Whenever history is trying to conceal something from the mankind in the depth of its wisdom, there are always the people who dare to take a glimpse on the truths that are hidden from the rest of the world. These were called the crusaders, and the fame of theirs was spread all around the world, as they went on to face the future adventures and unravel the mysteries that the world was full of.
However, the merciless history tells us that thee events were far from being the truth. In fact, the Arab world is still a land uncharted to the Europeans, and the crusades that were undertaken to subdue the Arabs to the European culture were not what they are being told today. Maalouf shares the facts that speak what people have never heard of before.
The Europeans are used to take the crusades that they have been reading about in the books in history and have heard of as they listened to some historians – European historians, to be more precise – and, as a result, the opinions formed on the suggested topic do not delight with their diversity.
It seems more than clear to an average man – not the one who has been entangled into this history, whose roots are the roots of the Muslim people – that the crusaders had all the rights to invade the territory of Palestine and search for the people of different religious beliefs (Saracens, as they wee called, they were said to pose an immense threat to the rest of the world with their beliefs and their way of living a life, their customs and traditions, as well as their culture in general).
This was considered fair and just to the people of the Medieval Europe, and they supported the crusaders as far as they could – in fact, the former were heroes in the eyes of the Western savage world.
The mistakes of the history and the people who have made their tribute to its being written and read a complete lie, from the beginning till the end. The Muslim world that the crusaders have been chasing and trying to wipe from the face of the Erath once and for all was not the aggressor, as it was supposed before, but the victim, as it turned out not so long ago according to the studies held in this direction by a famous scientist Amin Maalouf. As the writer out it himself,
The basic idea of this book is simple: to tell the story of the Crusaders as they were seen, lived, and recorded on ‘the other side’ – in other words, in the Arab camp. Its context is based almost exclusively on the testimony of contemporary Arab historians and chroniclers. (Maalouf 11)
The author has found the materials and data that can contradict the knowledge that the Europeans – and, in fact, the Asians as well – have got so far about the Medieval people of Palestine and their European neighbors that had been chasing them for the lands that they had and for the beliefs that contradicted what the official church established.
The huge amount of documents has been worked on to achieve the result that Maalouf has. The author has been digging through the numerous chronicles and historical pieces of evidence to attain the knowledge of the real state of affairs in the Medieval Palestine.
His efforts were finally crowned with success. As it turned out, the Palestinians were no more than victims of the harsh medieval times and the ideology that the Christina church was seeding in Europe, among the most influential politics.
This was something that the local dwellers, the Arabs, could not bear anymore. Of course, the invasion made them fight tooth and nail against the aggressors that were trying to behold the power over the state that did not belong to them and was completely foreign according to its beliefs and its ideas of what religion is supposed to be.
In fact, the people were merely trying to save the most precious thing that they had never had in their lives, since the Arabs are well known for their attitude towards God and everything that is connected with Him. Since the retreat was not the tactics of the brave people of Palestine, the warriors as they were, they decided to start y heated battle with those who dare to profane their dwelling and the temples that they have created to worship their God: “’Man’s meanest weapon, he shouted, ‘is to shed tears when rapiers stir the coals of war’.” (13)
This simple truth that Maalouf was trying to convey to the public was first greeted with an air of suspicion. That is something that can be easily explained and is rather predictable result, for people do not change their opinions so easily.
There were some more facts to prove, which Maalouf managed with utter success. He proved that the Asian people who were accused in the medieval times of numerous crimes and mischief were actually the victims of the prejudice that the European had against the Muslim world.
Though it is arguable that the changes in the history are of great importance now and it is far from being credible that, once introduced to the wide public, these facts will be acknowledged by the people in the whole world, the author is still positive about the great impact that his work is going to have on the mankind and its attitude towards the Muslim world.
Beginning with the ideas of Ibn Al-Qualanisi, the great Asian philosopher and the author of the chronicles of the crusaders era, Maalouf continues telling the stories that have been carved into the ancient scripts and have not been talked about since the day when the battle between the two opponents was finished.
Making the example of the Frankish armies, the historian opens a large discussion that is rather polemic, yet clarifying several issues that have been the misconceptions that people have been adhering to for centuries. As Maalouf quoted the great Asian philosopher Saladin, “Behold with what obstinacy they fight for their religion, while we, the Muslims, show no enthusiasm for waging holy war.” (Maalouf 1).
