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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215    by David Levering Lewis order for
God's Crucible
by David Levering Lewis
Order:  USA  Can
W. W. Norton, 2008 (2008)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

In a time when Western involvement in the Middle East seems almost certain to last for the rest of this generation's lives, it is more important than ever to understand why. The Middle East is still a very misunderstood place, of whose deep and complex history most have little inkling; a history without which the development of disciplines like medicine, mathematics and astronomy would be severely retarded. God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis, a professor at New York University, is a book that takes readers back to the very beginning of Islam, and the specific instances that led to its creation.

Lewis begins with the fall and breakup of the Roman Empire, explaining how the western known world devolved from a seemingly unstoppable empire to crumbling and divided countries. Lewis sets the stage with the western chunk of the Roman Empire being overrun by invading barbarian hordes, and the more successful eastern part consisting of Byzantium and nearby Persia. At a time of growing interest in Christian and Jewish beliefs, along with the less popular Zoroastrian faith, as well as other smaller cults, the Middle East seemed ready for a new prophet. In the beginning prophets are rarely seen as the great, world-altering people that they are, and Lewis points out that such was the case with Muhammad. He gives us a fascinating look into a religion and culture that has captivated and converted the hearts and minds of a considerable portion of the world population.

Along with the development of the growing faith of Islam, Lewis goes into detail on the genesis of the Muslim Empire, as it swept across the western world country by country, converting and conquering, ruthless in its unstoppable pace. Lewis does a good job of providing a quick history lesson of each people that the Muslim army faced in its conquest, but fails somewhat in going into depth on the complex culture of the Muslim Empire as it grew and developed over the centuries, focusing more on the important battles, winners and losers. Nevertheless, God's Crucible is a very important book to the modern world, one that at the very least gives some context to the status quo.

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