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Ramadan 2010: MM Poetry Contest | Semifinalists, Day 3




Day 1Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | The Finals

Welcome to day three! Now that we’re publishing the semifinalists, please do check out each day’s poems and cast your vote.

Note: Voting for poems published on Day 3 closes today! Cast your vote if you haven’t yet!

A quick recap on how it’s going to be:

1) We’re going to publish four shortlisted poems a day, for five days.
2) Each day, you, the public, vote for the poem that you like best out of the four published.
3) The poems with the most votes from each day will go on to the final round, where a second poll will decide the winner and runners up.

Simple, eh?

As beautiful as the poems all are, and we are indeed experiencing the Holy month of Ramadan, the spirit of the competition can be pretty overwhelming. That’s why here’s a simple reminder to keep it clean, and wholesome, healthy competitiveness that adds to the fun but does not hurt anyone in anyway.:)

Without further ado, here’s the third group of semifinalists for your pleasurable reading.

Please don’t forget to vote!


Welcome Ramadan
By: Syed Muneeb Shere

I wonder how you welcome Ramadan
Do you wait for it with open arms?
And when it comes, give it a welcome warm?
Or do you grumble and believe that harm
Is hunger to health or is thirst too hard?
And it fascinates me how you treat your fast
Do you wake up grumbling before dawn?
To eat a morsel, on your face a frown?
And then do you pray, with a sleepy brain
Your morning prayer, before the time is gone?

And do you sleep, through out the day?
Or does your fast get in your way
When you are told to do some work
Other than chatting, or gossiping, or play?
Does your fast stop when you lie?
Or does the fast pass as every normal day?
In entertainment, untruths and useless bray?
Is that how you treat Ramadan?

Or when fast is broken, do you eat your feed?
Without caring about those in need?
Is a day’s hunger not sufficient to make you heed
Or your heart yearns not towards a good deed?
Or does it not pain you, your every bad deed?
Is not Ramadan, enough to take lead?
Of your misguided selfish deeds?
Is that how you treat Ramadan?

And in the mosque, at the time of night
When is recited, the book of light
Do you spend the time in flight?
From your Lord and in useless fights?
Does not your conscience bite?
Your heart or is it too much still
To make you stir for the path which is right
Is that how you treat Ramadan?

Beware the month of forgiveness and mercy
Do you not take from the hell fright?
Or do you not wish to be pure and white
To rush towards your Lord and the guiding light?
Return before you reach the height
When time is over and your insight
Becomes frightfully clear and bright
O Man waste not your Ramadan

Iftar Table Musings
By: Sohaib Baig

The medjool dates are ready, so is my glass of water
I sit with my watch
a million thoughts slide by
as quietly as the distant, setting sun
the day’s struggles
the thirst
the hunger
the tedious incomplete work
the forthcoming night
my eyes close, but my mind stays awake
my stomach growls, counting the time
as if it can be counted

What is time, but a hideous distraction
An anchor pulling us back to this gargantuan world,
cutting it into small, edible bits
but there really is no time – only timelessness
for this is not really a world – only an evanescing phase
our souls are on an eternal journey,
created from long before, headed for something much greater
we have to weave our way
maneuver past this world’s tight fist
stamp out our cold, befuddled shivers
open our eyes for the first time, truly
then bask in the tranquil openness, and warmness
inside rivers with no banks and valleys with no peaks
under a sun with endless streams of light
and gaze at our Lord
freely, peacefully, unendingly
and all alone.

we all have been marauding around
like uninvited guests, though we were invited
eating the forbidden fruit, hiding behind leaves
few, if ever, see through the deftly-woven branches
and notice the rays of light and Mercy
streaming, encompassing our nomadic worlds
giving life to our automated lives
He offers us forgiveness
all these Ramadans, all these Prayers
all this Qur’an, all these Qiyams
but we deftly press the snooze button

how far we are from Him,
yet how close He is to us.


