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Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader (1808-1883) Hardcover – November 1, 2008

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About the Author

John W. Kiser is the author of four books including The Monks of Tibhirine: Faith, Love, and Terror in Algeria (St. Martins, 2002). He is a former international technology broker with a B.A. in European History from Columbia and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago. His articles have been published in Foreign Policy Magazine, the Washington Post.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Monkfish Book Publishing; 1St Edition edition (November 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979882834
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979882838
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jane F. Geniesse on December 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Commander of the Faithful," John Kiser's newest book on the interface between Christians and Muslims, ought to be assigned reading. I can't imagine a better story to illustrate the differences and commonalities of these two great religions. In this gripping read, Kiser explores the life of a great Muslim military hero and saint, who famously united Algerian tribesmen to resist the French invasion of their homeland in the mid-19th. Emir Abd el-Kader's extraordinary personality, his honorable treatment of friend and foe, his compassion, charisma, and brilliant statesmanship won him world-wide respect--even in America. Several years ago the United Nations held a conference on this great man to explore and profit from his example and his philosophy.

John Kiser showed his understanding of both Islam and Christianity in his successful earlier book, "The Monks of Tibherine." It too was a gripping read so it is no surprise that his life of Abd el Kader shows the same command of a complex and fascinating subject. I recommend this book to all who are looking for a better understanding of our relationship with the peoples of the Middle East.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Douglas M. Johnston on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
John Kiser has outdone himself. Before the applause has died for his seminal work on "The Monks of Tibhirine," he now brings us a masterful rendition of Abd el-Kader, a bigger-than-life historical figure who honored his faith through a life of integrity and chivalrous behavior. Kiser reminds us of one who stands as a giant for the ages, one we would do well to study and emulate.

- Douglas Johnston, co-editor and principal author of "Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft" and "Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik"
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Commander of the Faithful is narrative history built on the life of a devout Arab jihadist, Abd el-Kader, who resisted French colonization of Algeria for fifteen years (1832-1847) and then was imprisoned in France for five years, only to become a cultural hero of sorts in France (and elsewhere in Europe) and finally, was exiled to Turkey and Syria for the remainder of his life, where he gained still more fame as an Islamic scholar and, ironically, protector of Christians in Damascus.

The piquancy of this book is the contrast between Abd el-Kader's religious-based nobility and French exploitation and duplicity...those years of jihad and the years of jihad we are living today...and the seemingly endless effort that must be devoted to understanding differences between "Western" worldviews and Islamic perspectives.

Through the figure of Abd el-Kader, John Kiser has excavated many of the same misunderstandings, or complete lack of understanding, that divided Europe from the Muslim world 150 years ago and continue to do so today. The fundamental crunch point, of course, is the role of religion in the rule of man--the inability of religiously inspired rulers to yield or compromise, the inability of secular rulers to understand the benefits of religious rule, and the lack of intellectual effort that underpins the communication gap between the two sides.

Abd el-Kader was a prodigy of scholarship, so his biography betrays no lack of intellectual effort, either as a leader of his people, or in dialogue with his French adversaries. His problem, however, was the spotty contact he was able to make with French soldiers and politicians able to comprehend, translate, and deal with his socio-religious requirements.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Albert E. Fairchild on January 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It is rare to find a book that combines scholarly yet accessible history, gripping scenes of battle and human tenderness that would be the envy of the best cinematic directors, and moral lessons from a great man's life that are still or perhaps especially relevant in today's world. John Kiser's Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Abd el-Kader is just such a rarity, however. The French excoriated Abd el-Kader when he led the resistance to their colonial invasion of his native Algeria in the early 1830s, yet came to appreciate and praise his valor and decency as exemplified by his saving thousands of lives later in the century during the anti-Christian pogroms launched in Damascus - the city of his final exile. And yet Abd el-Kader was essentially the same man throughout his life, following the precepts of Islam as he believed them to be. The Holy Koran taught him to resist the invader, whether Muslim or "infidel," but also to protect the lives of innocent civilians - even when threatened by those who claimed to be fellow Muslims.

John Kiser has written a superb and riveting account of the life of a true but lesser known hero of the 19th Century. This book is very much in keeping with both the ecumenical message and finely crafted writing Kiser gave us in his earlier book The Monks of Tibhirine, the heart-rending story of the French Trappist monks killed by Islamist extremists in Algeria in 1996. Abd el-Kader is must reading for those interested in the history of Algeria, Islam, and French colonialism. It will also be a source of inspiration for those in our troubled times - especially regarding the ongoing human tragedies in the Middle East - who hunger to know more about historic figures worthy of emulation.
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