Book Review – After the Prophet(SAW): The Epic Story of The Shia Sunni Split in Islam (Lesley Hazleton)

This book, in its initial pages is extremely abhorrent, however as it progresses the reader is forced to make peace with the narrative. Doesn’t necessarily mean one has to acknowledge everything written in the book as the truth but one eventually subsides personal beliefs and emotions somewhat, for the sake of reading it. Let me make my statement loud and clear for what it’s worth. This isn’t a history book, although it does pretend to be one. This is biased historical narrative mixed with neutral elements and author’s own elderly, deliberate opinions that makes one wonder who gives her the authority to opine about the so called “history” even if one does come to terms with the kind of brand involved? There is a clear, ridiculously biased narrative that cleverly builds itself through out the course of the book. Over illuminating some people, shadowing others, and all based on author’s on liberties without considering one bit about the audience. I was hoping if the book is on SHIAS & SUNNIS, the revered personalities from the Sunni side would also, equally, be threaded in a consistent narrative. But right from the beginning this wasn’t the case. And it wasn’t even subtle!

The Author introduces one extremely revered personality from the Sunni side as follows:
“…..Despite his smallpox scarred cheeks, people still talked admiringly of his golden complexion and his flashing smile-flashing not with whiteness but with the fine gold wire bound around his teeth for decoration”

Another personality is introduced as follows:
“…He had protruding stomach, bulging eyes and feet swollen by gout, but as though in compensation for his physical shortcomings, he was possessed of an extraordinary subtlety of mind”

At one point the Author “Opines” about the Prophet (SAW) as follows:
“…It was as though nobody had considered the possibility that he might die, not even Muhammad himself”


“Perhaps then, the multiply married prophet was celibate”

So there goes the quality of the work right out of the window. The sources provided at the end are mostly from Tabari or Shia scholars.

Now for those who are wondering why have given it a 3 star rating. Well, this isn’t the first time I had to listen to or read nonsensical narrative on the subject. And of course one tends to keep composed and try to read with objectivity and neutrality, as a student, as somebody trying to learn a thing or two. Having that subsided, I did learn the complete side of the SHIA story as a whole in one book. Well the fundamentals at least. There were things I didn’t know why they were as they were, and also I had never read the issue in a chronological order. So that I think is the reason why I ended up liking it. As an introduction to the SHIA narrative, told in a “lavish” manner. Now, having said that, this shouldn’t automatically make me some kind of a rejectionist, as I am not going to reflect over the events per se. I have certain beliefs and let’s leave it at that.
I cannot call it an academic work, I cannot call it a quality narrative either. What I do give this book however is, it’s short, moves briskly and most importantly it spurs curiosity! This isn’t a book that is whole in itself and cannot be left alone. I definitely want to dig deep now, probably read Hodgson’s work now.

Anybody wants to know what a “quality” history book is supposed to be like, please read SALADIN by Anne-Marrie-Ed, Paighambar-e-Islam by Muhammad Hamidullah. 
On this particular subject, I would ask if anyone has better suggestions please share :)

My Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)

After The Prophet: The Epic Story of The Shia Sunni Split In Islam (Lesley Hazleton) 



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