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JAWHAR AS-SIQALLI

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Jawhar as-Siqilli was born most probably between 298/911 and 300/913 in Sicily, the then island under occupation of the Byzantines. During the period of Imam al-Mansur, Jawhar was brought as a slave to Kairwan and was presented before the Imam. Realizing his potential, he was made as a personal attendant of Imam al-Mansur, and soon rose to prominence. In 341/932, Imam al-Muizz appointed him as his Katib and since then, he became known as Jawhar al-Katib. In 347/958, he was made the commander-in-chief of the Fatimid forces, and was assigned to subdue the remaining parts of the Maghrib. In 347/958, Jawhar led the Fatimid forces westwards and defeated near Tahrat, who had rebelled against the Fatimids.

He further proceeded towards Sijilmasa, then ruled by the Midrar tribe and killed its chief, Muhammad bin al-Fath in a fierce fighting. Jawhar marched against Fas after spending a year in the eastern Morocco. In 349/960, he besieged the strongest fortress of the Umayyad. He took possession of Fas and arrested its Umayyad governor. Jawhar proceeded towards the far west, and continued conquering one after another city till he reached the Atlantic ocean. He ordered some fish to be put in a pot with water, and sent it to Imam al-Muizz to let him know symbolically that whichever cities he had crossed, he conquered them as far as the Atlantic ocean.

Imam al-Muizz, with a comprehensive and more cautious policy in the Mediterranean and the Muslim world, was able to succeed where his predecessors failed. Having completely subjected the Maghrib to his control, he was able to rally the Katama tribe under the capable leadership of Jawhar for impending expedition against Egypt.

Egypt was under the rule of the Ikhshids between 323/935 and 358/969 before the advent of the Fatimids. It was a Turkish dynasty under the Abbasid suzerainty. Muhammad Ikhshid, the founder of the rule, died in 355/966 and his two minor sons, Abu Kassim and Ali ruled after him in succession as the nominal rulers, and the virtual authority was held by an Abyssinian, called Abul Misk Kafur. He was an able governor, and died in 357/968. Kafur's death left Egypt in a state of confusion. Famine broke out as a result of scarcity of water in Nile and it was also followed by plague. The soldiers had their pay diminished, their gratuities were in arrear. The whole administration failed to relieve the people from distress due to lack of capable governor. Kafur was succeeded by a twelve years old Abul Fawaris Ahmad. Under his rule, there had started an animosity between the vizir Abu Jafar bin Furat and Yaqub bin Killis, the treasurer. Yaqub was imprisoned, but was relieved soon by the intervention of Sharif Muslim al-Hussain. Yaqub bin Killis had gone to Imam al-Muizz in Maghrib and informed the chaotic condition of Egypt. He also requested the Imam to take possession of Egypt. On the other hand, the Abbasids also neglected Egypt because of their internal wars. The people of Egypt ultimately knocked the door of Maghrib and wrote several letters to Imam al-Muizz, inviting him to get rid of calamities. The Imam confessed the offer and ordered for the preparation of large army to conquer Egypt. According to Ibn Khallikan (5:226), "The preparations for expedition against Egypt are a fair witness to the efficiency of the Fatimid logistics." Four months provisions were patiently amassed at the Qasr al-Ma, near Mansuria. Wells were dug and rest-houses built along the route between Tunisia and Egypt in 354/966.

Imam al-Muizz entrusted the invasion of Egypt to his general, Jawhar, who had already proved his efficiency in the reduction of the western provinces, but just about this time, Jawhar fell ill, that no hopes were entertained of his recovery. In this state, he was visited by Imam al-Muizz, who according to Ibn Khallikan (1:341) declared that Jawhar would not only escape from death, but also make the conquest of Egypt. The health of Jawhar was restored soon. Imam al-Muizz attended with his court to bid him farewell and according to Makrizi (1:378), he said: "We are in need of your bodies and minds. Be it known to you that if you act on what we say, we can hope that God will ease our attack of the eastern countries, as he did of the western parts with your cooperation." He further said, "By God, if Jawhar goes alone to conquer Egypt, he will be able to take hold of it. You people will enter Egypt within remaining in your veils without offense, and will land at the ruins of the Tulunids, where a city shall be built, whose name shall be al-Qahira, which shall dominate the world." (Ibid.)

Thus, Imam al-Muizz made his farewell speech to Jawhar's troops on the eve of their departure from the Maghrib in which he greatly emphasized the political and religious policy to be followed in the new dominion. He admonished his troops that "justice was the basis of the state, not oppression." If this principal were to be observed by all, he thought, the Katama warriors would eventually conquer the East easily as they had conquered the West. With the conclusion of his khutba, Imam al-Muizz formally ordered Jawhar to set out, and ordered his princes to dismount and give Jawhar the salutation of departure; and this also obliged the great officers of the empire to dismount. Jawhar kissed the hand of al-Muizz, and mounted his horse and put his army on march.

