From The Washington Post:
Islam and the Making of Europe
By David Levering Lewis
“For a historian,” Lewis writes in his preface, “thinking about the present means thinking about the past in the present.” So it should be for the citizen as well.
God’s Crucible begins with the rise of Islam in the 6th and 7th centuries from the ruins of the conflict between imperial Rome and imperial Persia. This rise, Lewis writes expansively, is nothing short of “the greatest revolution in power, religion, culture, and wealth in history.” In the aftermath, the Fertile Crescent, the vast area of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, was forfeited to the Islamic upstarts in the Arabian peninsula.
Lewis’s treatment of Islam’s explosive beginnings and its expansion across North Africa into Europe is lucid, and his command of detail is encyclopedic. His narrative is enriched by Arabic sources that are often ignored by European scholars. For today’s Arabs and Muslims, these seminal events live intensely in the present: the life of Muhammad, the violent struggle for Mecca and Medina, the first four caliphs, the writing of the Koran and the split of the Shiites and Sunnis. If only for practical reasons, all Americans need to understand these things.