The Prophet’s Heir: The Life of Ali ibn Abi Talib

The life and legacy of one of Mohammad’s closest confidants and Islam’s patron saint: Ali ibn Abi Talib

The best biography of Ali I’ve ever read.

- Reza Aslan

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About the Book

The life and legacy of one of Mohammad’s closest confidants and Islam’s patron saint: Ali ibn Abi Talib

“The best biography of Ali I’ve ever read.”—Reza Aslan

“This erudite but readable book shows why the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali is central to Islam today, and should be both an inspiration and a figure for reconciliation.”—John McHugo, author of A Concise History of Sunnis & Shi’is

Ali ibn Abi Talib is arguably the single most important spiritual and intellectual authority in Islam after prophet Mohammad. Through his teachings and leadership as fourth caliph, Ali nourished Islam. But Muslims are divided on whether he was supposed to be Mohammad’s political successor—and he continues to be a polarizing figure in Islamic history.

Hassan Abbas provides a nuanced, compelling portrait of this towering yet divisive figure and the origins of sectarian division within Islam. Abbas reveals how, after Mohammad, Ali assumed the spiritual mantle of Islam to spearhead the movement that the prophet had led. While Ali’s teachings about wisdom, justice, and selflessness continue to be cherished by both Shia and Sunni Muslims, his pluralist ideas have been buried under sectarian agendas and power politics. Today, Abbas argues, Ali’s legacy and message stands against that of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Taliban.

Genres: Historical Middle East Biographies, History of Islam
Tag: Recommended Books
ASIN: 0300229453
ISBN: 0300229453
This erudite but readable book shows why the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali is central to Islam today, and should be both an inspiration and a figure for reconciliation.
An erudite and accessible biography of Ali, one that tells his life story, and discusses his teachings and values, and how his legacy continues to loom large over Muslim world.
Hassan Abbas’ book is an incredible dive into the history and politics of Islam through the life of Ali ibn Abi Talib. This is a must read for students, scholars, and curious minds interested in the origins and evolution of Islamic thought, and in particular ideas and actions that unite Sunni and Shia Muslims. Thoroughly sourced, yet accessible to a novice audience on Islamic history, this is an important contribution to our understanding of Ali - an inspirational figure meant to bring Muslims together, rather than divide. As a scholar and practitioner of international security, I find this book ranks among the best and important contributions to our understanding of Middle East history.
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About the Author
Dr. Hassan Abbas

Dr. Hassan Abbas is Professor of International Security Studies & Chair of the Department of Regional and Analytical Studies at the National Defense University in Washington DC. He is also a senior advisor and Bernard Schwartz Fellow at the Asia Society in New York working on the U.S. relations with South and Central Asia. Dr. Abbas held the Distinguished Quaid-i-Azam Chair at the South Asia Institute at Columbia University from 2009-11. Previous to that he was a Senior Advisor at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, after having been a Research Fellow at the Belfer Center from 2005 to 2009. He is also a non-resident Fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), Michigan, and an Associate of the Pakistan Security Research Unit (PSRU), University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom. He received his Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and an LL.M. in International Law from Nottingham University, United Kingdom, where he was a Britannia Chevening Scholar (1999). Dr. Abbas also remained a fellow at the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School (2002-2003) and as a visiting scholar at the Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation (2003-2004).

His research interests are politics and security issues in South West Asia; and relations between Muslims and the West. His recent publication include 'Stabilizing Pakistan Through Police Reforms' and 'Pakistan 2020: A Vision for Building a Better Future' both available at His book, Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror (M.E. Sharpe) has been on bestseller lists in India and Pakistan and was widely reviewed internationally, including by the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Far Eastern Economic Review, The Hindu, and Dawn. He has also appeared as an analyst on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, Al-Jazeera, and PBS, and as a political commentator on VOA and BBC. He runs WATANDOST, which is a blog on Pakistan and its neighbors' related affairs.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."