Hārūn al-Rashīd (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Hārūn al-Rashīd counts among the most famous holders of the office of caliph in the ʿAbbasid Dynasty in Baghdad (eighth to thirteenth century). His most notable accomplishments were quelling revolts, establishing peace, and promoting industry and trade.
The man who was to become the fifth Islamic caliph in the line of the ʿAbbasid family was born in 766 in al-Rayy in north-central Iran. He was the third son of Caliph al-Mahdi and the second child of al-Mahdi’s wife al-Khayzuran, a former slave of the fourth ʿAbbasid caliph. Had it not been for the influence of al-Khayzuran and others close to the seat of power in Baghdad, Hārūn might never have ascended the throne. His older brother al-Hadi, who was the initial successor to al-Mahdi, reigned only a year (785-786) following the death of their father. Al-Hadi’s death was said to have been the result of a court conspiracy, and Hārūn’s claim to succession at the very young age of twenty required the concentrated action of supporters who could intervene on his behalf. His chief supporter was one Yahya ibn Khalid al-Barmaki, who had been the prince’s secretarial aide and instructor during his early youth. Ibn Khalid’s loyalty to the claimant probably stemmed from the circumstances of Hārūn’s earliest appointments to key positions appropriate to an ʿAbbasid prince. During a period of renewed warfare between the Arab...
(The entire section is 2289 words.)
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Hārūn al-Rashīd (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: His campaigns strengthened the western ʿAbbāsid border with Byzantium and ensured the integrity of the central and eastern provinces of the Arab Empire.
Grandson of the founder of the ʿAbbāsid Dynasty, Hārūn ar-Rashīd was the fifth caliph in the line. During his twenty-three-year reign (786-809), the ʿAbbāsid court in Baghdad was a center of learning, culture, and commerce, and served as the setting for the fabulous tales of Alf layla wa-layla (fifteenth century; The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments, 1706-1708, also known as One Thousand and One Arabian Nights). His father al- Mahdī made him commander of several campaigns against the Byzantines in Syria and Asia Minor and governor of the western provinces (777). Ar-Rashīd’s 782 campaign reached the Bosporus and forced Empress Irene to pay tribute.
Although he was unable to stop the secession of the Maghrib, ar-Rashīd successfully quelled troubles in Syria (796), Armenia (799), and Khorāsān (806). Ar-Rashīd went on the hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca more times than any other ʿAbbāsid caliph and was determined to wage jihad (holy war) against the “infidel” Byzantines. In his Syrian campaigns, ar-Rashīd captured Heraclea and enslaved its inhabitants (806), assaulted Hadath, and demolished the Orthodox churches in his way (807). Byzantine emperor Nicephorus I was compelled to pay...
(The entire section is 308 words.)