Introduction to Islamic History
A historical incident is just an isolated event that happens once and is never repeated again. If the researchers and historians all agree on the occurrence of one incident then surely their interpretation for its causes and motives will vary according to their different approaches. Each one will be impacted by his faith, his intellectual and cultural making, and his own perceptions to human life and the role of man in such an incident.
History is but a study for the events that occur or it could be the actual sum of all the events and incidents that occur. When we say events or incidents we are talking about any occurrence that takes place and results in changing the life of human beings while taking into consideration that any change occurring on earth is connected to the life of human beings. So if history is all about incidents and if incidents are all about change and change is the outcome of time; then history is none other but time.
History is the melting pot of human experience. It is the science of human efforts or an attempt to answer the questions related to human endeavors in the past that could be used to deduce their efforts in the future.
Ibn-Khaldun was the first one to speak explicitly about the idea of history in his “Muqqadimah – Prolegomena” saying, “The inner meaning of history, on the other hand, involves speculation and an attempt to get at the truth, subtle explanation of the causes and origins of existing things, and deep knowledge of the how and why of events. (History,) therefore, is firmly rooted in philosophy. ”
The borders of Islamic history
Islamic history extends over a long period of time that covers most of the middle ages sprawling over a huge geographic area that extends from the borders of China in Asia to the west of Asia and from the north of Africa to Andalusia. We consider that Islamic history started with the revelation of the message of Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (SAWS) then the formation of the Islamic State in Madinah passing by the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus, which stretched from the borders of China to the Pyrenees north of Andalusia and the Abbasid dynasty, including the various emirates, sultanates and states such as; the Seljuks and Buyids, and in Morocco the Idrisids and the Moravids, and in the Levant the Hamdanids and Zengids, and finally in Egypt the Fatimids, the Ayyubids and the Mamluks. After that came the Ottoman Empire which was the last Empire to rule under the Islamic Caliphate over a huge portion of the world map!
Sections of the Islamic history and civilization
We can distinguish between Islamic history and the history of Islamic civilization as thus;
1) The history of Islamic civilization
A general history and a comprehensive account of the development of Muslim culture and its place of residence! This falls under seven themes: 1) The Biographies, 2) The Conquests, 3) The Classes, 4) The Encyclopedias, 5) Economic Issues, 6) Sociological, administrative and literal issues, 7) Virtues. In general it tackles topics about the Prophet (SAWS) and then it discusses virtues and biographies of Islamic personalities to the politics and economy of the States. This is all beside the knowledge of man, the society, geography, and the history of all sciences. For this reason it is one of the most important sciences for Muslims. It also tackles various topics and important issues in the history of Islam like; the advent of Islam, the Islamic Caliphate, the succession of Abu Bakr, the apostasy wars, the compilation of the Qur'an, the start of the Islamic conquests, the succession of Omar Ibnul-Khattab, the liberation of Persia, the liberation of the Levant, the liberation of Jerusalem, the liberation of Egypt, the succession after Omar Ibnul-Khattab, the succession of Othman Ibn Affan, compiling the Qur’an in one mushaf, the killing of Othman, the succession of Ali Ibn Abu Talib and the sedition caused by the killing of Othman, the Battle of Siffin, the advent of the Khawarij and the death of the Imam, the Umayyad dynasty, the liberation of Andalusia, Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz, the Caliphate, the Abbasid dynasty, the Fatimid dynasty, the Ayyubid dynasty, the Crusades, the Mamluk dynasty, the fall of Baghdad and the end of the Abbasid Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire.)
2) Islamic history; and this falls under 4 themes:
A. What concerns the Arabs: Including the life of the Prophet, the companions, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and Andalusia)
B. What concerns the Turks: Including the Qarakhanids, the Ghaznavids, the Khawarezmids, the Seljuks and the Ottomans.
C. What concerns the Persians: In east Asia and the countries beyond the river.
D. What concerns the Berbers and the Mamluks (in Africa): Their role in Islam was limited.
The paradox of reading Islamic history
There are different perspectives and attempts towards explaining and interpreting the history of Islam in all its complexity and the momentum of its events, revolutions and unrest. They all depend on the ideological backgrounds espoused by the analysts and the analytical tools that they use. In the modern era, after the so-called awakening, there were very distinct trends adopted by the historians (known as the nationalists) to interpret Islamic history as being pure Arab history. At the same time we see communist historians who tend to see the political and military pressures in the entirety of the Islamic history from a Marxist point of view that gives precedence for the economic factors and the class struggle above every other consideration. As for the secularist historians they tried their best to prevent the introduction of any religious factors in the interpretation of events and their efforts were concentrated on re-exploring the so-called pre-Islamic history, from the pretext that the seeds of the Arab renaissance started from this age and that Islam was just the seed of development that occurred on the Arab thought.
Amidst all these differences in reading and interpreting the events, the Islamic-oriented historians kept struggling to prove that Islam (as a religion) had a unique and sole hand in triggering a cultural and social revolution that granted the Arabs their state and their civilization; and this remains to be an undisputable fact that affirms the tolerance of Islam and explains how many other Islamic ethnicities came to power. These historians affirmed the fact that Prophet Muhammad Ibn Abdullah’s revelation was a turning point that brought about an evolution in the whole history of the region in particular and the world in general. The only point of weakness they had was that they offered a description of the events without interpreting them. Some of the Sunnah confirms not going into the details of the discord that took place between Muaweya and Ali since both are of the companions and both are forgiven. The other team of the Sunnah and Jamaa confirm that Muaweya was mistaken in defying Ali and they confirm Ali’s eligibility since he was elected and given the pledge of loyalty. On the other hand the Shiaa took a totally different stand in supporting Ali and his family in taking succession over the Muslims, making the succession a legal issue apart from the Sunnah’s theory which makes the succession a political issue upon which the Muslims agree and upon which the pledge of loyalty can be based.
Dr. Abdel-Aziz Al-Dory proposes a unique vision for interpreting Islamic history based on several theories and combining several factors at the same time. This combination and multi-factored interpretation presents a much more flexible pattern that is capable of a much vaster interpretation.
According to Dr. Al-Dory, we can classify the factors that have a key role as follows:
1) Doctrinal factors: Where faith, religion and creed have a key role.
2) Cultural factors: Cultures and different customs whether the ones that were already there like the tribal and Bedouin customs, or the customs that were acquired after reaching other regions like the Persian, Roman and Greek.
