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After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam

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4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  2,057 ratings  ·  252 reviews
In this gripping narrative history, Lesley Hazleton tells the tragic story at the heart of the ongoing rivalry between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam, a rift that dominates the news now more than ever.

Even as Muhammad lay dying, the battle over who would take control of the new Islamic nation had begun, beginning a succession crisis marked by power grabs, assassinati
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Paperback, 239 pages
Published September 7th 2010 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Huma Rashid
A gripping and well-written account, but rather markedly biased in favor of Shia ideology. I was surprised, for example, that while Hazleton provided several possible explanations for why Ali (R) was called Abu Turab, all of them were dramatic and spoke of loss and sorrow, and she didn't bother to include the account believed by most Sunni Muslims, which is found in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. The account holds that once, Ali (R) and Fatima (R) had a fight and he was so angry that he left hi ...more
Ali
While Hazleton's effort in making the complicated history of Islam more accessible to the non-muslin reader is commendable, as a Muslim the simplification is too much to accept. This is especially because while the author makes an effort to emote the emotions in her written intentions, the soul behind the history and what it means to a typical Shia/Sunni is lost.

Critically considering the information, while at-tabari seems to be heavily referenced, several Shia accounts ( from Nahjul Balagha- a
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Meezan Ali Mir
I always feel uncertain when reading history books specially Islamic history where there are so many contrasting versions of the events that defined pretty much who we are today. Lesley has taken a very sensitive topic, has considered both sides of the story to narrate and connected it very shrewdly to the modern day. It was a really interesting read for me personally because this was coming from a outsider looking into some of the darkest times of our history which we are not very comfortable t ...more
Hammad Ali
This is a review of literally the first 20 pages. I had read a few earlier reviews of the book so I might have read it with those specific opinions in my mind.

Lesley Hazelton also known to The Pakistani Upper Middle classes as that wonderful agnostic woman with a very nice British accent who occasionally praises Islam and The Prophet during multiple TED Talks. As she is agnostic and loves Islam this clearly means that our beliefs have some truth to them because obviously...... validation from o
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Aasem Bakhshi
I confess that I started with Hazleton's work last year but couldn't get past the first 50 pages because of sheer distaste. In my humble view, it is not history, rather some kind of a hotch-potch for amusement of some people who could relate better with her style. I mean anyone even reading the start of third para on first page would understand the the kind of broad brush Hazleton is employing here:

"The very people who had once opposed Muhammad and plotted to kill him were now among his senior a
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Ali Shahid
A book which, if you are a sunni, pushes you to read early Islamic history more objectively and question the political intrigues and conspiracies of that period. However, the narrative is heavily biased towards shias and there is a lot of pick and choose material by the Jewish political writer, Lesley Hazleton to support, manipulate or simply make the historical book more readable.
Lesley Hazleton, presents three major split points between shia and sunnis. The first was the rivalry between Hazrat
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Ayza Omar
This is really worth a read for anyone starting out in the complex task of understanding the Shia Sunni split. It will help you as long as you, and from you I'm assuming muslim from either sect, especially sunni, try to take it with a pinch of salt. Meaning, take your biases and existing beliefs and store them away somewhere sound proof while you read Hazelton's straight off the bat, chronological account of how it all happened.

However, I found, at times, the liberty the author takes in analyzin
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Aseem Rizvi
Lesley Hazleton takes up the ambitious task of trying to explain without bias the 'Shia-Sunni Split' in a historical context and that too in under 300 pages.

It is quite safe to say she has done quite well.

With a theme as sensitive as this, she takes care to present both (and often all) sides of the story while mostly managing to make no assertions about the actual facts, leaving such judgments to the reader.

She takes the reader right into these historical stories and breathes life into the elus
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Regular readers will know that I'm already a big fan of religion journalist Lesley Hazleton, and especially after reading her bewitching Jezebel last year, in which through historical texts and contemporary journeys through the Holy Land she argued that who we've traditionally thought of as the "Whor
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Fatima
Timely book to be reading in the midst of escalating sectarian violence in my home country. O, who lent this to me, described it very well as "the history of the Shia-Sunni conflict written in the style of Game of Thrones". The cut-throat political intrigue, the controversy over and multiple contenders for succession to the "throne", the graphic medieval violence, the mystical elements, the vivid and compelling characters (including a fiery, ambitious "Mother" figure) -- all worthy of G.R.R. Mar ...more
Chrissie
Jun 29, 2011 Chrissie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: John Speer
NO SPOILERS:

