He was born in Cairo on 16th Jamada II, 420/July 2, 1029, who eight months afterwards was declared to succeed his father. His name was Ma’d Abu Tamim, surnamed al-Mustansir billah (Imploring the help of God). He ascended on 15th Shaban, 427/June 13, 1036 at the age of 7 years. During the early years, the state affairs were administered by his mother. His period of Caliphate lasted for 60 years, the longest of all the caliphs, either in Egypt or elsewhere in Islamic states.
Ali bin Ahmad Jarjarai, an able vizir, whose period was one of the prosperity in Egypt, died in 436/1044. He was followed by Ibn al-Anbari and Abu Mansur Sadaqa, but none of them was competent. In 442/1050, there came forward a capable vizir Abu Muhammad Hasan bin Abdur Rehman Yazuri, who held the office for 8 years, and was an earnest reformer. He was followed by about 40 vizirs one after another during 15 years (450-466/1058-1073), but none equated him, because they squandered the royal treasury.
Between 457/1065 and 464/1072, the famine made the condition of Egypt from bad to worse. Meanwhile, in 454/1062 and again in 459/1067, the struggle between the Turkish and Sudanese soldiery deteriorated into open warfare, ending in a victory for the Turks and their Berber allies. The Berbers in lower Egypt deliberately aggravated the distress by ravaging the country, destroying the embankments and canals, and seeking every way to reduce the capital and the neighbouring districts by sheer starvation. Makrizi sees in this incident the beginning of the crisis in Egypt, which he refers by the appellations, disorder (fitna), civil war (al-shidda al-mashhura), corruption of state (fasad ad-dawla) and days of calamity and dearth (ayyam al-shidda wal ghala).
In Imam al-Mustansir’s stable where there had been ten thousand animals there were now only three thin horses, and his escort once fainted from hunger as it accompanied him through the streets. As long as the calamity lasted, Imam al-Mustansir alone possessed a horse, and, when he rode out, the courtiers followed on foot, having no beast to carry them. The condition of the country deteriorated with the protracted famine that followed by plague, and the whole districts were absolutely denuded of population and house after house lay empty.
Meanwhile, the Turkish mercenaries had drained the treasury, the works of art and valuables of all sorts in the palace were sold to satisfy their demands; often they themselves were the purchasers at merely nominal prices and sold the articles again at a profit. Emeralds valued at 300,000 dinars were bought by one Turkish general for 500 dinars, and in one fortnight of the year 460/1068 articles to the value of 30,000,000 dinars were sold off to provide pay for the Turks. The precious library which had been rendered available to the public and was one of the objects for which many visited Cairo was scattered, the books were torn up, thrown away, or used to light fires. At length, the Turks began fighting amongst themselves. Nasir ad-Dawla, the Turkish general of the Fatimid army, had attacked the city which was defended by the rival faction of the Turkish guard and, after burning part of Fustat and defeating the defenders, he entered as conqueror. When he reached the palace, he found Imam al-Mustansir resided in rooms, which had been stripped bare, waited on by only three slaves, and subsisting on two loaves, which were sent him daily by the daughters of Ibn Babshand. The victorious Turks dominated Cairo, held the successive vizirs in subjection, treated Imam al-Mustansir with contempt, and used their power to deplete the treasury by enhancing their pay to nearly twenty times its former figure. After this victory over the unhappy city, Nasir ad-Dawla became so over- bearing and tyrannical in his conduct that he provoked even his own followers, and so at length he was assassinated in 466/1074. But this only left the city in a worse condition than ever, for it was now at the mercy of the various Turkish factions, which behaved no better than troops of brigands.
Mention should be made of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1055), who had maintained a friendly relation with the Imam and had provided Egypt with wheat after the above mentioned famine.
At this desperate juncture when these troubles were brewing, Imam al-Mustansir was roused to action and sent a message to Badr al-Jamali, the then governor of Acre, inviting him to come to Egypt and take control. Badr al-Jamali responded swiftly. Originally an Armenian slave of the Syrian amir, Jamaluddin bin Ammar, he had a successful career as soldier and governor in Syria. His Armenian soldiers were loyal. Sailing from Acre in the mid-winter, he landed at Damietta and entered Cairo on 28th Jamada I, 466/January 29, 1074. Badr al-Jamali took the charge and dealt the state affairs efficiently. The swift and energetic actions of Badr al-Jamali brought peace and security to Egypt, and even measure of prosperity. The annual revenue was increased from about 2,000,000 to 3,00,000 dinars. It is true that his efforts were greatly assisted by the fact that the year 466/1074 saw an exceptionally good Nile, so that prosperity and abundance once more reigned through the land. Badr al-Jamali was invested the triple title, viz. Amir al-Juyush (commander of the army), Badi al-Duat (director of the missionaries) and the Vizir.