3) Civilization and Philosophy factors: These are formed by the sum of sciences and philosophies acquired by the Muslims when they mingled with other peoples mainly; Indians, Persians and Greeks.
4) Economic factors: Money and wealth played an important role in many wars and conflicts that etched the history of the human race.
Dr. Abed Al-Gabri adopts a similar classification in his book “The Political Arab Mind” where he studies Islamic history from three focal points; doctrine, tribe and booty. He even introduced some unfamiliar customs from the Persian, Greek and Roman civilizations.
The methodology of writing Islamic history
The methodology here stands for the rules and conditions that must be observed when dealing with any historical event. These conditions also encompass the writer or speaker, and the sources from which his information is derived. It also means the goal of the written material or study, its style and terminology.
Importance of the methodology
Methodology has two significances; the first is about the principles and foundations established by Islam to control the study of Islamic history, and to be used when interpreting or judging particular historical events. The other one is about the rules and methods followed in establishing facts and historical events, and used in validating the event in question, then interpreting it later. Consequently, the Muslim researcher requires two types of sources: sources in how to establish events and historical facts, and sources in interpreting and analyzing the historical events and judging them. This will be explained in details later.
In dealing with the events of Islamic history, the Islamic methodology emanates from the perception of Islam to the universe, life, and human rights. It is essentially based on the pillars of faith in Islam, and based on understanding the motives of behavior in the first Muslim community. This gives the movement of Islamic history a distinctive character from the movement of world history that has no sign of the divine revelation. The works, methodologies and approaches of historians and researches all hinge on the basis of adherence to Islamic doctrine. It is not the Muslim’s right to accuse anyone based on a weak tale, and even if this tale was proven to be right there are many legal limitations which have to be abided by in criticizing anyone according to the Book of Allah and the teachings of His Prophet (SAWS). When we talk about the Prophet or the companions we don’t just talk about them the same way we talk about anyone else. Still, talking about anyone else has many limitations and restrictions. As for non-Muslims, when they handle issues related to Islamic history, they often flounder and struggle with many illusions and suspicions because they steer clear from the divine revelation and they only depend on material interpretations for history; thus presenting contradictive outputs.
Sources of the Islamic methodology in writing history
Sources for proving the historical facts: Sunnah scholars cared to develop rules and regulations that can help them identify the authenticity of the narratives and tales. They used to follow a very strict approach till the fabricators appeared. Any Muslim historian must study all this in order to advance his historical studies. The important sources in this area are the books of Hadith terminology, the science of narrators, the science of critiquing narrators, the causes of hadith… etc. All of these books are essential for aiding the historians to critiquing narratives and weighing them to know the good from the bad. As for the specialized Islamic history books, whether fundamental sources like the Seerah of Ibn Ishaq which was refined by Ibn Hisham, the history book of Al-Tabari, or secondary sources like the book of Adab Al-Sultaniya by Al-Fakhry and the book of Islamic States by Ibnul-Taqtaqi (660 – 709 H). All of these books contain historical scientific materials that need some scrutiny making them sources for historical information rather than sources in critiquing events.
Sources for interpreting the events and evaluating them: Since the methodology for writing Islamic history basically hinges on Islamic creed, we can say that the sources of this particular methodology are the same sources of Sharia: The Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Ijmaa and Qiyas… etc. In interpreting historical events we cannot use justifications since we cannot apologize for the past events if they come in contradiction to our present age. Nor can we use materialistic interpretations which restrict the influences on the movement of human history to the physical factors; like the change in the means of production in the Marxist thought or the interpretations that are based on the effect of the external environment (such as geography and economics) in the material western thought. It rather expresses the role of man and his responsibility in the social and historical change within the context of the divine will.
The substantive rules of the scientific methodology used by the Muslim scholars
We will draw below an ideal methodology in scientific research the way we see it applied in the works of Muslim scholars and researchers particularly the old ones. We can summarize the features, the principles or rules of this methodology in the following points:
1) Using evidence and documents after verifying them.
2) Using the evidence and documents well by following the proper system for each tool, along with formulating the issues and proposing them well.
3) Believing in everything that came in the Qur’an and the authentic Sunnah. Before all that believing in the unseen, in punishment, in fate, in destiny and rejecting anything that opposes all this.
4) Investigating the truthfulness of the narratives and the evidences for each and every incident and recording them. Then mentioning them all if possible or choosing the strongest among them according to the rules of verification and researching; making use of the words of the trustworthy scholars.
5) Stating the sources and references from which the information was deduced and being meticulous in conveying the exact same words the way they were said and referring them to their respective owners.
6) Depending only on the legal texts or scientific facts and rejecting any myths.
7) Abiding by the rules of Arabic language and never taking a term out of its significance unless there is an indication for dismissing it from its direct significance.
8) Using only Islamic terminology in historical writings such as; believer, disbeliever, hypocrite… etc. because each of these terms has specific and fixed characteristics mentioned in the Qur’an and the Prophet’s narrations. So we must never abandon these terms for other that were coined in non-Islamic milieus. On the other hand, evaluating cultural actions and achievements must be done using Islamic terms like; good, evil, right, wrong, justice… etc.
9) Adopting the legal (Islamic) and original references ahead of any others. The Muslim researchers must depend on the Qur’an as his basic source of information about prophets, past nations and the life of Prophet Muhammad because the Qur’an is an absolute certainty and after this comes the equally authentic prophetic narrations, since the Hadith scholars used a meticulously intricate method in documenting the Sunnah. Both the Qur’an and the Sunnah refer clearly to a number of historical facts and the divine laws which gives the researchers a deep and comprehensive glimpse in analyzing the events. So the history scholar must also be a scholar in the Qur’an, the Qur’an sciences, the Hadith and the Hadith sciences to be able to use these two sources professionally.
10) Being impartial from any doctrinal, racial, national or political prejudices. The upright historian must manifest a group of characteristics and attributes that sometimes are similar to the attributes of Hadith narrators. We all know that historical events would never reach the status of the prophetic narrations except in very rare cases (like when Hadith scholars relay some news of the Prophet (SAWS) and the companions and some news about the past nations and their prophets as stated in the Sunnah). Most of these narratives are conveyed by the Akhbaris or without a connected chain or narrators or by incognitos or sometimes even without any references. If historians, for instance, tackle the time of the rightly guided caliphs and what followed then they found that most of the material came from Akhbari books that do not follow the legal rulings, here the Muslim historian must recognize two main rules: 1) The doctrinal tendency of the Akhbari: It is natural that anyone subscribing himself to a particular school of thought will surely try to collect the news that serve his thinking. Very few have been able to overcome this weakness. 2) The political tendency of the Akhbari: They usually try to tint the news with the color that serves their political tendencies in a way that satisfies all those who share the same tendencies. So the history researcher must always identify this tendency in any Akhbari he wants to take from and he must investigate whether he is closely connected to the ruler or if he hates him because hate clouds the mind from seeing reality. So the Akhbari must always be impartial.
