A concise account of the Rise and Decline of the Saracenic Power and of the Economic, Social, and Intellectual Development of the Arab nations. From the earliest times to the destruction of Baghdad, and the explosion of the Moors from Spain, with maps illustrations and genealogical tables.
Of all the older nations that have carried their arms across vast continents, that have left ineffaceable marks of their achievements on the pages of history, and enriched the world of thought by their discoveries and speculations, toe Saracens stand to us the closest in time. Modem Europe is still working with the legacy they left behind, with the intellectual wealth they stored for their successors. It is, therefore, a matter of regret that in the West a knowledge of their history should be more or less confined to specialists j whilst in India, a country which was at one time peculiarly subject to the influence of their civilisation, it should be almost unknown. Much of this no doubt is due to the absence of a proper work on the subject. To arrest attention, to enlist sympathy, to evoke interest, something more is needed than a bare narration of wars and conquests, more especially in the case of a people whose name, unlike the Romans and Greeks, has not been made familiar from childhood. In order to prove attractive and interesting, a history of the Saracens should contain not merely a description of their military successes, but also tell' us something of their inner life and their social and economic development. Such a work, by tracing the affinity of modern civilisation to theirs, might serve to remove many prejudices and some of the bitterness engendered by the conflict and quarrels of centuries.
The volume I now offer to the public was undertaken with the object of supplying the want of a history modelled on the above lines. I have endeavoured to describe in these pages the ethical and moral movement that led to the sudden uprise and overflow of the Saracenic race and their extraordinary growth and expansion, to depict the remarkable process of evolution by which a patriarchal rule developed into one of the most civilised systems of government, the machinery of their administration, the state of their culture in all its phases, the condition of the people, the position of their women, their mode of life, and finally the causes which brought about the collapse of their wonderful civilisation. The work was originally designed to be of a more compendious character, but the courtesy of my publishers has enabled me to give effect to the suggestion of competent scholars, some especially interested in University education in India, and thus to enlarge its scope without impairing its general conciseness. Considering that it has been carried through the press in the midst of heavy judicial duties, I can hardly expect it to be free from flaws. Besides, the absence of libraries such as exist in London, Paris, and other great cities in Europe render literary undertakings of every kind in the East peculiarly difficult. I trust, therefore, that allowance will be made for any shortcomings that may be found in the book. I venture, however, to hope that it may be the means of extending among the two great communities of India a knowledge of the civilisation and culture of Western Asia in the Middle Ages. To my mind, such a knowledge is of extreme importance, for whilst it may teach the Moslem the value of the opportunity for social and intellectual regeneration afforded by a liberal and impartial government, it cannot fail to be of profit also to others, in widening their sympathies. The story of the Saracens, like those, of many other people, tells us that although each community must work out its regeneration according to its individual genius, yet none can afford to wrap itself in the mantle of a dead Past without the fatal certainty of extinction. It teaches us that moral worth, scholarship, and intellectual attainments, however lightly, owing to factious causes, they may be thought of for a while, must in time exercise their legitimate influence on society; that self-restraint and steadiness of purpose are qualities which cannot be over-rated.
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