Abu ‘Ali Mansur Tāriqu l-Ḥākim, called bi Amr al-Lāh (Arabic: الحاكم بأمر الله; literally "Ruler by God's Command"), was the sixth Fatimid caliph and 16th Ismaili imam (996-1021). Born in 985, Abu ‘Ali “Mansur” succeeded his father Abū Mansūr Nizār al-Azīz (975-996) at the age of 11 on October 14, 996 with the caliphal title of al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah. Hakim was the first Fatimid ruler to be born in Egypt. Arguably the most controversial member of the Fatimid dynasty, his rule left it considerably weakened. He did not lose any important territories in North Africa but confronted numerous difficulties and uprisings during his relatively long reign. In parts of the empire, Ismailis were massacred by popular Sunni uprisings. Hakim’s Syrian policy was successful, however and he managed to extend Fatimid hegemony to the emirate of Aleppo. Above all, persistent rivalries between the various factions of the Fatimid armies, especially the Berbers and the Turks, were troublesome throughout Hakim’s caliphate.
Initially, Barjawan, his wasita (the equivalent of a vizier, as intermediary between ruler and subjects) acted as the virtual head of the Fatimid state. However, after the latter’s removal in 1000, Hakim held the reins of power in his own hands limiting the authority and terms of office of his wasitas and viziers, of whom there were more than 15 during the remaining 20 years of his caliphate. He was a patron of learning and of the arts, building mosques and a Library as well as hospitals and infrastructure to improve trade. He freed all slaves. Al-Hakim is a central figure in the Druze religious religion following his claim to be the Mahdi. Erratic behavior includes allegedly marrying his sister, desecrating the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem yet possibly converting to Christianity himself. He apparently disappeared in 1021. His mixed and controversial legacy suggests a complex personality, one that continues to attract speculation. His lifestyle was often ascetic and modest.
Al-Ḥākim was born on Thursday, 3 Rābi‘u l-Awwal in 375 A.H. (985). His father, Caliph Abū Mansūr al-‘Azīz bil-Lāh, had two consorts. One was an umm al-walad who is only known by the title as-Sayyidah al-‘Azīziyyah or al-‘Azīzah (d. 385/995). She was a Melkite Coptic Christian whose two brothers were appointed patriarchs of the Melkite Church by Caliph al-‘Azīz. Different sources say either one of her brothers or her father was sent by al-‘Azīz as an ambassador to Sicily.
Al-‘Azīzah is considered to be the mother of Sitt al-Mulk, one of the most famous women in Islamic history, who had a stormy relationship with her half-brother al-Ḥākim and may have had him murdered. Some, such as the Crusader chronicler William of Tyre, claimed that this Coptic woman was also the mother of Caliph al-Ḥākim, though most historians dismiss this. William of Tyre went so far as to claim that al-Ḥākim's destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 400/1009 was due to his eagerness to disprove taunts that he was a Christian born of a Christian woman (Cortese 2006, 52); (Mastnak 2002, 39). By contrast, the chronicler al-Musabbihi recounts that in 371/981, al-Ḥākim's Muslim mother sought the aid of an imprisoned Islamic sage named ibn al-Washa and asked him to pray for her son who had fallen ill. The sage wrote the entire Qur'an in the inner surface of a bowl and bade her wash her son out of it. When al-Ḥākim recovered, she demanded the release of the sage in gratitude. Her request was granted and the sage and his associates were freed from prison (Cortese 2006, 53).
Druze sources claim that al-Ḥākim's mother was the daughter of ‘Abdu l-Lāh, one of al-Mu‘īzz li Dīn al-Lāh's sons and therefore al-‘Azīz's niece. Historians such as Delia Cortese are critical of this claim:
[I]t is more likely that this woman was in fact a wife of al-Hakim, rather than his mother. It could be argued that the Druzes' emphasis on al-Hakim's descent from an endogamic union served the doctrinal purpose of reinforcing the charisma genealogically transmitted with the "holy family," thereby enhancing the political and doctrinal status they bestow upon al-Hakim (Cortese 2006, 53).
