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Ismaili History 538 - AL-AZIZ (365-386/975-996)

He was born on 14th Muharram, 344/May 10, 955 in Mahdiya. His name was Nizar Abu Mansur, surnamed al-Aziz bi-lllah (August by the grace of God). He assumed the Imamate and Caliphate on 14th Rabi II, 365/December 21, 975. He was tall, broad shouldered, with reddish hair and large eyes having a dark blue colour. He was fond of sports and showed a marked interest in literature and learning.
It was owing to his generous patronage that the University of al-Azhar could maintain itself as a unique and distinguished seat of Islamic learning. He also created an almshouse in it for 35 men. Al-Azhar contained a huge library. The royal library of al-Aziz itself contained 200,000 rare manuscripts and an equal number of manuscripts were kept at al-Azhar. It also contained 2400 illuminated copies of Holy Koran. Later, in 436/1045 a new catalogue had been prepared in al-Azhar, listing 6500 volumes of astronomy, architecture and philosophy. When Nasir Khusaro visited Cairo, he had found 317 professors and as many as 9758 students engaged in the study of various subjects in al-Azhar. Marshall W. Baldwin writes in 'A History of the Crusades' (London, 1958, p. 102) that, 'The intellectual influences of Ismailism on Islam was very great indeed. During the heyday of its expansion, the poets, philosophers, theologians and scholars flocked to the Ismailite centres and produced works of a high order.'

Al-Aziz was also known for his paternal care of the people and introduced many financial reforms in the country. He introduced the system of paying a fixed stipends for services to the official and household servants and also used to give them robes and mules to ride on. Among his outstanding reforms, the most significant was that he put down bribery and corruption with a firm hand in Egypt.

Writing in the year 372/982, the anonymous writer of 'Hudud al-Alam' (tr. by V. Minorsky, London, 1937, p. 151) describes that, 'Egypt is the wealthiest country of Islam, and in it lies numerous towns, all prosperous, flourishing, wealthy, and extremely favoured by nature in many respects. It produces textiles, handkerchiefs, and robes of various kinds, than which there are none more precious in the whole world - such as Egyptian woollen goods and textiles, and handkerchiefs made of dabiqi (silk brocade or linen drapes) and khazz(tissue of silk and wool). And in this country, good asses are found of great price. Fustat is the capital of Egypt. It is the wealthiest city in the world, extremely prosperous and very pleasant. It lies to the east of the river Nile.'

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