ABū ʿALī MANṣūR (13 August 985 – 13 February 1021), better
known by his regnal title AL-ḤāKIM BI-AMR ALLāH (Arabic :
الحاكم بأمر الله; literally "Ruler by God's
Command" ), was the sixth
Fatimid caliph and 16th
(996–1021). AL-HAKIM is an important figure in a number of Shia
Ismaili religions, such as the world's 15 million Nizaris , in
addition to the 2 million
Druze of the
Levant whose eponymous founder
ad-Darazi proclaimed him as the incarnation of God in 1018.
Histories of al-Hakim can prove controversial, as diverse views of
his life and legacy exist. Historian Paul Walker writes:
“Ultimately, both views of him, the mad and despotic tyrant
irrationally given to killing those around him on a whim, and the
ideal supreme ruler, divinely ordained and chosen, whose every action
was just and righteous, were to persist, the one among his enemies and
those who rebelled against him, and the other in the hearts of true
believers, who, while perhaps perplexed by events, nonetheless
remained avidly loyal to him to the end."
* 1 Biography
* 1.1 Lineage
* 1.2 Rise to power
* 1.3 Political intrigue
* 1.4 Political rivalries and movements
* 1.5 The
* 1.6 Foreign affairs
* 1.7 Disappearance
Sobriquet in Western literature
* 3 Al Hakim and
House of Knowledge
* 3.2 Sessions of Wisdom
* 4 Interreligious relationships
* 4.1 First period
* 4.1.1 Religious minorities and the law of differentiation
* 4.2 Second period
* 4.3 Third period
* 5 Spouses and children
* 6 In literature
* 7 Timeline
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Sources
* 11 External links
Born in 985 CE, Abu `
Ali "Mansur" was the first
Fatimid ruler to have
been born in
Egypt . Abu `
Ali "Mansur" had been proclaimed as
heir-apparent (wali al-‘ahd) in 993 CE and succeeded his father Abū
Mansūr Nizār al-Azīz (975–996) at the age of eleven on 14 October
996 with the caliphal title of al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah. Al-Ḥākim had
blue eyes flecked with reddish gold.
Al-Ḥākim was born on Thursday, 3 Rābi‘u l-Awwal in 985 (375
A.H. ). 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 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
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 al-‘Azīzah was also the mother of
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
Sepulchre in 1009 was due to his eagerness to disprove taunts that he
was a Christian born of a Christian woman. By contrast, the
chronicler al-Musabbihi recounts that in 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.
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:
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.
RISE TO POWER
In 996, al-Ḥākim's father
Caliph al-‘Azīz began a trip to visit
Syria (which was held by the Fatimids only by force of arms and was
under pressure from the Byzantines). 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
Muhammad ibn an-Nu‘man and
Muhammad al-Hasan ibn ‘Ammar to take care of
al-Ḥākim, who was then only eleven. 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 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
On the following day, he and his new court proceeded from Bilbays to
Cairo, behind the camel bearing his father's body, and with the dead
Caliph’s feet protruding 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
Barjawan , a "white eunuch whom al-‘Azīz had appointed as Ustad
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
Kutama Berbers seized the chance to recover their
dominant position in the state, which had eroded under al-Aziz due to
the influx of Turkish and
Daylamite mercenaries from the Islamic East
(the Mashāriqa, "Easterners"). They compelled the underage al-Hakim
to dismiss the Christian vizier Ibn Nasturis (who was executed shortly
after) and appoint their leader Ibn Ammar to head the government, with
the title of wāsiṭa ("intermediary") rather than full vizier.
Ibn Ammar's rule quickly descended into a Berber tyranny: he
immediately began staffing the government with Berbers, who engaged in
a virtual pillaging of the state coffers. The Berbers' attempts to
exclude the other interest groups from power—not only the Turks and
the other ethnic contingents of the army, but also the civilian
bureaucracy, whose salary was cut—alienated not only the Mashāriqa,
Barjawan as well.
Barjawan contacted the
Damascus , the Turk
Manjutakin , and invited him to march onto
Egypt and depose Ibn Ammar.
