Edited and trans. by James E. Lindsay and Suleiman A. Mourad.
Cambridge, Mass.: Hackett Publishing, 2021. 320 pp. $63 ($21, paper).
Reviewed by Raymond Ibrahim
Lindsay (Colorado State University) and Mourad (Smith College) write:
This anthology is an attempt to bring to light a disparate selection of sources that in our assessment introduce the student of Crusades history to a more complex understanding of the Crusades and the interactions between Franks and Muslims—which ranged from animosity to amity—in the broader context of Islamic history.
The authors succeed in presenting an account of the Crusades from an exclusively Muslim perspective. Their sources, “many translated here into English for the first time,” cover topics and genres including travel and geographical literature, jihadist and juridical directives, chronicles and poetry, treaties and truces.
Not only is the book balanced, reproducing the accounts of amity (admittedly few and circumstantial), it is objective and does not dissemble about the topics that most concerned their Muslim authors but might cause embarrassment today. Take jihad: after correctly dismissing the “spiritual” or “greater” jihad phantom as being “without foundation,” Lindsay and Mourad assert, “When the authors of the Muslim sources in this anthology used the word jihad, they invariably meant warfare against the enemies of God and the Muslims.”
The authors end each chapter with pedagogical questions to prompt the reader to explore. Especially helpful are the many scholarly footnotes to assist the non-specialist in navigating what may be strange terrain, including one that exposes a little-known pun among Muslims, who referred to Christendom’s most sacred church in Jerusalem, the Church of Resurrection (qiyama) as the Church of Refuse (qumama). For students of the Crusades, the book offers several important features, including appendixes (an especially useful one is titled “Quranic Verses on War and Peace”), biographical overviews, glossaries, and maps.
Those interested in current events and questions will find that the book unwittingly demonstrates many continuities with the present. It confirms that much behavior now presented as aberrant—intrinsic animosity for non-Muslims, expectations of cowed (dhimmi) behavior from subjugated Jews and Christians, the destruction or transformation of churches into mosques, the temporal nature of truces (or the eternal nature of jihad), praise for jihadist martyrdom, and the allure of the houri (supernatural women who will accompany Muslim believers in Paradise)—were the norm for those Muslim authors excerpted in this very welcome anthology.
Author of Sword and Scimitar