Sunday, April 22, 2012

After the Prophet by Lesley Hazleton

A good friend knowing of my growing interest in all things pertaining to Islam sent me an e-mail of the author giving a talk to a large audience. Her remarks were well received. Based on that, I purchased the book.
I am not sure what I expected but what I found was a well-researched and thorough recitation of the final years of Muhammad’s life and the years following as different factions vied to succeed him in authority. She brings these events to life such as you would find in a book of fiction. As a beginning student on this subject I am willing to accede that she accurately describes the events as they unfolded.
With him as he lay dying were five men each of whom over the course of time would become Caliph (successor) of Muhammad. They were two fathers-in-law, two sons-in-law and a brother-in-law. The latter was the youngest and the closet relative Ali. It would be too cumbersome for me to catalogue the succession. It is only important from the standpoint of how the split began which culminated in the division that exists even today between Sunni and Shia Muslims. In simple terms it boils down to whether sacredness inheres in the Prophet’s blood family, as the Shia believe, or in the community as a whole, as the Sunnis believe.
The most compelling episode had to do with the death of Hussein in 680 at Karbala where Hussein and his loyal band of warriors were slain. He was the youngest son of Ali. It is a gripping story of courage and has since that time become a major part of the split between both factions.
She concludes by stating the mistake of President Bush in not recognizing the split and placing our forces in the untenable position of taking sides, a no win proposition. She ends by stating history is often made by the heedless, to which I enthusiastically state I agree.

Jack B. Walters
April 22, 2012

No comments: