The Shade of Swords traces the origins of jihad in the struggle against oppression that was part of the earliest consciousness of Muslims. Travelling across centuries and continents, from the triumphant rise of Islam under Prophet Muhammad to the depression of defeat in the first crusade, through the renewal of Saladin to the rise and fall of the Ottoman and Mughal empires and the raw passions of Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent, M.J. Akbar's gripping story explains how jihad thrives on complex and shifting notions of persecution, victory and sacrifice.
The conflict between Islam and Christianity began from the time of the Prophet himself and has acquired myriad shapes over fourteen hundred years: in doctrine, dialectics, literature, culture, and of course on the battlefield, from the fall of Jerusalem to the Caliph Omar in 637, to the presence of British and American troops in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2002. The fire that is visible on the Muslim street across the world today is fuelled by a perception of injustice and exploitation by the West.
Akbar observed in an essay written just after the collapse of the Soviet Union: "The West's next confrontation is definitely going to come from the Muslim world. It is in the sweep of Islamic nations from the Maghreb to Pakistan that the struggle for a new world order will begin." The Shade of Swords narrates why and now.