The Global United States

Charting the rise of the United States from a peripheral, comparatively weak power in the late nineteenth century to the pinnacle of its military, diplomatic, and cultural influence in the early twenty-first. How and why did this momentous transformation occur? Who resisted and why? What were the attitudes of foreign nations as the United States became a great power of the first order and then surpassed them all?

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15 Minute History

Episode 58: Islam’s First Civil War


In 7th century Arabia, the Islamic community was nearly torn apart by a civil war over the assassination of the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan (d. 656), and the accession to the caliphate of Muhammad’s adopted son Ali, supported by Uthman’s assassins. The events of the first fitna, as it is known, are often portrayed as a struggle over the right to rule the Islamic community, but it was much more—a power struggle between Muhammad’s wife Aisha and Ali, and a dispute over who had the right to avenge the murder of Uthman.

In picking up where Episode 57 left off, guest Shahrzad Ahmadi describes this tragic turn of events that sent shockwaves through the nascent Islamic community, and that continue to reverberate today.

Listen to podcast (or read transcript) of the podcast here on our website 

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Episode 57: The Succession to Muhammad


Nearly every world history textbook on the market explains the origins of sectarianism in the Islamic world as a dispute over the succession to Muhammad. Sunnis, they say, wanted an egalitarian society in which the leader was chosen from the people; the Shi’a, however, wanted the leadership of the nascent Islamic community to remain within Muhammad’s family. It seems simple—but is it really?

In the first of a series on the origins in Sectarianism in Islam, UT’s Shaherzad Ahmadi expands on this vastly oversimplified version of the story to introduce us to the key players involved—and to the intense rivalry between Aisha, Muhammad’s favorite wife, and his adopted son Ali.

Listen to (or read a transcript of) the Podcast here on 15 Minute History

Or subscribe to 15 Minute History on iTunesU

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