Essay on Usama, The Middle East, and The Crusades

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The selection from Usama Ibn Munqidh’s Kitab al-l’tibar otherwise know in English as the Book of Contemplation is a book in which Usama provides a series of short vignettes as a testimony to his experiences in the medieval Middle East and the Crusades. Through his writings the reader is able to get a Muslim account of the Crusades. It is largely a personal account so many details are left out and much background knowledge is assumed. It also is not the most unbiased source as supported by Usama’s frequent utterence that “Allah render them [The crusading Christians] helpless” (Ibn Munqidh 197) Usama also makes no attempt at analysis or understanding and just writes exactly what he observed without asking questions or delving deeper into…show more content…
Usama begins by describing the “strange” behavior of the Franks. He is surprised and confused by the elevation of courage and strength as premier virtues in the Christian mind and he sees an invitation for his son to visit Europe as being worse than being taken prisoner of war (Ibn Munqidh 185). This observation sets up the basic world view difference: Muslims valued justice and fairness while the Christians of this time valued power and respect. Chivalry was not a Muslim virtue; instead the idea of Futuwwa reigned. This system, though similar to the western notion of chivalry has its differences. Muslims and Christians also differed in their views on modesty in sexual affairs differed as well (Ibn Munqidh 189-191). Also, many religious practices seemed strange to Usama as he details events in which a newly arrived Christian tries in vain to get him to change his prayer direction away from Mecca and towards the east. And another instance in which a Christian shows him an icon of a baby Jesus, sacrilege in Islam. Both instances demonstrate a lack of understanding between the two religions that were now interacting. Additionally Usama does mention
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