The foremost priority given by the Imam was to rebuild the library devastated by the Turks. De Lacy O’Leary writes in A Short History of the Fatimid Khalifate (London, 1923, p. 207) that, "It is interesting to note that the Khalif set himself to the formation of a new library at Cairo as one of his first tasks; it helps us to realize that the Shi’ites were then as always the friends of learning."
In 447/1055, the Turk, Tughril Beg was recognized in Baghdad as the sultan and lieutenant of the Abbasid caliph. He drove away the Iranian soldiers from Baghdad to Syria. They assembled round Abu Harith al-Basasari, who was propagating the Fatimid mission. Meanwhile, Ebrahim Niyal rebelled in Mosul against Tughril Beg, who himself set out to crush the revolt. The absence of Tughril Beg from Baghdad gave a chance to al-Basasari to capture Baghdad, which he did successfully in 450/1058 and recited the Fatimid khutba in the cathedral mosque of Baghdad. He also sent the royal throne, robes, pulpit and the staff to Imam al-Mustansir in Cairo. The expelled Abbasid caliph took refuge with an Arab amir for one year.
After subduing the rising of his brother, Tughril Beg turned back to Baghdad with a large army. When he reached near Baghdad, al-Basasari did not come into confrontation, and began to evacuate the city on other side with his close associates. Tughril Beg thus entered the city without any opposition and reinstated the Abbasid caliphate after a year on 6th Zilkada, 451, December 14, 1059. He sent a detachment to pursue al-Basasari, who was slain in the ensuing fighting.
Maghrib was the original base of the Fatimids, whose chief in the time of Imam al-Mustansir was al-Muizz bin Badis, the fourth Zirid ruler. He was a Malikite and persecuted the Shiites. It is also related that the relations between him and the Fatimid vizir were strained, whereupon in 436/1044, al-Muizz bin Badis proclaimed Malikism in Maghrib, and recited the Abbasid khutba from 440/1048, resulting the whole Maghrib gone away from the Fatimid occupation in 442/1050.
It is related that al-Muizz bin Badis returned briefly later on in 446/1055 to the allegiance of the Fatimids. In the meantime, the vizir Yazuri had convinced Imam al-Mustansir that he would punish the disloyal al-Muizz bin Badis. Thus, the vizir encouraged a number of Bedouin tribes to advance towards Maghrib. The Bedouins at the command of Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym, took possession of Barqa and proceeded into the territories of the Maghrib. They inflicted defeat to the Zirids in 443/1052 and pillaged the towns and gained rich booty. These Bedouins, being reinforced by new arrivals, gradually penetrated Maghrib, whose operation is known as the Hilali Invasion. In 449/1057, al-Muizz bin Badis had to evacuate his capital, Kairwan and sought refuge in Mahdiya, then governed by his son, Tamim bin al-Muizz (454-501/1062-1108). In sum, the Zirids were divided into petty rules in Maghrib. The last Zirid ruler, al-Hasan bin Ali was driven out of Mahdiya in 543/1148 by Roger II, the Sicilian emperor.
The Karakhanid dynasty sprang from the ruling house of the Karluk Turks, originally belonged to the steppes of Central Asia, and whose founder was Satuk Bughra Khan. He embraced Islam and assumed the Islamic name Abdul Karim. He reigned from Kashghar and Talas over the western wing of his people. His grandson Hasan Bughra Khan occupied for a while the Samanid capital of Bukhara, which was taken over by Ilig Nasr of Ozkend in 389/999. The Fatimid da’is had continued their mission in Bukhara, Samarkand and western Farghana. In 436/1045, a bulk of the converted Ismailis, who recognized the Imamate of Imam al-Mustansir, had been killed in the territories of the Karkhanid rule, impelling the da’is to adopt strict taqiya.
Hasan bin Sabbah was also a renowned Ismaili da’i. He came in Egypt in 471/1078 and had his audience with Imam al-Mustansir. He stayed 18 months in Cairo, and being ascertained the name of Imam al-Nizar as the successor personally from Imam al-Mustansir, he quitted Cairo and reached Ispahan in 473/1081 and thence proceeded to Qazwin, and took possession of the fort of Alamut in 483/1090 and founded Nizari Ismaili state.
