The following book review of Muslim Sources of the Crusader Period: An Anthology, by James E. Lindsay and Suleiman A. Mourad, first appeared in the Middle East Quarterly.
“This anthology,” say professors James E. Lindsay and Suleiman Ali Mourad, “is an attempt to bring to light a disparate selection of sources that in our assessment introduce the student of Crusades history to a more complex understanding of the Crusades and the interactions between Franks and Muslims—which ranged from animosity to amity—in the broader context of Islamic history.”
The authors succeed, including by presenting several Muslim sources, “many translated here into English for the first time.” In six chapters which cover a broad range of topics and genres—including travel and geographical literature, jihadist and juridical directives, chronicles and poetry, treaties and truces—the authors give an account of the Crusades, from an exclusively Muslim perspective.
Not only is the book balanced, reproducing the (admittedly few and circumstantial) accounts of amity; it is objective, and does not dissemble over those topics that most concerned Muslim authors, for example, jihad. After properly dismissing the otherwise much vaunted “spiritual” or “greater” jihad as being “without foundation,” Lindsay and Mourad assert, “When the authors of the Muslim sources in this anthology used the word jihad, they invariably meant warfare against the enemies of God [Allah] and the Muslims.”
For students of the Crusades, the book offers several important features, including appendixes (an especially useful one is titled “Quranic Verses on War and Peace”), biographical overviews, glossaries, and maps. The authors end each chapter with pedagogical questions to get the reader to think. Especially helpful are the many scholarly footnotes to assist the non-specialist in navigating what may seem a strange terrain, including one that exposes a little known pun among Muslims, who referred to Christendom’s most sacred church in Jerusalem, the Church of Resurrection (qiyama) as the Church of Refuse (qumama).
Those interested in current events and questions will find that the book unwittingly demonstrates a certain continuity with the present. It confirms that much of the behavior that is now presented as being aberrant or “radical” to Islam—intrinsic animosity for non-Muslims, expectations of cowed (or dhimmi) behavior from subjugated Jews and Christians, the destruction or transformation of churches into mosques, the temporal nature of truces (or the eternal nature of jihad), praise for jihadist “martyrdom” and the allure of the houri—were the norm for the illustrious Muslim authors excerpted in this much welcomed volume.