Arabic/Islamic Culture Bibliography,

copyright 1998 by Historical Novelists Center


Islam has considerably more adherents than Christianity, all around the world, so one cannot exactly speak of Islamic culture. This bibliography concentrates on the periods and eras of the Islamic empires of the Mideast, which spread as far west as Spain and eastwards as the Mogul Empire of India, not to mention into Central Asia.

We hope people using this bibliography will come to a greater realization that Islam is not Islamacism, and that many practices associated with 21st century Moslem countries were unknown to and even condemned by the Prophet Mohammed, PBUH. To find historical Islam when the media is obsessed with the rhetoric on both sides of Islamacism is difficult. Good luck.

Go To Project GutenbergThe Koran (al-Qu'ran) *****!

You read this first. After that you can start to tell religion from culture. It is the recorded teachings of the Prophet, PBUH, as remembered by many persons after his death. It is not the writing of the Prophet directly, nor his transcription of something divinely shown him, both of which legends are commonly mistaken for fact, apparently confusing him with the prophet Smith of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. T1

Boucher, Francois

20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment ***
Harry N. Abrams, 1966; 440 pg, index, glossary
Covers both Persian and Turkish costume, especially as it impacts European. T1

Burckhardt, John Lewis

Travels In Arabia; Comprehending an Account of Those Territories in Hedjaz which the Mohammedans Regard as Sacred
Description and travel in the Arabian Peninsula will give you incidents that may happen to your character.
Travels in Syria and the Holy Land
More description from this 19th C traveller.

Burton, Richard Francis, Sir

Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah - Volume 1
Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah & Meccah - Volume 2

David, Nicolle, Ph.D.

The Moors: The Islamic West 7th-15th Centuries AD <sic> (Men-At-Arms, 348)***
Osprey Pub Co; 2001
Excellent details on organization versus the European warrior of the time, as well as the hardware. T2

Falk, T.

Treasures of Islam ****
Artline, 400 pg
A wide range of Islamic art and design, from the 7th to 19th centuries. T2/3

Gabrieli, Francesco

Arab Historians of the Crusades ***
Barnes & Noble; orig. 1957, trans. 1969; 362 pgs; index
Extracts from seventeen sources over the centuries give various Arabic/Turkish views of their own leaders and Frankish invaders. T2

Gardiner, Robert (Editor)

The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats into Ships ****
Naval Institute Press; 1996; Hardcover, 143pp.; index, glossary
The temporally earliest volume of Conway's History of the Ship. Like the others, picture-rich, but a collection of articles by different hands sometimes leaves holes. It also has some things others don't. Covers the ancient Mediterranean, the early Central European, early NW European, Norse, and "Oriental" (Arabic and Chinese) traditions. Especially enjoy "Problems of Reconstruction and the Estimation of Performance." Note that everything is covered in less than 130 pages. T1

Glubb, J. B.

The Great Arab Conquests ***
Barnes & Noble
Covers the initial eruption out of Arabia, to 680 CE. T2

von Grunebaum, G. E.

Classical Islam: A History, 600-1258 ***
Barnes & Noble
A good basic history for the development of Islamic empire and its interrelationship with Christian Europe. T1

Halder, Syed Zafar

Islamic Arms and Armour of Muslim India ****
Bahadur Publishers, Lahore, c1991; 309 pgs., bibliographical references, index.
Excellent reference. T2

Hourani, George Fadlo & John Carswell

Arab Seafaring*****!
Princeton University Press; 1995 Expanded ed; Paperback, 1st ed., 140pp.; Bibliography, index
Focuses on Arab (not necessarily Muslim) seafaring in the Indian Ocean, not the Mediterranean, but much of the information crosses over, and one section is specifically Mediterranean, just as it also covers the African and Chinese trade. Runs from the Classical period BC through the tenth century CE. The section on the ships themselves covers the development of stitched planking and the fore-n-aft lateen rig to replace square sails. Lots of wonderful detail on ports and day-to-day life, besides shipwrecks, for the novelist to acquire. T2

Hyland, Ann

The Medieval Warhorse from Byzantium to the Crusades ****
Sutton Publishing Ltd., London, 1994; index and bibliography
Actually through the Crusades, and she covers the Islamic horses and horse care very well -- as one might expect from someone who runs Arab horses in endurance races. T2

The War Horse: 1250-1600****
Sutton, 1998; 250 pgs, index, glossay
Well illustrated, well researched, but the writing is very dry and dull, not at all like the earlier volume. Very possibly this is because it seems all research and no experimentation, as well as larded with entirely extraneous author prejudices (we don't care if she thinks Henry VIII was "fat and ineffectual," when it has nothing to do with the subject under discussion). Good information on the Mamluks, the Ottomans, and the Moghuls, but after eagerly reading other books by the same author this was astonishingly difficult to drag through. Staying anywhere more than a few pages was onerous. Only go here if you have to. T3

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
Nice big chapter on Arabic naming practices, sizeable pick-lists, the 99 Names of God, and notes on various groups that use Arabic nomenclature. Splits out Islamic usage in India and Swahili, too. T1

Little, Tom

South Arabia: Arena of Conflict YY
Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers, NY, 1968; 196 pg, index, "Short Bibliography," 3 maps
Primarily about the emergence from British rule, the opening chapter recaps ancient and medieval history, with the tribal names, so you know which ones to hunt in other sources. T1

Nicolle, David, Ph.D.

