Customer Review

66 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet, 16 April 2012
This review is from: In The Shadow Of The Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World (Hardcover)
Tom Holland has a singular talent: the ability to bring to glorious life a period (or periods) - the Ancient and early Medieval - that are underpinned by relatively few reliable historical sources. Now he has used this talent for his most ambitious project yet: a gripping account of the seismic century or so - arguably the most important in history - that saw the dismemberment of the Roman and Persian Empires, and the rise of Islam. He describes the upheaval as spelling the 'end of the ancient world', and he is surely right. In The Shadow of the Sword is a carefully constructed, beautifully written re-assessment of this momentous period. Not everyone will agree with all his conclusions; there are too many vested interests at stake. But the sheer intellectual prowess of the book should win over the vast majority - myself among them.
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Showing 11-14 of 14 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2013 13:59:30 BDT
S. P. Jones says:
Perhaps Islam didn't begin in Mecca?

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2013 15:39:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 28 Apr 2013 15:48:25 BDT
No,it didn't,it began in the mind of a deluded Arabian,who justified killing people(unbelievers) in the context of his invented "religion", Islam.We are still experiencing the dire consequences of this clever deception, even today.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Nov 2013 12:45:25 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Nov 2013 13:22:00 GMT
JPS says:
"No indeed but the Scandinavians did not adopt whole chunks alien religions and traditions as did the early Muslims. This suggests to me that they, (Muslims) had more than just a passing acquaintance with Jewish and Christian culture. I don't know the answer I'm just curious, (like a Pagan !)."

Well, in fact the Scandinavians DID adopt an "alien religion" - Christianity. Having said this, I do agree with your second point (and, much more importantly, so do a large number of non-muslim historians nowadays!). Bits and pieces of Islam were influenced by and/or must have come from the two other neigbouring religions (Jewish and Christian), such as the piece on Abraham and his son, and perhaps also by others. The Persians come to mind, but elements of pre-Islamic cults may also have been included, and made "acceptable" by coming up with some kind of legendary explanation after the new religion has become established and "taken over" from the pre-existing ones.

The Christians had done the same when taking over from the various pagan cults. That's why the cathedral of Syracuse, for instance, is the same old and main pagan temple of the city and there are numerous (hundreds) of examples of churches across Europe which have been built on the same sites as the temples and shrines that they replaced. It makes perfect sense to do so, if only because potential worshippers are already used to visiting these sites and worshipping there.

I can understand, however, how reluctant a Muslim would be to accept this. In fact, she/he is just as reluctant to accept it or even consider it as Christians were to consider something similar a while ago. In both cases, the respective religions teach you that whatever is part of the holy texts is "the Word of God".

A quite litteral interpretation of this simply means that a) it is ipso facto beyond human understanding, since it is the word of God, b) it also means it can neither discussed nor doubted and c) you either believe ALL of it, and every bit of it, or you are not a believer anymore. This kind of attitude is not unique to Islam. It can also still be found in various Christian or Jewish communities. In fact, I would probably have been burnt at the stake by my "fellow-Christians" as a heretic not so long ago for this very post!

By the way, the Christians (and the Jews even before them) killed people in the name of religion during Antiquity well before Islam did, simply because these religions appeared earlier. Just in case Madambedoneby was wondering, NO, I have no sympathy whatesoever for anyone who uses religion - whatever the religion - as an excuse to bump off those she/he cannot force into believing what she/he wants to believe and thinks everyone else should also believe...

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Sep 2014 09:53:12 BDT
No, of course not. God is an invention of man. Anyone is free to suddenly believe in the green cheese moon and will do so if the there are sufficient social pressures (i.e threats of annihilation), or if it is a way of controlling minds. The only valid reason for studying religion is to discover why this childish madness from the tribal bronze age has held sway for so long, and how we can wean ourselves off it today.
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