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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To touch is to heal, to hurt is to steal If you want to kiss the sky, better learn how to kneel, 15 May 2012
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This review is from: After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam (Hardcover)
Hazleton tells this pivotal Islamic story beautifully. Despite her occasional stream of rhetorical questions as a device, which can grate, she writes with sensitivity, sympathy and historical understanding. Her flowing and conversational prose can, when describing emotional events, transcend to the poetic; the highlight being her moving and poignant re-telling of the events and tragic climax at Kerbala. She narrates the factual events in a concise, usually neutral and strictly temporal way, underscoring similarities between 7th century and 21st century figures and events in a shrewd and at times wickedly wry way, while weaving in her own thoughts, insights and ascriptions of motives to key figures. Some of these will not only jar with but also vex many Muslims as hers is not a hagiographical account.

The account she offers seems to be heavily flavoured by Shia versions which might be why she makes the howler that the Lady Fatimah was the Prophet's eldest daughter as opposed to being his fourth and youngest one (a flick through the bibliography shows that the contemporary Muslims books are indeed Shia; this may be more a reflection on Sunnis and their neglect to author good well written books on this subject in English than any bias on Hazelton's part). Lady Aisha emerges as a head strong feisty woman child who is driven by the need for recognition and attention, an unrecognisable person to most Sunnis. On the other hand Imam Ali rightly emerges as a towering otherworldly man full of nobility, integrity, moral courage and ethical conviction.

Hazelton seems to think that officially Sunnis are against Imam Ali whilst Shias were for him. She neglects or is unaware that the real root for the continuing hostility between the two groups isn't so much the political split but rather the theological diversion which resulted in some Shia sects ritually cursing the first three Caliphs as well as denigrating Lady Aisha and other leading companions of the Prophet (PBUH) with some extreme sects going so far as putting Imam Ali on the same station as the Prophet (PBUH) himself. It is arguably this that raises the Sunni red mist rather than the claims and counter claims of succession. Of course this sensitivity has been ruthlessly exploited by many, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. However she does rather splendidly point out in the end that the similarities between Sunnis and Shias are, ultimately, more than their differences. How long before more Muslims can see this.

Overall I would recommend this book as worth reading, maybe along with a book on the topic from an orthodox Muslim perspective. This has whetted my appetite for her forthcoming biography of the Prophet (PBUH).
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Aug 2012 03:39:28 BDT
DMJ MIAH says:
I was wondering what to write as my own review, and to be honest I loved the book it had a good flow and was written with sensitivity. Than I came across this review, I could not have explained or reviewed such a book any better than Oliveman, he has actually done an excellent job and from reading his comment I know he is well read in this subject, and very knowledgeable in this field.

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 16:58:14 GMT
Hassan says:
Shias donot put Imam Ali above or as same as the Prophet, it is not possible if they do it then they are not shias or to say true shias, remember Prophet himself said 'if I am they city of knowledge then Ali is its door' so you can see Shias donot and cannot put Ali above the Prophet or even same as, secondly Shias problem with sunnis is simple which is Shias belief is that Prophet Himself made Ali His successor at Gadheer so that is why Shias have a problem with the top three Caliphs, but Shias agree they are Caliphs but Shias say that Caliphs were not chosen by Prophet so obviously Shias believe true successor as said by Prophet is Ali and not three Caliphs. Please do read the history after the Prophet like what happenned with Ali and His family and the bani-hashim plus also do read about what happenned with the closest and truest Ashabs of Prophet that how they sufferred from after death of Prophet and how they were honoured again when Ali came to power. Read how close we came to destroy Prophet's religion Islam after the death of prophet.

Yes Shias have a problem with Hazrat Ayesha, but the problem is because of her creating the political divide after the death of Prophet and the first war Ali fought during his rule after the death of Prophet. For Shias Mother of All Momin is Hazrat Khadeeja and not Hazrat Ayesha so that is where else Shias have a difference in.

Yes I agree with your point that Shias and Sunnis have more in common then the differences and Yes we can debate the differences like humans but we keep on fighting or I should say made to fight.

Posted on 3 Oct 2013 22:23:34 BDT
Nadia Kazmi says:
Obviously the writer of this comment is unaware of the different levels at which Shia Muslims place the Holy Prophet and the first Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib. There is no comparison between the two. In Imam Ali's own words he was but equal to servant of the Holy Prophet. The first 3 chaliphs were appointed by people where as Imam Ali was appointed by Allah and this was declared by the Holy Prophet in what is called " dawat-e-Zul- Ashera" at the beginning of invitation to Islam when Holy Prophet says that he who will help me will be my vice regent, and then finally at Ghadeer-Khum in his last sermon. We can muddle up human minds by coming up with new meanings to the word Maula but the truth remains wether believed by one or all. As for cursing the chaliphs it was Mawiyas sunnat which lasted for more than six decades to curse Imam Ali at the Friday prayers. This was stopped by his descendant. A historical fact, not fiction.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Oct 2013 09:12:30 BDT
Oliveman says:
Nadia Kazmi wrote "Obviously the writer of this comment is unaware of the different levels at which Shia Muslims place the Holy Prophet and the first Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib."

Um I wrote "with some extreme sects going so far as putting Imam Ali on the same station as the Prophet (PBUH) himself." The key word there being "some" so to say the writer is "unaware of the different levels" is at the very least inaccurate. That some (not all) sects did this is also a historical fact not fiction.

The rest of points (or rather assertions) mentioned are nothing new and really don't offer anything new or constructive to the the discussion.
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