbiri , could not do anything against the Bedouins at first and had to retreat to Ashkelon . The great victims of this uprising were the rural population as well as the pilgrims who had to bypass the Gulf of Aqaba on the way from Egypt to Mecca , but were exposed to the Bedouin raids without any military protection.

Only when az-Zahir rode to the Nile on the occasion of his participation in the Christian baptism at the height of the famine and anarchy in 1025 and passed the old town of Cairin, did he see the piles of corpses of the starving and thus the prevailing conditions in the country. On the other hand, the caliph, who is under the clique's trustees, could not undertake anything.

Reign of the handless

Within the four-member clique, al-Jardjarai , who is experienced in state affairs, seems to have had the greatest competence. Under al-Hakim, this court official had once fallen from grace, and both of his forearms were amputated. In addition to the Sitt al-Mulk, however, he was able to climb the career ladder again, which secured him a place on the Regency Council in 1023. He had skilfully used the popular anger against the clique caused by the famine to eliminate his colleagues. On January 12, 1028, he was formally appointed vizier by az-Zahir, whereupon his seventeen year reign began.

Al-Jardjarai immediately set about restoring state authority. The rising tides of the Nile allowed the crop yields to rise to the old level and to contain the famine. Anuschtegin, who had meanwhile fallen out of favor, was rehabilitated and provided with a sufficiently large armed force, which was able to move to Syria in December 1028. In May 1029, Anushtegin defeated the Bedouin coalition at Tiberias , whose leader Salih ibn Mirdas was killed, whereupon the Fatimid state order in Palestine and Syria could be quickly restored. Aleppo, however, which was only won for the caliphate in 1015, was lost. The autonomous principality of the Mirdasiden that arose there was able to attack the Byzantine Emperor Romanos III in 1029 . Fend off Argyros , but subsequently went as a vassal to the Byzantine Empire , whereby it won its protection against the Fatimids.

Traditionally, the Fatimids sought a peaceful understanding with Byzantium. The negotiations for an extension of the armistice from 1001, which Sitt al-Mulk started in 1021, were successfully concluded in 1027. One of the components of this agreement was the reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, as promised by Cairo. In return, the Byzantine government allowed the reopening of a mosque in Constantinople , in whose Friday sermon the name of the Fatimid caliph was to be mentioned, which meant for az-Zahir an enormous gain in prestige over the Abbasids of Baghdad . But in the dispute over Aleppo, the peace that had been won with Byzantium threatened to be lost again in 1028. The Syrian governors of both empires, Anuschtegin on the one hand and Nicetas on the other, fought small battles and sieges along the Orontes . A major Byzantine offensive was suspected in Cairo, after which az-Zahir had the jihad preached. But even before major disputes could arise, the two great powers started new, protracted negotiations that were intended to clarify the disputed border issues. The Orontes depression as far as Tortosa was set as the border route and an exchange of prisoners was decided. A special point concerned the Byzantine demand for the end of support for Cairo in favor of the Muslim ruler of Sicily . The emirs from the Kalbite dynasty formally ruled Sicily as governors of the Fatimids since 948, even if they enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, especially since the Caliph's court moved to Cairo in 973. By giving up their supreme protective function against their vassals, the Fatimids effectively released the island for the Christian Reconquista , which should also be completed by 1091 under the leadership of the Normans.

But because of the dispute over supremacy over Aleppo, the negotiations dragged on and could no longer be concluded during az-Zahir's lifetime. The negotiations were further complicated by the formal submission of the Mirdasid prince to the Fatimid caliphate in 1035. This marked the last major foreign policy success in the history of the Fatimids. Az-Zahir, who had been suffering from dropsy for several years, could not savor it for long. Shortly before his thirty-first birthday, he died on June 13, 1036. His only son, the seven-year-old Prince Maadd, was enthroned three days later by the handless vizier as the new caliph under the name “who implores God for assistance” (al-Mustanṣir billāh) .


  • Ibn Challikan : "The Death of Great Persons and the News of the Sons of Time" (Wafayāt al-aʿyān wa-Anbāʾ abnāʾ az-zamān). In: William Mac Guckin de Slane (Ed.): Ibn Khallikan's biographical dictionary. Vol. 2, 1843, p. 340 f.


  • Th. Bianquis: al-Ẓāhir li-iʿzāz dīn Allāh. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition . Volume XI, pp. 391a-392a.
  • Delia Cortese, Simonetta Calderini: Women and the Fatimids in the World of Islam. Edinburgh University Press, 2006.
  • Ulrich Haarmann: History of the Arab World. CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-47486-1 .
  • Heinz Halm : The Caliphs of Cairo. CH Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-48654-1 . (
  • Heinz Halm: princes, princesses, concubines and eunuchs at the Fatimid court. In: Maurice A. Pomerantz, Aram A. Shahin (Eds.): The Heritage of Arabo-Islamic Learning. 2015, pp. 91–110.
  • Yaacov Lev: The Fatimid Princess Sitt al-Mulk. In: Journal of Semitic Studies. Volume 32, 1987, pp. 319-328.
  • Yaacov Lev: The Fatimids and Byzantium, 10th – 12th Centuries. In: Graeco-Arabica. Volume 6, 1995, pp. 190-208.


  1. Heinz Halm : The caliphs of Cairo. CH Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-48654-1 , p. 281.
  2. Heinz Halm: The caliphs of Cairo. CH Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-48654-1 , p. 317.
predecessor Office successor
al-Hakim Caliph of the Fatimids
al-Hakim Ruler of Egypt
al-Hakim 17. Imam of the Ismailis