This post always worries me a bit because there’s the chance somebody will read the title and think, “See? Muslims persecuting Christians; it’s been going on for over a thousand years!” That would be unfortunate, because it wasn’t “Muslims” who ordered the destruction of the church that supposedly stands on the site of Jesus’s crucifixion and tomb, it was, as the title says, the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim. And al-Hakim may very well have been mentally ill and was at the very least a very odd guy. I know that seems insensitive, and the truth is that we can’t assume that he was actually mentally ill, because 11th century mental health diagnosis just wasn’t all that great. Plus, we’re biased by the sources, many of which were written well after al-Hakim reigned (996-1021) and by people who were inclined for political and religious reasons to regard him unfavorably. There are, to be fair, other historical traditions that identify al-Hakim as an ideal ruler and even a divine or quasi-divine figure. But what we know of al-Hakim’s behavior, most especially the decisions that led to today’s story, suggests a guy who was at the very least prone to some incredible mood swings.