This book reveals the parallel "other" narrative of world history to help us make sense of today's world conflicts. Ansary traces the history of the Muslim world from pre-Mohammedan days through 9/11, introducing people, events, empires, legends, and religious disputes, both in terms of what happened and how it was understood and interpreted.
©2009 Tamim Ansary; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
"Informative and thoroughly engaging....A must read." (Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner)
This book is a must read for anyone attempting to understand the central news of our era - the ongoing clash between the Christian and Muslim worlds. This is not a history of the religion of Islam. It's a history of the people, events and society of the Islamic culture that presents a vivid road map of how the world has gotten to the place it is in today. This edition is beautifully narrated by the author himself, told to the reader as if you are sitting in the room with him and he's telling you a story. The effect is to pull you in completely as you listen to the founding of Islam with the life of Muhammad, the bloodbath that is the succession story of the generations that followed and splintered into various factions, the clashes with the Christian West and Mongol East, the impact of Western industrialization and colonialism on the Islamic world and the explanation of how we got to Sept. 11, 2001, the wars in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq and the standoff with Iran. The book answers the question of why we are at the place we are in the ongoing clash of the Western world and Islam.
History books are frequently dry and factual, even when not written as textbooks, and when they're not, they tend to reveal the author's biases or axes to grind. Tamim Ansary, however, sets out to tell the history of Islam through Islamic eyes, not as an apologetic for Islam that ignores its less edifying historical episodes and its troubled present, nor as a Westerner viewing Islam as, at best, an exotically misunderstood Oriental tradition, and at worst, the religion of terrorists and women-in-burkas.
Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American, suggests that Islam and the West have for much of history existed in two parallel worlds, only rarely intersecting until the violent last few decades. The Dar-al-Islam, or the entire region that Ansary calls the "Middle World," between the European-dominated West and the Chinese-dominated East, grew, expanded, experienced theological and political revolutions, technological and scientific and literary evolution, and several foreign invasions much more significant than those Crusades that everyone today thinks were the most significant East-West interaction before the modern day.
The vast majority of Muslims, even during the height of the Crusades, simply didn't notice the West, which for most of Islam's early history, was an impoverished backwater land of savage, squabbling kingdoms while the Middle East and North Africa was full of wealth and education and glorious cosmopolitan cities. The Crusaders seized some cities and killed a bunch of people and certainly left some profound historical legacies, but never really materially affected the Islamic world nearly as much as they think they did.
The Mongols, on the other hand... they messed the Islamic world up.
Before listening to this, I vaguely remembered the Ummayads, the Abbasids, the Ottomans, the various Caliphates and Sultanates and Emirates that rose and fell from immediately after Mohammad's death until the 20th century when Muslim nation states began to congeal into more or less their present forms. But Destiny Disrupted tells the entire sweeping epic with a historian's accuracy but a storyteller's verve. You will actually get caught up in the rise and fall of dynasties and the shifting epicenters of Islamic scholarship and Arab-African-and-Persian power, the changes in Islam as it goes from populist movement to institutional social paradigm to bureaucratic theocracy. Islam is a complicated religion, like Christianity, with its sects and schisms and interactions with the power of the state. Yes, to Muslims, religion has never been a separate entity from the state, as it came to be in the West, but still, Islam served the interests of rulers, got coopted by those in power, brought down those in power, caused fragmentation and changes in government according to different factions' understanding of how a proper Islamic state should be run, and so conflicts between clerics and kings did play out in their own way in the Middle East too.
If you want to have more than a superficial understanding of how Sunnis and Shias split off from each other, and why India has been the location of so much Hindu-Muslim conflict, and of course, how the United States went from a modern nation Muslims admired and respected in the early 20th century to the Great Satan it is today (yes, a big part of the reason is Israel, but that's not the whole story, and most of the rest of the reason is oil, but that's still not the whole story), then you will get it here, but as the title indicates, this is a history of the world through Muslim eyes, and so the West really only comes into the picture towards the end. There is a huge amount of history that took place between Europe and China that most Westerners know little or nothing about, and this book will not only tell you about it, but make it interesting.
The author's style is a great asset to this narrative. Ansary is not above tossing in wry commentary now and then, neither sparing Westerners nor Muslims from apt observations about historical hypocrisy and inconvenient truths. Ansary does not take a religious position — he obviously grew up as a Muslim in Afghanistan, but it's not even clear from his website whether he is a practicing Muslim today. So he doesn't try to "sell" Islam (and specifically calls out the historical revisionism of those liberal Muslims who today insist that "jihad" has never "properly" meant violent struggle against infidels — Ansary points out that yes it has, many times in history), but neither will he satisfy those of an anti-Islamic bent who insist that Islam is fundamentally and inherently a religion of violence and oppression and intolerance of unbelievers. Those who say that Muslims are incapable of peaceful, heterogeneous coexistence in societies that value reason and democratic principles ignore the fact that such Muslim societies existed for centuries.
