The House of Wisdom (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
Jonathan Lyons’s The House of Wisdom provides an account of Muslim scientific and cultural superiority to Christian Europe during the Middle Ages and argues that the West owes a debt to the Arabs and Islam today. His account is structured around Islam’s mandatory five daily prayers. A brief prologue, headed “AL-MAGHRIB/SUNSET,” represents “the traditional start of the day in the Middle East.” The introductory note to readers then refers to “the nightfall (al-isha) of the Christian Middle Ages;the dawn (al-fajr) of the great age of Arab learning;the glory of midday (al-zuhr); andthe rich colors of afternoon (al-asr).”
The text’s very structure and chapter headings thus make clear that the medieval day and its light are Islam’s, while the blackness of night is Christendom’s. As early as the introductory note, then, some readers may begin to suspect that the book will present neither a nuanced vindication of an unfairly maligned religion or a slandered people nor a careful rebalancing of a culturally skewed scale. Lyons’s book expresses a simple Manichaeism, with the forces of prejudice, repression, and bloodlust represented by the West, while reason, toleration, and refinement are the almost exclusive possession of Muslims.
For Lyons, Pope Urban II’s call to liberate the Christian holy places from Muslim occupation let loose upon the civilized East armies of ignorant, greedy,...
(The entire section is 1635 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2010)
The Guardian (London), February 28, 2009, p. 7.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 23 (December 1, 2008): 1243-1244.
Library Journal 134, no. 7 (April 15, 2009): 101.
Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2009, p. D14.
New Scientist 201, no. 2696 (February 21, 2009): 46.
The Sunday Telegraph (London), February 15, 2009, p. 36.
The Sunday Times (London), February 1, 2009, pp. 39-40.
The Times (London), January 24, 2009, p. 9.
Times Higher Education, March 5, 2009, p. 45.
The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2009, p. W8.
(The entire section is 54 words.)