The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades
Paul M. Cobb
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In 1099, when the first crusaders arrived triumphant and bloody before the walls of Jerusalem, they carved out a Christian European presence in the Islamic world that remained for centuries, bolstered by subsequent waves of new crusades and pilgrimages. But how did medieval Muslims understand these events? What does an Islamic history of the Crusades look like? The answers may surprise you.
In The Race for Paradise, we see medieval Muslims managing this new and long-lived Crusader threat not simply as victims or as victors, but as everything in-between, on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. This is not just a straightforward tale of warriors and kings clashing in the Holy Land - of military confrontations and enigmatic heros such as the great sultan Saladin. What emerges is a more complicated story of border-crossers and turncoats; of embassies and merchants; of scholars and spies, all of them seeking to manage this new threat from the barbarian fringes of their ordered world.
When seen from the perspective of medieval Muslims, the Crusades emerge as something altogether different from the high-flying rhetoric of the European chronicles: as a diplomatic chess-game to be mastered, a commercial opportunity to be seized, a cultural encounter shaping Muslim experiences of Europeans until the close of the Middle Ages - and, as so often happened, a political challenge to be exploited by ambitious rulers making canny use of the language of jihad.
comparatively vast, most of it in Spanish and French. An accessible and consistently rewarding overview can be had with Richard Fletcher, Moorish Spain (New York: Henry Holt, 1992). A shrewd survey of political history is Hugh Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus (London: Longman, 1996). Various aspects of the rich history of al-Andalus are treated by the experts in Salma Khadra Jayyusi, ed., The Legacy of Muslim Spain, 2 vols. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994).
Contents Acknowledgments Maps and Illustrations Maps Illustrations (located in separate art gallery) A Note about Names Principal Historical Figures and Dynasties The Race for Paradise Prologue: Damascus Crossroads 1: The Abode of Islam The World Turned Upside Down Islam and the Peoples of Christian Europe The Islamic Oikumene The Circle of Equity Holy Wars Holy Lands 2: The Frightened Sea The Origins of Frankish Aggression The Sunni-Shi'i Cold War Fatimid Genesis and Fatimid Calamity Terror
Muslims both embraced a concept of holy war has often been remarked, but there is no evidence for any connec- tion between the concept of jihad in Islam and the concept of crusade that developed later in Latin Christendom. Because of their common roots in a universal monotheism whose God is a jealous god, there is perhaps a certain family resemblance. But these concepts developed independently of one another and have important differences. It is true that crusades and jihads must
jihad spirit of earlier times with that of politicians of his own day and find the latter wanting. Nor would he be the last. He saw in it the sign of some larger act of divine will. The “abandonment of jihad” caused God to break apart Muslims in order “to hurl enmity and hate between them and so to tempt their enemies to snatch their lands from their grasp and thereby distress their hearts.” The enemy had attacked Syria because it had received reports that “disagreements between its
Catalan contingent from Barcelona, rounded the Cabo de Gata and forced its way into the heart of the port. The Muslim defenders, having already played their hand and still engaged with the Genoese, could do nothing as these new arrivals disembarked and joined in the combat. The Muslims scattered back to the safety of their walls; some who tried to flee by sea were intercepted by the Genoese. A change in the wind obliged the fleet to depart, but the residents of Almería knew that more