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The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  7,265 ratings  ·  613 reviews
The author has combed the works of contemporary Arab chronicles of the Crusades, eyewitnesses, and often participants. He retells their story and offers insights into the historical forces that shape Arab and Islamic consciousness today.
Paperback, 293 pages
Published April 29th 1989 by Schocken (first published 1983)
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 ·  7,265 ratings  ·  613 reviews

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Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a challenging reading experience, and I struggle to put into words why.

I loved Maalouf's reflections on identity and cultural belonging, In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong, to the extent that I read it with students several times. I admired his autobiographical work Origins, which offers an explanation for his deep understanding of the diverse strands that make up an individual personality, shaped by numerous family patterns, education and personal experience.

I tho
Hasham Rasool
This is what 'The Crusades Through Arab Eyes' about:

European and Arab versions of the Crusades have little in common. For Arabs, the twelfth and thirteen centuries were years of strenuous efforts to repel a brutal and destructive invasion by barbarian hordes. Under Saladin, an unstoppable Muslim army inspired by prophets and poets finally succeeded in destroying the most popular Crusader kingdoms. The memory of this great and most enduring victory ever won by a non-European society against the W
Aug 29, 2011 rated it liked it
I honestly don’t know how to regard this book. On one hand it is well-written, brief, perfectly readable description of crusades, seen from a unique perspective. Its main strength is the fact that the author uses only Arabic, predominantly primary sources, which is invaluable for the European student of the period for a simple reason that Arabic sources so scarce to English-speaking readers.
At the same time I can’t help but consider this book as lost opportunity. Maalouf attempts to present the
Nandakishore Varma
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Ever since I started reading, I have come across the stereotype of the "bloodthirsty Muslim". He is fearsome, duplicitous, utterly without mercy, fiercely intolerant of any other system of philosophy other than his own "barbarous" religion, which cuts off people's hands for stealing something as little as a piece of bread and gleefully stones unfortunates to death in the full view of the public. Also, Islam was said to be a religion which was spread "by the sword" - that is, through force, givin ...more
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
I came to this book after reading several of Maalouf's fiction works. Even though it is a history book, it is very readable, and if it weren't for all the names, I would have thought I was reading a story. He draws the main figures of the Crusades as real people, not just objects of scholarly interest. I cried when Saladin died. Being an Arab myself, it was hard to shake the feeling of history repeating itself, but obviously the truth is more complex than that. What made the book important for m ...more
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, arab
Recommended reading for an alternative look on the Crusades - just supported with copious quotes by Arab historians, no "Western" sources. Extremely interesting to see this clash of cultures from the "other" side - "our" extremely brutal fighters with little moral qualms, slaughtering everyone in their path in most brutal ways, the "early" Arabs being wholly unprepared and completely confused by so much religious zealotry. Especially the epilogue, linking this story to modern developments of the ...more
I have refrained from rating this book, because I really don't know whether it's a good account of how the arabs saw the crusades or not. My trust in the author's objectivity got a serious dent today after reading one of the sources he used. Amin Maalouf renders an account of Frankish barbarianism in medicinal practice on p. 131-132. When I check this passage in the original account of Usama ibn Munqidh, there are at least two more examples of Frankish medicinal practice directly following the c ...more
César Lasso
My rating is 4.5 stars. The focus on the Arabs' point of view is very interesting and the author included an excellent epilogue connecting those medieval events with nowadays.
Zayn Gregory
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history, islam
Not only did our troops not shrink from eating dead Turks and Saracens; they also ate dogs! Documentation of rampant cannibalism among the Franj comes from the Franj themselves, but the historical accounts from Arab witnesses are what makes this book so enjoyable: the cannibalism, the elective surgery by battle-axe, the trials-by-ordeal,all described by genteel observers shocked at the barbarism of the blond peril. The book covers a long period where many rulers come and go, but major figures li ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Matt by: Lisa
For those in the West, the Crusades were a series of military expeditions that Western Christians launch against Muslims to reclaim the Holy Land, however for the Arabs and the rest of the Muslim world, the Crusades were a shocking event. “The Crusades through Arab Eyes” is a narrative history by Amin Maalouf to give Westerners a glimpse of how the Muslim world in general saw the Crusades as they were happening over two hundred year span.

