January 2, 2012
The book is titled The Crusades through Arab Eyes and it was written by Amin Maalouf. This piece of work was originally written in French, but then translated into English. This book was printed in the United States and published by Shocken Books in 1984. Amin Maalouf, born on February 25, 1949 in Beirut is a Lebanese and also a French speaking author. Maaloufis known for having written The Rock of Tanio, Leo the African, and Samarkand. He has conquered a couple of awards such as the Prince of Asturias Award for literature in the 2010 edition and a Prix Goncourt. Amin comes from a family of six; his parents and three siblings (excluding himself, he is the second of four). Amin Maalouf studied about sociology at the Francophone University of Saint-Josephin Beirut. And last but not least, Amin Maalouf worked as a director and an editor-in-chief of the leading Beirut daily An-Nahar and Jeune Afrique respectively. I chose this book because I was surprised to find a book that dealt with the Arab position on the Crusades. Normally, I would’ve expected to have found a normal book that just discusses the crusades in a general fashion. But this bookrather gives the reader the in-depth that he needs to know more about the Arab’s position on how they lived through and felt about the Crusades from their perspective as opposed to the ‘other side’.
Generally speaking this book’s main goal is to convey the message to the reader or tell how the crusades were lived and felt by the ‘other side,’ in other words, the Arab world. What many westerners seeabout the crusades as a courageous attempt to re-conquer the Holy land is remembered as a defiant and brutal act of rape against the Arab camp. When nearly 95% of all hope had been taken away, the now united Muslim ummah (community), under the leadership of Saladin, was able to tackle yet their most important victory, to free Al-Quds and bring hope once again to the Middle-east. The main thesisof this work of art would be: The different perspective of one side as opposed to another more commonly viewed in the West. Again, the main goal of this book is to teach the reader how the story of the Crusades was told by in the East, as opposed to the West. There are countless differences, and one of them is (from the Arab perspective) that the Franj (Arabic word for westerners or French) have nosense of honor, their fields of science and medicine were too primitive and their way of applying justice is backwards. For example, an Arab chronicler, Usamah Ibn Munqidh, narrates that “if one of them (Franj) is walking in the street with his wife and encounters another man, that man will take his wife’s hand and draw her aside and speak to her, while the husband stands waiting for them tofinish their conversation. If it lasts too long, he will leave her with her interlocutor and go off!” They were described as a people with no jealousy or honor.
As for their primitive science, Usamah relates that while he was in Nablus, he encountered a knight who had an abscess on his leg and a woman that was suffering from consumption. What their doctor prescribed to them was nothing medicinal,rather barbarian. For the knight, the Frankish doctor brought a strong knight holding an axe and ordered him to make a clean cut through his leg. His marrow was completely split and the man died that instant. As for the woman, the doctor’s best guess was that she had been possessed by a demon and thus had to cut her hair. His remedy obviously didn’t work and so the doctor cut an incision in theshape of a cross, exposed the bone of the skull and rubbed it with salt. The woman died in the blink of an eye. And last but not least, the Frankish way to apply justice is through either combat and the winner would be innocent and the loser would be guilty. Another way of applying justice would be by means of plunging an accused man suspended from a rope into a large casket filled with water. If he...
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