Muslim Egypt Part II

By | January 20, 2022

Moreover, both Ṭūlūnidi and Ikhshīdidi had not formally detached themselves from the ‛abbāside caliphate, of which they recognized the authority; but a deeper change took place with the invasion of the Fāṭimids (v.). This Shiite dynasty, which was moved from Tunisia to the assault of the caliphate, claimed to hold, alone, the legitimate succession of Muhammad and condemned the ‛Abbasid dynasty as a heretic. The conquest of Egypt by Giawhar, general of the caliph fāṭimida al-Mu‛izz (969) was not to be, in the intention of the invaders, if not the first act of the occupation of the entire Islamic territory; and precisely as a consequence of this policy directed towards the East, al-Mu‛izz established the capital of his empire in Egypt: the foundation of Cairo, which took place with particular solemnity (358 èg.

And indeed under the rule of the Fāṭimidi Egypt assumed fundamental importance in the history of Islam: lord of an empire that extended from the western borders of modern Tunisia to those of Mesopotamia and, with the dominion of Sicily, tended to become lord of the Mediterranean, while penetrating, along the course of the Nile, into the center of Africa and, master of the Red Sea, made his power felt as far as the coasts of Arabia, the fāṭimida caliphate was also the animator of intense international propaganda secret that aimed to oust all Muslim rulers to the advantage of the universal domination of Shī‛ita legitimism (see ismā ‛ īliyyah). And Egypt, the center of this vast and powerful empire, combined economic, cultural and artistic development with political development. Cairo, rapidly enlarged to become the most populous city in Islam, adorned with splendid buildings, equipped with industrial establishments, great schools of religious and secular sciences, rich libraries, was supplanting Baghdād in the position of metropolis of Islam. Except that the Fāṭimids, despite their political power and their religious prestige, were still, in Egypt itself, the representatives of a religious belief that the majority of the population did not accept, and that only force was able to impose them, with systems of religious persecution and constriction of consciences such as Islam had not known to such a great extent until then, and that they extended (since they had become a system of government) also to Jews and Christians, who until then had enjoyed a regime of tolerance and had a conspicuous part in the economic life of the country and in the administration of the state itself. The reign of al-Ḥākim (v.), A strange type of sovereign in which good intentions and considerable political intelligence were combined with fits of bloody madness, represents, in the form of pathological exaggeration, the strengths and weaknesses of the Fāṭimida government.

To contrast, moreover, the expansion of this had arisen in Asia, since the middle of the century. XI, the power of the Seljuks and the Atābeg dynasties that succeeded them: in the long struggles in Syria the Fāṭimids wore out their forces, while their African dominions to the west of Egypt were gradually lost under the pressure of the dynasty of the Ḥammādidi. The Crusades took away from the Fāṭimids what remained of their possessions of Syria, and the caliphs by now fallen (as had happened two centuries earlier to the ‛Abbāsids) under the control of the military leaders, Turkish or Kurdish, gradually saw themselves deprived of any effective influence on the fate of ‘Egypt. The internal history of this in the seventy years after the first crusade is nothing but the history of the rivalries between the commanders of the militias, in which the atābeg of Mossul, Nūr ad-dīn, who had risen to great power in Syria, who sent his general, of Kurdish nation, Shīrkūh, to Egypt. He became the arbiter of Egyptian politics, nor was his power shaken by the temporary success that King Amalric I of Jerusalem (v.) Obtained against him. To Shīrkūh’s nephew and successor, Ṣalāḥ ad-dīn (Saladin), he succeeded in eliminating the Caliphal dynasty (567 èg. = 1171) and then proclaimed himself sovereign of Egypt with the title of king (malik) conferred on him by the Caliph of Baghdād, to whom Saladin paid a purely formal homage of dependence. Thus Egypt officially summarized the political-religious beliefs of the Sunnis but not only preserved its effective independence, but also the best Fāṭimid traditions as it referred to foreign policy and the protection of letters and the arts. Under the Ayyūbid dynasty (v.) Which began with Saladin, Egypt resumed the dominion of Syria, annexing the territories of the Atābegs and most of the Latin fiefdoms and destroying the kingdom of Jerusalem, and also conquered Mesopotamia; and if he did not succeed in regaining all the territories lost by the Fāṭimids in northern Africa (he kept the coast, however, beyond Tripoli), he occupied a large part of the Arabian peninsula in compensation. maml ū k), whose servile title gave its name to the dynasty which, after displacing the Ayyūbids, replaced them in the government of Egypt, which it maintained for over two and a half centuries (648-913 èg. = 1250-1517).

According to, the period of the Mamluks (v.), Which is usually divided into the two dynasties of the Baḥriti and the Burgiti, offers the singular peculiarity of a regime of Turkish military feudalism, which takes place with its own regulations, while alongside it there is an administration civil, of a purely Arab character, which continues the Ayyūbidic traditions. The sovereign is the most skilled and the most influential of the generals, and repeats the power from the trust of these, without any dynastic continuity. This system (which has close analogies with that of the Roman Empire) offered the advantage of giving Egypt a series of sovereigns of high personal value: Baibars, Qalā’ūn, an-Nāṣir, Barqūq, al-Mu’ayyad, Qā ‘itbāy, who, owing the throne only to their military and political qualities, knew how to maintain themselves with honor. Syria and Arabia, lost under the last Ayyūbids, were almost entirely reconquered, expelling the last Latin presidencies from the first and fighting the Assassins strenuously (v.); but the greatest title of glory of the Mamluks is constituted by the vigorous resistance opposed to the Mongol invasion, which, after having conquered Mesopotamia and overthrown the Caliphate, threatened to overwhelm Syria and Egypt. In repelling the Mongols from Syria, the Mamluks appeared as the saviors of Muslim civilization, and Egypt was effectively, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the major center of Arabism and Islamic studies. The economic conditions of the country were also flourishing for a long time, especially due to the favor granted to foreign trade (there were numerous commercial treaties with the Christian states), and to industry, especially the textile and metallurgical industries. Egypt was for two centuries the transit route between India and Europe, and its prosperity was greatly affected by the discovery of the sea route to the Indies by the Portuguese. Cairo, which the Ayyūbids had enlarged and embellished, became even more flourishing under the Mamluks, whose buildings are those that still today give the characteristic imprint of the city’s art.

However, the dominion of the Mamluks contained in its very constitution an element of weakness, that of not being in direct contact with the people, but of overlapping them, remaining foreign to them. And, when the sovereigns of singular individual value failed, their successors could not resist the violent action of the Ottoman Turks, which from the beginning of the century. XV onwards had begun their work of conquering Anterior Asia and that, having defeated the last Mamluk sultan, Ṭūmān Bey, in Syria, they incorporated Egypt into their immense empire.

Muslim Egypt 2