Ramadan Renewal

By: Bassem Elghawaby

A blessed month is upon us


To shed a past year’s sins…

To sow the seeds to withstand the coming seasons…

To find that place that I’ve seen, that I’ve been…

To return where my heart and my soul so yearn…

To connect in prayer in a way that I’m truly there…

To shatter the subtle, the hidden distractions…

To rediscover the joy of the small kindness…

To strengthen the family and community ties that binds us…

To remove enmity from my heart, and sabotage from my soul…

To become what is most pleasing to my Lord

To make the transformational tangible…

And solidify gains, so they’re not merely circumstantial

To erase doubts, leaving no terrain to become gradual…

To channel the gifts given to me by Allah

Towards endeavours that benefit others…

To apply knowledge before it testifies against me…

To make repentance my natural abode…

To make consistency a primary contingency…

To propel me past the shackles of lingering resistance

To ascertain the judgement needed…

To navigate around the traps of Shaytan and the heedless…

To capitalize on this time, where his whispers have less opportunity to cloud minds…

To build on momentum from even before day one…

To position oneself as best one can…

For the exorbitant blessings found in the final ten…

To truly recognize…

Who it is that brings tears to our eyes…

And renew that broken pledge never to compromise

“O’Allah, we seek from You acceptance, forgiveness, and a rejuvenated faith,
A Path to the Garden, a Path that is Straight.”

And so begins a beautiful race…

{Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord, and Paradise…} (Qur’an 57: 21)


By: Sabour B. (Sayf)

The star had become the source of his bane,

Even though he was born to live by its acclaim.

It wasn’t that he hated, he really just preferred,

To indulge in darkness without being disturbed.

The vast vacuity along his endless chase,

Glared on by shine trickling from his heart’s base.

Vision would grow darker, with every step he took away,

His emptiness would become space, to keep the gleam at bay.

Suffocate light with darkness – a foolish goal!

Yet he was an arms-length from succeeding in tearing a black hole.

A permanent rift in his heart, a void with no remorse,

An immovable object that would challenge the light’s unstoppable force.

But luckily for him, a witness witnessed and a caller called,

And he was given a chance to make amends for it all.

Now a pulsar, the faint light knocked with its glow,

Like the tell-tale heart of Edgar Allen Poe.

“It’s the beating of that hideous heart!” He screeched in pain!

Furious in Ramadan, yearning to make all his work vain!

He began to flare, leaving a state of slumber,

Ready to take on 335 with only 30 in number.

“Impossible!” He sneered in conceit.

“Do you really think that I would be so easy to defeat?

I’ve seized you tight with my grip of grim,

Commanding an endless onslaught,

While you’re nothing but a Ramadan Muslim!”

But yet every time his body hit the ground,

With complete humility,

And every time he spoke,

With kind sensibility,

And every time he eased the hardship of others,

To the best of his ability,

He battered violently at those empty words,

To the core of their instability,

While he found himself in a state

Of peace and tranquility.

With the increase in recitation and tears,

Came an increase in apprehension and fears.

With the silent contemplation of every solitary hour,

Came a sudden surge in extraordinary power.

Every day his heart had more to remember,

It seemed that he was the one holding the hot ember.

And just like that in a flash of time,

He was eating once again during the day’s prime.

His heart now radiating its light on others,

Coolness to the eyes of his sisters and brothers.

He was the one who responded to the Ramadan call,

And here he was now,

A Muslim in Shawwal.


[polldaddy poll=3696091]

Enjoyed Day 3? There’s more! Check out: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 4 | Day 5 | The Finals

Links will activate as each day arrives!

Ameera is a final-year medical student and blogger based in Karachi, Pakistan. Having been born and raised in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, her approach towards her Deen has always been rooted in a basic understanding from authentic sources, which was further polished during a three-year weekend course at Al Huda Institute. Her interests, though, seem to know no bounds and range from a passion for the culinary arts and travelling, as well as following current affairs and global happenings. She feels being able to be part of MuslimMatters is one of the major blessings of Allah(swt) upon her, for it has given her a chance to learn and grow. She also maintains her personal blog at



  1. Pingback: Ramadan 2010: MM Poetry Contest | Semifinalists, Day 2 |

  2. Pingback: Ramadan 2010: MM Poetry Contest | Semifinalists, Day 1 |

  3. Amad


    August 31, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    Wow Sayf, that was incredible.
    For me it was a tough choice between Sohaib’s and Sayf’s, not that the other two were any less.

    But I will say that whoever wins this day, may be in the front seat :) Just my personal observation, no rigging implicated :) This isn’t Egypt.

  4. Avatar

    Son of Adam

    August 31, 2010 at 1:56 AM

    Mashallah. Definitely Sohaib’s Poem.

    Truly purposeful with beauty radiating through words.

