In Ishmael's House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands

Martin Gilbert, Yale Univ., $35 (424p) ISBN 9780300167153
In this epic examination, celebrated historian Gilbert (the six-volume biography of Winston Churchill) explores the evolution of Judaism and Islam through a lens of Middle Eastern stability. Islam upholds some of Judaism's practices, like strict dietary laws, circumcision, and multiple prayers daily, and followers of both religions have historically banded together during holy wars in opposition to Christianity. Yet early relations between Jews and Muslims were often precarious, and the treatment Jews received was often dependent on the manner in which the Islamic leader at the time interpreted "the two extremes of protection and intolerance," a conflict that Gilbert believes "has defined the Muslim-Jewish relationship to this day." Indeed, under the rule of the second Caliph, Jews volunteered as soldiers and guides and offered provisions for their Muslim allies, whereas under the eighth Caliph, Jews and Christians were equally segregated and oppressed. With a comprehensive yet accessible approach, Gilbert scrutinizes the roles that Muslims and Jews have played and continue to play in the Middle East, and the impact of this on the world, unearthing the ongoing struggles these religions have faced over their 1400 years of shared history. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/06/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
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