Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Abbasid Huram

Girls of the huram came from many lands and cultures outside of the empire as Islamic law forbade the enslavement of a Muslim.

The girls were often captured as part of booty from raids into the territories who refused Muslim overlordship – including Bahtariya, a concubine of Mahdi and mother of Mansur. Also Mancla, mother of caliph Mu’tasim, who came from Soghdia in central Asia and was brought up in Kufa in Iraq. The mother of Caliph Ma’mum was the daughter of a noble from Badhgtris in modern western Afghanistan, who was taken into the huram of Harun after the suicide of her father.

Berber slaves from North Africa were highly valued, however, Greek girls were favoured from 9th & 10th centuries:
- Qaratis – mother of Caliph Wathiq
- Habshiya – mother of Caliph Muntasir
- Qurb – mother of Caliph Muhtadi
- Divar – mother of Caliph Mu’tadid

Also girls from Slavic countries:
- Mukhariq – mother of Caliph Musta’in

Some entered the huram due to their talents:
- 8th & 9th centuries were the heyday of the singing girls; many were highly trained, skilled and witty; they were the main bearers of court culture; they were sexually available to both owner and customers. Medina was the centre for the education and training of singing girls. Sometimes, large sums of money were involved in the trade.
- Maknuna – mother of Princess Ulayya, was brought by the Caliph Mahdi for 100000 silver dirhams
- Basbas – cost the royal treasury 17000 gold dinars

Till the reign of Caliph Harun, the princesses were married off to members of the ruling family, including the Caliphs. The last recorded marriage was between the daughters of Harun:
- Fatima and Hamduna to the sons of his brother Hadi – Isma’il and Ja’far.
- Ma’mum married to Umm Isa (p.809)
- Ma’mum had two children – Muhammed and Ubayd Allah – and used his daughters to forge dynastic links with the Family of Ali – Umm Habib married Ali Rida, and Umm Fadl married another family member; Umm Fadl’s marriage was consummated; Ali Rida died in mysterious circumstances soon after.

Many women of the huram remained anonymous forever.

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