In Yamen, Ali bin Muhammad al-Sulayhi had established the Sulayhid rule and introduced the Fatimid khutba. In 450/1058, he succeeded to expel the Zaidis from San’a, and made it his capital. In 452/1060, he captured Zabid after killing Sa’d bin Najah, the founder of the Najahid dynasty and appointed his brother-in-law, Asad bin Shihab as the governor of Zabid. In 454/1062, he conquered Adan, where he allowed Banu Ma’n to rule for sometime as tributaries of the Sulayhids. Later, in 476/1083, the Sulayhids granted the governorship of Adan to two Hamdani brothers, Abbas and Masud bin Karam, who founded the Ismaili dynasty of the Zurayids in Adnan from 476/1083 to 569/1173. Ali bin Muhammad subjugated all of Yamen in 455/1063 and also extended his influence from Mecca to Hazarmaut. Umara bin Ali al-Hakami (d. 569/1174) writes in Tarikh-i Yamen (tr. Henry C. Kay, London, 1892, pp. 24-5) that, "None of its plains or its hills, of its lands or of its waters remained unsubdued. No parallel case can be found of so rapid a conquest, either in the days of ignorance or in the days of Islam." One of the greatest achievements of Ali bin Muhammad al-Sulayhi was his success in establishing peace in Mecca on behalf of Imam al-Mustansir.
In 454/1062, Ali bin Muhammad al-Sulayhi desired to meet Imam al-Mustansir, therefore, he sent Lamak bin Malik al-Hammadi, the chief qadi of Yamen to Cairo to discuss his prospective visit. In 454/1062, Nasir ad-Dawla had begun to ravage Egypt, therefore, qadi Lamak had to stay with al-Muayyad at the Dar al-Hikmah. Lamak remained in Cairo for five years and at length he had an audience with the Imam. On the other hand, Ali bin Muhammad set out on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 459/1067 at the head of 2000 horsemen of whom 160 were the members of his household. Unfortunately, he was killed with a number of his relatives in a surprise attack by the sons of Sa’d bin Najah in reprisal of his father’s death. His son Ahmad al-Mukarram was declared the head of Yamen by Imam al-Mustansir. The rule which Ali bin Muhammad al-Sulayhi founded would have fallen to the ground if his son Ahmad al-Mukarram had not come to its rescue and restored it.
In one of the rare extant letters from Yamen to Imam al-Mustansir, Ahmad al-Mukarram, after giving an account of the death of his father and the following events, reports that the envoys of the da’i of India have brought him a letter, asking that permission be granted to them to pass from verbal propaganda to the use of force. It shows that there were preparations for a rising on the western coast of India, presumably in Gujrat, ruled by the then Hindu Chaulukya dynasty and establish there a Fatimid enclave. In his letter dated 461/1068, the Imam replied to the question of the da’i Yousuf bin Hussain and left it to him to judge whether the plan was feasible. Nothing seems to have come of it. In 468/1075, Yousuf bin Hussain died in India, therefore, Ahmad al- Mukarram was commissioned to choose his successor. Yousuf’s son Ahmad was proposed by him, which the Imam agreed and sent the appointment letter, adding that the country in question, i.e., the administration of its mission, was in the charge of the Sulayhid, who was also ordered to make some arrangements for Oman, which had at that time no mission. In 469/1076, the Sulayhid is charged with the government of the city of Oman. In 476/1083, the Sulayhid suggested appointment of Marzuban bin Ishaq in India and Ibrahim bin Ismail in Oman, which Imam al- Mustansir billah agreed. In 481/1088, Marzuban died and his son Ahmad was recommended. In Oman, Ibrahim turned to commerce and neglected the mission, thus Hamza was recommended to succeed him. Ahmad al-Mukarram died in 484/1091 and his wife Sayyida Hurrat al-Malika Arwa (477-532/1084-1138) then began to govern on behalf of Mukarram’s minor son, Ali Abd al- Mustansir. When he too died, Sayyida Arwa took up the reins of administration of the state and mission, and remained loyal to Imam al-Mustansir. She however supported the Mustalian line after the death of Imam al-Mustansir.
The Fatimid vizir Badr al-Jamali died in 487/1095, and was succeeded by his son, al-Afdal as vizir. The administration of Badr al-Jamali was especially associated with a great development of building and with the construction of new walls and gates round Cairo.
The longest Caliphate of Muslim history for 60 years and 4 months closed with the death of Imam al-Mustansir on the 18th Zilhaja, 487/January 6, 1095 at the age of 67 years and 5 months.
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