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The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace Hardcover – Sep 29 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Image (Sept. 29 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038552370X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385523707
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 2.9 x 24.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 581 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #292,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"The story of these two men—Francis and the sultan—is told engagingly in this well-researched, timely and fascinating book by Paul Moses ... dramatically narrated ... I highly recommend this book for readers interested in St. Francis, the Crusades, Islam and how the story of Francis and al-Kamil offers us a Franciscan approach to the interfaith challenges we face today." - Murray Bodo, O.F.M., St. Anthony Messenger.

"...this is a wonderfully written, well researched and timely book. It will surely serve to bring the message of peace that is exhibited in the encounter between Francis and the Sultan to a world desperately in need of recalling such possibilities ... This is a book that belongs int he personal libraries of all Franciscans and all who strive to encounter the other in a loving, Christian and respectful manner." - Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.

"Moses's realistic and powerful book gives readers an informed idea of how difficult it was to follow Francis in an age of papal power and the broad acceptance of violence." - Joseph Cunneen, History News Network

"An important book ... The Saint and the Sultan is fascinating reading that will change the reader's concept of who St. Francis of Assisi was ... It's sure to stir a lot of conversation in religious circles." - Ed Wilkinson, editor-in-chief of The Tablet

"Moses’ lively account of a little-known but significant chapter in the life of the popular saint of Assisi deserves a wide readership, resonating as it does with world events of our own time." - America Magazine

"Paul Moses' fascinating account of St. Francis of Assisi's meeting with Sultan Malik al-Kamil in the midst of the Fifth Crusade not only details the historical record, puts it into context, and tries to strip it of centuries of tendentious distortions, it also documents how its true significance has recently come to blossom and bear fruit in Christian-Muslim relations. In his thoroughly researched and engaging book Moses uncovers and retells the true story of the Christian saint's audience with the Muslim ruler. - Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Executive Editor, U.S. Catholic

"The care and – there is no other word for it – love with which Moses has drawn the scene for us is really a prayer for ... peace." - Melinda Henneberger, editor-in-chief, PoliticsDaily

"The Saint and the Sultan is a provocative, in-depth examination of that little-known but powerful meeting between St. Francis and the 13th century Islamic leader Sultan Malik al-Kamil...Moses ... shows how the encounter between them is of great relevance to our divided world today." - Brooklyn Daily Eagle

"In this sprightly and smart book, Paul Moses rediscovers an ancient moment in time that, in his telling, has timeless resonance."
— Jon Meacham, Author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

"This brilliant retelling of a largely forgotten chapter in the life of the most beloved of saints comes just when we need it most. The Saint and the Sultan shows that faith leads to action, and that true holiness can lead to actions that provoke, astonish and even baffle the world."
— James Martin, Author of My Life with the Saints

"The Saint and the Sultan is a MUST read, supremely relevant today in relations between the Muslim world and the West . . . Paul Moses' outstanding and engaging portrayal offers a unique insight into Francis' overlooked counter-cultural role as a peacemaker during the Crusades for whom Christianity was a religion of peace not conflict."
— John L. Esposito, Georgetown University Professor of Religion & International Affairs, and author of What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam

"In The Saint and the Sultan Paul Moses delivers a fascinating lesson from a lost episode of history, and shows how critical it is to understanding today's global conflicts — and the possibility of peace through religious dialogue. In the process, he also delivers a terrific story about a Christian saint everyone thought they knew — Francis of Assisi — and a Muslim world that few realize existed."
— David Gibson, author of The Coming Catholic Church and The Rule of Benedict

"The Saint and the Sultan is an important and timely book. Paul Moses reminds us that the true agents of dialogue and constructive encounter must be courageous enough to talk as well as to listen, even opposing their own people, in the name of justice, dignity and love. Such religious voices are very much needed today, to help us follow the demanding path of peace while avoiding the traps of undignified wars."
— Tariq Ramadan, Oxford University Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, and author of In the Footsteps of the Prophet 

"Paul Moses' fascinating book throws new light on St. Francis' exemplary ministry of reconciliation. In the midst of widespread ignorance and war the efforts of St. Francis to build trust and overcome mutual antipathy speak powerfully to us today, when misunderstanding and conflict between Christians and Muslims threaten all who share our planet."
— Charles Kimball, author of When Religion Becomes Evil

"The Saint and the Sultan sheds new light on spiritual vision' s power to transcend conflict. Through this book we learn not only about a remarkable set of events of medieval  history, but also a lesson in peace making that is of the greatest importance for both those Westerners and Muslims who seek to create better understanding of each other across religious and cultural frontiers rather than simply vilifying one another." 
— Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University, and author of The Heart of Islam

