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Ismaili History 554 - The famous decree of al-Hakim

According to 'Tarikh' (4th vol., p. 60) by Ibn Khaldun, 'Tarikh-i Antaki' (p. 195) by Antaki and 'Khitat' (2nd vol., p. 287) by Makrizi, al-Hakim issued his famous ordinance in 399/1008, which was read on the pulpit of the mosque of al-Azhar as under:-

'This is to inform that Amir al-mominin al-Hakim bi-Amrillah recites the verse of God's manifest Book before you that: 'There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right path is now distinct from error. He that renounces idol-worship and puts his faith in God, he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and God is Hearing and Knowing.' (2:256)

Yesterday passed away in prosperity and today came up with its necessities. O'multitude of Muslims! I am an Imam and you are the Ummah. Verily, all Muslims are brothers with one another, therefore, you seek unity with the brothers and fear God. It is hoped that you shall be graced with mercy. One who confesses the tauhid (Unity of God) and risalat (Prophethood of Muhammad), and one who does not boost disunity between the two persons, they all are included in the bond of Islamic Brotherhood. God saved those who had saved themselves through it. And those whom were to stop, they were stopped from all unlawful things, i.e., from slaughter, means and materials, and the forbidden women. Best understanding and the following on the true path are good and excellent. The quarrels and dissentions are not good. The past events should not be repeated and given up as extremely harmful for the present time. It should not be remembered what occurred in the past, notably those events and occurances being taken place during the rules of my ancestors. Who they were? They were Mahdi billah, Qaim bi-Amrillah, Mansur billah, Muizz li-dinillah and other (i.e. al-Aziz), who adopted the true path. The condition of Mahdiya, Mansuria and Kairwan is quite apparent, not hidden from any one, nor even it is secret.

The fast-keepers may keep fast and break in accordance with their rites. One should have no objection with the person who keeps and breaks fast (according to his own belief). Those who offer five obligatory prayers, they must continue it. No one should restrict or forbid one who offers the salat al-dua and tarawih (prayers in the month of Ramdan). Those who recite five taqbir (act of extolling greatness of God) on the funeral prayers, they should do so, and no person should forbid to those who offer four taqbir. The muazinshould recite 'haiya ala khair al-amal' (come to the best work) in the call to prayer. One should not be however teased who does not recite these words in the call to prayer.

No ill words should be uttered to revile the Companions of the past, and one should have no objection against the eulogies being extolled for them. Let him oppose who is against them. Each Muslim mujtahid is responsible for himself in the decision of religion matters. Verily, he has to return to God. He has his own book of deeds, whereupon depend his accounts.

O'God's servants! you follow the injunctions of above deccree being enforced today. No Muslim should hemper into the faith of other Muslims, and no person should oppose the beliefs of his friends. Amir al-mominin has written down all these points for you (explicitly) in his decree. Nay, God says, 'O'believers! you are accountable for none but yourselves; he that goes astray cannot harm you if you are on the right path. You shall all return to God, and He will declare to you what you have done' (5:106). May peace be upon you and the divine grace.'

In Egypt, al-Hakim thus is reported to have removed the differences of the Shia and Sunni Muslims. Ibn Khallikan (3rd vol., p. 450) writes that, 'He gave orders that the persons who uttered curses against the Companions should be flogged and paraded ignominiously through the streets.' Antaki (p. 195) writes that, 'He publicly praised the Companions of the Prophet and commanded his subjects to do the same.' In sum, the Sunni and Shia enjoyed toleration and equal rights. Many Sunni jurists were also employed in the Dar al-Hikmah and the appointment of a Sunni qadi, called Abul Abbas bin Awam Hanbali is best example in this context. In 400/1009, al-Hakim also established a school of law offering instructions in the Malikite rite, whose incharge was Abu Bakr Antaki.

In sum, al-Hakim restored peace and prosperity in the country, attracting the Muslims of Baghdad and Cordova to settle in Cairo. He brought the Fatimid rule to its zenith. Dr. G. Kheirallah writes in 'Druze History' (Detroit, 1952, p.160) that, 'During the life and reign of al-Hakim, the Fatimite Egypt reached its highest position of influence and prestige - no other state could then vie with Egypt for power, wealth or enlightenment; the Arabian art and crafts were at their zenith, and affluence and ease became the lot of the Egyptians'. According to Antaki (d. 458/1065) in 'Tarikh-i Antaki' (Beirut, 1909, p. 206), 'Al-Hakim provided such kind of justice that his subjects had never known before. They slept in their homes secured in the possession of their properties.' Ibn Ayyas (d. 930/1524) writes in 'Bada'i al-Zuhur' (Cairo, 1896, 1st vol., p. 52) that, 'His justice became the favourite theme of both writers of story and myth as well as poets. Much of their works, praising and picturing al-Hakim as the champion of justice, shows the impression his rule left on people's imaginations.' Al-Hakim adopted severity in observance of Islamic law, which enormously helped to reduce crimes. Ibn al-Zafir (d. 613/1216) writes in 'al-Duwal al-Munqatia' (p. 59) that, 'At times of prayers, the shopkeepers would have their shops open and unguarded without fear of theft.' Ibn Ayyas (op. cit., p. 54) reports a story of a man who lost his purse full of money in the street of Cairo, and when, after few days, he passed the same street, he found it untouched. None dare to touch it for fear of al- Hakim's punishment. In sum, there is an Egyptian fragment of Hebrew writing, evidently from al-Hakim's period, praising and eulogizing his unparalled justice with sincerity, vide Dr. A. Neubauer's 'Egyptien Fragment' (FQR, IX, pp. 24-6).

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