Razib Khan One-stop-shopping for all of my content

May 2, 2019

An Islamic view of the Crusades

Filed under: Crusades,History — Razib Khan @ 1:34 am

I should say a thing or two about The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades. It turns out that the Islamic perspective on the Crusades and Muslim-Christian conflict is pretty much exactly what you might infer from the Christian perspective. That is, the narrative in The Race for Paradise is surprisingly unsurprising. In fact, there was too much narrative, as many of the chapters were a sequence of names and battles.

I’m not someone to say that social, cultural, and economic history are the only histories that matter. But, they are often the sorts of information that you can’t easily find online in Wikipedia summaries. In contrast, diplomatic and military history can be found in other sources. So I felt The Race for Paradise a bit thin on matters social, cultural and economic, though the author did make an attempt here and there. If you read this book I would recommend you skip over a lot of the standard narrative and just find those chapters.

Additionally, for such a short book, I will warn you that you’ll not get just the conflict in the Near East. Substantial portions are taken up by the Crusades in Iberia and the conquest of Sicily, and there is an end section on the reaction to the Ottomans. Curiously, there was only perfunctory mention of the Baltic Crusades, but then, this is an Islamic view, so that actually makes sense

If you are really interested in the topic, I really recommend God’s War and The Northern Crusades.

Ultimately, I will conclude from reading The Race for Paradise that despite the strong distinctions that the Dar-ul-Islam and Christendom made between each other after the fall of Rome and before the rise of modernity, the two are hard to understand individually without considering the other. The familiarity of the narrative in The Race for Paradise is that Islamic civilization, unlike that of India or China, is not comprehensible on some level without the referents of the Christians, who were there before Islam, and amongst whom many Muslim societies emerged from.

The world of Islam and the world of Westen Christianity view each other as exotic cousins. Not as aliens.

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