The mother of al-Ḥākim's heir ‘Alī az-Zāhir was the umm al-walad Amīna Ruqayya, daughter to the late prince ‘Abdu l-Lāh, son of al-Mu‘īzz. Some see her as the same as the woman in the prediction reported by al-Hamidi which held "that in 390/100 al-Ḥākim would choose an orphan girl of good stock brought up his father al-Aziz and that she would become the mother of his successor" (Cortese 2006, 53). While the chronicler al-Maqrizi claims that al-Ḥākim's stepsister Sitt al-Mulk was hostile to Amīna, other sources say she gave her and her child refuge when they were fleeing al-Ḥākim's persecution (Cortese 2006, 52). Some sources say al-Ḥākim married the jariya (young female servant) known as as-Sayyidah but historians are unsure if this is just another name for Amīna (Cortese 2006, 53).
Besides his son, al-Ḥākim had a daughter named Sitt Misr (d. 455/1063) who was said to be a generous patroness and of noble and good character (Cortese 2006, 53).
In 996, al-Ḥākim's father Caliph al-‘Azīz began a trip to visit Syria (which was held by the Fatimid's only by force of arms and was under pressure from both Greeks and [[Turkey|Turks). The Caliph fell ill at the beginning of the trip at Bilbeis and lay in sickbed for several days. He suffered from "stone with pains in the bowels." When he felt that his end was nearing he charged Qadi Muhammad ibn an-Nu‘man and General Abū Muhammad al-Hasan ibn ‘Ammar to take care of al-Ḥākim, who was then only 11. He then spoke to his son. Al-Ḥākim later recalled the event:
I found him with nothing on his body but rags and bandages. I kissed him, and he pressed me to his bosom, exclaiming: "How I grieve for thee, beloved of my heart," and tears flowed from his eyes. He then said: "Go, my master, and play, for I am well." I obeyed and began to amuse myself with sports such as are usual with boys, and soon after God took him to himself. Barjawan [the treasurer] then hastened to me, and seeing me on the top of a sycamore tree, exclaimed: "Come down, my boy; may God protect you and us all." When I descended he placed on my head the turban adorned with jewels, kissed the ground before me, and said: "Hail to the Commander of the faithful, with the mercy of God and his blessing." He then led me out in that attire and showed me to all the people, who kissed the ground before me and saluted me with the title of Khalif" (O'Leary 2000, 121-122).
On the following day he and his new court proceeded from Bilbays to Cairo. His father's body proceeded him. Borne on a camel the dead Caliph’s feet protruded from the litter. They arrived shortly before evening prayer and his father was buried the next evening next to the tomb of his predecessor al-Mu‘īzz. Al-Ḥākim was sworn in by Barjawan, a "white eunuch whom al-‘Azīz had appointed as Ustad 'tutor'" (O'Leary 2000, 123).
Because it had been unclear whether he would inherit his father's position, this successful transfer of power was a demonstration of the stability of the Fatimid dynasty.
Al-Ḥākim's father had intended the eunuch Barjawan to act as regent until he was old enough to rule by himself. Ibn ‘Ammar and the Qadi Muhammad ibn Nu‘man were to assist in the guardianship of the new caliph. Instead, ibn ‘Ammar (the leader of the Katama party) immediately seized the office of wasīta "chief minister" from ‘Īsa ibn Nestorius. At the time the office of sifāra "secretary of state" was also combined within that office. Ibn ‘Ammar then took the title of Amīn ad-Dawla "the one trusted in the empire." This was the first time that the term "empire" was associated with the Fatimid state (O'Leary 2000, 124).
Al-Ḥākim's most rigorous and consistent opponent was the Abbāsid Caliphate in Baghdad, which sought to halt the influence of Ismailism. This competition led to the Baghdad Manifesto of 1011, in which the Abbāsids claimed that the line al-Ḥākim represented did not legitimately descend from Ali ibn Abi Talib.
Al-Ḥākim also struggled with the Qarmatiyya rulers of Bahrain, an island in the Persian Gulf as well as territory in Eastern Arabia. His diplomatic and missionary vehicle was the Ismā'īlī da‘wah "Mission," with its organizational power center in Cairo.
Al-Ḥākim's reign was characterized by a general unrest. The Fatimid army was troubled by a rivalry between two opposing factions, the Turks and the Berbers. Tension grew between the Caliph and his viziers (called wasītas), and near the end of his reign the Druze movement, a religious sect centered around al-Ḥākim, began to form. It was the Druze who first referred to al-Ḥākim as "Ruler by God's Command" and members of that sect are reported to address prayers to al-Ḥākim, whom they regard as "a manifestation of God in His unity" (Mortimer 1982, 49).
