An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades

Product Description
The life of Usâmah ibn-Munqidh epitomized the height of Arab civilization as it flourished in the period of the early Crusades. His memoirs present an uncommon non-European perspective and understanding of the military and cultural contact between East and West, Muslim and Christian. His writing is remarkable for its narrative clarity, its humanity, and its wealth of perceptive details.

An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades

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4 thoughts on “An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades

  1. Usamah calls his book “Kitab al-Itibar” or “The Book of Instructive Example.” True to its title, there is much to learn from this book, but what I found very interesting were perhaps things other than what Usamah wanted us to learn. For example, it was interesting to note the Arab perception of Franks, the relationship between Arabs and Franks during the first of two centuries of crusades on the Eastern Mediterranean, and aspects of the life of a prince and some commoners as well. The stories about hunts are numerous and tend to get boring, but they tell us of a rich fauna that is now largely extinct (lions, leopards, etc.). Usamah’s talk of old age provides a sobering philosophical view of life.

    What an excellent job by Philip Hitti who translated the manuscript from Arabic! Considering that the manuscript was lacking in things such diacritical marks (dots on Arabic letters), punctuation, etc. it is truly an amazing that he was able to pull this book together in the manner its stands. Thanks to Philip Hitti we can enjoy Usamah’s book: it is truly a delightful read!
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Unlike any other history book, this is a first hand account, day to day life of an Arab Syrian prince in the time of the crusades; He talks about his advantures, feelings and thoughts, it’s just like going back in time almost 1000 years. If you like history and especially the crusades, this book is a must. I go back and read this book every once in a while, it’s entertaining and informative.
    Rating: 5 / 5

  3. A great read as well as a solid historical source for the period.

    What i really enjoyed about this source where the unsual, little storie’s scattered throughout it’s pages. Beautifuly described little detail’s that help the reader get a more colourful picture of the Usamah’s times.

    For instance there is a description of a dual between a Mounted Frankish Knight and a Mounted Muslim Cavalier. The story recite’s how Usamah saw them both kill each other on their first charge, but how their warhorse’s continued to fight for a long time after.

    Unlike many other Chronicler’s of the time, Usamah is relativley unbiased. He recognise’s the Franks valour in battle, the Christian’s piety (saying that he has never seen a Frankish Christian genuinely convert to Islam).

    It is also a Medevial travel diary, documenting Usamas extensive travels.

    It is full of the usual curse’s and insults everytime the Christians or Jews name’s are mentioned, like all the Medieval Islamic Chronicles. However, if you can see beyond the propogandist protocol of the day, you will be entertained by Usamahs amusing antidotes and tales.

    A must for anyone intrested in either Islamic or Crusader history.

    My only reservation from giving this book five stars was that i became slightly bored torwards the end, when the book is describing Usamah’s many hunting exploits. I sometimes felt that had Usamah killed as many human foes as he had Lions, the Franks would of been expelled from Jerusalem far earlier than they actually where!!!!!

    Rating: 4 / 5

  4. We in the Western world all too rarely take the time to perceive and understand our modern society through anything other than Western eyes. So it is as well with that wondrously tragic period of our history known as the Crusades. While there are many contemperary histories of this era incorporating Western eye-witness accounts, there are but few with the perspectives of the invaded Orientals (i.e. Arabs, etc.). So the uniqueness of an account written by a period-contemporary ‘Arab-Syrian Gentleman’ will not be lost on the reader.
    “The Memoirs” are essentially just that: an autobiography of a twelfth-century Arab Muslim and the experiences of his long and eventful life. From his earliest memories in Syria before the First Crusade to his twilight days in Egypt and Damascus, Munqidh shares his vast knowledge with the reader, imparting as well his personal, ingrained biases. It is this latter which assists the reader in understanding the mind of the Crusading-era Muslim, even now oft-considered the enemy of Western “Christendom”. Indeed, some scholars argue that the key to understanding the Middle Easterner’s distrustful eye to the West lies in the very heart of the Crusades. Munqidh writes in the learned style one might expect of the educated nobility of his period, and though exquisitely detailed, he is neither long-winded nor boring. So whether the avid scholar or simply the interested amateur, “The Memoirs of Usamah Ibn-Munqidh” is truly a worthy read
    Rating: 5 / 5

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