I had to laugh through the Foreword to this book as the author tells us that “the concern to make the Middle East scientific and academically respectable” is one that he, along with a small group of other scholars who work on such projects, undertakes in the creation of published works regarding Islamic/Muslim history. He also relates how both he, and the other scholars, have had to avoid the anecdotes and story-telling references which have come down to them from the Arabic sources, being that the original sources have admittedly long-since been “lost.” Therefore, this work, as well as many others preceding it, have all been a reconstruction of the history of these people, allegedly compiled from other literary sources. Additionally, the author states that the issue of the reliability of these stories, “whether they are really ‘true,'” is a complex one.
Many contradictions are noted while delving into the secondary (or occasional primary) source material, he notes. He also includes the language as used, not omitting the swear words, calling them “an integral feature of this lively and robust culture.” I would agree with that.
I might not necessarily agree with the history, as given here, of these people, though. The author purports to present the Islamic Caliphate of the Abbassid history. From thenceforth, and with the above in mind, this is an engaging read.