About the Author

Paul Moses, former Newsday city editor and senior religion writer, is a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He was the lead writer on a Newsday team that won the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Maureen.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa079a600) out of 5 stars 34 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa07b40cc) out of 5 stars Moving and Fascinating Oct. 26 2009
By R. J. Vezza - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book captivated my sense of history and spirituality. Mr. Moses writes clearly, concisely and puts into context the times and forces that created one of the most unique individuals of his age or any age where war and money drive people's behavior. Moses, in his preface, tells us that perhaps there are lessons for us to learn from this extraordinary man and his quest for peace. Today, as we wage two wars and focus on our economic well-being, Moses' book provides us with another perspective, another way for us to think and live. This is a must-read.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa07b4318) out of 5 stars Another Side to an Amazing Saint Oct. 17 2009
By Leonard Walker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I visited Assisi while in Italy and found it a very moving experience. To see where St. Francis lived was incredible.Paul's book tells a story about St. Francis that I had never heard.He writes in a way that kept me fascinated throughout the entire book. Well done!
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa07b4558) out of 5 stars A tale for our times Nov. 24 2009
By J. A. Donaghy - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the midst of war, Francis goes unarmed to meet the enemy leader. In a time when Muslims were demonized, Francis has an extended dialogue with the Sultan. But the real story got lost in the midst of politics - the Crusades and heresy allegations. The author does a marvelous job of telling the real story and then showing how and why it was covered up. He also gives a sympathetic - yet realistic - portrait of the Sultan.

It gave me an ever greater appreciation of St. Francis and his call to peacemaking. Francis wasn't a plastic saint for birdbaths. He was a real live follower of Christ, not afraid to tell the Crusaders that their effort was in vain and open enough to meet the enemy. A true peacemaker.

It's a great book to help us get a better grasp of what Christian-Muslim relations could be.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa07b46fc) out of 5 stars A truly amazing feat of investigative historical writing Feb. 24 2015
By Trudie Barreras - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although I became aware several years ago of Paul Moses’ book “The Saint and the Sultan” re-visioning the extraordinary meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil of Egypt, and had planned to obtain it, other events intervened. Recently, however, I have been receiving various communications from conservative friends that led me to recall my intention. Specifically, I was “treated” to a rather absurd assertion that since the First Crusade had been self-defense because Muslims had attacked Christians in the Holy Land, therefore all subsequent wars of aggression perpetrated against believers in Allah by so-called followers of Christ should be viewed in that same light.

Paul Moses has accomplished a truly amazing feat of investigative historical writing in terms of ferreting out the story of this amazing encounter between the saint and the sultan, in view of the fact that during the decades following the death (and almost immediate canonization) of St. Francis of Assisi “official” biographies were fabricated to completely obscure the true purpose and message of this encounter. In addition, earlier writings were banned, and as much as possible, destroyed. The bare bones of the story Moses tells involve Francis’ absolute determination to take literally the admonition of Jesus to love our enemies. He was also a committed pacifist, absolutely opposed to war in any form, believing that the only God-sanctioned way of converting those who did not believe in Jesus was by loving encounter, not disputation or coercion or violence. Finally, of course, St. Francis was totally committed to the ethos of poverty, believing that the only true way to follow Jesus was to give up all worldly possessions and ambitions and become authentic servants of all.

In 1219, the Fifth Crusade, promoted initially by Pope Innocent III, was a blatant attempt to conquer Egypt for political and economic gain. Although the “excuse” was the “liberation of Jerusalem” which had been conquered by Saladin during the previous Crusade, as a matter of fact one of the peace offers made by Sultan Malik al-Kamil would have involved turning Jerusalem back over to the Christians in return for being left alone in North Africa. No dice; the pope and others wanted the city of Damietta for the trade advantages it would assure, and had ambitions to control all Egypt as well.

Paul Moses completes his remarkable account of the commitment of St. Francis to sincere dialog with followers of Islam with parallels to the current situation which are inescapable. We are fully aware, after a history of nearly 800 years of essentially continuous warfare between those who profess to follow Jesus and those who claim loyalty to the teachings of Mohammad that neither group is anywhere near achieving the “conversion” of the other. Instead, both sides have demonstrated unequivocally that they are completely faithless with respect to the teachings of their founders. However, as a follower of Jesus myself, I have to assert that I believe, as St. Francis did, that WE are the most to blame; the Prophet of Islam was NOT the “Prince of Peace” that we claim Jesus was, nor do Muslims believe that he spoke and taught as God Incarnate. They perhaps therefore have more justification for believing in the more militant will of the God of Abraham, the Allah they worship. Yet if we dare to proclaim we represent Jesus while we utterly ignore his admonition to love our enemies, turn the other cheek, do good to those who hurt us, and refrain from killing in any mode, are we not in fact being the Infidels that many followers of Islam consider us to be?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa07b45d0) out of 5 stars Great Concept, Poor Execution Aug. 29 2013
By James F. Day - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Once you learn about Francis of Assisi's meeting with the sultan of Cairo during the 5th Crusade, doesn't that make you want to read more about this fascinating encounter? I decided to give "The Saint and the Sultan" a chance since it strictly focused on the meeting, the dynamics and the effects.

Wrong. Instead, author Paul Moses goes through an extended backstory meant to put the encounter in proper historical perspective. While knowing what went before and how, particularly the incredible conversion of Francis from exuberant militant to exuberant peacemaker, its an unexciting and dry read. Moses painstakingly cites from original source material, making sure to debunk St. Bonaventure's hagiographic account of the meeting with the sultan, but the result does not have the effect Moses intends. Its a competent book, he knows how to write, but in trying to get close he removes his readers too much in working in context and analysis. It's too much of a secular, watered down by the book account rather than an exploration in awe and wonder of two worlds coming together.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this version of a great story.