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208 208 History as Literature: Al-Amīn and al-Maʾmūn, the Sons of Hārūn al-Rashīd550 Abū Ḥanīfah al-Dīnawarī’s (d. 282/895) history, called The Long Stories, unlike that of his great successor al-Ṭabarī (d. 311/923), does not present individual reports each with their isnād (chain of transmitters) but gives a series of longer, continuous narratives, making the work more accessible to modern readers. The conflict between the two brothers presented here is a kind of moral tale in terms of the clear contrast it makes between the bad Muḥammad al-Amīn (who succeeded his father Hārūn al-Rashīd as caliph in 193/809) and the good ʿAbd Allāh al-Maʾmūn (who, after a bloody civil war, reigned from 198/813 until 218/833). The “literary” character is enhanced by the many instances of direct speech, reporting what they are imagined to have uttered; these are also found in other accounts but often with many variants, suggesting that the general drift of what was said was regarded as more important than the exact wording. In that year551 al-Rashīd went on the Hajj with the people, together with his two sons, Muḥammad and ʿAbd Allāh. He drafted a document between the two, in which Muḥammad was designated heir apparent, and ʿAbd Allāh his successor as next-in-line. He hung up this document inside the Kaaba. He then returned to Baghdad and appointed al-Ghiṭrīf ibn ʿAṭāʾ552 governor over Khurasan. * ʿAlī ibn Ḥamzah al-Kisāʾī553 says, “Al-Rashīd charged me with the education of Muḥammad and ʿAbd Allāh. I used to take this very seriously and was very strict with both of them, especially with Muḥammad. One day Khāliṣah, the servant of Umm Jaʿfar554 came to me, saying: ‘Kisāʾī, my Mistress greets you and says she desires something from you: “Please be kind to my son Muḥammad, for he is the solace of my heart, the apple of my eye; I have a very soft spot for him!”’ “I said to Khāliṣah, ‘Muḥammad is destined to be caliph after his father; we cannot be remiss in his education.’ 209 209 209 209 Abū Ḥanīfah al-Dīnawarī “Khāliṣah answered, ‘My Mistress has tender feelings for a reason I will tell you. The night she gave birth to him she had a dream555 in which she saw four women approach him and stand round him, on the right, the left, in front, and behind. The one in front of him said, “A king short of life, of anguished breast, of great pride, of weak command, much burdened, full of treachery.” The one standing behind him said, “A king much given to revelry, who will squander much and ruin much, of little fairness and much excess.” The one on his right said, “A great king with little self-control, sinning much and severing family bonds.” The one on his left said, “A king who will betray much, stumble much, and destroy quickly.”’ “Thereupon Khāliṣah wept and said, ‘O Kisāʾī, what is the use of caution!’” * It is related that al-Aṣmaʿī said,556 “Once I entered the presence of al-Rashīd after I had been away in Basra for two years. He gestured that I should sit down close to him. I sat down briefly and then stood up again. But he gestured to me: Sit down! So I sat down until most people had left. Then he said to me, ‘Aṣmaʿī, wouldn’t you like to see Muḥammad and ʿAbd Allāh?’ “‘Yes, Commander of the Faithful! I should certainly like that. The reason I stood up was so that I could go to them and greet them.’ “‘There’s no need!’ “Then he said, ‘Have Muḥammad and ʿAbd Allāh come to me!’ “A messenger left and said to them, ‘The Commander of the Faithful wishes to see you.’ “They came, looking like two moons on the horizon, with short steps, their eyes cast down demurely, and stood before their father. They greeted him as caliph and he gestured to them to come closer. He made Muḥammad sit on his right and ʿAbd Allāh on his left. Then he told me to question them; and whatever question...


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