Jawhar al-Siqilli

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Jawhar ibn Abdallah, surnamed Ja'far al-Siqilli ("the Sicilian"), al-Rumi ("the Byzantine"), al-Saqlabi ("the Slav"),[1][2][3] al-Katib ("the Chancellor") and al-Qaid ("the General"), (Arabic: جوهر الصقلي ‎, born early 10th century, died 992),[4] was the most important military leader in Fatimid history.[5] He led the conquest of North Africa[6] and then of Egypt, founded the city of Cairo[7] and the great al-Azhar Mosque.


Jawhar was a Sicilian ghulam of Greek ethnicity.[8][9][10][11][12][13] His family originated from the Emirate of Sicily (hence the epithet الصقلي = the Sicilian), and came as a slave to North Africa. He was sent to the Caliph Ismail al-Mansur on account of his intelligence and cunning. Under his son al-Muizz (953-975) he gained his freedom and became his personal secretary. Soon he was the vizier and the highest-ranking military commander of the Fatimids. In this role he resumed the expansion of the Fatimids and, together with the Zirids, conquered Fez in Northern Morocco, and pushed towards the Atlantic. Only the strongholds of Ceuta and Tangier could be retained by the Umayyads of Córdoba.

The al-Azhar Mosque, founded by Jawhar in 970

After the Western borders had been secured, Jawhar as-Siqilli pushed towards Egypt and occupied the land around the Nile in 969 from the Ikhshidids after a siege at Giza. The conquest was prepared by a treaty with the Ikhshidid vizier Abu'l-Fadl Ja'far ibn al-Fadl (by which Sunnis would be guaranteed freedom of religion), so the Fatimids encountered little resistance. Afterwards Jawhar ruled Egypt until 972 as viceroy.

In this capacity he founded the city of Cairo in 969 north of Fustat, to serve as the new residence of the Fatimid Caliphs,[14] and the al-Azhar Mosque in 970. Although Palestine was occupied after the conquest of Egypt, Syria could not be overcome, following a defeat at the hands of the Qarmatians at Damascus. However, when the Qarmatians overran Egypt, Jawhar was able to defeat them north of Cairo on the 22 December 970, although the struggle continued until 974. To secure the southern border of Egypt a legation was sent to the Christian land of Nubia.

After the establishment of the residence at Cairo, Jawhar fell into disfavour with al-Muizz. Under his successor al-Aziz (975-996) however, in whose accession to the throne Jawhar played an important role, he was rehabilitated. He was regent again until 979, but was finally stripped of power after a campaign against Syria was once again defeated near Damascus. Jawhar died on 1 February 992.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biddick, Kathleen (2011). The Typological Imaginary: Circumcision, Technology, History. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780812201277. The Arabic word for slave—“saqlabi” (singular) or “saqaliba” (plural) 
  2. ^ Pakistan Historical Society, Pakistan Historical Society (1964). Quarterly Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society. Pakistan Historical Society. p. 9. As is well known, the Fatimids often entrusted the highest offices to Europeans, usually described as Saqlabi, Slav, even if they did not happen to come from a Slavic country. 
  3. ^ Yaʻlāwī, Muḥammad (1976). Un poète chiite d'Occident au IVème/Xème siècle: 'Ibn Hâni' al-Andalusî. Université de Tunis, Faculté des Llettres et Sciences Humaines. p. 79. Outre ces deux origines, il est souvent désigné par l'épithète « al- Saqlabi», ce qui veut dire «Slave» ou «esclave»; le mot latin «slavus» qui a donné « sclavus » puis « esclave » comportait à l'origine cette même ambiguité; [translation: In addition to these two sources, it is often referred to by the epithet "al-Saqlabi", which means " slave" and the Latin word "Slavus" gave "sclavus" and "slave" contained in originally the same ambiguity, some sources] 
  4. ^ Monés (1991), p. 494
  5. ^ Saunders, John Joseph (1990). A History of Medieval Islam. Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 0415059143. Under Mu’izz (955-975) the Fatimids reached the height of their glory, and the universal triumph of isma ‘ilism appeared not far distant. The fourth Fatimid Caliph is an attractive character: humane and generous, simple and just, he was a good administrator, tolerant and conciliatory. Served by one of the greatest generals of the age, Jawhar al-Rumi, a former Greek slave, he took fullest advantage of the growing confusion in the Sunnite world. 
  6. ^ Chodorow, Stanley – Knox, MacGregor – Shirokauer, Conrad – Strayer, Joseph R. – Gatzke, Hans W. (1994). The Mainstream of Civilization. Harcourt Press. p. 209. ISBN 0155011979. The architect of his military system was a general named Jawhar, an islamicized Greek slave who had led the conquest of North Africa and then of Egypt 
  7. ^ Fossier, Robert – Sondheimer, Janet – Airlie, Stuart – Marsack, Robyn (1997). The Cambridge illustrated history of the Middle Ages. Cambridge University Press. p. 170. ISBN 0521266459. When the Sicilian Jawhar finally entered Fustat in 969 and the following year founded the new dynastic capital, Cairo, 'The Victorious', the Fatimids ... 
  8. ^ Raymond, André (2000). Cairo. Harvard University Press. p. 35. ISBN 0674003160. After the accession of the fourth Fatimid caliph, al-Mu'izz (953- 975), a cultivated and energetic ruler who found an able second in Jawhar, an ethnic Greek, conditions for conquest of Egypt improved. 
  9. ^ Khan, H.S.H. Prince Aly S. (1973). The Great Ismaili heroes: contains the life sketches and the works of thirty great Ismaili figures. H.S.H. Prince Aly S. Khan Cology Religious Night School. p. 23. OCLC 18340773. Jawhar was a European mamluk (of Greek origin. Arab historians called these Western Byzantines as Rumis), in the sense he was brought as a slave to Qayrwan, the then capital of the Fatimids in the North Western Africa. 
  10. ^ Mirza, Nasseh Ahmad (1997). Syrian Ismailism: The Ever Living Line of the Imamate, AD 1100-1260. Routledge. p. 110. ISBN 070070504X. Jawhar was a Greek slave, al-Khitat al-Maqriziya, Cairo, 1324/1906, Vol. II, pp. 205. 
  11. ^ Watterson, Barbara (1998). The Egyptians. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 257. ISBN 0631211950. In AD 969, a Fatimid army of 100,000 men entered Egypt, led by the greatest general of the day, Gohar al-Siqilli al-Rumi, who, as his name makes clear, was of Christian slave origin, al-Siqilli meaning ‘the Sicilian' and al-Rumi ‘the Greek'. 
  12. ^ Collomb, Rodney (2006). The rise and fall of the Arab Empire and the founding of Western pre-eminence. Spellmount. p. 73. ISBN 1862273278. a Greek mercenary born in Sicily, and his 100000-man army had little 
  13. ^ Asante, Molefi K. (2002). Culture and customs of Egypt. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 15. ISBN 0313317402. Al-Mo'izz, the Fatimid leader, put an army of 100000 men at the disposal of a converted Greek named Gohar 
  14. ^ Irene Beeson (September–October 1969). "Cairo, a Millennial". Saudi Aramco World. pp. 24, 26–30. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 


  • S. H. Prince Aly, S. Khan Colony, Religious Night School, The Great Ismaili Heroes: Contains the Life Sketches and the Works of Thirty Great Ismaili Figures, University of Michigan
  • Monés, H. (1991). "Djawhar al-Siqillī". The Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, Volume II: C–G. Leiden and New York: BRILL. pp. 494–495. ISBN 90-04-07026-5. 

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