Aziz al-Dawla

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ʿAzīz al-Dawla

Abu Shuja' Fātik al-Waḥīdī
Fatimid Governor of Aleppo
In office
October 1016 6 July 1022
Appointed by Al-Hakim
Lieutenant Abu'l-Najm Badr (governor of citadel)
Preceded by Fath al-Qal'i
Succeeded byAbu'l-Najm Badr

ʿAzīz al-Dawla Abū Shujāʿ Fātik al-Waḥīdī ibn ʿAbd Allāh al-Rūmī, better known simply as Aziz al-Dawla (d. 1022), was the first Fatimid governor of Aleppo in 1016/17–1022. An ethnic Armenian, Aziz al-Dawla started his political career as a trusted ghulam (military slave) of Manjutakin al-Azizi, the Fatimid governor of Damascus during the reign of Caliph al-Hakim (996–1021). The latter appointed Aziz al-Dawla governor of Aleppo, which experienced prosperity during his rule.


By 1020, Aziz al-Dawla was acting independently of al-Hakim's authority by issuing coins in his name and having his political sovereignty declared in Friday prayers. When al-Hakim sent an army to force Aziz al-Dawla into submission, the latter appealed for Byzantine support but canceled the appeal when al-Hakim mysteriously disappeared in early 1021. Afterward, the Fatimid court attempted to reconcile with Aziz al-Dawla, who nonetheless moved to secure his rule by building a well-fortified palace at the foot of the Aleppo's citadel. In July 1022, Aziz al-Dawla was murdered in his sleep by one of his ghulams (slave soldier) in a plot devised by another of his ghulams, Abu'l-Najm Badr, with likely backing from al-Hakim's virtual successor, Sitt al-Mulk. Badr briefly succeeded Aziz al-Dawla as governor but was arrested three months later.

Early career

Aziz al-Dawla was an ethnic Armenian and a ghulam (military slave) of Manjutakin al-Azizi, the Fatimid governor of Damascus, during the reign of Caliph al-Hakim (r. 996–1021). [1] The 12th-century historian Ibn al-Adim wrote that Manjutakin highly favored Aziz al-Dawla and described him as wise, courageous and generous. [1] Aziz al-Dawla was a Muslim, and the 15th-century historian al-Maqrizi described Aziz al-Dawla as "intelligent and pious". [1]

Governor of Aleppo

Appointment by al-Hakim

In 1016, the governor of Aleppo, Mansur ibn Lu'lu' fled the city amid a revolt led by his commander of the citadel, Fath al-Qal'i, with support from the local Banu Kilab led by Salih ibn Mirdas. [2] The latter coveted control of Aleppo, while the Fatimids, who controlled the central and southern parts of Syria, saw an opportunity to extend their rule to the city and northern Syria. [3] Fatimid troops from Afamiyah led by Ali ibn al-Dayf had been invited to help Fath maintain control of the city, [4] but as the unrest continued, al-Dayf called for reinforcements. [5] Afterward, al-Hakim dispatched troops from Sidon and Tripoli and compelled Fath to leave Aleppo and take up the governorship of Tyre; Fath had preferred ruling jointly with Salih, but the people of Aleppo rejected Bedouin rule and preferred a Fatimid administration. [5]

In October 1016, al-Hakim appointed Aziz al-Dawla to replace Fath, [1] making Aziz al-Dawla the first Fatimid-appointed governor of Aleppo and Jund Qinnasrin (province of Aleppo). [5] [6] Al-Hakim concurrently bestowed upon him a robe of honor, a sword and gold-plated saddle. [1] Aziz al-Dawla entered Aleppo on 3 February 1017. [1] [5] Early in his rule, in 1018, Aziz al-Dawla persuaded Salih to have his mother, Rabab, reside in Aleppo. [1] [7] The move was meant to solidify his friendship with Salih and the Banu Kilab, [7] and to demonstrate to Aleppo's inhabitants, who constantly lived in threat of a Byzantine invasion, that he was establishing a military alliance with the powerful Bedouin tribe against the Byzantines. [1] Nothing else is known about the interactions between Aziz al-Dawla and Salih, but historian Suhayl Zakkar, presumes that Salih must have been satisfied with Aziz al-Dawla's rule. [7]

Moves toward independence

Aziz al-Dawla was an ambitious governor and established Aleppo as an autonomous entity in between the Fatimid Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire, two traditional enemies. [1] [5] [8] Upon assuming the governorship, Aziz al-Dawla convinced Fatimid troops in the city that with their assignment being completed they should withdraw to their garrisons in Sidon, Tripoli and Afamiyah. [7] He later dismissed Fatimid officials from the city and provincial posts. [8] To publicly demonstrate his sovereignty, he issued his own coins omitting the name of al-Hakim and had his own name read by the city's mosques in the khutba (Friday prayer). [1] Moreover, he had his honorary name, Al-Sayyid Amir al-Umara Aziz al-Dawla inscribed on the city's Antioch Gate and in silver chandeliers in the Great Mosque of Aleppo. [1]

