By Geoffrey L. Lewis
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In Tangiers, indeed in all corners, our horses race. If bored in a space, we leave it for another place. Muslim and non-Muslim lands are at our hands, In summers we resort to snow. In winters the oasis we enjoy! 1012), quoted in Hassan, Al-Rahala al-Muslimun fi-l-ʿUsur al-Wusta, 3 (translation mine) Nabil Matar is not totally wrong when he deplores the fact that Anthony Pagden’s voluminous collection of articles published under the title Facing Each Other: The World’s Perception of Europe and Europe’s Perception of the World (2000) fails to include “a single entry about the perception of or by any of the civilizations of Islam” (In the Lands of the Christians, xv).
25 In a general sense, outside the borders of dar al-islam, it was mainly al-hind (India) and al-sin (China) that drew the closest attention of Muslim 24 T H E [E U ROP E A N] O T H E R politicians, geographers, merchants, and travelers alike (Khan, “Al-Biruni, the Pioneer Indologist”, 34). Although this “Orient” was predominantly conceived as “an actual space,” to use Iain Macleod Higgins’s phrase, some elements of “the imaginary and the conceptual” were unquestionably present, without, however, attaining the imaginary and the conceptual Orient “envisioned, elaborated, and encountered in the corpus of western writing about the East” (Writing East, 6).
31 In al-Tajir’s view, the religious inf luence of the Indians over their eastern neighbors the Chinese is uncontested. Acknowledging some small differences in minor practices, he calls them furuʿ (Arabic for “minor issues”) and observes that the sciences of religion never developed in China, for “their religion originated in India” (53); this is an apparent reference to the fact that the predominant religion of medieval Chinese was Buddhism, which is Sanskrit for “enlightenment,” again a concept of fundamental importance in Sufism.