Reviewed by Md Sohel Mondal
Almost all stories from history, with an interconnected sequence which always have palpable impacts on world affairs, originally emanated from the World Centre demeaningly known as the Middle East. With this distinctive projection, the new accord of world history shortly titled Destiny Disrupted by Afghan author Tamim Ansary calls upon readers with an eagle-eye to look into the past pages and consequential future events.
It starts with a criticism of historiography which like other disciplines has been gripped by Eurocentric narrative though the historical milieu of distant geography becomes hardly ever befitting. Arguably, the method of measuring history might be more flexible and more specific.
So, the author of West of Kabul, East of New York practically introduced suitably adaptable tunnel between the two directions i.e. Middle World where Ansary counts ten corresponding stages starting with Birth, going through ups-downs and culminating in Reaction. Unlike the Marxist sociological speculation of future stage the author has not bothered about it, rather he negated the historical mistake of Fukuyama’s end of history with beginning anew.
The book alongside gives insightful analysis based on specific events enumerating their diverse causes and consequences in a comprehensive description; not interwoven with the confusing burden of information like jingling dates and names. For instance, the idea of nationalism sparked by German Johann Herder in the stateless Europe of late eighteenth century left shocking gravity across the globe even segmenting the vast Ottoman Empire into ruins and engrossed in ceaseless conflicts. A reader of mere Islamic history will be forced to think of its appalling role in shaping a new world of today’s time. What a surprise that two tragic world wars, Jews migration, Palestinian catastrophe, civil wars, modern days’ inter-border disputes and stuff in some way can be attached to the inception of that idea!
Any idea that contradicts the reality has been repeatedly refuted by different empirical arguments. The author has stressed the intellectually developed thesis like Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and entrenched the cultural edifice of the middle world. However, it’s still debatable that really Western functionaries acting in Arab palaces had no intention other than economic professionalism.
Another important attraction of history-telling innovatively applied by the author is that he has fairly tried to give a succinct portrayal of events simultaneously happening in different parts of the world. To take another example, here is a seventeenth century world view: Ottoman in Middle East, Northern Africa and Eastern Europe, Safavid in Central Asia and Mughal in South Asia were three major powers of the world. Meanwhile in Europe, the desperate situations after crusades led them to explore new opportunities for survival or trade purposes which Muslims had already discovered. Sometimes, the author has given mind-blowing comparisons between figures/events/places of both world parts like Wiclyffe of Europe and proto-Sufi Hallaj of Arab, Ottoman’s adoption of Constitutional Monarchy as the French Revolution, etc.
Properly balanced between East and West and deftly incorporated their concurrences, the book recounts a history of the world through Islamic eyes with lucid narration and precise evaluation. In addition, a reader with crude pre-knowledge of past events would perceive a subtle savour of it. Finally, it makes readers by story-telling historical conjunctions a general historian of all developments.