Manjutakin accepted, but was defeated by
Ibn Ammar's troops under Sulayman ibn Ja\'far ibn Falah at Ascalon and
Barjawan however soon found a new ally, in the person
Kutama leader Jaysh ibn Samsam , governor of Tripoli , whom Ibn
Falah dismissed and replaced with his own brother. Jaysh and Barjawan
gathered a following of other dissatisfied Berber leaders, and
launched an uprising in
Cairo in October 997. Ibn Ammar was forced to
Barjawan replaced him as wāsiṭa.
During his predominance,
Barjawan managed to balance the two
factions, fulfilling the demands of the Mashāriqa while taking care
Kutama as well. In this vein, he pardoned Ibn Ammar and
restored him his monthly salary of 500 gold dinars . After Bajarwan's
murder on 26 March 1000, however,
Caliph al-Hakim assumed the reins of
government and launched a purge of the
Fatimid elites, during which
Ibn Ammar and many of the other
Kutama leaders were executed. To
ensure his own power, Hakim limited 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.
Al-Ḥākim's father had intended the eunuch
Barjawan to act as
regent until Al-Ḥākim was old enough to rule by himself. Ibn
‘Ammar and the
Muhammad ibn Nu‘man were to assist in the
guardianship of the new caliph. Instead, al-Hasan ibn \'Ammar (the
leader of the
Kutama ) 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
POLITICAL RIVALRIES AND MOVEMENTS
Al-Ḥākim's most rigorous and consistent opponent was the Abbāsid
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 ‘Alī.
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
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.
Members of that sect were reported to address prayers to al-Ḥākim,
whom they regarded as "a manifestation of God in His unity."
THE BAGHDAD MANIFESTO
Alarmed by the expansion of the
Fatimid dominion, the ‘Abbasid
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
Twelver Shiite scholars at his court
and commanded them to declare in a written document that Hakim and his
predecessors lacked genuine descent from
Ali and Fatima . This
Baghdad Manifesto was read out in Friday mosques throughout
Abbasid domains accusing the Fatimids of Jewish ancestry. In
addition, because of Al-Hakim’s alleged Christian mother, he was
accused of being over-sympathetic to non-Muslims, giving them more
privileges than they should have been given under Islamic rule. Such
accusations were manifested through poetry criticizing the Fatimids.
Qadir also commissioned several refutations of
including those written by the Mu‘tazili ‘
Ali b. Sa‘id
Hakim confronted numerous difficulties and uprisings during his
relatively long reign. While he did not lose any important territories
North Africa , the
Ismaili communities there were attacked by Sunni
fighters led by their influential
Maliki jurists. Relations between
the Fatimids and the
Qarmatians of Bahrain also remained hostile. On
the other hand, Hakim’s Syrian policy was successful as he managed
Fatimid hegemony to the emirate of
Aleppo . Above all, the
persistent rivalries between the various factions of the Fatimid
armies, especially the Berbers and the Turks , overshadowed the other
problems of Hakim’s caliphate.
Al-Ḥākim upheld diplomatic relations between the
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 11th
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 AD. It was on this mission that he sought
to present to the Chinese
Emperor Zhenzong of Song gifts from his
Caliph al-Ḥākim. This reestablished diplomatic relations
Egypt and China that had been lost during the collapse of the
Dynasty in 907.
In the final years of his reign, Hakim displayed a growing
inclination toward asceticism and withdrew for meditation regularly.
On the night of 12/13 February 1021 and at the age of 36, Hakim left
for one of his night journeys to the
Mokattam hills outside of
and never returned. A search found only his donkey and bloodstained
garments. The disappearance has remained a mystery.
Al-Ḥākim was succeeded by his young son
Ali az-Zahir under the
regency of his sister
Sitt al-Mulk .
SOBRIQUET IN WESTERN LITERATURE
In Western literature he has been referred to as the "Mad Caliph".
This title is largely due to his erratic and oppressive behavior
concerning religious minorities under his command, as historian Hunt
Janin relates: al-Hakim "was known as the 'Mad Caliph' because of his
many cruelties and eccentricities". Historian Michael Bonner points
out that the term is also used due to the dramatic difference between
al-Hakim and his predecessors and his successors while also pointing
out such persecution is an extreme rarity in Islam during this era.
