on 22 July 2014
I was looking forward to this book as I had been a fan of the Lost Islamic History web page for a long time, and it didn't disappoint. The author does a good job of summarizing the 1400 years of Islamic history into 250 or so pages. While enough details are there, it doesn't get bogged down in boring detail and is written in a very engaging and interesting style. I like the little snippets of information that are also included within the text, as well as the colour photographs in the middle of the book.
Most Islamic history books go into detail of the first 4 Caliphs, and then gloss over the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs. They hardly mention the other muslim states that propped up later (it was a revelation to me to see that the Abbasid caliphate broke up and lost territory and how disunited the Muslim empire was around 950 AD). This book spends a fair amount of pages on the other Muslim states that many of us never heard about, such as Mali, the Indo-Pak subcontinent and muslim Mongols. To me, I would have liked a bit more details of the African Fatimid empire as well as the Delhi Sultanate before the Mughals.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested to learn more about Islamic history.
on 13 July 2015
This here is good book but it doesn't go any higher than that. It explores Islamic history from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ right up to modern day. However, after reading it once, you gain a feeling that the author has merely glossed over certain historical areas of interest or importance.
For example, the author dedicates a lot of writing to the Ottomans which is great because they have a lot of history with Islam. Yet this contrasts with the dedication the Mughals - a mere few pages that seemed to rushed and lack perceived interest by the author. This is only one such example. Others could be that Persia is largely forgotten by the book after the Safavids and modern era Islamic history is quickly painted by the issues that it currently faces - never mentioning facts like the take over of Arabia by the House of Saud for example. An entire chapter is dedicated to Muslim Spain but Muslim Sicily is not once mentioned. Islamic Sicily produced some amazing culture which is still evidently seen today. Alas some things will ironically remain "lost" in Islamic history.
I profess the Sunni faith but I have to admit that there is a perceived bias towards the contribution of the Shias to Islamic history. Safavid Persia is given a 5 page treatment as if they played no part in shaping the Islamic history as we know it today. One will wonder why Nader Shah is not mentioned, or why the 1906 Constitutional Revolution is not mentioned which was the first attempt in the Middle East to use non violent civil disobedience to try an create a democracy whilst subduing the corrupt Shah under the influence of the British and Russians. There are also too many little references to Salafist or fundamentalist linked scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Hazm etc. which in the context of this book, mean nothing as they've not inspired anything of value to Islamic History in light of today's Age.
My point is that sometimes we only get to see what the author is interested in and not everything as whole. That being said, the author has done marvellous job in detailing the glorious history of Islam and how much it had contributed to human civilisation.
on 9 August 2015
Contrary to what might be perceived, this is not an encyclopaedia of inventions – it is a summary of Islamic history, covering all of the geographical locations that Islam ruled over, from the time of the seerah to the 20th century.
The first two (very short) chapters summarise pre-Islamic Arabia and the seerah of the Prophet (saw) – it is very apparent how powerful the Islamic ideology is, as it alone transformed backward, insignificant desert pagans into the greatest world leaders the world has ever known, in the space of a mere 23 years.
Leading on from there, the next chapter focuses on the Khulafaa Rashidun (approx. 30 years): Abu Bakr setting the precedent for the role of the caliph, expansion, the encounters with the Roman, Byzantine and Sassanid empires and religious minorities living under Islam. It then goes into the chaos caused by the Khawaarij.
Chapter 4 starts with Muawiyaa/Banu Umayyah, the beginning of ‘hereditary rule’ and the conflict of succession they had with Husayn ibn Abi Talib and Abdullah ibn al Zubayr. It makes a note of further expansion into Spain and into India, making it the world’s largest state after less than 100 years since revelation began. The Abbasids then forcibly took power.
Chapter 5, ‘Intellectual Golden Ages’, looks at the vast number of scientific and technological achievements achieved under the Abbasids; hospitals, language, universities, astronomy, mathematics, etc. The establishment of ‘Bayt al Hikmah’ (the House of Wisdom) spurred this, however it also led to many theological issues; the Islamic method of thinking was diluted and many started to adopt Greek logic (mantiq) as a basis for thinking to ‘explain’ theology, leading to the Mutazila, Asharis, etc. The final sub-chapter is on Shi’ism.
The following chapter, rightly titled ‘Upheaval’, looks into Ismailism, the Crusaders and the Mongols: the Qarmatians, Pope Urban II, the Ayyubid dynasty, the Mamluks, Genghis Khan and his son Ogedai, and Baghdad being ransacked.
The next chapter specifically focuses on al-Andalus, expanding when an Umayyad prince fled there during the massacre of the Abbasids. Points mentioned include: Granada, Cordoba, the Taifa kings, sciences, cultural development and the ‘Moriscos’. The Spanish Inquisition did not stretch to just over a few days or a few weeks – rather, it was over a century-long oppression of Muslims, so much so that they had to hide their Islam to the extent that fataawa were issued that allowed them to pray their 5 prayers all at night and eat pork – hence Islam was kept secretively but it survived in the hearts, which eventually led to the expulsion of everyone descended from Muslims (except children under 4, who were taken away and forcibly converted to Christianity by the state).
Chapter 8 explains Islam in West Africa, whose leaders were arguably amongst the richest people who have ever existed. They established Timbuktu as one of the greatest Islamic scholarly centres in the world. East Africa was familiar with Islam due to the Companions travelling there in the time of the seerah and hence both regions had many Muslims. Millions were taken as slaves to the American continent (i.e. North and South) after the European Colonisation. There is also a mention of modern-day ‘African Americans’ and Malcolm X.
Islam in China had its beginnings from the time of when Uthman ibn Affan was khaleefah, when he sent ambassadors to the Tang dynasty. Thereafter, Muslims were primarily employed in the administration of the government; special note of Zheng He. Islam in India is revisited, as well as in Southeast Asia.
Chapter 9 looks at the origins of the Ottomans, who were originally a warrior state, taking the mantle of the Khilafah. They had rapid expansion and eventually took Constantinople, ushering in another ‘Golden Age’. It also explains the rise of the Safavids and the Mughals
The following chapter, ‘Decline’, assesses the problems with the Ottoman state, such as the liberal/Tanzimaat reforms which caused further decline. Sultan Abdul Hamid II exerted effort to combat the problems but the Young Turks ended his thirty-three year reign.
The decline of India, Africa and Asia is then explained, with cultural and physical colonialism accelerating the decline.
Chapter 11 looks into Western ideological infiltration, reform, modernism, the establishment of the Zionist entity, the rise of nation states in the Arab and South Asian regions, the abolishment of the Khilafah, lack of leadership, secularism and the abandonment of the idea of Islamic rule.
Although they are two completely different books in terms of purpose and angles, I would recommend reading this before ‘The Inevitable Caliphate’ as it will give a chronological overview of the last 1450 years.
I learnt a great deal from this book, such as the importance of the khaleefah being the central leader and the significance of political awareness. It was also a heavy re-iteration for me that the wealth of a nation is its ideas and viewpoint towards life; its intellectual wealth.