Early Christian-Islamic relations.
A nice scholarly book about early Christian/Islamic relations. The book is fairly short, but it details the early interactions of these cultures and religions. I was surprised with the early Islamic quest of knowledge which ultimately led to translations and increased knowledge for the whole world. Even the early Christian societies came to depend on the efforts Islamic societies placed on knowledge. Then as Christian societies developed, Islamic societies turned inward and more dogmatic. At the end of the Reformation, Christian Europe was ascendant, and Islamic society was mired in a downward spiral.
This is a good book for some basic knowledge on how the two religions relate to one another. There is a need for more knowledge on this subject.
More than just the Crusades!
Mr. Fletcher provides a quick and concise overview of how the European Christian nations interacted and conflicted with their Islamic neighbors from the Middle-east. This book is a rare balanced account of the centuries-old international rivalry between the two regions. Although most people tend to believe that the conflicts were about religion, the fact is dominance in trade and other economic factors were far more prevalent. In fact, it was often the case that Islamic principalities valued military and trade alliances with Christian powers over that of potential or blatant rivals among their fellow Muslims. The same is true for some Christian principalities.
Mr. Fletcher points out both the positive and negative factors in cross-cultural contact, such as the advances in the sciences and technology passed on to Western academics, particularly in the 12th and 13th centuries. In open conflict, atrocities were commited by both sides. Under occupation, neither fared well under the rule of the other, but conditions varied by place and time. One of the author's main points is that neither side was particularly interested in the other's religion, but also that religious persecution was in fact a major concern.
It has been a recent trend that many books on the subject of Christian-Islamic conflict tend to openly disparage the Christian side, over-emphasizing the Crusading Era. However, these facts need to be considered, and they are covered in this book:
-Christianity first experienced Islam (in 634) as an invading conqueror, suppressing and exploiting all non-Islamic people.
-The Islamic powers have made several attempts to invade, conquer, and permanently colonize vast regions of Europe: the conquest of Spain in 711-18, remaining as a presence until 1492; the conquest of Sicily in 827; a raid on Rome in 846; destruction of the Byzantine Empire in 1453; conquest of the Balkans in 1521, Hungary in 1526, and besieging Vienna in 1529 and later in the early 1600s. These were deep incursions into Europe, with the intent of permanent occupation.
The Crusades, however, were limited to establishing control of the relatively small region of Isreal, with no real interest in taking larger areas of the Middle-east.
Islam had open disdain for the Christian world, but the Christians had much interest in studying Arabic culture and language. It is a fact that early Islam did much to improve the sciences inherited from the ancient Greeks. This knowledge was in turn improved and expanded upon by the Christian nations. But due to Islam's disregard of the West, its not surprising that as the Western culture began to grow and thrive, the Middle-east stagnated into obscurity, becoming a shadow of their former prominence for many centuries after Europe's Renaissance.
Informative, Well Written, Insightful
I became with Richard Fletcher's book as a result of a very favorable book review, and quickly realized why the review was so positive. When I finally located it, I was surprised how small it was. Nevertheless, Fletcher presents a concise and highly readable analysis of Islamic-Christian relations since the founding of Islam.
One aspect of the book I found especially fasinating was the relationship between "Eastern" christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Often, the Eastern churches (i.e., Armenian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Syrian, to name a few) were treated with as much suspicion by the west as Islam. Fletcher's discussion of the crusades was also fascinating.
To say that the subject of this book is timely and historically important is, of course, an understatement. Probably most Americans would learn something important about our Islamic neighbors at this time of war, hatred, bloodshed and misunderstanding. As we begin nation building in Iraq, or Iran or eslewhere in the middle east, as we watch the death toll mounting from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will need as much information as we can gather to promote peace. This book is a great place to start.
Fun to read, wise, based on balanced scholarshipFrom Amazon With research including the true story behind the El Cid legend and on Christian Conversion of Barbarians, as well as Moorish Spain, Fletcher has special experience to bring to the task at hand.
Emphasizing Christian-Muslim relations in Spain he provides balance and great interest with wise observations and fascinating examples. He does not idealize or demonize either but presents an interesting story and sound basis for understanding the era before the Reformation and an example for approaching interfaith history more generally.
This is an outstanding and readable book that maintains perspective and is soundly rooted in scholarship
Presents Information Beyond the Stated Topic
While this book is about Muslim-Christian relations, it also presents some unique information. In terms of specifics, the book tabulates the Biblical references to prayer (pp. 70-71). The postures of prayer include kneeling, standing, spreading out hands, etc. Parshall notes the irony of Muslim prayer habits often being "more Biblical" than the often casual manner that Christians pray. Although God is much more interested in the attitude of the heart than the position of the body, Parshall's analysis provides food for thought for all who would wish to re-evaluate their approach to prayer.