Caliph’s Heirs, The

by Zaidan, Jurji

It is 809 AD in Baghdad, the capital of the ‘Abbasid Empire. The famed Caliph Harun al-Rashid has died. His successor, al-Amin, son of his Hashemite Arab wife, had promised the Caliph that he would appoint his half-brother al-Ma’mun, born to a slave mother, as his heir apparent. But al-Amin appoints his own son instead. This betrayal provides an opening for the Persians to help the statesmanlike and brilliant al-Ma’mun, whom they consider one of their own, to challenge his fickle brother. Against the backdrop of this war of succession, the novel weaves parallel love stories, political intrigue and machinations, nobility and treachery, spies and counterspies. Behzad, a famous doctor with an agenda all his own, is deeply in love with the beautiful Maymuna: both are members of Persian families persecuted by the ‘Abbasid house. But the son of al-Amin’s vizier is also enamored with Maymuna and wants to marry her. At the center of these tangled webs is al-Amin’s mysterious Chief Astrologer, whose true identity and loyalties remain unknown even to the Caliph and his court. He not only divines the future but also shapes it by changing the course of the war between the brothers-a war from which the ‘Abbasid Empire never recovered. What will become of the lovers? Who will survive and who will perish? The fast-paced action and suspense leave us guessing to the very end.