Gift presented by Dr. Shafik Sachedina on behalf of the UK Jamat to His Highness the Aga Khan during a visit of the Aga Khan to London in August of 1994.
Fatimid Imam-Caliph, Nizar, al-Mustafa li Din Allah
Nizar, born in 437 h. (1045 m.), was the eldest surviving son of the Caliph al-Mustansir. It had been assumed that he was the recognised heir to the Fatimid Imamate, but on his father’s death he was set aside by the Wazir al-Afdal in favour of his youngest brother al-Musta’li without any serious difficulty. Nizar, however, fled to Alexandria, proclaimed himself Imam with the title al-Mustafa li-Din Allah and revolted early in 488 h. (1095 m.) with the assistance of the governor and the people of the city. It is likely that this coin was struck at the time his succession was proclaimed, or shortly thereafter. Nizar’s forces were at first successful in repulsing the troops of al-Afdal, and he advanced as far as the outskirts of Cairo supported by Arab auxiliaries. Al-Afdal, with the help of the main Fatimid army, caused Nizar’s forces to retreat to Alexandra where, after a short siege he surrendered towards the end of 488. He was then taken to Cairo and imprisoned by al-Musta’li.
Nizar’s coin shows an interesting departure from the coinage of al-Mustansir on which it was modeled. On al-Mustansir’s coins the Imam prays for all to acknowledge the unity of the Eternal God, but on Nizar’s He is described as ‘God the Pardoner’. Presumably this is an indication that Nizar would be merciful to those who had supported his brother, al Musta’li.
Nizar’s overthrow split the Isma’ili movement with those in Egypt following the line of al-Musta’li and those in Persia the line of Nizar. Under the leadership of al-Hasan bin al-Sabah, his followers in Persia formed the Batinite dynasty with their headquarters at Alamut. After their defeat by the Ilkhans, the leadership became a secret one which continued until it emerged in the nineteenth century under the leadership of the Aga Khan, whose descendant today is His Highness the ruling Aga Khan.
As far as is known, this is the only known object which can be directly associated with Nizar bin al-Mustansir al-Mustaf li-Din Allah.
(The historical notes are compiled from the new edition of the Encyclopedia of Islam, articles on Nizar b. al-Mustansir and al-Musta’li)
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