The editors commissioned and assembled no less than fifty-seven of what they term "some of the most vivid and neglected [primary] sources" on conversions to Islam during the premodern period, 700-1650 A.D. The geographic coverage extends from West Africa to Indonesia, with an emphasis on the Middle East and especially Syria and Iraq, a reflection of both the Middle East's centrality in Islam and the sources available. Translations into English are from languages as varied as Armenian and Malay; each is followed by suggestions for further reading.
The scholarship is exemplary, providing a sober and literate survey of a key topic of Islamic history. Reading the excerpts one after another, from here and there, relentlessly moving forward in time, provides extensive information on circumstances, motives, legal implications, personal changes, social impact, and more.
But beyond those specifics, the collection leads to an inescapable overall impression of betrayal and oppression: almost always, the convert implicitly realizes that as he joins what the editors candidly call "the hope of joining God's 'winning team,'" he leaves his former co-religionists in the lurch. In the Geniza, for example, the convert was usually known as a "criminal" (Heb. poshe'a).
Conversely, few conversions occur for positive, affirmative, inspirational reasons. (One exception of note concerns the forty-one monks of Amorium who converted en masse.) Thus does the editors' scholarly framework vanish, pushed aside by the pain that soaks the testimonies and cries that reverberate through the centuries. The agony for non-believers of Islamic supremacism remains sadly consistent.