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Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes

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4.37  ·  Rating details ·  7,733 ratings  ·  998 reviews
We in the west share a common narrative of world history. But our story largely omits a whole civilization whose citizens shared an entirely different narrative for a thousand years.In Destiny Disrupted, Tamim Ansary tells the rich story of world history as the Islamic world saw it, from the time of Mohammed to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and beyond. He clarifies why ou ...more
Audio CD, Unabridged
Published April 28th 2009 by Blackstone Audio
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Mark Owen The biggest proof I have found that it is authentic is that - in the years since I read it - nothing that has happened in the Middle East has come as …moreThe biggest proof I have found that it is authentic is that - in the years since I read it - nothing that has happened in the Middle East has come as a big surprise to me. I no longer watch and think "what the #$*& are they thinking?" What is happening makes sense through their eyes - doesn't make it right - but it at least has a kind of logic. I consider myself well read, but learned a lot from this book and it was fascinating to read. (less)
Josh Yes, basically every book ever written by a European or American historian.

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Paul Bryant
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Westerners

Right time, right place, right style, this is 100% recommended.

This is vast but fast history : you have to hang on to your hat, or whatever you hang on to, which might not be a hat, since the kind of hats which a strong wind might snatch from your head are rarely worn today. In this book a lot of obscure places and people go rushing by, like a speeded up film, like a boiling river. Obscure to a Western reader, that is, but I’m going to hazard that Transoxiana, Khorasan, Ctesiphon, and the exact
...more
Grace Tjan

Being neither Muslim nor Western, but nevertheless a citizen of what CNN and other Western media regularly dub “the world’s largest Muslim nation*”, I often feel baffled by the so-called “clash of civilizations” between these two entities. And lately, not just baffled, but also profoundly disturbed by the scale and frequency of sectarian violence in my country, the majority of which allegedly perpetrated by those the author of this book calls “jihadists”. The overwhelming majority of Indonesians
...more
David
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Umayyads, Abassids, Ottomans, Wahabbists, Kamalists, and Great Satans
History books are frequently dry and factual, even when not written as textbooks, and when they're not, they tend to reveal the author's biases or axes to grind. Tamim Ansary, however, sets out to tell the history of Islam through Islamic eyes, not as an apologetic for Islam that ignores its less edifying historical episodes and its troubled present, nor as a Westerner viewing Islam as, at best, an exotically misunderstood Oriental tradition, and at worst, the religion of terrorists and oppresse ...more
Summer Brennan
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First, a disclaimer: I have a Master's degree in Middle Eastern studies, and come to this subject weighted down by the suitcases of multiple theories and interpretations that advanced degrees tend to confer. However. I have long wanted to find a book that I could recommend to people (by which I mean friends, family and non-specialized colleagues) as "the book" for those wishing to understand "the Middle East," by which I and they usually mean: to understand the historical context of modern event ...more
Mike
This book is an excellent exploration of not just Islamic history (dates, names, events, etc.), but also provides a fascinating insight into cultural forces of Islam. Speaking as someone with a pretty good knowledge base I can honestly say I learned a great deal from this book (beyond never accepting a dinner invitation from the Abbasids) and viewed history in a different light. Ansary rightly points out that Islamic history, one where Islamic cultures were much more advanced that European socie ...more
John
Aug 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I want to recommend the unabridged audio version, as read by the author. The man's a giften historian in that he's able to tell an informed and accessible story both in writing and by voice. This book fits neatly as a grand narrative of Islam and helps to set contemporary events and worldviews into a historical context. I'd call it scholarly light, emphasizing the story over analytical details, and helps stitch more focused books into a larger picture most westerners are unfamiliar with. ...more
Lauren
"The conflict wracking the modern world is not, I think, best understood as a 'clash of civilizations'... It's better understood as the friction generated by two mismatched world histories intersecting." -Tamim Ansary in Destiny Disrupted.