"In his capital of Cairo, this unbalanced (and, in the view of most,
mad) caliph raged against the
Christians in particular...On the whole
such episodes remained exceptional, like the episodes of forced
conversion to Islam." Historian Michael Foss also notes this contrast
"For more than three hundred and fifty years, from the time when the
Caliph Omar made a treaty with the
Patriarch Sophronius until 1009,
when mad al-Hakim began attacks on
Christians and Jews, the city of
Jerusalem and the Holy Land were open to the West, with an easy
welcome and the way there was no more dangerous than a journey from
Paris to Rome....Soon the panic was over. In 1037 al-Mustansir came
to an amicable agreement with
Emperor Michael IV."
As one prominent journal has noted, al-Ḥākim has attracted the
interest of modern historians more than any other member of the
Fatimid dynasty because:
"His eccentric character, the inconsistencies and radical shifts in
his conduct and policies, the extreme austerity of his personal life,
the vindictive and sanguinary ruthlessness of his dealing with the
highest officials of his government coupled with an obsession to
suppress all signs of corruption and immorality in public life, his
attempted annihilation of
Christians and call for the systematic
destruction of all Christian holy places in the middle east
culminating in the destruction of the most holy Church of the
Jerusalem , his deification by a group of extremist
Isma\'li missionaries who became the forerunners and founders of the
Druze religion, all combine to contrast his reign sharply with that
of any of his predecessors and successors and indeed of any Muslim
ruler.... The question is to what extent his conduct can be explained
as rationally motivated and conditioned by the circumstances rather
than as the inscrutable workings of an insane mind."
The claim that al-Hakim was mad and the version of events around him
is disputed as mere propaganda by some scholars, such as Willi
Frischaue, who states: "His enemies called him the 'Mad Caliph' but he
enhanced Cairo's reputation as a centre of civilization." The writing
Heinz Halm attempts to dispel "those distorted and
hostile accounts, stating that the anti-
Fatimid tradition tried to
make a real monster of this caliph."
AL HAKIM AND SHIA ISMAILISM
Hakim maintained a keen interest in the organization and operation of
Ismaili da‘wa (preaching) centred in Cairo. Under his
reign it was systematically intensified outside the
Persia . In Iraq, the da‘is now concentrated
their efforts on a number of local amirs and influential tribal chiefs
with whose support they aimed to uproot the
Abbasids . Foremost among
Fatimid da‘is of this period operating in the eastern provinces
Hamid al-Din Kirmani , the most accomplished Ismaili
theologian-philosopher of the entire
Fatimid period. The activities of
Kirmani and other da‘is soon led to concrete results in Iraq: in
1010 the ruler of
Kufa and other towns acknowledged the
suzerainty of Hakim.
HOUSE OF KNOWLEDGE
In the area of education and learning, one of Hakim’s most
important contributions was the founding in 1005 of the Dar al-Alem
(House of Knowledge) or Dar al-Hikma (House of Wisdom) or . A wide
range of subjects ranging from the
Qur'an and hadith to philosophy and
astronomy were taught at the Dar al-alem, which was equipped with a
vast library. Access to education was made available to the public and
Fatimid da‘is received at least part of their training in this
major institution of learning which served the
(mission) until the downfall of the
In 1013 he completed the mosque in
Cairo begun by his father, the
Masjid al-Hākim "Hākim's Mosque" whose official name is
"Jame-ul-Anwar". The mosque fell to ruins and was rebuilt in the 1990s
by Dr. Syedna
Mohammed Burhanuddin , a project that was highly
SESSIONS OF WISDOM
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. 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-Hakim is a central figure in the history of the
According to the religious scholar Nissim Dana , al-Ḥākim's
relationship with other monotheistic religions can be divided into
three separate stages.
