Beautiful Egypt 315 – “The Fickle Governor” – 25/9/2019

Beautiful Egypt 315 – “The Fickle Governor” – 25/9/2019

We previously continued talking about Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah (386-411 AH – 996-1021 AD), and his reign which was a great controversy among historians and still is. We also talked about what was mentioned about him; as he used to stroll among people in the streets listening to their complaints besides to establishing “Cairo mosque”, “Rashda mosque”, and “Dar Al-Hekma”. In addition to his variability in the matters of governing, excessive issuance of Decrees, and burning Egypt.

Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah with Christians and Jews

Historians mentioned that Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah was severely violent with both Christians and Jews.

As Abu Al-Muzaffar Ibn Qazawgli mentioned: “He distinguished Dhimmis by specific symbols; he made Jews wore black turbans, ordered them not to aboard a ship with Muslims, in addition to not hiring a Muslim servant, and not even to ride a Muslim donkey. What was more; not to enter the restroom with Muslims, but he made separate restrooms for them. During his rule no monastery or church remained unless he demolished. Some Dhimmis became Muslims due to their fear of him then they apostatized, later on he restored churches to its condition.”

Al-Imam Jalal Al-Din Al-Suyuti wrote: “He ordered Christians to wear crosses around their necks, the length of the cross was a cubit and its weight was five pounds (per Egyptian measurement). As for the Jews; he ordered them to carry on a wooden necklace around their necks which were the same weight as the crosses; in addition to wearing the black turbans. Due to those orders, a large sect of them became Muslims. Afterwards he gave orders to restore worship places and churches. As for those who became Muslims, he allowed them to return to their religion as being forced…”

Also he restricted Christians from their feasts celebrated publicly such as the Cross and Palm Sunday.

Al-Maqrizi wrote: “He was too firm towards Christians and he obligated them to wear distinguished garments (It was a kind of cloth to denote to them), also to fasten Zunnar around their waists (which were some kinds of belts). He restricted them from Palm Sunday and the Cross celebration, to a great extent that they were restricted from gathering according to their customs. Moreover he seized all endowment property of Churches and monasteries in favor of Divan. Moreover he confirmed that with his appointed leaders (they were people who were responsible for carrying out his orders). He burnt a lot of crosses and restricted Christians from buying servants and slaves. He demolished all the churches along “Khat Rasheda Zaher Madinat Misr” (a vanished city). Also he demolished “Makas” churches (that meant graveyards) which were located in “Om Dinin” village outside Cairo. He allowed people to loot it severely (indescribable). Furthermore, he demolished “Al- Qoseir monastery” as people stole everything in. Furthermore he restricted Christians from celebrating Epiphany on the banks of the Nile… He obligated both Jews and Christians to be exiled away from Egypt and to go to the Roman countries. Thus they were all gathered at the yard of the Palace in Cairo, they appealed for aid, and therefore they got the protection of Amir Al-Muminin until he spared them from exile. During those incidents a lot of Christians converted to Islam.”

In (400 AH-1009 AD), according to some resources in (398 AH-1007 AD), Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah ordered a massive raid on the church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem, demolished and sabotaged it. So it remained sabotaged until (429 AH-1037 AD), when the Roman Caesar sent some messengers and gifts to the Caliph and asked him to reconstruct it. The Caliph accepted and it was reconstructed. Moreover it was mentioned that he ordered reconstructing all the churches he had demolished in Egypt. 

At that point I refer to the division which was presented by the religious scholar “Nessim Dana” about the relationship between Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah and Christianity as well as Judaism in three main stages as follows:

 The first stage (996-1006 AD); whereas it was an era of proportional tolerance in return for paying Al-Jizya (taxes), through which some decrees were issued like restricting celebration of both Epiphany and Resurrection feasts in 1004 AD, also he prohibited drinking wine. Moreover in 1005 AD, he issued some decrees concerning the clothes code. For instance; black turbans to distinguish Christians from Muslims; in addition to that he made Christians wear an iron cross while Jews wore a calf necklace (a wooden necklace having the shape of a calf) then it was replaced by a bell. Furthermore, Christian women were forced to wear a pair of two different colors shoes; black and red. That all took place until 1014 AD.

The second stage (1007-1012 AD); it was severe hostility towards Christians as he ordered to destroy the church of the Resurrection, and prohibited religious processions in addition to profanation of the Christian graveyards. On the other hand he also punished some Christian employees. He obligated Christians to hang wooden crosses around their necks and restricted them from riding horses. Furthermore he replaced Christian employees by Muslims and he demolished churches.

As for the third stage (1012-1021 AD); it was less hostility as he allowed Christians and Jews who turned to Islam unwillingly to return back to their religion. Moreover he reconstructed churches and… Stories about Beautiful Egypt never end!

General Bishop

Head of the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Center