A degree in History from St Andrews University proved to be adequate preparation for work as a barman, tutor for a child star in a film made on a Greek island, a pony boy on a Highland estate and stints at two determinedly independent publishers which led to a job in the press department of the Afghanistan Support Committee. A chance encounter in the Outer Hebrides led to his first commission to write a guidebook to Morocco followed by Tunisia, Cyprus, Istanbul and Libya. Subsequent to the birth of two daughters, Barnaby wrote a History of North Africa, then a Biography of the Prophet Muhammad, then an account of the early Caliphate, The Heirs of the Prophet followed by the story of the battle for the Mediterranean from , The Last Crusaders. He is also a lecturer, tour guide, television presenter, journalist and book reviewer with a scrapbook of three hundred articles pasted up on this website. His day job is running Eland, a publishing house, which specializes in keeping classic travel books in print, www.

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No one had seen him for some time. Rumours were swirling around the city about his ill health. The Messenger of God was dying, people said, perhaps already dead. So when he suddenly turned up on that sunny morning in CE, looking stout and rosy if a bit greyer than anyone remembered, the anxiety about his health gave way to shouts of jubilation.

A few hours later, when the prayers had ended and the congregation had dispersed, Muhammad slipped back to his room, closed his eyes and quietly breathed his last. Muhammad had done nothing to prepare his followers for his demise. He had made no official statement about who should replace him, nor had he put into place the mechanism by which a leader could be chosen. It was as though the possibility of his death had not occurred to him. Meanwhile, the Muslim community was growing faster than anyone could have imagined and was on the verge of splintering into competing sects.

With his death, the internecine power struggles that had been simmering for years among the Muslim leadership suddenly came to a boil. What began on that sombre morning as a simple argument over succession was to erupt into a bloody civil war that permanently fractured the Muslim community into rival religious and political factions, whose quarrels would reverberate throughout the Muslim world to this day. It is at this pivotal moment in history that Barnaby Rogerson picks up the story of Islam.

Together, these so-called "Rightly Guided Caliphs" ushered in a time that most Muslims regard as the Golden Era of Islam, a period in which the small community of faith that Muhammad left behind blossomed into a vast empire stretching from the Indian subcontinent to North Africa. Rogerson deals adroitly with these internal conflicts, delving into the intricate sociopolitical composition of ancient Arab society with the skill of a historian and the flair of a novelist though, remarkably, he is neither.

This is no dry history, but an absorbing narrative, full of action and intrigue, with historical figures so complex in their motivations and compelling in their characterisation that they leap off the page.

It is clear that this is a writer who has trekked through the landscapes he describes, who has tasted the hot winds as they sweep off the sand dunes and witnessed for himself the otherworldly glow of the desert sun as it hovers just above the horizon.

Much has been written about this topic since the occupation of Iraq launched a civil war between the two sects the like of which has not been seen in 1, years. Instead, he simply recounts the stories he has culled from the traditional histories of this tumultuous period and allows the reader to draw his or her own conclusions as to how and why the unified Muslim community so suddenly split upon the death of Muhammad into Sunni and Shia sects. In truth, though, this may not be a bad approach to early Islamic history.

Those of us who study the period know how exceedingly difficult it is to extract kernels of fact from the muddled and often contradictory historical sources at our disposal. As Rogerson himself notes, ancient Arab historians often presented two or three versions of the same event so as to allow the reader to choose which one was correct, with the caveat that only God knows the truth of the matter.


The caliphs' tale

Before this he had written half a dozen guidebooks to Morocco, Tunisia, Cyprus, Scotland and Istanbul and a History of North Africa now in its third edition. This year-long adventure story begins and ends in the Atlantic Crusade waged by Portugal against Muslim Morocco, from the sack of the port of Ceuta in to the epic Battle of the Three Kings in The Last Crusaders has a wide canvas, taking the reader out from the cockpit of the Mediterranean to the shores of India, China and the Caribbean. It also has a fine focus, following the individual careers of various merchants, exiles and adventurers, be they an Austrian soldier of fortune, a Jewish Duke of Naxos or a Portugese master-spy. Over the last fifteen years he has also written three hundred travel articles, book reviews and historical essays on various North African and Islamic themes.


Barnaby Rogerson



Books by Barnaby Rogerson



Prophet Mohammed


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