Parents: Muhammad ibn Mansur al-Mahdi, Abbasid Caliph, and Al-Khayzuran bint Atta
Date of Birth: 17 March 763
Spouse: Zubaidah, daughter of Ja'far and Salsal
Reign: 786 – 809
Summary: Harun was the son of the third Abbasid Caliph and his wife, al-Khayzuran, a former slave girl from Yemen. During his early years, he received much of his education from his mother. The government at the time of his birth was under the control of the Barmakid clan, a Persian-Tajik family of ancient origins. Drama within his family, especially among his sister and the son of vizier Yahya, dominated much of his teenage years. He led a few campaigns against the Byzantine Empire in the 780s and reached as far west as the Dardanelles.
Harun became caliph upon the death of his father in 786. His son, al-Ma'mun was born the same day. Harun's reign led to the flourishing of Baghdad maintained by tribute paid to the Caliphate by the many vassal states. In 796, Harun moved the capital and government center to Ar Raqqah, north-west of Baghdad. He moved it probably for better communication, since its new location put it within earshot of Persia, Byzantium, Syria, and Egypt. Unfortunately, Harun's reign also saw the slow decline of the Caliphate. Umayyad rebels, those who followed the preceding dynasty, had taken over Syria and Spain, while other groups took over Morocco and Tunisia. Despite all this, Harun mostly focused on the Byzatines. He left actual control of the government to the Barmakids. To prepare his sons for government, he granted each of them half the empire. This would later lead to civil war between the two sons. Negotiations over Christian access to the Holy Land were made between Harun and Charlemagne, and this exchange may have sparked the Carolingian renaissance, but did little for the Caliphate and, indeed, may have helped focus Christian opposition to Islam in the centuries to come. It did introduce The Book of One Thousand and One (Arabian) Nights to Europe, which continues in popularity to this day and stars Harun as one of its characters. Harun also sent diplomats to China where good relations were established. During a campaign in Transoxania, in norther Iran, Harun became suddenly ill and died. The Abbasid Caliphate began a quick decline in power after his death, though the dynasty survive through his descendants into the mid-1450s when the Ottoman Empire assumed the title and the last caliph disappeared.
Date of Death: 24 March 809
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