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Customer Review

77 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read with caution, February 27, 2011
By 
This review is from: After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam (Hardcover)
overall, i would give it 4. If there was an option I would have given it a 3.5.

What I like:
1. Unlike Martin Ling, she question things. In majority of instances, she acknowledges that the incidents she is quoting are not unanimous. She questions things. For example, if Ali was known for his depth of character, tolerance and spirituality, how can he give a mean-spirited advice. At many places, she tries to use logic and makes the reader think.
2. She discusses an often overlooked topic - a topic that majority of Sunni Muslims don't want to confront. This is difficult as it makes question so many beliefs and assumption on which an ideal is built about so much of the history.
3. Her background in psychology helps her examine the human dimension in these epoch historical events.
4. The root of sunni extremism - Kharjjis - I found it very interesting and made me think about irony of slef-righteousness and holier than thou attitude. It is so much easier to understand wahab's progenies who are spreading their terror today.
5. some people have commented that after talking about all the rifts she says what unites them is much more than what divides muslims. The readers have argued her comments to be unqualified. However, I disagree with those readers. A writer cannot spell out every thing. She mentioned at plenty of places that how the prophet and quran is the common link. she also mentioned constantly how unity was the key factor in making decisions to fight or make peace. I guess she thought these accounts qualify her statement without one last spelling out the reason why she thinks so.

What I don't like
1. Try as we may, we are humans and our endeavors will never be 100% objective and she picks and choose stuff. This is understandable keeping in view that it was a short book and she could not discuss everything.

2. Her main source remains a Sunni scholar Turabi. This causes problems of its own. For example, she fails to mention that how Ummayid and Abbasid propaganda machine was used to create scandals about Hassan the second imam and other ahl-bait. Surprisingly, she is content with those weak accounts, and does not use her typical logic at this instance, and fails to even mention the battle that Hasan had with Muawiya (mentioned even in sunni books) and choses to go with the propganda accounts which were created to smear the spiritual figure. It is much easier to smear Hasan as he was in background unlike Ali and Hussein. Maybe as a writer she was hedging her bets that "well, I can't paint all of Imams as good, some of them must be bad." Or maybe it was too much research and she had to decide what to research further and what to not.If Hasan was the way she depicted, that would have been it for Ali and Hussein. The spiritual respect that they command even from sunnis would never have been possible. If this was true, Muawiya would had a ball using this weak link to smear even an inch of respect and love that these men of god commanded while they were living. It is much easier to spread lies, when one is not living to defend. whatever she said about Hasan can be easily traced back to have been originated by later monarchs specially Mansoor - an abbasid caliph with an axe to grind. These accounts are weak an absurd but she does not take the effort to comment on the reliability of these accounts.

3. Her account of "cloak incidence" is also very biased. She fails to mention that how her version is not the only version. She also gives her personal view that it basically was a clearly planned drama. Well as an author she has the right to give her opinion but leaves one wondering why at some places her biases are much stronger and at others she seems to be more balanced.

4. Her depiction of Fatima (daughter of prophet) is also a completely sunni version. The account of her relationship with prophet also suffers from typical sunni version. Basically, she relies on the accounts that paint this godly woman as weak insignificant woman who was manipulated by prophet's wives to complain about his favoritism. Although, there are plenty of evidence - mostly shia and some sunni as well - to suggest how much prophet loved her and how she was an embodiment of grace, patience, and generosity.

5. Also, her account of Yazid freeing prophets daughter is gross misrepresentation. These women were kept incarcerated for 2 years. Zainab was eventually banished from medina cause Ummayid were afraid that her constant mourning may encourage a revolt. Post Karbala is an epoch story in its own right.

6. She also misunderstood that karbala fight was fought over 10 days. Maybe she got confused cause in shia celebration each day is fixed for mourning one of the key figures. All men fought on 10th of muharrum. I found this mistake to be very surprising showing that at many places she didnt simply do her homework.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 27, 2011, 11:47:12 PM PDT
Excellent review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011, 7:02:51 PM PDT
D. Keenan says:
What history book in English would you recommend that includes the Shia perspective on the points described as reflecting a Sunni bias?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011, 7:03:18 PM PDT
D. Keenan says:
What history book in English would you recommend that includes the Shia perspective on the points described as reflecting a Sunni bias?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 8, 2012, 11:22:02 AM PDT
nemo says:
You can read this book to know more about Fatimah.
Who Really Is Jesus?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 7, 2014, 6:50:16 AM PST
Guria says:
A very detailed book with Shia, Sunni & Western History sources is online
http;//www.al-islam.org/restatement-history-islam-and-muslims-sayyid-ali-asghar-razwy

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 23, 2015, 2:57:24 PM PST
Sarah Mann says:
link is down 404

Posted on Mar 29, 2015, 10:33:16 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 29, 2015, 10:47:02 AM PDT
Hamza says:
I don't mean any offense, but I think your negative points were kinda picky...

Leslie was trying her best to create a cohesive story weaving every possible account of the story. Sure, she may have left out some possible alternate stories and had some slight math errors, but in the end, it was an admirable effort in a topic that's notoriously unfriendly to the novice (since it's encumbered with countless accounts and voluminous narrative).

And even with the purported "sunni bias" of this story, I came out with a very positive opinion of shia. In fact, at many times of the book, I actually thought this book had a "shia bias" in the way that it harshly critiqued the first 3 sunni-approved caliphs.

And that's ultimately why I think Leslie did such a great job. When you can accuse a book of bias on both sides, it usually means that the author was well-rounded in their approach.
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