With the explanations of this kind, and a new retrospective look into the Medieval epoch, one can find a plenty of subjects that even the modern historians have been mistaking about. These are all connected to the influence of the Saracens on the European countries and their bearing unfriendly plots of attack on the European armies and the people of the Christian beliefs.
Proving the above mentioned wrong, Maalouf makes a very important step towards the change of the perception of the Muslim world in the modern times. It is a well-known fact that the modern science is very reluctant to rewrite he history that concerns the conflicts between the Asians and the European world, since the subject has been politicized in the most harsh and uncompromising way.
That is what lies on the one hand, yet in the other justice demands that the history should be reviewed and that the common people could have the access to the facts that could change their attitude to the people of Asian origin once and or all. It is necessary that the tragic mistakes of the past should be corrected and the people should not suffer from the unfair treatment any longer.
However, Maalouf not only shows the grief and misery of the people whose domain has been invaded and was suffering from the violent actions of the aggressors, but also takes the reader to the wonderful world of the Asian culture, as rich with ancient tales as with the ancient treasures that delighted the travelers from al over the world and set the idea of the splendor and chic of the Muslim culture around the entire globe:
Alexuis was one of the most prestigious figures of the Orient at the time. Kilij Arslan was genuinely fascinated by his short-statures quinquagenarian, always decked in gold and in rich blue robes, with his carefully tended beard, elegant manners and eyes sparkling with malice. (Maalouf 4)
Indeed, the splendor of this world was something that the European culture could not achieve, and the posh and rich elements of décor of the European Medieval culture are no more than unsuccessful trying to snatch a piece of the magnificence of the Asian culture and the Asian traditions. That seems more than weird, and it could be practically called a duplicity. In spite of the fact that the Europeans had a stronger army, they were hardly as powerful and strong as the Saracens
The author also emphasizes that delicacy was not the prior asset of the Medieval Europeans as it came to choosing the means to struggle the Palestinians. It is well worth mentioning that the troops that the European army was formed of consisted of numerous people of Asian origin, who were made to take the crusade against the Palestinians:
The Byzantines had been suspicious of the Franj ever since, but the imperial armies, short of experienced soldiers, had no choice but to recruit mercenaries, and not only Franj: many Turkish warriors also fought under the banners of the Christian empire. (Maalouf 5)
Although the above mentioned cannot serve as an excuse for the Asians to serve in the armies that were going to kill the Asian people, this does not speak in favor of the European leaders either, with their hatred towards the Asians, for they should have been sticking to their positions to the end and not to take any help from the people whom they considered their enemies.
With stronger beliefs and with the feeling that they are fighting for the right thing, they had all the chances to win. Finally, they managed to show to the whole Europe that they are more than a bunch of outcasts.
One could argue that the events that occurred long before the modern world was born have no impact on the reality of these days, yet it is only half of the truth. As the recent research has shown, most of the scientists who teach the history of the Medieval Asia in the universities in the West are Europeans, though logically these are the Arabs who should possess the most impressive knowledge on the subject.
With all the respect to the studies tat have been conveyed so far by the European scientists, they all were mistaken to have presumed the point of view that was implemented by the materials and chronicles written by the European scientists and researchers, not taking into consideration the ones that were suggested by the Muslim world.
This was the major misconception that led top the mistakes in the reconstruction of the historical events. Meanwhile, Maalouf, in spite of the multiple obstacles that emerged on his way to the truth hidden behind the crusades, has managed to reveal to the world the secrets that were thought to have been lost long before the modern world was born.
With the new knowledge attained from the book by the talented writer, it is possible to suggest that the history will be viewed from the point of view of the Asian people as well, and the tragic mistakes that the Europeans made during the cruel Medieval era would be remembered as one of the most unfortunate attempts of those beholding the power to conceal the truth from the ordinary people.
And it is even more important that these prejudice should not interfere the modern relationships between the Arabs and the European countries and their people. Since the story told by Maalouf is something that each of us should know, the book of his is one more tribute to the treasure trove of the world historical heritage. Keeping in mind the knowledge that they have received, people will never repeat the mistakes that they have done once.
Maalouf, Amin. The Crusades Through Arab Eyes. New York, NY: Schocken Books, 1984. Print.