Alarmed by the expansion of the Fatimid dominion, the ‘Abbasid caliph Al-Qadir adopted retaliatory measures to halt the spread of Ismailism within the very seat of his realm. In particular, in 1011 he assembled a number of Sunni and Twelver Shiite scholars at his court and commanded them to declare in a written document that Hakim and his predecessors lacked genuine Ali and Fatima related ancestry. The ‘Abbasid whose nasab (lineage) was traced from Muhammad's uncle claimed that their descent trumped the Fatimid's, which even if legitimate relied on descent through a woman. This so-called Baghdad Manifesto was read out in Friday mosques throughout the ‘Abbasid domains accusing the Fatimids of Jewish ancestry also because of Al-Hakim’s alleged Christian mother he was accused of over sympathizing with non-Muslims and that he gave them more privileges than they should have been given under Islamic rule such accusations where manifested through poetry criticizing the Fatimids and that eventually led to the persecution of non-Muslims from 1007 till 1012. Qadir also commissioned several refutations of Ismaili doctrines, including that written by the Mu‘tazili ‘Ali b. Sa‘id al-Istakri (1013) (Daftary 2007, 101).
Hakim maintained a keen interest in the organization and operation of the Fatimid Ismaili da‘wa (movement/preaching) centered in Cairo. Under his reign it was systematically intensified outside the Fatimid dominions especially in Iraq and Persia. In Iraq, the da‘is (senior preachers) now concentrated their efforts on a number of local emirs and influential tribal chiefs with whose support they aimed to uproot the Abbasids. Foremost among the Fatimid da‘is of this period operating in the eastern provinces was Hamid al-Din Kirmani, the most accomplished Ismaili theologian-philosopher of the entire Fatimid period. The activities of Kirmani and other da‘s soon led to concrete results in Iraq: in 1010 the ruler of Mosul, Kufa and other towns acknowledged the suzerainty of Hakim, reading the Friday khutbah in his name (Daftary 2007, 185).
In the area of education and learning, one of Hakim’s most important contributions was the founding in 1005 of the Dar al-‘ilm (House of Knowledge), sometimes also called Dar al-hikma (Halm 1997, 71-78). A wide range of subjects ranging from the Qur’an and hadith to philosophy and astronomy were taught at the Dar al-‘ilm, which was equipped with a vast library. Access to education was made available to the public and many Fatimid da‘is received at least part of their training in this major institution of learning which served the Ismaili da‘wa (mission) until the downfall of the Fatimid dynasty. Natur describes the House's Library as at the time not only the largest in the Muslim world but "in the whole world" (Nāṭūr and Hasson 2001, 23).
In 1013 he completed the mosque in Cairo begun by his father, the Masjid al-Hākim "Hākim's Mosque" who’s official name is "Jame-ul-Anwar." The mosque fell to ruins but was restored during the twentieth century.
Hakim made the education of the Ismailis and the Fatimid da‘is a priority; in his time various study sessions (majalis) were established in Cairo. Hakim provided financial support and endowments for these educational activities. The private ‘wisdom sessions’ (majalis al-hikma) devoted to esoteric Ismaili doctrines and reserved exclusively for initiates, now became organized so as to be accessible to different categories of participants (Daftary 2007, 214-215). Hakim himself often attended these sessions which were held at the Fatimid palace. The name (majalis al-hikma) is still adopted by the Druze as the name of the building in which their religious assembly and worship is carried, it’s often abbreviated as Majlis (session).
Al-Ḥākim upheld diplomatic relations between the Fatimid Empire and many different countries. Skillful diplomacy was needed in establishing a friendly if not neutral basis of relations with the Byzantine Empire, which had expansionary goals in the early eleventh century. Perhaps the farthest reaching diplomatic mission of al-Ḥākim's was to Song Dynasty era China. The Fatimid Egyptian sea captain known as Domiyat traveled to a Buddhist site of pilgrimage in Shandong in the year 1008 C.E. It was on this mission that he sought to present to the Chinese Emperor Zhenzong of Song gifts from his ruling Caliph al-Ḥākim. This reestablished diplomatic relations between Egypt and China that had been lost during the collapse of the Tang Dynasty in 907.
According to the religious scholar Nissim Dana, al-Ḥākim's relationship with other monotheistic religions can be divided into three separate stages.
