In the previous article entitled, “The Runaway Secretary”, we tackled the good relations between Pope John IV and the patriarchs of Antioch. These were expressive of the deep affection and communion between the two churches. We also tackled how keen the Pope was on establishing and decorating churches, as well as caring for his congregation, visiting them, and making them steadfast in Orthodox faith. Likewise, we dealt with his stance during the famine that struck the country: he bestowed all what he had unto the Egyptians, equally, until God alleviated the famine. After that, we wrote how Mark, his disciple, fled from ordinance as bishop of Babylon, and the demolition of churches which saddened the Pope. This made him move from Alexandria to Fustat to handle the churches’ issue. So sad was he that, as per historians, he used to weep whenever he saw a demolished church.
It came to pass that Pope John decided to hold Christmas prayers in Fustat. He did so in a roofless church, which made him quite sad. In effect, he prayed as tearfully and fervently as ever, beseeching God to bestow him and the congregation with grace for the sake of the demolished churches. Soon after, like prophet David who wanted to establish God’s temple and the Lord told him that his son would do so, an angel appeared to Pope John. It told him that God is aware of his deeds and honesty, for He never forgets any love-driven deed. It also told him that God will grant the forthcoming Pope the grace of restoring the churches. Pope John rejoiced. Shortly afterwards, he felt ill. So, he realized the he would soon depart. He returned to Alexandria and told the bishops that his successor would be Mark, his secretary. Few days later, he departed after a twenty-four year papacy. Worthy mentioning is that his the day of his ordinance patriarch coincides with his departure!
Caliph Mohammed al-Mahdi died at that time, too. Historians did not agree on the reason of his death. Henceforth, his son Mussa al-Hadi succeeded him. He traveled from Gorgan to Baghdad to take over in 169 Hijri (785 A.D.). Al-Mahdi, his father, wanted Al-Rashid, his brother to be caliph. But, he died before declaring his wish. Thus, al-Hadi became caliph.
He took over at the age of twenty-four to become the fourth Abbasid caliph. When his father died, he was at Gorgan. So, al-Rashid, his brother, sent him the caliphate ring, condoling and congratulating him at the same time. However, he did not live long. Though he was brave, generous, loved literature and encouraged poets, he was fierce and treacherous!
At the beginning of his tenure, al-Hadi prevented his mother from interfering in the affairs of the State as she used to do during her husband’s days. This had made her quite influential. Likewise, he prohibited her meeting with statesmen and ordered his commanders not to attend the meetings she held, threatening to execute whoever disobeyed. In effect, she hated him terribly and started to gather her supporters, thus dividing the state into two factions: one of which supported the caliph, and the other supported his mother. They clashed.
Moreover, al-Hadi almost transferred the caliphate from al-Rashid, his brother, to Ja’far, his son, had it not been for the intervention of Yahya bin Khalid, a friend of his, who advised him not to do so. Al-Hadi did not accept Yahya’s advice. He put him in jail. Hence, al-Rashid remained away from the scene until his brother got ill and died.
During his short tenure, al-Hadi resisted several rebellions: be they by the Khawarij in the Arab peninsula (Al-Jazeerah) or the Alawites in Mecca and Medinah. He fiercely fought the Khawarij and the apostates. Also, he killed Al-Hussein bin Ali bin al-Hassan and all his followers at the Battle of Fakhkh. Subsequently, Yahya bin Abullah bin al-Hassan fled to Daylam, south west of Alborz, near Persia. He led a great rebellion which was only overcome during al-Rashid’s tenure. On the other hand, Idris bin Abdullah, his brother, fled to Morocco where he founded the Idrisid State.
Al-Hadi died in 170 Hijri (786 A.D.) The reason of his illness and death is yet unknown. Some historians, however, believe that he might have died by a poison which his mother put in his food. Due to the shortness of his tenure, Persians became quite influential. Their habits spread and became prominent during al-Rashid’s tenure. Al-Fadl bin Saleh ruled Egypt then.
Al-Fadl bin Saleh (169 Hijri) (786 A.D.)
After deposing Assama bin Amr, Mohammed al-Mahdi entrusted Egypt to al-Fadl bin Saleh. However, al-Mahdi died before bin Saleh became proconsul. Thus, when he was succeeded by al-Hadi, the latter re-assigned al-Fadl proconsul of Egypt. Historians assert that al-Fadl was brave. He was a man of letters. He wrote poems and speeches. When al-Fadl came to Egypt, she was in turmoil. In Lower Egypt, Al-Hof island was in rebellion. In Upper Egypt, Dehiya the Umayyad revolted fiercely. When al-Fadl reached Egypt, he mobilized an army to fight Dehiya. He defeated then imprisoned him, after which al-Fadl’s army brought Dehiya to Fustat and killed him. Al-Fadl was so proud of his victory that he kept boasting of it. Taghribirdi, a renowned historian, asserts that al-Fadl continued to say, “I am the most worthy of ruling Egypt: for I defeated and killed Dehiya, which nobody else could do. He would have prevailed due to his lengthy stay and people’s gathering around him, had it not been for my overcoming him.” It is believed that these words reached al-Hadi. So, he deposed al-Fadl shortly afterwards and appointed Ali bin Soliman instead of him. Hence, al-Fadl ruled Egypt for less than a year: for he was deposed by the end of 169 Hijri.
Ali bin Soliman (169-171 Hijri) (786-787 A.D.)
Ali bin Soliman bin Ali bin Abdullah bin al-Abbas (aka. Prince Abul Hassan al-Hashimi) was appointed proconsul of Egypt by caliph Mussa al-Hadi. This took place after deposing Al-Fadl. Few months after his arrival to Egypt, al-Hadi died and was succeeded by Harun al-Rashid who re-assigned bin Soliman. As we mentioned beforehand, bin Soliman demolished several churches. However, he treated Copts gently! Moreover, historians assert that he was quite charitable, which made people like him, and made him think he would make a good caliph. So, he yearned for the caliphate. When al-Rashid heard of this, he deposed him in 171 Hijri (787 A.D.), after less than a two-year tenure over Egypt… Stories never end in Beautiful Egypt!