If you are a history buff and are interested in this little-served area of history, then I think you could hardly do better than Destiny Disrupted. You will be truly educated about fourteen centuries of history spanning a huge chunk of the world. It's a really good read.
If you're looking for answers addressing contemporary issues - how Israel came to be and why it's an unending canker sore to Muslims worldwide, the origins of Wahabbism (Osama Bin Laden's brand of Islamic fundamentalism), the roots of the Taliban, how the West came to become the "Great Satan" and what Iran's problem is (and what Afghanistan's problem is, and what Syria's problem is, and what Iraq's problem is, and what Egypt's problem is....) then you'll find those here, mostly in the last few chapters, but this is not primarily a book dissecting modern Islam/Western issues. It's about the whole history of the world that happened before the West was important.
Excellent book, highly recommended, an unreserved 5 stars.
I would also like to single out Tamim Ansary's narration. Usually, an author narrating his own book is not a positive for me. Even great writers are rarely good narrators. But Ansary knows his material and puts all the right humorous and serious tones into his reading, and it really does sound like the author simply sitting there telling you this long historical tale, engagingly and interestingly.
Although I have not had the opportunity to check all the facts in this book (and never will for that matter), anything I researched checked out.
Because of the subject matter it is "pro" Islam, and "pro" Mohammed.But not overbearing at all.
Definitely gives new meaning to "There but for fortune go you and I."
Enjoyed the style MOST of the time. Occasionally, especially toward the end, the amount of detail was overwhelming. Narration was good.
Would definitely recommend this book to anyone that wants to see the world through anothers eyes. And maybe, most importantly, to those who don't.
Speaking as someone who'd like to think of himself as well-educated, I downloaded this book hoping it could fill a few gaps in my knowledge of world history.
Little did I know how little I knew.
Destiny Disrupted is a fantastic book -- it really gives the listener a different perspective on the last two thousand years of human history. No, it's not encyclopedic -- after all, it's subtitled "A History of the World through Islamic Eyes," so it's as light w.r.t. goings-on in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa as most history classes in the U.S. tend to be. Still, it's a helpful counterpoint to the usual perspective you'll hear in the "news" media, where everyone on the planet is assumed to be just the same and hungering for the very same things.
If I had to criticize anything about the book, it'd be that Ansary skips over two less-flattering episodes in Islamic history -- namely, Arab involvement in the African slave trade, and Arab collaboration with the Nazis.
Still, all-in-all this is a well-written book, well-read by the author himself. The listening experience is fantastic, you'll feel like you're sitting side-by-side with the author as he patiently explains this all to you. Best of all -- you won't see the world the same way after you're done.
Passionate book lover, passionate reader, lover of history, how will I read every book before I die ?
I don't think I ever expect to explore a serious historical topic like this one and come away totally passionate about both the author and the narrator (which in this case are one and the same), but this book is the exception to almost every rule ! Ever since 9/11 (and I was in lower Manhattan on that day) I have been struggling to understand why the West and the Middle East are at such a terrible pass, why they seem so angry at us, and why the enmity seems to be so "stuck." I came to this book hoping it might shed some light on this complicated topic, but I admit rather shamefacedly that i was somewhat skeptical because the author's name looks Arab-- well of course he is an Arab, but to see the history of the world through his eyes is an extraordinary experience. I was born and will always be an Anglo Saxon Protestant, descended from a long line of Brits and Danes, and I will always be true to the faith of my fathers. But I am also a well educated person with an inquiring mind, and I found this book immensely satisfying. The author as narrator adds a special dimension to the experience of reading his book because his tone is so reasonable, just as reasonable as his prose is well reasoned, and the combination of the two is powerful in a gentle way that will not alienate even those of us who think that the whole concept of jihad is revolting, heartless and inhumane. This gentlemanly scholar seems relatively unbiased, as his story sets forth many aspects of Islamic history that are no less pretty than some of the excesses of the "Christian" Crusaders. His book will inspire me to read more about the history of Islam and the Arabs; in fact on my nightstand I now have a paperback called "The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization"-- I think the ultimate measure of this book is that the author has intrigued me enough that now I want to learn more. His book is a great starting point on the road to understanding the entire mess in the Middle East, and also to the realization that the jihadists do not represent all Muslims, much less all Arabs. Cannot recommend this too highly !
