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Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as the doyen of Middle Eastern studies, Bernard Lewis has been for half a century one of the West's foremost scholars of Islamic history and culture, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, and The Muslim Discovery of Europe. Eminent Fren Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as the doyen of Middle Eastern studies, Bernard Lewis has been for half a century one of the West's foremost scholars of Islamic history and culture, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, and The Muslim Discovery of Europe. Eminent French historian Robert Mantran has written of Lewis's work: How could one resist being attracted to the books of an author who opens for you the doors of an unknown or misunderstood universe, who leads you within to its innermost domains: religion, ways of thinking, conceptions of power, culture--an author who upsets notions too often fixed, fallacious, or partisan. In Islam and the West, Bernard Lewis brings together in one volume eleven essays that indeed open doors to the innermost domains of Islam. Lewis ranges far and wide in these essays. He includes long pieces, such as his capsule history of the interaction--in war and peace, in commerce and culture--between Europe and its Islamic neighbors, and shorter ones, such as his deft study of the Arabic word watan and what its linguistic history reveals about the introduction of the idea of patriotism from the West. Lewis offers a revealing look at Edward Gibbon's portrait of Muhammad in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (unlike previous writers, Gibbon saw the rise of Islam not as something separate and isolated, nor as a regrettable aberration from the onward march of the church, but simply as a part of human history); he offers a devastating critique of Edward Said's controversial book, Orientalism; and he gives an account of the impediments to translating from classic Arabic to other languages (the old dictionaries, for one, are packed with scribal errors, misreadings, false analogies, and etymological deductions that pay little attention to the evolution of the language). And he concludes with an astute commentary on the Islamic world today, examining revivalism, fundamentalism, the role of the Shi'a, and the larger question of religious co-existence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. A matchless guide to the background of Middle East conflicts today, Islam and the West presents the seasoned reflections of an eminent authority on one of the most intriguing and little understood regions in the world.


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Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as the doyen of Middle Eastern studies, Bernard Lewis has been for half a century one of the West's foremost scholars of Islamic history and culture, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, and The Muslim Discovery of Europe. Eminent Fren Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as the doyen of Middle Eastern studies, Bernard Lewis has been for half a century one of the West's foremost scholars of Islamic history and culture, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, and The Muslim Discovery of Europe. Eminent French historian Robert Mantran has written of Lewis's work: How could one resist being attracted to the books of an author who opens for you the doors of an unknown or misunderstood universe, who leads you within to its innermost domains: religion, ways of thinking, conceptions of power, culture--an author who upsets notions too often fixed, fallacious, or partisan. In Islam and the West, Bernard Lewis brings together in one volume eleven essays that indeed open doors to the innermost domains of Islam. Lewis ranges far and wide in these essays. He includes long pieces, such as his capsule history of the interaction--in war and peace, in commerce and culture--between Europe and its Islamic neighbors, and shorter ones, such as his deft study of the Arabic word watan and what its linguistic history reveals about the introduction of the idea of patriotism from the West. Lewis offers a revealing look at Edward Gibbon's portrait of Muhammad in Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (unlike previous writers, Gibbon saw the rise of Islam not as something separate and isolated, nor as a regrettable aberration from the onward march of the church, but simply as a part of human history); he offers a devastating critique of Edward Said's controversial book, Orientalism; and he gives an account of the impediments to translating from classic Arabic to other languages (the old dictionaries, for one, are packed with scribal errors, misreadings, false analogies, and etymological deductions that pay little attention to the evolution of the language). And he concludes with an astute commentary on the Islamic world today, examining revivalism, fundamentalism, the role of the Shi'a, and the larger question of religious co-existence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. A matchless guide to the background of Middle East conflicts today, Islam and the West presents the seasoned reflections of an eminent authority on one of the most intriguing and little understood regions in the world.

