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Heirs of Muhammad: Islam's First Century and the Origins of the Sunni-Shia Split

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Within a generation of the prophet Muhammad's death, his followers-as vivid a cast of heroic individuals as history has ever known-had exploded out of Arabia to confront the two great superpowers of the seventh century and establish Islam and with it a new civilization. The Heirs of Muhammad is a swaggering saga of ambition, achievement, self-sacrificing nobility, and blood rivalry. Acclaimed historian Barnaby Rogerson recounts the lives of the handful of individuals who led and influenced Islam after the death ...
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Overview

Within a generation of the prophet Muhammad's death, his followers-as vivid a cast of heroic individuals as history has ever known-had exploded out of Arabia to confront the two great superpowers of the seventh century and establish Islam and with it a new civilization. The Heirs of Muhammad is a swaggering saga of ambition, achievement, self-sacrificing nobility, and blood rivalry. Acclaimed historian Barnaby Rogerson recounts the lives of the handful of individuals who led and influenced Islam after the death of Muhammad. The Heirs of Muhammad is the best kind of history-the kind that brings a forgotten era back to life while simultaneously illuminating a neglected history that is vital to an enlightened understanding of our present world.

About the Author:
Barnaby Rogerson is the author of The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography and a number of celebrated travel books

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When the prophet Muhammad died in 632, a tempest of political intrigue and deceit blew over Islam, transforming it forever. In this fast-paced and compelling tale, travel writer Rogerson (The Prophet Mohammad) conducts us on a fascinating journey back to seventh-century Medina and the various schemes that led to the division of Islam into Shia and Sunni factions. The 50 years after Muhammad's death witnessed a succession of caliphs who attempted to carry the Prophet's message forward. Rogerson concentrates on the leaders who ruled in these years immediately after Muhammad's death and traces the split between Shiites and Sunnis to Ali, the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, and Aisha, Muhammad's wife. Ali was assassinated in 661, after being passed over three times as a successor. For the Shia, the vision of Islam was compromised with Muhammad's death. The Sunnis, on the other hand, believe that the first four "Rightly Guided Caliphs" provided models of the ways that humankind should live. Rogerson provides portraits of all these leaders to illustrate their love of Muhammad and his message. Helpful tables of key characters in the Prophet's life and genealogies of Muhammad and the four caliphs round out Rogerson's charming and captivating chronicle. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
British author Rogerson follows up his biography The Prophet Muhammad with a history book about Islam, but it is not an academic or reference work, such as Albert Hourani's A History of the Arab Peoples. Rogerson uses epic language to enliven the early years of Islam for a Western audience, first establishing the story of Muhammad, his exile from Mecca to Medina, and his time with each of his wives and his beloved cousin, Ali. Rogerson then at greater length chronicles the rise and fall of each of the loyal men who were to become caliphs of Islam following Muhammad's death in 632 C.E. While he does an excellent job of bringing the desert landscape to life, Rogerson bogs his account down a bit when he stops to detail every empire-building border skirmish. Unfortunately, his colorful account also quickly glosses over the philosophical implications of the Sunni-Shia split referred to in the subtitle. Consider pairing this swashbuckling history with Reza Aslan's historical overview of Islamic thought, No God But God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. Best suited to public libraries.-April Younglove, Linfield Coll., Portland Campus Lib., OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-crafted glimpse into the origins and early years of Islam, even then torn by dissension and violence. Imagine that the Reformation and Counterreformation had been waged soon after Christ died, and the hard feelings between Shiite and Sunni Muslims become more comprehensible. Rogerson (The Prophet Muhammad, not reviewed), a writer with experience covering the Arab world, offers a lucid explanation of the Sunni-Shia split, which took fullest shape with the assassination of the fourth caliph, Muhammad's nephew Ali, in 660-a murder committed even though the revered prophet had declared Ali to be the gate into "the town of knowledge" that he himself symbolized. Rogerson adds most interesting twists to this well known tale by casting it in the context of the long-standing rivalry between the two Arabian towns of Mecca and Medina, which, he writes, represent two halves of the Qur'an with "two quite different tones," the verses from Mecca addressed to the whole of humankind and those from Medina addressed to the political and physical realities of Arabia at the time of Islam's birth. This rivalry ocassionally blossomed into war, and it seems to have been waged well into the caliphates that followed Muhammad's death; in some ways, the author suggests, the rivalry persists. The four caliphs of that first century of Islam had different agendas and interests, but they expanded the new religion's sphere to embrace an unprecedented empire; as happens with power politics, they also initiated and suffered intrigues that betrayed Islam's peaceful promise, culminating in the murders of Muhammad's immediate descendants in what is now Iraq, when, in Rogerson's memorable phrase, "seventy heads had beenrolled out from bloodied leather sacks on to the palace floor of the governor of Kufa."The result, centuries later, is sectarian division that shows no signs whatever of healing-and that figures heavily in the world news. Rogerson capably explains its beginnings.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585678969
  • Publisher: Overlook Press, The
  • Publication date: 2/15/2007
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Table of Contents


List of Maps     xi
Preface     xiii
Introduction     1
Part I
Medina: Oasis Capital of the Muslim State     11
Ali: First Disciple of the Prophet     31
Arabian Soldiers of the Seventh Century     62
Aisha and the Other Mothers of the Faithful     80
Part II
Caliph Abu Bakr and the Ridda Wars     125
The Invasion of the Holy Land and the Death of the First Caliph     159
Omar and the Great Victories     170
Uthman: Third Caliph of Islam     232
Imam Ali: the Fourth Caliph     286
Muawiya the Umayyad, Imam Hasan and Imam Husayn     326
The Political Heirs of the Prophet after the Death of Husayn     346
How Can We Know? Aisha's Legacy among the Storytellers of Medina     359
Key Dates in Political and Military History for the Fifty Years after the Death of the Prophet Muhammad, 632-83     367
Key Characters in the Life of the Prophet Muhammad     373
Family Trees of the Prophet Muhammad and the Caliphs     382
Further Reading     396
Index     403
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