Am höchsten bewertete positive Rezension
2 Personen fanden diese Informationen hilfreich
Staggeringly Well Researched, But Not Complete In Itself
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.