Harun al-Rashid (763-809)

Harun al-Rasid

763 This is the year when caliph Harun al-Rasid was born, in Ravy, near Tehran. His father was Mohamed al-Mahdi, member of Abbasida dynasty, who had a short reign and who named as the first successor to the throne his son Hadi, and as the second Harun al-Rasid. Later, he wanted to have as first successor Harun, but he died and it seems that his son, Harun did not know anything about this. Their mother, Khaizuran, a former slave from Yemen (Arabian Peninsula), had a big fortune and wanted to be powerful

Harun moved then to Baghdad where he got a special education, fit for a prince. For Arabians, education was really appreciated; children started since they were five years old to learn the secrets of Quran, Muslims’ holy book, of numeracy and music, activities that they performed until 15 years old.

786 The young prince came on the throne of Abbasids, like the dynasty he was part in. It seems that his brother, who had tried to kill the brother and the mother, was poisoned and his mother hurried his end using a pillow. Even in those moments, Harun’s first son was born, Abdallah, who would become caliph under the name of Mamun. The story tells us that the news by taking the throne by Harun al-Rasid had been famous among the people in Bagdhad before dawn and the new king got his subjects’ oath. He surrounded himself by faithful people, among Yahya Bahmekid, called “father” by Harun and who was named later special secretary and his sons became viziers, they had the most important position after caliph, as the king was called in Arabian culture. These would rule the state in the first ten years, when Harun was young (he was only 20 when he became a caliph). He appointed skilled ministers that improved people’s life. During his reign Bagdhad became the most beautiful city in the world. Paid tributes by vassals were used for building, for arts sponsorships and for the luxury of his Court. He brought to his Court many scientists from other countries.

      Immediately after he had got the power, Harun al-Rasid made his first travel to Mecca, the pilgrimage. This is mandatory for Muslim believers that must go to the Holy City of Prophet Muhammad. Because caliphs’ power was very linked to religion, Harun al-Rasid took seriously the role of al-muminin, a leader of believers and of Imaam, the faithful people’s adviser. For the great ceremonies he wore Prophet Muhammad’s cloak, Burda, and handheld a rod, kadib.

After Yahya and his mother’s death, Harun al-Rasid became the only master over his empire, took care of his good administration and supported the culture. He stopped the attempts of uprising that envisaged the empire’s decay under his successors. He did not succeed to keep all provinces; one of the best examples is Spain.

Externally, Harun al-Rasid had relationships with the franc Charlemagne and faced Byzantium that was in a crisis. Arabians had succeeded to take large lands from Byzantines, and these had supported the Arabians from Spain against Abbasids.

797 In the end of this year, two messengers of Charlemagne went to Harun al-Rasid’s residence. Franks did not survive on the road. It seems that the parts were interested in the position towards Byzantine Empire. This year Harun led his army and started a fight against Byzantines.

797-798 He conquered a fortress called “Willows”, that is beyond Cilicia.

802 In the end of the year, after Charlemagne had become an emperor, he sent a second messenger to Harun al-Rasid’s Court. The caliph’s answer of the request to accept the Parliament under the power of Charlemagne came by an Arabian messenger, together with Christian envoys.

Regarding the relationships with Byzantines, Harun was the leader of an expedition against them even if only in name, since he was only four years old. He went once more to fight in 781. The victory he won then offered him the name of Rasid, “the right guided”.

803 and 806 After some campaigns made these years, Harun conquered Heracleea city.

805 He occupied Cyprus.

807 He conquered Rhodes.

809 A last campaign did not happen and Harun died on March 24th, exhausted and sick after a trip in Khorasan, where a revolt had broken out. Shortly before his death, he had said to people round him to unwavering fulfil their promises, to be faithful and united and to supervise their successors. He was buried in Hamid ibn Qahtabi’s palace, the governor of Khorasan province in Iran; nowadays the palace is known as Mashhad (the place of martyrdrom).[ro.biography.name]




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