Abu Muhammad Abdallah al-
Billah (873 – 4 March 934) (Arabic:
أبو محمد عبد الله المهدي بالله), was the
founder of the Ismaili Fatimid Caliphate, the only major Shi'a
caliphate in Islam, and established Fatimid rule throughout much of
North Africa, Hejaz, Palestine and the Levant.
2 The genealogy of the Fatimid Caliphs according to ʿAbd Allāh
3 See also
6 External links
At the beginning of the Abbasid realm in Baghdad, the
severe persecution by the ruling party as they were a direct threat to
the Abbasid Caliphate. Owing to the political complexities, the
Imam Abdullah opted to conceal themselves which helped
them maintain the Dawa's existence. As a result, these
Iranian Plateau to distance themselves from the epicentre
of their political difficulties. Al Mahdi's father,
Imam al Husain al
Mastoor returned in secrecy to
Syria and began to control the Dawa's
affairs from there in complete concealment. He sent two Da'is of great
Abul Qasim and
Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i
Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i to
North Africa, respectively, to build the foundation for what was to
later be the Fatimid Caliphate.
Imam al Husain al Mastoor died soon after the birth of his son, Al
Mahdi. A trustworthy system of informers helped Al
Mahdi to be updated
on developments which were taking place across
North Africa which was
to be the launching pad of his Empire.
After establishing himself as the first
Imam of the Fatimid dynasty,
Mahdi claimed to have genealogic origins dating as far back as
Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, through
Husayn, Fatimah's son, and Ismail.
Mahdi established his headquarters at
Salamiyah in western Syria
before later travelling to western North Africa, which at the time was
Aghlabid rule, following the propagandist success of his chief
da'i', Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i. Al-Shi'i, along with laying
claim to being the precursor to the Mahdi, was instrumental in sowing
the seeds of sedition among the Berber tribes of North Africa,
specifically the Kutamah tribe in Algeria.
It was Al-Shi'i's success which was the signal to Al
Mahdi to set off
from Salamyah disguised as a merchant. In 905 he started
proselytising. However, he was captured by the
Ziyadat-Allah due to his Ismaili beliefs and thrown into a dungeon in
Sijilmasa. In early 909 Al-Shi'i sent a large expedition force to
rescue the Mahdi, conquering the Khariji state of Tahert on its way
there. After gaining his freedom, Al
Mahdi became the leader of the
growing state and assumed the position of imam and caliph. Al Mahdi
then led the Kutama Berbers who captured the cities of Qairawan and
Raqqada. By March 909, the
Dynasty had been overthrown and
replaced with the Fatimids. As a result, the last stronghold of Sunni
North Africa was removed from the region.
Al-Mahdi established himself at the former
Aghlabid residence at
Al-Qayrawan (in what is now Tunisia. After that his power
grew. At the time of his death he had extended his reign over Morocco
and into Egypt.
Al-Mahdi founded the capital of his empire, Al-Mahdiyyah, on the
Tunisian coast sixteen miles south-east of Al-Qayrawan, which he named
after himself. The city was located on a peninsula on an artificial
platform "reclaimed from the sea", as mentioned by the Andalusian
geographer Al-Bakri. The Great mosque of
Mahdia was built in 916 on
the southern side of the peninsula.
Al-Mahdi took up residence
there in 920.
In 922 the Bulgarian emperor Simeon I sent envoys to al-
propose a joined attack on the Byzantine capital
the Bulgarians providing a large land army, and the Arabs — a
navy. It was proposed that all spoils would be divided equally, the
Bulgarians would keep
Constantinople and the Fatimids would gain the
Byzantine territories in
Sicily and South Italy. As a result of the
Byzantine–Bulgarian war of 913–927, by 922 the Bulgarians
controlled almost the whole Balkan peninsula but Simeon I's main
objective to capture
Constantinople remained out of his reach because
he lacked a navy. Although the Byzantines and the Fatimids had
concluded a peace treaty in 914, since 918 the Fatimids had renewed
their attacks on the Italian coast.
Al-Mahdi accepted the proposal and sent back his own emissaries to
conclude the agreement. On the way home the ship was captured by
the Byzantines near the Calabrian coast and the envoys of both
countries were sent to Constantinople. When the Byzantine emperor
Romanos I learned about the secret negotiations, the Bulgarians were
imprisoned, while the Arab envoys were allowed to return to
Al-Mahdiyyah with rich gifts for the caliph. The Byzantines then sent
their own embassy to
North Africa to outbid Simeon I and eventually
the Fatimids agreed not to aid Bulgaria.
After his death,
Al-Mahdi was succeeded by his son, Abu Al-Qasim
Muhammad Al-Qaim, who continued his expansionist policy.
The genealogy of the Fatimid Caliphs according to ʿAbd Allāh
In a letter sent to the Ismāʿīlī community in
Yemen by Abd Allah
Mahdi Billah, which was reproduced by Ja'far bin Mansūr al-Yemen,
ʿAbd Allāh al-Aftah ibn
Jaʿfar al-Sadiq was referred as Sāhib
al-Haqq or the legitimate successor of Imām Jaʿfar al-Sadiq.
According to ʿAbd Allāh, ʿAbd Allāh ibn Ja'far had called himself
Ismāʿīl ibn Jaʿfar for the sake of taqiyya, and each of his
successors had assumed the name Muhammad. ʿAbd Allāh al-
explains the genealogy of the Fatimid caliphs and he claims Fatimid
ancestry by declaring himself to be ʿ
Ali ibn al-Ḥusayn ibn Aḥmad
ibn ʿAbadullāh ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Jaʿfar al-Sadiq. But the Imamah
(Ismaili doctrine) had later been formulated in a different manner
since ʿAbd Allāh's explanation of his ancestry was not accepted by
List of Ismaili imams
People claiming to be the Mahdi
The Book of the Highest Initiation
^ Hadda 2008, p. 72.
^ a b c d Fine 1991, p. 152
^ Fine 1991, pp. 152–153
^ Farhad Daftary, The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines, pg. 108.
Brett, Michael (2001). The Rise of the Fatimids: The World of the
Mediterranean and the Middle East in the Fourth Century of the Hijra,
Tenth Century CE. The Medieval Mediterranean. 30. Leiden: BRILL.
Halm, Heinz (1996). The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids.
Handbook of Oriental Studies. 26. transl. by Michael Bonner. Leiden:
BRILL. ISBN 9004100563.
Hadda, Lamia (2008). Nella Tunisia medievale. Architettura e
decorazione islamica (IX-XVI secolo). Naples: Liguori editore.
Hitti, Philip K. (1970). "A Shi'ite
Caliphate in Egypt: The Fatimids".
History of The Arabs. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 617–619.
Fine, J. (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans, A Critical Survey from
the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press.
Imam al-Mahdi, the 11th Fatimi Imam.
Institute of Ismaili Studies London.
Born: 873 Died: 934
Caliph of the Fatimid Caliphate
al-Qa'im bi-Amr Allah