Levantine Tripoli in Islamic History
سالم، السيد عبد العزيز. طرابلس الشام في التاريخ الإسلامي. الإسكندرية: مؤسسة شباب الجامعة للطباعة و النشر، ١٩٦٧، ٥١٧ص.

Salim, al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-ʻAziz. Tarabulus al-Sham fi al-Tarikh al-Islami. Alexandria: Muassassat Shabab al-Jami‘ah lil-Tiba‘ah wa-al-Nashr, 1967, 517pp.


Levantine Tripoli in Islamic History

طرابلس الشام في التاريخ الإسلامي

The author’s interest in Tripoli’s history during the Islamic era stems from the important political events recorded in this period. The study is divided into two sections: in the first, the author deals with the town’s Islamic history beginning with the Arab conquest until Tripoli’s independence from the Fatimid State. It then moves on to cover the town’s history as an independent Arab emirate under the Bani Ammar, its downfall at the hands of the crusaders, and its subsequent transformation into a Crusader state, concluding with Tripoli’s re-conquest by Muslim forces and its subjugation into the Bahri Mamluk and Circassian states. 

The second section discusses some of Islamic Tripoli’s cultural aspects, including a description of both the ancient city (upon which Sultan Qalawun ordered a new town built, having previously razed ancient Tripoli in 689 AH [1290 AC]) and what the book refers to as the “modern town”. This section also deals with the economic and intellectual life which prevailed in the city during this period, and discusses in detail the different methods of terrestrial and maritime defence employed at that time. As for the last two sections of this work, they deal with some of the remaining Islamic monuments in Tripoli, such as mosques and schools as well as civil and military buildings.

Among the few studies, which were conducted on Tripoli, this book is unique, for it provides a complete picture of the city during the Islamic periods. Indeed, the history of Tripoli during these periods has yet to receive the attention it deserves, as the main focus has generally been on the city when it was centre of the crusaders’ kingdom. As such, one could say this book has contributed towards reviving interest in these periods of the town’s history which despite their wealth of important political events, uniqueness and sheer variety of surviving monuments had been largely neglected before this book. Throughout his study, the author has followed a well organised academic methodology, basing his documentation upon a large amount of historical sources which he has compared and contrasted with often conflicting accounts by historians in order to arrive at what the author believes to be the most accurate historical picture.

Despite the study’s success in gathering a wealth of scholarly material, the author has difficulty in organising the study’s sections in a clear and coherent manner. It is also worth noting that the overview provided of the remaining Islamic monuments through the use of documentary images is ineffective due to the inaccuracies conveyed by black and white photographs.

In general, the work has succeeded in providing a good scholarly and methodological study of Tripoli’s history and culture during the Islamic era. As such it constitutes a unique reference for those seeking greater knowledge of an important period in this town’s history. 

Shirin Khidr
Translated by Hugh Lovatt
Khidr, Shirin. “English abstract of 'Levantine Tripoli in Islamic History'". Translated by Hugh Lovatt. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi. 128. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
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