On completion: Much of what we know about Muhammad and those closest to him was passed down from generation to generation verbally. This book presents their lives in the same manner. The author relates these very same tales to the reader. This is captivating story telling for adults. You learn history in an engaging manner through tales such as The Affair of the Necklace, People of the Cloak, The Episode of the Pen and Paper and more. This book covers primarily the 50 years 630-380 u
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Tariq Mahmood
Finally, a book which explains all the conflict between Sunni and Shias in great detail. I really enjoyed Lesly's style and prose as she explained the great story as told by Muslims resources in a wonderful lucid way. For me the most interesting character was Mauwiya and the legacy he has managed to leave for the rest of the Ummah. I particularly enjoyed the way Lesley was able to draw comparisons history with current events. I would recommend this book to all Muslims whether Sunni or Shia as it ...more
Muhammad Arqum
This book, in its initial pages is extremely abhorrent, however as it progresses the reader is forced to make peace with the narrative. Doesn't necessarily mean one has to acknowledge everything written in the book as the truth but one eventually subsides personal beliefs and emotions somewhat, for the sake of reading it. Let me make my statement loud and clear for what it's worth. This isn't a history book, although it does pretend to be one. This is biased historical narrative mixed with neutr ...more
Marvi
One of the best written account of Shia-Sunni divide in Islam. Written in an engaging manner, the book absorbs you completely and you don't feel stranger to history. You are introduced to the characters of Islamic history as someone from amongst them. You tend to understand the nuances like natives and suddenly seemingly trivial expressions start making sense! A must read for those who want to understand schism in today's Middle East.
Mike
This being the first book I've read on the history of Islam, I can't really comment on the accuracy of Lesley Hazleton's work. It is, however, a very engaging work, which cuts out much of the potential confusion of having many characters with similar names and gets to the point.

The split between the Sunni (literally, those who follow the 'sunna', or reports of how the Prophet Muhammad lived his life) and Shia (literally, 'Shiat Ali', or followers of Ali, Muhammad's adopted son) is one which, as
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Shahmeer
I was always intrigued about what caused this major split between the Shia and the Sunnis. Since adulthood I have never classified myself as either a Sunni or a Shia. When asked my reply has always been the same: "I am a Muslim and a follower of Prophet Muhammad". I don't like the idea of being associated with a specific sect.
And growing up like many Muslims around the world, my knowledge was based on what I had heard (not read). Growing up I knew that Sunnis hate Shias and vice versa. Why I nev
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Nazish
*The review is solely based on my religious beliefs. May differ from yours which I respect and do not wish to discuss save only from what you have to say about the book.

I was an emotional b*tch while reading this in public transport. I understand that religion can be really sentimental and plays the chord of your heart like no other but I'd really like to get over my sentiments to make most out of the rational part. So, it was pretty hard for me to not remain teary eyed in the initial chapters o
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Hélène Wilkinson
After the Prophet is not a novel, it is “narrative history”, that is, the story of things that happened and of things that people say happened, told in a highly compelling way. The tag line (or sub-title, is there a difference?) is “The epic story of the Shia-Sunni split”. And indeed the book starts with an epic, with a Hollywood like story set in the Middle Eastern desert in the seventh century, packed with momentous events - a new religion has just unified a whole region its leader is dying - ...more
Louise
"In The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran", Hooman Majd describes the Rosah which are annually performed by Iran's Shi'a to commemorate the Battle of Karbala. These are retellings or recreations of events that continue to inspire many. People cry and shiver in sadness at these performances year after year as they remember and relive the suffering of the Prophet's grandson and his supporters. If you don't know the background of the Sunni-Shi'a split, it seems to be a strange cu ...more
Dave
It took me a while to accept Hazleton's book for what it is--a complicated history in easily accessible form. Keeping that in mind, Hazleton writes a great book, especially for the less-informed Western audience (among whom I count myself). However, I can't help but be a little disappointed with Hazleton's sourcing methodology, or rather lack thereof. As a history buff, I expect dedicated foot-noting and direct attribution of source material. Although Hazleton gives a delightful bibliography at ...more
Libby
To me, the Islamic World has always been like one of those tedious wooden puzzles that taken apart, can rarely be put back together. I stare at them and turn the pieces about until beads of blood pop out on my forehead and I still can't solve them. If the current divisions and rivalries in the Middle East leave you befuddled, you may gain some clarity from Lesley Hazleton's newest book, After the Prophet. Writing in a fluid and assessable fashion, she gives us the tale of Muhammad's death and hi ...more
Tiffany
This is an interesting book, which is why I want to write my review from two angles: the content, and the writing. First, the content. "After the Prophet" is intended to give Western readers the bare basics of early Islamic history, specifically the events surrounding the Prophet's death and succession. Hazleton repeatedly brings us back to the present civil strife in Iraq, no doubt to ground her readers in the idea that today's violence is a direct continuation of early Islamic unrest. She also ...more
Ale Natiq
Engaging, extremely readable and well researched - must read for every student of history. This is by far the most captivating and readable book on history of Islam, specially for those who can't digest the bulky Hitti, Lewis and Tabari.
Fatima Afridi
Lesley Hazleton definitely made a very complicated part of history easily readable in this book and she deserves all the credit for that. I could not put it down!
However it did come across as biased to me. Not having read Al-Tabari personally I can't say too much since she herself says, " His work is so inclusive as to make extremist Sunnis suspicious that he may have had 'Shia sympathies'."
The theme seemed to be 'Aisha versus Ali' throughout the narrative and I am taught to revere both. Howeve
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Jeffrey Ogden Thomas
Fascinating tale of the origins of Islam, and the development of the shi'a sect. The narrative style is a bit off-putting, as the author adopts a story-telling mode akin to that of a fireside tale.
When we read a history, we expect more footnotes and a more orthodox style.
However, this narrative style is perhaps more culturally appropriate, telling us the tale in a way similar to the way the people themselves would tell it.
Spoiler alert: her sympathies appear to lie with the underdog Shi'a. She
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Jeremy
I was generally impressed. The book is very engaging and the information is generally quite clearly presented. It sort of shades at some moments into a kind of speculative historical fiction mode, especially when conjecturing about the motivations or thoughts of some of the main characters. And it is hard to assess at a few moments whether the author is extrapolating or has some evidence. But often such extrapolations are clearly indicated and mostly quite plausible. If this were intended to be ...more
Taimoor
As a Muslim, I had never enjoyed reading about Ali, Hassan, Hussain, Aisha, Usman, Abu Bakr etc. and the differences between them. These subjects always assumed an air of 'required history reading' for me.

