Destiny Disrupted Book Summary By Tamim Ansary

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Destiny Disrupted is a must-read book for anyone interested in understanding history from an Islamic perspective.

Written by Tamim Ansary, the book starts before the birth of Muhammad and Islam in the seventh century CE and continues until the decline of Islamic empires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

This journey uncovers fascinating stories of great Muslim states, scholars, and leaders that reveal a unique look into this often ignored era.

By this retelling, readers will gain insight into a world full of color and complexity that has been largely overlooked by Western audiences.

Destiny Disrupted Book

Book Name: Destiny Disrupted (A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes)

Author(s): Tamim Ansary

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 24 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Tamim Ansary is a highly respected and renowned writer and historian.

He has been a major contributor to many history textbooks, as well as having published essays and commentaries in the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon and Alternet.

Additionally, he has written the memoir West of Kabul East of New York, and co-authored The Other Side of the Sky.

In addition to all this, Tamim Ansary also writes a monthly column on

His latest book Destiny Disrupted provides an in-depth view into Islamic civilization from pre-Islamic times to modern day.

Discover The History Of Islam And Its Dynamic Empires

History Of Islam

With the book Destiny Disrupted by Tamim Ansary, you can get a sense of what’s going on today and understand where certain conflicts stem from.

You do that by diving into history and getting both sides of the story, which isn’t always easy to do with just Western or Eastern sources alone.

That’s why Ansary takes you on a guided tour through history with an Islamic perspective.

He explains the many Muslim empires that flourished throughout the ages, showcasing how the Islamic world was at the center of it all for great stretches of human history leading in trade, art and science.

You’ll discover everything from how Islam got its start to just how far the empires reached and even why a lust for spices led to Europe exploration.

Take a walk through history with an Islamic tour guide thanks to Tamim Ansary’s Destiny Disrupted and gain a much-needed full account of what has happened in our world over the past two thousand years or so.

The Origin Of The Term “Middle East” Comes From An Ancient Region Between East And West That Saw The Birth Of Many Civilizations, Including Islam

As we look back at the history of the Middle East, it’s interesting to note that between Western and Eastern civilizations, Islamic civilization arose.

The author traces this development to the area around what is now Iraq, in Mesopotamia.

In this region, which sat between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, the Sumerians formed a high culture 5500 years ago.

Over time, other cultural forces would rise and fall in this area – such as the Akkadians, Amorites Babylonians, Persians Greeks and ultimately Romans.

Hidden between these two major civilizations was the emergence of a new world – an arc that stretched from India to Turkey’s modern-day Istanbul –the Middle World.

This middle world was characterized by commercial endeavors making it home for trading and mercantile families.

Mohammed was born into this commercial society and grew up poor among wealthy merchants living in Mecca on the year 570 CE .

After receiving his life-changing revelation from angel Gabriel he set out to preach monotheism under God’s mandate to end debauchery throughout Arabia.

Slowly but surely, Islam took root and eventually blossomed into its own civilization – one sandwiched between east and west that changed history forever.

Muhammad’S Lasting Legacy Establishes An Islamic System Of Government Based On Equality And Justice

The foundations of the Muslim community were laid when Muhammad began preaching and gained a rapidly increasing number of followers.

Eventually, the pagan merchants in Mecca began to feel threatened by his growing influence and sought to assassinate him, forcing Muhammad to flee to Medina for sanctuary.

This moment, known as the Hijrah, is thought of as the beginning of the Muslim calendar (AH) and signaled a shift that would result in great numbers of Arabs converting to Islam.

Muhammad’s death in 632 CE left the Umma without its leader, but it soon became clear who would continue their faith: the first four Khalifas (deputies).

The first was Abu Bakr; then Omar, who greatly expanded the Islamic empire over his 11-year tenure; Othman, who was said to have been assassinated by an angry mob due to his oppressive provincial governors; and Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali, who sadly only lasted four years before relinquishing power.

