Jews, Christians, and the Abode of Islam: Modern Scholarship, Medieval Realities

Article excerpt

Jews, Christians, and the Abode of Islam: Modern Scholarship, Medieval Realities.

By Jacob Lassner. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2012. Pp. xiii, 312. $45.

Jacob Lassner, professor emeritus of Jewish civilization and professor of religion and history at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, is well known for his previous historical works on interfaith relations in the Islamicate realm (the term "Islamicate" comes from the historian Marshall Hodgson and refers to areas of life, not strictly in accord with Islam's religious tenets, in which nevertheless Muslims were culturally dominant). This book combines his expertise in this topic with a discussion of how non-Muslim scholarship has accommodated Islam and contributed to the cultural interaction among the Abrahamic faiths. His thoughts and analysis are presented in a series of essays, which are divided into medieval and modern.

Within the first set of essays Lassner outlines the development of European interest in Islam from the Crusades to the contemporary age. This outline is followed by a review of the response to Orientalism, the critique of which is not limited to Muslim or Arab quarters. Lassner's detailed and thoughtful summary of what he calls Occidentalist responses to Orientalism is supplemented with his own answers to many of its arguments. The style of this section betrays his skepticism towards critics who "tend to be more at home with the ideas of Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault than those of the great Muslim authors writing in the heyday of Islamic cultural achievement" (91). …

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