From 996-1006 when most of the executive functions of the Khalif were performed by his advisors, the Shiite al-Ḥākim followed his predecessors, exhibiting a hostile attitude with respect to Sunni Muslims, whereas the attitude toward 'People of the Book'—Jews and Christians—was one of relative tolerance, in exchange for the jizya tax. In 1005, al-Ḥākim ordered a public posting of curses against the first three Caliphs (Abū Bakr, ‘Umār and ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān) and against ‘Ā'isha (wife of Muhammad) all for opposing the claim of Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law ‘Alī, who had demanded the position of Caliph for himself and his descendants. The founder of the Umayyad caliphate, Mu‘awiyah I, and others among the Ṣaḥābah of Muhammad were also cursed. After only two years of posting the curses, al-Ḥākim ended the practice. During this era, al-Ḥākim ordered that the inclusion of the phrase as-salāh khayr min an-nawm "prayer is preferable to sleep," which followed the morning prayer be stopped—he saw it as a Sunni addition. In its place he ordered that ḥayyi ‘alā khayr al-‘amal "come to the best of deeds" should be said after the summons was made. He further forbade the use of two prayers—Salāt at-Tarāwih and Salāt ad-Duha as they were believed to have been formulated by Sunni sages (Dana 2003, 41-42).
His attitude towards Christians grew hostile by 1003 when he ordered a recently built church destroyed and replaced by a mosque and went on to turn two other churches into mosques. He also outlawed the use of wine (nabidh) and even other intoxicating drinks not made from grapes (fuqa) to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike (Dana 2003, 42). This produced a hardship for both Christians (who used wine in their religious rites]]) and Jews (who used it in their religious festivals).
In 1005, following the tradition of the caliphate, al-Ḥākim ordered that Jews and Christians follow ghiyār "the law of differentiation"—in this case, the mintaq or zunnar "belt" (Greek ζοναριον) and ‘imāmah "turban," both in black. In addition, Jews must wear a wooden calf necklace and Christians an iron cross. In the public baths, Jews must replace the calf with a bell. In addition, women of the Ahl al-Kitab had to wear two different colored shoes, one red and one black. These remained in place until 1014 (Dana 2003, 41-42).
Al-Ḥākim engaged in other erratic behavior in 1005: he ordered the killing of all the dogs in Egypt and had them discarded in the desert (Assaad, 85). He also forced the inhabitants of Cairo to work at night and go to bed in the mornings and severely punished anyone caught violating his orders.
Following contemporary Shiite thinking, during this period al-Ḥākim also issued many other rigid restrictive ordinances (sijillat). These sijill included outlawing entrance to a public bath with uncovered loins, forbidding women from appearing in public with their faces uncovered, and closing many clubs and places of entertainment.
From 1007-1012 there was a notably tolerant attitude toward the Sunnis and less zeal for Shiite Islam, while the attitude with regard to the 'People of the Book' was hostile (Dana 2003, 41-42).
In 1009, he ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher.
From 1012-1021 al-Ḥākim "became more tolerant toward the Jews and Christians and hostile toward the Sunnis." "Ironically" comments Dana, "he developed a particularly hostile attitude with regard to the Muslim Shiites." "It was during this period, in the year 1017," she continues, "that the unique religion of the Druze began to develop as an independent religion based on the revelation" (Kashf) of al-Ḥākim as God" (Dana 2003, 41, 43-45).
While it is clear that Hamza ibn Ahmad was the Caliph's chief dāʿī, there are claims that al-Ḥākim believed in his own divinity; Courbage and Fargues write that "towards the year 1,000" he "proclaimed himself the divine incarnation expected one thousand years after Christ." At the same time, Hakim allegedly secretly married his sister, Sitt al-Mulk (Courbage and Fargues 1997, 25). Other scholars disagree with this assertion of direct divinity, particularly the Druze themselves, noting that its proponent was ad-Darazi, who (according to some resources) al-Ḥākim executed for shirk. Letters show that ad-Darazi was trying to gain control of the Muwahhidun movement and this claim was an attempt to gain support from the Caliph, who instead found it heretical.
The Druze find this assertion offensive; they hold ad-Darazi as the first apostate of the sect and their beliefs regarding al-Ḥākim are complex. Natur explains that the name Druze was originally "a name for disgrace" which subsequently "stuck to the community" (Nāṭūr and Hasson 2001, 24). Following a typical Isma'ili pattern, they place a preeminent teacher at the innermost circle of divinely inspired persons. For the Druze, the exoteric is taught by the Prophet, the esoteric by his secret assistants, and the esoteric of the esoteric by Imām al-Ḥākim.
Confusion and slander by opponents of the Druze were generally left uncorrected as the teachings of the sect are secret.
