Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West

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A sweeping history of the often-violent conflict between Islam and the West, shedding a revealing light on current hostilities

The West and Islam–the sword and scimitar–have clashed since the mid-seventh century, when, according to Muslim tradition, the Roman emperor rejected Prophet Muhammad’s order to abandon Christianity and convert to Islam, unleashing a centuries-long jihad on Christendom.

Sword and Scimitar chronicles the decisive battles that arose from this ages-old Islamic jihad, beginning with the first major Islamic attack on Christian territory in 636, through the Muslim occupation of nearly three-quarters of Christendom, which prompted the Crusades, followed by renewed Muslim conquests by Turks and Tatars, to the European colonization of the Muslim world in the 1800s, when Islam largely went on the retreat–until its reemergence in recent times. Using original sources in Arabic and Greek, preeminent historian Raymond Ibrahim describes each battle in vivid detail and explains how these wars and the larger historical currents of the age reflect the cultural fault lines between Islam and the West.

The majority of these landmark encounters–including the battles of Yarmuk, Tours, Manzikert, the sieges at Constantinople and Vienna, and the crusades in Syria and Spain–are now forgotten or considered inconsequential. Yet today, as the West faces a resurgence of this enduring Islamic jihad, Sword and Scimitar provides the needed historical context to understand the current relationship between the West and the Islamic world–and why the Islamic State is merely the latest chapter of an old history.

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Raymond Ibrahim’s Sword and Scimitar is a much-needed history of landmark battles between Islam and the West, . . . [a] first-rate military history and a product of solid scholarship and philological research.”―from the Foreword by Victor Davis Hanson, Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution

“With passion, Raymond Ibrahim offers an edgy and eye-opening introduction to a millennium of warfare between the Muslim and Christian worlds before the modern age.”―Thomas Madden, Saint Louis University, and award-winning author of Istanbul, Venice, and Concise History of the Crusades

“The exhaustive scholarship is unassailable…. With almost 1,000 endnotes and 216 works cited―a wealth of primary source and arcane texts―Mr. Ibrahim, who has the unique capacity to read and study modern and classical Arabic, tells the story of these battles through the eyes of the participants in their own words and perspectives.”―Washington Times; reviewed by Joseph C. Myers, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served in Afghanistan and as a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst

“Impressively informative, Sword and Scimitar is an exceptional work of outstanding scholarship that is so well written it reads more like a deftly crafted novel than a non-fiction history.”―Midwest Book Review

“[A] superbly written volume, making extensive use of primary sources from both sides, especially underutilized Arabic language sources…  Enlightening for readers unfamiliar with the long history of war between these two faiths.”―New York Journal of Books

“Raymond Ibrahim has the humility to take seriously the voices and opinions of history’s Christians and Muslims; the result is a refreshingly honest account of Islamic expansion and Christian reaction that provides useful insights into today’s problems. This is history as it should be done: allowing the past to inform and guide the present, rather than distorting the past to fit contemporary political ideologies.”―Paul F. Crawford, Crusades historian, California University of Pennsylvania

“A vital contribution to our understanding of the most lethal and far-reaching geopolitical threat of our time….  In this meticulously researched work, Raymond Ibrahim shows how anti-western attitudes have been endemic in Islam throughout its history.”―Melanie Phillips, best-selling British author of Londonistan and The World Turned Upside Down

“This magisterial work is a lucid, remarkably compendious, yet still richly detailed study of the 1400-year ongoing ebb and flow of Islamic jihad conquests or preparatory attacks―and the Christian West’s reconquests or reprisals…  A skilled Arabic linguist and student of military history, perhaps the outstanding achievement of Ibrahim’s compelling narrative is how it shatters contemporary ‘academia’s’ rigidly enforced, dogmatic Islamophilia… [S]hould be requisite reading for all serious U.S. policymakers, diplomats, and politicians.”―Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad

“Raymond Ibrahim is a highly intelligent student of history and the civilizational warfare of Islamic jihadism.”―Allen West, retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and a former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives

“[A] riveting military history of eight pivotal battles between the armies of Islamdom and Christendom. Ibrahim tells his story with extensive citations of primary sources which vividly bring to life the bloody fighting. Moreover, his method reveals the religious, political, and material motivations of the leading Christian and Muslim actors in this enduring conflict of visions that seem so very different from many modern western secular sensibilities.”―James E. Lindsay, Professor of Middle East History, Colorado State University

“An accessible and well-researched examination of extremely important but often neglected cultural phenomena and historical events that have impacted several civilizations up to the present day.”―Darío Fernández-Morera, Northwestern University, and author of The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

“Ibrahim has written a brilliant history… He reveals an enduring asymmetry between inherently aggressive Muslims and inherently defensive Christians―and shows how that pattern precisely persists to this day.”―Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum

“Mr. Ibrahim [is] an established and published historian.  [Sword and Scimitar] offers a valuable perspective on Islamic history … [and is] a well-researched thesis worthy of academic inquiry and debate, not only for faculty, staff, and students of the USAWC [U.S. Army War College], but also to the general public”―Scott Perry and nine other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in a letter to the USAWC
“A riveting account of the major battles between Islam and the West…  Detailed, well-researched and most welcome.”― Catholic World Report; reviewed by James V. Schall, professor emeritus of political philosophy at Georgetown University

Sword and Scimitar altered the way I understand the development of our civilization….Ibrahim tells this history vividly, clearly, and engagingly.”―American Thinker

“Military historian Raymond Ibrahim is of Egyptian origin, fluent in Arabic, and an expert on the centuries-long armed conflicts between the West and Islam.”―National Association of Scholars

“[P]uts to rest several important myths… Against today’s wishful thinking about Islam’s peaceful intentions, Sword and Scimitar documents ‘what Muslims have actually done to and in the West for centuries.'”―Crisis Magazine

[More reviews added on availability.]

About the Author

Raymond Ibrahim is a scholar of the Middle East and Islam and author of The Al Qaeda Reader and Crucified Again. He has contributed to the Los Angeles TimesWashington PostWeekly Standard, and the Chronicle of Higher Education; appeared on C-SPAN, Al-Jazeera, CNN, NPR, and PBS; guest lectured at several universities, including the National Intelligence University and the U.S. Army War College; briefed governmental agencies such as US Strategic Command, and testified before Congress. Ibrahim has been a fellow at several think tanks, including the Hoover Institution, and is currently at the Middle East Forum and David Horowitz Freedom Center.

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