Each successor was chosen from among Muhammad’s earliest and closest companions – a testament to their faithfulness which had helped build up an egalitarian society that eclipsed that of Rome.

The Abbasid Dynasty: Preserving The Light Of Islam And Ushering In The Golden Age

Light Of Islam

In Destiny Disrupted, the four khalifas who were closely related to Muhammad are followed by the rule of two dynasties.

The first of these was the Umayyad dynasty which lasted from 40 to 120 AH, or 661 to 737 CE and was led by Mu’awiya.

This clan was a part of the aristocratic Quraysh tribe and with Mu’awiya’s rise to power, they gained prominence in the Islamic world.

The second dynasty was known as the Abbasid dynasty which began in 132 AH when Abu Al-Abbas became Khalifa.

They reigned from 120 to 350 AH, or 737 to 961 CE with Baghdad as their capital.

It was during this period that intricate doctrines about Islam were written and elaborated upon, thus earning this time period its name -the Golden Age of Islam.

The Development Of Islamic Doctrine Between Prophet Muhammad’S Death And The Rise Of Sufism

It is fascinating to consider how Islam developed in parallel to the various political events occurring around the world at the time.

While Muhammad established five main pillars of Islamic doctrine – Shahadah, Salah, Zakat, Sawm and Hajj – Muslim scholars or ulama worked towards developing a unified agreement about the Muslim doctrine.

This included collecting words that Muhammad had spoken and written in the Qur’an, alongside a collection known as the Hadith which contained anecdotes and advice from the Prophet.

Additionally, they worked on creating a shari’a or guide to laws and way of life for Muslims.

Meanwhile, Islamic philosophy flourished with Arab Muslims becoming familiar withwork of ancient Greek philosophers as well as making significant contributions to mathematics, science, geology and medicine.

Lastly Sufism – or Islamic mysticism – emerged with those who sought transcendence over strictly rational interpretations striving for it by engaging in practices such as reciting Allah’s name for hours at a time.

As such it’s heartening to observe just how much development occurred in terms of scholarship and spiritual exploration alongside significant moments in history for Muslims across the world.

The Muslim Khalifate Splintered And Fell To European Crusaders And Mongol Invaders

At its peak, the Islamic world had a Khalifate that was at the cultural epicenter of the known world.

This posed a great threat to Europe and the West.

But then, in the mid-eighth century, it began to fracture; a group of independent-minded Spanish Muslims declared separation from the rest of the khalifate, effectively splitting it into two parts.

This was followed by Cairo becoming a hugely popular city which further split the empire into three.

The Seljuk Turks also came into town and established their own huge empire that stretched from north to south and east stretching to the Mediterranean Sea.

Moreover, there were crusaders lurking in Europe who sought to regain Jerusalem, leading to an invasion that caused much damage and destruction amongst Muslim states.

Finally, when Mongolia invaded in 1218 it brought these empires virtually to their knees with large numbers killed and vibrant cities turned into smoldering ruins.

All this combined resulted in what is now known as one of history’s greatest disasters -The Islamic World began first to crack and then crumble truly at its height of glory.

The Rise Of Three Great Muslim Empires After The Mongol Invasion And Its Consequences For Europe And The Islamic World

Muslim Empires

The Ancient Islamic world was rocked by the Mongol invasion, which left it in shambles.

But from that devastation came a rebirth – three great Muslim empires rose to power, starting with the Ottoman Empire of 700-1341 AH (1299-1922 CE) and later the Safavids (906-1138 AH/1501-1736 CE) and Moghuls (900 AD – 1273AH/ 1526-1857 CE).

Each Empire developed vibrant cultures, marking a period of renaissance across the Islamic world.

On the other side of history, Europeans were also beginning to find their feet.

With the end of the Crusades, European adventurers returned home with exotic wares and spices collected through trade routes.

This further fuelled an appetite for exploration amongst Europeans, leading to Christopher Columbus’ accidental discovery of Americas in 1492.

