12 Pages

The End of Jafar and the Barmakids

HERE then, O auspicious King, is that sorry tale which mars the reign of the Khalifah Harun al-Rashid with a bloodstain which not even the four rivers shall wash away.

As is already known, O king of time, Jafar was one of the four sons of Yahya ibn Khalid ibn Barmak. His eldest brother, al-Fadl, was in some sort al-Rashid’s foster-brother, for, because of the great friendship which existed between the family of Yahya and that of the Abbasids, and because of the tender affection which bound the two women themselves, al-Rashid’s mother, the Princess Khayzaran, and al-Fadl’s mother, the noble Itabah, exchanged nurslings and each gave to her friend’s son that milk which Allah had destined for her own. That is why al-Rashid always spoke of Yahya as: ‘My father,’ and al-Fadl as: ‘My brother.’