Franks and Eastern Christian Communities: A Survey of their Beliefs and Customs by an Arabic-Speaking Coptic Author (MS Mingana Chr. Arab. 71)
Interactions between various communities of Eastern Christianity are witnessed by many sources. The relationships among them were further strengthened in the wake of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East, when the widespread use of Arabic and frequent migrations contributed to the intensification of contacts. When the Franks arrived in the Middle East, they became a part of this extraordinarily diverse milieu and attracted the attention of Eastern Christian communities. This is witnessed by a series of notes comprising a kind of improvised treatise written by an unknown Arabic-speaking Coptic author. His account will be treated in the following pages. It is worth mentioning that encyclopedic works were quite popular among the Copts in the Middle Ages. One could point out such examples as the comprehensive works by scholars of the famous family of Banū al-ʿAssāl (13th c.), in particular, al-Muʾtaman Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm ibn al-ʿAssāl’s Summa of the foundations of religion, and what was heard of reliable knowledge (Mağmūʿ uṣūl ad-dīn wa-masmūʿ maḥṣūl al-yaqīn). Another example is the encyclopedic work Light [Dispelling] the Darkness and A Clear Explanation of the Liturgy (Miṣbāḥ aẓ-ẓulma wa-īḍāḥ al-ḫidma) by another Arabic-speaking Coptic author Abū ʾl-Barakāt ibn Kabar (d. 1324). Both authors used extensive material coming from diverse Christian (and non-Christian) communities throughout their history.