11) We must know the approaches of the old historians and Al-Tabari must be taken as an example in this particular topic due to his substantial importance in being one of the most prominent sources of Islamic history during the peak of Islam and even before that. A modern historian particularly must know that Al-Tabari used in his recount of events the same methodology used by Hadith narrators in conveying news; yet he differed from them in one thing though. He did not follow the known rules of Jarh wa-tadil in critiquing his narrators. He believed that the historical event was not as tangible as the hadith event so he was not as strict with his narrators as the hadith scholars were. He just accounted the narrator for his narrative and this was very clear in the introduction he wrote for his book “History of the Nations, Prophets and Kings” where he said, “Any news mentioned in my book at the mouth of those who lived in the past, and is disapproved by the reader who does not find it to be right or truthful, then let him know that this news is not brought by me and that it was only conveyed to me by its narrator. I only conveyed it the way it was said to me.” Al-Tabari rarely criticized his news or preferred one over the other. Some hadith narrators followed the same approach and just mentioned the narrations that got to them without mentioning the full chain of narrations which can help in weighing the hadith and picking the good ones from the fabricated ones. For this reason the Jarh wa-Tadil scholars sometimes say sentences like: This hadith can be narrated but cannot be used as evidence, this hadith can be mentioned to give an example or this hadith can be mentioned for the sake of knowledge… etc. So if we want to have a sound scientific approach it is not enough to refer to Al-Tabari or other books without referring to the chain of narrations. Al-Tabari mentioned many narratives that were related by people who were rejected by hadith scholars so his book became a breeding ground for the whimsical Muslims and non-Muslims particularly the westerners.
12) Knowing the leverage and righteousness of the companions (RA) because Allah states it clearly in saying, “You are indeed the best community that has ever been brought forth for [the good of] mankind. You enjoin what is good, and forbid what is evil, and you believe in Allah…” (TMQ, 3:110), and, “As for those who led the way, the first of the emigrants and the supporters, as well as those who nobly followed them, Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him; He has prepared for them Gardens through which rivers flow, where they shall dwell forever. That is the supreme achievement.” (TMQ, 9:100), and, “And the forerunners, the forerunners - Those are the ones brought near [to Allah] in the Gardens of Pleasure,” (TMQ, 56:10-12). The Prophet (SAWS) said about them, “Do not curse my companions! I swear by Allah in whose Hands lies my soul that if any of you spends an amount of gold equal in size to the Mount of Uhud he will not be able to reach one of them or even half of that.” He also said, “Allah, Allah! Fear Him with regard to my companions! Do not make them targets after me! Whoever loves them loves them with his love for me; and whoever hates them hates them with his hatred for me. Whoever bears enmity for them bears enmity for me; and whoever bears enmity for me, bears enmity for Allah. Whoever bears enmity for Allah is about to perish.” Ibn Abbas also said, “Do not curse Muhammad’s companions for Allah orders us to ask forgiveness for them and He knew that they would fight with each other.” Abu-Zaraa Al-Razi (Al-Bukhary’s teacher) said, “If you find anyone demeaning any of the companions then know that he is heretic, because our Prophet is right, the Qur’an is right and the companions are the ones who conveyed them both to us after the Prophet. They only do this to tarnish our witnesses and hence invalidate the Qur’an and Sunnah. They are the ones worthy of being tarnished.” The position of the Sunnah and Jamaa from the event that took place between the companions and each other is that they hold their tongues and pens completely from saying anything disrespectful about them. They think well of them and they ask Allah to forgive them all. Reviling them falls into three categories: 1) Reviling them by saying they were disbelievers or that all of them were evildoers is kufr because it is a rejection of the praise of Allah and His Messenger for them and their approval of them. 2) If he reviles them by cursing them, then there are two scholarly views as to whether he is a kafir. According to the view that he is not a kafir, he is still to be flogged and imprisoned until he dies or recants what he said. 3) If he reviles them in a way that does not reach the level of doubting their religious commitment, such as saying that they were cowardly or miserly. He is not a kafir, but he should be given a disciplinary punishment (tazeer) to serve as a deterrent.
The most prominent works about Islamic history
We will mention here the most prominent works discussing Islamic history in particular and history in general. Some of these examples are: Al-Bedaya Wal-Nehaya by Ibn Kathir, History of Al-Tabari which is the most accurate, Al-Kamel by Ibnul-Athir Al-Jazari, Miraat Al-Zaman by Ibnul-Jawzei, The History of Baghdad by Al-Khatib Al-Baghdadi, Sifaa Al-Gharam Bi-Akhbar Al-Balad Al-Haram by Imam Al-Fasy, Al-Tarikh Al-Kabir by Imam Al-Dhahabi, Al-Durar Al-Kamina fi Aayan Al-Miaa Al-Thamina by Ibn-Hajjar, Yatmiyat Al-Dahr by Al-Thaalibi, History of Damascus by Ibn-Asaker, and History of the Rightly Guided Caliphs by Al-Siuty.
Basic guidelines in the methodology of writing Islamic history
When we talk about the methodology of writing Islamic history we must keep in mind two very important patterns; a general one and a particular one. The first is about the approach we take in writing a history researches; Islamic or otherwise. Here we use techniques that are almost international because they were composed and developed by the experiences of nations, communities and peoples. Our civilization surely had a prominent role in forming and enriching them. By time they became more or less like a global tradition agreed upon by most of the academic circles in such a way that any history research can never fulfill its terms unless it abided by these guidelines which are known to most academics. These guidelines come in the form of a tightly connected chain; one link leading to the other, and overlooking any link would invalidate the whole effort.
If we move to the second pattern it is particularly related to writing Islamic history because it contains some other guidelines that must be added to the previous ones we spoke about in the past paragraph. Here we must stop to mention two important things:
First: These guidelines did not take their full share of attention because what was written about them does not in any way begin to mention even part of their great importance.
Second: Because even this little that was written did not exceed the limits of theorization to go into application. The most pressing need is to apply these guidelines on the arena of Islamic history to achieve a more mature, professional and comprehensive approach for handling the historical events.
