Sunday, November 15, 2009

On My Nightstand: After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam

My latest read has been Lesley Hazleton's After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam. It provides an excellent background resource into the way Islam developed in the years following Mohammad's death and how personal conflicts between his followers led to ongoing and deep seated conflict that has lasted more than a millennium. Central to this conflict is Aisha, Mohammad's youngest wife and Ali, one of Mohammad's earliest devotees and followers. Their conflicts and choices politically and religiously set Islam upon a course that we still live with to this day.

Of particular note is the rise of fundamentalist Islam as a response to the growing schism between the followers of Ali as Imam and the followers of the Sunni tradition that was based around Aisha's recitations of hadith - the sunnah. They rejected anyone who didn't follow the strict word of the Koran as being apostate and were the progenitors of the modern Wahabi/Salafist sects that now dominate Saudi Arabia and spawned the terror group al Qaeda as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan.

One flaw to this is an attempt by the author to infuse several areas of the book with not so veiled attacks on the Bush Administration and that had the Administration known their history they would not have gone and acted as they did. That glosses over nearly 1,000 years of conflict and subjugation and suppression of Shi'ites by Sunni Muslims, and that it was that suppression by Saddam Hussein that was genocidal in intent and deed.

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