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Reading List: The Middle East. Recommendations?

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AlexInBoston View Drop Down
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    Posted: 22 Oct 2009 at 05:31
Hi everyone,

I'm looking to get an introduction to the history and literature of the Middle East from the beginning up past the Islamic Golden Age - a period so large it covers two subforums here at allempires!  Woo, ambitious.  I'd love to hear suggestions from y'all. 

Here's what I've got so far, in order:

Ancient Iraq, George Roux
Gilgamesh, tr. Stephen Mitchell
God's Crucible, David Levering Lewis
Arabian Nights, tr. Haddawy
Possibly The Great Arab Conquests and When Baghdad Ruled the World, Kennedy

Pretty short, right?  And the two Kennedy books overlap the Lewis book, so if anyone wants to push me in one direction over another, I'm happy to hear it.

Further suggestions would be much appreciated!  Thanks for reading.


Edited by AlexInBoston - 22 Oct 2009 at 06:14
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Al Jassas View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2009 at 07:09
Check out Bernard Lewis, although I disagree with most of his opinions he does provide another viewpoint on the subject. Also you can check Phillip Hitti who is far more reliable than Lewis.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlexInBoston Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2009 at 07:17
Ah yeah, I had an eye on Bernard Lewis's "The Middle East" but couldn't find much opinion on it, pro or con.  How do you disagree with him?

As for Hitti, I've heard that his ideas are somewhat out of date.  You disagree?

Thank you very much for your time and recommendations; I've made a note of both authors.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2009 at 07:40
Hello Alex
 
Lewis reads history through ideological somewhat supremacist eyes. He interprets too much and exaggerates grossly like in his writings about slavery in the Islamic world which are completely wrong.
 
As for Hitti, I read his book "the history of Arabs" and indeed pre-Islamic historography has developed substantially after he died but in general his books are accurate if history is what you are looking for.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2009 at 08:58
I read The Great Arab Conquests by Hugh Kennedy. It's a good book if you're looking for a highly readable narrative account of these unprecedented conquests as well as a credible explanation of what made them possible.

I plan on reading more of his books myself, he has quite a fascinating bibliography on the Middle East.

I'd also like to get hold of a good balanced biography of Muhammed, possibly with emphasis on his part in creating the Quran. This is harder than it sounds, since nearly every work I've encountered either goes too far in being either critical or apologetic for obvious political and/or religious reasons.
Sing, goddess, of Achilles' ruinous anger
Which brought ten thousand pains to the Achaeans,
And cast the souls of many stalwart heroes
To Hades, and their bodies to the dogs
And birds of prey
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlexInBoston Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2009 at 10:22
Al Jassas: thanks for that!

Reginmund: cool, good to hear from someone who enjoyed Kennedy. 

And let me know how that search for a balanced bio of Mohammed goes; I too am surprised at how difficult it often is to find books that don't tilt egregiously one way or the other. 

I have "After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam" on my shelf now; obviously it picks up as Mohammed dies, but I'll post my opinions when I finish it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 02:42
Lewis' older works are OK, the newer stuff is popular history. Hence why it also is a bit more as Al Jassas said biased.

I suggest Marshall Hodgson. Specifically his Venture of Islam 3 volume series. His essay on "the great Western transmutation is good, too."

A newer work that is a good read is Reza Aslan's " No god but God."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlexInBoston Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 03:37
Thanks, es_bih!  I looked into Marshall Hodgson and put him on my list so I'd keep him in mind. 

"No God But God" looks so interesting that I ordered it on the spot.

While we're talking about this...astute readers may notice that I left the Qur'an off my list, which is a pretty glaring omission.  I fully intend to read it.  Any suggestions as to a translation?  Razwy / Ali?  A modernish translation that's easy to read would make my life easier.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 03:54
I would suggest. The Quran in English by Edip Yuksel.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlexInBoston Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 04:04
Looked it up.  Interesting.  I might just try that.

And if you want to be thoroughly entertained and offended at the same time, check out this hilariously insane "review" of Yuksel's translation:
http://www.amazon.com/Quran-Reformist-Translation-Edip-Yuksel/product-reviews/0979671507/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#RX5VUW4581NF5

Edit: on further research into Yuksel's work, I find a fixation on the number 19, which he uses to claim proof of its divinity; I also find a statement that he infers from his work that Judgment Day will occur in the year 2280.  This stuff all sounds a little nutso; for me, it kinda lumps his work in with the radical fringe of any other religion.
Source: http://19.org/index.php?id=15,18,0,0,1,0
One of many counter-arguments:
http://www.nmsr.org/code19.htm


Edited by AlexInBoston - 23 Oct 2009 at 04:14
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 04:16
I never heard him say anything about Judgment Day. That's a matter that can't be predicted.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlexInBoston Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 04:18
Agreed that it most certainly can't be predicted; if it's on its way, I feel certain that God has no intention of specifying its date via some arcane code.  

Edip's claim may not be in his book; I saw it on the first link pasted above.  Here's his words:
"Nowhere in the Quran you will find an explicit statement regarding this date! It is a personal speculation based on some hints and indication of certain verses. I had come to the same conclusion independent of Rashad, albeit years after his original "discovery." Nevertheless, I admit that this information is not explicit in the Quran and it requires some kind of deeper study to understand it."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 04:27
I got a pdf of the book I can share eith you.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AlexInBoston Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Oct 2009 at 05:17
Ugh, I hate PDFs.  But if I end up going with a different version of the Qur'an, I may take you up on that; I love having two different translations to compare.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote azimuth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Oct 2009 at 01:40
I was surprised to see English translations of early islamic books such as Ibn Katheer's Al Bedaya wa Al Nehaya (The Beginning and the End), it gives an interesting overview of how people see history 700 years ago.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote azimuth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Nov 2009 at 23:05
I bought a book called  The Middle east The cradle of civilization revealed,   its here in Amazon ,

very informative specially regarding archaeological sites in the fertile crescent,  The only major problem in it is that it does not  really cover middle east, there are many pages regarding Israel, Mesopotamia and Persia, almost nothing regarding the Arabian peninsula, specially ancient wise, not even a mention regarding ancient history of Yemen, archaeological sites in UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman.

not to mention Egyptian ancient history.

i think the reason of this might be political, that most of the Historical who worked on this book seems to be Jewish.

the book as i said is very useful and informative, just to be fair it should be titled The fertile Crescent ancient history not Middle east.


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