Comments & Opinions about Commander of the Faithful
We must look to the past, not Isis, for the true meaning of Islam
The Independent Newspaper — 2017
Commander of the Faithful as Added Value for Educators
by Bonnie James
Muslims Come in Different Shapes and Sizes, Too
by Jane Coon
Tiny Iowa town combats Islamophobia
by Kyle Munson, Des Moines Register (2015)
Town in America’s Heartland Honors World-Renowned Muslim Hero
by Kathy Garms, Peace X Peace — 2010
Abdelkader and the Massacre of Damascus
by Rany on the Royals — 2010
Iowa and Algeria Share a Hero
by Mary Leopold, Peace X Peace — 2009
Comments on J Kiser’s article
Letter by Anne-Marie Gustavson, sister of Pierre Claverie
Praise from Notable Readers
“The life and times of Emir Abd-el-Kader is one of those dazzling biographies that informs our modern life. A fascinating figure, Abd-el-Kader was a man of God, who put his Muslim religion into practice and who served as a bridge between the European and Islamic worlds. We have much to learn from his life and from this book, which offers us a vivid glimpse of some of the most important events of the 19th century."
Susan Eisenhower, Chairman of the Eisenhower Group, author of Mrs. Ike
“Abdelkader lived by a chivalric code steeped in the Arab concept of honor. When, in our own day al-Qaeda terrorists claim the title of “knight,” it’s worth recalling a time when Arab warriors embodied the noblest attributes of knighthood: courage, compassion and restraint. John Kiser brings both the man and his world brilliantly to life.”
Steve Simon, Sabbagh Senior Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
“Kiser’s book is highly relevant to what is going on in the Islamic world. Abdelkader is the embodiment of the true moral, theological and rational ideas taught by Islam. I strongly recommend this book be translated into Arabic, Persian and Urdu.”
Muhammad Ammar Khan Nasir, Editor Monthly Al-Sharia, Pakistan
“In Abdelkader, Kiser gives us a lens to understand the highest traditions of the Arab Muslim culture…Explaining the importance of Abdelkader’s voluntary surrender, a French general tells his parliament: “Abdelkader is the embodiment of a principle—that of great religious affection…this man has become the living symbol of an idea that moves the masses deeply.’ The emir’s real value for interfaith dialogue is that he is a devoutly conservative Muslim. In a way, this is who we should be negotiating with.”
David Mc Allister-Wilson, President, John Wesley Seminary
“Your work is most excellent and timely. I hope it gets a widespread distribution and reading.”
Hamza Yusuf, Founder, Zaytuna Institute
...a much-needed antidote to the toxic false jihads of today...
Prince Hassan bin-Talal of Jordan
"Mr. Kiser insists on the religious dimension of what might otherwise be read as a story of military and political maneuvering. But Commander of the Faithful is hardly a theological study. It is a dramatic story of quarreling tribes, of Sufi sects and brotherhoods, of treacherous Ottoman officials, rival French generals, secret negotiations, broken truces, terrible atrocities and new forms of insurgency and counterinsurgency warfare."
Peter Steinfels, New York Times, November 22, 2008
“John Kiser weaves the intricate tale of Abdelkader’s heroic life and spirit as deftly as the emir maneuvered his armies on the battlefield. With engaging history and stylistic flare, Kiser brings to life the inspiring story of a great world leader that many Western readers will not have heard of before. Importantly, Kiser’s work skillfully reveals that Abdelkader’s legacy transcends the bounds of both time and age , discovering the 19th Century scholar-priest-warrior as the perfect elixir for the contemporary West’s chronic difficulties understanding the East.”
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Author of What is Right about Islam
“Kiser writes with much affection and as a humanitarian observer of human strengths and weaknesses. It is truly a relevant book.”
A. A. Sachedina, Professor of Religious Studies University of VA
“Abdelkader teaches the French and the world that to achieve success, moral authority is necessary, not simply military might…This fascinating revival of a 19th century world hero’s story holds valuable lessons for today’s Middle East Warrior. It would be a worthwhile addition to any reading list.”
Col. Jon Smythe, USMC (ret.)
This is an important book on an important subject. I hope it will reach a wide audience. I will introduce it to my fellow scholars and students."
Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University.
“The Emir is a complex combination of warrior, spiritual leader, diplomat and humanitarian rarely found found in today’s society. This meticulously researched book provides us with an understanding of the multi-cultural differences that existed then and their resolution. Commander of the Faithful should be used as a guidebook for understanding current and future conflicts and interventions."
