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Lessons from the fall of the Fatimid state in Egypt
The Fatimid state lasted for a little more than two hundred and eighty years, then became a thing of the past, as if they had never dwelt or flourished there. The first of their rulers was al-Mahdi, who was one of the people of as-Salamiyah; he was a blacksmith whose name was Sa'eed, and he was a Jew. He went to the Maghreb and called himself 'Ubayd-Allah, and claimed to be a descendant of the Messenger (Sm) through 'Ali and Fatimah, and he said that he was the Mahdi. This was mentioned by more than one of the prominent scholars, such as al-Qadi Abu Bakr al-Baqillani, Shaykh Abu Hamid al-Isfarayeeni and others. The point is that the fabrications of this impostor and liar found a receptive audience in that land and he was supported by a group of ignorant ascetics and he gained power and authority. He managed to build his city, which he called al-Mahdiyah, after himself, and he became a king who made an outward display of being Rafidi but inwardly it was pure disbelief. He was succeeded by his son al- Qa'im, then came al-Mansoor, then al-Mu'izz -” who was the first of them to enter Egypt and for whom Cairo was built -” then al-'Azeez, then al-Hakim, then adh-Dhahir, then al-Mustansir, then al-Musta'li, then al-Amir, then al- Hafiz, then adh-Dhafir, then al-Fa'iz, then al-'Adid, who was the last of them. There were fourteen kings in total whose dynasty lasted for approximately two hundred and ninety years. The Fatimids were the richest and wealthiest of caliphs, and the most tyrannical and oppressive, the worst of kings in conduct and the most inwardly evil. Innovations and evils appeared during their rule, the numbers of evil people became greater and the numbers of righteous people, scholars and ascetics declined. The numbers of Druze, Nusayris and Assassins in Greater Syria increased, and the Franks took over the entire coast of Greater Syria, capturing Jerusalem, Nablus, 'Ajloon, al- Ghawr, Gaza, Ascalon, Crac de Montreal (Shawbak), Tiberias, Baniyas,Tyre, 'Ashleeth, Sidon, Beirut, Acre, Safad, Tripoli, Antioch and all the land connected to these cities, as far as Ayas 659 and Sis 660. They gained control of Amid, Edessa, Ra's al-'Ayn and other cities; they killed only Allah knows how many people and captured unlimited numbers of Muslim women and children. They almost took over Damascus, but Allah protected it and saved its people. When their power waned, Allah restored the land to the prominent Muslims among its people. Allah humiliated the disbelievers and will cast them into Hell on the Day of Judgement because of what they earned in this world.661
Attempted revolt aimed at restoring the Fatimid state
At that time, the state and society in Egypt was undergoing major historical changes which affected its caliphate, systems, institutions and the men who had ruled it and influenced every aspect of its society for more than two centuries. Now there was a new rule, a new state, with its own systems, institutions and men in charge. It started with a gradual change. Salah ad- Deen tried to win over the common people, and succeeded to a large extent, but some thinkers and officials of the Fatimid state, and some groups who had lost their influence and privileges remained loyal to the ideas represented by the former state.662 These forces who were loyal to the Fatimids, composed of soldiers, commanders, scribes, court officials and the families of previous viziers, such as Banu Ruzayk and Banu Shawar, started planning to put an end to the rule of Salah ad-Deen and restore the Fatimid state.663
Imad ad-Deen al-Isfahani described them as follows: A group of supporters of the fanatical, rigid state came together and consulted and met one another in secret, hoping for something that led to their doom. They appointed a caliph and a vizier, and drew up a precise plan, which they kept secret.664 It seems that their conspiracy was well organized, as they appointed a caliph and a vizier, then they wrote to the Franks more than once, calling on them to invade Egypt at a time when Salah ad-Deen was away in Kerak. They rallied around 'Amarah al-Yamani, the faqeeh and man of letters who was a Sunni but loyal to the Fatimids; he took on this mission of corresponding with the Franks. The conspirators thought that their completely secret plan would lead to success, but they did not realize that through intelligence reports, al-Qadi Fadil was watching them very closely until the right time came to expose their secrets. The sources tell two stories about the uncovering of the conspiracy that differ somewhat in their details. The first version states that one of the scribes in the court, whose name was 'Abd as-Samad al-Katib, showed a great deal of humility to al-Fadil; he served him and tried to draw close to him, and went to extremes in showing humility towards him. He met him one day and he did not pay any attention to him. Al-Qadi al-Fadil thought that there must be a reason for this, and he was afraid that he had some private connection with Salah ad-Deen. He summoned Ibn Naja, the preacher, and told him about the situation, and he asked him to find out what was going on, but he could not find anything out from Salah ad-Deen's side. So he went to the other side and found out what was going on. Al-Qadi al-Fadil sent him to Salah ad-Deen, telling him, "Go now to Salah ad-Deen and tell him what is happening." So he went to Salah ad-Deen, who was in the mosque, and told him what was going on, at which point Salah ad-Deen summoned them and interrogated them. They confessed to their conspiracy, so he had them arrested and ordered that they be crucified.665 The second report suggests that the preacher Zayn ad-Deen ibn Naja was actually one of the conspirators, and he appeared to support them in the beginning, then he informed Salah ad-Deen about what they were doing and asked him to give him wealth equivalent to that of Ibn Kamil. Salah ad- Deen agreed and told him to mix with them and find out more about them. So he started to tell him the latest news of them. Then an envoy from the Franks came to Salah ad-Deen with a gift and an open letter, and also a secret letter for the conspirators, and news of that reached Salah ad-Deen.666 Al-Qadi al- Fadil himself referred to the details of this conspiracy in a letter that he wrote on behalf of Salah ad-Deen to Noor ad-Deen in Damascus, which indicates that he was well informed about the conspiracy and that he played a part in causing it to fail. Perhaps he is the one who planted an informer to tell him the details of the conspiracy, as he indicates in his letter to the spies of the Egyptian intelligence department among the Franks and others who were in touch with the department.667
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