I have received one of the best Madressa educations. We were taught the deeper meanings of the Quran and other Religious Scriptures. We were taught, the Methodology and Philosophy of Namaaz, Fasting and other rituals. Best of all were were taught to practice the highest morals, such as courtesy to parents, charity, having the love of Knowledge. My years at Madressa years were one of the best educational years of my life. But inspite of having such an excellent Madressa Education as well as having the subject “Islam” at my Day-Time School, my knowledge of the history of Islam was very sketchy and highly incomplete.
Here are couple of examples where I was lacking:
1. How is it that Islam that was started by one man, in a little town in Saudia Arabia, exploded to 1.5 billion? There are Muslims and mosques where ever you go. From China and Japan right through Europe and America. From all the way North in Canada to the Southern parts of Africa there are devout Muslim communities that any Muslim can find himself home in. What exactly happened for the numbers to swell like this in short span of just 20 generations?
2. I had first heard of the Crusades when I was ten, in Walt Disney’s Robin Hood. But what were the Crusades? When did it happen? Why was it such a big deal?
3. Me and Ali are great fans of Sufi Literature (duh :-). But how and when did the Sufis come about. We hear the illustrious names of Rabia Basri, Ibn Arabi, Mevlana Rumi, Al-Hallaj, Kabir, but who came first, who came second etc. What spawned their coming? We hear some were revered and others persecuted. Why? The great Mevlana Rumi spoke and wrote in Farsi, then why is he buried in Turkey?
4. I often hear of the Golden Age of Islam. The Age where Muslims Scholars, excelled in Geography mapped the world, exceeded in Mathematics, excelled in Optometry so much that they even performed successful Cartact Surgeries! But when did these take place. What happened to bring about their decline in these sciences.
5. Historically, Islam was never Extremist. It was the more accommodating and tolerant of religions. What gave rise to the hard-lined ideologies practiced in Afghanistan, Kingdom of Saudia Arabia and parts of Pakistan?
I had all the above questions and tonnes more answered in the engaging narrative by Aga Tamim Ansary in his brilliant book Destiny Disrupted. An unbiased account from the birth of Islam 1400 years ago right through the various Caliphate regimes, covering the Mongol Raids as well as the Glory days of the Moghuls right down till the 2003 invasion of Iraq. I don’t think there’s a country or major event in the tale that Aga Ansary has left uncovered. The writing style is fluent, engaging and at times witty one just eagerly keeps flipping the pages to know what happened next. It’s certainly not a book only for Muslims. It’s for all those who have had the above questions and were curious on any aspect on the History of Islam.
If you are ever in a bookshop, ask for Destiny Disrupted. It may be a difficult find. But if you do get it in your hands, do open the book anywhere in the middle and read till the end of that page. If you find yourself drawn into the story, go ahead and buy the book. All of it is really that good.