Cover image for The shade of swords : Jihad and the conflict between Islam and Christianity
The shade of swords : Jihad and the conflict between Islam and Christianity
Akbar, M. J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Routledge, [2002]

Physical Description:
xx, 272 pages ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1150 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BP182 .A43 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Shade of Swords is the first cohesive history of Jihad, written by one of India's leading journalists and writers. In this paperback edition, updated to show how and why Saddam Hussein repositioned himself as a Jihadi against America, M.J. Akbar explains the struggle between Islam and Christianity. Placing recent events in a historical context, he tackles the tricky question of what now for Jihad following the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

With British and American troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and once again in Iraq, the potential for Jihadi recruitment is ever increasing. Explaining how Jihad thrives on complex and shifting notions of persecution, victory and sacrifice, and illustrating how Muslims themselves have historically tried both to direct and control the phenomenon of Jihad, Akbar shows how Jihad pervades the mind and soul of Islam, revealing its strength and significance.

To know the future, one needs to understand the past. M.J. Akbar's The Shade of Swords holds the key.

Author Notes

M J Akbar is an Indian Muslim and journalist, best-selling author, the founder and editor-in-chief of the Asian Age newspaper and former government advisor and official spokesman to Rajiv Ghandi. He is a respected expert on Indian and Middle Eastern politics.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A recurring question asked since 9/11 is: Why do "they" hate "us" ? The author is an Indian Muslim, a journalist, and a former official spokesman for the late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. While his sympathies are clearly with secularists, he strives mightily to fathom the hopes, fears, and resentments of Islamic fundamentalists, many of whom see themselves as warriors in an ongoing holy war against the encroachments of the West. Tracing the evolution of the jihad concept from the birth of Islam to the present, Akbar's analyses are fascinating, disturbing, and generally credible, and his conclusions are not particularly optimistic. He finds in Islam a recurring strain that relishes the role of victim and finds solace in striking out at imagined enemies. While acknowledging they are a fringe element in most Muslim nations, Akbar asserts that governments often inadvertently inflate the power and influence of jihadists by attempting to manipulate them with a variety of concessions. This is an important contribution to our efforts to understand the cultural chasm dividing many Islamic societies from our own. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Akbar, an Indian journalist and author of five books about India, offers an enthralling, though uneven, history of Muslims at war. Focusing on the jihads inspired by the attacks of Christian Crusaders, Akbar downplays what Muhammad labeled the more important, "Greater Jihad" the inner struggle against temptation to sin. He also hints at the role of Muhammad's "Lesser Jihad" the duty of Muslims to protest corrupt Muslim leadership and how it yielded another category of jihad targeted at countries like the U.S. for propping up and installing such leadership. Akbar's analysis is lacking, and he generalizes too often about the Muslim community. He dangles the charged term jihad ominously, but without concrete explanation of whether it is a valid religious motivator or simply a convenient borrowing of Islamic vocabulary for military-political purposes. As a result, the promise made by the book's subtitle is never fulfilled. As a historian, however, Akbar, fares better, his rhythmic writing bringing Islamic heroes like Saladin to life. Akbar effectively shows that most encounters between the Islamic world and Christians have resulted in violence, often instigated or spurred on by the Western-Christian actors, which led to the massive discontent exposed by September 11. His accounts of the detached cruelty of Western colonial powers and American oil companies in balkanizing the Islamic world for their own benefit are a gloomy reminder of what happens to those who fail to learn from history. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this history of jihad over the last 14 centuries, Indian journalist Akbar (India: The Siege Within) uses his eye for anecdote and skillful sense of narrative flow to keep the recitation of names and dates from becoming monotonous. The book is gentle in suggesting this history's implications. Although it makes clear that the concept of jihad has been used and abused for a variety of means and ends, the author believes it is integral to Islam. Hence, he does not explore why the Indian Muslims' work with Gandhi on a nonviolent jihad had to fail or, say, how the Sufi stress on harmony might suggest different ways that faithful Muslims might understand and live out jihad. Nonetheless, this recital of the incarnations of the jihad by a Muslim offers readers a fair account of Islamic conflict over the ages and, implicitly, a number of warnings for the West: "Despair has many manifestations. Eventually, one of them would become violent." A glossary, chronology, reading list, and table of biographical sketches add to the book's usefulness.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction to revised edition
1 Chapter and verse
2 The joys of death: A bargain with Allah
3 Rebellions in the dark of night
4 A map of Islam
5 Circle of Hell
6 Allah! Muhammad! Saladin!
7 The doors of Europe
8 Jihad in teh East: A crescent over Delhi
9 The holy sea: Pepper and power
10 The bargain goes sour
11 The wedge and the gate
12 History as anger, Jihad as non-violence
13 Islam in danger zone
14 Jinnah Redux and the age of Osama
15 Karbala reversed: Saddam, Bush and the Shia Jihad
A suggested reading
list Thumbnail sketches
A Relevant calandar