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The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  6,617 ratings  ·  546 reviews
European and Arab versions of the Crusades have little in common. For Arabs, the twelfth and thirteenth 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 powerful Crusader kingdoms. The memory of this grea ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published March 2006 by Saqi Books (first published 1983)
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Charles
Apr 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In our society the word crusade has been largely divorced from its origins in a European invasion of the Middle East, so much so that our previous president probably didn't recognize how inflammatory this statement was.

This book is a solid reminder that there were two sides, and often more, in that long campaign. While the general public in the West barely remembers what took place in the Holy Land between 1096 and 1291, in the Muslim world the past isn't dead. It isn't even past.

Some of the names are familia
...more
Lisa
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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 a
...more
Marcus
Aug 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 presen
...more
Serene
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
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.
Philipp
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arab, non-fiction
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
Toonvanelst
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
Zayn Gregory
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction, 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 like Nur ad-D ...more
Dimitri
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
...more
Matt
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Tanuj Solanki
Mar 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Iuli
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
DEUS VULT!

Tam
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
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 struggle
...more
Bethany
Aug 11, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 gla
...more
Jonathan
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 quot
...more
Liz Henry
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Liz by: Adina
Shelves: borrowed, history
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! W
...more
Mike
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Adrian Dinu
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-politics
Hard as it may be, it's often very useful to be able to see events from the other person's perspective. This book is an excellent opportunity to do that at a historical level, to see not just Western knights with their chivalry, bravery, piety, but also their fanaticism, cruelty, slaughter and robbery. Great if you want to see the other side of all the romantic (his)stories about (re)conquering Jerusalem, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. Highlights how so many things in that era ultimately boi ...more
Greet
Sep 13, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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
Ramza
Sep 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Farhan Daud
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Excellent. Brilliant. Almost everything about crusade in such a small space require extraordinary skill and knowledge.
Milton Soong
[Audio book] The physical book has been on my shelf for more than a decade, and I am glad I finally found an audio book version. Familiar story told from a new angle, and it's got that oral history quality to it which makes it a perfect candidate for audio. Almost feel like Thousand and One Night. Don't think I could of made it through if on paper.
Ton
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.
Sathvik
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book a lot because it gives us a different perspective on the Crusades. In class, we learn about the crusades in a very Eurocentric way; however, this book allows us to explore the Crusades from the perspective of the people of the Middle East. In addition, the book also is filled with primary sources from soldiers that detail in great detail the harsh conditions of war. The only thing I would recommend is that there should be more background information about the Crusades; this w ...more
Sergio
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english
The Crusades were for the Arabs the Frankish Wars, and more exactly an invasion in different waves. Interesting account from another perspective and nice conclusions about the decline of the Arab World as center of knowledge in the aftermath.
Steve Middendorf
From ReemK10
Lyn Elliott
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 brou
...more
Nazmul Hasan
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...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
“Mosul, the native city of the historian Ibn al-Athir, was the capital of Jazira, or Mesopotamia, the fertile plain watered by the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates. It was a political, cultural, and economic centre of prime importance. The Arabs boasted of its succulent fruit: its apples, pears, grapes, and pomegranates. The fine cloth it exported - called 'muslin', a word derived from the city's name - was known throughout the world. At the time of the arrival of the Franj, the people of the emir Karbuqa's realm were already exploiting another natural resource, which the traveller Ibn Jubayr was to describe with amazement a few dozen years later: deposits of naphtha. This precious dark liquid, which would one day make the fortune of this part of the world, already offered travellers an unforgettable spectacle.” 1 likes
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