The Thousand and One Nights is a work of fiction and while it was never the intention of this author to produce a work of fiction the use of certain sources and ideas limits the utility of this work as anything else. Partly out of a desire to correct what they see as Orientalists prejudicial errors the modern practitioner embraces a whole other set of errors and defends them with the tenacity that only the truly prejudiced can muster.
The two biggest failing of modern Orientalists are one of fact and one of understanding. The one of fact assumes that all learning was lost in the West during the barbarian invasions from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries – while conveniently forgetting that those invasions came from the east. The renaissance did not occur because the east suddenly bequeathed a wealth of knowledge to the West – it occurred because the monastic tradition of the West had preserved the learning of the classical world in spite of barbarian invasions AND because the West in finally repelling the barbarians [dare we point out again under the guidance of The Church?] had developed the infrastructure to share that knowledge in what we now think of as Europe.
The failure of understanding is the failure on the part of the scholars to understand metaphysics and the failure of eastern thought to develop a rational metaphysics and the subsequent failure of their philosophical systems in light of that failure. If you can not appreciate at the most fundamental level the nature of man in creation you can not develop a rational plan for men living in community. Without this the only response is that the strongest will rule according to their best lights. That is why Bobrick talks about a Caliph to a world that contends with Mullahs and can not reconcile it to a world that went from Charlemagne to Charles De Gaulle. Like The Thousand and One Nights the book is a great entertainment and full of anecdotal history.
The caliph’s splendor : Islam and the West in the golden age of Baghdad Benson Bobrick New York : Simon & Schuster, 2012 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. x, 284 p. : ill. (some col.), maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. -270) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
The story of Harun al-Rashid, the celebrated caliph from The Thousand and One Nights, who ruled the Islamic world when its power was at a peak in the late eighth and early ninth centuries and when the Arab world influenced Western Christian culture.
During the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid, Islam dominated much of the known world, from the Atlantic Ocean to China. Harun’s capital, Baghdad, was the most cosmopolitan metropolis of the era. In this work of history, Bobrick resurrects Harun’s glorious world and the complex, pervasive influence it had on its neighbors in the Byzantine Empire and the Frankish kingdom of Harun’s contemporary Charlemagne.
Harun’s power was checked by the Byzantine Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, and Charlemagne’s European kingdom. Yet along with conflict went cultural exchange. The Caliph’s Splendor brings this history to vivid life with wide-reaching implications for today’s interconnected world.