The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity

By M. J. Akbar | Go to book overview

7

THE DOORS OF EUROPE

‘Do not weep as a woman over what you could not hold as a man.’

[Ayesha, mother of Boabdil, to her son when he sighed at the loss of Granada]

Do not do what you want, nor what you can, but what serves your interests.… If you visit a government office, you should enter blind and leave deaf.

[Two maxims prescribed by Alexander Mavrocordato, a Greek Prince who served the Ottoman empire, in the Book of Duties, quoted in Philip Mansel’s Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire, 1453-1924, John Murray, 1995.]

There is no pain in life, they say in Granada, so cruel as to be blind in Alhambra. When the Arabs of the desert conquered Spain, they said that they had reached heaven. From the ramparts of the Alhambra, sitting on a spur of the Sierra Nevada, look out and you see a paradise created by nature; look in and you see a paradise created by man. Those who reduce romance from the story of Alhambra make themselves poorer; memory is more fertile than arid fact.

The subjects of the Last Moor, Boabdil, called him El Zogoybi, or The Unlucky. Others called him El Rey Chico, or the Boy King. Boys change, but sometimes luck does not. His father, ibn Hassan, fell in love late in life with a Christian captive Zoraya. Amble through the Court of Cypresses in the gardens of Alhambra and guides will point knowingly to the nook in the cool, shaded, and splendid bowers where the king courted his love. Ibn Hassan’s wife Ayesha would have hardly created a fuss over another

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The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - Chapter and Verse 1
  • 2 - The Joys of Death: a Bargain with Allah 12
  • 3 - Rebellions in the Dark of the Night 26
  • 4 - A Map of Islam 40
  • 5 - Circle of Hell 52
  • 6 - Allah! Muhammad! Saladin! 67
  • 7 - The Doors of Europe 83
  • 8 - Jihad in the East: a Crescent Over Delhi 99
  • 9 - The Holy Sea: Pepper and Power 113
  • 10 - The Bargain Goes Sour 131
  • 11 - The Wedge and the Gate 145
  • 12 - History as Anger, Jihad as Non-Violence 160
  • 13 - Islam in Danger Zone 177
  • 14 - Jinnah Redux and the Age of Osama 189
  • Glossary 214
  • A Suggested Reading List 218
  • Thumbnail Sketches 228
  • Index 251
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