Intolerant Approach to History (Dr. Manzoor-ul-Haque)

Look to the original historical sources!

Taking the 1400 years in full sweep, the first and the foremost issue is that of original source material, but for the times of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) and his immediate successors, even these original sources are not available. The so-called original sources, Al-Tabri’s history and Ibn-Ishaq’s biography of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) and the collected traditions were written more than 200 years after the event, without any previous written record. What happened to this previous record is perhaps a story by itself and needs to be researched. The funny thing is that subsequent historians and biographers continued to refer to these so-called “original” sources and till today no historian, Muslim or non-Muslim, has ever questioned the authenticity of Al-Tabri and Ibn-Ishaq.

Secondly, there is need to emphasize that the Ummayed dynasty, the “Arab” in character, remained “men of action” harmonius with their centuries old mode of living. The unleashing of this quality led to the conquest of vast lands from the Atlantic and the Pyrenes in the West to the Chinese frontier in Sinkiang in the East. Writing was not their main bastion. But when the Abbasides came to power with the support of the Persians and Khorasanians, the period of action and conquest ended and that of writing began. The writers of this period were predominantly Persians, who were hell-bent upon winning the war against the Arabs with their writings  -and against the war, which they had lost on the battlefield.

The Abbasid period with its capital city of Baghdad astride the River Tigris bordered on Persia, is recognized as one of the revivalisms of the Sassanian culture and civilization. This Sassanian culture and civilization was the establishment, which Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) had challenged as an unjust system. And there is no wonder that Hazrat Umar had unhappily described this overnight conversion of the Persians as a tragedy. He had attempted to isolate temporarily the Arabs from them, till they are educated in Quranic worldview. (But pinchingly sorry to write that it was wrongfully described as racialism.) But Hazrat Umar’s own life was cut short by an assassin’s sword (There could be a link between his educational program and his assassination). Hence forth, the Turks, the Mughals, and the Central Asian rulers were steeped in non-Quranic values and institutions. These events cast dark and diabolical shadows on the authenticity of the histories, the biographies and its traditions, which projected not so unwittingly the Sassanian cultural attitudes avenging their defeat thereby. This is the point where the historians of the day have not been very cautious.

In this complex situation enters another factor, the most ancient and the most dangerous: the bitter enmity between the two branches of the Qureish, the Hashemite, and the Ummayad. When the Ummayads succeeded in establishing their dynasty, this enmity became more severe and intense. When the Abbasides (who were of the Hashemite stock) overthrew them, there emerged a terrible vendetta. A general massacre ensued. The graves of the dead kings were dug up and their skeletons were gibbeted on the high ways. This is the scenario in which the historians wrote about the Ummayads as the evil, the Godless people; and Hajjaj bin Yousuf among others was projected as the devil incarnate. The Quranic approach is to critically evaluate everyone justly on the touchstone of permanent values it has enshrined in itself. But this was never done.

This leads us to the point, which demands tolerance and understanding on the part of the readers for the sake of writing scientific history and for the sake of a better future.

How to do it? How to prevail upon the general masses? How to inculcate the permanent values in the personality fiber of the youth? And then who to be prevailed upon to scrutinize the historical records against the Permanent Values enshrined in the Quran? We will all have to think of it.

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