    Allah blesses those whom He loves.

  5. Avatar

    Daughter of Hawwa

    August 31, 2010 at 2:07 AM

    Thank you to the “Iftaar Table Musings” and “Shawwal” poets for being unique. I voted for the former because it had the most individual concept through it from beginning to end. However the latter is still a superb job for not having to incessantly talk about Ramadan and instead introduced the new concept of how Ramadan is not about Ramadan – it’s about what comes after. Thank you to both. May Allah bless you all, ameen.

  6. Avatar

    Raakin Hossain

    August 31, 2010 at 2:50 AM

    None other than Sohaib’s poem! Insightful and deep. A typical work from a Baig. =P Masha-Allah!

    I love how he ties it up with the last two lines, leaving a good sense of guilt in your heart.

  7. Avatar


    August 31, 2010 at 4:18 AM

    This one is a really, really hard decision. SubhanAllah!

  8. Avatar


    August 31, 2010 at 4:41 AM

    By: Sabour B. (Sayf)… MashaAllah… the best so far.

  9. Avatar


    August 31, 2010 at 6:22 AM

    Hardest decision yet.

  10. Avatar


    August 31, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    ma shaa Allah i love shawal poem i felt it was very creative n twisty :)

  11. Avatar


    September 1, 2010 at 3:50 AM

    I liked Muneeb’s poem as it rhymes beautifully

    • Avatar


      September 4, 2010 at 5:06 AM

      The only poem that has rythem along with thought full with essences of Ramazan.
      Rest of the Poems are inner thoughts put out in lines. (AZAD SHAIREE)

      Great work….

      Muneeb you have my vote…..

  12. Avatar

    hasan kamal

    September 1, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    i like muneebs poem the most ….. it awesom.. like no others in this world

  13. Pingback: Ramadan 2010: MM Poetry Contest | Semifinalists, Day 4 |

  14. Avatar


    September 1, 2010 at 11:44 PM

    I like the poem of my brother

  15. Avatar


    September 2, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    who ever does not vote for Safs poem is a doughnut ……. a halal one

    • Avatar


      September 2, 2010 at 3:41 PM

      Consider me a donut.

    • Avatar

      Daughter of Hawwa

      September 2, 2010 at 11:23 PM

      Sohaib’s and Sayf’s poems should be first and second place in this entire contest (all five days). It would be sad if one of these two don’t advance into the finals.

      Don’t make dua for your friend to win. Make dua for the best poem to win.

      Wish for your brother what you wish for yourself.

  16. Avatar


    September 2, 2010 at 3:52 PM

    Hey muneeb ur already winning why u need me to vote for you? calm down bro ;)

  17. Avatar


    September 2, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    WOoooo sabour!! i believe in u!! u can do it!! woooooooo!!

  18. Avatar


    September 3, 2010 at 12:32 AM

    Thanks everyone, I’m glad you guys enjoyed reading my newbie poem – it was a lot of fun to write!
    Careful with calling people food, it’s Ramadan someone might get eaten. =O}

  19. Avatar

    Umar Farooq

    September 3, 2010 at 12:46 AM

    Welcum ramadanws nyc ndShawwalws also gud..!!!!!!

  20. Avatar


    September 3, 2010 at 1:09 AM

    Mashallah !Muneeb ur poem has a beautiful choice of words and i really like your poem the best though i must appreciate other lil contestants who bothered to take out their precious time for such a healthy competition and all have done well .

  21. Avatar

    ismaeel shariq

    September 3, 2010 at 4:45 AM

    bro muneeb u dont really need votes…do u?????u can jst win without them……gd luck for the finals

    • Avatar

      Umar Farooq

      September 3, 2010 at 11:51 AM

      Who r u saying gud luck 2,…:-) dis guy wud not b able 2 see ur response coz ryt now he iz sittin in aetakaf…!!!!! :-)

  22. Pingback: Ramadan 2010: MM Poetry Contest | Semifinalists, Day 5 |

  23. Avatar

    Ayesha A.

    September 3, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    i like sohaib’s poem..iftar musing..keep up the good work!!!

  24. Pingback: MM Ramadan 2010 Poetry Contest: The Finals |

  25. Pingback: Action Attraction – 2009 Free verse | Bassem's Bringit! Blog

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Stats not Stories: Problems with our Islamic History




Admit it. You’re bored by Islamic History. Sure, you might say that you find it fascinating, but the likelihood is that you are far more likely to be enamoured by the idea of what Islamic history should be like rather than the history itself.

