The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity

By M. J. Akbar | Go to book overview

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Authors are loath to admit it but they labour under both conception and misconception. Time is one judge of the difference. This book has had an exceptionally tortured pregnancy, so the list of those in whose debt I am is long, much longer than the few names that will appear.

One of the first essays that I wrote on the shifting mood of the Islamic world emerged out of travel in the 1980s through the debris of a collapsing Soviet Union, and the sudden surge of Islam through some of the oldest Muslim countries in the world, in Central Asia. Faith quickly filled the space left behind by retreating communism.

My first visit to the region was in the same year that Margaret Thatcher tested Mikhail Gorbachev’s dawn by lighting a candle in a church in Moscow. The cue was irresistible. I insisted to my guide on a conducted tour of Dushanbe that on the coming Friday I wanted to pray at a mosque since I had been informed that Comrade Mikhail had released religion from Marxist chains. Allah knows how many telex messages were exchanged between my guide and his masters in Moscow. (Remember the telex? This book began in the pre-e-mail age and this is as good a time as any to acknowledge that this book could never have been completed in time without the blessed e-mail. So thank you, Bill Gates, or whoever.) When Friday arrived they drove me through some exquisite country for a couple of hours till we reached a mosque adjoining the shrine of a Sufi pir, or master. They had not been able to locate a mosque nearer than that.

The startled mullahs offered me a mute and suspicious welcome, very apprehensive at the thought of Marxist Moscow bringing a believer to their doorstep. They spread the finest melons, pomegranates and dry fruit

-ix-

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The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction xv
  • 1 - Chapter and Verse 1
  • 2 - The Joys of Death: a Bargain with Allah 12
  • 3 - Rebellions in the Dark of the Night 26
  • 4 - A Map of Islam 40
  • 5 - Circle of Hell 52
  • 6 - Allah! Muhammad! Saladin! 67
  • 7 - The Doors of Europe 83
  • 8 - Jihad in the East: a Crescent Over Delhi 99
  • 9 - The Holy Sea: Pepper and Power 113
  • 10 - The Bargain Goes Sour 131
  • 11 - The Wedge and the Gate 145
  • 12 - History as Anger, Jihad as Non-Violence 160
  • 13 - Islam in Danger Zone 177
  • 14 - Jinnah Redux and the Age of Osama 189
  • Glossary 214
  • A Suggested Reading List 218
  • Thumbnail Sketches 228
  • Index 251
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