By Alijah Deedarali, Karachi (Pakistan)
Fatimi Wazir, Abu al-Farj Yaqub bin Yusuf known as Ibn Killis, was born of an honorable family of Baghdad. By birth he was a Jew, born in 318 A.H./930 C.E. At the young age he came with his father to Egypt where he started his political life at the court of Kafur. He was very intelligent, hard working and honest. Very soon he secured an important position in the Court of Kafur as an expert in economics. In 356 A.H./967 C.E., he embraced Islam by which Kafur was highly pleased and appointed him as his courtier. By this promotion of Yaqub, Wazir Ibn Furat of the court of Kafur got excited with jealousy and was searching a cause to fall against him. Incidentally in 357 A.H./967 C.E. Kafur died and Wazir Ibn Furat arrested all his companions including Yaqub bin Killis. It is said that Yaqub bribed the jailor and absconded to the West where Hazrat Imam Mu'izz was in power on the throne of Imamat and Caliphate.
Hazrat Imam Mu'izz, assigned Yaqub the responsibility of country's economy. Through his past experiences he carried out his work with great efficiency. Thereafter at the time of conquest of Egypt, Hazrat Imam Mu'izz, deputed him with Jawhar as-Siqilli for the management there. According to another version, Yaqub accompanied Hazrat Imam Mu'izz to Egypt in 362 A.H. In the beginning, Ibn Furat was continued in the office of Wizarat at Egypt but in 363 A.H./974 C.E. he resigned and Hazrat Imam Mu'izz handed over the administration to Yaqub bin Killis.
During the last period of Imam Mu'izz, and the first two years of the period of Imam Aziz, (365-386 A.H.), due to toil, honesty and intelligence of Yaqub bin Killis, this position became firm and stable, so much so that in 367-68 A.H./977-78 C.E. Imam Aziz, appointed him as Wazir al Adjall (Chief Minister). Prior to this, in the Caliphate of the first four Imams, an assistant was called 'Wasta' and in this way Yaqub bin Killis was the first Wazir-i-Adjall (Chief Minister) of Fatimid Caliphate.
During his office of Wazarat, Yaqub bin Killis established various departments anew for the administration of the state - promoted agriculture, reformed trade and stabilised currency - by which country began to flourish and revenue of provinces increased. In this very period Central Exchequer was so much solid in wealth that neither before nor afterwards such a wealth ever accrued. In 373 A.H. he had fallen from his office and it is said that Imam Aziz. had penalised him with the fine of 200,000 dinars. The actual cause of his removal is not known. Dr. Zahid Ali assumes that because Ibn Killis had treated badly one of the court prisoners of al-Aziz to whom Imam had promised all honours, therefore Ibn Killis had to pay a fine. All the same within a lapse of few months, in 374 A.H., he was reinstated in the office and was also forgiven.
Sickness and Death: It is said that Yaqub bin Killis fell seriously ill on the 21st of Shawwal 380 A.H. Imam Aziz visited him and said: "0 Yaqub! If your recovery is to be gained through spending wealth then I am prepared to give away the whole wealth of the state. And if your life is saved by sacrificing any life, I am ready to sacrifice my own son". By this it is understood what position Yaqub bin Killis held with Hazrat Imam Aziz. Sickness of Yaqub began to worsen day by day and on the 4th of Dhil Haj 380A.H./991 C.E. he succumbed to death.
His death was mourned throughout Egypt. His shroud was decorated with 50 pieces of clothes of which 30 were embroidered with gold thread. According to Ibn Khallikan, 100 poets composed Marsia, i.e. lamenting stanzas, and every poet earned his reward from the Imam. In Cairo a place was named 'Al Harat al-Waziria' in his honour.
Educational Status: With the political sciences Yaqub bin Killis was also endowed with a thorough knowledge of religion. He was a great scholar and was fond of literature. It is said that he wrote many books in which Mukhtasar-ul-Fiqah' (Risala-t-ul-Waziria) is worth mentioning. This work is on theology and 40 theologians participated in its compilation. Besides, he was at his palace lecturing every Friday night on different subjects, where judges, theologians, grammarians, traditionalists and poets used to gather to hear him.
In Jama-e-Azhar he gave vent to religious education and upon his instructions a University was established in Jama-e-Azhar, which exists until today.
The Story of his wealth: Yaqub bin Killis was an efficient wazir and through his efficiency introduced many reforms, as a result of which public was very much at ease, wealthy and treasury was full of wealth. Hazrat Imam Aziz, had given him wide powers and he was also drawing a good remuneration from the Treasury with a high position in the government. Consequently, he was in possession of the force of 4,000 young men. The uniform of his guards was, similar to that of the guards of Hazrat Imam Aziz, that is silky. Yaqub bin Killis had formed a private force, commander of which was called 'Qaid'. Courts were established for different jobs. There was also a well equipped dispensary in his palace. In the month of Ramadhan besides judges and prominent persons, nominal and general public also used to take advantage of his favour. His annual income was 100,000 dinars, i.e. more than 50,000 guineas. At the time of his death he left property valued forty lakh dinars, this amount was exclusive 200,000 dinars kept aside by him for the dowry of his daughter. He also left a piece of land worth 300,000 dinars. Besides there were 4,000 male and 8,000 female slaves.
1. Hamdani, Dr. Abbas. The Fatimids. P. 27. Karachi, publishing House,
2. Hitti, P.K., History of the Arabs p. 627. London, Macmillan & Co. 1949.
3. O'Leary. D' The Short History of the Fatimid Caliphs. P. 99-100. 114.120.
4. Ibn Khallikan. Ibn Khallikan's Biographical Dictionary- tr. from Arabic to English by Siane M.G. De. Vol. IV, p. 359-368. Paris, Oriental translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. 1871.
5. Ibn Khaldun. Tareikh ibn Khafdun (Urdu tr.) Vol. v., P. 132. Karachi. Nafees Academy, 1966.
6. Zahid Ali, Dr. Tareikh-e-Fatmyeen-e-misr (Urdu) Vol. I p. 194. 197 and Vol. 11 p. 1 1 1 and 130.
7. Saef Azad. Tarikh-e-Khulfa-e-Fatimi (Persian) p. 50-53. Tehran 1341. A. H. Shamsi.
8. Danishghah Punjab Lahore, Da re-e-Mu'arf-e-Islamia (Urdu) Vol. 1. p. 656. (Article on Ibn Killis by Bakar C.H.)
9. Ain ul Haq, Sayyid. Khilafat-e-Abbasia & Fatamyeen-e Misr (Urd) p. 233-34. Karachi, Ali publishers.
Back to Ismaili Heroes
Back to Ismaili Web
Sign our Guestbook