NEZĀR B. AL-MOSTANṢER, ABU MANṢUR

NEZĀR B. AL-MOSTANṢER, ABU MANṢUR (b. Cairo, 10 Rabiʿ I 437/26 September 1045; d. Cairo, 488/1095), Fatimid crown prince and Nezāri Ismaʿili imam. He was the eldest son of al-Mostanṣer Be’llāh, the eighth Fatimid caliph and the eighteenth Ismaʿili imam. According to Ismaʿili Shiʿite rules of succession, Nezār had received, in due course, the naṣṣ or designation to succeed his father. However, on al-Mostanṣer’s death on 18 ḏu’l-Ḥejja 487/28 December 1094, events took a different turn and led to the major Nezāri-Mostaʿlian schism in the Ismaʿili daʿwa (see DAʿI) and community.

Abu’l-Qāsem Šāhanšāh, better known by his vizieral title of al-Afżal, who a few months earlier had succeeded his own father, Badr al-Jamāli, as the all-powerful Fatimid vizier and the commander of the armies (amir al-joyuš), had other plans for al-Mostanṣer’s succession. Aiming to retain his own dictatorial powers, al-Afżal favored the candidacy of Nezār’s much younger half-brother Abu’l-Qāsem Aḥmad (467–95/1074–1101), who would be entirely dependent on him. Aḥmad was also married to al-Afżal’s sister, Sett-al-Molk. On the day after al-Mostanṣer’s death, al-Afżal placed Aḥmad on the Fatimid throne with the caliphal title of al-Mostaʿli Be’llāh. Backed by the Fatimid armies, al-Afżal swiftly obtained the allegiance of the notables of the Fatimid court and the Ismaʿili daʿwa in Cairo for al-Mostaʿli, who was also recognized by them as the new Ismaʿili imam. There are conflicting accounts of this important event in Ismaʿili history. Later, the leaders of the Mostaʿlian Ismaili faction circulated different versions of the circumstances under which, according to them, al-Mostanṣer had personally nominated al-Mostaʿli as his heir apparent (see al-Mostanṣer, pp. 109-18; Āmer, text pp. 3-26; Edris, VII, pp. 231-51; Stern, pp. 20-31). 

It is a historical fact, however, that al-Mostanṣer never revoked Nezār’s succession rights and that al-Mostaʿli was placed on the Fatimid throne through al-Afżal’s machinations. This explains why Nezār himself refused to endorse al-Afżal’s designs and fled to Alexandria, where he rose in revolt early in 488/1095. There, Nezār was assisted by the city’s governor, Nāṣer-al-Dawla Aftakin, who aspired to replace al-Afżal, as well as by its Ismaʿili judge (qāżi), Ebn ʿAmmār. He also received much local support from the Arab inhabitants of Alexandria. Soon, Nezār was declared caliph in Alexandria with the title of al-Moṣṭafā le-Din Allāh. 

Nezār was initially successful in his revolt, repelling al-Afżal’s forces and advancing as far as the vicinity of Cairo. However, by the end of 488/1095, al-Afżal had personally taken the field against Nezār, whose coalition of supporters had meanwhile faltered, and forced him to surrender. Nezār was taken to Cairo, where he was immured. 

The dispute over al-Mostanṣer’s succession permanently split the Ismaʿilis into two rival factions, later designated as the Nezāris and the Mostaʿlians. The imamate of al-Mostaʿli, installed to the Fatimid caliphate, was acknowledged by the daʿwa organization in Cairo, as well as most Ismaʿilis in Egypt, Yaman, and many in Syria. On the other hand, the Persian Ismaʿilis, then already under the overall leadership of Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ, defended al-Mostanṣer’s original designation (naṣṣ) and upheld Nezār’s right to the Ismaʿili imamate. Ḥasan Ṣabbāḥ had now, in fact, founded the Nezāri daʿwa independently of the Fatimid regime. Nezāri imams from the progeny of Nezār later emerged at Alamut and took charge of the affairs of the Nezāri Ismaʿili state, daʿwa and community. 

Bibliography:  

Abu ʿAli Manṣur Āmer be-Aḥkām Allāh, al-Hedāya al-āmeriya fi ebṭāl daʿwat al-Nezāriya, ed. Aṣaf ʿAli-Aṣḡar Fyzee, London, 1938.  

Farhad Daftary, The Ismāʿīlīs: Their History and Doctrines, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2007, pp. 241-43, 313, 325-26, 342-43.  

Ebn Moyassar, Akbār Meṣr, ed. Ayman Foʾād Sayyed, as al-Montaqā men aḵbār Meṣr, Cairo, 1981, pp. 59-63.  

Edris ʿEmād al-Din, ʿOyun al-aḵbār VII, ed. Ayman Foʾād Sayyed, Damascus, 2008, pp. 221-51.  

Heinz Halm, Kalifen und Assassinen: Ägypten und der Vordere Orient zur Zeit der ersten Kreuzzüge 1074-1171, Munich, 2014, pp. 87-91, 152-57, 260-61. 

Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Order of Assassins: The Struggle of the Early Nizārī Ismāʿīlīs against the Islamic World, The Hague, 1955, pp. 62-72.  

Taqi-al-Din Aḥmad b. ʿAli Maqrizi, Etteʿāẓ al-honafāʾ be-aḵbār al-aʾemma al-Fāṭemiyin al-ḵolafāʾ, ed. Jamāl-al-Din Šayyāl and Moḥammad Ḥelmi M. Aḥmad, 3 vols., Cairo, 1967-73, III, pp. 11-16, 27; ed. Ayman Foʾād Sayyed, Damascus, 2010, III, pp. 5-13, 25.  

Abu Tamim Maʿadd al-Mostanṣer Be’llāh, al-Sejellāt al-mostanṣeriya, ed. ʿAbd-al-Monʿem Mājed, Cairo, 1954.  

Ayman Foʾād Sayyed, al-Dawla al-Fāṭemiya fi Meṣr, 2nd ed., Cairo, 2000, pp. 219-25.  

Samuel M. Stern, “The Epistle of the Fatimid Caliph al-Āmir (al-Hidāya al-Āmiriyya): Its Date and Its Purpose,” JRAS, 1950, pp. 20-31; repr. in idem, History and Culture in the Medieval Muslim World, London, 1984, article X.

(Farhad Daftary)

Cite this article:

Farhad Daftary, "NEZĀR B. AL-MOSTANṢER, ABU MANṢUR," Encyclopædia Iranicaonline edition, 2014, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/nezar-al-mostansesr (accessed on 12 December 2014).