Where to place the Book of Barnaby Robertson : The Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad: .....



  • The arabic portion of the title of the book By Barnaby Robertson in its deep blue contain some what subtly embossed names of four Rashdoon Caliphs of prophet of Islam and it looks very pleasing to eye.
    How ever this book's complete title is " The Heirs of the Prophet Muhammad: And the Roots of the Sunni-Shia Schism Paperback" and this last part seems to be meant for inciting readership.
    For Muslims Book is best read if unedited as it is at a later age as some aspects of the matters described need maturity and personal life experience to understand . Otherwise it can misguide you from the path of right.
    The book itself is carefully crafted and has a convincing chronology and dating of events but like all westerner's endeavour about Islam the final impression which author wishes to convey is the sense of naked power struggle in contestants to the office of Caliphs, and all this a less than spiritual affairs on the go .
    Most recent books written by westerners in the last 15 years are aimed to create a greater sense of being right in Shia than in Sunni Islam in western readers’s mind and this book is no exception. This is explainable as Sunnis being 85-90% are a bigger threat to west than localized to the middle east shias, An encouragement to lesser in number might in western mind help in removing threat to west and since 1975 this has infact worked for west .
    If you are a devout Muslim, irrespective of sect you might greatly appreciate the English style and expression in most parts of the book which our eastern authors are often unable to duplicate and a particular feature of this book is its charts of geneology of important to Islam Meccan families, there is also a political chart of Arabia . The book tries to explain the rapid military victories of Muslims over Persians and Byzantium but its explanation of Schism of two sects is unconvincing .
    The book has tried to explain this schism in terms of assumed increasing early rivalry of Ali and Aisha and its sequel while for people like this reviewer the shism for what even reason arose but now mainly gets propagated by firstly contrast and system of rights between priesthood dominated Shiasm versus holy Book and Hadiths Academics based republican approach of Sunnism and secondly by local political grouping which has affected Middleeast and Indo pak Politics for the last hundreds of years. The name of family of prophet has been utilized of main political benefit for Fatimids of North Africa , the Abbassids and now Iranians .
    The book’s rendering of lives of wifes of the holy prophet is objectionable at times and needs editing . The book is strange since for a muslim is both inspirational and at the same time slightly Blasphemous in other parts . But overall the book is a good frame work for further reading.
    Had the book not got a strong political element politely expressed I might not have written this late review piece .
    Book has given adequate coverage irrespective of its correctness or not to AbuBakr , Omar , Usman and Ali , and even Zaid and some others.
    There are strong presumptions in the book like author says that had Zaid the adopted slave son of Muhammed (PBUH) been alive at time of prophet's death and aligned with Ali , then Omar and Abubakr might have been eclipsed !. The book has a nicely put section on Hassan the grand son of Prophet Muhammmed (PBUH), its rendering of shahadat of Usman is detailed and book gives high score to Abubakr , Usman and Omar as spiritual successors of the Prophet.
    This book at times endearing to devout Muslims but is in parts obnoxious , were this later not been a feature , it might have been suitable for putting it in syllabus for BA (Islamic History) Curriculum . We have example of translation of Holy Quran by Abdullah Yusuf Ali , who was not a sunni but even then he was patronized by Ilama Iqbal and his translation and commentary of Islam was for four decades patronized by all including and especially the Saudis , the later distributed it world wide , after removing a few controversial pages as he was perhaps a Shia .
    Non muslims try to explain spiritual things in political terms but like most western authors it is concluded that there is no doubt that Muhammed (PBUH) suffered all in the way of Allah as its prophet and has firm faith in his mission and role and suffered greatly for it .
    I give 6/10 marks to Barnaby Robertson though person like me cannot put an equal work in even three life times. A less offensive to Muslims edition for this some what scholarly work is needed for incorporation into syllabi . His other books also need close reviews and only then his real intentions might become clear .
    I felt a bit reluctant to write this inview of divisive nature of the work but for those who follow the precept, th of first Ayat “Iqra Baismi” I find it hard to withhold an impression of the review.