Destiny Disrupted: a history of the world through Muslim eyes

Book: Destiny Disrupted : A History of the World through Islamic Eyes
Publishers: Public Affairs, New York
Year: 2011
Pages: 390
Price: $12.06/paperback    
ISBN: 13-978-58648-606-8

“Destiny Disrupted” is a must read for those who are concerned about the questions and issues which the Muslims are facing today.

History has many lessons in store for humanity. It enables us to gain knowledge about the doings of the former generations on one hand, while on the other hand it guides us in our own personal and collective lives. The knowledge about the mistakes committed by the past generations will certainly stop us from repeating them again, while their successes and glories will encourage us to follow their course of action on different situations.

As youths it is very important for us to know the history of our forefathers and to read and analyze their lives critically. Today many voluminous books are available on the history of Islam and Muslims. Every book has its own message and tries to convey or impress upon the reader some particular ideology or concept. There are a very meagre number of books as per my knowledge which narrate the history of Islam and Muslims in an unbiased and in a manner receptive to the English-speaking western society.

The demand to know and understand Islam and Muslims after the event of 9/11 has increased drastically. Hence, books and contents which narrate our history in a different style leaving the old traditional ways is the need of the hour.

‘Destiny Disrupted’ written by Prof. Tamim Ansari is one such masterpiece which illustrates the history of the Muslim world in a very precise and lucid manner. The author’s narration about the different events of the Muslim history is very balanced and well-researched. The book begins by focusing on the two parallel narratives of history existing in the west and the east. When a westerner is asked about the history of humanity, he explains it in the sequence of Evolution - Civilizations - Classical Age - Dark Age - Renaissance - Revolutions - World Wars - Cold War and so on. On the other side of the world, history is known to people as Ancient Civilizations - Birth of Islam - Caliphate - Crusades - Rebirth - Defeat of East by West - Reform Movements and so on. Prof. Ansari analyses these two narratives of history existing parallel to each other. The fascinating thing is that neither of the two narratives has much awareness about the other. As a result both have always been in opposition and in conflict with each other.

Taking the world’s geography into consideration, the author explains how these two narratives of world history evolved.

The book then briefly highlights the events of the Prophet’s life starting from his early childhood, then his appointment as a Prophet, the Hijrah, the early battles, conquest of Mecca and finally his demise. Then it takes us to the Caliphate era, focusing on the political scenario at that time and how differences and conflicts began erupting among the nascent Muslim community. The author remarkably narrates how and why such conflicts arose among the Muslims which ultimately ended up in the replacement of the Caliphate to Sultanates and Kingdoms. Further reading brings Scholars, Philosophers and Sufis into the scene and how their understanding of Islam was influenced by the events happening in the Muslim world.

A reading up till here will make us clear how different ideologies and interpretations of Islam crept into the community such as Salafism and Sufism.

The book then narrates the large-scale changes which were taking place in Europe in the form of industrialization and modernity and how the Muslim world responded to it. After this, began a series of reform movements among the Muslims to oppose the tide of western domination over the east.

Apart from movements and organizations, the author has highlighted on individuals also who had an impact on the Muslim community.

Finally, discussing on some contemporary questions and challenges facing Islam and Muslims in today’s world, the book ends with a note of the philosopher Leibniz according to whom the universe consists of “monads,” each monad being the whole universe understood from a particular point of view, and each monad containing all the others.

The author has made an effort in this book to narrate a common history for humanity by highlighting the influence of the western history narrative on its eastern counterpart and vice-versa.

‘Destiny Disrupted’ is a must read for those who are concerned about the questions and issues which the Muslims are facing today. Perhaps the knowledge and understanding of our history might enable us in our efforts to do so. (

You may read the book online here:

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2013 on page no. 21

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