From 996 to 1006 when most of the executive functions of the Khalif
were performed by his advisors, the Shiite al-Ḥākim "behaved like
the Shiite khalifs, who he succeeded, 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 (
Abu Bakr ,
Uthman ) and against
Muhammad , for denying the caliphate to Muhammad's cousin and
son-in-law ‘Alī, who according to
Shia beliefs, was the rightful
According to historian Nissîm Dānā, al-Ḥākim ordered that
"curses were registered against the warrior
Muawiyah I , founder of
Umayyad Caliphate , and against others in the inner circle of
Muhammad from the
Sahabah - the compatriots of
Muhammad in the way of
Islam." This was in accordance with
Shia practice, as laid out by
Muslim scholar Ayatollah Haydari "the followers of
Ahl al-Bayt say 'O
Allah curse all of the Banu Umayya '." The
Shia maintain that out of
hatred for ‘Alī, Mu‘awiyah ordered the
Talbiyah not be said (as
it was promoted by ‘Alī) and ordered people to curse him (Sa`d ibn
Abi Waqqas refused to do so). The
Shia hold that Mu‘awiyah and all
of the Umayyid caliphs (with the possible exception of
Umar II ) were
Nasibi who "are the hypocrites for whom hatred of ‘Alī is their
religion...They don't just hate ‘Alī, but they worship Allah and
seek closeness to Him by hating ‘Alī."
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 fajr 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
Religious Minorities And The Law Of Differentiation
In 1004 Al-Hakim decreed that the
Christians could no longer
celebrate Epiphany or
Easter . 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. 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, 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
People of the Book had to
wear two different coloured shoes, one red and one black. These
remained in place until 1014.
Following contemporary Shiite thinking, during this period
al-Ḥākim also issued many other 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 to 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." On 18 October 1009, al-
Hakim ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre and its associated
buildings, apparently outraged by what he regarded as the fraud
practiced by the monks in the "miraculous" Descent of the
Holy Fire ,
celebrated annually at the church during the
Easter Vigil. The
chronicler Yahia noted that "only those things that were too difficult
to demolish were spared." Processions were prohibited, and a few years
later all of the convents and churches in Palestine were said to have
been destroyed or confiscated. It was only in 1042 that the Byzantine
Constantine IX undertook to reconstruct the Holy Sepulchre
with the permission of Al-Hakim's successor.
al-Ḥākim ultimately allowed the unwilling Christian and Jewish
converts to Islam to return to their faith and rebuild their ruined
houses of worship. Indeed, from 1012 to 1021 al-Ḥākim
became more tolerant toward the Jews and
Christians and hostile
toward the Sunnis. Ironically he developed a particularly hostile
attitude with regard to the Muslim Shiites. It was during this period,
in the year 1017, that the unique religion of the
Druze began to
develop as an independent religion based on the revelation (
Kashf ) of
al-Ḥākim as divine.
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. 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.
Druze find this assertion offensive; they hold ad-Darazi as the
first apostate of the sect and their beliefs regarding al-Ḥākim are
complex. 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
Confusion and slander by opponents of the
Druze were generally left
uncorrected as the teachings of the sect are secret and the Druze
preferred taqiyya when independence was impossible.
SPOUSES AND CHILDREN
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 390/1000
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."
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.
Some sources say al-Ḥākim married the jariya (young female servant)
known by the title as-Sayyidah but historians are unsure if this is
just another name for Amīna.
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
The story of Hakim's life inspired (presumably through Antoine Isaac
Silvestre de Sacy ) the French author
Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855)
who recounted his version of it (“Histoire du Calife Hakem”:
History of the
Caliph Hakem) as an appendix to his Voyage to the
Orient (1851). He is a major character in The Prisoner of Al-Hakim by
Bradley Steffens , which recounts the ten-year
Ibn al-Haytham under Al-Hakim's rule.
Time line indicating the Imam amongst
SHIA ISLAM CHART
Ali al Murtaza
Ali zayn ul Abedin
Isma\'il ibn Jafar
Musa al-Kadhim .
Muhammad ibn Isma\'il
Ahmad al-Wafi (Abadullah)
Ahmad (al-Taqī Muhammad)
Ali al Hadi
Ḥusayn (ar-Raḍī ʿAbdillāh)
hasan al Askari
al-Mustanṣir bi l-Lāh
List of Egyptians
List of Egyptians
* Lists of rulers of
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* ^ Kennedy 2004 , p. 328.
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