Ma’ad Abu Tamim al-Mustansir, Fatimid Caliph AH 427-487/AD 1036-1094

Jafar F.KU.451 (same dies, mint misread as Madinat Kufa); Album 719B, Very Fine

Al-Qasr bi-Madinat al-Salam mint (Baghdad), issued by the rebel Arslan al-Basasiri in the name of the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir. Obverse, Ma’ad ‘Abd Allah waliyat / al-imam Abu Tamim / al-Mustansir billah / amir al-mu’minin; mint and date formula in margin. Reverse, at center, Shi’ite kalima; in margin, Qur’an 9:33. On both sides, field and margin separated by wide decorative border. It has been suggested that al-Basasiri may been supplied beforehand with dinars which bore the mint name Madinat al-Salam (Baghdad) but had in fact been produced at a mint in Egypt or Syria for propaganda purposes. The arrangement of legends on al-Basasiri’s coins, however, do not have the same “bull’s-eye” concentric legends found on other Fatimid issues of the time. Instead, al-Basasiri’s dinars have horizontal legends in the field with a single margin around, an arrangement much more familiar to the residents of Baghdad. The unusual addition of al-Qasr (“Palace”) to the mint name Madinat al-Salam suggests a mint within a fortified palace or citadel. Extremely rare.


Arslan al-Basasiri was a Turkish general who had enjoyed power and prestige in Baghdad while the ‘Abbasid caliph was under protection of the Buwayhids. When the Buwayhids were expelled from Baghdad by the Seljuqs in 1055, al-Basasiri rebelled against their authority. The fighting dragged on for some time with neither side able to gain the advantage. Al-Basasiri appealed to the Fatimids (a powerful Shi’ite state centered on Egypt) for help. The Fatimids provided the necessary aid and appointed al-Basasiri as viceroy of Iraq. The ‘Abbasid Caliph al-Qa’im was removed from Baghdad and the Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir was mentioned in the Friday prayers and on the coins. When the Seljuk Tughril Beg marched on the city, al-Basasiri lost support and his rebellion collapsed. He was forced to flee Baghdad only a year after capturing it. His flight was futile, however, as he was killed in a nearby skirmish. The Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir (AH 427-487/ AD 1036-1094) was the longest-governing caliph in the history of Islam. His power of the later Fatimids was confined to Egypt. North Africa fell into anarchy and the Levant was lost first to the Seljuqs and then the Crusaders. The Fatimids were Shia but, like their rivals the Sunnii ‘Abbasids, suffered from the interference of their Turkish mercenaries in the administration of their state. The demand for payment by Turkish troops took its toll on the Fatimid treasury and pushed the Caliphate into bankruptcy. Al-Mustansir was finally assassinated and Cairo fell into the hands of Turkish troops who looted it. During this tumultuous period the famous public library of Cairo, considered one of the wonders of the world, was scattered, the valuable books either sold at a fraction of their value or used for lighting fires!.