We must not forget another very important issue about the fact that the methodology of researching Islamic history can take two main contexts and each of which require special terms and guidelines. Let’s not also forget what can be described as the greatest common denominator in all the areas of research in Islamic history.
The first context comes in studying a particular Islamic event, a phenomenon, an incident, a state, a political formation, a cultural or civilization fact, a character, a battle or a treaty, following some foreign relations with this entity or that… etc. In other words, most of the researches written in Islamic history (including the plethora of thesis) all seem to follow the same route. They find themselves, compelled by the demands of their approach, uniting themselves to particular issues that are limited by time, space or subject. Otherwise their whole effort will just fall apart and suffer from a state of superficiality. It will lose its ability to focus and delve deep into the event to reach its innermost core, its components and its basic characteristics; in other words it will lose the ability to achieve better verification.
The second context is the one connected to writing the history of the Muslim nation throughout its range of time, place and data. What calls for a special approach that can manage an intricate, comprehensive and extended issue as such can never be within the ability of an individual or even a group of historians. It might not even be within the ability of an institute or scientific academy!
Most certainly, some of the specifications that are required for some limited researches in Islamic history, in addition to the general techniques that are agreed upon internationally, will somehow nourish this methodology that seeks to write or re-phrase the Islamic history. Before all this, or after all this, remains a group of conditions, standards and controls that need to be crystallized and believed in so the methodology becomes perfectly fit for taking a step like this one; aiming to display the historical material the way it was actually formed in time and space rather than the way it is aimed to be.
Attempting to restore our historical data the way it was actually formed, will all its intricacies and details, is not within the human ability specially that we are dealing with a material that falls under the scope of humanities not under the scope of Exact Sciences; like pure and applied sciences.
The historian also deals with facts from which he is separated by the borders of time and space. This is because the historical perspective is coming to us from its primary assumption and it is not necessarily a certainty upon which we can erect our historical edifice. We might even stumble upon contradictory narratives that require a hard effort in criticizing them to be able to accept or reject them. All of this was highlighted by Ibn-Khaldun in his Prolegomena and Abu-Bakr Ibnul-Arabi in his book “Al-Awasem Wal-Qawasem” and many others who were alerted to the fact that such events are just a probability that might reach the state of abomination shocking the reader or listener and urging him not to surrender to the historical recount (according to Al-Tabari in the introduction of his book). Here we are confronted with three methodological layers that we must surpass in order to reach the “state” that befits handling Islamic history. If the first layer with its internationally agreed upon techniques is well-known, and if the second layer got its share of some theorization and application, then the real problem will manifest itself in the third layer which is the most important of the three. This layer is concerned with designing the terms, the guidelines and the standards that need to be used if we really aim to restore our Islamic history; i.e. to write, or to re-write, the history of the Islamic nation (not the American, not the Russian, not the Chinese, not the Anglo-Saxon and not the Latin). The following few pages are just some suggestions (not final formulas) on the level of this third layer because of its association with the overall perspective of the movement of history. I will include a number of guidelines and standards to which anyone can add later on. We will also try to sift them as we go to take out the ones that are not necessary.
It will look more like a series of waves that aim to protect any serious attempt taken towards writing Islamic history, or re-writing it, against any deviation or forgery that can take the events, how they were formed and their outcome, out of their true milieu and restructure them in some strange or hybrid milieu, which is the exact opposite of what we try to accomplish firsthand.
First: There are two essential prerequisites that we cannot take the right start without. The first of them is that the researchers must be fully familiar with the Islamic interpretation of the features of human history which will deliver to their hands a valuable collection of conceptual controls without which we cannot even begin to understand Islamic history. At the same time they provide us with a fit system of values to explain Islamic history; since in both cases the human being is the millstone and the pivot of history. Also because the laws that work in the fabric of the historical movement are the same whether working on the level of human or Islamic history.
The second is that the researches must have a common awareness about the characteristic of history itself; not the partially detailed ones but the ones that represent a bigger extension for time and place and gives history its own peculiarities which distinguish it from the history of nations, groups or peoples. No one will argue that Islamic history carries its special features which are, among many other factors, the product of an intimate encounter between the revelation and existence.
Abiding by these two prerequisites can bring a maximum benefit to the scientific methodology on both the positive and negative limits. As for the positive limit; it will help the researchers realize more deeply the facts of history and how they were formed. As for the negative limit it will protect the researchers from floundering in every direction and sometimes even from contradicting themselves in their perspectives and analysis. This could let their results (despite the great effort exerted) seem like leading to nowhere and will never reach the aspired purpose of presenting a unified fabric for the Islamic events; as close as possible to the outcome of this history and the laws of its formation.
Second: Achieving an amount of balance between studying the political and military sides on the one hand and between inspecting and analyzing the cultural sides while taking into consideration the importance of the cultural data being some scattered parts that belong to a whole bigger body that encompasses them all and gives them meaning and purpose.
When it comes to this point, it is not necessary for the researchers to inspect all the details and particulars which are profuse in our old sources; especially when it comes to the political and military aspects of our history. The researcher does not need to fall under the spell of this rich plethora of texts. In this case he must overlook the particulars for the sake of the entirety and the small events for the grave implications. He must never stop at the limitations of the text but must always go beyond them to delve into the deep meaning and its suggestive implication; and only then will he be able to summarize and focus. A group of details and particularities that fall under this meaning or that one, giving us some kind of implication, within the bigger historical movement, can end up being a qualitative content or some similar examples when it is enough to only use a limited number of them to deliver the final bigger formula of the historical event. This way he can dump the rubble of details which aggravate the confusion of the reader more than control the movement of history.
Third: Achieving an amount of balance between an utterly academic recount of the historical events (political and cultural) and between adopting philosophical or conceptual attitudes to interpret the events, show the factors that led to their formation, the indications of their routes and the outcome of their destinies; provided that all of these attitudes fall under a homogenous and qualitative perspective that abides by the minimum regulations and topics extracted from the very fabric of Islamic history without being imposed on it from outside. Without one of them taking the material interpretation as a launching pad and the other taking towards idealism, civilization or spirituality; but in a way that makes these attitudes adopt the most possible perceptions and the mostly in harmony with the movement of Islamic history, and the mostly capable of interpreting it.
Fourth: Offering historical presentations that are parallel in timeline with everything taking place at one stage of the Islamic history and what the world was experiencing at this particular time. The purpose from this is to be able to give the researcher or student a comprehensive outlook that can enable him to understand the nature of the relations between Islam and the outside world through verifying the ability to control what was occurring in one single phase of history.
