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The Book of Contemplation: Islam and the Crusades (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Usamah ibn Munqidh , Paul M. Cobb
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

3 July 2008 Penguin Classics
The volume comprises lightly annotated translation of a key medieval Arabic text that bears directly on the Crusades and Crusader society and the Muslim experience of them.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140455132
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140455137
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.4 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Usama ibn Munqidh was born on 4 July, 1095 in northern Syria. In the last decades of his life he concentrated on writing, collecting his scattered poems into a much-praised Diwan, but specialising in topical anthologies of poetry and prose like The Book of the Staff or Kernels of Refinement. Usama's last patron was the mighty sultan Saladin, to whom he intended his most famous work, the Book of Contemplation. He died in Damascus in 1188.

Paul Cobb, Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic History at the University of Pennsylvania, has been engaged on a long-term project involving Muslim views of the Crusades and the writings of Usama ibn Munqidh in particular.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This book is a very good read if you wish to get a feel for the Medieval Muslim perspective of the other side of the conflict and glimpses into the character of both the Muslim elites and snippets of the attitudes and behaviour of Frankish persons of note. Usamah's style of writing is in short tales on subject matter ranging from the conduct of Frankish knights, descriptions of raids (from both sides), to dashing tales of daring with colourful charcters and villians spread throughout.

The beauty of this book is that the tales often last no more than a page or so, thus it is ideal for a quick read, and thus can be enjoyed at your leisure. I myself am using this book for my History unit on the Crusades at university, where it is considered one of the best sources of the period. It is worth mentioning that Usamah himself is not always biased as a writer, at times he talks favourably of his interactions with the Knights Templar.

Overall this book allows the reader to peek through the key hole of time and have a look at how life was in this dramatic period, well worth the read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well translated and presented but deserves an asterik for what the work itself reveals 28 Sep 2010
By TC - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paul M. Cobb seems to have done a great job translating the thoughts of medieval Muslim misfit Usama Ibn Munqidh. Many historians and anthropologists have studied this work as it gives us a glimpse into how the Islamic world was reacted to the influx of crusaders in the twelfth-century. The book is most revealing in its more subtle moments; for example Usama recording the dress, bathing habits and gender relations of the crusaders and how this fit (or didn't fit) into Usama's Muslim community. Much of the book however contains a great deal of confusing, often funny, contradictory trash-talking. Usama marvels at the discipline and bravery of Christian knights but then boasts of battling one warrior after another (often with nothing but his wits) and, of course, claiming victory at every turn. Like many of his contemporaries Usama was forced to live, work and trade with Christian emigrants who followed the Crusader armies and he fluctuates between pride in his ability to navigate this new world and denigrating his business partners and neighbors. While Usama champions Islam he does things like engage in sport hunting and runs through the woods slaughtering wild pigs on Ramadan; not exactly things condoned by even the most basic Islamic jurisprudence. In the end what we have is a very linear, very personalized view of the crusades and sketches of a number of localized skirmishes most of which cannot even be historically verified. In short, The Book of Contemplation is interesting read, but often for reasons outside the realm of real scholarship.
6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crusades Reference 21 Jan 2011
By Malinda L. Mcdonald - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent for understanding the Arab point of view regarding the Crusades, particularly the Third Crusade in which Richard I and Saladin played major roles.
8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an alternative view of the crusades 16 Feb 2012
By al - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The common unenlightened view of "westerners" about the Crusades is of just campaigns for Christianity against barbaric uncivilised infidels. This book,written in the 12th century, by an educated aristocratic Arab, gives insight into the cultured societies of the Middle East,and their interaction with the invading armies of Europeans,whom they did not really understand.
It gives an Islamic perspective of society and religion,with many anecdotes and description of the interaction between the various societies of the region.
The translation is very readable and contemporary,with an introduction and notes giving a very comprehensive picture of (in the west)a poorly understood but increasingly important part of world history.
1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun from a Faris 11 Nov 2012
By Steven M Latour - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An easy to read collection of rambling tales and facts. This puts a humanizing face on Islam that is sorely needed in the Western world. Funny, entertaining, and fascinating. Munqidh is unique (almost a palindrome (Well, not really)).
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars had to get for school 12 July 2013
By Adam Lauer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
actually read it and it was interesting enough to keep scanning over all the different stories. Helped when had to write an essay.
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