This month in history: Imam al-Mu’izz transferred the Fatimid capital to Cairo, promised security for all citizens

Facade at Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo
Facade at Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo

Named after the Prophet’s daughter, the Fatimids established their empire in 909 in North Africa when Imam al-Mahdi was proclaimed Caliph. Imams al-Mahdi (r. 909-934), al-Qa’im (r. 934-946), and al-Mansur (r. 946-953) reigned from North Africa, before the capital was transferred to Egypt.

In August 972, Imam al-Mu’izz (r. 953-975) embarked on the historic journey to transfer the seat of the Fatimid Caliphate from Ifriqiya (North Africa) to Cairo, a city he founded.

The Fatimid General Jawhar, issued the Aman, or ‘guarantee of safety’ on behalf of Imam al-Mu’izz. The Aman provided “the foundation for respecting the diversity of religious outlooks in a shared quest, inspired by the Qur’anic call:

O humanity! Truly We created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might know each other. Truly the most honoured of you in the sight of God is the most God-conscious of you. Truly God is Knowing, Aware.’ (Qur’an 49:13).”1

Arabic Critical Edition of al-Maqrizi’s Itti‘az al-hunafa. Image: The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Arabic Critical Edition of al-Maqrizi’s Itti‘az al-hunafa. Image: The Institute of Ismaili Studies

The Aman has been recounted by the prolific Sunni Egyptian historian, Taqi al-Din Ahmad al-Maqrizi (1364-1442). “Despite the fact that al-Maqrizi was a Mamluk historian, he sustained a unique interest in the Fatimids and systematically recorded multiple facets of their reign in many of his works. Similarly, the Aman has also been recorded in its entirety by the Tayyibi Ismaili historian Imad al-Din Idris (1392-1468 CE). Both these authors are in all likelihood quoting Ibn Zulaq (919-996 CE), a prominent historian and biographer, contemporary to the Fatimid invasion of Egypt, who wrote a biography on al-Muizz, which unfortunately is no longer extant.”1

The document stated:

“In the name of God, the most Merciful the most Compassionate. This is a letter of Jawhar al-Katib – the slave of the Commander of the Faithful, al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah, may God’s blessings be upon him – to the people of Misr [Egypt] and others who inhabit there…

[You have the right] to follow your madhhab or any other Muslim madhhab, to perform your obligations according to religious scholarship, and to gather for it in your mosques and places of congregation, and to remain steadfast in the beliefs of the worthy ancestors from the Companions of the Prophet – may God be pleases with them…

I guarantee you God’s complete, universal safety, eternal and continuous, inclusive and perfect, renewed and confirmed through the passage of days, and recurrence through the years, for your lives, your property, your families, your livestock, your estates and your quarters, and whatever you possess – modest or significant. There shall be no opponent opposing you, no harasser harassing you and no pursuer pursuing you. You shall be safeguarded, protected and defended. We will defend you and protect you against [enemies]…

This safety document [was written] in Jawhar’s own hand in Sha’ban of the year 358 [June-July 969]: “Blessings of God be upon Muhammad and all his progeny.”
Al-Maqrizi, Itti’az al-Hunafa, ca. 15th century

The Fatimid Caliph-Imams adopted an inclusive model of governance that enabled political and economic stability, intellectual advancements, and artistic grandeur for two centuries of their reign, considered a remarkable period in Egyptian and Muslim history.

1Dr Shainool Jiwa, Inclusive Governance: A Fatimid Illustration, The Institute of Ismaili Studies (accessed August 2016)
Dr. Farhad Daftary, Ismaili History, The Institute of Ismaili Studies (accessed August 2016)

Compiled by Nimira Dewji

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