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Ismaili History 547 - Policy towards the wasita

It must be remembered however that the constant struggle for power between the two elements in the Fatimid's army presented al-Hakim with a very serious problem. His position was also threatened by the growing influence of mudabbir ad-dawla (the administrator of state affairs), better known as wasita (the mediator, executor of the Caliph's orders or chief minister), simply an intermediary between the Imam and the people. Both Ibn Ammar and Barjawan had forcefully seized power and became themselves as wasitas, and misused the office. This was the first crack in the political structure. In the face of this trend, al-Hakim's attitude towards each successive wasitaduring the last twenty years of his Caliphate, was well and carefully planned to control his exercise of power. He did not abolish the institution of wasita, but restricted its power. Makrizi writes in 'Itti'az' (p. 390) that, 'After the appointment of al-Hussain bin Jawhar as wasita in 390/1000, he was ordered not to receive or deal with petitions in his own house or in public streets; those who had cases of complaints should be told to deliver them to him only at the office in the palace.' Hussain bin Jawhar together with his secretary, Fahd bin Ibrahim, would come early to the palace, receive the petitions, study them and carry them to the Imam for final judgement. Except for Hussain bin Jawhar and Ali bin Falah, none of the wasita had a military background. None was powerful tribal chief nor a chief of any element of the army. Most of them were from poor class. No wasita was allowed to remain in office for a long period. In the course of his twenty years of rule of al-Hakim, more than fifteen wasita were employed, some held office for as little as ten days. Severity was the prominent feature in al-Hakim's attitude towards his wasitas, and the majority of those who occupied that office were executed. Thus, Ibn Hammad (d. 628/1230) writes in 'Akhbar al-Muluk Bani Ubayd wa Siyaratihim' (p. 57) that al-Jarjara'i, a high official who had lost both hands by the command of al-Hakim, would tell those who remarked upon such treatment that: 'This was a punishment which I deserved for betraying amir al-mominin's orders.' According to Marshall Hodgson in 'The Venture of Islam' (London, 1974, 2nd vol., p. 27), 'He was merciless to any of the great who, he thought, took advantage of their position.'
Historians have generally shown al-Hakim's attitude as a tyrant and blood-thirsty. Such commitments, however, do not seem to be quite accurate, and many have been hastily arrayed without a thorough investigation. P.J. Vatikiotis writes in 'The Fatimid Theory of State'(Lahore, 1957, p. 149), that, 'These presentations have been hastily arrayed without a genuine investigation of al-Hakim's reign.' This part of al-Hakim's policy cannot be described as blood-thirsty or insane.

Al-Hakim was extremely engaged in a deadly struggle of retaining the Fatimid Caliphate. He was not fighting only the secular tendencies of political power groups, but also attempting to rally the fast disintegrating Fatimid ranks in the face of impending danger.

It is a common method which most rulers used to adopt to silence opposition and prevent threats to their own powers. There is no evidence suggesting that, at any time, al-Hakim ordered the execution of someone just for the sake of killing. His bursts of killing, as M.G.S. Hodgson says in 'al-Darazi and Hamza in the Origin of the Druze Religion' (JAOS, 82, 1962, p. 14), 'were most obviously turned against the great and the proud, the holders of positions and those ambitious to be such.' There were more precisely against those from whom al-Hakim anticipated danger or considered a threat to his power. A comparative study of his attitude towards qadi al-qudat (chief judge) with the manner in which he treated the wasita and military chiefs illustrates this point. It was only Qadis who opposed his policy who were executed; others were treated quite normally. During his entire reign, al-Hakim employed five persons to that post of Qadi al-qudat. Muhammad bin Noman died in 389/998 and al-Hakim himself led the prayer at his funeral. His successor, Hussain bin Noman served until 395/1004 when he was executed after being found guilty of theft. Muhammad bin Yousuf al-Kindi (d. 330/951) writes in 'Kitab al-Umra wa'l Kitab al-Qudat' (London, 1912, p. 608) that, 'Hussain bin Noman stole twenty thousand dinars from an orphan whose father entrusted the money to him. His trial was personally conducted by al-Hakim.' Abdul Aziz bin Noman succeeded until 399/1008 when he was dismissed, and two years later executed for opposing al-Hakim and supporting Hussain bin Jawhar. Malik bin Sa'id al-Fariqi served for 6 years, 9 months and 10 days (399/1008 to 405/1014) and was executed for opposing al-Hakim's policy for imposing Islamic laws. In 405/1014, al-Hakim appointed Muhammad bin Abi'l Awwam as Qadi al-qudat and Khatgin as a Dai al-duat, and both remained in office until the end of al-Hakim's rule because of their loyalty with the rules imposed.

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