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YAQUB BIN KILLIS

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Yaqub bin Ibn Killis was born in 318/930 in a Jewish family. When he grew young, he came with his father to Egypt and began his political career at the court of Abul Misk Kafur. Very soon, he secured key position because of being intelligent, honest and efficient. He embraced Islam in 357/968. The new vizir Abu Jafar Furat imprisoned him in enmity, but was relieved soon by the intervention of Sharif Muslim al-Hussain. He finally quitted Egypt and entered into the Fatimid services in Maghrib. Imam al-Muizz assigned him the tasks of accelerating the economy of Maghrib, which he discharged efficiently. He also accompanied Imam al-Muizz to Egypt and was handed over the administration in 363/974. He was a man of great ability and credited with having organized the fiscal and administrative system.

Imam al-Aziz appointed him as Vizir al-Ajall (chief minister) in 367/977. Qalqashandi (d. 821/1418) writes in Subh al-A'asha (3:483) that, "The first man to be addressed as vizir during the Fatimid Caliphate was Yaqub bin Killis, the minister of al-Aziz." He created different cells for the administration of the state, and promoted the output of agriculture, reformed trade and stabilized currency, causing increase of state revenue. In 373/983, he was fallen from his office because he is said to have ill-treated with one of the court prisoners of Imam al-Aziz whom the Imam had promised all honours. Thus, the Imam penalized him with the fine of 200,000 dinars and after one year, he was reinstated in the office.

One can well judged the status of Yaqub bin Killis in the eyes of the Imam, when he fell seriously ill in 380/991. Imam al-Aziz visited him and said, "O Yaqub! if your recovery is to be gained through spending wealth, then I am prepared to give away the whole wealth of the state. If your life is saved by sacrificing any life, I am ready to sacrifice my own son."

Yaqub bin Killis died in 380/991 and his death was mourned through out Egypt and all the people assembled in the street leading from the citadel to his house. His shroud was decorated with 50 pieces of clothes of which 30 were embroidered with gold threads. Imam al-Aziz came forth, evidently much afflicted; he was mounted on a mule, and, contrary to his usual custom when riding out, no parasol was borne over him. He offered the funeral service over him; and said, "O vizir! how long shall I grieve for you." Ibn Khallikan writes that hundred of poets composed lamenting stanzas and every poet earned his reward from al-Aziz." In Cairo, a place was named al-Harat al-Viziria in his memory.


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