Ismaili History 521 - AL-QAIM (322-334/934-946)

He was born in 280/893 in Salamia. His name was Muhammad Nizar, surnamed al-Qaim bi-Amrillah (Firm in the ordinances of God). He married to Umm Habiba, the daughter of his uncle, and ascended in 322/934.

Ismaili History 522 - Expedition against Egypt

It may be remembered that al-Qaim had commanded the Fatimid naval forces in 301/913. The Fatimid fleet sailed from Mahdiya towards the northern coast of Egypt and returned to Raqada after conquering Tripoli. In the following year Hubasa bin Yousuf set off east and conquered Surt and Ajabiyya on 7th Rajab, 301, February 6, 914 he entered Barqa. On Thursday the 14th Zilhaja, 301/July 7, 914 al-Qaim followed him from Raqada with a large army. Contrary to his orders, Hubasa, without waiting for his arrival, pushed further east and invaded Alexandria on 2nd Safar, 302/August 27, 914. Al-Qaim arrived there on Friday the 14th Rabi II, 302/November 4, 914. The Abbasids succeeded to prevent the Fatimid's entry in Egypt. At his withdrawal from Egypt, al-Qaim however left a garrison in Barqa.
In 307/919, the second attempt had been conducted at the command of al-Qaim. He set out eastward on Monday the 1st Zilkada, 306/April 5, 919. On Friday the 8th Safar, 307/July 9, 919 the vanguard of the army arrived in Alexandria. This time the Fatimid forces made an advance right upto the Egyptian capital before they were repulsed. These two invasions were launched during the period of Imam al-Mahdi. After his succession, al-Qaim made a third attempt in 323/935 under the command of Raydan. Muhammad bin Tughj al-Ikhshidid (323-334/935- 946), the then governor of Egypt, repelled this attack, forcing the Fatimid forces to withdraw to Barqa. Nothing was gained in these three campaigns, but it made a way open for the next period to the Fatimid to occupy Egypt.

Ismaili History 523 - Abu Hatim ar-Razi

One of the most eminent Ismaili dais during this period was Abu Hatim ar-Razi, the hujjat of Ray. He was born near Ray around 260/874. He conducted the mission with great efficiency and promptness. He was a remarkably learned dai, and studied Ismaili doctrines, but also Arabic poetry, the religious science of Islam, comparative religion and indeed the natural and mathematical sciences of the day. He succeeded to bring the ruler of Ray, Ahmad bin Ali (307-311/92O-924) to the Ismaili fold, who was formerly aggressive to the Ismailis. Abu Hatim also deputed his subordinate dais in Tabaristan, Ispahan, Azerbaijan and Jurjan; resulting a large conversion, including Mardav ad-Daylami, the governor of Tabaristan; Yousuf bin Abi'l Saj, the governor of Azerbaijan, and Asfar bin Shroya. Abu Hatim was a great philosopher, orator and writer. W.Ivanow writes in 'A Creed of the Fatimids' (Bombay, 1936, p. 5) that, 'Abu Hatim ar-Razi surely was one of the most erudite authors that Ismailism, and generally, Islam has ever produced.' Seyyed Hossein Nasr writes in the introduction of 'A'lam al-Nubuwwah' (ed. by Salah al-Sawy, Tehran, 1977, p. 1) that, 'He is one of the most outstanding theologians and philosophers of Islam and a major figure in that galaxy of exceptional thinkers, such as Hamid al-Din Kirmani, Nasir-i Khusraw and Qadi Numan, who produced the Ismaili philosophy of the Fatimid period.'
The most acclaimed of his works is 'Kitab az-Zina' designed as an encyclopaedia of Islamic terminologies with a large store of useful informations. Idris Imaduddin (d. 872/1468) writes in the 5th volume of 'Uyun'l-Akhbar' that it was greatly admired by Imam al-Qaim when it was presented to him, and he gave it to his son, al-Mansur in a gift, commanding to keep it secret.

Abu Hatim left Ray in 311/924 and sided with Asfar bin Shroya (d. 319/931). He acquired many converts in Daylam and Gilan, including Asfar bin Shroya's deputy, Mardawij bin Ziyar (d. 323/935). According to Hamiduddin Kirmani in 'al-Aqwal al-Dhahabiyya' (Tehran, 1977, pp. 2-3), 'The famous disputation between Abu Hatim and the physician-philosopher, Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Zakaria ar-Razi (251-313/865- 925) took place in Mardawij's presence.' The discussion concerning prophethood is given in his 'A'lam al-Nubuwwah.' He answered the questions of Zakaria ar-Razi that how he necessiated that only one nation would be favoured and given superiority over others. He also argued that his conception regarding the eternity of five principles, namely God, Soul, Matter, Space and Time was absurd. He also discussed logically the questions relating to blind faith, analogy, miracles etc.

