M.J. AKBAR'S BOOKS & REVIEWS
SHADE OF SWORDS BY M.J. AKBAR
Blending world history over 15 centuries
-By Robin Elsham (Reuters)
Once it lands in your book store, spare a moment to leaf through The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the conflict between Islam & Christianity. Despite its unwieldy sub-title, the book has several excellent chapters on the conflict between Muslims and Hindus in South Asia, now a major flashpoint in this complex battle.In the crowded category of works on the historical forces behind September 11, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, this book stands out. It’s one of the few not written by an instant expert on the conflict, nor, more significantly, by a Westerner.
Its author is M.J. Akbar, who brings two special qualities to the task of explaining the origins of a conflict which started long before September 11, and now threatens to escalate into nuclear war between India and Pakistan.First, Akbar is a Muslim scholar, infusing his account of the ancient origins of jihad - and its convoluted re-emergence - with an understanding of its power over Muslims the world over.
"The power of jihad pervades the mind and soul of Islam," he writes. "The mind is where the current battle will be fought, and this is why it will be a long war.
Secondly, Akbar writes well, turning what in fact is an immense work of scholarship - blending world history over 15 centuries, Islamic theology and a trenchant analysis of current geo-political tensions - into a page turner."The Shade of Swords has done the impossible for this Westerner who, like far too many in Washington, did not know enough about the far too complicated Islamic world, Pulitzer-prize-winning writer Seymour Hersh wrote in a review. "M.J. Akbar has produced an innovative and lucid history of ideology, idolatry, vitriol and violence that is amazingly well written..."Akbar writes with a flair that already has won him acclaim.
Born in Kolkata, at 51, he is one of India’s most distinguished journalists, founder and editor-in-chief of The Asian Age newspaper and author of two previous books.The New York Times called his 1989 book, Nehru: The Making of India, "a brilliant portrait." The Sunday Times praised his other book, India: The Siege Within, as "the best and most accessible explanation of the new Indian crisis."In The Shade of Swords, Akbar blends that trademark scholarship with a novelist’s story-telling power as he analyses the spread of fundamentalist fervour in the Islamic world.The book was chosen as book of the month for June by Blackwells, one of Britain’s largest book store chains.A Dutch edition is in the works, and negotiations for translation into other languages are planned, according to Roli Books, the publisher in India where it was first released. Roli Books Pvt Ltd, the book’s Indian publisher, says 14,000 copies have been sold in India so far, and the book is into its fourth edition.The Shade of Swords charts the evolution of jihad from the very beginning of the Islamic faith in the seventh century, when a group of 300 Muslims defeated a vastly better-equipped army three times its size. The Battle of Badr spawned jihad, a concept of heroic defence of the faith.Jihad "is not an invitation to kill; it is an invitation to die," Akbar writes in the introduction. "Peace is the avowed aim of Islam, but from time to time Islam also demands the blood of the faithful in defence of the faith. This is jihad."In an interview before leaving for the book’s British launch, Akbar said he had decided to write the book more than a decade ago, prompted by the rapid re-emergence of Islam he observed during a Central Asian trip soon after the Soviet Union collapsed.An essay he wrote then is depressingly prophetic now. "The West’s next confrontation is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin."That passage was quoted by Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington in a 1993 article in the US monthly Foreign Affairs, summarising the ideas he developed in his book, The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order.In The Shade of Swords, Akbar describes the appeal of jihad to Muslims living in countries ruled by inept, corrupt or brutal regimes - often propped up by the United States - or in lands where the suppression of Islamic fundamentalism with political aspirations has fuelled theocratic nationalism."The West’s inability to look beyond friendly dictatorships and despots is becoming the biggest problem for the West" by breeding Islamic radicalism, Akbar said.The defeats suffered by Arabs in three wars with Israel, the humiliation and persecution of the Palestinians, and the economic stagnation of many Islamic nations compound Muslims’ feelings of anger and despair. (Reuters)
'Ink of a Scholar is more holy than the blood of Martyr'
- Blossomsmile ilaxi, Amazon.com Reviewer
Prophet Mohammed's wisdom 'Ink of a Scholar is more holy than the blood of Martyr' is right said! Great Faith, Great Reveleations, Great Concern, Great Efforts and a 'Bold, Outspoken Voice by MJ, the Shade of Swords traces the roots of Jihad - 'It is not an invitation to kill; it is an invitation to die'. Islamic faith demands in a holy war, the blood of faithful in the defense of their faith and this is Jihad. MJ traces the origins of Jihad, a research of hard work that has a fantastic, gripping story journeying across across centuries and continents, written after the fall of Moscow.