rOOn' al ra' shEd] Arabian Nights hero
Harun al-Rashid was born
sometime around 763 and became caliph of Baghdad
and head of the Muslims in 786. He began his
reign by appointing very able ministers, who
carried on the work of the government so well
that they greatly improved the condition of the
people. He gave overall control of state affairs
to Yahya, his Grand Vizier (chief minister).
The capital city of Baghdad
flourished during Harun's reign. Many rulers paid
tribute to the caliph, and that tribute was spent
on architecture, the arts, and a luxurious life
at court. A scholar and poet in his own right,
Harun invited other scholars and poets to his
court. He was also a patron to musicians and
storytellers. Always concerned about the welfare
of his people, Harun often traveled in disguise
to talk and listen to people in the streets. In
this way he was able to gauge the overall
contentedness of his subjects, as well as their
overall health and welfare.
Harun was also a very capable
soldier and military leader. Before assuming the
caliphate he commanded an army of 95,000 in a
siege of Chrysopolis (now in Turkey) which
resulted in that then Roman-held city becoming a
tributary province of the Islamic Empire. During
his reign he led three separate military
campaigns against the Roman provinces in the
eastern Mediterranean in order to force them to
pay the required tributes.
In 809, while on his way to
suppress a revolt in one of his own cities, Harun
died of an illness from which he had been
suffering for some time.
Harun al-Rashid was the hero in
many of the stories and fables collectively known
as Tales of the Arabian Nights.
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