History has long been my favorite subject. I loved it in primary school, all the way through choosing to dig in more with graduate studies. History of just about any time, any region, any macro or micro subject. But let's be honest - sometimes the way that hist
...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is an absolutely fantastic book: an engaging, readable, at times even exciting primer on the history of the Muslim world, and world history as Muslims understand it. The author, a former textbook developer, clearly knows his stuff, but his genius is in the ability to draw many historical elements together to turn world history into a cohesive narrative that makes sense and that you might actually want to read. The writing style is engaging, though in no way dumbed-down – and yet while not r ...more
Jimmy
Things happen, seemingly for a reason. But often I feel in the dark about these reasons. Often I feel like I'm only getting one tiny slice of the truth, the one that's most convenient and easily accessible to me, given my upbringing, my background, my experiences. Turning to the news won't help. The news only focuses on surface events, "the things that are happening are happening!" it proclaims in bold headlines. But how do I begin to understand the forces behind them? What we need is the news w ...more
·Karen·
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
World history from the Islamic point of view, yes, but written very much with the Western reader in mind, which is fair enough, presumably Middle Worlders don't need this kind of broadstroke overview. Ansary uses analogies with concepts that will be familiar to his audience in order to make things clearer and more easily digestible: for example when describing the gap left by the death of Mohammed, he points out that when a saint dies, you can't just appoint a new one in his place, and on the ot ...more
Asim Qureshi
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islam
I was patient with this book, in terms of trying to figure out when this moment of 'a history of the world through Islamic eyes' would emerge, but it never did. Unlike books that have attempted to provide an eastern account of history, such as Amin Maaloouf's 'The Crusades Through Arab Eyes' or Carole Hillenbrand's 'The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives', what Ansary does is to provide a largely western liberal account of an eastern-centric history - it almost makes no difference that Ansary is ori ...more
J.S. Bangs
Dec 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing

World History, says Tamim Ansary in his introduction, is always the story about how we got to be where we are. It therefore always includes an implicit notion of who "we" are, and what our current place in the history of the world is.


Most people with a basic college education feel that they know how history works. First there was the ancient world, from whose murky depths emerged the cultural brilliance of the Greeks and the political might of the Romans. Then the Roman Empire fell, plunging the

...more
Thomas
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
Not a bad primer for people who know very little to nothing about Islamic history. Quite good.

When I got this book I had an idea that I would gain some insight into world history as seen through Islamic eyes. I guess I got a little of that, but mostly it was a quick trip through a very vast subject. We, for instance, got to see what was happening in the Arab world when the Crusaders showed up; things like that. There was a lot of glaring omissions, though. The wealthy, gold-rich Islamic kingdoms
...more
Kim
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
I do not think it would be a stretch to say that this book has changed my world view. A history of the world through Islamic eyes, it describes the kingdoms of Asia Minor and Persia chronologically, covering several I had literally never heard of, and explaining the various sects and rifts of Islam in a way that is engaging, memorable, highly readable, and fascinating. One learns why the Abbasids and the Fatimids split, why they are named what they are named, what the Caliphate really is, how lu ...more
Stuart
Very Insightful and Fresh Perspective for Westerners
If you know next to nothing about Islam - its history, tenets, and how it's shaped the civilizations of the Middle East (a term that is coined by the West) for over a millennium, and why it is has long clashed with Christianity and the Western Power (though not always), then this is an excellent introduction to these subjects told in a fairly balanced and intelligent manner.

You'll gain a much better appreciation for the all the different schis
...more
Ulfah
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So let me write here, first and foremost, if you’d like to understand a more thorough understanding of our world’s history unfolding during the last 15 centuries, please do try to read this book. Having been born Indonesian and spent some time in Europe, makes me question a lot of things, seeing the insights of both culture, and from time to time trying to understand why Indonesians or maybe Indonesian muslims view the Western world as it is, and why the Europeans view the muslim world as it is. ...more
Rex
Apr 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: islam, history
This is the third history I have read which tries to root its “world-story” in a perspective just east of Europe, the others being Barry Cunliffe’s By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia and Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads: A New History of the World . Destiny Disrupted is perhaps the least scholarly of the three, but Ansary is an engaging and accessible writer, and he has tremendously more focus than Frankopan. For one wishing to get this sweeping “Middle-World” perspective ...more
Willowwind
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Ansary is a remarkable story teller in the best sense of the word. Few Americans are sufficiently conversant with the history of the West, let alone Islam. Ansary takes us through the birth and decline of one of humanities most brilliant civilizations from an Islamic point of view, explaining why that culture sees things differently than the industrial west does. He also shows how the seeds of current conflict in the Middle East were sown not only by differing ideas about the world but by the ac ...more
Abu Kamdar
Very well-written but full of historical inaccuracies, I cannot recommend this as a history resource.
E
May 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics-history
Knowing about as little about the history of the Middle World (a.k.a., Middle East to Westerners) as one can, this book offered a tremendously satisfying overview, striking the ideal balance between summary and detail, objective reporting and critical analysis. Gently derisive of both Western and Muslim prejudices and dogma, Ansary presents himself as a trustworthy guide, unafraid to critique the culture of his forebearers but refusing to betray it or declare allegiance to another. Of course, an ...more
Aaliyah
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me over a month but I FINALLY finished Tamim Ansary's fantastic global history, Destiny Disrupted. It is undoubtedly a 5/5 read for me. I haven't read much history outside of the western canon so Ansary's simple, accessible and pleasant writing style was perfect for someone with little knowledge of such a vast and complicated history.

