The Sibling Rivalry That Wrecked an Empire, and Other Self-Destructive Royal Family Episodes

Gold dinar of al Amin, minted in 811. Pintrest

39. The Caliph’s Kids Go At It

Harun al Rashid’s eldest son al Ma’mun (786 – 833) was born to a Persian concubine, which counted against him when it came to the pecking order of royal offspring. So when al Rashid died in 809, the caliphate went not to the eldest son, but to a younger one, al Amin (787 – 813), who was born to al Rashid’s favorite wife, Zubayda, an Arab of royal blood.

As a consolation prize, al Ma’mun was designated next in line for the Caliphate, and given Khurasan – corresponding to modern Afghanistan, parts of Iran, plus much of Central Asia – as a semi independent realm. However, he felt slighted. His brother gave him an excuse to do something about it when he tried to curb Khurasan’s independence, and remove al Ma’mun from the line of succession in favor of al Amin’s son. So al Ma’mun rebelled.