Sicily (Italian Sicilia) is an island, covering an area of 9830 square miles. It is separated from Italy by the narrow strait of Messina, wherefrom it is about 2 miles from the toe of the Italian mainland. On the south-east it is about 90 miles from Cape Bon in Tunisia. Being a trangular in shape, it was given the name of Trinacria or Triquetra in ancient times. Following the fall of the Roman empire in 476 A.D., Sicily was occupied by the Ostrogoths. By the middle of the 6th century, it came under the rule of the Byzantine emperor. In 212/827, the Muslims captured the island, which became their cultural centre.
The Aghlabids had seized Sicily from the Byzantines in 264/878, which was inherited by the Fatimids. The Byzantines however had continued to retain the occupation of Calabria in southern Italy. Sicily was thickly populated by Lombards, Greeks, Arabs and Berbers. The first reported Fatimid governor of Sicily was Ibn Abil Fawaris. Soon afterwards in 297/910, he was replaced by Hasan bin Ahmad, also known as Ibn Abi Khinzir. He raided the southern Italian coasts in 298/911 and also in the following year against the pirates and brought rich booty. In 299/912, the Arabs and the Berbers rebelled against him in Palermo and Girgenti due to his severity. It was al- Mahdi to have suppressed the uprisings diplomatically and appointed Ali bin Umar al-Balawi. The Sicilians opposed the new appointment and chose Ibn Qurhub as their own governor. Ibn Qurhub was against the Fatimids and declared his support to the Abbasid caliph al- Muqtadir (295-320/908-932). Later, the Berbers of Girgenti, joined by the inhabitants of other parts of Sicily, revolted against Ibn Qurhub, who was taken prisoner and sent to al-Mahdi, who had him executed. After this short interval of political cataclysm, Sicily again reverted to the Fatimid domain, though the political troubles continued to erupt on the island.