The Caliph's Sister

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About the author:
Jurji Zaidan, a prolific writer, was one of the leaders of the Arab Renaissance of the early twentieth century. The twenty two historical novels he wrote are as entertaining as they are educational. Their stories are set within historical events that span a period from pre-Islamic times to the Ottoman period. As popular in the Arabic-speaking world as the novels of Walter Scott or Alexandre Dumas are in the western world, there have been some one hundred translations of these novels into more than ten languages. This translation follows the translation into English and recent publication of the first of Zaidan's historical novels, The Conquest of Andalusia.

The Caliph's Sister

Harun al-Rashid and the Fall of the Persians

Authored by Jurji Zaidan
Translated by Issa J. Boullata

It is 803 AD in Baghdad in the closing years of the glorious reign of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid best known in the western world as the caliph whose court is described in the Arabian Nights. His reign represented the peak of 'Abbasid power in a caliphate full of pomp, splendor and learning that is often seen as the golden age of Islamic civilization. Harun al-Rashid was a popular ruler who relied on the Barmakis, the Persian administrators to run the 'Abbasid Empire

Romance and intrigue provide the central plot of the novel that is woven into the broader picture of the fall of the Barmakis. Chief among the Barmakis was Harun's best friend and vizier, Ja'far. Harun held his sister 'Abbasa in great affection and loved to spend his evenings in her company. But his favorite companion was Ja'far. It was quite unsuitable for a man from outside the family to be admitted to the company of a young woman, but Harun found a way to arrange things; he decided to marry them in what the French call a "mariage blanc." As he explained to Ja'far, "You see her only in my company, your body never approaches hers and you have no conjugal relations with her. You may thus share our evenings of pleasure without risk." Ja'far accepted and swore solemnly never to stay with his young wife alone.

The charismatic Ja'far controlled many of the levers of power while 'Abbasa was a strong-willed woman whose beauty was second to none. And the close friendship between Harun and Ja'far spawned jealousies among the caliph's entourage. Nor did Zubayda, Harun's favorite Hashemite wife, like Ja'far. He had been a tutor to al-Ma'mun, the son of a Persian slave girl, her son's rival. The stage is thus set for the political machinations and intrigues that led Ja'far and 'Abbasa to consummate their marriage and the downfall of the Barmakis. Within this historical canvass, Zaidan's fast paced narrative with its twists and turns is full of suspense. It covers only a few months of Harun al-Rashid's reign but one that fatefully changed the course of 'Abbasid history....

Publication Date:
0984843515 / 9780984843510
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6" x 9"
Black and White
Related Categories:
Fiction / Historical / General

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