Fifth: Is it necessary to re-divide the time periods for the stages of Islamic history, in view of new data for this approach, or should we exceed or modify the traditional formulas for this division which (due to their length, their recurrences and their constant usage) became more or less like some constants that accept no argument or criticism?
Most likely yes! Particularly if we remembered the unity of the historical movement, its constant outcome and continuous extension to the fabric of the Islamic nations and peoples apart from the upmost changes in dynasties, regimes and rulers! This way it seems necessary to adopt the measures of qualitative changes in the historical movement between one stage and the other, one age and the other, and on all the cultural, doctrinal and political levels. So the timed division of the historical stages must not be limited to the upmost changes but needs to extend to the heart of the society in its constant churning and transformation.
On the spatial level it is best to adopt the diverse civilizational units within the framework of the unity of Islamic civilization. These outstanding units might as well witness more than one political entity or could extend to include more than one geographic environment or region.
Sixth: Adopting a discreet-criticism style in dealing with the narratives recounted by our ancient sources, without taking for granted everything that was said by our old historians. Before accepting these narratives they have to be referred to the general course of the historical phase to know if they fit perfectly with the fabric of this phase or not. We also need to adopt the standards and guidelines of internal and external criticism till we are able to reach an adequate conviction with such narratives.
In external criticism, and as far as I know, we can make use of the sciences of “Hadith Terminology” and “Jarh wa-Tadil” in scrutinizing the narrations and we can also make use of the rich biographies. No other nation has taken such a great amount of care to verify the sources of its news and history as the Islamic nation. There are biographies for tens of thousands of personalities who participated in narrating hadith, news, and historical narratives that were not accepted until the biographies of those who recounted them were scrutinized. Hence, studying Islamic history would necessarily require studying this fact so that all historical works can find a foundation of verified and accurate news that were filtered from any falsehoods or lies. We are reminded here by the valuable comment of Muhib Al-Din Al-Khatib where he said, “We cannot make use of the thousands of narratives and news unless we study the biographies of the narrators from the books of Jarh wa-Tadil. The hadith terminology books tell us the attributes that must be found in the narrators and the instances when we can use the contradicting narratives. This is how we can convey Islamic history in a scientific way. As for those who pick narratives according to their whims and without scrutinizing the narrators and they just suffice with mentioning the name of Al-Tabari at the end, thinking that by this they did their part, these people are far from reaching the treasures that fill the books of Islamic history. Al-Tabari himself says in the introduction of this book, ‘Any news mentioned in my book at the mouth of those who lived in the past, and is disapproved by the reader who does not find it to be right or truthful, then let him know that this news is not brought by me and that it was only conveyed to me by its narrator. I only conveyed it the way it was said to me.’”
Seventh: This coincides with the need to rely on the incident itself when constructing the historical research but without falling into the risk of adopting preset structures and perspectives, and without attempting to bend the facts and force them into agreeing with these structures and destinations, even if this leads to deforming the features of the historical incident or reshaping it so it would agree with the preset mold. We find this a lot in many studies that adopt the materialistic interpretation of history which makes them fall into a tumultuous sea of errors and contradictions.
An example to this is their position from the movement of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) where some of them see that the Arab society (in Makkah and Madinah) witnessed the start of a society that ‘owns slaves’. Whereas (بيجو لفسكايا) sees that the Noble Qur’an accepts the onslaught of this slaves-owning phase. He agrees with (بلاييف) that the feudal stage is a result of the communication of the Arabs with other peoples. Others see that the feudal society started to be formed and some of them believed that Islam fits the interests of the profiteering classes of the new owners and aristocratic feudalism like (كليموفيج). Others found it useful only for the interest of aristocratic slavery and others like (بلاييف) found that Islam as represented in the Qur’an does not suit the political and social interests of the ruling classes and that’s why some of them started fabricating some narrations to justify for the exploitation exercised by the new classes. On the other hand some of them said that aristocracy united the Arab tribes so they can achieve their purposes and others said that the tribes were aspiring for unity and Islam came to unite them and express their aspirations. Their position from the start or evolution of Islam is however jumbled up; whereas (كليموفيج) claims that Muhammad (SAWS) is one of many prophets who were sent to preach monotheism and wanted to unite the tribes, (تولستوف) denies the existence of an Arab prophet and considers him just a legend. Whereas some admitted the advent of Islam, someone like (كليموفيج) claims that the biggest portion of it made its advent afterwards, in the interests of the feudal lords, and he attributed its origin to some miraculous events that came at the hands of Muhammad (SAWS) and (تولستوف) went as far as claiming that Islam evolved from a legend that was engineered at the time of the Caliphate for the interest of the ruling classes, and that it is a legend derived from some old beliefs called “the Hanafeya”.
Addressing various calls for re-writing Islamic history
The call to re-write Islamic history has occupied a big portion of the last third of the past century (particularly the sixties), where the historians competed in giving their opinions whether to support or oppose this call. Some of them supported it and others opposed it while others chose to handle this call cautiously. We will not get now into the various opinions of the historians about re-writing Islamic history we will just stop to discuss the most important causes behind this call. Among these reasons:
First: Presenting Islamic history using the correct approach
Muhammad Qutb says, “I noticed throughout my readings and while teaching that Islamic history is not presented using the correct approach; whether to the pupil or the reader in general. Most of what we read in modern studies is what was presented by the Orientalists regardless of whether it came directly from their books or through their Muslim pupils who took their words for granted as indisputable facts. Needless to say that the Orientalists were the most active in their destructive efforts when it came to Islamic history! Our history needs honest people who are keen on the history of their nation and who are aware of the planning of their enemies and their constant plotting. They need to get their education from the proper and safest sources; they need to follow a sensible and scientific approach that urges them not to take a word without evidence and to scrutinize everything presented to them so as not to fall preys under the spell of their enemies.”
Second: The call for re-writing Islamic history
We must point out here that the call to re-write Islamic history (re-present it or re-analyze it) does not necessarily mean that we will start from scratch or that we will reject everything presented by our older historians or that we will attempt to turn their facts upside down. Anyone who thinks that way is so far detached from any kind of knowledge! We mean something totally different: A fair methodology in dealing with the facts presented by our ancestors using an honest scientific spirit that can accept what is acceptable and reject what is unacceptable.
Anwar Al-Gendy thinks that one of the reasons for this call is that the whole perspective upon which the writing of Islamic history was based was a totally colonial and outsider perspective when the prospect was proposed to study the history of Islam as the history of the state or the empire which was torn to states; so when this history was proposed it was proposed through the differences of some of the kings, princes and rulers and their inter-personal struggles.
