It's hard not to read this book as a complement or corrective to Isaacson's biography. Apparently, some of Jobs's inner circle thought Isaacson was toIt's hard not to read this book as a complement or corrective to Isaacson's biography. Apparently, some of Jobs's inner circle thought Isaacson was too harsh on Jobs's character. I have no way of judging that, but I can say that Isaacson failed to understand the technology Jobs made. I was hoping Schlender would correct that, and to some extent he did. Schlender understood the technology, but he chose to make the story arc on the evolution of Jobs's character. I guess that's appropriate—it is a biography after all.
But from a technological point of view, there is a redemption story that, while somewhat more impersonal, is just as amazing.
Basically, it goes like this. Jobs founds Apple. Jobs heads creation of the Mac. Apple ousts him. Jobs starts NeXT, good work but little profits. Apple in decline. Apple needs new OS. Apple buys NeXT for its OS. NeXT's technology powers Apple revival, including the basis for iPhone.
Schlender understands this, unlike Isaacson, but there are sometimes only a sentence explaining some of these items.
Being a Mac user in the 90s was a story of constant disheartening. On the one hand, the machines started to be priced more reasonably, but the hardware started to outrun the capabilities of the OS. Microsoft hadn't exactly pushed the limits, but it did provide nearly the same UI and UX in Windows 95, enough for Macs to lose their comparative advantage. But this wasn't a shock or a surprise. For years, Apple had been talking about or even promising the next age OS that would put it back in the technological lead. It failed again and again and again.
The fact that it was actually Jobs that was producing it was almost literary. I'm typing this now on a Macbook Air, powered by OS X, which is simply a newer version of the OS developed at NeXT run on Apple hardware. The only thing this computer has in common with the original Mac is a few brand names. In its heart, it's a NeXT.
Both authors make it sound like Apple bought NeXT just to get Jobs back in the fold, and, to be sure that was a big part of it. But NeXT actually did have something Apple needed, and something that they got (so far) 20 solid years worth of value out of. The iPhone runs on the same basic OS elements, with new stack based on the touch interface, but at the end of the day, iOS is a descendant of NeXTSTEP too.
It's fine to represent Jobs's time at NeXT as his era in the wilderness, just to shape up the heroic bona fides of the story. Every hero needs his voyage. And Schlender is, as I mentioned, writing a biography, after all. And noting this as the period where Jobs as a man became capable of the miraculous decade he would preside over is interesting too.
This is a great history of the sharia, detailing the emergence of the hadith, the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence, and the Twelver Shia. While thiThis is a great history of the sharia, detailing the emergence of the hadith, the four schools of Sunni jurisprudence, and the Twelver Shia. While this represents the majority of the Muslim word, important schools like the Ibadi are absent. Kadri also details the roots of some extremist Islamic thought from Hanbal to Ibn Taymiyya to Wahab through to elements of the Muslim Brotherhood to Al Qaeda. (The book was written before ISIS became a player). Fewer dots are connected in the history of Shia jurisprudence, though it is detailed as well.
Kari includes the token—sometimes gratuitous—reminders that, by comparison, contemporaneous Europeans were worse whenever we read something that sounds too awful, at least in the history. The conclusion has a similar kumbaya tone, which doesn't quite undo all of the work done in the previous chapters. Kadri, like many Western intellectuals, is capable of making criticisms of extremism in situ in other countries—he points out the utter unreality of decisions by judges in Pakistan and Iran, for example, or in his mentions of how harsh penalties were mitigated with legal fictions such as three-year-long pregnancies—when the situation turns to Muslim minorities in the West itself, somehow, anyone who is concerned is to be mocked.
For example, without further discussion, Kadri mentions on a couple of occasions the laws in Western Europe banning women from wearing the veil. Kadri assures us that most of the women subject to this law want to wear the veil and are more oppressed by the law itself. In other words, French revolutionary values in France should take a backseat to an Islamic Neo-Orthodoxy. In France. In other words, Islamic orthodoxy in Saudi Arabia should be criticized, but in France (or the US, or the UK) it should not. Similarly, when discussion arbitration laws in the US, Kadri mentions that Orthodox Jews use batei din just like Muslims might use sharia arbitration. No discussion is made about whether private courts are a good idea, just that if others are doing it, it's ok for Muslims. In other words, relativism for the West, liberalism for the East.
Frankly, I wonder if this is Kadri's real belief. This tone doesn't permeate the book until its last pages and they almost seem an afterthought. The historical portions are an honest and fair historical account of the development of the sharia—which, like many histories of Islam is colorful, vivid, and detailed from the seventh century to the thirteenth and then merely skeletal for the next 500 years.
It is critical for Westerners who want to understand more about Islam that they can't pick and choose a few verses from the Quran and seek to extract some meaning from that. The Quran is a relatively short work. But unless you understand how it's interpreted, and know something of the thousands of Hadiths that complement it, and the jurisprudential rules that make them all work together, you will be learning about the Quran only and not Islam.
This book does an excellent job of doing that work and is an excellent critique of how those rules are implemented in the East.
Edit: One concern I have with this book is its reliance on official statistics. Just because the state only performed one execution, how many people were killed extrajudicially? How many of those on religious grounds? Those may be unanswerable questions, but without those answers, the claim Kadri makes can't be made....more
This book presents evidence that just don't support its conclusions. Just for example, the fact that Byzantine documents did not use the term "Muslim"This book presents evidence that just don't support its conclusions. Just for example, the fact that Byzantine documents did not use the term "Muslim" means less than nothing. Well into the 20th century, the most common term in English was Mohammedan. Does that mean Muslims didn't exist until 1950?
If you're looking for something on the historical Muhammad, go somewhere else....more