Al-Ḥākim issued a series of seemingly arbitrary laws, including the prohibition of Mulūkhiyya, a characteristic Egyptian dish, grape eating, watercress eating as well as the prohibition of chess. He forbade the fisherman from catching any fish that had no scales and forbade people from selling or eating such fish. However, with reference to issuing instructions one day and countermanding them the next, historians disagree. Courbage and Fargues say that he forced Christians to become Muslims one day then authorized them to "return to their religion" the next (Courbage and Fargues 1997, 25). However, Halm says that this "cannot be confirmed from the sources" (Halm 1997, 35).
In 1014, he ordered women not to go out at all, and ordered the shoemakers not to make any women's shoes (Sayyid-Marsot 2007, 18).
Al-Ḥākim killed many of his officials both high and low in rank: his tutor Abū l-Qasim Sa‘īd ibn Sa‘īd al-Fāriqī, most of his viziers, judges, poets, physicians, bathhouse keepers, cooks, cousin, soldiers, Jews, Christians, intelligence gatherers and even cut the hands of female slaves in his palace. In some cases, he did the killing himself.
In 1009, he destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, then under Fatimid control. The church was later rebuilt by his successor with help from the Byzantine Empire.
Although Christians were not allowed to buy slaves, male or female, and had few other privileges, they were allowed to ride horses on the condition that they rode with wooden saddles and unornamented girths.
Towards the end of his reign he became increasingly erratic and feared by his officials, soldiers and subjects alike. Muslim and Christian dignitaries both went to his palace kissing the ground, and stood at the palace gates asking him for forgiveness, and not to listen to any rumors that were spreading. They raised a petition to al-Ḥākim and he forgave them.
In the final years of his reign, Hakim displayed a growing inclination toward asceticism and withdrew for mediation regularly. On the night of February 1021 , Hakim left for one of his nocturnal outings to the Muqattam hills outside of Cairo, but never returned. A futile search was conducted for the 36-year-old caliph-imam; only his riding donkey and his bloodstained garments were found. The mystery of Hakim’s disappearance was never solved. Courbage and Fragues refer to stories that he was killed and that he converted to Christianity, "begged forgiveness for his sins and did penitence for many years in the desert" (Courbage and Fargues 1997, 25). Daftary says that a futile search was conducted during which his riding donkey and clothes, "pierced by dagger cuts" but not his body were found. His end, he says, was "as enigmatic as his life" (Daftary 2007, 191). The Druze regard his disappearance as a "test" (Nāṭūr and Hasson, 2001, 25). He is said to have entered the state known as occultation, that is, to have bodily entered heaven without dying (Himmich 2005, ix).
Al-Ḥākim was succeeded by his young son Ali az-Zahir under the regency of his sister Sitt al-Mulk.
Hakim's erratic behavior left a controversial legacy. Courbage and Fragues suggest that his "unstable personality" seriously weakened the empire, plunging "it into chaos" and inciting "religious hatred" (Courbage and Fargues 1997, 17). His desecration of the Holy Sepulcher is one of the acts that European Christians would cite to justify the Crusades (Mastnak 2002, 39). Druze stress his role as a patron of art and science but also his record in freeing slaves, compensating flood victims, lowering food prices during crises and improving the roads and transport infrastructure (Natur and Hasson 2001, 23). Natur points out that some historians praise his "belief in justice and equality while others see him as a despot (Nāṭūr and Hasson 2001, 22). According to Natur, Hakim was "modest and ascetic ... felt contempt for money and property ... lived a simple life" and called for "modesty" (Nāṭūr and Hasson 2001, 23).
Courbage and Fargues (1997) suggest that from 1000 Hakim was actually mad. What can be said is that he left a mixed legacy. On the positive side lie his patronage of learning, on the negative his erratic behavior and damaging Christian-Muslim relations, which for the most part were cordial under the Fatimids. Indeed, Courbage and Fargues describe their persecution by Hakim as the "only real persecution endured by the Cops (as well as many Muslims)" under their rule (Courbage and Fargues 1997, 25).
The story of Hakim's life inspired (presumably through Silvestre de Sacy) the French author Gérard de Nerval who recounted his version of it (“Histoire du Calife Hakem”: History of the Caliph Hakem) as an appendix to his Voyage en Orient (Journey to the Orient). He is the subject of Himmich's The Autocrat; the original Arabic title, Majnun al-hukm, meant "he who is crazy in rule" (Himmich 2005, ix).
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