How can I justify saying this? Well, lets take any other aspect of life that you are definitely not bored by. The latest Star Wars movie perhaps, Super Bowl 50 or all 7 Harry Potter books. Anything at all. Odds are that you can remember a lot about them in vivid detail. But if you’re asked the same thing about pretty much any aspect of Islamic history, the details are likely to be nowhere near as clear or captivating.

islamic history book

Outsold by the story of a wizard kid by a factor of a Million to 1

Relax. For once, it is not your fault.

Islamic history is the poor cousin of the Islamic sciences. It can often be poorly taught, poorly understood and even more poorly preserved. The blame for this partly falls on the shoulders of the Islamic historians themselves. Apart from some notable exceptions, many Islamic history books are dreary affairs over-filled with numbers, dates and exceptionally long names of individuals who sound very similar.

history quote

It is not that Islamic history itself is boring. On the contrary, I would make the case that no other history is as palpitation inducing, full of giddy highs and dramatic – seemingly bottomless – lows. However, even the most amazing thriller can go from awe to yawn if the main focus is on the factual details rather than the story itself.


If the Dark Knight was described like your average text on Islamic history

In 2007 Deborah Small at the Wharton School of Business conducted an experiment to see how people would react to a charity campaign that was presented primarily using facts and figures as compared to the same campaign presented as a story. The outcome wasn’t even close. Stories trump stats every time. Or, as Stalin would say “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” He should know. He was kind of an expert on the subject.


Hipster Stalin – now he’s taken things too far.

In fact, we don’t need to look to modern research to prove this. The Quran itself is full of stories and lessons, but short on details. How many animals made it on to the Ark? Where exactly did Khidr live? What was the name of the Pharoah that was the arch-nemesis of Musa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him)? The lack of facts and figures detracts nothing from the power of these stories and their ability to inspire and transform those hearing them.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) was explicit on this point when it came to the stories of the Companions of the Cave. Allah admonishes those who debate on the exact number of those in the cave saying “Now some say they were three and the fourth one is their dog and some will say they were five and the sixth one is their dog, guessing randomly at the unseen.” It is unfortunate that we don’t heed this lesson when it comes to how we teach our own Islamic history.


From “Made to stick” by Chip and Dan Heath

Maya Angelou said ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ If we want our Islamic history to be relevant and life-changing, we need to put away the facts and figures and bring out the monsters and legends.

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#Current Affairs

Five Courageous Ways To Respond To Anti-Muslim Hatred





By Fatima Barkatulla

It was the day after the second Paris attack. Our local Muslim school sent parents a text-message telling them that security guards would flank the school gates the next day. Messages were flying around, complete with fuzzy CCTV footage of Muslim women who had been verbally or physically attacked in public places, in the climate of hatred and fear that seemed to hang like a cloud over us.

My sons, proudly wear traditional garments (thobe and white skullcap) when going to certain classes at the Mosque. It is the uniform for their Qur’an class. It’s of course not obligatory for them to wear it but they normally do. They were about to set out and catch a bus when a sense of dread came over me as I realised how vulnerable they looked and how so visibly ‘Muslim’. People had been fed a drip diet of negativity surrounding Islam and Muslims. The heinous crimes of some of our co-religionists, playing on 24-hour news channels had contributed to that climate. It would only take one angry person…


Muslim boys


In that moment I considered telling my sons to pop their jeans on instead, reserving their traditional garb for when they were safely inside the mosque. In that moment I was terrified at the power I wielded as a parent to influence their mindset with a word I might utter. And in that moment, I bit my tongue and decided to choose Tawakkul and empowerment and banish victimhood and fear.

There was no real danger. Most of our fellow citizens are not full of hatred. Most of them do know a Muslim well enough to know better. I believe much of the fear-mongering that goes on in Muslim circles, is manufactured and perpetuated by people continuously forwarding unconfirmed scare stories to one another (or perhaps people infiltrating our lists and groups, maliciously intending to spread panic).

In the aftermath of these attacks it’s important to continue living as you normally live day to day as much as possible and since my sons usually do wear these clothes to the mosque without issue, I didn’t want to introduce the idea of hiding being a Muslim to them.

