ḤĀKEMBE-AMR-ALLĀH, ABU ʿALI MANṢUR, the sixth Fatimid caliph and sixteenth Ismaʿili Imam (r. 386-411/996-1021). Born in 375/985, Abu ʿAli Manṣur succeeded his father ʿAziz (r. 365-86/975-96) at the age of eleven on 28 Ramażān 386/14 October 996 with the caliphal title of al-Ḥākem be-Amr-Allāh. The first Fatimid ruler to have been born in Egypt, Ḥākem had been proclaimed as heir-apparent(wali al-ʿahd) in 383/993, on the death of his elder (and sole) brother, Moḥammad.
Arguably the most controversial member of the Fatimid dynasty, Ḥākem confronted numerous difficulties and uprisings during his relatively long reign. While he did not lose any important territories in North Africa, the Ismaʿili communities there were massacred by Sunni mobs led by their influential Māleki jurists. Relations between the Fatimids and the Carmatians (q.v.) of Bahrain also remained hostile. On the other hand, Ḥākem’s Syrian policy was successful, as he managed to extend Fatimid hegemony to the emirate of Aleppo. Above all, the persistent rivalries between the various factions of the Fatimid armies, especially the Berbers and the Turks, overshadowed the other problems of Ḥākem’s caliphate.
Initially, Barjawān, his wāseṭa (the equivalent of a vizier, as intermediary between ruler and subjects) acted as the virtual head of the Fatimid state. However, after the latter’s removal in 390/1000, Ḥākem held the reins of power in his own hands, limiting the authority and terms of office of his wāseṭas and viziers, of whom there were more than fifteen during the remaining twenty years of his caliphate.
Ḥākem maintained a keen interest in the organization and operation of the Fatimid Ismaʿili daʿwa centered in Cairo. Under his reign it was systematically intensified outside the Fatimid dominions, especially in Iraq and Persia. In Iraq, the dāʿis (q.v.) now concentrated their efforts on a number of local amirs and influential tribal chiefs with whose support they aimed to uproot the ʿAbbasids. Foremost among the Fatimid dāʿis of this period operating in the eastern provinces was Ḥamid-al-Din Kermāni (q.v.), the most accomplished Ismaʿili theologian-philosopher of the entire Fatimid period. The activities of Kermāni and other dāʿis soon led to concrete results in Iraq: in 401/1010 Qerwāš b. al-Moqallad, the Shiʿi ʿOqaylid ruler of Mawṣel, Kufa and other towns, acknowledged the suzerainty of Ḥākem, and similarly ʿAli b. al-Asadi, chief of the Banu Asad, declared his loyalty in Ḥella and other districts under his control. Others followed suit. Alarmed by these developments, the ʿAbbasid caliph Qāder adopted retaliatory measures to check the spread of Ismaʿilism within the very seat of his realm. In particular, in 402/1011 he assembled a number of Sunni and Shiʿi scholars at his court and commanded them to declare in a written document that Ḥākem and his predecessors lacked genuine Fatimid ʿAlid ancestry. This so-called “Baghdad manifesto” was read out in Friday mosques throughout the ʿAbbasid domains. Qāder also commissioned several refutations of Ismaʿili doctrines, including that written by the Muʿtazilite ʿAli b. Saʿid al-Eṣṭaḵri (d. 404/1013).
Ḥākem also made the education of the Ismaʿilis and the Fatimid dāʿis a priority; in his time, various study sessions (majāles) were established in Cairo, where he also completed the construction of the Friday mosque that still bears his name. Ḥākem provided financial support and endowments for these educational activities. The private “wisdom sessions” (majāles al-ḥekma) devoted to esoteric Ismaʿili doctrines and reserved exclusively for initiates, now became organized so as to be accessible to different categories of participants. Ḥākem himself often attended these sessions, which were held at the Fatimid palace.
One of Ḥākem’s most important contributions was the founding in 395/1005 of the Dār-al-ʿelm (House of Knowledge), sometimes also called Dār-al-ḥekma (Maq-rizi, 1853-54, 1995; Halm, 1997, pp. 71-78). A wide range of religious and non-religious subjects, ranging from the Koran and Hadith to philology and astronomy, were taught at the Dār-al-ʿElm, which was equipped with a vast library. Many Fatimid dāʿisreceived at least part of their training in this major institution of learning, which served the Ismaʿili daʿwa (mission) until the downfall of the Fatimid dynasty.
Ḥākem’s reign witnessed the genesis of what was to become known as the Druze religion. From around 408/1017, a number of dāʿis who had come to Cairo from Persia and Central Asia, prominent amongst whom were Ḥasan Aḵram, Ḥamza b. ʿAli and Moḥammad Darzi (Darazi), propagated new doctrines attributing divinity to Ḥākem, effectively founding a new religious movement which proclaimed the end of the era of Islam. This Druze movement (later named after Darzi) was the cause of much unrest during the closing years of Ḥākem’s caliphate. Contrary to the claims of later Sunni authors, however, there is no evidence to suggest that Ḥākem himself encouraged them. In fact, the leadership of the daʿwa organization was categorically opposed to this movement, and the chief dāʿi Ḵatkin al-Żayf invited Kermāni to Cairo to refute officially their doctrines on theological grounds. Kermāni wrote several works to that effect, which were successful in checking the further spread of such doctrines within the inner circles of the daʿwa.
Ḥākem also concerned himself with the moral standards of his subjects; many of his numerous edicts (sejellāt) preserved in later sources are of an ethico-social nature. He was also prepared to mete out severe punishment to high officials of the state who were found guilty of malpractice. Anṭāki and the Sunni historiographers have generally painted a highly distorted and fanciful image of this caliph-imam, portraying him as a person of unbalanced character with strange and erratic habits. However, modern scholarship is beginning to produce a different account on the basis of Ḥākem’s own edicts and the circumstances of his reign. As a result, Ḥākem is emerging as a tactful leader who was popular with his subjects.
In the final years of his reign, Ḥākem displayed a growing inclination toward asceticism. He dressed simply and rode on a donkey through the streets of Cairo, unaccompanied by guards. He also took to nocturnal and solitary excursions in the countryside. On the night of 27 Šawwal 411/13 February 1021, Ḥākem left for one of his usual outings to the Moqaṭṭam hills outside of Cairo, but never returned. A futile search was conducted for the 36-year-old caliph-imam; only his riding donkey and his bloodstained garments were found. The mystery of Ḥākem’s disappearance was never solved.
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Originally Published: December 15, 2003
Last Updated: March 1, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 572-573