Ismaili History 543 - AL-HAKIM (386-411/996-1021)
He was born on 23rd Rabi I, 375/August 14, 985 in Cairo, and was the first Fatimid Imam born on Egyptian soil. His name was al-Mansur Abu Ali, surnamed al-Hakim bi-Amrillah (He who governs by the orders of God). In 383/993, he was however declared as a successor of his father, following the death of his brother Muhammad. On that occasion, a traditional procession to al-Azhar was used for a public proclamation in this context. Al-Hakim acceded the throne in 386/996 at the age of 11 years, 5 months and 6 days.
Ibn Khallikan (3rd vol., p. 525), Ibn Muyassar (p. 51) and other chroniclers quote Musabbihi as narrating the incident of succession as related by al-Hakim himself that:- 'My father called be before his death. His body was naked except for bandages and pieces of cloth. He hugged me and kissed me and said, `I am grieved about you, O my heart's love.' His eyes were full of tears, then he said, `Go dear and play, I am all right.' I went out and occupied myself as children do when they play until God transferred al-Aziz to Him. Barjawan came to me while I was at the top of a sycamore tree which was in the yard of the house. He said, `Descend, may God be with you.' I dismounted; he put the diamond turban on my head, kissed the ground before me and said, `May peace be upon you, Amir al-mominin, God's mercy and blessings.' He took me out to the people and they all kissed the ground before me and greeted me as Caliph.'
Makrizi writes in 'Itti'az' (p. 386) when al-Hakim assumed Imamate and Caliphate that, 'On the following morning the dignitaries assembled in the Grand Hall to await the new Caliph. Al-Mansur, wearing the diamond turban, entered the Hall and walked to the golden throne, the assembly bowing to the ground meanwhile. They greeted him with the baya as Imam and the title al-Hakim bi-Amrillah by which he was thereafter known.' Upn the termination of the ceremony, Qadi Muhammad bin Noman went to the cathedral mosque, led the prayer and delivered the khutba in the name of al-Hakim bi-Amrillah.
Al-Hakim, however assumed full power of the empire at the age of fourteen, and thus it does not appear to have affected his early education. He had a good command of Arabic tongue, and a fine knowledge of poetry at an early age. Makrizi writes in 'Itti'az' (p. 387) that, 'Al-Hakim had skillfulness in the knowledge of poetry which no other man had in Egypt. At his court, the poets would gather to recite their poetry, while he would listen carefully and ask for the repetition of every verse which held exceptional meaning. Each of them would receive gifts of money in accordance with the quality of his works.' He was a mere twelve years of age when he gained this reputation. The astronomy was also included in his course of studies. Antaki (d. 458/1065) writes in 'Tarikh-i Antaki' (Beirut, 1909, p. 217) that, 'He appears as a pleasant man with a sense of humour, and often exchanged jokes with those to whom he spoke in the streets.' Antaki also writes, 'Al-Hakim would frequently pause in the streets of his capital to exchange greetings or answer questions from his poor subjects.' (Ibid. p. 200) Marshall Hodgson writes in 'The Venture of Islam' (London, 1974, 2nd vol., p. 26) that, 'Al- Hakim wished, above all, to be the perfect ruler; widely generous, enforcing strict good order, and absolutely just to all the people. Personally, he avoided all luxury and mounted a simple donkey for his excursions.'
Al-Hakim is described as generous and brave by the chroniclers. His clothes were simple, made chiefly of wool, and chose to ride on an ass. He disliked diamond turban and wore plain white scarf. His food was simple, and that too cooked by his mother only. He was an impressive figure, tall and broad-shouldered with a powerful voice. His large eyes were dark blue and flecked with deep reddish gold.
Abul Fawaris Ahmad bin Yaqub (d. 413/1022) writes in 'Ar-Risala fi'l Imama' (comp. 408/1077) that Imam al-Hakim delivered his first speech from the pulpit of a mosque in Cairo on 386/996 and said: 'O'people, surely God has made us superior by the word of Imamate. He has eternalized it in us, so that it may last until the day of doom. The one of us receives it from the other and the son inherits it from the father. This is the bounty of God, He gives it to whomever He wishes, and God is of bounty abounding.'