Zubaidah bint Ja`far

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Zubaidah bint Ja`far ibn Mansur (Arabic: زبيدة بنت جعفر ابن المنصور) (died 26 Jumada I 216 AH / 10 July 831 AD) was the best known of the Abbasid princesses. She is particularly remembered for the series of wells, reservoirs and artificial pools that provided water for Muslim pilgrims along the route from Baghdad to Mecca and Medina, which was renamed the Darb Zubaidah[1][2][3] in her honor. The exploits of her and her husband, Harun al-Rashid, form part of the basis for The Thousand and One Nights.

Zubaidah's birthdate is unknown; it is known that she was at least a year younger than Harun.[4] Her father, Ja'far was a half-brother of the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi. Her mother, Salsal, was an elder sister of al-Khayzuran, second and most powerful wife of al-Mahdi, and mother of the future caliphs Musa al-Hadi and Harun al-Rashid.

Zubaidah is a pet name, given by her grandfather, caliph al-Mansur. The name means "little butter ball". Zubaidah's real name at birth was Sukhainah or Amat al-'Aziz".[4] Later, Zubaidah got a kunya, Umm Ja'far (meaning Mother of Ja'far"),[5] which reflects her royal lineage as a granddaughter of caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur and a wife of caliph Abu Ja'far Harun al-Rashid.

She was the granddaughter of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur, through his son Ja'far, and cousin of al-Rashid (c.763 or 766-809), who she later married (165 AH/781-782 AD). The Abbasid caliph Muhammad al-Amin, who had a double royal lineage, was Zubaidah's son. Her stepson was 'Abdullah al-Ma'mun, who also became a caliph after the civil war with al-Amin.

It is said that Zubaidah's palace 'sounded like a beehive' because she employed one hundred women maids who had memorized the Qur'an.[6]


  1. ^ Safadi XIV. pp. 176–8. 
  2. ^ al-Baghdadi, Al-Khatib. Tarikh Baghdad xtv. pp. 433–4. 
  3. ^ Bidaya X. p. 271. 
  4. ^ a b Abbot, Nabia. Two Queens of Baghdad. p. 30. 
  5. ^ Abbot, Nabia. Two Queens of Baghdad. p. 150. 
  6. ^ Ibn Khallikan I. p. 533.