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This accessible biography treats al-Ma'mum (786-833) as the product of his age, which was a formative period in the development of Islamic law and theology. It presents him in his many facets: rebel, rationalist, scientist, poet, politician, warrior, inquisitor, and self-proclaimed defender of the faith. Drawing on contemporary sources, some friendly and others hostile, it offers a comprehensive portrait of a fascinating figure in Islamic history.

CONTENTS


Acknowledgements

1 INTRODUCTION

Al-Ma’mun Attacks the Pyramid

The Scholar-Caliph

The World Inherited by Islam

Muslims: A Divided Minority

The Coming of the Abbasids

The Problem of the Sources



2 EDUCATION

Parents, Step-parents and Foster Parents

Topography and Domestic Space

Elementary Education

Grammar

Poetry

History and Hadith

Learning to Think

The Legacy of Iran

The Question of the Law

An Inscrutable Personality?

3 THE FIRST SUCCESSION CRISIS

The Succession to al-Rashid

Al-Ma’mun Left in the Lurch

A New Force in Khurasan

The Civil War

The Siege of Baghdad

The Death of al-Amin and the Crisis of Legitimacy



4 THE SECOND SUCCESSION CRISIS

Al-Rida’s Claim to the Imamate

The End of the World?

An Appeal to Iranian Muslims?

The Proto-Sunni Response

A Reversal of Policy?

Al-Ma’mun’s Return to Baghdad

Al-Ma’mun’s Later pro-Alid Policies

Later Shiite Responses

The Pilgrimage to Mashhad

5 SCIENCE AND RATIONALISM

The Ancient Scientific Legacy

The Translation Movement

Measuring the Earth

Greek Medicine in Baghdad

The Book of Ingenious Devices

Breakthroughs in Mathematics

The Map of the World

Hostility to the Literalists



6 DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

Recentralization and the New Military

The Byzantine Campaigns

The Dome of the Rock

Provoking the Literalists

The Inquisition

The Scholars Resist

The Death of al-Ma’mun

The Inquisition After al-Ma’mun

The Historical Significance of the Inquisition



Epilogue

Bibliography

Index

Michael Cooperson is Associate Professor of Arabic at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophet in the Age of al-Ma'mun.

"This book is a good read and provides the reader with a balanced and accurate account of the caliph al-Ma'mum"

– John Nawas - Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

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