Maalouf starts his narrative in Anatolia with the beginnin
A thousand and one years ago ... The boot was on the other foot. The armies of the First Crusade stormed Jerusalem in the apotheosis of a campaign marked by IS style violence. An analogy Maalouf couldn't foresee in the '80's but he doesn't report cannibalism by choice out of both Arab & Western sources on a lark. There's shaming to do.

On the other hand, those European nobles who put their political acumen to a modus vivendi within a highly fragmented Middle East get their due. The chess of chief
Tanuj Solanki
Before the world as we know it now, a West dominated world, there were the Crusades.

Maalouf charts 200 years of non stop war and intrigue in a highly readable fashion. One wishes he could talk more about the lives of the common men and women in those times. But his interest seems to be concentrated only in the top leaders and their achievements or failures. The scope is large and detail generally scant, at times the focus being too much on summarizing Arab-written histories of those times. Maalo
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
200 years of history were exemplary put on paper by Amin Maalouf. Every page is fascinating and gives you an insight into the minds of those who fought the crusaders and ultimately defeated them.

Fer Prz
Some books teach, others entertain, and there's the ones that help you understand. In this careful examination of the Crusades, Amin Maalouf paints a vivid picture of the events that transpired centuries ago and how they affect the Arab world consciously and subconsciously to this very day. The unfortunate theme in this book is the lack of unity. It took a person as strong as Muhammad to unite the people of the dessert and conquer land via a Islam. But it also took his death to decimate the unit ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ross Douthat, columnist, New York Times: "Wars fought on behalf of Christianity can only be justified as unfortunate necessities."

Raoul de Caen, Frankish historian, present in the Middle East at the turn of the 11th and 12th centuries, writing about the European crusaders in his Gesta Tancredi: "In Ma'arra [in northwest Syria] our troops boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots; they impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled."

A quick way to feel despair is to imagine these two quotes circli
Maalouf managed to put together the many resources from historians, poets, politicians and military advisors who lived through the Crusades, in a very talented image of detail capturing, in 350 pages, two of the longest and hardest centuries in Islamic history.
He finishes his research with an amazing epilogue about the effect of the Crusades on the Arab world today and how it shapes their relationship with the outside world, and how, after a great phase of Arabs thriving in many aspects such as
Ciprian Dobre-Trifan
Great combination of history set on an exceptional epic line. One can really feel and imagine being there in the skin of the arabs, picturing how they must have felt seeing the francs coming to take their lands and settle on their territories.

A great story that has lead great nations in an everlasting conflict that still sinks it's teeth into modern history and the present day.
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mid-east
Excellent alternative view of the crusades. Pair it up with a western history of the crusades to get a better view of the era. Interesting historical figures on Islamic side come into focus and they had tough time getting their resistance effort together.
Sep 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
With all respect for Malouf, but this book lacks a great deal of objectivity. I have to meet the first person involved in a serious conflict, who will say something positive about his adversary.
1) the crusades were a legitimate attempt of christian armies to stop the very bloody and cruel islam imperialism on christian soil and to gain back their holy places (I really wonder how muslims would react if we attacked and occupied Mecca, for that matter). A few quotes with regard to the islamic conq
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fic
Maalouf offers a precious account of the Crusades through the Muslim perspective. That contribution alone is enough to recommend this book. It is very accessible and directed towards general audience. However, I think a person having read the Crusades from a Western perspective would benefit much more since they could make useful comparisons, and they would not be too overwhelmed by names, dates, events, cities.

Some notable things to learn from this book is:
- The inner struggles inside the Musli
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
On the front cover of the book there is a quotation from The New Yorker that says the book is "A readable and entertaining mirror image of events that are as familiar in the West as fairy tales." This statement is a pithy, but generally accurate summation of what a reader will actually find in reading this book.

