Author Tamim Ansary narrates his book in a pleasant, well paced, conversational tone. It is easy listening. Occasional use of common slang makes the presentation more like a well rehearsed speech than a book reading.There is plenty of information for many repeat listenings.
Ansary is of Afghani-American heritage. His early years were at an English language school in Afghanistan. The topic is of current interest - Islam in the core geographic area of Egypt through Afghanistan. Coverage is from the life of Mohammad through the middle ages, colonialism, to the current spectrum of Islam beliefs.The book presents history from the perspective of the middle empire - Persian and Turkic peoples - and the fundamental paradigms of Islam. (Not perhaps views to which Ansary personally adheres, but which he can credibly present.)
Engineer in St Louis, Missouri, United States
Positively, it's great for someone to put Israel in the right context. The Brits and French simply took over the Ottoman vacuum and basically made Arabs host a bunch of European outcasts, AKA Jews. We are told it is ok because the Jews were promised the land in an ancient book...written by Jews. The details on the crony capitalism and imperialism that basically turned the middle east into a unwilling colony were well explained.
Elegant...Ansary schools the Neocons on Iraq. It would be good if people in decision making roles read this book, 25 years ago or maybe 100 years ago. How much better would the world be if the Brits, French, and Russians decided to respect the sovereignty of Islamic nations after WWI instead of attempting to carve them up for ultimately petty economic gains?
Negatively, Ansary contradicts himself a few times and plays like a partisan several times. It's forgivable because everybody whitewashes their misdeeds. Dead Indians, Guals, Armenians, or Persians are never anybody's fault. The biggest contradiction is Ansary's point that the Middle World needs a bigger place in world history, I agree. But 50% of the book happens between the fall of Rome and the Mongol Holocaust. The rest of the book is about the Turks conquering the Middle East, Turks running the Middle East, and Finally the English and French taking over after the industrial revolution. Therefore, Ansary basically made Arab nations a side-story in a book about Islamic nations.
Other contradictions. Ansary seems to delight in the demise of Byzantium. European Jews took a desert strip and that is described as a modern catastrophe. The Turks took Anatolia (many times larger) from the Greeks, seems ok by Ansary? The Greeks I know would not agree. Ansary says the Middle World ignored Europe. What about the Siege of Vienna I and II? What about the Spanish needing the battle of Tours and a 700 year reconquest to expel Islam from Iberia? What about the Siege of Malta? What about the millions of Poles, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, and Russians kidnapped and sold into slavery by the Tartars and Turks?
Less bias and more truth.
Different title..."What they are teaching in Islamic Schools". Or what "What Islam believes despite facts".
Book was enjoyable overall. Just not what I thought it would be.
Tell us about yourself!I am an avid reader but enjoy listening while waking to work, ironing, doing dishes, etc. Listening to novels is an entirely different experience than reading; a well narrated story is a cross between drama and written fiction. Listening to books on Audible has been a wonderful experience.
Yes--An informative well-researched and accessible (for non historians) review of Islam past and present
Humor and irony are present in his cadence, timing, and emphasis.
This is a brilliant and balanced elucidation of Islamic history in an accessible and easy to comprehend style with copious connections to European history that most of us understand a little better.
They should be experienced roughly in unison. Both the written version and the audio need to be experienced with maps in hand, easily available on the internet. I would suggest at least occasionally referring to the text, read a chapter, listen for awhile, etc. This is because the terms used, the names, the places, are not familiar to the western ear, and it helped me to see the terms in print.
There were no particular moments that I consider memorable, I couldn't stop listening and reading and will listen again soon. The essential aspect is the overall look at history from the viewpoint of Islam, and not yet another scholarly tome written by a western author who is writing from the western point of view.
Tamim is an excellent narrator, and I appreciate the mild irony and humor he applies to both Islam and Christianity, and the actions of the leaders, from time to time. Not often is it successful that the author narrate his own work, yet I have no criticisms, the narration is great. His other narrations that I have experience with are the West of Kabul, East of NY, and Games Without Rules. I consider these to be Ansary's trilogy, the 3 books through which I have learned the most about Afghanistan/Islam/middle east history.
It made me sad to realize the inevitability, the power of fanatics of the major religionS to bring the world to the edge of destruction.
I approach (my learning of) the area in question as a cluster. I go through the historical novels and the history of the region through as many points of view as possible. I would suggest starting with Destiny Disrupted, then Games without Rules. After that I would read, in no particular order: The Kite Runner, A thousand Splendid Suns (these 2 by Hosseini), Far Pavilions (Kaye), West of Kabul. Next I am going to read "Revenge of Geography", and anything about India, the crusades, Pakistan, Iran, and the Ottoman Empire that I can find. This should keep me busy for awhile! My next audio book is "The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate". Then, the works of Ahmed Rashid.
The content and narration of this book are both excellent. Author does a superb job of telling a story and educating the listener about history from a different point of view. I was a little apprehensive at first that it might be just a smear of the west in general and the U.S. in particular, but that was not the case at all. A very worthwhile listen.
Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.
Everything from the rise of the Prophet until right before World War II are excellent gems. The final third of the book feels too confusing and full of inaccuracies.
Conservative Catholic Curmudgeon
While the book is useful for a better understanding of how history looks from the perspective of the Muslim world, Ansary repeatedly demonstrates a shallow understanding of Christianity. His angle on Christian beliefs makes me wonder whether he has ever consulted primary sources on Christianity, rather than secularist caricatures.
Most of us who grew up outside the Islamic world have enormous gaps in our understanding of the most important events in Islamic history. With precision, efficiency and subtle humor, Tamim Ansary illuminates these gaps and helps pave the way for a more complete view of the human story - one we all need to understand more clearly as civilizations continue to intersect in increasingly visible ways.