"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).

Friday, August 2, 2013

In the Shadow of the Sword

The legacy of Islam, and the nature of its founding, continue to be controverted today when we are confronted with Islamic violence against Christians in places like Egypt, the second-earliest conquest of the Muslim Arabs in the first four decades of the seventh century. A recent book sheds some light on that conquest: Tom Holland, In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire (Doubleday, 2012), 544pp.

About this book we are told:
No less significant than the collapse of the Roman Republic or the Persian invasion of Greece, the evolution of the Arab empire is one of the supreme narratives of ancient history, a story dazzlingly rich in drama, character, and achievement.  Just like the Romans, the Arabs came from nowhere to carve out a stupefyingly vast dominion—except that they achieved their conquests not over the course of centuries as the Romans did but in a matter of decades. Just like the Greeks during the Persian wars, they overcame seemingly insuperable odds to emerge triumphant against the greatest empire of the day—not by standing on the defensive, however, but by hurling themselves against all who lay in their path.

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