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am 23. Mai 2000
What can one say about a book that has the chief fault of leaving one wanting more? The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (hereafter, "Arab Eyes") is a beautifully composed book that draws almost exclusively from Arabic primary sources to tell the tale of the Western conquest, 1100-1300 AD. Unfortunately, whenever Maalouf isn't talking about military or political intrigue, he seems to loose interest. The book raises many fascinating topics -- the influence of Arab society on the Holy Roman Empire, the rise of a slave class to become the masters of all Islam -- without going into detail on any of them.
The first encounter between Muslim and Crusader is told from the perspective of Kilij Arslan, a seventeen-year-old sultan who would go on to become a legendary name in the struggle of the Islamic people. The "Franj", as the invaders were called, were pouring into his country by the tens of thousands. A skilled military leader, Arslan carefully withdrew his forces into a defensive position, only to be startled by his first glimpse of this "army": ragged, untrained peasants with strips of cloth pinned to their tunics in the shape of the cross. Reluctantly forced into battle, Arslan easily smashed the Crusader legion into bits, considering the matter settled. He had no way of knowing that what he had seen was only the rumor of war, not the war itself.
What may be most surprising to Western readers, such as myself, was that the majority of the Islamic struggle during the Crusader period, 1100-1300 AD, was not against Europeans, but against other Muslim leaders. The "empire" of Islam was sharply divided, and the question of rule was always at issue. In fact, many great Islamic kingdoms actually _joined with the Crusaders_ to gain rivals' territories.
This is one of the many intriguing topics that Maalouf does not deem worth going into. In fact, he saves direct analysis of this for his epilogue, writing:
"Every monarchy was threatened by the death of its monarch, and every transmission of power provoked civil war. Does full responsibility for this lie with the successive invasions, which constantly imperilled the very existence of these states?... Such a complex question cannot be dealt with in this brief epiloue. But let us at least note that in the Arab world the question is still on the agenda."
As noted above, this is just one of many fascinating questions the book raises without answering. Students of Western history may be surprised to learn that the Florentine renaissance may have been the outgrowth of the Syrian renaissance that began with a bloody revolution led by a former slave. That a major Holy Roman Emperor favored Islam in every respect was certainly news to me.
Maalouf's book isn't necessarily a place to find the answers to questions you may have about the evolution of world history during the period of the Crusades. Instead, it's a wonderful jumping off point, a brilliantly-organized work that suggests questions so that you may find their resolution elsewhere. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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am 21. September 2006
certainly not neutral or without bias. Some clever guy once said, that so far in human history nobody has ever written a truly unbiased book. And that if ever there was such a book, it would be too boring to read.
But nevertheless: the bias in this book goes too far and ignores much of the research that has been conducted in the last decades. The crusaders are without exception being depicted as murdering savages without any real religious belief. No allowance is made for the fact that the state of war and conquest in the societies of those times was the rule rather than the exception.
the Arabs on the other hand are depicted as a noble lot, peaceful and mere victims. That wars between petty warlords, who were every bit as cruel as the worst crusaders, were raging in that area of the world is only mentioned on the side.
I am sure that the truth was somewhat more complicated than that and that horrible atrocities were committed on both sides.

A book that contains interesting details. but as a whole fails to deliver a credible or comprehensive picture of the crusades.
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am 1. Dezember 1997
This book, while a novel, gives invaluable insights into what really might have happened during the Crusades. Malouf presents us with the fact that the Crusades were more about money than they were about God. In what is sometimes a gruesome account, he reveals that the crusaders killed not only Muslims but Jews and Christians of the Oriental denominations. Equally interesting is his unwillingness to let Muslims off the hook. He depicts them as fighting amongst themselves, unable to unite and facing the twilight of their great civilization just as the western star began to rise. In sum, for those who think that the Crusades were about a civilized Christian army beating back a barbarian horde, reading this book will offer you the notion that it was a civilized Muslim world sinking into decay whose contact with the Franks unified them to fight against an unprovoked attempt to colonize in the name of God but in reality for gold.
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am 14. Juni 1999
First of all it shows that the splits among the Arabs go back centuries. Moreover, being shown the other side of the coin in respect of the crusades is a real eye-opener. When reading this book, the heroic pedestal on which the crusaders were lifted disappears like hot air. Intrigues for power, slaughtering, killing, raping - all this in the name of Christ, what a religion is Christianism? is there a difference to today's excesses by other religions which are so much lambasted by the western medias?? To be recommended for reading by all those condemning for example islamist extremists, it might make them talk a bit less loud.
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am 11. März 2000
I love it when I find hidden jewels like this. Amin Malouf ranks high up on my list of favourites. Its hard to find a history book that is a page turner at the same time but remains focused on the subject throughout. Although its been a while since I read this book, I still remember the excellently detailed descriptions of the battles and sieges and some of the sickening atrocities committed by both sides (Muslims and Christians) against the innocent. There's so much more that can't be said here. Read it and you'll become a fan.
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Once I started reading this book, I couldn't stop. It is extremely well written and researched. It proves that the human greed and lust of power is the origin of the crusade and all the fighting that went along in that era on both sides. Also it shows that the muslim world back then was basically divided into little kingdoms which were ruled by lusty Emirs and Sultans and such, and not united as some Islamic history books claim. Religion was a tool during that period of history. Good work by Amin.
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am 14. Oktober 1998
This book is more historical fact and deeper than his other books but just as readable. This book shows that the reason the crusades lasted so long was not so much the foreign invaders as the various Arab and Turkic kingdoms in constant jealous battle with each other.
It presents the other side of the crusades as opposed to the one we always read about, yet I found it quite objective.
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am 30. November 1999
he is the author tells you all about REAL HISTORY. Guaranteed that you will never get bored.
You can read whole book in a night nailed on your bed. Absolutely recommended to whom wanna know the past.And reccommended as well all other his books such as SAMARKAND, LEO AFRICANUS etc. ALL FABOULUS.
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am 7. Mai 1998
The title says it all and the book was such a delight. This was one of those few historical books that I just could not put down. The peculiarities and absurdities of the "western barbarians" come to life. A very fresh perspective on an old subject.
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am 23. Oktober 2011
Amin Maalouf's book is an indispensable asset for anyone wanting to understand the problems we are having in thre Middle East. This book has helped me to understand the damage done by the crusaders in the Orient, something which Islamists always vociferously remind us of.
This book has a wealth of information gathered from outstanding medieval observers about the evil done by crusaders. t also gives an insight into the local divisions that existed before he arrival of the Franks. Maalof also gives us a gallery of personalities, outstanding such as Salah al Din, or atrovcious like Reinhald de Chatillon--the players in the drama. Some Franks settled rather well in the Orient and even became good landlords, but they were few and far between.
Maalouf is always a meticulous historian and a careful writer.
This is a contribution to the Middle East debate you should not miss.
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