If you are at all interested in reading about the rise and fall of the Muslim world from the 7th century to the 21st, I wholeheartedly recommend Destiny Di
...more
Khairul Hezry
Jan 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-islam
In this compact volume encompassing roughly 1400 years of history, Tamim Ansary explains to us in layman's terms what Islam stands for, its rise, slight decline and resurgence today. I'm Muslim and even I never really understood some things like the schism between Shi'a and Sunni and how a culture that produced so many pioneers in mathematics, astronomy, medicine and other sciences is seen today by some as backward and anti-knowledge. This book explains it all and explains in a very interesting, ...more
Michael Perkins
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Best one-volume history of Islam I have found. The author is a Muslim, born in Afghanistan, and is a recognized expert on the history of Islam. This is a sympathetic treatment and thoroughly honest one that includes the origins of Jihad and Sharia Law, as part of his larger narrative. Recommended by Dave Eggers among others.
Alice
This should be mandatory reading for anyone, anywhere. Wish I could meet Tamim Ansary and thank him in person for writing this.
General Greysorrow
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
You must read this book! I'm not kidding. Anyone living in the Western World who has any kind of interest in how we, as a world community, can move forward together, must read this book.

As a student of world history (amongst so many other things), I am often curious as to how the way the world has unfolded is viewed by peoples throughout the world. After all, the axiom, "history is written by the victorious," far too often colors what we ourselves come across on a daily basis as we are woven int
...more
Erik Rostad
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-books
I wish I had read this book when it came out in 2009. It's basically a written course covering Middle East History 101. It's written by an Afghan author with the tagline - "A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes." It was incredibly helpful in tying a ton of pieces together that I'd read in other books. The author also spoke often about the differing narratives of history from the west and east and how different events are perceived through the different lenses. Gosh, I wish I had read this ...more
Gary Hoggatt
I'm a major history buff. However, I'll freely admit to having done much more reading in American history than other topics. For example, I've read more biographies of George Washington than I have histories on Asia and the Middle East combined (unless maybe you give me partial credit for Japan and World War II). And, while such a trend is unlikely to change completely, I have started making some effort to branch out. An early pick for this effort was Tamim Ansary's 2009 Destiny Disrupted: A His ...more
Abhi Gupte
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish more people had read this book in the dozen years since it's been out. Ansari makes a compelling case for his argument that the current conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and Western powers is not something as epic as a clash of civilization. Instead, it is a clash of two completely different perspectives and narratives - "one side charges 'you are decadent', the other proclaims 'we are free'. Those are not opposites, they are not even in the same plane." The epilogue is worth readin ...more
Nina
Apr 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nina by: Brian
This is the best nonfiction that I’ve read in the past two years. If I had my druthers, it would be required reading in every High School, touted on Oprah, and handed out freebies on street corners. I bought myself a kindle copy, and am sorely tempted to purchase a physical copy as well for easy reference.

With the irreverence and razor sharp prose (less stuffy professor, more Aaron Sorkin), Ansary succeeds in forcibly reframing his reader’s sense of orientation. The center of your world map shi
...more
Siria
Destiny Disrupted is a lively, engaging introduction to world history from the perspective of the 'Middle World'—Western and Central Asia, the birthplace of Islam. It's not an academic work or a textbook, and covering such a vast swathe of history in about 400 pages means that Ansary inevitably has to gloss over some details. Yet he still manages to impressively synthesise a lot of material here into a narrative which gives the reader a sense of the broad arc of history from a Muslim/non-Western ...more
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Mir Tamim Ansary is an Afghan-American author and public speaker. Ansary gained prominence in 2001 after he penned a widely circulated e-mail that denounced the Taliban but warned of the dangers of a military intervention by the United States. The e-mail was a response to a call to bomb Afghanistan "into the Stone Age." His book West of Kabul, East of New York published shortly after the September ...more

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“Here are two enormous worlds side by side; what's remarkable is how little notice they have taken of each other. If the Western and Islamic worlds were two individual human beings, we might see symptoms of repression here. We might ask, "What happened between these two? Were they lovers once? Is there some history of abuse?” 9 likes
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