116 of 130 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2009
I could not stop reading this book. I loved the grand sweep of it and the author's wise, gently humorous voice.
He has the right background to speak about, and to, both cultures: Born in Afghanistan to an Afghan father and an American mother, Ansary emigrated to the U.S. in his teens and went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He has lived in the U.S. ever since, with trips back to Afghanistan and the Middle East.
I was fascinated by the book's discussion of Islam's early years in the 7th century, the discussion of Islamic reform movements in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the compassionate overview of the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews in the Middle East.
For that long-running disaster Ansary assigns blame and plenty to everyone involved, and I mean everyone -- including the British, the Americans, the Russians, and the Saudis. And that's just for starters.
His evaluation of the Six Day War in 1967 is eye-opening; he argues that it was a military triumph in the short term but did more harm than good to Israel in the long term.
I was hungry for a longer discussion of the meaning and impact of 9/11 from an Islamic perspective, and I hope the author will do that in some other publication. That aside, this is the perfect book for readers wanting a readable, friendly, big-picture story of how Islam came to be and the religious and cultural frameworks that shape its view of world history.
We desperately need more informed, compassionate, and wise writing of this nature from Mr. Ansary, who has lived in both worlds and can help each understand the other.
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Tamim Ansary's 'History of the World through Islamic Eyes' is purposefully reminiscent of H.G. Wells's 'Outline of History' or of Will Durant's many volumes, or of any high school textbook of Western Civilization, meaning implicitly everything worth recording. Ansary declares as much in his preface. He intends to write a universal history from the point of view of the 'Middle World', in which Europe will be peripheral until the final chapters. No, not Jung Gwo, the "Middle Realm" of China! In fact, China will be even more peripheral than Europe in Ansary's textbook. His Middle World will be Islam, as a culture and a civilization, and his middle point in geography, Mecca, will also be his starting point in time.
The European outline of history has always been the westward succession of leadership, from Greece to Rome to northern Europe to America, a viewpoint of manifest destiny that has justified much imperialism and jingoism. An Islamic history, Ansary says, would be an expansion from a center, rather like ripples spreading from the event of the Hijra in 622 AD, an expansion that should have been destined to encompass the whole world. For the first thousand years of this history, it was perfectly plausible for the most educated classes of Islamic societies to maintain such a viewpoint, Ansary maintains. But then that 'destiny' was disrupted by the unforeseen economic and technological revolutions of the rude barbarians of Europe. Such a perception of history, as a calamitous disruption of the proper order of things, underlies the resentment and hostility of Muslims throughout the Middle World toward the West.
Ansary writes very simply. His prose would pass muster for a high school textbook. But his simplicity is eloquent and lucid. Even when events force him to pass harsh judgements on any party to any controversy, his words are never strident. It would be hard to take offense at what he writes unless, of course, the reader is passionately committed to one point of view and intolerant of any other. In short, this is a book that will infuriate bigots and outrage ideologues. All the more reason why it should be widely read!
Roughly the first half of the book, covering the centuries from 600 AD to 1600, ignores Europe and western Christianity entirely. These were the centuries when history followed its proper course, when the triumphs of Islam validated its sense of destiny, when a few losses at distant frontiers such as Andalucia were scarcely significant. Ansary outlines the growth of Islam from the cult of a few Arab clans to a multi-empire civilization stretching from Mauretania to Indonesia, divided by human rivalries but united by a religion that professed the same concept of lawful community. Among his subjects are the fateful schisms between Sunni, Shia, Ishmailis, and Sufis; the impact of Islam on Persia and the Persians on Islam; the arrival and incorporation of the Mongols and Turks; the rise of the Ottoman Empire in all its 'Byzantine' complexity. Unavoidably in a book of such scope, there are simplifications and oversights, as there are in Durant or Wells or any survey text. For an American or European reader, who probably knows almost nothing about the caliphates and sultanates, the point is not to get everything right in the most sophisticated analysis, but rather to get any sense of how an educated Egyptian or Iranian of today might comprehend the world.
