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Abdallah al-Mahdi

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Subject: Berber people, Fatimid Caliphate, Mahdia
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Abdallah al-Mahdi

al-Mahdi Billah
عبيد الله المهدي
Gold coin of Caliph al-Mahdi, Mahdiyya, 926 CE
Caliph of the Fatimid Caliphate
Reign 909 – 934
Predecessor None (caliphate founded)
Successor al-Qa'im Bi-Amrillah
al-Qa'im Bi-Amrillah
Full name
Kunya: Abu Muhammad
Given name: Ubayd Allah
Laqab: al-Mahdi Billah
Father Abdullah
Mother  ?
Born 873
Died 934
Religion Shia Islam

Abu Muhammad Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi Billah (873-934) (Arabic: أبو محمد عبيد الله المهدي بالله‎), often referred to as Ubayd Allah, was the founder of the Fatimid Caliphate, the only major Shi'a caliphate in Islam, and established Fatimid rule throughout much of North Africa.


At the beginning of the Abbasid realm in Baghdad, the Alids faced severe persecution by the ruling party as they were a direct threat to the Abbasid Caliphate. Owing to the political complexities, the forefathers of Imam Abdullah opted to conceal themselves which helped them secure the Dawa's existence. Subsequently, these Imams traveled long and far towards the Iranian Plateau and distanced themselves from the epicenter of the political scenario. Al Mahdi's father, Imam al Husain al Mastoor returned in secrecy to Syria and began to control the Dawa's affairs from there in complete concealment. He sent two Dai's of great calibre, abul Qasim and Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i to Yemen and Western Africa respectively to build the foundation for what was to be the Fatimid Caliphate.

Imam al Husain al Mastoor died soon after the birth of his son, Al Mahdi. An extremely trustworthy system of information gatherers helped Al Mahdi to be updated on each development which took place in North Africa which was to be the launching pad of the soon to be Empire.

After establishing himself as the first Imam of the Fatimid dynasty he made claim to genealogic origins dating as far back as Fatimah, the daughter of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, through Husayn, Fatimah's son, and Ismail.

He began his conquest by establishing his headquarters at Salamiyah and began riding towards north-western Africa, which at the time was under Aghlabid rule, following the propagandist success of his chief da'i', Abu 'Abdullah Al-Husayn Al-Shi'i. Al-Shi'i, along with laying claim to being the precursor to the Mahdi, was instrumental in sowing the seeds of sedition among the Berber tribes of North Africa, specifically the Kutamah tribe(in Algeria).

It was Al-Shi'i's success which was the signal to Sa'id who set off from Salamyah disguised as a merchant. However, he was captured by the Aghlabid ruler Ziyadat-Allah and thrown into a dungeon in Sijilmasa. Al-Shi'i was then required to rescue Sa'id in 909 after which the Aghlabid dynasty, the last stronghold of Sunni Islam in North Africa, was expelled from the region.

'Abdullah Al-Mahdi, as-Sa'id was now to be known, established himself at the former Aghlabid residence at Raqqadah, a suburb of Al-Qayrawan in Tunisia. Two years after he achieved power, 'Abdullah had his missionary-commander Al-Shi'i executed. After that his power only grew. At the time of his death he had extended his reign to Morocco of the Idrisids, as well as Egypt itself.

'Abdullah founded the capital of the empire, Al-Mahdiyyah, on the Tunisian coast sixteen miles south-east of Al-Qayrawan, which he named after himself. The city was located on a peninsula on an artificial platform "reclaimed from the sea", as mentioned by the Andalusian geographer Al-Bakri. The Great mosque of Mahdia was built in 916 CE on the southern side of the peninsula.[1] 'Abdullah took up residence there in 920.

After his death, 'Abdullah was succeeded by his son, Abu Al-Qasim Muhammad Al-Qaim, who continued his expansionist policy.

See also




External links

  • Imam al-Mahdi, the 11th Fatimi Imam.
  • Institute of Ismaili Studies London.
Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah
Born: 873 Died: 934
Regnal titles
Preceded by
None (caliphate founded)
Caliph of the Fatimid Caliphate
Succeeded by
al-Qaim Bi-Amrillah
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