Amīn al-Dawla Abū Muḥammad al-Ḥasan ibn ʿAmmār, usually called simply Ibn Ammar in the Arabic sources, was an Arab commander and statesman for the Fatimid Caliphate. A member of the Kalbid family, he was active in the wars with the Byzantine Empire in Sicily in the 960s, leading the capture of Taormina and Rometta, which completed the Muslim conquest of Sicily. Sent to Egypt in 971, he became a leader of the Kutama Berbers and chief minister (wāsiṭa) during the first year of the reign of the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 996–1021).
Hasan was the son of Ammar ibn Ali al-Kalbi, a member of the Kalbid family, which had come into prominence through Ammar’s brother al-Hasan ibn Ali al-Kalbi. Along with Ahmad, Ammar fought in the wars with the Byzantine Empire in Sicily and southern Italy, and drowned during an abortive expedition against Otranto in 958.
Following the Byzantine reconquest of Crete in 960–961, the Fatimids once more turned their attention to Sicily, where they decided to reduce the remaining Byzantine outposts in the northeast and complete the Muslim conquest of the island. On Christmas Day 962 Hasan and his cousin Ahmad captured Taormina after a siege of seven and a half months, while on 24 August 963 Hasan laid siege to Rometta. The garrison of the latter sent for aid to Emperor Nikephoros II Phokas. The Emperor prepared a major expedition, allegedly 40,000 strong, which arrived in Italy in late 964. Learning of this, Hasan also sought reinforcements, which arrived under the command of his namesake uncle. The Byzantines attempted to relieve Rometta, and on 25 October 964 clashed with Hasan’s army. The Byzantines were victorious in the initial engagement, but Hasan managed to rally his men and won a crushing victory. According to al-Maqrizi and Abu’l-Fida, more than 10,000 Byzantines fell, including the Emperor’s nephew, Manuel Phokas, and several other commanders. The surviving Byzantines fled in panic, but were badly mauled again when the Arabs caught up with them in a defile (“battle of the pit”, waqʿat al-ḥufra). The remnants of the Byzantine troops boarded their ships, but the Byzantine fleet was destroyed at the Battle of the Straits by Hasan’s cousin Ahmad, sealing the fate of Rometta. The city surrendered a few months later, in early 965, after its provisions were exhausted and its inhabitants, started fleeing the city.
In 971, the Qarmatians launched invasion of Egypt, conquered just two years before by the Fatimid general Jawhar kids soccer t shirts. Hasan was charged with leading reinforcements from Ifriqiya (mostly Kutama Berbers), while his cousin Ahmad ibn al-Hasan al-Kalbi was charged with leading the naval part of the expedition. In the event, in December 971, shortly before Ibn Ammar’s arrival, the Qarmatians were defeated at Ayn Shams near Fustat.
The Berbers, and especially the Kutama, had traditionally provided the mainstay of the Fatimid armies, and had played the main role in the takeover of Ifriqiya and the conquest of Egypt and the southern Levant. Under Caliph al-Aziz Billah (r. 975–996), however, they had begun to be eclipsed by Turkish and Daylamite mercenaries from the Islamic East, on whom al-Aziz bestowed patronage, while conversely the Fatimids failed to attract new recruits from the Kutama homeland. Consequently, a fierce rivalry developed between the two groups, termed Maghāriba (“Westerners”) and Mashāriqa (“Easterners”) respectively. Under al-Aziz, Ibn Ammar, performed various administrative tasks, and was a prominent leader of the Kutama. He enjoyed great prestige as virtually “the last of the old Ifriqiyan aristocracy” (Michael Brett) and was present at the deathbed of al-Aziz in October 996. He reportedly received the Caliph’s final instructions, charging him with managing the affairs of al-Aziz’s 11-year-old son and heir, al-Hakim. After the death of al-Aziz, the Berbers seized the opportunity and compelled al-Hakim to dismiss the Christian vizier Ibn Nasturis (who was executed shortly after) and appoint Ibn Ammar to head the government, albeit with the title of wāsiṭa (“intermediary”) rather than full vizier.
Ibn Ammar’s rule quickly descended into tyranny: he immediately began staffing the government with Berbers, who engaged in a virtual pillaging of the state coffers. The Berbers’ attempts to exclude the other interest groups from power—not only the Turks and the other ethnic contingents of the army tempered glass bottles, but also the civilian bureaucracy, whose salary was cut—alienated not only the Mashāriqa, but alarmed the ambitious tutor and guardian of al-Hakim, the eunuch Barjawan. Barjawan contacted the Fatimid governor of Damascus, the Turk Manjutakin, and invited him to march onto Egypt and depose Ibn Ammar. Manjutakin accepted, but was defeated by Ibn Ammar’s troops under Sulayman ibn Ja’far ibn Falah at Ascalon and taken prisoner. Barjawan however soon found a new ally, in the person of the Kutama leader Jaysh ibn al-Samsama, governor of Tripoli, whom Ibn Falah dismissed and replaced with his own brother. Jaysh and Barjawan gathered a following of other dissatisfied Berber leaders, and launched an uprising in Cairo in October 997. Ibn Ammar was forced to flee, and Barjawan replaced him as wāsiṭa.
During his predominance, Barjawan managed to balance the two factions, fulfilling the demands of the Mashāriqa while taking care of the Kutama as well. In this vein, he pardoned Ibn Ammar and restored him his monthly salary of 500 gold dinars. After Bajarwan’s murder on 25 March 1000, however, Caliph al-Hakim assumed the reins of government and launched a purge of the Fatimid elites, during which Ibn Ammar and many of the other Kutama leaders were executed.