Disturbed By Orientalist Writings On The Sunni/ Shi’i Split: I Need Advice On Healthier Readings

Answered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad
Question: Assalam ‘aleykum
I was given the  book ‘After The Prophet: The Epic Story Of The Shia Sunni Split In Islam” by Lesley Hazleton’ and wanted to know the ruling on reading it.
I started the book, and left  it, because it “humanized” the sahaba. Before reading this book for me the sahaba were more like “superhuman”. My faith is at an all time low and would like some alternate recommendation on this topic.

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
The study of Qur’an, Sira and Hadith does show the all-too-human fallibility of the Sahaba and how archetypal of us all they are. But this should not be confused with the rewritings of the sources wrought by Orientalists and other Sahabophobic sectarians with various agendas. This includes bestselling vulgarizers in our times.
A reasonable book on the topic by a non-Muslim scholar is the first volume of Marshall Hodgson’s Venture of Islam. As for the author mentioned in the question, she most definitely has biases including — just to name one of the most elephantine — the itch to fictionalize, grossly oversimplify, ignore, twist or just go ahead and make up facts in order to sell her material.
At the same time the unmatchable merit of all the Sahaba is undisputed and established in Qur’an and Sunna forever and ever.
Do not just give up on Muslim scholars just because they might strengthen your faith — which you yourself lament it is in need of uplift. They will also strengthen your reason and reasoning, because “Our intelligence is in our hearts” (Ali b. Abi Talib). They have a wealth of treasures in store for those who seek, and higher standards of verification than a gazillion of our end-times pen-pushers put together.
Hajj Gibril