Saracen Faris, 1100-1250 A.D.[sic] *****!
Osprey Warrior Series, Reed International Books Ltd., London; illustrated by Christa McHook; no index; bibliography of English-language sources
Excellent, info-packed 64 pages with superb illustrations and a good map or two. Unbeatable for the detail on weaponry, tack, and costume. Worth every penny. T2

Osprey Military Books

The worst book out by Osprey still gets three stars. The best are five stars and a bang. These are each a dense, military monograph on weapons, tactics, strategy, and history, with some little cultural background. Rarely at libraries, you will usually find these where military miniatures are sold. T2

  • Armies of the Muslim Conquest; #255
  • Armies of Islam 7th-11th Century; #125
  • Saladin & the Saracens, #171
  • The Mamluks 1250-1517
  • Ottoman Turks 1200-1774, #140

Pickthall, Marmaduke

The Meaning of the Glorious Koran *****!
Barnes & Noble, 464 pg
Christians always translate the Bible into the local language. Muslims will always tell you that the Koran can only be really understood in Arabic, which language converts learn into order to study the Koran. This book may be the best way to approach this center point of Islamic life without learning Arabic. T1

Qazi, Mohammed A.

What's in a Muslim Name ***
Kazi Publication, Chicago; 1990
Small book with big lists of personal names for those converting to Islam, or who need to name the new baby, but there is no reference to traditional rather than modern usage, or to eke-names. Also, is very hung up on sexist differentiation of definitions of names: a woman cannot be your "backer" she must be a "backeress," though many names are unisex. T1

Rice, David Talbot

Islamic Art ****
Wonderful introduction to the styles of pottery, metalwork, fabrics, architecture and decorations like brickwork, stucco, mosaic, and tile. Hunting palaces as well as mosques, tombs and city gates. T1

Robinson, H. Russell

Oriental Armour ****
"Detailed, scholarly survey of defensive armour used in the Middle East and Asia--from the scale armour of ancient Egypt to Japanese "modern" armour of the 19th century. Over 300 line illustrations (largely the author's own work) and over 100 photos depict armour of Persia, Turkey, India, China, Ceylon, the Philippines, Korea, Tibet, and other regions. A splendid overview of the decorative qualities and crucial defensive features in a book that brings together much previously inaccessible material." Better than Stone on the subject. T2

Rodgers, William Ledyard

Naval Warfare Under Oars, 4th to 16th Centuries; A Study of Strategy, Tactics and Ship Design ***
1940, 1967; now from Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 1990; 358 pg, index; at the end of each chapter, Authorities Chiefly Consulted
Chap. II is "The Naval Wars with the Saracens" by the Byzantines; other chapters carry forward to the Italian wars with the Turks, like Lepanto. Orientation is European Christian, but this will tell you what sort of ships were being used. One of the only books we have found covering the Islamic navies of the Mediterranean at all. T3

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography
Lists those who fought for and against Mohammed, P.B.U.H., and defended the faith in later years, including the Mogul empires. T2


Lady Melisande refuses to dig to the very back of her deep closets to get complete discographic materials on her Middle Eastern LP collection, but provides the following from her tapes of them. Many of these records did not list the performers, and those are listed first. She is now back in the groove and adding current CDs.

Evening by the Nile with Jodette ***
LP From a dance-teacher's supply catalog, this features Egyptian music.

How to Make Your Husband a Sultan, with Özel Turkbas ****
I recommend this LP primarily because it highlights how very different Turkish music is from Arabic music, even to the time signatures. The belly dancers dress differently, too, preferring the "ruffled curtain" skirt and hand covers.

Middle Eastern Modern Music Instrumental ****
Cheapo cover on this LP, but good music inside.

Music & Melodies of the Arab World, Egypt (U.A.R.) *****!
LP An all-time favorite, which may have been on Nonesuch, but don't bet anything important on that. Very authentic, all non-western instruments.

The Music of Morocco *****!
LP This is definitely from Nonesuch, and is recorded live in Morocco. There are street musicians in town, then a Berber folk music festival recorded up in the mountains. Exceedingly atmospheric and authentic. I will be replacing this with "Apocalypse Across the Sky" CD for Berber music.

Cheikh el Afrite

Succes de Cheikh el Afrite ****
LP from France of a Moroccan pop group that shows how the ancient sound persists in everyday life. LP

Kouyoumjian, Yousef

Baghdad Cabaret ***
This LP includes a long dancer's cut, but many shorter songs in the Iranian style. LP

Mohammed el-Bakkar

Port Said *****!
LP All Egyptian songs, not a dancer's record, robust and appealing delivery by a performer who was once almost the only Middle Eastern musician available in regular stores.