Col. John Bourgeois, USMC (ret.)
“John Kiser’s engagingly written and intelligently crafted Commander of the Faithful examines the life of a genuine hero of the Arab world in the nineteenth century… Kiser artfully shows how and why Abdelkader emerged as a world icon, and whose example is badly needed today. I highly recommend this book.”
Philip Khoury, past president of the Middle Eastern Studies Association and Ford Professor of History, MIT
“I thank John Kiser for his writing the book. It is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the true Arab hero, one hundred and fifty years ago and today. I was intrigued with the Emir and his absolute commitment to his God, his family and his fellow man (including his enemies).”
Gordon Meriweather, Captain, US Navy (Ret.); columnist for Culpeper Star-Exponent
“I'm a huge fan of John Kiser's work. I have used his previous book Monks of Tibhirine many times in courses and in my own research....I have read Commander of the Faithful, which is another brilliant book that I will use in my Algeria and France class again this fall.”
James D. Le Sueur, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
“I hope and pray we can make Abdelkader’s life and message more accessible to people in this time when it is so sorely needed. Kiser does a beautiful job of mixing a dramatic narrative with solid scholarship.”
Reza Shah-Kazemi, editor of Islamic World Report, author and research associate of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London; Board of Directors, Matheson Trust UK
“This engrossing and uplifting story of emir Abdelkader who led the resistance to French colonial rule could only have been written by someone with a profound knowledge of the French and Arab worlds and a keen sense of the eternal struggle between morality and Realpolitik…It is not surprising that the author has published in both the Marine Corps Gazette and the Journal of Cistercian Studies.
Fredrick Starr, Chairman Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
“John Kiser has outdone himself. Before the applause has died for his seminal work on The Monks of Tibhirine, he now brings us a masterful rendition of Abdelkader, a bigger than life historical figure who honored his faith through a life of integrity and chivalrous behavior. Kiser reminds of one who stands as a giant for the ages, one we could do well to study and emulate.
Douglas Johnston, author of Religion—The Missing Dimension in Statecraft
“Abdelkader is a special gift that comes from the sands of Algeria. John Kiser is right to explore the riches of this man who led an exemplary life and was friends with Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike. We need to learn more about the complexities of the political, military and cultural interactions that built the world as it is today. Kiser’s book is an invitation to discover and pause, appreciating the life of an unexpected hero.”
Andrea Bartoli, Combie Chair for Conflict Resolution, George Mason University
“With this new work, John Kiser continues the fascinating and valuable exploration of religious coexistence that he began with The Monks of Tibhirine (2002). The Commander of the Faithful is a passionate portrait of the remarkable man whose struggle to unite his people and break the colonial yoke won him worldwide recognition, and whose courageous action in saving Christians in Syria from slaughter brought him worldwide admiration. Kiser gives us an exhilarating ride through Abdelkader’s life in Algeria, exile in France and Turkey, and his final years in Damascus.
It is indeed the stuff of legend, a story beautifully told, aching to be made into a big budget movie. But what is more important is the message for the modern reader that is embodied in the book’s third part, which offers vivid images of Abdelkader’s religious faith in action. In an era when Islam is feared and widely misunderstood in the West, when we are often told that Islamic values are threatening to our way of life, here is the story of a Muslim hero whose tolerance, humanity and forbearance offer a persuasive rebuttal… In a moving chapter called “The Emir’s Letter” Kiser’s discourse on Abdelkader’s belief system illuminates an Islam that can comfortably coexist with the faiths of other children of Abraham. Indeed, an Islam that demands it. This excellent book is both highly entertaining history and a powerful argument for respect and tolerance across religions.”
Kenton W. Keith, Former US Ambassador to Qatar and Vice President, Meridian International Center Washington, DC
“John Kiser has given us an absorbing and beautifully written story of a great hero who is a model warrior for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The reader is bound to be moved by the life of this remarkable man who was the very opposite of a fanatic, and when (the reader) closes the book, it will be with a vastly enhanced understanding of the ethical and spiritual commonalities between Christianity and Islam.”
Jane Geniesse, author of The Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
“John Kiser’s Commander of the Faithful is an extremely important book for both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences. With remarkable detail, Kiser describes the 19th century Abdelkader’s struggle against French colonialism in Algeria, a rebellion he waged with courage, dignity, and chivalry, earning him the respect of the very people he was fighting. Muslims remain profoundly lacking in modern heroic exemplars, and in Abdelkader, we can look to a leader – a scholar, spiritual master, and warrior – who struggled for justice in his own society without transgressing the limits of just war. Kiser does a fantastic job of introducing us to this hero, and I can’t wait for others to read the book!”
