Book Review: ‘Lost Islamic History’ by Firas Alkhateeb

Journey through Muslim History: Tracing the Path of Islamic Civilization's Ascension and Challenges


Book Title: Lost Islamic History: Reclaiming Muslim Civilisation from the Past
Author: Firas Alkhateeb
Publisher: Westland Non-Fiction
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-9357766531
Date Published: Jul. 24, 2023
Price: INR 399

Lost Islamic History by Firas AlKhateeb Book Cover

Book Review

Firas Alkhateeb, an American scholar, writer, and historian specializing in Islamic history, presents his insightful work titled “Lost Islamic History.” The book delves into various epochs of Islamic civilization, covering the pre-Islamic era, the emergence of Islam, and the struggles endured by Muslims to uphold their faith. It provides a captivating glimpse into Islamic states’ formation, rise, and eventual decline, accompanied by the underlying reasons.

The story begins by introducing readers to the Arabian Peninsula’s natural scenery and the sociological lifestyles of its inhabitants, mainly nomadic Arab tribes. Poetry as a major mode of expression was an important aspect of this culture, as was a keen interest in trading with neighboring areas.

Alkhateeb delves into Prophet Muhammad’s early life, his revolutionary influence on beliefs and society, and the growth of his followers. It describes the exodus from Mecca to Medina and the difficulties encountered, culminating in the founding of Islam in Mecca. The story then shifts to choosing caliphs, including Abu Bakr, Umar bin Khattab, Usman, and Ali. The author emphasizes obstacles, historical changes, and military adventures, such as the seizure of Jerusalem, Gaza, Caesarea, and Antioch.

Alkhateeb explores the consolidation of Muslim rule under Mu’awiya’s reign (may Allah be pleased with him) in the fourth chapter, focusing on territorial expansions into North Africa, modern Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. The terrible events of Karbala and the resulting difficulties with the Umayyads are addressed, followed by the revival and expansion of their empire from Spain to India.

The establishment of the Abbasids, descended from Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) uncle’s genealogy, ushers in an era of transformation. Alkhateeb describes the Abbasid Conquest, which marked a turn away from military victories and towards intellectual accomplishments. The next chapter focuses on the development of science, religion, philosophy, and culture throughout the Muslim period. Notable mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and Islamic law accomplishments are illuminated. Shi’ia sect origins, beliefs, and political roles are also explored.

Further sections of the book delve into the diversity of Muslim sects, the migration of Turk tribes, and their conversion to Islam. The author expounds on the Seljuks’ encounters with the Byzantine Empire, the Crusaders’ capture of Jerusalem, and the subsequent liberation by Salah-al-din. The Mongol threat led by Genghis Khan and its far-reaching consequences for the Muslim world are outlined.

Al-Ghazali’s contributions to Islamic law reform, the Umayyad rule in al-Andalus, and the spread of Arabic art and culture are meticulously depicted. The author underscores the pivotal role of Cordoba and Granada, tracing the decline of Muslim power in these regions. The story continues with the arrival of Islam in West Africa, East Africa, China, and India. The relationship of China with Islam is discussed, as is the effect of Muslim rulers in India, notably Muhammad bin Qasim’s expedition into Sindh and the founding of an Islamic state.

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The book examines the Safavid and Mughal empires to learn about the Ottoman Turks’ beginnings, battles for a Muslim state, and demise. It investigates the causes that contribute to the downfall of Muslim states, such as secular reforms. The author also delves into modern viewpoints, Western influence, the Islam-secularism divide, and the various methods taken by Muslim nations.

To summarise, ”Lost Islamic History” is an engaging and fascinating work that delves into the complexities of Muslim history. It examines political processes, religious systems, and the growth and fall of Islamic civilizations in depth. The book’s balance makes it accessible to both ordinary readers and specialists, providing a thorough overview while tastefully tackling complicated historical debates.

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