About Jurji Zaidan

Introductory Summary

The Conquest of Andalusia | The Battle of Poitiers | The Caliph's Sister

The Caliph's Heirs | Saladin and the Assassins

About the Novel | The Historical Context | The Translator | Afterword | Study Guide

The Study Guide

The Study Guide for students deals with a number of questions about the author, the evolution of the Arabic novel, the historical context and the events of in the novel; it also includes a list of books for further reading. Questions include the following:

1. Who is a caliph?
2. Who is the caliph in this story?
3. Who are ‘the Caliph’s heirs’?
4. Who is the author of this book?
5. Why did Zaidan write this book?
6. What did Zaidan believe about the Caliph al-Rashid and his heirs? 
7. Did Zaidan get the history right?

Other questions to keep in mind when reading The Caliph’s Heirs

1.  Many readers of the novel would have known how the story turns out:  that is, who won the battle between al-Amin and al-Ma’mun.  But the novel still manages to create suspense.  How?

2.  Like the novels of Charles Dickens, The Caliph’s Heirs originally appeared in separate episodes printed in a newspaper.  How does Zaidan keep the action moving forward across episodes? Can you find places where he slips up—that is, forgets to explain something, or has characters do something inconsistent?

3.  Many of the characters in The Caliph’s Heirs are identified as Persians or as members of minority religions.  How does Zaidan treat these characters?   What about characters who are not identified as belonging to a religious or ethnic group?

4.  Zaidan’s novels are based on the idea that a specific national group, the Arabs, have participated in something called Islamic civilization.  Does this idea make sense?  How does the novel support it?  In what ways does it undermine it?

5.  Like the press in many countries during Zaidan’s time, the Arabic press helped readers create an image of themselves as citizens; as members of national, ethnic, or religious groups; and as men and women with specific gender roles.  In what ways might The Caliph’s Heirs have helped shape its readers?



Opera on the Life of Jurji Zaidan
(in Arabic) attended by the
President of Egypt

Prelude with Speeches of Literary Figures


Jurji Zaidan and his Family

Centennial Celebrations
of Dar-al-Hilal