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Summary: Who Commands the Faithful?

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A book review of John Kiser’s Commander & the Faithful: The Life & Times of Emir Abd El-Kadr. Montville begins with the consequences of Crimean War diplomacy in 1856. Particularly, the Hatti Humayun edict from the Ottoman Sultan that said Christians and Jews were equal before the law. Thus, allowing their testimony in Muslim courts, access to government positions, and participation in the Ottoman army.

The backlash of this edict led to one event in 1860, when mobs in Damascus attacked Christian neighborhoods. Emir Abd el-Kadr brought Christians to safety within the walls of his home. He saved some 11,000 Christians, while thousands of others were killed.  El-Kader’s heroism in defense of Christians against Muslim mobs made him an international celebrity. Montville goes on to highlight many of el-Kader’s good deeds.

The most important message Montville grasped from the text were the ethical values that guided Abd el-Kader’s life. Raised in the Sufi tradition, his namesake, Abd al-Kader al-Jilani was a holy man of the 11th century. Al-Jilani had taught Jesus should have a special place in Muslim hearts, as he does in the Qur’an. The book is recommending reading.