Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

Article excerpt

GOD'S CRUCIBLE: ISLAM AND THE MAKING OF EUROPE, 570-1215 by DAVID LEVERING LEWIS W.W. Norton, 384 pages, $29.95

Muslim Spain, Al-Andalus, has only a minor role to play in most accounts of Western history. Yet for five centuries Muslims created a unique culture more brilliant than the civilization being constructed by the Carolingians and dieir successors. Lewis' aim is to set the developments in Spain into the larger history of Islam and the West and to show how the intellectual advances in Andalusia influenced Christian European culture. His hero is Abdar-Rahman, the Falcon of Andalus, the eighth-century Muslim ruler responsible for building the Mezquita, the exquisite mosque in Cordoba, one of the architectural wonders of the world. Lewis writes well and has an eye for arresting details. But, in his zeal to celebrate convivenzia, cultural and civic collaboration among Muslims, Jews, and Christians in Andalusia, and to applaud Muslim openness to new scientific and philosophical ideas, he has constructed a caricature of Western medieval society. …

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