But in After The Prophet Lezley Hazleton has a narrative that can compete with that of a riveting novel; abundant with episodes of jealousy, intrigue and calculated murder.

This is the story of the conflict between the ahl-al -bayt and the rest told in exactly the way i always wanted to hear i
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Aayush
After the Prophet is a well crafted book detailing the aftermath of Prophet Muhammed's death and the ensuing power struggle between Sunnis and Shias. In it's brilliant narrative, are the stories told of the revered Hazrat Ali and his two sons Hassan and Hussein.There are many other important heroes and villians who find their places in the book.It is comprehensive and clears a lot many doubts I had clouding this epoch.The only issue would be the author appears to be a little bias and has predile ...more
Huda
Aug 27, 2014 Huda rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Huda by: Aziff Azuddin

[O bless ye, historical books that do away with in-text citations! I'm really glad Hazleton left the references at the end of the book, because citation style whether in names or numbers can be quite the acne of pages.]

The thing about Middle Eastern arts – literature, folklore, music and the like – they tend to be melancholic in mood, almost prone to making beautiful tragedy of themselves.

You know the kind: where you might have a sturdy hero but the picture painted of said hero would be somethin
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Aziff
The rich and intricate history behind the Shia-Sunni split is one that is extremely nuanced and difficult to approach given its theological underpinnings. Countless journals and books have attempted to project their narrative from both sides - and sometimes, we walk away more confused than enlightened. I am glad to say that L. Hazleton's After the Prophet is one of the few that has offered me a refreshing view on the historical context of the split.

She unfolds the split in three different chrono
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192732
1. My new book 'Jezebel: the untold story of the bible's harlot queen' is just out (Doubleday). Yes, she was framed. No, she was no harlot. Yes, she was magnificent.

2. Won't bore you with the whole bio -- it's in the 'About the Author' page on www.jezebelbook.com. For now: British-born, lived for a long time in the Middle East, now live in the very Pacific Northwest.

3. Favorite drink is grappa.
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More about Lesley Hazleton...
The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad Jezebel: The Untold Story Of The Bible's Harlot Queen Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother Driving To Detroit: Memoirs Of A Fast Woman Jerusalem, Jerusalem: A Memoir or War and Peace, Passion and Politics

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“Assassination creates an instant hero of its target. Any past sins are not just forgiven but utterly forgotten.” 6 likes
“In Shia lore, Fatima lives on in another dimension to witness her sons’ suffering and to weep for them. She is the Holy Mother, whose younger son would sacrifice himself to redeem humanity just as had the son of that other great mother, Mary. Like her, Fatima is often called the Virgin as a sign of her spiritual purity. Like her, she will mourn her offspring until the Day of Judgment,” 1 likes
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