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Harun Al-Rashid and the World of a Thousand and One Nights Hardcover – 1989

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

About the Author

André Clot, a historian and journalist, has spent many years in the Muslim lands of the Near and Middle East. He is also the author of Suleiman the Magnificent.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 268 pages
  • Publisher: New Amsterdam Books (1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0941533654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0941533652
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,294,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Robert W. Gillett on January 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Do not let the sub-title mislead you. This is not a retelling of fables, but a scholarly work that details completely the life and times of Harun al-Rashid, albeit with abundant reference to The Thousand and One Nights. As such, it fills a gap in the knowledge of the medieval period, just as the Islamic empire bridged the gap between the fall of Rome and the Reformation.

Even so, it is for Islam that Harun holds the most relevance today. Written for a western audience, this book shines a light on the pinnacle of Islamic history, showing how a great empire could quickly flourish across the desert lands by the submission of its people to a higher authority.

Lacking sufficient material to compose a factual work on Harun alone, Clot pads the subject with the history of Islam after Mohammed, focusing on the Abbasid dynasty. The book includes an extensive examination of Harun's dealings with various other world powers, including Byzantium, the Franks under Charlemagne, and the Persians. It may surprise some readers to discover that, compared to these kingdoms the Caliphate was the sole superpower of its time. The geographic obstacle of the Bosporus prevented it from extending further west, though difficulties with the Alids in Khorasan to the east turned out to be Harun's ultimate undoing. Also included is a wealth of historical information on life in early Baghdad. Established with the appellation, "Baghdad, Town of Peace," today's reader can only marvel at the contrast with what we see on the nightly news. Two chapters round out the work with descriptions of how the Caliphate achieved greatness economically as well as in the arts and sciences.

This historiography offers inspiration to Muslims in the troubled Middle East to seek unity and renewed greatness. With the emerging modern rivals of China and India, however, that unity will have to extend even outside of Islam in order to again form the basis for greatness.
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