Tamim Ansary does an excellent job of presenting the reader with a view from the Islamic side of history. Not only is his reading of the book done in a pleasant, almost casual manner, his effort to tie important events to the western view of history is critical this story's success. I would recommend this book to any history buff, anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the muslim world, and especially teachers wise enough to know there are more views of the world than the one most of us were taught in school.
Expansive creative worlds or histories seem to be my thing these days... Too much time in a car with long drives ahead!
I read a great deal on the middle east and spent 8 years living in the area as well. Trust me when I say that this book fills a gap that so many other narratives have missed. If you are interested in learning about Islam from a historical perspective this book is a must!!! Trust me BUY IT!
Books make the world a better place
I highly recommend the unabridged audio version as presented from a moderate Muslim’s point of view and read by the author, Mr. Tamim Ansary. His excellent narration and accurate pronunciation of people, places and things only increases the listening experience, which may not have been as enjoyable had another, ‘less-adept’ narrator been chosen for the task. That being said, the information contained in this book deals with 1300 years of human history. True, there are plenty of facts but ‘Destiny Disrupted…’ neither falls into that category of boring text book nor is it a dull book of historic facts. ‘Destiny Disrupted…’ is a kaleidoscope of kingdoms, cultures, campaigns and clashes, ranging from those of Europe, Asia Minor, Persia and ‘Middle World’ (a/k/a Middle East to the West), to the distant lands of India and the Far East.
Through Ansary’s eyes we gain an alternative perspective of the Middle World and as he is equally critical of both Western and Muslim prejudices and dogma, he establishes himself as a trustworthy guide and reporter. This book offers a fulfilling overview, striking the perfect balance between summary and detail, objective reporting and critical analysis; while setting contemporary events and world views into historical context. This is the larger picture most westerners need to hear but unfortunately will never know.
This is important and relevant so if you are ready to put aside the traditional western commentary and you are willing to hear the ‘other side’, then you are ready to be enlightened and so this book is for you.
RevNaomi - reader, knitter, lover of life, minister
The premise - to tell history through Islamic eyes - is exciting for those of us most familiar with the European-dominated world histories.
Addressing the development of Wahabbism, Ansary clearly put the movement in context and names ways it has continued to develop that matter greatly today, but were not obviously part of early teachings.
The story of the development of Sufism and the initial response of rulers to try and crush it.
I have a feeling that many westerners whom come across this title will not even give it a second thought. It will be their loss. While one could forgive the casual shopper for looking at a book with the dome of a Mosque on the cover and promising "A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes" and assuming that it is an anti-western book of Islamist propaganda.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Maybe there would be less conflict and greater understanding of foreign cultures if all nations wrote their cultural history with such an unbiased assessment of their deeds, crimes, and neglect.
For the record, I was raised in a Catholic house, but converted to Islam four years ago when I met my wife. A woman whom changed my life completely. I have always loved to learn about history, and suddenly having to submit myself to mandates of a culture that I had never understood, and one that is so maligned in popular culture left me with many questions, and no answers at all.
My wife was little help in answering my questions, because she had never had the need to ask them herself. And, for reasons that become clear in this book, many Muslims are largely ignorant of their own cultural significance in world history.
My wife is a Sunni Muslim, and so far I have resisted taking sides in a sectarian divide that I didn't even understand. Thanks to this book, I now know what it is that a Shi'a Muslim believes. However, understanding the differences in a fair and balanced manner, makes it much less likely that I will ever take sides in that conflict.
Tamim Ansary dedicates a large portion of this book to the development of Islamic society through the revelations to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and the subsequent rulers of Islam, both religious scholars, and the leaders of the empires. And it is spellbinding. It becomes clear just how the Islamic world authored its own fragmentation throughout history, and how that fragmentation of society made the Middle World easy for invading armies to exploit.
I won't give spoilers, but I was shocked to discover that my own understanding of the Middle World (Middle East) was wrong, wrong, wrong. Nobody told me to think these things, but I placed the blame for many of the problems in the Middle World squarely at the feet of Christianity beginning with the Crusades, continuing through colonialism, progressing through puppet dictators, the outrage of Zionist occupation, and resulting in jihadist hatred.
What I found in this book was that my beliefs were wrong, if not completely, at least partially, on every single one of those beliefs. Tamim Ansary spreads the blame around equally. If the Muslims acted in a way that brought misfortune upon them, he calls them out for it. At the same time, he does not shy away from talking about the horrors committed by invading forces. And to show that he is not simply making things up, he provides specific sources within the book as well.
I recommend this book to ANYBODY that enjoys history. It won't disappoint.
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