In this gripping narrative history, Lesley Hazleton tells the tragic story at the heart of the ongoing rivalry between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, a rift that dominates the news now more than ever.
Even as Muhammad lay dying, the battle over who would take control of the new Islamic nation had begun, beginning a succession crisis marked by power grabs, assassination, political intrigue, and passionate faith. Soon Islam was embroiled in civil war, pitting its founder's controversial wife Aisha against his son-in-law Ali, and shattering Muhammad’s ideal of unity.
Combining meticulous research with compelling storytelling, After the Prophet explores the volatile intersection of religion and politics, psychology and culture, and history and current events. It is an indispensable guide to the depth and power of the Shia–Sunni split.
Much American foreign policy has been shaped by the centuries-old disagreement between Islam's two main factions, and yet Americans in general, and our politicians in particular, often can't tell Sunnis from Shi'ites. With the publication of this outstanding book, we no longer have any excuse. Hazleton (Jezebel) ties today's events to their ancient roots, resurrecting seventh century Arabia with reverence and vivid immediacy. Here are rich recreations of the lives of the Prophet Muhammad and his beloved wife Aisha; here are often overlooked details (why is green the color of Islam? why do some Muslim women veil?) filling in the contours of the narrative. The battle to name Muhammad's successor is gripping—but it is Hazleton's ability to link the past and present that distinguishes this book: “the main issue is again what it was in the seventh century—who should lead Islam?—played out on an international level. Where Ali once struggled against Muawiya, Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia today vie with each other for influence.” Anyone with an interest in the Middle East, U.S.-international relations or a profound story masterfully told will be well served by this exceptional book. (Sept.)