The second half of the book depicts the delayed, astonished, dismayed recognition throughout the Middle World that the despised barbarians of the West had stolen history, thwarted destiny, invaded and infiltrated and corrupted - yes! corrupted! - Islamic civilization. Ansary's analyses of European developments will surely seem simplistic and imbalanced to readers with detailed knowledge of their own cultural history, but then perhaps that's how it all looks from another world. More significant for American readers will be his accounts of the evolution of various responses in Islam to the pressures of westernization, ranging from secularism to fanaticism.
I can promise that most readers will finish this book with a broader understanding of the raging conflicts in what we call the "Middle East" and with, hopefully, a little more tolerance in the face of profound differences and irreconcilable values.
80 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2009
But I did. I liked Ansary's memoir and wanted to understand the East/West relationship. I ended up savoring every page for 2 days straight. Ansary is a great storyteller and a wise soul. It's not like reading academic history. It's like sitting down with a sage and listening to him tell you a terrific story. It's fascinating that the Islamic world has a totally different (yet legitimate) view of history that emphasizes different events. Europe's dark ages were their Renaissance. Western domination after WWII was their humiliation. Yet both sides steal each others' ideas. I don't think I really understood the world until I read this. Interesting fact: we would know nothing about Aristotle if it wasn't for Persians preserving his work.
182 of 235 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2010
Overall, this book is well worth reading because of the narrative, fluid way it ties together the arc of Islamic history. I've read all these historical facts before, but it really helped to get that information all together and presented by someone coming from a culture who values that story as their own story.
I also appreciate the honest way that Tamim Ansary approaches Islam's history of offensive violence and jihad, going back all the way to at least the four Rashidun Rightly Guided Caliphs.
That being said, this book is riddled with gross omissions, Islamic chauvinism, a glaring contradiction, and some factual errors.
1) Nowhere does Tamim Ansary discuss how Muslims treated pagans, Manichaeans, Buddhists or Jains. Why? Because Muslims weren't nearly as kind to them as they were to Christians and Jews. Sometimes Muslims treated Hindus & Zoroastrians as well as Christians & Jews, and of course Ansary highlights those some times while not mentioning the other times Muslims did not treat Hindus or Zoroastrians as relatively kindly as they treated Peoples of the Book.
2) Tamim Ansary goes to great lengths, in a book about "Islamic" history, to mention Christians enslaving Africans, but neglects to discuss the millions of Africans who were enslaved in Mesopotamia in the 8-10th centuries and who rebelled under the Zanj Rebellions. He also doesn't mention Muslims roles in facilitating sales of slaves to Christians, nor in how Muslim inspired Christians to start the colonial slave trade in the first place. Tamim Ansary also loves discussing how colonial Europe treated Muslim societies, but doesn't at all discuss the constant Islamic slave raids on Christians lands all through the Dark Ages that hit Greece, Italy & Spain constantly and that even went as far as Britain & Iceland. Tamim Ansary doesn't discuss ANY of this history of slavery in Islamic societies, except to mention the Janissaries, and of course he put the most positive spin he could on stealing people's children against their will. Can you imagine a modern Australian trying to point out the upward social mobility benefits of putting Aboriginal children in boarding schools? That's the sort of claim Ansary makes about the Janissaries.
3) Tamim Ansary in general hardly mentions the history of Islam in Africa. He never talks about all the pagan African kingdoms violently conquered, their people forcefully converted, by Muslim jihads like the one the Fula waged against the Kaabu Empire.
4) Tamim Ansary also doesn't discuss all the wars that Muslim sultanates fought against the Majapahit Empire and other South and South East Asian societies.
Ansary discusses (pg 81) the layers of societal stratification in Muslim empires in which non-Muslims were lower than Muslims, and mentions how Akbar the Great was an exception in not oppressing Hindus, and yet elsewhere (pp 78, 135) tries to call these Islamic empires "tolerant." (As an aside, Akbar the Great wasn't actually even Muslim. He made up his own religion with himself as the godhead and was denounced for such heresy by Sufi critics of his time.)
1)When discussing the Mongol invasion in the 13th century (pg 27), Tamim Ansary discusses the "Islamic world" without mentioning that in many places in this "Islamic" world the majority of the population were still non-Muslims being unjustly ruled by Muslims, and many of those non-Muslims (e.g. Nestorians in Iraq & Armenians in Cilicia) welcomed the Mongols as liberators.
