Al-Aziz Billah

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Al-Aziz Billah
العزيز بالله
Dinar of al-'Aziz billah, AH 366 (AD 976-977).jpg
Gold dinar of al-Aziz minted in Palestine (Filastin) in AH 366 (976/977 CE)
Caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty
Reign21 December 975 – 13 October 996
Predecessoral-Mu'izz Li-Dinillah
Successoral-Hakim Bi-Amrillah
Born9 May 955
Died13 October 996
Issueal-Hakim Bi-Amrillah
Full name
Kunya: Abu Mansur
Given name: Nizar
Laqab: al-Aziz Billah
FatherAl-Mu'izz Li-Dinillah
ReligionShia Islam

Abu Mansur Nizar al-Aziz Billah (Arabic: أبو منصور نزار العزيز بالله‎, romanizedAbū Manṣūr Nizār al-ʿAzīz biʾllāh; 10 May 955 – 14 October 996) was the fifth Caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty (975–996).


Nazir, the future al-Aziz Billah, was born on 10 May 955, the son of the fourth Fatimid Caliph, al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah (r. 953–975).[1] In 974 his older Abdallah, who had been the designated heir, died, and Nazir found himself as his father's designated successor. The succession was not confirmed in front of the members of the dynasty and court, however, until a day before al-Mu'izz's death on 18 December 975.[1] His official proclamation as caliph was delayed until 9 August 976.[1]

Domestic government[edit]

According to the sources, al-Aziz Billah was "tall, with red hair and blue eyes, generous, brave, fond of horses and hunting and very humane and tolerant in disposition".[1] He was marked for his skill as an administrator, reforming the finances of the Fatimid state, standardizing and streamlining the payment of officials, and taking steps to ensure their integrity.[1]

The most influential official during most of his reign was Ya'qub ibn Killis, who was the first in Fatimid history to be designated as "vizier", in 979. Apart from two brief periods when Ibn Killis fell into disgrace—in 979 anf 984—he remained al-Aziz's chief minister until his death in 991. Ibn Killis is credited with the capable administration of the public finances, which ensured a full treasury, but also for his role as a patron of men of letters, and the author of a book that codified Fatimid laws.[1] In contrast, his successors did not long remain in office, and in the short space of five years, the post of vizier was occupied by six men: Ali ibn Umar al-Addas, Abu'l-Fadl Ja'far ibn al-Furat, al-Husayn ibn al-Hasan al-Baziyar, Abu Muhammad ibn Ammar, al-Fadl ibn Salih, and Isa ibn Nesturus.[1]

Religious poliies[edit]

The employment of the Christian Ibn Nesturus, just as that of the Jew Manashsha as Secretary for Syria, was a prominent example of the Fatimids' tolerance in religious matters, further encouraged under al-Aziz by his Melkite Christian wife. Two of her brothers, Orestes and Arsenius, were appointed as Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and metropolitan bishop of Cairo, respectively.[1] The Coptic Christians also benefited from the Caliph's favour, allowing them to rebuilt the Saint Mercurius Church despite Muslim opposition, or refusing to punish a Muslim man who converted to Christianity.[1] This leniency, crowned by the appointment to high office of Ibn Nesturus and Manashsha, was resented by the Muslim populace, with Muslim opinion incensed by hostile tracts circulating among them. The Caliph was briefly forced to depose his two ministers and imprison them, but soon their undoubted skill ensured their release and reinstatement.[1] Anti-Christian animus was most evident in 996, when merchants from Amalfi were suspected of being responsible for a fire that destroyed the arsenal at Cairo; in a city-wide anti-Christian pogrom, the Amalfitans were murdered and churches were ransacked.[1]


The reign of Al-Aziz was primarily significant for the strengthening of Fatimid power in Egypt and Syria, which had then only very recently been conquered (969). In 975 al-'Aziz took control of Baniyas in an attempt to subdue the anti-Fatimid agitation of the Sunni Mahammad b. Ahmad al-Nablusi and his followers.[2] The bedouin Tayy tribe under Mufarrij ibn Daghfal ibn al-Jarrah was defeated in Palestine 982 and finally subjugated at Damascus 983. Towards the end of his reign Al-Aziz sought to extend his power to northern Syria, focusing his attention on the Hamdanids of Aleppo. The fact that they were under the suzerainty of the Byzantine Empire resulted in the outbreak of war with this great power, a conflict which would not be resolved until the reign of al-Hakim (996-1021).

Another notable development during al-Aziz's reign was the introduction of foreign slave armies. When the Berber troops from the Maghreb continued to be successful in the wars against the Carmathians in Syria, Al-Aziz began setting up units composed of Turkish slave soldiers, or Mamelukes.

Through the expansion of the bureaucracy (in which many Jews and Christians acquired important posts) the foundations were laid for the immense power of the succeeding Caliphs. His appointment of a Jewish governor over Syria/Palestine, however, led to grumbling by his Muslim subjects, who claimed they were being pushed out of important posts. As a result, Al-Aziz ordered his Christian and Jewish officials to employ more Muslims in their offices.

The Egyptian economy was also nurtured, and tax revenue thereby increased, through the expansion of streets and canals and the establishment of a stable currency. The general economic well-being was also apparent in an elaborate building programme.

The reign of Al-Aziz was also culturally significant. His grand Vizir Yaqub ibn Killis (979-991) founded the al-Azhar University in Cairo (988) which went on to become the most important centre of learning in the Islamic world. Likewise a library with 200,000 volumes was built in Cairo.

According to Professor Samy S. Swayd Fatimid missionaries made their Dawah in China during the reign of Al-Aziz.[3]

Al-Aziz died on 13 October 996. His son Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (996-1021) succeeded him as Caliph.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Canard 1960, p. 823.
  2. ^ Wilson, John Francis. (2004) ibid p 122
  3. ^ Samy S. Swayd (2006). Historical dictionary of the Druzes. Volume 3 of Historical dictionaries of people and cultures (illustrated ed.). Scarecrow Press. p. xli. ISBN 0810853329. Retrieved April 4, 2012. The fifth caliph, al-'Aziz bi-Allah (r.975-996). . . In his time, the Fatimi "Call" or "Mission" (Da'wa) reached as far east as India and northern China.


Al-Aziz Billah
Born: 9 May 955 Died: 13 October 996
Regnal titles
Preceded by
al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah
Caliph of the Fatimid Dynasty
21 December 975 – 13 October 996
Succeeded by
al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah