"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Arab-Byzantine Diplomacy

As I have noted before, we still do not know enough about the first encounters between Eastern Christians and Muslims as the latter emerged from the Arab world to encounter the former in the Byzantine empire. Perhaps a new book may deepen our understanding: Maria Vaiou, Diplomacy in the Early Islamic World: A Tenth-Century Treatise on Arab-Byzantine Relations (Tauris Academic, 2011, 288pp.).

About this book the publisher tells us:
Arab messengers played a vital role in the medieval Islamic world and its diplomatic relations with foreign powers. An innovative treatise from the tenth century (Rusul al-Mulik, Messengers of Kings) is perhaps the most important account of the diplomacy of the period, and it is here translated into English for the first time. Rusul al-Mulik draws on examples from the Qur’an and other sources which extend from the period of al- jihiliyya to the time of the Abbasid caliph al-Mu‘tasim (218-227/833-842). 
In the only medieval Arabic work which exists on the conduct of messengers and their qualifications, the author Ibn al-Farri rejects jihadist policies in favor of quiet diplomacy and a pragmatic outlook of constructive realpolitik. Rusul al-Mulik is an extraordinarily important and original contribution to our understanding of the early Islamic world and the field of International Relations and Diplomatic History.

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