It’s not about fanatically holding onto garments. Indeed if there is real and present danger we should take the precautions necessary and should not put our children at high risk. However, this was about the attitude we seek to instil in the next generation of Believers.

Over the Channel in France, with its aggressive secularism, it has become commonplace for many Muslims to hide their Islam. Britain’s Muslims, including my sons, are confident and very comfortable expressing our faith and culture, Alhamdulillah. This is home and we aren’t guests here. The vast majority of our compatriots are respectful towards us and, especially in the vibrant melting-pot that is London, we have grown up together, laughed, cried, learned and played together. We grew up being told to express our culture and be ourselves.

British Muslims

In the 80s racists used to abuse us for having a different skin colour – which we couldn’t hide. They would hurl insults at my mother for observing hijab. That overt racism is largely gone. But the point is this: Our parents didn’t persevere through the tough times that they faced, only for our generation to lie down as soon as we face some pressure!

By all means let us teach our children to take the normal precautions any child should. Teaching them the very powerful duas and supplications for going outside as well as the du’a when facing fear, and the du’a for resolve, were my first port of call.[1] But I refuse to instil cowardice in their hearts and will continue to teach them to hold their heads up high as Muslims in a world where their faith is misrepresented.

I see parenting as a calling. Children are the ultimate carriers of our values beyond our own short lives. Most of us still hear our mothers’ voices in our heads, giving us the occasion telling-off or reminding us to do the right thing. Most of us subconsciously ask ourselves what dad would have done. We may of course reassess some of those values, rejecting some and adapting others. However, a parent’s attitude and philosophy of life is no doubt a most powerful factor in setting a child’s direction in the world.

So how will I be teaching my children to respond to anti-Muslim hatred? What do I hope their attitude will be, growing up in 21st Century Britain?

The key messages I will be giving my children are:

First: Have faith in Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) plan. Our tradition teaches us that everything, however difficult it may be for us to understand, happens for a reason and happens by the will of God. It teaches us that through Sabr – patiently persevering upon the straight path, through hard work and prayer, we will see the fruits of our efforts.

Second: Never be afraid to be different. Some of the greatest people in history went against the grain. They were immensely unpopular and often persecuted. In the end, their unwavering, patient, perseverance for justice shone through. We have an example of that in the great messengers of God such as Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them. And in recent times we have the likes of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X – who fought injustice, were persecuted or killed for their cause, but morally triumphant as eventually the world caught up with them.

Third: Be politically engaged. Outrage at injustices around the world is natural. But how you allow that to manifest itself is pivotal. The Qur’an tells us that we must live up to being “the best people extracted for the sake of humanity.” The conditions for being amongst the best of people are that we must enjoin the good, beginning with ourselves and forbid what is wrong and have faith in God. Loving ones country means sometimes holding a mirror up to it and with wisdom, speaking truth to power.

Fourth: Be socially engaged. Contribute and give to society positively with all your heart and with all of your talents. Serve your neighbours, serve your fellow citizens. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ would go the extra mile to reach out to people and fulfil their needs, to feed, to clothe, to share a burden. He never encouraged us to live in ghettos, happy with our own piety. Mixing with people, sharing, caring, giving, getting involved with the issues of society is his example and your duty.

Fifth: Seek deeper knowledge of scripture from traditional scholars who are also forward-thinking. The Qur’an has a context to it. Reading ones own interpretations into it willy nilly gives a warped understanding. We see the catastrophic effects of that in lands where injustice is being justified by ignorant Twitter and Facebook muftis interpreting revelation. Our tradition is rich, it gave birth to one of the greatest civilisations in history. Don’t be rash. Don’t be a hothead. The energy of youth needs to be tempered by the wisdom of scholars and elders. Our faith needs a generation of leaders who have depth of understanding and a wealth of wisdom in order to traverse the murky waters that may lay ahead. Be that generation.

[1] Some of the supplications can be found in du’a books and on the website: . A couple of examples are:

بِسْمِ اللهِ ، تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللهِ وَلَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللهِ

“In the name of Allah, I place my trust in Allah and there is no might nor power except with Allah.”

The Prophet ﷺ told us, when we say this, an angel will say: “you shall be defended, protected and guided”. (Abu Dawud)

And this wonderful du’a which every one of us should memorise! It is protection from facing ignorance or harm when going out! Make sure your kids have memorised it!


