The prologue gives the account of the 2004 bombings by a Sunni extremist group, on the most holy day celebrated by the Shia’s, the 10th day of Muharram in the city of Karbula. This became known as the Ashura Massacre. From there Hazelton starts to explain how the events of today correlate with the history of the past.
After the Prophet spans about a half century from the days of the Prophet Mohammad to the death of his grandson Hussein and his family, at the Massacre of Karbula in 680. This was the event being mourned in 2004 when a multitude of bombs were set off, once again, setting off tensions in the Middle East.
Like most Westerners I knew very little about the beginning of Islam and even less about the difference between a Shia and Sunni. Hazelton has taken a complex history and has turned it into an exciting, easy to read narrative about the Middle East. This is a must read for anyone who would like to have a better understanding of Islam and the Middle East.