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The Barmakids, “Persian” superheroes: Islam, Multiculturalism and Power


Dates: 10/05/2021

The Historical Association Gloucestershire Branch is offering a zoom webinair on Monday 10 May at 7.30pm:

The Barmakids: Islam, Multiculturalism and Power seen through the story of the most celebrated and enigmatic families in early Islam.

You may not have heard of the Barmakids, but you have probably heard of Aladdin and the Arabian Nights. The conniving vizier “Jafar" in Disney’s rendering of the story of Aladdin is, in fact, the son of the most powerful Barmakid; Yahya Barmaki.
Over the centuries in the Islamic world, the Barmakids have featured in many books and stories for all ages. In these accounts, they feature as “Persian” superheroes who brought civilisation and culture to the Arab caliphal courts of Damascus and Baghdad, until the caliphs brutally extinguished them in the early 800s AD for reasons that still remain shrouded in mystery.
The Barmakids are fascinating at another level, too: their ancestors managed one of the richest and most powerful Buddhist temples, monasteries and estates the late antique world had known, in the city of Balkh (northern Afghanistan). How could this family, of all families, rise to such heights in the caliphal administration, and why has their legacy been so enduring? What can we learn about Islamisation and the relationship between people of different faiths in the eastern Islamic lands? These questions will guide Dr Azad’s exploration of the Barmakids, and they serve as useful comparanda when thinking about Islamisation in today’s world.

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After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


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