This book charts what Kepel refers to as the rise and fall of Islamist movements around the world. Starting in the 1970s with Qutb, the Iranian Revolution and the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood Kepel tracks the rise of Islamists movements and their increasing political significance on the world stage. In the second part of the book he then turns to their decline, particularly how violent actions such as the assassination of Sadat and the World Trade Centre attacks failed to achieve their intended aims. For example in the latter case al-Qaeda sought to galvanise world-wide support, amongst Muslims, for their aims, through this high-profile attack. However, Kepel argues that this aim failed as the Taliban was forcibly removed from power and the global uprising was significant only by its absence. Furthermore, he states that the New York attacks were actually the signs of a movement in its death throes, as opposed to the marking of a triumphalist resurgence that many commentators believe it is.
Written before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq and the continued incidents involving Islamic terrorist cells the suggestion by Kepel that Islamist movements are in decline seems to be premature. That said he remains one of the more highly regarded academics within this field and his work is still helpful in learning more about these movements themselves.