The date of Aziz al-Dawla's formal acts of sovereignty was not recorded by contemporary sources, but Zakkar presumes they likely occurred in 1020. [7] That year, al-Hakim launched an expedition to reassert direct Fatimid rule over Aleppo, prompting Aziz al-Dawla to request military assistance from the Byzantine emperor, Basil II (976–1025). [8] Al-Hakim mysteriously disappeared in February 1021 and when news of this reached Aziz al-Dawla, he canceled his deal with Basil II, whose army had reached the vicinity of Ayn Tab, and gained the backing of the Banu Kilab to counter the Byzantines. [8] Basil II consequently withdrew. [9]

The succession of al-Hakim's young son az-Zahir as caliph boosted Aziz al-Dawla's confidence, and the Fatimid court, which was effectively controlled by al-Hakim's sister, Sitt al-Mulk, sent him numerous gifts and robes of honor to reconcile with him. [9] Nonetheless, Aziz al-Dawla sought to secure his virtual independence and built a well-fortified palace and bathhouse at the foot of the Aleppo's citadel. [1] [9] Furthermore, he recruited several ghulams into his service and bodyguard. [9] The ghulams resided in the citadel and their commander was Abu'l-Najm Badr, a Turk who also served as governor of the citadel. [9]


Badr, with Sitt al-Mulk's secret encouragement, plotted to assassinate Aziz al-Dawla. [10] The plot, according to medieval Muslim chroniclers, was initiated by Sitt al-Mulk and the Fatimid court. Aziz al-Dawla was apparently unaware of communications between Badr and Sitt al-Mulk; Zakkar presumes that the when Sitt al-Mulk dispatched envoys carrying gifts for Aziz al-Dawla, she also sent them with messages to Badr promising him Aziz al-Dawla's post should he betray his master. [10] Badr manipulated another ghulam of Aziz al-Dawla named Tuzun, who was of Indian origin, to commit the murder by warning him that Aziz al-Dawla attempted to have Tuzun killed on several occasions, but these were all averted by Badr's intervention; Badr convinced Tuzun that he should kill Aziz al-Dawla to save his own life. [10] In truth, Aziz al-Dawla deeply loved Tuzun. [10]

On 6 July 1022, Aziz al-Dawla had gone hunting while Badr and Tuzun plotted his murder. [11] Upon his return to the palace, Aziz al-Dawla bathed, ate, became drunk then went to bed. [12] While Aziz al-Dawla was sleeping, Tuzun decapitated him with his sword in one blow. [12] Badr witnessed the slaying and then immediately turned on Tuzun by raising a cry that awoke the other ghulams, who then killed Tuzun. [12] Zakkar explains that the aforementioned story is the only narrative describing Aziz al-Dawla's murder and that "it is difficult to accept it at face value". [12] He also finds Sitt al-Mulk's alleged participation in the plot to be "questionable". [12]

In any case, Badr reported Aziz al-Dawla's murder to the Fatimid court, which publicly mourned Aziz al-Dawla, but was secretly satisfied with his death. [12] Badr was appointed as Aziz al-Dawla's successor, but he governed for a little over three months before al-Dayf was sent to arrest him. [13] He was thereafter replaced by separate governors for the city and citadel of Aleppo. [14] By 1025, Salih and the Banu Kilab evicted the Fatimid governors and established Mirdasid rule over the city.


Aziz al-Dawla was a cultured ruler with a particular affection for poetry, literature and philosophy. [8] [10] He wrote poetry himself. [8] The local and well-known poet al-Ma'arri had friendly relations with Aziz al-Dawla and dedicated two of his works to him: [15] [10] Risalat al-Sahil wa'l Shahij ("Letter of a Horse and a Mule") and Kitab al-Qa'if. [15] [16]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Dadoyan 1997, p. 108.
  2. Zakkar 1971, p. 56.
  3. Zakkar 1971, p. 58.
  4. Zakkar 1971, p. 57.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Zakkar 1971, p. 59.
  6. Dadoyan 2013, p. 78.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Zakkar 1971, p. 60.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dadoyan 2013, p. 79.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Zakkar 1971, p. 61.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Zakkar 1971, p. 62.
  11. Zakkar 1971, pp. 62–63.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Zakkar 1971, p. 63.
  13. Zakkar 1971, pp. 63–64.
  14. Zakkar 1971, p. 64.
  15. 1 2 Dadoyan 2013, p. 78.
  16. Smoor, P. (1986). "Al-Ma'arri". In Bosworth, C. E.; et al. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol. 5. Leiden: Brill. pp. 932–933. ISBN   90-04-07819-3.


Preceded by
Fath al-Qal'i
Emir of Aleppo
October 1016–January 1022
Succeeded by
Abu'l-Najm Badr