30 review for Islam and the West

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mashael

    Historical facts that I have never stumbled on ever before, yet the book is very subjectively written. Lewis intentionally left out the other sides of Islam and limited his argument to military and Jihad! As if Islam is only about that. The book is very polemic e.g. in the chapter about translation, the writer takes some words out of their context and provides the meaning alone without putting them in the right context. The book is subjectively written as the writer is too biased. I recommend th Historical facts that I have never stumbled on ever before, yet the book is very subjectively written. Lewis intentionally left out the other sides of Islam and limited his argument to military and Jihad! As if Islam is only about that. The book is very polemic e.g. in the chapter about translation, the writer takes some words out of their context and provides the meaning alone without putting them in the right context. The book is subjectively written as the writer is too biased. I recommend those who read it or wanna read it, to read Richard Bulliet's Islamo-Chistian Civilization to understand Lewis's polemic style.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    It is rare when one reads a book like this one that contains some genuinely fierce discussion about the issue of research.  To what extent can outsiders speak knowledgeably about groups?  I happen to know that when I look at what outsiders think of my own religious traditions, what is said often bears little relationship to what goes on.  I suspect this is a common phenomenon when people only notice a group to show hostility to it.  Yet even if many of us, myself included, do not necessarily hav It is rare when one reads a book like this one that contains some genuinely fierce discussion about the issue of research.  To what extent can outsiders speak knowledgeably about groups?  I happen to know that when I look at what outsiders think of my own religious traditions, what is said often bears little relationship to what goes on.  I suspect this is a common phenomenon when people only notice a group to show hostility to it.  Yet even if many of us, myself included, do not necessarily have a great deal of fondness for Islam, it is of the utmost importance to understand it accurately, and this book does a good job at pointing out why this is done, and what is it that makes the West as a whole a curious culture about others in a way that is not reciprocated in kind.  And why is it that Westerners are given a particular double standard that others are not when it comes to curiosity.  No one thinks that people of the Arab street have no ability to form opinions and come to judgments about the United States, after all.  Why is this so? This book consists of eleven essays that together make up a bit less than 200 pages of material.  The first two essays look at encounters, and include an essay about the long relationship between Europe and Islam and the general one-sided nature of investigation for a long time between them (1).  After this there is a thoughtful essay on the history and position of Muslim populations under non-Muslim rule (2).  The next five essays contain studies and perceptions on the study of the Near East, including essays on translation from Arabic (3), the Ottoman obsession of many writers (4), Gibbon's biased and anti-Christian thoughts on Muhammad (5), and two essays that deal pointedly with the problem of orientalism (6,7).  In particular, the author shows himself to be a fierce critic of Edward Said and his thoughts about Western scholars who study the Middle East, and those of his ilk.  The book then concludes with four essays that deal with the Islamic response and reaction to the power of the West, including essays on the return of Islam (8), the history of the Shi'a in Islam (9), the relationship between country and freedom in the Muslim world (10), and the question of religious coexistence and secularism in the Middle East and Europe (11). Why is there such an asymmetry between the West and Islam.  The West is far more knowledgeable about Islam than is the case vice versa.  In some ways, this relationship came about because of fear, because the West wanted to know a dangerous enemy and understand it, while the Islamic world has long been complacent about its greatness and strength, and has resorted to cosmic explanation to explain its malaise and its current state with regards to economics and military power.  Yet the west in general is pretty curious about the ways of others, and most of the world is not as curious about the West in response.  And that intense curiosity about the world and others tends to make others feel a bit irritated, as if there is somehow something malign in the curiosity of the West and in the interest of the people of the West into other cultures and other ways.  The author, fortunately, is not having any of the hypocritical arguments that would keep him from being considered a legitimate scholar of the Middle East, and he is definitely critical of those whose interest in Islam, like Gibbons, is done in order to attack the moral legitimacy of Christendom.  This book has a lot of spice, and it is certainly a worthwhile and enjoyable volume, if a sometimes contentious one.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alain DeWitt

    A collection of 11 essays and not a book with a single thesis. A bit dry. Some chapters are very academic, such as the one dealing with the problems and issues confronted when trying to translate Arabic. A couple of chapters are very informative, such as the one dealing with the question of Muslims under non-Muslim rule. My own favorite chapter is 'The Question of Orientalism' where he refutes Edward Said's eponymous book. A collection of 11 essays and not a book with a single thesis. A bit dry. Some chapters are very academic, such as the one dealing with the problems and issues confronted when trying to translate Arabic. A couple of chapters are very informative, such as the one dealing with the question of Muslims under non-Muslim rule. My own favorite chapter is 'The Question of Orientalism' where he refutes Edward Said's eponymous book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    Clear, crisp, Lewis covers a moderate range of topics focusing on Islam (generally), the West and the Islamic world's understandings (and misunderstandings) of one another, and the source and development of a number of important concepts in Islam, to include modern religiously-motivated political movements. Lewis' no-nonsense scholarship is on display and one cannot help but appreciate how deeply steeped he is in his topic. One chapter is devoted to powerfully refuting Edward Said's Orientalism, Clear, crisp, Lewis covers a moderate range of topics focusing on Islam (generally), the West and the Islamic world's understandings (and misunderstandings) of one another, and the source and development of a number of important concepts in Islam, to include modern religiously-motivated political movements. Lewis' no-nonsense scholarship is on display and one cannot help but appreciate how deeply steeped he is in his topic. One chapter is devoted to powerfully refuting Edward Said's Orientalism, all the while still welcoming scholarly criticism of the study of Islam, from within and without. Lewis has a reputation for being unsympathetic to Islam, though one picks up throughout this book that he is not particularly sympathetic toward Christianity or, indeed, religion in general. In fact, Lewis tended to minimize many of the more commonly criticized parts of Islam and Islamic history, such as the treatment of non-Muslims under Islamic rule (see Bat Ye'or's three books on Dhimmis and Dhimmitude for a more complete treatment of this subject), while sparing no effort to highlight a number of complementary complaints about European behavior on those various issues. In his overall brief historical survey of Islam, he probably aims for a person with moderate knowledge of the subject, though not a fellow expert or a novice. In his other chapters, he tends to go into more depth on particular aspects of his subject. While the reader does not trip over end notes, Lewis provides enough for someone with avid interest to see where he obtained his information or proceed with further study. Given the continued currency of conflict, competition, and sometimes even collaboration between Western and Islamic countries, and the substantial developments and changes rocking the Islamic world from within, this book makes for a good read for anyone interested in the subject, though for those just beginning the journey, other books may be a better place to start (such as Islam, a Primer).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike Porter

