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MUIZZ (341-365/952-975), 14TH IMAM

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"His name was Ma'd, and kunya was Abu Tamim, surnamed al-Muizz li-din'allah (Fortifier of the religion of God). He was born in Mahdiya in 319/931, and ascended in 341/952. His period is noted for the extension of the Fatimid domination from Maghrib to Egypt and Syria. His Caliphate is also acclaimed for the progress of learning and arts. He himself was a learned philosopher, scientist and astronomist.

In 345/956, the Fatimid naval fleet inflicted a major defeat on the Byzantines in Italy, following several minor entanglements and forcing the emperor Constantine VII (913-959) to pay tribute and send a peace-negotiating embassy to Imam al-Muizz in 346/957. In 351/962, Ahmad bin Hasan, the second Kalbid governor of Sicily captured Taormina, whose name was changed to al-Muizzia in honour of Imam al-Muizz. In 354/964, following the accession of the emperor Nicephorus II Phocas (963-969), who had intentionally stopped the customary tribute to the Fatimids, the Byzantines were severely defeated on land and sea by the joint Fatimid and Kalbid forces, and occupied Rametta, the last ashes of the Byzantium; and the simultaneous victory at sea known as the wak'at al-majaz (battle of the straits). In 356/967, a peace treaty was concluded between the Fatimids and the Byzantines. This defeat of the Byzantines was indeed celebrated with pomp through out the Islamic world.

Imam al-Muizz sent Jawhar as-Siqilli to conquer Egypt. Jawhar's march started from Kairwan with a huge army on 14th Rabi I, 357/February 4, 969. He landed at the ruins of the Tulunid dynasty (254-292/868-905) on 15th Shaban, 358/July 4, 969 where he was received with honour. In the same year, Jawhar dispatched a messenger towards Maghrib in presence of Imam al-Muizz with the glad tidings that Egypt had fallen to the Fatimids.

Jawhar also conquered Syria, and then he invited Imam al-Muizz in Egypt. After making necessary appointments in Maghrib, Imam al-Muizz departed from Mansuria on 21st Shawal, 361/August 15, 972 with his family and notable persons. His caravan reached Alexandria on 23rd Shaban, 362/May 29, 973. Abu Tahir Muhammad bin Ahmad, the qadi of Egypt, accompanied by the chief men, offered Imam al-Muizz their salutations. Towards the end of the month of Shaban, Imam al-Muizz left Alexandria and, on Saturday, the 2nd Ramzan, 363/June 6, 973, he stopped at Mina, the wharf of Egypt. Jawhar in Jazira warmly greeted him. Imam al-Muizz entered Cairo, henceforward; it became the capital of the Fatimids. Ibn Khallikan (3:380) writes that, "On arriving at Cairo, he went to the castle and entered a hall of audience where he fell prostrate in adoration of Almighty God. He then said a prayer of two rakats (i.e., the genuflections of prayer)."

The reign of Imam al-Muizz was one of the most glorious ever recorded in Egyptian history. He displayed judgment and justice in the management of his mixed subjects. He did not allow his troops to interfere with the people. He was well disposed towards the Copts. His land revenue reforms were highly admired, which he was ably assisted by his vizir Yaqub bin Killis. The Imam divided the provinces into districts and were placed under capable officers. The army was organized with a standing force and a militia to be summoned in times of war. A naval fleet was also organized to protect the coastal trade and commerce from pirates. Makrizi writes in al-Khitat (1:444) that, "The Franks were employed as craftsmen, making weapons for the navy and other services in Cairo." The Fatimids built a big dockyard (dar al-sina'a) at Alexandria and Damietta, inside the country on the Nile at Maks near Cairo and Aydhab near Sanga on the Red Sea opposite to Jeddah. The Arabic word dar al-sina'a for a dockyard is still current in the European languages as arzenale or arsenale in Italian and arsenal in Spanish, French and English. In the dockyard, more than 600 ships were built - the largest fleet that Egypt had ever seen since the Arab conquests. The commander of the naval force was called Amir al-Bahr (the chief of the sea), which came to be used in the European languages, such as Amiralh (Portuguese), Amiral (French) and Admiral (English).

Hussain Ibrahim Hasan and Taha Ahmad Sharf write in al-Muizz li-din'allah Maktaba al-Mahda al-Miriyya (Cairo, 1947, p. 139) that, "The personality of al-Muizz was clothed in the clean robes of holiness and majesty. The Fatimid Caliph was not, like his Umayyad and Abbasid rivals, a tyrant in running the affairs of the state. Neither was al-Muizz over-indulgent about pleasures. His subjects and helpers held him in high esteem as he belonged to the progeny of the Prophet." According to Theodore Noldeke in Sketches from Eastern History (Beirut, 1963, p. 90), "After their conquest of Egypt, the Fatimids were the most powerful princes of Islam, and it seemed at times as if even the form of power had passed from the Abbasids. The Fatimids, moreover, governed excellently as a rule, and brought Egypt to a high peak of prosperity." Writing on the then Islamic empires, Robert Payne observes in The Holy Sword (London, 1959, pp. 182-3) that, "There were now three Muhammadan empires: the Umayyad caliphs ruled over Spain, Iraq and Persia remained in the hands of the Abbasids and North Africa, Egypt, Syria and Arabia were in the hands of the Fatimids."

Having consolidated the power of the Fatimid Caliphate, Imam al-Muizz died in 14th Rabi II, 365/December 21, 975 at the age of 44 years, after the Caliphate and Imamate of 23 years and 6 months. He ruled 20 years in Maghrib and 3 years also in Egypt. Philip K. Hitti writes in Capital Cities of Arab Islam (London, 1973, p. 119) that, "Under the reign of the first caliph to commence his rule in Egypt, Cairo had become not only a formidable rival of Baghdad, but its superior. It had become the leading Moslem state in the eastern Mediterranean." Stanley Lane Poole writes in History of Egypt (p. 98-99) that, "With the fourth caliph, however, al-Moizz, the conqueror of Egypt, the Fatimid entered upon a new phase. He was a man of politic temper, a born statesman, able to grasp the conditions of success, and to take advantage of every point in his favour. He was also highly educated, and not only wrote Arabic poetry and delighted in its literature, but studied Greek, mastered Berber and Sudani dialects, and even said to have taught himself Slavonic, in order to converse with his slaves from eastern Europe. His eloquence was such as to move his audience to tears. To prudent statesmanship he added a large generosity, and his love of justice was among his noblest qualities."

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