A Sultan in Palermo – Islam Quintet IV

Published by Verso, 2005

The fourth and penultimate novel in Tariq Ali’s celebrated Islam Quintet

A Sultan in Palermo is set in medieval Palermo, a Muslim city rivaling Baghdad and Cordoba in size and splendor. The year is 1153. The Normans are ruling Siqqiliya, but Arab culture and language dominate the island and the court. Sultan Rujari (King Roger) surrounds himself with Muslim intellectuals, several concubines, and an administration presided over by gifted eunuchs. The bishops, expecting to be at the pinnacle of power, are angered by the decadence of the court. In this captivating novel, Tariq Ali charts the life and loves of the medieval cartographer Muhammed al-Idrisi. Torn between his close friendship with the sultan and his friends who are leaving the island or plotting a resistance to Norman rule, Idrisi finds temporary solace in the harem; but, confronted by the common people of Noto and Catania, his conscience is troubled. A Sultan in Palermo is a mythic novel in which pride, greed, and lust intermingle with resistance and greatness. Though set in the past, it has haunting resonance today.

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Reviews: The Guardian, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

From the archive

  • ‘Occupation Fuels the Resistance’

    October 21, 2003

    ‘Occupation Fuels the Resistance’, an interview with Tariq Ali by Anthony Arnove for Counterpunch, October 21, 2003

    Arnove: Your new book Bush in Babylon makes the case that the war on Iraq was based on deception. If the invasion wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction or Iraq’s ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, what was it about?

    Ali: If the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been real, rather than imaginary, the U.S. would never have invaded. And it’s worth repeating that outside the United States, nobody believes that there were any links between the Iraqis and al-Qaeda.

    The state of ignorance within the U.S. population is, I guess, a tribute to the three information monkeys—the networks and Fox TV—whose motto appears to be: see no truth, hear no truth, speak no truth. How  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • V40 Politics / The Obama Syndrome at the Free Word Centre

    October 15, 2010

    25 October 2010

    What is the future of the American Empire? And Obama’s prospects in the mid-terms?

    As mid-term elections loom under the shadow of the insurgent Tea Party, join a panel of eminent speakers including Tariq Ali, Mehdi Hasan, DD Guttenplan and Patrick Cockburn to discuss how much Obama’s first two years in office will cost him at the most expensive elections in history.

    The hopes aroused during Obama’s election campaign have rapidly receded-the honeymoon has been short. At home, a Wall Street bailout and thwarted hopes for healthcare and financial reform. Abroad, the “war on terror” continues: Guantanamo the ‘broken promise’, torture on a daily basis in the horror chamber that is Bagram, and more troops to Afghanistan and more drone attacks in Pakistan than under Bush.

    Will the fact that Obama has proved incapable of shifting the  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • Corruptions of Cricket

    August 30, 2010

    ‘Corruptions of Cricket’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, August 30, 2010

    Whether in cricket or in politics, corrupt leaders—bar notable exceptions—are often all Pakistan has …

    Poor Pakistan. Floods of biblical proportions; millions homeless; a president who pretends to be shocked by cricket’s latest betting scandal when his own persona is the embodiment of corruption. A prime minister shedding crocodile tears because of the cricketing “shame” rather than tending to allegations that flood-relief money has gone missing. And now a sleep-walking cricket captain attempting to deny the ugly truth, but without real conviction, hoping against hope that he will ride out the crisis like others before him and that his bosses in Pakistan’s cricket establishment will cast a veil over this one as well.

    Even if guilty, Salman Butt and his vice-captain Kamran Akmal will try to  …