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.
"Islam and the West is a well-written and erudite book, affording many important insights on the history of cultural interaction between Europe and the Middle East.--Diplomatic History
"Demonstrate[s] breadth and depth of scholarship and an ability to communicate with both specialists and nonspecialists."--Journal of Ecumenical Studies
"A valuable collection of essays and topics for introductory graduate seminars on Middle East politics."--Sandra Halperin, University of Pittsburgh
"Lewis's scholarship is prodigious....He avoids dogmatic positions himself and sees dogma as something to be analyzed. It is this sense of nuance, of historical setting, of honesty to texts, that informs the essays in Islam and the West."--The New York Review of Books
"Lewis speaks with authority, in prose marked by lucidity, elegance, wit and force....A challenging book that deserves a wide audience....Lewis writes with great force and clarity."--New York Newsday
"Brilliant...weaves a seamless web between past and present. In collection of remarkable learning and range Mr. Lewis takes us, as he alone among today's historians and interpreters of Islam can, from the early encoutners of Christendom and Islam to today's Islamic dilemmas. To read Mr. Lewis on Europe's obsession with the Ottoman Turks, the raging battle between secularism and fundamentalism in the Muslim world, or the difficulty of studying other peoples'
histories is to be taken through a treacherous terrain by the coolest and most reassuring of guides. You are in the hands of the Islamic world's foremost living historian. Of that world's ordeal he writes with the greatest care and authority and no small measure of sympathy."--Fouad Ajami, writing in
The Wall Street Journal
"Mr. Lewis contrasts the Christian and Islamic civilizations and explains their interaction in war and peace, commerce and culture....Islam and the West is a primer for greater understanding of the countries engaged in cold and hot wars that, directly or indirectly, are rooted in religion."--The New York Times
"A leading Islamicist, though sometimes a controversial one, Lewis here gathers some 11 essays that seek to 'open doors to the innermost domains of Islam.' There are long pieces on Gibbon, Edward Said's Orientalism, the trickiness of translating Arabic, and on the 'shi'a in Islamic history,' among other subjects. As the title suggests, the book's main thrust is one the encounter--all too grequently the clash--between Europe and the Middle
"Even when one disagrees with Lewis, he is well worth reading for the experience and erudition of his writing, and the refreshing lucidity of his style."--San Francisco Chronicle
"A scholar who through industry and intellectual brilliance has achieved pre-eminence in his field."--Washington Times
"Eleven superb essays on the culture clash between the Islamic nations of the Middle East and the more secularized West....Scholarly but not pedantic, writing without fear or favor, Lewis makes an ideal guide through the political, religious, and cultural thickets of Islam....A learned, forceful analysis that treats Islam with respect, not condescension."--Kirkus Reviews
"Erudite...powerful and revealing. Everywhere in this book Mr. Lewis's commanding achievement is evident--his great learning, his deep knowledge of Arabic philology, his masterly acquaintance with the history and culture of the Middle East, and his intimate familiarity with the relations of East and West."--The New York Times Book Review
"A very learned and thoughtful work. Lewis' comparative and synthetich approaches to the issues discussed are highly informative and worthy of careful reading by both specialists in the field(s) and lay readers."--Andrej Kreutz, Arab Studies Quarterly