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Islamic scholar hosts launch for new book about Muslim poetry

A book launch attracted about 150 people to its opening in Slough on Saturday (January 27) while its author gave a talk on it.

The Cutting Edge of the Poet’s Sword contains Muslim poetry from the Crusades, which its compiler, Dr Osman Latiff, a research fellow of the Royal Holloway University, believes a unique insight can be gained from reading the texts.

He launched it at Saint Laurence Church in Upton Court Road which included a book reading and Q and A.

“There was a lot of interest from the academic community in poetry,” he said.

“When it comes to the Crusades, there’s a lot of translations, a lot of work on the Latin, on all things – economic, political, religious, artistic, cultural, inscriptions, everything.

“But when it comes to the Muslim response there is very, very little translated, and very little analysis.

“And so I had the benefit of knowing Arabic, I have a Masters in Crusader studies, I did Latin also.

“And so therefore I had the advantage of having both knowledge of the Latin and of the Arabic, and therefore I could engage with both texts.”

The book contains 114 translations.

The poems demonstrate sentiments felt by Muslims towards the Crusaders during the 12th and 13th centuries, and provide an insight into the diplomacy and the propaganda of the time.

But while the Crusades tend to be thought of as a time of barbaric war and all-out religious conflict, some of the texts show another side to the time.

Dr Latiff pointed to one text he came across in Cairo, in which the author describes the beauty of Frankish women.

He said that could be seen as lusting for something the poet could not have, or as an invitation for Muslim rulers to continue the fight against the Crusaders and throw out that temptation for him.

Some of the texts in the book were unedited and not translated before, or in anthologies but not properly analysed – there was no examination of when and why they were written.

 “I explore the literature,” he said.

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