Muhammad Qutb says, “My feelings about this issue – re-writing Islamic history – kept increasing by the days and every time I read more and more how the historians wrote Islamic history, and every time those suspicious calls kept popping up for re-writing history but from perspectives that are far more destructive than what the Orientalists used before; once from the perspective of nationality, once from the perspective of communism, or the materialist interpretation or the economic interpretation of history.”
It is worthy of mention that when we say re-writing history we mean filtering the already existing books from the errors and falsehoods then re-phrasing them and correcting them according to the Islamic perspective and with the purpose of revealing the historical facts (on the one side) and benefiting from our history in the domains of education and role models (on the other).
Third: Writing history in a way consistent with the Islamic vision
We do this first by denying all the falsehoods and fabrications which were forced on the Islamic history, all the wrong interpretations that were based on them (without any imitation) with all its aspects; successive and complete, while considering the meanings associated with them, the grounds on which they were based and understanding them from view of all this. This way presenting Islamic history in a correct way will become an undeniable necessity, not just because it is important but because of its applicability and because of the historical reality. This can never be attained unless it is done from an Islamic ground and at the hand of someone who is standing in the center of Islam looking at the Islamic life and living as a researcher with his whole being immersed in Islam. It is calls for utter fairness in searching a truth that states clearly all its pros and cons.
If the human history needs to be re-written because it was presented to us from angels that are totally and radically different from the Islamic angles (in viewing man, the nature of his existence, his being, his abilities, the criteria of his achievement), then we must re-write it in a way that is consistent with the Islamic vision which is derived from the book of Allah and the tradition of His Prophet (SAWS) so we could have a unified perception that befits us being Muslims.
Many times have the Orientalists judged Islam and Islamic history depending on their own values and cultural measures instead of relying on historical sources or the tradition and principles of the Islamic society. The reason why their approach is all wrong (regardless of their hatred and fanaticism) is that their totally erroneous interpretation of the historical events has led to a totally corrupt measuring and judgment based on the requirements of the conditions of their own time.
The study of history got dominated by the Orientalist schools of thought which were foreign in the first place and got formed in view of European and western challenges and circumstances like; the conflict between the church and the scientists, between the princes and the people, the conflict between the Catholic and Protestant doctrines and this horrible fight between the kings, states and nations.
Fourth: Writing Islamic history without any fragmentation or division
Unlike the history of any other nation, Islamic history needs to be seen as a whole and undivided body. Still we can study it in parts to simplify our mission, so we study the history of the Umayyad Dynasty, the Abbasid Dynasty and so forth.
However, dividing history into political phases and discussing each phase as if it is surrounded by separators isolating it from the course of history and giving each phase its own freestanding is utterly wrong. The first of its shortcomings is that it severs the historical link between the generations of the nation; as if it is not a single connected nation or as if it is something else other than the Islamic nation.
Abdel-Rahman Heggy describes what was done by the enemies of Islam in these lines, “They divided history into portions and they disintegrated it into parts, condemning it to death and mentioning only the parts where it seemed deformed after its death. Islamic history was never taught to us as a one whole entity, a fully grown and sound entity. It was taught to us, and documented, as patched up portions of some deformed being instead of being taught as a connected link, a successive and harmonious series of events and ongoing parts that share one beginning and one purpose.”
Fifth: Writing and presenting the events of Islamic history objectively and honestly
One of the important reasons is also to write Islamic history objectively and honestly including the downsides, which are few, and the upsides. Let us assume for the sake of the argument that everything attributed to the ones who falsified the political side was true and without any exaggerations arising from the partisan or sectarian hostilities where every team slanders his opponent in whichever way he likes. To cut it short we can just assume (for the sake of the argument) that the political history of the Muslims was just a black line! So be it then! But it is a black line drawn on a mostly white page! So from the scientific perspective this history is a forgery if every word written about it was true! Because it gives this nation a much smaller size than its real size; thus placing a small midget in the place of a giant.
We need to study the deviation in our history in full honesty to be able to identify the faults, study them and absorb the lessons learned from them; so that at least we can avoid falling into them anew. Educationally we need to study the deviation keeping in mind that there’s a great difference between studying it to extract the lessons and studying it to suggest that Islam was only applied briefly.
One of the greatest ironies in our religion is that we are the richest nation ever in the amount of authentic texts that we can use in correcting our history and presenting it on proper grounds of undeniable scientific facts; and yet we are the most careless nation to make use of all that rendering our history so turbulent just the way that was meant by those who filled it with falsifications to deform it out of its beauty causing even the Muslims to misunderstand the glories of their past and to stay unaware of the fact that the only perfect generation known to humanity, in all its long history since the start of creation, is in fact the very same generation that was slandered by those who distorted it with the falsehoods they inserted and the truths they omitted.
Hence history needs to be written in full honesty without leaving out any gaps and without hiding or beautifying any setbacks. Everything needs to be kept the way it happened while extracting the educational lessons just the same way we extract them from our glories and valor alike.
Sixth: Scrutinizing and refuting the narratives
One of the characteristics of Islamic history is the method of assigning narratives to their narrators through the successive generations. This method urges us to inspect everything found in the old books meticulously, to scrutinize the characters of the narrators according to the very unique and well-known method of Jarh wa-Tadil used by the hadith scholars and recommended by all other scholars for inspecting historical narratives.
If we take a look at the old Islamic sources that were written by great Muslim historians we will find a whole arsenal of news, events and narratives that constitute a huge treasure for any researcher aiming to delve into history. Yet in their present shape they are not fit for the hasty reader who wants to jump only to a clean and scrutinized bottom line that is easy to grasp and understand. These historians were committed to exclusive scientific integrity in conveying each and every narrative that got to them even if such narratives were plentiful, contradictive or sometimes even impossible. They found that it is utter honesty not to ignore anything that reached them while they were careful in ascribing every narrative to its narrator whenever possible. Hence they put all their efforts in gathering news and narratives as much within their ability as possible but they left everything without a necessary neat inspection; maybe they also did that out of honesty and utter devoutness. If this method was so good in preserving all the facts yet its downside (for the common reader and beginner) is that it swamps him in so many contradictory and often conflicting recounts.
