Caliph - Technically, Caliph is the office of the head of the Muslim community, succeeding the Prophet Muhammad as administrator of the law. However, since the law was Muslim law, the position took on a quasi-religious aspect as well as a purely political one. In practice, especially in the Abbasid time, the Caliph was the absolute autocratic ruler. Over time, the title became little more than an honorific as it lasted until the final dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War. Medieval Christians tended to ascribe to the Caliph much of what they thought the combination of Pope and Holy Roman Emperor represented. See, for example, the discussion in von Grunebaum, 1953, pp. 7 – 30

al-Mansur - This individual’s real name was actually abu-Jafar, but upon succeeding his brother as Caliph, he took on the honorific al-Mansur (meaning “rendered victorious by God”) and it is by his honorific that he is usually known in histories. Similarly, his successors all took on honorifics (indicated by the prefatory article “al-”) and are known by them. [Hitti, 1970, p. 290]

translated into French in the 1700s - Edward Said, a Palestinian Christian and Professor of English Literature at Columbia has provided a good consideration, though perhaps a bit overdone, of how much we think we know of the Arab world is colored by distorted lenses of scholars who have historically defined this area as alien, corrupt, dangerous, and mysterious. [Said, 1978, pp. 63-65]

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