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الدولة الفاطمية
al-Fātimiyyūn
Fatimid Islamic Caliphate

909–1171
 

Flag

The Fatimid Caliphate at its peak, c. 969.
Capital Mahdia (909-969)
Cairo (969-1171)
Religion Ismaili Shi'a Islam
Government Monarchy
Caliph
 - 909-934 (first) Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah
 - 1160-1171 (last) Al-'Āḍid
History
 - Established 5 January 909
 - Foundation of Cairo August 8, 969
 - Disestablished 1171
Area
 - 969 5,100,000 km2 (1,969,121 sq mi)
Population
 -  est. 62,000,000[citation needed] 
Currency Dinar
History of the Muslim States

The Fatimid Caliphate or al-Fātimiyyūn (Arabic الفاطميون) was an Arab Shi'a dynasty that ruled over varying areas of the Maghreb, Egypt, Sicily, Malta and the Levant from 5 January 909 to 1171. The caliphate was ruled by the Fatimids, who established the Egyptian city of Cairo as their capital. The term Fatimite is sometimes used to refer to the citizens of this caliphate. The ruling elite of the state belonged to the Ismaili branch of Shi'ism. The leaders of the dynasty were also Shia Ismaili Imams, hence, they had a religious significance to Ismaili Muslims. They are also part of the chain of holders of the office of Caliph, as recognized by some Muslims. Therefore, this constitutes a rare period in history in which some form of the Shia Imamate and the Caliphate were united to any degree, excepting the Caliphate of Ali himself.

The Fatimids were reputed to exercise a degree of religious tolerance towards non-Ismaili sects of Islam as well as towards Jews, Maltese Christians and Coptic Christians.[1]

Contents

Rise of the Fatimids

The Fatimids had their origins in Ifriqiya (modern-day Tunisia and eastern Algeria). The dynasty was founded in 909 by ˤAbdullāh al-Mahdī Billah, who legitimised his claim through descent from Muhammad by way of his daughter Fātima as-Zahra and her husband ˤAlī ibn-Abī-Tālib, the first Shīˤa Imām, hence the name al-Fātimiyyūn "Fatimid".

Abdullāh al-Mahdi's control soon extended over all of central Maghreb, an area consisting of the modern countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, which he ruled from Mahdia, his newly-built capital in Tunisia.

The Fatimids entered Egypt in the late 900s, conquering the Ikhshidid dynasty and founding a new capital at al-Qāhira (Cairo) in 969.[2] The name was a reference to the planet Mars, "The Subduer", which was prominent in the sky at the moment that city construction started. Cairo was intended as a royal enclosure for the Fatimid caliph and his army, though the actual administrative and economic capital of Egypt was in cities such as Fustat until 1169. After Egypt, the Fatimids continued to conquer the surrounding areas until they ruled from Tunisia to Syria and even crossed over into Sicily and southern Italy.

Under the Fatimids, Egypt became the center of an empire that included at its peak North Africa, Sicily, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, the Red Sea coast of Africa, Yemen and the Hejaz[citation needed]. Egypt flourished, and the Fatimids developed an extensive trade network in both the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. Their trade and diplomatic ties extended all the way to China and its Song Dynasty, which eventually determined the economic course of Egypt during the High Middle Ages.

Mosque of Al-Hakim, the sixth Caliph
Map of the Fatimid Caliphate also showing cities.

Unlike other governments in the area, Fatimid advancement in state offices was based more on merit than on heredity. Members of other branches of Islam, like the Sunnis, were just as likely to be appointed to government posts as Shiites. Tolerance was extended even to non-Muslims such as Christians and Jews, who occupied high levels in government based on ability. However, it is important to note here that Jews in particular were part of a larger scheme to gain monetary leverage for trade in Europe. And tolerance was set into place to ensure the flow of money from all those who were non-Muslims too in order to finance the Fatimids Caliphs' large army of mamlukes brought in from Russia by Genoese merchants.[citation needed] There were, however, exceptions to this general attitude of tolerance, most notably Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah.

The Fatimids were also known to some extent for their arts. A type of ceramic, lustreware, was prevalent during the Fatimid period. Glassware and metalworking was also popular. Many traces of Fatimid architecture exist in Cairo today, like the Al Azhar University and the Al Hakim mosque. The Al Azhar University was the first university in the East and perhaps the oldest in history. It was founded by Caliph Muizz and was one of the highest educational facilities of the Fatimid Empire.

The Fatimid palace was two parts. it used to be in the Khan el-Khalili area at Bin El-Quasryn street[1].

Decay and fall

Genealogical tree of the Fatimid caliphs (in yellow). Their ancestry from the seven Ismaili imams (in grey) and Muhammad is also shown.

In the 1040s, the Zirids (governors of North Africa under the Fatimids) declared their independence from the Fatimids and their recognition of the Sunni Abbasid caliphs of Baghdad, which led the Fatimids to launch devastating Banū Hilal invasions. After about 1070, the Fatimid hold on the Levant coast and parts of Syria was challenged first by Turkish invasions, then the Crusades, so that Fatimid territory shrank until it consisted only of Egypt.

After the decay of the Fatimid political system in the 1160s, the Zengid ruler Nūr ad-Dīn had his general Shirkuh, seize Egypt from the vizier Shawar in 1169. Shirkuh died two months after taking power, and the rule went to his nephew, Saladin.[3] This began the Ayyubid Dynasty.

Fatimid caliphs

  1. Abū Muḥammad ˤAbdu l-Lāh (ˤUbaydu l-Lāh) al-Mahdī bi'llāh (909-934) founder Fatimid dynasty
  2. Abū l-Qāsim Muḥammad al-Qā'im bi-Amr Allāh (934-946)
  3. Abū Ṭāhir Ismā'il al-Manṣūr bi-llāh (946-953)
  4. Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mu'izz li-Dīn Allāh (953-975) Egypt is conquered during his reign
  5. Abū Manṣūr Nizār al-'Azīz bi-llāh (975-996)
  6. Abū 'Alī al-Manṣūr al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh (996-1021)
  7. Abū'l-Ḥasan 'Alī al-Ẓāhir li-I'zāz Dīn Allāh (1021-1036)
  8. Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh (1036-1094)
  9. al-Musta'lī bi-llāh (1094-1101) Quarrels over his succession led to the Nizari split.
  10. al-Āmir bi-Aḥkām Allāh (1101-1130) The Fatimid rulers of Egypt after him are not recognized as Imams by Mustaali Taiyabi Ismailis.
  11. 'Abd al-Majīd al-Ḥāfiẓ (1130-1149)
  12. al-Ẓāfir (1149-1154)
  13. al-Fā'iz (1154-1160)
  14. al-'Āḍid (1160-1171).

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Wintle, Justin (May 2003). History of Islam. London: Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 136–7. ISBN 184353018X. 
  2. ^ Beeson, Irene (September/October 1969). "Cairo, a Millennial". Saudi Aramco World: 24, 26–30. http://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/196905/cairo-a.millennial.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  3. ^ Amin Maalouf (1984). The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. Al Saqi Books. pp. 160–170. ISBN 0-8052-0898-4. 

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Noun

Fatimites

  1. Plural form of Fatimite.

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