By Sana Noor
June 26, 2015
Born in a world where the Muslim community
has been divided into two indefinite sects makes for a reality that we have
come to accept and also overlook. The conflict between Sunnis and Shias is the
news of everyday, but there has never been a proper, unbiased understanding of
the real issue.
Where did all of this animosity really stem
from? The Sunnis have their version and the Shias have theirs.
Lesley Hazleton is a British-American
author whose work focuses on the intersection of politics, religion, and
history, especially in the Middle East. She answers the question in an unbiased
account of history, taking a neutral approach to what actually happened and why
this turmoil between one of the major religions came to be.
Through her writing, you come to see her
fondness for the people at heart of the story, and just how politics and
religion made the world we live in today. She acknowledges that her main source
was Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, generally known as the most prestigious and
authoritative early Islamic historian.
The book of roughly 200 pages is clearly
divided into three parts and recounts history in the most exquisite way
possible – so much so that events begin to make sense and putting the book down
becomes impossible. You see, we’ve solely grown up with a general idea of what
the issues were that ultimately brought about the rift, but Hazleton brings
more to the table. She brings an account of history that many of us haven’t
truly bothered to find out. We’ve only accepted circumstances and yet have
never delved into the events that lead to our present.
It’s fast paced, moving in a chronological
manner starting from the death bed of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and ending with
Karbala. Differences had started way back, small as they were, but as we know,
events have a way of stemming from something small to something big.
What’s important to remember is that at the
end of the day everyone was human and, as humans, we tend to make mistakes.
Hazleton takes intricate care as not to let biases narrate history, and instead
brings both sides to the table. The way she describes each event with as much
detail as she can muster, having cited all her sources at the end of the book,
paints a history that many of us have been ignorant towards and explains with
the general idea that at the end of the day everything has the power to become
This book is a mandatory read for anyone
trying to understand the sectarian war within Islam that refuses to end and for
those who love history.
Sana Noor is an avid reader, travel enthusiast and writer. Her interests
include poetry, history and music.