In Spain, newly established Christian court uncovered lost texts composed by Spanish Muslims -translations of old Greek philosophers including Plato and Aristotle – rekindling a newfound humanistic curiosity within Europe’s academics.

Unfortunately for the Islamic world, these progressive changes went largely ignored or overlooked by Muslim leaders, leading to devastating consequences as we will soon see in our later chapters.

European Colonization Of The Islamic World Causes A Loss Of Political And Spiritual Stability, Prompting A Call For Reform With Wahhabism

When Europeans began sailing around the globe in the years between 1500 and 1850 CE, they quickly gained a foothold in Muslim countries and their presence had a catastrophic effect on the three great Islamic empires.

Trade disruption by European traders caused a sharp decline in production, resulting in increased inflation and corruption within the Ottoman Empire.

In the Safavid Empire, European military advisors exacerbated tensions between Shi’i rulers and Sunni provinces for their own gain.

Meanwhile, Hindu kings challenged control of the Moghul Empire, with European colonial outposts taking advantage of this chaos to increase their influence.

The results were disastrous as all three empires began to unravel under pressure from these outside forces.

It was clear that Europe was on the rise and it signified the downfall of an impressive ancient Islamic world – one that believed that God’s will would maintain its righteous order.

To reclaim what was lost, Abdul Wahhab called for a reform known as Wahhabism that sought to restore original Islamic values and strengthen Muslims’ faith.

The Rise Of Secularism And Nationalism In The Islamic World In The 19Th Century

The nineteenth century saw a dramatic shift in the Islamic world, driven by three big European ideals that swept away the status quo: industrialization, constitutionalism and nationalism.

Industrialization meant that new uses for the steam engine were squeezing out traditional forms of manufacturing with machines that could produce goods faster and more cheaply.

Muslims wanted what Europe had — cheap fabrics and shoes — but there were important cultural differences preventing change; notably, in the Islamic world most of the manufacturing was done by women and society considered it inappropriate for them to enter the public realm.

It wasn’t until philosophers began advocating for modern-day reforms based on a model of European constitutionalism that industrialization became possible.

This led to reformers like Sayyid Ahmad of Aligarh who championed a form of secularism and clashed with traditional religious leaders.

How Events In Europe, Palestine, Iran Influenced Modern Anti-American And Anti-Semitic Sentiments


After the conclusion of World War II, certain countries in the Islamic world were left with deep feelings of resentment towards Jews who had fled to Palestine and Americans, who had treated situations in their countries as opportunities for geopolitical gain.

A population of Jews had already moved to Palestine, and after the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust, Western governments decided to support Jewish migration there.

The issue was that from the Arab perspective, it appeared as though they were being robbed of their homeland by a large, foreign force.

This caused understandable stir among Arabs communities, leading to bitterness and anti-Semitism which is still being accused of today.

Moreover, this ill-feeling extended beyond just Israelis; many Muslims also developed feelings of resentment or suspicion towards America.

The roots of this can be found back in Iran prior to 1953 where prior to that year Muslims did not feel any tension between them and American ideals.

However, when Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq announced intentions to nationalize oil industry in his country in 1951 – actions perceived by America as potentially communistic – the US supported a violent coup that replaced Iran’s elected leader with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s monarchy rule.

Incidents like these have continued to shape anti-American sentiments among people in Islamic nations even now.

Wrap Up

The final takeaway from Destiny Disrupted is that the Islamic world had a rich and vibrant culture before being overshadowed by the European rise.

This resulted in the downfall of their society, losing some of its luster and becoming disconnected with the Chinese and Western worlds.

It’s an interesting look into how different parts of the world have contributed to our current history and cultural development.

The book also reveals how Islamic culture has survived wave after wave of influences, while remaining relevant.

It is a powerful message that no matter what changes occur in life, there will always be a place for different cultures to thrive.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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