For one thing, anyone who knows anything about fairy tales in the West can tell you that absolutely no one agrees on the details for any of them. Was Cinderella's slipper fur or glass? Di
Liz Henry
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Liz by: Adina
Shelves: history, borrowed
I liked this book primarily for its quotes from primary sources - Middle Eastern historians who mostly don't seem to have been translated to English (yet). I made a list of names:

* Ibn Jubayr (1144-1217) trans. into french by geuthner
* Ibn al -Qalanisi (1073-1160 Damascus
* Ibn al-Athir (1160-1233) (wrote a giant 13-volume history)
* history of Nahr al-Kalb (Philip Hiti)
* Kamal al-Din Ibn al-Adim (1192-1262) Aleppo
* Usamah Ibn Munqidh (1138-ish) (Especially awesome! Writer, diplomat, politician,
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-re-read
Phew, this read dragged on! Not that it was dull—the subject matter, in fact, is of great appeal to me—but I felt forced to put it aside repeatedly in favour of more enthralling fictional narratives, only to go back pages and refresh my memory whenever I picked it up after a long pause.

The writing is not entirely typical of most heavy historical accounts, but rather more fluently flowing in its chronicling. The frequent shifting back and forth between recounting the overall events and providing
Reasonable source of material for the Crusades, but in the end hampered by the authors incomplete grasp of history. Maalouf is telling us his personal story of what he feels the Crusades were about and what the crusaders were like, which is fine, but not a scholarly method. Bias abounds.
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Excellent. Brilliant. Almost everything about crusade in such a small space require extraordinary skill and knowledge.
Ed Callahan
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historians, students, teacherss
In Western Civilization it's easy to approach the Crusades from the perspective of "well-intentioned failures," military endeavors to "liberate the Holy Lands" from Muslim control. The usual and convenient caricatures and stereotypes about both the Crusaders and the Muslim populations thus are easily confirmed, and we never quite learn how the other side saw things. In this regard, Maalouf's book, albeit dated, is a helpful corrective.

Early on in this concise history, he demonstrates that the "
Liz H
Any work dealing with the Crusades, whether academic or in pop culture, needs to be approached critically. This book is good starting for developing that critical perspective by learning another side of the story. Maalouf seeks to counter dominant Euro-centric narratives/mythos and does so without being polemical or painting the various Muslim states and leaders as homogenous "good guys" in contrast to European "bad guys". Instead, he balances the narrative by simply shifting the focus and point ...more
Lyn Elliott
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amin Maalouf is one of my favourite writers. Born in Lebanon, he lives in France and writes in French. His fiction and nonfiction alike are concerned with tolerance, intolerance, culture and civilization and the importance of understanding and living with others who are different. His own life places him in a uniquely good position to consider these themes.
Maalouf's history of the Crusades through Arab eyes is world-shifting for those of us with European/Christian backgrounds who were brought up
Nazmul Hasan
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: islamic, recommend
Maalouf's writing brings the ancient Muslim world to life, a world so similar to our current day. This is a story of venerable leaders and epic battles, the story of ordinary people who take a stand against oppression, the story of religious frevor giving rise to unbounded, magnanimous chivalry.

Maalouf is a Christian. But his writing manages to perfectly capture the worries and trials of a Muslim arab living during the crusades.

Ironically, this is not the story of 'Arabs' reacting to the crusa
May 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good general history of the Arab side of the Crusades. This book covers the political and military reactions to the attempted reconquest of the Holy Land by the Christians. The book examines and introduces the reader to the wide variety and numerous personalities of the various Muslim Nations and their intrigues. Well worth reading and will encourage the student of history to learn more of the history of not only just the crusades, but of Arab history in general. The warfare, the political int ...more
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Amin Maalouf (Arabic: أمين معلوف; alternate spelling Amin Maluf) is a Lebanese journalist and novelist. He writes and publishes primarily in French.

Most of Maalouf's books have a historical setting, and like Umberto Eco, Orhan Pamuk, and Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Maalouf mixes fascinating historical facts with fantasy and philosophical ideas. In an interview Maalouf has said that his role as a writer

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“It seems clear that the Arab East still sees the West as a natural enemy. Against that enemy, any hostile action-be it political, military, or based on oil-is considered no more than legitimate vengeance. And there can be no doubt that the schism between these two worlds dates from the Crusades, deeply felt by the Arabs, even today, as an act of rape” 5 likes
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