Jawhar's march started from Kairwan with a huge army on 14th Rabi I, 357/February 4, 969. Ibn at-Tiqtaqa in his al-Fakhri (comp. 701/1302) quotes the poet, Ibn Hani (d. 362/973) as follows: "No army before the army of Jawhar trotted and walked its charges by files of tens". Jawhar's army consisted of Arabs, Saqaliba, Rum and Berber tribes of whom the Katama was the largest. Ibn Khallikan (5:377) estimated at more than a hundred thousand men, and Nuwayri (d. 732/1332) writes in Nihayat al-Arab (ed. M. Jabir A. al-Hini, Cairo, 1984, p. 44) that two hundred thousand men later augmented it. The cost of the expedition is also given for 24 million dinars. More than a thousand camel loads of gold were also placed under Jawhar in order to meet extra expenses. With all his forces, Jawhar reached Barqa, whose governor, Aflah received him with honour. Jawhar directed his forces towards Alexandria, and conquered it without much opposition. When the people of Fustat learned the fall of Alexandria, they sent their deputation, who met Jawhar in a village, called Taruja on Rajab, 358/June, 969. Jawhar promised them for safe-conduct in writing. On 11th Shaban, 358/June 30, 969, Jawhar overwhelmed the last feeble resistance of the Ikhshid forces near Jiza, and entered Fustat by crossing the Nile. 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.

It seems that Jawhar preferred to follow very closely the policy designed by Imam al-Muizz. In his proclamation (ahd al-aman) to the Egyptian populace in 358/969, Jawhar outlined a sagacious policy of religious toleration, reform, justice, tranquility, security and peace. He was there to execute Fatimid policy, which was aimed at pacifying Egypt in order that it might serve as a potential centre.

It would be more accurate to describe the site of Fustat as a low-lying bank consisting of a plain and series of alluvial terraces stretching as far as the advanced spurs of the Jabal al-Muqattam, known as Jabal Yashkur. The name Fustat means either a military tent or more probably, a defensive moat. Jawhar encamped his army at the northern plain of Fustat, almost away from the crowded parts of the city. Prof. Hitti writes in Capital Cities of Arab Islam (London, 1973, p. 111) that, "The victor lost no time in laying the foundation of his new capital. The site he chose excelled that of Baghdad in the number and importance of its forerunners, and the region around the site vied with that of the earlier capital."

On 17th Shaban, 358/July 6, 969, Jawhar drew the lines of the new city, and on the same night, he laid the foundation of a new city, named al-Qahira al-Muizia, or al-Qahira (whence Cairo through Italian). The new city was built on a rectangular plan. Its width was about 1200 meters and spread on 340 acres of land, out of which the big palace occupied 70 acres. A large area was reserved for gardens and parks, and about 200 acres were distributed among the soldiers. The city was strongly fortified on all sides with iron-gates to protect from the invaders. In its north was the gate of Nasr, in south the gate of Zwella, in east the gate of Barqiya and the gate of Mahruk, and on its west were the gates of Saadat, Faraj and Khokhal.

John J. Pool writes in Studies in Mohammedanism (London, 1892, p. 165) that, "Cairo, in the time of her real greatness, in the days when the Fatimites ruled, must have been a capital to be proud of. And not only was the city famous for her unique situation and grandeur, but she earned renown in the East, as Cordova did in the West, for her encouragement of learning." Dr. T.J. De Boer writes in The History of Philosophy in Islam (New York, 1967, pp. 5-6) that, "For a short time Aleppo, the seat of the Hamdanids, and for a longer time Cairo, built by the Fatimids in the year 969, - have a better claim to be regarded as the home of intellectual endeavour than Baghdad itself."

Jawhar ordered that all mention of the Abbasid caliph in the Friday prayers must be expunged from all official records and the Fatimid khutba be recited. Ibn Khallikan (1:344) writes that these words were added in the khutba:- "O my God, bless Muhammad the chosen, Ali the accepted, Fatima the pure, and al-Hasan and al-Hussain, the grandsons of the Apostle, whom Thou hast freed from stain and thoroughly purified. O my God, bless the pure Imams, ancestors of the Commander of the faithful." Ibn Khallikan (1: 345) further writes that, "Jawhar disapproved however of prayers (of khutba) being made for himself, and said that such was not in the direction given by his master." One of Jawhar's first acts in Egypt was to strike the Fatimid coins, bearing the name of Imam al-Muizz. He sent a sack of coins to Imam al-Muizz in Mansuria as a symbol of his conquest.

Jawhar's first step after laying down the city wall with four gates was to start on the two major projects: the Imam's palace and the mosque. The palace complex occupied the central area of 116,844 square yards. It was large enough to accommodate the imperial household and servants and to provide offices for government officials and army officers. In course of time it came to have 4000 rooms. Close by the palace rose the mosque, extending to the foot of Jabal al-Muqattam, named Jam-i Azhar, on 24th Jamada I, 359/April 4, 970, where a big library and school were erected.

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. The Imam entered Cairo, henceforward, it became the capital of the Fatimids. The capital was placarded with Imam al-Muizz's name and the praises of Ali. The people, who crowded to his first public audience, acclaimed him. He was presented precious gifts by the prominent noblemen, in which the present offered by Jawhar was splendid and eye-catching. Jawar continued to govern Egypt with absolute power till the arrival of his master; he preserved his high rank, dignity and authority till 364/974. He however continued in the government of Egypt for 4 years and 20 days and died most probably in 381/992.


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