The Fatimid (Arabic: الفاطميون al-Fātimiyyūn) Arab dynasty ruled over varying areas of North Africa,
Egypt, the Levant, and even Sicily and Yemen from 909 to 1171. It is considered by some to be the fourth and
"final" "pure" Arab caliphate, but at least formally the Abbasid
caliphate, outlasted it, as the last Abbasid Caliph was deposed in 1258. The Fatimid
Caliphate was an exception in that the
ruling elite belonged to the
Ismaili branch of
Islam. The rulers were also Shia Ismaili
Imams, hence, they had a religious significance to Ismaili Muslims. They are also part of the chain of holders of the
office of Caliph, as recognized by most Muslims, the only period in which the Shia Imamate and the Caliphate were united
to any degree after the death of Ali.
The Fatimids claimed to be descendants of Fatima, the daughter of
Muhammad , and wife of Ali,
the fourth caliph, regarded as the first
In line with Ismaili belief, the Fatimid leader declared himself not only caliph, but also
Mahdi, the promised savior of the Muslim
The Fatimids set themselves up as rivals to the
caliphate of Baghdad hoping to displace it with descendants of Ali, who are the true caliphs according to Shi'a belief.
The Fatimids spread their religion by training missionaries, Dai, who made converts throughout North Africa
Egypt, Yemen and eventually founded branches in Persia and India as well. Originating in "Ifriqiyyah" or modern Tunisia,
the empire spread across North Africa, Sardinia Sicily and Egypt. In 969, the Fatimids conquered northern Egypt from the
Ikhshidid dynasty and built a new capital, al-Qāhira, Cairo, named after the planet Mars. which they made their
center. Cairo was not intended to be a city, but rather a compound for the Caliph and his army. Fustat and Alexandria
remained the main administrative centers.
In Cairo, the Fatimids founded the Al Azhar mosque and university as an Ismaili missionary training center. They later controlled the Arabian peninsula including Mecca and Medina. Missionaries were also
sent to India and Central Asia.
The Fatimids established a new route for trade with East Asia over the Red Sea, instead of the Persian Gulf,
which had been dominant until then to rival the Abbasids. This resulted in an increase in the importance of Hejaz in the
Arabian peninsula. Egyptian trade with China was to define its role throughout the high Middle Ages.
Successive Fatimid caliphs allowed power to fall to the army and the vizier. in the familiar pattern of such empires.
The Fatimid Caliphs
|Ubayd Allah (Abū Muhammad Abdu l-Lāh (Ubaydu l-Lāh) al-Mahdī bi'llāh)
|al-Qa'im (Abū l-Qāsim Muhammad al-Qā'im bi-Amr Allāh)
|al-Mansur (Abū Tāhir Ismā'il al-Mansūr bi-llāh)
|Abū Tamīm (Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mu'izz li-Dīn Allāh)
|al-Aziz (Abū Mansūr Nizār al-'Azīz bi-llāh)
|al-Hakim (Abū 'Alī al-Mansūr al-hākim bi-Amr Allāh)
|al-Zahir (Abū'l-Hasan 'Alī al-Zāhir li-I'zāz Dīn Allāh)
|al-Mustansir (Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mustansir bi-llāh
|al-Musta'li (al-Musta'lī bi-llāh)
|al-Amir (al-Āmir bi-Ahkām Allāh)
|al-Hafiz ('Abd al-Majīd al-hāfiz)
Timeline of the Fatimid Caliphate
|Isma'ilis in Yemen send missionaries to North Africa, and form a base in Tunisia, gathering political
| Ubayd Allah proclaims himself caliph of the Muslim world.
| Unsuccessful war against Egypt.
| Second unsuccessful war against Egypt.
| A new capital, Mahdia, is founded in Ifriqiyya (Tunis).
|Third unsuccessful war against Egypt of Ubayd Allah.
|al-Qa'im succeeds Ubayd Allah as Caliph.
|al-Mansur succeeds al-Qa'im as Caliph.
|Abū Tamīm Ma'add succeeds al-Mansur as Caliph.
|Fatimid troops of Abu Tamim conquer northern Egypt, founding Cairo north of Fustat.
|The al-Azhar mosque is founded, and becomes the foremost Islamic learning institution of the Muslim
|al-Aziz succeeds Abū Tamīm Ma'add as Caliph.
|al-Hakim succeeds al-Aziz as Caliph.
|Caliph al-Hakim declares himself to be the earthly incarnation of Allah, evidently the beginning of the
|al-Zahir succeeds al-Hakim as Caliph.
|al-Mustansir succeeds al-Hakim as Caliph but is unable to maintain secular control.
|After a time of disturbances, Badr al-Jamali seizes power, and takes control over the government. He is
unable to exercise power over Syria and the Arabian peninsula.
|Caliph al-Mustansir dies, and a struggle breaks out between supporters of the legitimate heir and the
caliph al-Musta'li, appointed by vizier al-Afdal. al-Musta'li is victorious and rules until 1101. Syria, Iraq, Persia
and Central Asia break free from the control of Cairo together with many Ismai'ilis from Yemen. The leader of the
Isma'ili mission in the Middle East, Hassan e-Sabbah, founds the Assassins in opposition to the regime of Cairo as well
as being a means to spread the Ismaili religion in the east.
|al-Amir rules in place of al-Mustali
|al Hafiz rules in place of al-Amir
|al Zafir succeeds al Hafiz.
|al Faiz succeeds al Zafir.
|al-Adid succeeds al Faiz as caliph.
|After the death of Caliph al-Adid, the Kurdish military ruler of Egypt, Salah a-din seizes power,
abolishing the Cairo caliphate. The Fatimid dynasty is replaced by the Ayyubid.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
See History of Islam and the Arabs