The main drawbacks in the early Arab writings for Islamic history is that some narratives took the direction of confirming the denigration of the Arab affair after falling under the spell of national fanaticism or while attempting to highlight the pros of Islamic life unlike the life that preceded it in many ways. Another thing that afflicted the early process of documenting Islamic history was accepting many of the narrators and classifiers who recounted Israeli stories which threw a thick shroud of legendary shadows on the Islamic history generally and the Seerah of the Prophet particularly.
Our Islamic history was exposed to many campaigns of maliciousness and distortions in forging facts and events as well as in interpreting and directing them. Of the first type we got the false narratives that are based on no reality, or the news that are based on reality which was annexed to some unreal events, or from which some real events got ignored just to achieve the goal of deformation and forgery. There is also the news that got placed in the wrong context. Of the second type there was interpreting and redirecting the news according to the whims and beliefs that serve some hidden agendas. This type was a large arena for the spiteful to wreak their envy for this religion and its followers, particularly the Orientalists and their pupils and those who got influenced by them. It was also a feeding ground for those who veered from the path of reason and did not want to return to the origins of their creed and faith. We have many examples fitting under this criteria of; individuals, countries, and Islamic concepts and themes.
But the worst ever form of forgery and misinterpretation in the history of mankind came at the hands of the Jews and Orientalists who took their path. We find ourselves facing a narrow and acidic perspective that took control of many minds particularly the Orientalists who were influenced by the Torah (the Old Testament) which was captivated by this vile reaction towards any civilization that is generally characterized by cohesion, integration and inclusion along with the ability to innovate and give.
Some of the sources of Islamic history are in dire need for scrutiny because their news got gathered at times of strife and political or sectarian differences which led the enemies of Islam to exploit this chance. Hence, the sources of Islamic history (in their present shape) do not express the real events.
Omar Al-Ashkar confirms this saying, “Islamic history still remains in a need to be filtered and this requires a huge amount of effort and very high determinations. Still it is not impossible because the Divans of Islam that cared so much to document everything about its history are still preserved and documented. Exposing all the forgeries and falsehoods is possible using the very same methods that were used by the Muslims scholars in verifying their narratives.”
Seventh: Using a manner of discreet-criticism in dealing with the narratives provided by our ancient sources
This can be achieved when we don’t accept everything proposed by our ancient historians as absolute facts, by referring the historical narrative (before we accept it) to the general course of history to know if it is compatible with it or no. We also need to adopt the standards and guidelines of internal and external criticism till we are able to reach an adequate conviction with such narratives.
In external criticism, and as far as I know, we can make use of the sciences of “Hadith Terminology” and “Jarh wa-Tadil”. Studying Islamic history seriously necessarily urges us to study these sciences because historical works must depend on the most verified and accurate news that are filtered from the falsehoods or untrue narratives that infiltrated history at the hands of those who opposed it all through its long and interlaced history.
Emad Al-Din Khalil comments on this saying, “We are reminded here by the valuable comment of Muhib Al-Din Al-Khatib where he said, ‘We cannot make use of the thousands of narratives and news unless we study the biographies of the narrators from the books of Jarh wa-Tadil. The hadith terminology books tell us the attributes that must be found in the narrators and the instances when we can use the contradicting narratives. This is how we can convey Islamic history in a scientific way. As for those who pick narratives according to their whims and without scrutinizing the narrators and they just suffice with mentioning the name of Al-Tabari at the end, thinking that by this they did their part, these people are far from reaching the treasures that fill the books of Islamic history.’”
Extracting ourselves from this tight predicament that hovered over both the old and modern Islamic history calls for two things! First: Verifying the historical narratives based on the criticism guidelines followed by hadith scholars.
Second: Formulating Islamic history, according to the correct perception and legal guidelines. Islamic history is, after all, the history of a religion and a creed before being the history of a country, or some battles or political systems.
Eighth: taking into account the important rules in writing Islamic history
Muhammad Al-Salmy identified a group of important rules which the Muslim must abide by when writing Islamic history or when teaching it:
A. Rules related to perception and belief like:
1. Believing in the unity of the Muslim nation.
2. Legal rulings regarding the remnants of the ignorant nations.
3. Proper understanding for the doctrine of fate and destiny.
4. Believing in the unseen and its effect in directing historical events.
5. Realizing the role of the companions and the distinction of the people who lived in the first centuries of Islam.
6. Being able to differentiate between human errors and the rulings of Islam.
7. Believing in the divine laws and using this in interpreting history.
B. Rules related to the references:
1. Adopting the legal (Islamic) references and placing them ahead of all other references.
2. Not taking everything that was mentioned about the Qur’an in the old books for granted.
3. Identifying the attributes of the acceptable historian.
4. Identifying the limitations of citing from the books of those who follow their own whims, those who invent (mubtadiaa), and the heretics (zanadiqa).
5. Identifying the limitations for citing from the books of non-Muslims.
C. Rules related to style and presentation:
1. Faith must be the pivotal point in the presentation.
2. When presenting a topic we must focus on the goals and objectives.
3. The presentation must always suggest enjoining fairness and abhorring evil.
4. Highlighting the role of the prophets and their teachings in the history of humanity.
5. Being keen on using Islamic terminology.
6. Steering clear of generalization before applying proper scrutiny.
There is something important here that we should point out! The writer must be able to go back with his whole being, his personality, his thoughts and his perceptions to the exact time he is writing about, with its circumstances, environment and surrounding facts. He must be able to co-exist with all that until he can (for instance) realize the extent of every event and its causes; until he is able to find an excuse for the ensuing consequences.
We must never see the past with the eyes of the present and we must never measure the past with the measures of the present. Each age has its horizons, its dimensions and its atmosphere that determines its people’s perception for life. So when we look into the old days of the Islamic history we must never judge them according to the standards of our present days.
Muhammad Amhazun says, “A history pupil must study the circumstances that surrounded the incident he’s writing about; the psychological, social and economic circumstances that controlled it and the policies that led to the mistakes that occured. He must be able to do all this before he can issue a judgment that is even close to being correct.”
He also adds, “We must know that some of the events that occurred at the beginning of Islam can never be justified except by the circumstances within which they occurred. So we must never judge such events using the mentality or circumstances of our present days or any other days except the days in which they occurred. If we don’t do this our judgment will never be based on objective justifications and hence our perception of these facts will lack the correct means needed for issuing a judgment.”
Yusuf Al-Azm even goes far as to say, “If we wish for extra honesty in presenting some events in history that are interconnected to particular locations; we must never suffice with searching the books only, we must move to the real locations and sites of these events to be influenced by them to be and closer to the reality of the events we are trying to write about. We must look around to see all these locations, these arenas and these plazas that embraced these historical events some day before they got turned into pages in the book of history to be read and followed throughout time.”
