"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 11, 2015

Primary Texts on Christian-Muslim Relations

Presidents, popes, and other "celebrities" seem to think that, ex officio, they are authorized and even magically qualified to unburden themselves of incoherent and illiterate eructations about the Crusades (the same tiresome, fourth-hand, fifth-rate comic-opera presentations one has been hearing forever) and the messiness of Christian-Muslim relations down through the centuries. Perhaps in their retirement or spare time they might allow themselves to be schooled in some of this history on which I have remarked frequently. Perhaps too they might bestir themselves to pick up one of these forthcoming publications, about each of which I shall have more to say in the weeks ahead. It is always, always recommended that one read primary texts rather than the versions that make their way too often into historical accounts, which, especially in the hands of apologists, are too-often tendentious and twisted. Treat yourself, therefore, to one or all of these new volumes:

Jarbel Rodriguez, Muslim and Christian Contact in the Middle Ages: A Reader (University of Toronto Press, 2015), 456pp. 
About this book we are told:
This collection of over 80 primary source readings explores the complex history of Muslim and Christian relations from the seventh to the fifteenth century. With particular focus on the Mediterranean world, and incorporating the works of Byzantine, Jewish, Muslim, and Latin Christian authors, the documents help readers to understand the nature of conflict and contact between medieval Muslims and Christians. They reveal a history of warfare, piracy, and raiding, typically along religious lines, but also a history of commerce, intellectual exchanges, and personal relationships that transcended religious differences.
Many well-known sources are included, as well as lesser-known sources that have never before been translated into English. In collected form, the sources provide a holistic overview of the complex historical relationship between Muslims and Christians.
The second volume, from Michael Phillip Penn, is of especial interest to Eastern Christians: When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam (University of California Press, 2015), 280pp. 

About this book we are told:
The first Christians to meet Muslims were not Latin-speaking Christians from the western Mediterranean or Greek-speaking Christians from Constantinople but rather Christians from northern Mesopotamia who spoke the Aramaic dialect of Syriac. Living in what constitutes modern-day Iran, Iraq, Syria, and eastern Turkey, these Syriac Christians were under Muslim rule from the seventh century to the present. They wrote the earliest and most extensive accounts of Islam and described a complicated set of religious and cultural exchanges not reducible to the solely antagonistic. Through its critical introductions and new translations of this invaluable historical material, When Christians First Met Muslims allows scholars, students, and the general public to explore the earliest interactions of what eventually became the world’s two largest religions, shedding new light on Islamic history and Christian-Muslim relations.
Finally we come to a book set for release later this spring: Charles Tieszen, A Textual History of Christian-Muslim Relations: Seventh-Fifteenth Centuries (Fortress, May 2015), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
The question of Christian-Muslim relations is one of enduring importance in the twenty-first century. While there exists a broad range of helpful overviews on the question, these introductory texts often fail to provide readers with the depth that a thorough treatment of the primary sources and their authors would provide.
In this important new project, Charles Tieszen provides a collection of primary theological sources devoted to the formational period of Christian-Muslim relations. It provides brief introductions to authors and their texts along with representative selections in English translation. The collection is arranged according to the key theological themes that emerge as Christians and Muslims encounter one another in this era.
The result is a resource that offers students a far better grasp of the texts early Christians and Muslims wrote about each other and a better understanding of the important theological themes that are pertinent to Christian-Muslim dialogue today.

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