    A book I pulled off the library shelf just for the title then found it to be a scholarly treatment of the history of Islam and it's relationship, primarily to Western Europe and Christendom. I found most helpful the explanations of how different Islam is from the Judeo-Christian way of looking at the world, and, boy, are they different. The book does a very thorough job of tracing the rise of Islam and it's 1000 yr threat to the West, until military and political powers of Europe forced Islam in A book I pulled off the library shelf just for the title then found it to be a scholarly treatment of the history of Islam and it's relationship, primarily to Western Europe and Christendom. I found most helpful the explanations of how different Islam is from the Judeo-Christian way of looking at the world, and, boy, are they different. The book does a very thorough job of tracing the rise of Islam and it's 1000 yr threat to the West, until military and political powers of Europe forced Islam into decline. This book gives context for today's troubles. I found it valuable in that way. A bit dry at times. Written 20 some years ago by a noted expert, I wonder how the author would discuss the current turmoil in the Muslim world and it's conflicts with ours.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Peter Johnson

    Well worth the read. An older book but by no means irrelevant to current issues between Islam and 'the West' as identified by Lewis. It gives much useful information to help to understand the background of some of today's most serious issues. Lewis brings to bear in his analysis an extensive acquaintance with church history and European history. This enables him to be fair in ways that do not always seem open to 'secular' historians. His study of Islam necessarily has meant some sympathy with th Well worth the read. An older book but by no means irrelevant to current issues between Islam and 'the West' as identified by Lewis. It gives much useful information to help to understand the background of some of today's most serious issues. Lewis brings to bear in his analysis an extensive acquaintance with church history and European history. This enables him to be fair in ways that do not always seem open to 'secular' historians. His study of Islam necessarily has meant some sympathy with those of that faith and enables him to note the breadth of Islam in its various expressions and to eschew stereotypes. I will probably read it again before too long.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Blaine Morrow

    Lewis speaks with authority and neutrality (perhaps leaning a bit toward Islam to counter the anti-Islam rhetoric he reports on), and provides in this collection of essays an insightful and informative history of Islam and a fresh perspective on the problems with coexistence with the West.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joe Arencibia

    A really good overview of the history of society and religion in the middle east and how it compares to western society. Written in a very readable, not-excessively-academic style.

  9. 5 out of 5

    George

    Very interesting viewpoints.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janek Lžičař

    Poněkud útržkovitý a krapet esejizující na úkor sdělnosti. Přes klopýtání v oblasti koherence můžu jako úvod do thematu jednoznačně doporučit. Ale nevim, co bych sem dál psal. Griloval bych.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Danice

    Reading this for a online course about the emergence of the modern modern Middle East. Very well written, it helped me gain a new understanding.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Austin Wright

    By far...Lewis' most complex work. I'd be lying if I said I understood it. By far...Lewis' most complex work. I'd be lying if I said I understood it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Téo

  14. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Dambro

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anna Besc

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Prashant Singh

  19. 4 out of 5

    Why L. Sadeye

  20. 5 out of 5

    Alia

  21. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Jasher

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nate

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dave/Maggie Bean

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gadea

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ramia

  26. 4 out of 5

    Turgut

  27. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Crocker

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kinch

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tiko Karosanidze

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