Death of al-Afdal

We have seen heretofore that al-Afdal was an absolute master of the Fatimid empire for 27 years and was murdered in 515/1121. Ibn Qalanisi writes in "Tarikh-i Dimashq" (tr. H.A.R. Gibb, London, 1932, p. 163) that, "It was asserted that the Batinis (Ismailis) were responsible for his assassination, but this statement is not true." Yaacov Lev writes in "State and Society in Fatimid Egypt" (London, 1991, p. 55) that, "On 30 Ramdan 515/12 December 1121, al-Afdal was assassinated and his twenty-seven years of military dictatorship were brought to an end. Although one of the assassins was captured, who masterminded the plot remains unknown. From reading the sources one receives the impression that the Nizari Ismailis perpetrated the killing. However, judging by the subsequent events, al-Amir must have been involved in the plot."

Ibn Khallikan (1st vol., pp. 613-4) writes that, "It was al-Afdal who, on the death of al-Musta'li, placed al-Amir, that sovereign's son on the throne: he then took the direction of public affairs into his own hands, and having confined the prince in his palace, he prevented him from indulging his passion for pleasure and amusements. This treatment induced al-Amir to plot against his vizir's life, and on the evening of Sunday, the 30th Ramdan, 515, as al-Afdal rode forth from his habitation in the imperial palace, he was attacked by the conspirators and slain while proceeding towards the river."

Al-Afdal was virtually a king of the Egyptian empire and squandered the royal treasury. According to Ibn Khallikan (1st vol., p. 614), "Al-Afdal left after him such a quantity of wealth as was never heard of before. The author (Jamaluddin Abul Hasan Ali bin Abi Mansur Tahir al-Azdi) of "Dual al-Munkatia" (comp. 623/1126), states that it consisted of six hundred millions of dinars; two hundred and fifty bushels of dhirams, all of full weight and coined in Egypt; seventy-five thousand satin robes; thirty camel-loads of perfume boxes in Irak gold; a gold inkhorn mounted with a precious stone valued at twelve thousand dinars; one hundred gold nails, each weighing one hundred dinars, ten of which were in each of his ten sitting rooms; and on each nail was hung a turban ready folded and embroidered in gold; each of these turbans was of a different colour, and he selected from among them whichever he was inclined to wear; he possessed besides five hundred chests of clothing for the persons in his service, all of the finest stuffs which Tennis and Damietta could produce: as for the horses, slaves, mules, saddles, perfumes, ornaments for the person, and furniture which he left after him, God alone knew their quantity. Besides all that, were cows, sheep, and buffalos in such an incredible number that no person would dare to mention it; their milk was farmed out, and in the year of his death it brought in thirty thousand dinars. Among his effects were found two large trunks containing gold needles for the use of the female slaves and the women."

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