Europe and the Islamic World: A History

Europe and the Islamic World: A History

Europe and the Islamic World: A History

Europe and the Islamic World: A History


Europe and the Islamic World sheds much-needed light on the shared roots of Islamic and Western cultures and on the richness of their inextricably intertwined histories, refuting once and for all the misguided notion of a "clash of civilizations" between the Muslim world and Europe. In this landmark book, three eminent historians bring to life the complex and tumultuous relations between Genoans and Tunisians, Alexandrians and the people of Constantinople, Catalans and Maghrebis--the myriad groups and individuals whose stories reflect the common cultural, intellectual, and religious heritage of Europe and Islam.

Since the seventh century, when the armies of Constantinople and Medina fought for control of Syria and Palestine, there has been ongoing contact between the Muslim world and the West. This sweeping history vividly recounts the wars and the crusades, the alliances and diplomacy, commerce and the slave trade, technology transfers, and the intellectual and artistic exchanges. Here readers are given an unparalleled introduction to key periods and events, including the Muslim conquests, the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the commercial revolution of the medieval Mediterranean, the intellectual and cultural achievements of Muslim Spain, the crusades and Spanish reconquest, the rise of the Ottomans and their conquest of a third of Europe, European colonization and decolonization, and the challenges and promise of this entwined legacy today.

As provocative as it is groundbreaking, this book describes this shared history in all its richness and diversity, revealing how ongoing encounters between Europe and Islam have profoundly shaped both.


CONTEMPORARY POLITICS and the media have too often produced a narrative of conflicting paradigms that sees the world and the history of relations between the West and Islam in terms of a clash of civilizations, Orientalism versus Occidentalism, fourteen centuries of jihad versus Crusades and colonialism, Islamophobia and anti-Westernism. Lost in the cultural crossfire are the religious, historical, political, and cultural diversity rather than monolithic nature of the West and the Muslim world and positive interactions and exchanges and cross-fertilization.

Despite common historical and theological roots and beliefs, MuslimChristian relations have often been overshadowed by political and economic as well as religious conflict as the armies and missionaries of Islam and of Christendom have been locked in a struggle for power and for souls: from the fall of the Byzantine (eastern Roman) Empire before Muslim armies in the seventh century to the Crusades during the eleventh and twelfth centuries; the expulsion of the “Moors” from Spain and the Inquisition; the Ottoman threat to overrun Europe; European (Christian) colonial expansion and domination from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries; the political and cultural challenge of the superpowers in the new colonialism or American “neocolonialism” since the latter half of the twentieth century; the creation of the state of Israel by Western “Christian” countries and Palestinian exile; the competition of Christian and Muslim missionaries today from Africa to Southeast Asia; and the contemporary reassertion of Islam in Muslim politics around the world.

Theologically, the very similarities of Christianity and Islam put the two on an early collision course. Islam belongs to the Abrahamic family of great monotheistic faiths. Muslims, like Jews and Christians, view themselves as the children of Abraham, as proclaimed in each of their sacred scriptures: the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’an. Despite specific and significant differences, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a belief in one God, the creator, sustainer, and ruler of the universe who is beyond ordinary experience. And all believe in angels, Satan, prophets, revelation, moral responsibility and accountability, divine judgment, and reward or punishment. Yet while Jews and Christians claim descent from Abraham and his wife, Sarah, through their son Isaac, Muslims trace their religious roots back to Abraham (Ibrahim) through Ismail, his firstborn son by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian servant.

Both religions had a universal message and mission. Both possessed a supersessionist theology—that is, each community believed that its covenant with . . .

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