When I read a history book geared toward general readers, I always try to remember that it is only one author’s perspective. Although I may not notice it, I’m sure it will contain bias.
Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary (published 2009 by Public Affairs) has the bonus of telling us from the subtitle that it is a biased work. I further appreciate the fact that Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-American and practicing Muslim, admits that this is a history “through Islamic eyes,” that is, his own. He’s not trying to show a history of the world according to all of those in Islam: this is simply his own perspective, based on his research and perspective.
Destiny Disrupted, then, is just what I was looking for right now. I must admit that I do not have a firm grasp of Western world history, and yet reading Destiny Disrupted showed me how one-sided the perspective I do have is. The Middle Ages in Europe (which I’d put at 600-1400 CE) were a time of tremendous growth and expansion in the Middle World (i.e., those lands in which Islam thrived).
Ansary, being American, wrote from a perspective I understood and appreciated. He wrote of events in Europe just enough to remind me of what I did study in school so I could put the unfamiliar events in context. But he did not focus on Europe so that it distracted from his focus, which was of course life for those in the Islamic empires. On the other hand, because he is a Muslim who was raised in Afghanistan, he had the perspective of one who learned history from the Islamic perspective first, and as such the tragedies and pleasures in Islamic history were brought to life from his personal perspective.
I can’t rehash the entire organization of the book or recall specifics of the volume. But memorizing specific facts was not my goal in reading it. I wanted an overview of Islamic history, a context for the contrasts between the American civilization I live in and the Islamic civilizations around the globe, which seem misunderstood in my country and era. For my purposes, Ansary definitely succeeded.More on my blog