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People of the Book: The Forgotten History of Islam and the West
 
 

People of the Book: The Forgotten History of Islam and the West [Kindle Edition]

Zachary Karabell
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

'This is an intelligent and continuously interesting book test' (Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph)

'Excellent ... in its considered and balanced way, this book is an impassioned plea not to leave the field to the demagogues who believe in a showdown of warring cultures' (Waterstone's Books Quarterly)

'A stimulating book with burning contemporary relevance' (Metro)

Book Description

A fascinating and surprising history, revealing the peaceful tradition that has existed between Islam and the West


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1143 KB
  • Print Length: 356 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0719567556
  • Publisher: John Murray (26 Sep 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CTMAABQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #48,398 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book sets out to show that Islam's relationship with Christianity and Judaism has not always been one of conflict and intolerance, but frequently of mutual intercourse - even at times when their armies were fighting each other. The wars between them, even when religion was invoked, could often be characterized as territorial rather than as religious, and when Harun al-Rashid was fighting Christian Byzantium, he was quite happy to have the Christian Charlemagne as an ally; and Muslims slaughtered fellow-Muslims at least as often as they warred against Christians. Religious passions undoubtedly played a part in the Crusades, but even then the Shi'ite Fatimids at times supported the Christians against the Seljuk Sunnis. The 126 years between the beginning of the First Crusade in 1096 and the end of the last one in 1272 saw only 25 years of actual fighting - and Karabell paints a perhaps excessively rosy picture of the rest of the time, when Muslims and Christians coexisted more or less peacefully in the Middle East and traded with each other, when the Franks began to acculturate, and the Muslims to accommodate themselves to their Christian rulers. Saladin was inspired by genuine religious zeal, but his capture of Jerusalem was not accompanied with a slaughter such as the Crusaders had perpetrated in 1199, and Christian pilgrimage to the city would be permitted when the crusaders sailed home. That Third Crusade, at least on Saladin's side, was still a gentlemanly affair, and has been remembered as such even in the lore of the West. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The lessons from history aren't all violent ones 27 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is an excellent overview of the relationship between Muslims, Jews and Christians over time and how this relationship does not have to be a hostile one. It looks at the Muslims in Spain and how they created centres of learning and beautiful architecture while living alongside the existing population, both Christian and Jewish. It gives a very clear account of how Israel came into being, and how the breakup of the Ottoman Empire contributed to the situation in the present day. It has made me want to read more about the Muslims in Spain, but also about the Ottoman Empire and its eventual decline. I would have been very interested to read what the author thinks about the Arab Spring and how things will play out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Real history 6 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Shows how mis-guided these "fundamentalists" really are in their narrow-minded outlook on us Kafirs.If the prophet had only NAMED a successor we would NOT have this Sunni-Sh ite nonsense.
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic & worth reading 26 July 2008
By Kaiser
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book ''People of the Book: The Forgotten History of Islam and the West by Zachary Karabell '' is worth reading book and depicts the truth about Islam's golden age and rule on west. I was not aspecting that a western writer would do that justic and look through Islam's eye. Writer has done great justice and exploring and researching the history thoroughly. I reccommend any western to read this book and then ponder that Is Islam the religion of terror or peace? This book will also make you think why muslims are now called terrorist? will make you think under muslim rule christians and jews lived happilly especially Jews made homes in muslims world and took shelter wen christians were prosecuting them and muslims protected them and now what you see in Palestine/israel the same jews have turned against muslims.. all these questions has been answered by this writer, Great work.. awesome..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Islam and other religions can coexist and have done so more often than not 7 May 2008
By Ralph Blumenau - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book sets out to show that Islam's relationship with Christianity and Judaism has not always been one of conflict and intolerance, but frequently of mutual intercourse - even at times when their armies were fighting each other. The wars between them, even when religion was invoked, could often be characterized as territorial rather than as religious, and when Harun al-Rashid was fighting Christian Byzantium, he was quite happy to have the Christian Charlemagne as an ally; and Muslims slaughtered fellow-Muslims at least as often as they warred against Christians. Religious passions undoubtedly played a part in the Crusades, but even then the Shi'ite Fatimids at times supported the Christians against the Seljuk Sunnis. The 126 years between the beginning of the First Crusade in 1096 and the end of the last one in 1272 saw only 25 years of actual fighting - and Karabell paints a perhaps excessively rosy picture of the rest of the time, when Muslims and Christians coexisted more or less peacefully in the Middle East and traded with each other, when the Franks began to acculturate, and the Muslims to accommodate themselves to their Christian rulers. Saladin was inspired by genuine religious zeal, but his capture of Jerusalem was not accompanied with a slaughter such as the Crusaders had perpetrated in 1199, and Christian pilgrimage to the city would be permitted when the crusaders sailed home. That Third Crusade, at least on Saladin's side, was still a gentlemanly affair, and has been remembered as such even in the lore of the West.