Music of the African Arab *****!
LP These songs have their own distinctive rhythmic base, from west and south of Egypt, and do not sound quite Middle Eastern to the sensitive ear.

Musicians of the Nile

Charcoal Gypsies *****!
Pure music from lively to lachrymose. One the most accessible current CDs, without going to Arabic groove. I think the Egyptian style "translates" better to the Western ear than Berber or Classical Persian, or the odd time signatures of Turkish. CD

From Luxor to Isna ****
Has an odd cut of the sound of a horse going by. Also has a super dumbek solo. CD

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Roger White

Bandit Queen ****
This is the soundtrack from the movie. Nusrat is a leading performer of Qawwali, "Islamic devotional music intended to elevate the spirit and bring both the performer and listener closer to God." White handles traditional instruments so as to make the music highly accessible to a first-time Western listener. Wonderful music to write to with a wide range of emotions from desperate to playful, often lyric and melancholy. CD

Ramzy, Hossam, and his Egyptian Ensemble

Best of Om Kolthoum ***

Ramzy takes songs made famous by various singers and does them as instrumentals with a strong dance flavour (which many have begin with). I got this one because "Enta Omri" was one of my favorites from "Music & Melodies of the Arab World, Egypt (U.A.R.)," above. Unlike Vali or the French LP, Ramzy is entirely authentic in his sound. Of his other albums in his series, do what I'm doing and pick at random: you can't really go wrong. The booklet includes English translation of the lyrics that went with the music! CD

Saba, Maroun

Live from the Fez ***
LP from a cabaret featuring belly dancers in LA, but notable for its variety of songs. I was told this was primarily Lebanese.

Vali, Gus

Let's Belly Dance **
LP All instrumental, with clarinet lead giving it that urban, modern edge.

Belly Dance Naval Academy ***
Two LP's of the same, boxed with the book, The Compleat Belly Dancer which is modern and American, but better than nothing.


Ancient World Web *****!

Superb linksite, which it would be silly to try and duplicate here. Especially fine for including Asian, American, and African sections, not just Europe and the Near East.

  • Leave for the Ancient World Web


Costumes of the Levant ****

Photographic overview of historical Lebanese, Syrian, Bedouin and Kurdish clothing.


El Legado Andalus/The Legacy of Al-Andalus X

Just to warn you off. Also known as "Arab World in Spain," this is a site to promote historical tourism in Andalusia. No info for us. Of course, if you are planning on travelling there to see the Alhambra, by all means check in with these people so you don't miss the lesser-known sites and all the museum exhibits. The opening is a single huge detailed time-swallowing graphic.

  • Link intentionally omitted


H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***

A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern, and 20th C), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.


Historical Islamic Maps*****!

Includes maps of: the Umayyad Caliphate in the Second Half of the 9th and the Second Half of the 10th Centuries; the Empire of Sultan Salah Al-Din (1171-1193); the Crusaders' Principalities in Syria and Palestine; Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Reconquest by the Christian Kingdoms of the North. The Kingdom of Granada; Spain after the Fall of the Umayyad Caliphate in the Periods of the Party Kings and of the Almoravids; the Growth of the Ottoman Empire From the Early 14th Century Till 1512; Ottoman Sultanate in the 16th and 17th Centuries; the Later Timurid Period; and Map of Safawid Persia in the 16th and 17th Centuries; Muslim East in the First Half of the 13th Century; Muslim Expansion in the West in the Umayyad Period (661-750); Muslim Expansion until A.D. 661; Umayyad Empire c.A.D.750; Late Abbasid Caliphate c.A.D.900; Almoravid, Saldjuk, and Ghaznavid Expansion c.A.D. 1100; the Muslim World c.A.D. 1300 & c.A.D. 1500


Internet Islamic History Sourcebook *****!

Halsall is collecting texts in translation, and also providing links to other sites like Berkeley, so as not to duplicate effort. Covers from pre-Islamic Arabia and Persia to the modern day.


Women in Islam Versus Women in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition*****!

Wonderfully researched comparison of the position of women in the culture of traditional Christianity, Biblical Judaism, and Quranic Islam. What this says about the disobedience of modern Islamicists to the intentions of the Prophet (pbuh) is significant. This should definitely adjust your early and medieval Moslem portrayals. As the author writes in his epilogue, "The non-Islamic status of women in the Muslim world today is merely a symptom of a deeper malady. Any reform in the current status of Muslim women is not expected to be fruitful if not accompanied with more comprehensive reforms of the Muslim societies' whole way of life. The Muslim world is in need for a renaissance that will bring it closer to the ideals of Islam and not further from them. To sum up, the notion that the poor status of Muslim women today is because of Islam is an utter misconception. The problems of Muslims in general are not due to too much attachment to Islam, they are the culmination of a long and deep detachment from it."

To Bibliography of Middle-Tech Skills

To Bibliography of Late Antiquity

To Central Eurasian Bibliography

To Bibliography of Migration Ages Europe

To Bibliography of Medieval Europe

To Bibliography of Sub-Saharan Africa

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