اللَّهُمَّ إني أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَلَّ ، أَوْ أَزِلَّ أَوْ أُزَلَّ ، أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ ، أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَيَّ

“O Allah, I seek refuge with You lest I should stray or be led astray, or slip (i.e. to commit a sin unintentionally) or be tripped, or oppress or be oppressed, or behave foolishly or be treated foolishly.” (Abu Dawud)

Fatima Barkatulla is a seminarian and award-winning Islamic lecturer. Follow her on FacebookA version of this article was published in The Times and Times Online on Saturday 9th April 2016

[1] ‘thaub’ is sometimes called a dishdasha (it is a long, dress-like garment worn by men in the Middle-East). ‘Thaub’ is the more commonly used name for it in the Muslim community.

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Science Not Art: Problems with our Islamic History




Let me introduce you to Hassan. He is an artist with an imagination that runs wild with more creativity in his little finger than most of us have in our whole lives. He spends his spare time in art galleries and exhibitions. He enjoys experimenting with different pantones to find the right shade of green for his latest artwork. So far, he’s your typical artist, except for the small fact that he’s a medical student.

Like many children of first generation immigrants, Hassan was prodded towards a stable career in healthcare rather than the decidedly less secure world of being an artist. His innate artistry is out of place in the sterile world of Medicine, but he accepts this trade-off for the security that a career in medicine brings.


Much like Hassan, I contend that Islamic history is art trapped in the world of sciences.

While Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t being busy leading the Rough Riders or being President, he made the same case for history in general. Every civilization and culture views history through a different lens. While the Europeans classically treated History as a category within literature and the Hindus as often indistinguishable from mythology – Muslims took an entirely different approach. When it comes to fields of Islamic studies, we tend to classify the most important as sciences. Tafsir, Ilm al hadeeth, Tajweed and Fiqh are all researched and taught with the same precision and accuracy as physics or maths. There is relatively little room for artistic license or experimentation.

science vs art

This is a strength especially when it comes to the studies that make up the bedrock of the faith and are used to decide the rules and regulations that govern it. However, problems arise when subjects that don’t naturally fit into the scientific category are reclassified as such. One such example is Islamic history. Our history has often been subjected to the same rigorous standards as those applied to other Islamic sciences. Anything that doesn’t meet the highest standards of verification and authentication can potentially be downplayed or treated as suspect.

This view of history was pioneered by none other than the father of historiography Ibn Khaldun, who was frustrated by the “uncritical acceptance of historical data.” It comes as no surprise to find out that Ibn Khaldun was a jurist before he found fame in later life as a historian. However, history is not merely data to be proven or interpreted in a narrow set of ways. History is the art of putting together bits of information from the past and weaving together a narrative that gives us an insight into the motivations and actions of those that preceded us.

quiz art vs science

Translation: Artists tend to see boats first, scientists tend to see arches.

For instance, History as science will tell us that the Moghul Empire finally collapsed due to a range of socio-economic factors afflicting the corrupt Moghul state combined with the overwhelming military superiority of the British. While that may technically be accurate, History as art would explain the fall as a perfect storm of threats compounded by the tragic but unexpected outcome of an aging Emperor’s affections for his ambitious and treacherous young wife Zeenat Mahal. The former view is based on empirical evidence but wholly uninspiring and devoid of the human touch, while the latter is pieced together based on some facts, some extrapolations and based on the characters of the personalities involved.

zeenat mahal

Worth sinking an Empire over?

Skeptics from the scientific school of thought will read the above and fear that this is a call to legitimise superstition and fairytales. It is not. The reality is that the majority of our history, or any history for that matter, will fail to pass the benchmarks that we must necessarily use for our sciences. The result of this is that there are swathes of our history that are simply looked upon as second class and therefore not prominent.

Maria Konnikova argued the same point cogently in Scientific American. There needs to be a paradigm shift in how we see and classify Islamic history. Islamic historians should feel comfortable in the freedom to discuss and teach aspects of our history that may not be 100% verifiable, but that fit within the broad construct of our traditions. We need to explore and cultivate the vast fertile expanses between irrefutable evidence based facts and pure fiction. Should we do so, we will reap a rich harvest of engaged and inspired Muslims who can take lessons and inspiration from our past and use it to guide our future. That’s hopefully something that even the most dedicated scientist would find it difficult to argue against.

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