There is an account of the interest in non-Islamic scholarship during the classical age of Islam (8th to 11th century) and during the Golden Age in Arabic Spain of about the same time, reciprocated (for all too brief a period) in early Reconquista Spain where Alfonso the Wise in the 13th century continued the Muslim tradition of convivencia. (One thread running through the book is the interest that many people in the West have shown in Islam and its culture.)

Karabell underlines that for hundreds of years the Muslims made no attempts to impose Islam on the peoples they conquered, and respected their religious authorities; that in that respect they were far more tolerant than Christian societies, and that this was in fact one of the reasons why, during their early expansion, there was so little resistance by Monophysites in Syria, Copts in Egypt, Nestorians in Persia and Jews everywhere, who had been more persecuted by their previous Christian rulers than they ever were by the Muslims. Especially at times when the Muslim governments in Baghdad, Córdoba or Constantinople felt secure, they were open to debates with or influences from non-Muslims: the occasional persecution of non-Mulims usually coincided with periods when their governments became weak.

This weakness was in part due to the long-term effects of the repudiation of classical Islam's openness to the ideas of non-Islamic peoples by al-Ghazali and his followers. As these clamped their orthodoxy on Islam from the late 12th century onwards, they stifled the freedom of thought that had been the glory of al-Rashid's time; and this contributed from about the 18th century onwards to the Islamic world not being able to resist Western inroads, especially towards the end of the 19th century. The first response among Islamic intellectuals like al-Afghani and Abduh was to return to the willingness for Islam to learn from what the non-Islamic world could teach; but as this did not manage to arrest the incursions of the west, in the end it developed among militants into an Islam that was more intolerant and resentful of the West (represented by Christians and Jews) than Islam had ever been before.

It did not help that nationalist revolts against the Ottomans invoked religious as well as ethnic differences; and this in turn created nationalisms in the Islamic world (which, incidentally, would also turn Islamic Arabs against Islamic Turks). The most tragic victims - because they were the only group over whom the Turks were victorious - of a new Islamic intolerance were the Christian Armenians, though even here it was their nationalism rather than their religion which was the trigger. The Versailles Settlement, with much of the Islamic world ruled directly by the West, was a further humiliation, and the Balfour Declaration the worst of them all.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, most of the Muslim states achieved their national independence, as did Israel. The new Muslim governments were basically secular (as was Arafat's PLO). It was the failure of these secularists to destroy Israel in four wars that seemed to leave militant Islam as the only hope of success, both against Israel and against the continuing influence of the West over these secular governments: militant Islam and nationalism increasingly became one and the same thing.

But even today Karabell sees signs of hope: a moderate and tolerant Islam is seen in Jordan, Morocco, Turkey, and among the young in Iran.

Karabell's story is not as forgotten as the subtitle of the book suggests: almost all of his material can be found in the major respectable histories of Islam. But there is certainly a lot of maligning of Islamic history around, from politicians, journalists and the occasional academic; and this eloquent and sophisticated defence of an Islam that for most of its history was tolerant of other religions - much more so than Christianity was during those centuries - is welcome as a corrective to books such as Bat Ye'or's Dhimmitude (see my review) or Huntington's Clash of Civilizations. It has the advantage over these in that, despite its agenda, it is much less one-sided and does not shirk those episodes which run counter to its main theme.
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