Ninth: Highlighting the meanings of nobility in the history of the Islamic nation
Scientific integrity urges us, while recounting the events, to highlight a number of meanings in the history of the Islamic nation which we never seem to stumble upon in many modern studies, such as:
1) Monotheism is a grand divine blessing that Allah bestowed upon this nation. It is the major target that brought this nation out of its slumber and commissioned it with the task of spreading it all over the world. It is in fact the great gift that this nation is entitled to deliver to the whole humanity.
2) Monotheism is the biggest movement for human liberation in history. Whereas all the man-induced liberation movements were limited in their structure and results, whether political, social, intellectual or art movements, the monotheism of Islam was a comprehensive liberation movement for all mankind and for all life with all its walks.
3) Monotheism brought a unique nation to history. This nation was not gathered under the banner of one color, one race, one language, or any other tribalism values that gathered people in the dark ages. Islam gathered its followers under the banner of one doctrine and this is in fact the only proper gathering factor fit for human beings because of its lasting effect.
4) The Islamic Liberation Movement was by far the most unique movement in history and it can never be compared to all other expansive movements in the history of all other nations since it differed with them in essence, goals and implications.
5) From this great Monotheistic Movement emanated another scientific and cultural movement that was so unique in history. All through the Islamic expansions, the scientific and cultural movements were not just distinguished for their size and timing but rather for their inclusiveness.
Tenth: Highlighting the divine laws
While studying history we got used to ascribing everything to circumstances and causes whether they were materialistic, political, military of economic… etc., as if everything happening was utterly human and earthy and not in any way related to the laws of God which He uses in fulfilling His destiny in this universe. Because of the intellectual invasion, we got used to omit this particularity which Allah destined for this nation out of all other nations. If the political, military, economic, scientific and technological circumstances decide the destiny of nations on earth this is not because these circumstances have a power of decisiveness within themselves the way those ignorant history tellers are trying to convince us, but because the laws of God in the ignorant nations are kept under the spell of the means which they use as rivals to Allah. The earthly means that Allah makes available for the ignorant nations so they can achieve victory the more they acquire them, are not in themselves fit for the people of our nation to acquire success or victory unless they are topped with faith in Allah! The most prominent example to this argument is that the Muslims got defeated on the day of Hunayn even thought all the earthly means and causes where by their side; but for a while there they forgot to rely on Allah, so they got defeated. This is a particularity that Allah gives only for this nation apart from all other nations.
The particularity of Islamic history lies in the fact that it is a system that explains to mankind about his role and his responsibility in social transformation. It is the history that falls under the jurisdiction of the divine will because the history of humanity from the Islamic perspective is achieving the will of Allah through being effective and beneficial on earth and within the destiny of Allah, according to the laws He uses to accomplish this destiny in life.
The Islamic interpretation for history (or rewriting Islamic history) keeps us aware of the laws of Allah which govern this interpretation and govern the life of mankind, and through which Allah accomplishes his destiny. He says, “There are many examples [of the communities] that have passed away before you: travel through the land, and see what was the end of those who rejected the Truth.” (TMQ, 3:137). So the end of those who reject the truth as described in this verse is one of those laws. So man is ordered to think and ponder this lesson so as not to reach this miserable end. History needs to be studied and rewritten through the laws of God which are all mentioned clearly in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Allah’s Prophet (SAWS).
The Islamic interpretation of history is distinguished from all other interpretations in being committed to the dimension of the unseen (past, present and future), making it one of the pivotal conditions of believing in Allah who cannot be perceived by the eyes. It also assigns a similar space for the revelation of Allah which conveys His teachings to mankind through His prophets and messengers.
Eleventh: History is not just about some tales, events or incidents; history is taught for its wisdom
History isn’t just an account of events, history interprets those events and finds the hidden and apparent links that relate to them; turning them into a cohesive entity of interacting links that extend through time and space like a living creature.
To be able to rewrite Islamic history we need to keep several things in mind. History is not just about telling tales and stories and it is not just a record for some events that took place; history is about learning lessons and wisdoms. It is taught to educate the generations. One of the most apparent axioms of history is to bring up Muslim generations that know the truth about their religion, that hold on to it and that strive to revive it in their souls and their realities.
History is not like so many people think it is; just some battles, wars or ruling dynasties that keep falling while others rise. Before and after any of this can happen there has to be some cultural experience, a project for dealing with mankind, a chance to test the real effectiveness of faiths and religions in being realized in time and space and in emphasizing their realism and integrity. Our history in particular is characterized by being a realistic reflection for the effects of Islam because of the ability of this religion to reformulate both the mind and the conscience.
Twelfth: Achieving balance in writing Islamic history politically and culturally
Imad Eddin Khalil sets a number of controls and standards for any serious attempt to rewrite the history of Islam, including achieving an extent of balance between the study of the political aspects of (i.e. military) and examining the aspects of civilization while taking into account the need to look at the facts of civilization as separate parts that belong to a much wider body that contains them all and gives them meaning and purpose.
Muhammad Qutb believes that the defect of most of the books and history curricula in general, is that they focus on the political history of the Muslims at the expense of the rest of the fields of the Islamic doctrinal life, intellectual life, cultural life, scientific life, and social life…etc. Undoubtedly the political history of the Muslims is by far the worst part of their whole history, and these deviations even though they occurred at an early stage of Islam, yet focusing on them exclusively gives an untrue image of the Islamic history; a totally distorted and deformed image.
Around this same meaning Abdul-Rahman Heggy says, “The student sometimes thinks that Islamic history is just the history of Madinah with its victories and its outbreak into realistic existence. As if it is just the history of the battles and wars! One can imagine that if we took out all the battles and wars from the Islamic history books nothing else will be left but very few pages.”
Yusuf Al-Azm pointed at how writers focus only on the military aspect of Islam and said, “Many writers tackled the military aspect in their books and in many other occasions! But even when we discuss the military aspect we can never ignore to mention Jihad (striving for the cause of Allah) as a goal, as a means, as ethics, as methods, as fruits and as results. We must highlight the bright side of it and steer clear of the allegations of the biased Orientalists and the falsehoods of the counterfeiters.
Focusing on the political history of the Muslims strips Islamic history of its overall content; confining it to political disputes, pursuits of the rulers to expand their rule at the expense of their neighbors, and all the accompanying plotting, assassinations and eradication of political enemies.