Michael Philip Penn, Professor of Religion at Mount Holyoke College, has just published a new book on early Christian Muslim interactions and the overlooked history of Middle Eastern Christians.
Penn identifies a critical problem in seventh century scholarship; Christian studies focus on western Christians, and Muslim studies focus on the writings of Muslims. For the first centuries of the Islamic Empire, the population was predominantly Middle Eastern Christians, and Penn’s scholarship is focused on how their impressions of Muslims and Islam contributed to Christian thought.
His new book incorporates the translations and interpretations of previously uncollected works in the Aramaic dialect of Syriac, providing a comprehensive picture of what the Syriac Christians thought and recorded.
Penn found that the interactions between Muslims and Christians varied greatly, ranging from friendly to antagonistic, and providing the most detailed outsider observations of any of the Abrahamic faith.
When Christians First Met Muslims: A Sourcebook of the Earliest Syriac Writings on Islam is available from UC Press.