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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed . . .

Book Review

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  Muhammad may have been the prophet of one of the world’s great religions, but little-known developments after his death set the direction for human events even today. “The future history of much of the world was decided by the actions of a small number of men arguing and debating in the city of Medina,” writes Hugh Kennedy. In The Great Arab Conquests, the British historian investigates how the disunified Arab tribes and towns banded together around their new faith and seized the Middle East and North Africa in a lightning assault. The conversion of most of the region’s people would take centuries, even as Islam gradually expanded further into the world. Many questions will never be answered to everyone’s satisfaction. Archaeology is largely silent and the early Muslim chronicles seem fanciful. Weighing the sources carefully, Kennedy has composed a vivid and plausible narrative of events that continue to shape the daily news.