The Caliphs

The Caliphs

Latest Episodes

Episode 52: Power struggle
August 14, 2022

Now that we’ve covered Haroon al Rashid’s foreign wars, we can get started with the messy conflicts which took place within the umma, and within his administration itself. The caliphate’s distant west

Episode 51: Holy warrior
July 17, 2022

Haroon al Rashid is commonly portrayed as a martial caliph, one who menaced the Byzantine empire and led a tireless crusade against them. He is praised in Arab sources for defeating the Greeks time an

Episode 50: Al Rashid
July 03, 2022

From our vantage point in the 21st century, it is clear that Haroon al Rashid is by far the most famous Arab caliph. His renown is not some modern phenomenon either: he may occasionally pop up as a cu

Episode 49: Al Hadi
June 19, 2022

The sudden passing of Mohammad al Mahdi led his son Musa al Hadi to become the umma’s next leader sooner than anyone would have expected. With a wild disposition and little actual experience in admini

Episode 48: Al Mahdi
June 05, 2022

Al Mansur’s long reign transformed the caliphate in countless ways, most of them for the better. It provided a kind of stability the umma desperately needed to absorb the tumult of the Abbasid revolut

Episode 47: The city of peace
May 22, 2022

Perhaps most significant among al Mansur’s many triumphs was his founding of a new capital for his administration, a glorious new city which would come to be known as Baghdad. It was a decision that h

Episode 46: Shifting east
April 24, 2022

The chaos of the Abbasid revolution gave foreign powers a rare opportunity to strike at the caliphate while it was paralyzed by internal strife. Things could have gone very badly for the Arabs but the

Episode 45: Hashemite versus Hashemite
April 10, 2022

The Abbasids based their legitimacy on the fact that they were part of the prophet’s clan. This was not contested during the upheaval of their revolution, and in the following years al Saffah inflicte

Episode 44: The ghost of Abu Muslim
March 27, 2022

One of al Mansur’s first acts as caliph was to lure Abu Muslim to his court and assassinate the powerful and popular governor. This led to immediate turmoil in the East, leaving him to contend with sp

Episode 43: Al Mansur
March 13, 2022

Much of what people associate with the idea of a medieval Arab caliphate is rooted in the reign of our upcoming caliph. The foundation he laid for his dynasty is so solid that it makes the Umayyad era