Mardawij at first supported Abu Hatim, but started enmity against the Ismailis. Thus Abu Hatim returned to Ray, thence he proceeded to Azerbaijan and took refuge with a local ruler called, Muflih. He died in 322/934 in Daylam, and after him, the Ismailis of Khorasan and Transoxania became disordered, and finally their leadership came to the hands of Abdul Malik al-Kawkabi, who resided in Girdkuh, the future stronghold of the Nizari Ismailis.

Ismaili History 524 - An-Nasafi and Abu Yaqub as-Sijistani

Abu Hatim ar-Razi was followed by Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Ahmad an-Nasafi and Abu Yaqub as-Sijistani staying at Ray. An-Nasafi operated the mission mostly in Khorasan and Bukhara, and gained great success in converting the Sunni ruler, Nasr bin Ahmad, who had given allegiance to Imam al-Mahdi and paid him an annual tribute of 119 thousand dinars. Nasr bin Ahmad also entered into correspondence with al-Qaim in Maghrib.
The renowned poet and intellect, Abu Abdullah bin Jafar bin Muhammad bin Hakim bin Abdur Rahman bin Adam ar-Rudaki ash-Shair as- Samarkandi, known as Rudaki (d. 329/940) also found an opportunity of espousing Ismaili faith in this period. Some historians sought to explain the term Rudaki by saying that he was so called because he could play on rud (harp), which is an erroneous view. The poet himself adopted his pen-name, Rudaki because he hailed from a village in the district of Rudak. He was a court poet of the Samanids, and composed many verses in praise of the Fatimid Imams. In one place, Maruf of Balkh, one of the earliest Samanid poets, says: 'I have heard the king of poets, Rudaki as saying, `do not give allegiance to anyone save the Fatimids.''

The Abbasids took notice of the rapid conversion of the Ismailis in Khorasan, notably Nasr bin Ahmad, and insinuated Nuh bin Nasr (331-343/943-954), the son of Nasr bin Ahmad; against his father and the Ismailis. Nuh bin Nasr dethroned his father and conducted a barbarous massacre of the Ismailis in 331/942, known in the Ismaili history as al-mainat al-uzama (great calamity) in Khorasan and Transoxania. An-Nasafi and his chief associates were also executed in the wild operations at Bukhara in 332/943. For this reason, Nasir Khusaro called him Khwaj-i Shahid and Shaikh al-Shahid. It resulted a setback in Ismaili mission, but was resumed under an-Nasafi's son, Masud, surnamed Dihqan and Abu Yaqub as-Sijistani. An-Nasafi is considered a leading Ismaili philosopher among the early Ismailis. He produced a major work, entitled 'Kitab al-Mahsul' (Book of the Yield). Paul E. Walker writes in 'Abu Yaqub al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary' (London, 1996, pp. 17-18) that, 'So influential were al-Nasafi and this one book that, throughout the rest of the century, writers both in and outside the Ismaili fold referred to it as if it represented the intellectual heart of Ismailism.'

It is generally agreed upon by the scholars that as-Sijistani was not executed with an-Nasafi in 331/942. The mistake however arose from misreading of al-Baghdadi's statement in 'al-Firaq bayn al-Firaq,' stating that both an-Nasafi and as-Sijistani were executed. In the introduction of both 'Risalat al-Mawazin' and 'Risalat al-Mabda wal Ma'ad,' he himself mentions the name of Imam al-Hakim, who acceded to the throne in 386/996. Thus, it implies that he was still alive in 386/996. His death, therefore, could be placed between 386/996 and 393/1003. He had managed to escape the widespread massacre, and continued the mission in Bukhara.

Abu Yaqub Ishaq bin Ahmad as-Sijistani, nicknamed 'cotton-seed' (Iranian, panba-dana, Arabic khayshafuj) was born in 271/883 and was trained in Yamen. He was a great philosopher and scholar and considered to be one of the major Ismaili thinkers whose share in the development of the Ismaili system of thought is considerable. Paul E. Walker writes, 'Yet, from the prominence of his books and the profoundly impressive intellectual contribution they (Ismailis) represent, we discover a truly significant mind and voice - one that deserves recognition as an outstanding figure in the Ismaili past and as a major force in Islamic thought in general' (op. cit., p. 13). He was executed by Khalaf bin Ahmed (363-393/964-1003), the Saffarid ruler of Khorasan. The period of as-Sijistani saw many prominent Ismaili thinkers, such as Abul Haytham Ahmad bin Hasan al-Jurjani, an Ismaili philosopher-poet from Gurgan, who composed many poems on Ismaili doctrines. His Ismaili disciple was Muhammad bin Surkh al-Nishapuri.

