Harunu'l-Rashid and Charles the Great

Harunu'l-Rashid and Charles the Great

Harunu'l-Rashid and Charles the Great

Harunu'l-Rashid and Charles the Great

Excerpt

As far as I have been able to discover, the diplomatic relations between the 'Abbāsid and Carolingian houses have never been treated in English within the compass of a single essay. Certain aspects, as for instance the so-called Frankish Protectorate, have received considerable attention, but their treatment has always been in isolation from the political situation prevailing in Christendom or Islām, and but scant attention has been paid to the affairs of Spain. In addition, the significance of the gifts of the Caliphs to the Frankish kings and the diplomatic etiquette observed have been completely ignored.

In my own work in the political theory of Oriental Despotism, I was confronted with the place of the robe of honour in the ceremonial of commendation in the East, and the idea of applying the theory to the interpretation of Charles the Great's relations with Hārūnu'l-Rashīd appeared to be a fruitful one. In 1925 my attention was drawn to the relics of the pallium of Saint Cuthbert and the kalima woven into the purple robe. In a description of the relics, published in Archaeologia Aeliana, I gave a summary of the theory as a possible solution of the presence of a Muslim robe on the body of a Christian saint, but, within the limits prescribed, adequate treatment was impossible.

In the following essay, this theory has been developed and the results compared with the conclusions of Barthold, Vasiliev, and others, and I submit that in the light of the Umayyad and 'Abbāsid feud there is nothing inherently improbable either in the negotiations or in the form they took, particularly if the suggestion to Pippin came either from discontented Spanish amīrs or from Alexandria or from both. The fundamental condition to be borne in mind is that the approach made by Pippin, and later by Charles, to the Khalīfah placed them both in the status of petitioners, while the political framework underlying the negotiations was primarily Muslim. Hence, it follows that the whole chapter lies within the realm of Muslim rather than Christian history. In that light the grant of a 'protectorate' or wilāyat over the Holy Places is admissible; but it is . . .

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