Daisy Khan, Executive Director, American Society for Muslim Advancement
John Kiser’s book on the Amir, entitled Commander of the Faithful: Life and Times of Amir Abdelkader is an inspiration to all those who are committed to the cause of peace and justice through “true jihad.” We recommend very much that you open your heart and your network to John Kiser and his team in their efforts to promote the legacy of Amir Abdelkader al Jazairy.
Abubaker al Shingeiti, Vice President IIIT to Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna founder. Sept 7
It is really refreshing to read what those kids (Iowa, HS student winners of 2011 AbdelKader essay contest) wrote; it is sending a lot of hope for the future. You really are contributing to make our world a better place. Thank you….
Djouar Rachid, sufi AISA organizer of November’s International Abdelkader conference in Montreal. Aug 25
Kiser does a beautiful job of mixing a dramatic narrative with solid scholarship.
Reza Shah-Kazemi, editor of Islamic World Report
Praise from Around the World
“Skillful, fascinating, and relevant...”
Robert Earle, Commander of the Faithful by John Kiser — A Review
My name is Zoubir Aouad and I live in Gothenburg, Sweden. Born in Sweden with parents from Algeria and belonging to the tribe Bani Ouregh (which are named in the book!) I read your book about the Emir some few years ago and I thought it absolutely fantastic.
I want to get involved and spread the word about the Emir to my fellow Swedish countrymen.
I have a naive but honest question; what do you think about someone like me translating the book into Swedish? Is that a possibility or are the legal issues to be dealt before something like that could be discussed.
Have you other ways you see me trying to spread the word further.
Thanks again and many warm salams from Sweden. You helped me reach some of my own heritage, reading about my own tribe for the very first time. I thank you dearly.
Zoubir Aouad, Gothenburg Sweden
Dear Mr. Kiser:
I just finished reading your brilliant biography on Emir Abd al-Kader. It was such an amazing experience for me and perhaps one of the best biographies I have ever read. I was wondering if you would be willing to draft a version of the biography suitable for elementary age children. What a gift for young children to learn of this great hero and champion of the best of human virtues.
Also, has there been any progress on the movie said to be scripted on the biography you penned?
Many thanks again for your spirited work.
Aisha Subhani, Davie FLA
As German architect with Algerian roots, I discovered two years ago the spiritual aspect of the great personality who was the Emir Abdelkader. All the years before, he was just a national hero for me.
Now I am collecting all what I can find about this man and my deepest hope is that the world and especially people in Germany become aware of the great worth of what this man was and still is representing for a respectful and peaceful cohabitation of mankind.
It would be a great honor for me if you could give me some advice or send me some lecture or other things which may help me.
Bellhout Andreas Moussa, Nov 10
I live in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. I read about the Urdu translation of your book and I believe that it is an opportune project for our society. We require his message and method as a corrective.
Jehanzeb Ali, Oct 10
I absolutely love John W Kiser’s book. I visited your website. It is very nice. I wish Arabs knew of your great efforts. I am an Egyptian writer, have a family and three daughters and have been writing in alukah.net –why don’t you visit? I am very interested… What a great man.
Abdur Rahman, Oct 1
With the immense success of the book “Commander of the Faithful: Life and times of Emir Abdelkader” and at the request of one of the founder members of the Emir Abdelkader Foundation, section of Oran Mr Sam Menouar, I send you this letter about the possibility of being in contact with him. He wishes to have your personal coordinates.
Rahab Hadil, Sept 12
Thanks for your latest article (A Man for our Times) about a model for Muslims and others in America and around the world: Emir Abd al Qadir. Your book Commander of the Faithful: Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader deserves a Nobel Prize.
Bob Crane (a Catholic convert to Islam and scholar of Islam), Sep 4
Hello, I am Badri Bacem, 31 years old and don’t be surprised that I am just an IT guy working for BP gas project in the Algerian desert (Amenas Sahara). I like reading in French and Arabic, but I start now in English and Mr John’s will be in my favorite list. I was very surprised to see documentary in Aljazeera about Elkader town… I was preparing a personal Arabic biography of the Emir talking about how people in the world are looking to this hero; now I changed the subject to Elkader village as an example of people respecting other cultures, history and religions.
Badri Bacem, Aug 19
March on Christian soldier, we Muslims will follow you.
Sayyid Sayeed, Islamic Society of North America