Ismaili History 525 - Expeditions against Italy

In 323/935, the Italian pirates raided the coastal regions of the Fatimid, therefore, al-Qaim turned his attention towards Europe, and dispatched a strong squadron of 20 sailing vessels under the command of an Arab Amir al-Bahr (the European, Admiral), Yaqub bin Ishaq al-Tamimi, who made a successful attack on Italy, the south of France, and the coast of Genoa and Calabria, and a part of Lombardy was also brought into subjection. During the Italian raids, the Fatimid forces used mangonels (arradas or dabbabas), an engine missiling the heavy stones on target, which was the then most advanced weapon. Maurice Lombard writes in 'The Golden Age of Islam' (Netherlands, 1975, p. 86) that, 'Fatimid currency was in use throughout southern Italy. Dinars and particularly quarter dinars (rub) were in circulation and were initiated (tarin), a phenomenon similar to that observed in the Christian kingdoms in northern Spain and the country of Barcelona which, in the eleventh century, initiated the Muslim gold currencies in use in the south of the peninsula.'
The Fatimid fleet was unfortunately called back, according to 'Islam in Africa' (Lahore, 1964, p. 87) by Prof. Mahmud Brelvi, 'just at the moment when Qaim's navy was about to conquer the whole Italy'. It was due to the domestic rebellion of Abu Yazid. Syed Zakir Hussain writes in 'Tarikh-i Islam' (Delhi, 1935) that, 'If Abu Yazid had not staged a massive revolt against the Fatimids, al-Qaim would have probably conquered the whole of Europe, resulting a loss of a great Islamic victory.' R. Brunschvig also admitted the loss of Europe in the campaign, vide 'Encyclopaedia of Islam' (1934. 4th vol., p. 850). The Fatimid fleet, returning to Mahdiya, also occupied islands of Sardinia, Corsica, Malta, Crete and Cyprus for a short while. And here we cannot but call attention to a fact that the Fatimids were the masters of the entire Mediterranean, and their fleets operated freely throughout its length and breadth.

Al-Qaim had to meet more serious rebellions hatching in the west. The principle revolt took place amongst the Zanata tribe, south of Katama territory, who were the Kharijis under the leadership of Abu Yazid. In 332/943, he marched northwards and took Baghai, Tabassa, Mermajenna and Laribus. The Fatimid forces tried to prevent his advance upon Baja, but were repulsed. Abu Yazid marched towards Kairwan, but this time he suffered defeat. He soon rallied, and took Raqada, and then pressed on to Kairwan and captured it. Mahdiya put up a vigrous resistance for almost a year, repelling Abu Yazid's repeated attempts to storm the capital. Ziri bin Manad, the amir of the tribe of the Sanhaja sent a new reinforcement to the Fatimids, who was a fervent Ismaili. It must be noted that in recognition of his outstanding services, al-Qaim had granted permission to Ziri bin Manad to rebuild and fortify the town of Ashir in the central Maghrib, on the western borders of the Sanhaja territory.

In 334/945, Abu Yazid ordered for massacre and plunder, and captured Tunisia. The Fatimid forces were able to regain the whole Tunisia next year. But, after an interval, Abu Yazid rallied and laid siege to the town of Susa.

We see that al-Qaim was an experienced soldier and an able commander who could lead his forces to victory. Unlike his father, he used to participate in military expeditions. He was bold and courageous, and his activities were not confined to his military operations only. He was not harsh towards his opponents and was tolerant. Prof. Mahmud Brelvi writes in 'Islam in Africa' (Lahore, 1964, pp. 86-87) that, 'Qaim was a great warrior, and was the first of the Fatimid Caliphs who created a powerful fleet in the Mediterranean. After re-establishing his authority in Mauritania, he turned his attention towards the continent of Europe. His ports had been harassed by the Italian pirates from the Ligurian coast, from Pisa and other places. In reprisal, Qaim overran Southern Italy as far as Gaeta, and his ships of war captured Genoa. A part of Lombardy was also brought into subjection. Unfortunately, the pent-up wrath of the people at the excesses of the savage Berbers, the allies of the Fatimids, burst into a furious flame just at the moment when Qaim's navy was about to conquer the whole Italy. The revolt was headed by a Khariji, named Abu Yazid.'

In 325/937, Khalid bin Ishaq, the governor of Sicily laid foundation of a new city, called Khalisa, near Palermo. Its structure and design almost resembled the city of Mahdiya. The chiefs of Sicily and other officials mostly lived in Khalisa, where most of the administration was controlled.

Prof. Masudul Hasan writes in 'History of Islam' (Lahore, 1987, 1st vol., p. 492) that, 'Al-Qaim ruled for eleven years. He was a man of courage, and did not lose nerves even in the face of great difficulty. He lost most of his territory to Abu Yazid, and was besieged in his capital Mahdiya. In spite of a very difficult situation, he preserved, and out of the civil war which lasted for several years, the Fatimids ultimately emerged victorious. This civil war changed the course of history. But for this civil war, al-Qaim would have occupied a greater part of Italy, and that would have served a base for the conquest of Europe.'

Al-Qaim died on 14th Shawal, 334/May 19, 946 at the height of Abu Yazid's rebellion, who at that time had sieged over Susa. His age was 59 years, 6 months and 27 days and the period of the Imamate and Caliphate lasted for 12 years, 6 months and 27 days.