2) Despite Ansary's relatively honest discussion of offensive Islamic warfare elsewhere, he (pg 43) says that the Islamic world "fortuitously" produced commanders who conquered Persia & Egypt. In reality, the Persians, Copts, and other ethnic groups unjustly conquered didn't end up viewing that as so fortuitous, and both ended up rebelling against Muslim rule many, many times, a fact that many modern Muslims do their best to downplay.
3) Ansary (pg 230) actually compares Europeans to viruses.
The two I noticed (besides the inaccurate depiction of Akbar the Great as a Muslim) are both related. Ansary appears not to have done his research in language classification. He calls the language of the Xiong-Nu "Turkic," even though nobody knows for sure what language family it belonged to, and there's a strong hypothesis that it was Indo-European just like the Tocharian language. And he (pg 289) calls the Armenian language non-European when in fact it is in the Indo-European language family, and its closest relative in the Indo-European language family is Greek.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by Tamim Ansary ignoring some of the more unsavory parts of Islamic history, while going to great lengths in a book supposedly about "Islamic" history to highlight bad things Christians have done. He's not purporting to write a book from an objective perspective. His book honestly advertises itself as portraying history as modern Muslims perceive it. And that's exactly what we get, because modern Muslims love complaining about the bad things Christians have done while spreading a propagandized white-washed version of their own history. It's important to understand that perspective, because it's unfortunately very common, but Ansary didn't have to perpetuate its chauvinism by writing the book as an almost complete true believer of it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2014
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A good history is synthesis; its author judges for themselves what constitutes a 'major event' or current of history and crafts these events into a narrative arc. This is why history is also subjective - different people will decide what is major or minor differently.
Most histories I've read, whether it be H. G. Wells' Short History of the World/ Outline of World History, or the book I read recently titled A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years suffer from the sin of Euro-centrism (like most standard world maps, I might add). For the period from just before the birth of Christ to the 'end of history' announced by Fukuyama at the end of the Cold War, they focus on first the Roman Empire, then its decline, and then the continent of Europe with brief forays into Asia Minor and the Levant. These histories tend to oversimplify things like the Hun or Mongol invasions as "barbarians coming from the East", as though these tribes appeared in the middle of nowhere fully formed and attacked "civilization".
This is why Tamim Ansary's book is a refreshing departure. He focuses on the other world history - the history of first Islam, beginning with the life of the Prophet Mohammed, the Khalifate(s) that followed and then the fortunes and misfortunes of the Eastern Empire centered on Istanbul and its inheritance.
I found it telling that rather than treating Islam (in his words) as part of a set also containing Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism etc, OR as part of a set also containing Communism, Capitalism, Socialism etc, OR as part of a set of civilizations - Roman, Western, Eastern, Indian, Chinese etc, he treats it as another history, whose jagged edges fit into the Europe-centered world history that most of us learnt in school. Yes - Islam is a religion; yes, it is a civilization (an umma), and yes it is an 'ism' that prescribes a social and moral framework. As the author tells it however it is also a story, interrupted by the forces of industrialization, of nationalism, and constitutionalism. It is the story of how the Prophet and his followers set out on a great social project - to set up a Dar al-Islam, an oasis of peace, a Khalifate where right living, morally upstanding people would have no fear and where violence would not rule. It is also the tragic tale of how the project has foundered as it was battered by internal strife and external factors outside its control.
Even as a person living amid this stream of history much ignored in the popular conscious, I was surprised how many facts I learned from it. The roots of modern phenomenon like the Muslim Brotherhood, or the Aligarh and Deoband movements, or on the philosophies of Ataturk, Jinnah, and others' with their Secular Modernism were all news to me.
I appreciated that he halted his story for the most part by telling of the Six Day War in 1967 and its aftermath, leading all the way to the two Gulf Wars and 9/11. He does speak of the current state of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but in passing; as he puts it, events after 9/11 haven't been "mulched" enough for synthesis, and I agree. The same goes for the "Arab Spring" and recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and so on, which were actually about to unfold as this book went to press.
As far as the book goes, it loses one star only because of the writing style, which is replete with modern idiom and light-weight/ informal words like "guys" and such. I suppose I prefer my histories to be more formal!
