One of history's most controversial characters is Al Hakim Bi Amr Allah. Seen as God incarnate by some, as an eccentric "mad" ruler by others, and vilianised by yet others.
Al Hakim was a Caliph of the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt, North Africa, Palestine and Syria. Contrary to the majority of their subjects, who were Sunni, the Fatimids were Shia of the Ismaili branch. They engaged in missionary work to spread their sect's belief as wide as possible.
Al Hakim reigned from 996 C.E. to 1021 C.E, having acceded to the throne at the young age of 11, he lived to be only 36 and ruled for 25.
Some pro-Fatimid sources are too lenient on him, and do not elaborate on his character and eccentricities, such as Wikipedia's entry, or the Institute of Ismaili Studies in the UK, or the quasi official Ismaili.Net web site. On the contrary, most Sunni sources take a very hostile attitude to him, saying that he claimed divinity for himself.
Al-Hakim's Eccentric, Erratic and lunatic behavior
Al Maqrizi sums him up as: "he did not stick to one thing. If he inclines to something, he would show it and then force people on it. Then he would abandon it, and then force people to abandon it to whatever he is now inclined to".
Al-Hakim repeatedly exhibited erratic, eccentric and contradictory behavior. He seemed to have been keen on the morality of his subjects, repeatedly issuing orders for this to be done or that not to be done. This goes as far as micromanaging what is eaten and what is not. Moreover, he would forbid something then later allow it. He would repeatedly enforce trivial orders he issued.
Different orders and prohibitions, but the same pile of shit; steamy and stinky
- Orders not to knead dough with legs, and prevented eating of some foods, and the slaughter of cows that have no progeny except in feast days, or those that are not good for plowing fields.
- Ordered that people should not eat Molokheya, the national dish of Egypt, since is was liked by Mu'awya, nor water cress since it was liked by Aisha the prophet's wife.
- Ordered that fisherman should not go for fish that has no scales, nor that any such fish be sold or consumed. Note that this is similar to Jewish law, and the Hanafi school in Sunni Islam. In Egypt this would forbid the Nile Catfish which is commonly consumed in Egypt.
- Ordered that weights and measures be calibrated and no one to cheat others on those. Forbade the manufacture and sale of a certain drink because Ali forbade it.
- Ordered that wine and bananas be forbidden as well as other drinks, scaleless fish, stinky lupins.
- Ordered that all honey be destroyed.
- Ordered certain times for the Azan (Call to prayers) for the mid day and afternoon prayers.
- Order that at the celebration of the Nile's annual flooding there will be no singing, and no drinking in the boats, and arrested some people.
- Ordered that no one is to go outside on the streets before dawn or after the last evening prayers, and punished those who did.
- Ordered that no one should go out of their house after sunset.
- Ordereddogs to be killed and discarded them in the desert. Ordered the streets to be sweeped and cleaned.
- Bells rang in the streets and ordered that no one should go into bathhouses unless wearing something to cover his mid body, and no woman is to show her face on the street, nor attend funerals nor wear revealing or onrate clothes.
- Here is a case where he ordered house arrest for two ex-officials, who were in-laws to each other. Then after a few months. I guess these are the lucky ones, since there were not beheaded and burned like others, including Ibn al-Noman's cousin, and predecessor as Chief Judge.
- Arrested fishmongers who sold fish without scales, as well as bath house rules violators and those who drink a certain drink.
- Arrested and punished thirteen men who prayed a pre-noon prayer.
- Enforced rules about Molokheya and Fish.
- Forbade selling raisins, first more than 5 pounds, then even small amounts, and it was thrown in the Nile. Perhaps it was used in wine making, as below.
- Forbade selling honey in amounts exceeding 3 pounds, perhaps lest it is made into mead.
- prevented women from going outside, going as far as closing the bathhouses for women, not differentiating between young and elderly, and preventing the shoe makers from making any footwear for women, causing some to go bankrupt. To the extent that some elderly women and female servants were arrested. Ordered that people should cover their body in bathhouses and that Christians and Jews have to wear different dress, and punished those who didn't do so. Again punished those who violated bathhouse rules. Enforced the bath house rules and had some violators beaten. Prevented women from erecting makeshift shades in graveyards when they visited.
- Prevented onlookers from going to the slave market unless they are selling or buying, and separated males from females and made them on alternate days.
- Punishing officials then forgiving them.
- Since Al-Hakim was feared by officials and subjects alike, he used to punish some officials, then after a while he would forgive them. They were both executed later.
- Chess sets were collected from various places and burned. Then this was enforced more by corporeal punishment of violators of the decree.
- Instated Khums/Fitra/Najwa tax alms, then Removed them.
- Instated several Shia related taxes, called Khums (= One Fifth), Fitra and Najwa. Then, he revoked them!
- Removed Excise/Customs then Reinstated them.
- Allowed Petitions, then Punished Petitioners. Usually, when a ruler is riding through the city, people will present him with written petitions. Either for injustice that needs redress, or asking for money. He would sometimes respond to the petitions by granting them. Later, he would order petitioners to be imprisoned! Then again, he would accept the petitions, then again he would refuse them and refer them to his cousin (and heir apparent) and the chief judge.
If this isn't lunacy, then what is??!!