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Mirage of the Saracen$
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Walter D. Ward

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780520283770

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520283770.001.0001

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The Murderous Sword of the Saracen

The Murderous Sword of the Saracen

(p.128) 6 The Murderous Sword of the Saracen
Mirage of the Saracen

Walter D. Ward

University of California Press

This chapter moves beyond the chronological and geographic parameters of the rest of the book to describe the broader implications of the Christian application of the word “Saracens” to Muslims. Contemporaries of the Muslim invasion, such as the Patriarch of Jerusalem Sophronius, initially did not comprehend that the invasions were launched by followers of a new religion and called them Saracens, thinking that they were just ordinary nomadic raiders. Once it became clear that the Muslim attacks were something different, the term stuck, and some Christians engaged in polemical arguments with tropes previously connected to the pre-Islamic Saracen image. Authors, such as John of Damascus, wrapped these rhetorical descriptions together into a neat package, defining the standard Christian understanding of Islam for centuries. This chapter also examines the transformations of the Sinai after the Muslim conquest, and concludes with a brief discussion of Christian-Muslim relations.

Keywords:   Saracens, Muslims, Islam, John of Damascus, Sophronius, Christian-Muslim relations

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