In the final analysis, this is a must-read, especially for anyone who like me is tired of this narrative of the "Clash of Civilizations" or "West and East" (or worse, over-simplified Democracy vs Fundamentalism cage match narrative from the American Neo-con camp!). It is a succinct (perhaps too succinct in parts) introduction to the story and the philosophy of Islam.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2012
For the non-Arab trying to understand the history of the Middle East I cannot think of a better place to start! The book itself is about 350 pages of actual reading (about 40 pages of the book are notes, bibliography, acknowledgements and index making the book 390 pages). It isn't exactly short but the history in it really is in condensed form. He covers the pre-Islamic Middle World, as he calls it, very briefly and then jumps right into the beginnings of Islam. Even though this text is highly condensed the author manages to give great details about very key figure and events. It's enough to give a reader a very sturdy framework upon which they can continue to build knowledge and fill in information later. Furthermore, he doesn't tell it as dry historical facts but gives a life to the narrative he's telling adding context to everything. He captures the very essensce of what people were feeling and thinking and how they percieved themselves and others. This is something that is often lacking in historical works. Most texts focus heavily on facts alone but fail to give full context in which to place the facts.
As a non-Arab Muslim I have done a lot of reading into historical works and trying to place events and people into timelines and places. But this was not the narrative I grew up with. In fact, most of these events and people were never even mentioned in any of the textbooks I ever read. If you received a western education chances are this will be true for you too. What's great about Ansary's approach is that he tells it in an easy to understand way relating occasionally to western events and times that help the reader place what they are reading. I would say this could easily be considered likened to an idiot's guide to the history of the Middle East.
If your already familiar with Middle Eastern history (maybe you've read books like A Concise History of the Middle East or something along those lines) you'll still get a lot out of this book and if you know nothing about Middle Eastern history this book will certainly give you a strong foundation.
Ansary says in his introduction that "Destiny Disrupted is neither a textbook nor a scholarly thesis. It's more like what I'd tell you if we met in a coffeehouse..." He refers to this work as the story arc of Middle Eastern/Islamic history and that's very much what it is. His writing is fun and accessible. It is a very enjoyable read. He makes some aspects of Islamic history and culture very easy to understand. For example the Sunni and Shi'a split which is something many people do not fully understand. Not only does he explain it in easy to understand terms but he helps fill in what else is happening to the key figures and the thoughts of the ummah at the time. He breaks down understanding things like the main difference between major Shia sects as well as how things like Wahabism came into being.
He brings the story right up into the present day ending with an afterword of a post 9/11 world. Anyone familiar with Middle Eastern drama films will find a similarity in the ending of the book as being an unresolved abrupt end. Well... I guess that's to be expected since the Islamic world and Islam in general are in a major state of flux and change right now. Nobody can say where things are going right now for sure but after reading this at least we can understand a little better how we got to where we currently are.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2009
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Ansary, an American from Afghanistan, wrote a short and entertaining history about the Muslim world for a Western audience. This `alternative history' has been highly praised by some of my amazon friends. I am mostly with them, but not completely. The concept (tell history from a different angle) is intriguing, but the implementation is not always entirely convincing to me. What we get is a Western perspective on a Muslim perspective of a history of encounters between the Muslim world and the West. There are some new insights for me, so I still rate the book 5 stars, but for some minor but plentiful irritations, I theoretically deduct half a star.
For the time before Islam arose, Ansary uses the term `middle world' in contrast to the Mediterranean world: while `Western civilization' was build around the sea and was largely based on sea lanes, the future Muslim world started out as a region based on land routes and trade connections. This is the region from Turkey and Egypt eastward to Central and South Asia.
I had not been aware how peripheral the crusades were to the Muslim world's perception. Clash of civilizations? Hardly. Where was that civilization of the Franks? And the events really did not penetrate much into the Muslim part of the world, nor into the popular awareness.
I had also not realized how devastating the Mongol attack on the Muslim world had been, not just in terms of mass murder (Ansary uses the term `holocaust'), but also because of the desertification of the Iran/Afghanistan region: the irrigation infrastructure was destroyed!
I definitely need to read more on the Ottoman Empire.
