Beautiful Egypt 314 – “One third of Egypt was burnt” – 18/9/2019

Beautiful Egypt 314 – “One third of Egypt was burnt” – 18/9/2019

In a previous article we followed talking about Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah (386-411 AH) (996-1021 AD). He was the third Fatimid Caliph in Egypt who was assigned while he was young, so the actual ruler was Al-Hassan Ibn Ammar the governor of Ktama. He was nicknamed Amin Al-Dawla and he was in continuous dispute with Argwan Al-Hakim’s butler and guardian.

When Al-Hakim the caliph became fifteen years old, he ordered to kill all his guardians to rule solely and his reign was famous for bloodshed!

History recalls that the rule of Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah was subject of great controversy as it witnessed many different and bizarre matters. For instance Bin Al-Sabi mentioned his care for listening to the complaints of people: “Al-Hakim was riding his horse day and night and people from different social classes got in his way (they would stand in his way while he was coming and ask him to stop), and he would stop to hear them. Whoever wanted anything to be done, he would do it for him, whosoever he banned; at once his issue would be dismissed.”

His great charitable deeds were building “Cairo mosque” (also called “Al-Hakim mosque” or “Al-Anwar mosque”) which was located in “Bab Al-Futuh” street in Cairo, which his father Al-Aziz Bi-Allah started to establish and he continued afterwards.

In addition to that he built “Rashda mosque” in (393 AH- 1002 AD), he spent nearly two years. In (395 AH- 1004 AD) he established “Dar Al Hekma” in Cairo which was also known as “house of knowledge” where he placed all books in a private grand library, until it reached nearly hundred thousand books.

On the contrary, as Ibn Taghribirdi mentioned about the great scholar Abu Al-Muzaffar Ibn Qazawgli: “It was an opposing Caliphate between courage and bravery, coward and abstention, abstinence and refrain, love for knowledge, and revenge from scientists, as well as his tendency to goodness and killing the righteous! Also he was very generous, but at the same time he was unwillingly to spend money more than anyone ever did!”

Al-Hafez Abu-Abdulla Al-Dahabi mentioned: “Al-Hakim did the thing and its opposite…He had quite a strange reputation, all the time he invented strange matters and judgments that he would obligate his subjects to undertake, for example he ordered to write a Blaspheme of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad on the doors of mosques and streets…”

Moreover it was mentioned that he wore wool for seven years instead of wearing golden clothes for kings, which writers interrupted that to be a kind of Asceticism. Also it was mentioned that he ceased entering the bathroom and spent many years sitting by candlelight day and night, and then he sat in complete darkness for long years! 

Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah was considered one of the most governors who gave orders and issued strange decrees. As for example he prohibited eating Molokhaih and Arugula and Mutawakkilite (it was a kind of food that Al-Mutawakkil the Abbasid Caliph was fond of).

Furthermore he restricted selling fish without scales to the extent that he killed some people who sold it after his orders. He ordered to kill dogs, and he restricted drinking bubbles syrup (which was a barley syrup brew until it was covered by bubbles) as well as making and selling it. In (402 AH- 1011 AD) he restricted selling grapes and destroyed all vineyards until it was totally vanished.

He also ordered to spill five thousand honey pots in the sea for the fear of making wine. In (404 AH- 1013 AD) he restricted women from getting out of their homes day and night or even walking in the markets and restricted making shoes for them, which lasted for nearly seven years and seven months until his death. Some people mentioned that he restricted Tarawih prayer for ten years then he allowed it again.

What was more; he ordered to burn Egypt (Fustat), as Bin Al-Sabi mentioned that the relations between him and Egyptians were intense as they used to write and send him messages and they used to end it with insults and invocation of God against him!

Things went south to the extent that they made a statue of a woman made of the sheets of paper, dressed it and placed it in the road, the statue held a message as if it was a woman presenting a complaint!

Al-Hakim Bi- Amr Allah, the governor approached it and read the message, thus he knew that it was not a real woman, it was a statue made to mock him; therefore he ordered his leaders and servants to burn Egypt, steal and murder all its people!

The fights between servants and people continued for three days and the outskirts of the country were set on fire. On the fourth day the Turks joined forces with Egyptians and strife increased throughout the country. Thus the elder of Ktama and the Turks sent a message to Al-Hakim in which they threatened to burn Cairo and break out a war. As soon as that message reached him, he rode his horse and ordered his soldiers to retreat and he promised Egyptians’ safety.

Strife calmed down and things were stable after one third of Egypt was burnt… Stories about Beautiful Egypt never end!

General Bishop

Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center