When Europe started its revival after the dark ages, the Muslim world was blooming and busy with itself, so the growth of the rival remained unnoticed for some time. Ansary's theory is that Europe overtook Islam in scientific and economic dimensions because the development of science in Islam was obstructed by the dominance of religious dogma. Europe freed itself of these chains with the reformation and the growth of mercantilist nation states. (While I find this convincing, I am sure some of my catholic friends will protest.)
I have some issues with the book, which may all be minor in the overall reckoning, but they annoy me enough to take away half a star.
There are too many inaccuracies in this edition.
I am a map fetishist. The book has maps. They are instructive, but not all of them are correct and consistent. Start with the one on the present Muslim world, page xvi of the introduction: The Asia version here is just not right. Yes, there is a Muslim majority island in the Philippines, but it isn't Luzon!
And how come Bali and East Timor are painted black? And is Bangladesh really that small? And was Pakistan forgotten?
And then, page 2, map of the `middle world': why does China have to be moved to Siberia?
And then: page 196 has a map showing the 3 Muslim empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Moghuls as `Muslim world'; but 5 pages later we get a map showing the sea routes from Europe to the Asian markets, and suddenly the Moghul empire is not part of the Muslim world any more. Inconsistent!
And by the way, the Kingdom of Leon was not `north of Spain'! Unless the author or publisher has redefined Spain, Leon is in the north of Spain. Maybe that is pedantic, but I like books to be made with a professional effort!
Apart from maps, I stumbled over this description of the early years: the Jews in the 6th century Arabia are said to be `resolutely monotheistic'; this may be so, but then Abraham's religion is also later called `resolute monotheism'. I take exception to that. I do not claim to be an expert on the Old Testament, but from my experience with this fascinating and revolting text, I say: no way were the Jews of the Old Testament monotheists! Ansary is making the mistake of confusing `worship one god' with `believe that only one exists'.
More a question to the experts than a complaint: Ansary repeats the myth (?) that Islam saved Aristotle's texts from extinction, via Arabic translations of the Greek, which were then re-translated. I thought the ancient Greek texts had also been preserved in European monasteries. I think that the preservation happened both ways, therefore the claim in the name of Arab science is not compelling.
I found the chapter on the prophet's life shockingly uncritical. Similarly, the caliphas are painted in pink.
A typical sentence reads: the anecdotes are too consistent to dismiss. Really? Actually, this sentence annoys me. Is the author so naïve to believe that tradition would have let any other anecdote survive? Doesn't he know how tradition works and selects?
The prophet was a nice simple kind man, says Ansary. The execution of all Jewish men in town was just par for the course, right?
And as a (former) Lutheran I take exception to the statement that Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door on Halloween day. That is taking anachronism too far.
Now I am coming back to my headline: which destiny was disrupted and why? I think Ansary has shied away from his implied question: why did the blooming Muslim empires collapse without much of a gasp at the onslaught of European imperialism? Complacency and arrogance are the normal answers in this kind of situation. Could history repeat itself? Personally, I rather hope not.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2012
Many years ago I learned about the American Independence War in the U.S. Having been told that the war was so just and heroic, I started to wonder how the British would teach about this war. When I had a chance to ask a Britt, he just shrugged: "Well, we don't make much of it. It's just one of the many wars we fought in the last hundreds of years." Wow, what a perspective difference!
Reading "Destiny Disrupted" gives me the same revelation. The Islamic world has a very different world view, governing philosophy, experiences and geopolitical postures. Events that are important to us may be passing breeze to them, and vice versa. In most time, the West and the Islamic worlds are not in opposition but indifference. The conflict and struggle only intensified after the capitalist globalization and especially after the discovery of oil in the Middle East. The earth has become too small to contain two separate worlds.
The author is an excellent story teller. He is well versed in both Islamic and Western cultures, and aptly describes the differences and interactions with an even and humorous tone. He presents many hot issues without any bitterness or derogatory to either side. Such rare attitude makes this book a true enjoyment. Disclaimer: I am not familiar with that part of the history. Therefore, I cannot vouch for the book's factual accuracy.
The author's premise, as presented in the epilog, seems to be that we should recognize the irreconcilability between the two worlds and try to find a way to let each seek its own destiny peacefully. The idea that none should impose its own value and destiny onto the other is no doubt valuable. However, I wonder if political system and philosophy of a civilization need to be compatible with its economic infrastructure. Market economy is based on the assumption that everyone is selfish. Given the right incentive structure, one can benefit the society while benefiting himself. On the other hand, checks and balances must be in place to prevent anyone from harming others in advancing his own interest. Operation of the society is based on voluntary exchanges and compromises. These principles are also the foundation of a democratic political system. On the other hand, Islamic world believes that there is an absolute authority that determines right and wrong, and it is people's duty to serve that authority. People are not guided by self-interest but by religious teachings, which the society is built to advance. I wonder whether it is possible to build a market economy under such political beliefs. If not, it would mean the two worlds will have two economic systems and most likely two standards of living. This would be very difficult to sustain given today's travel and communication technologies.
An interesting book to contrast this one is "Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and the West" by Benazir Bhutto, which argues democracy and freedom are the common destiny for all mankind.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2012
Tamim Ansary's Destiny Disrupted traces the development of Islam from Mohammed through 9-11-2001 and shows how the Islamic and Christian worlds developed almost oblivious to each other. Each felt it was the "enlightened" and "culturally superior" civilization. These feelings of "superiority" spawned bloody conflicts when they came into contact thus each society's "destiny" was indeed "disrupted."
While the Koran prescribed a way of life for Islamic societies, it omitted a means for the orderly transition of power. This problem first manifested itself with the death of Mohammad and became a contentious issue that persists to this day. Military defeats from inside and outside the Islamic world, were seen as a direct result of straying from the "true" Islam of Mohammed. However as technology progressed the question of what would Mohammed do in this or that situation was left open to conjecture. This still perplexes Muslims today.
As time passed, Muslims struggled to incorporate the blessings of Western technology while simultaneously excluding the "decadence" that invariably came with it. Oil is a perfect example! It brought in enormous wealth but also created a privileged elite in direct conflict with Islamic values. Later, conflicts with Judaism/Israel arose which Muslims attacked with the fervor of the Crusaders of old. These problems also persist today!
In Europe, Christians saw Islam as a pagan force occupying the Holy Land that harassed pilgrims visiting sacred shrines there. To end this sacrilege they conducted the Crusades. European and Islamic views of these events differed widely then and now. Europeans then returned to their homelands and concentrated on building nation/states and developing technology. The Mid-East was largely forgotten. Centuries later, oil made the Middle East relevant again. How the west could reconcile the purchase of Arab oil while maintaining its commitment to Israel and Christianity became problematic. These events and problems still shape perceptions in both cultures today.
Ansary's short work (only 357 pages) is a concise summary of the development of the two cultures that shows how differences have arisen over time. He does an outstanding job of depicting events through Islamic eyes; views that remain largely hidden to western observers schooled only in European history. Scholarly, well written and easily readable, he displays an outstanding grasp of the sociology of both cultures past and present and shows how events happening centuries ago still affect both peoples today. In a time when the clash of these cultures threatens an apocalyptic showdown, it is timely reading for both groups. Highly recommended!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2011
Generally, when we in the West think of history, we often think of things in the European / American perspective. The discovery of the US, the Roman Empire the Norman Conquest, the Renaissance etc. are all historical events that only really effect Western society, which has remained relatively separate from the "Middle World" (as labelled in this book) until the 20th Century when two very different civilisations met. Aside from all the history that we can recall, another civilisation was developing, growing and creating its own history.
Managing to condense roughly 2000 years of history into this one book and make it both informative and, at times exciting, is an epic achievement that should make Ansary proud. From the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the birth of the Prophet Muhammad right up to 9/11 is a large and fruitful period to try and cover in one book and it is in no way covered in great detail. Some details are offered in only brief snippets, while others are delved into in more detail to offer the reader a greater perspective of the more important and influential events in the period covered.
One of the more interesting elements of the book was the history of Islam itself, from the rise of Muhammad to the formation of the Caliphate, to the splitting of Islam between Sunni & Shi'I and other developments in the religion itself. The overall book offers an eye-opening perspective on a relatively misunderstood and ignored part of history and a people that seem to have appeared out of the blue. A superb read and one I'd highly recommend.