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Boonaa Mohammed fundamentally alive at TEDx




Bismillah walhamdolillah!
Brilliant, mashaAllah. Would love to read a transcript of this, so please link-to in the comments if you have it.

Bismillah walhamdolillah. May Allah accept my repentance and yours. I am an attorney, a stepfather, a husband, a son, and a Muslim. Studying Islam is a means, reflecting what I have learned is a must, and to Allah is the inevitable return. If you would like my help, know that Allah is the source of all aid. If you would like to contact me, try tariqnisarahmed at Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, or add me as a friend on Facebook.



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    Sabour Al-Kandari

    December 25, 2010 at 12:45 AM

    Wow mash’Allah, what a beast.

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    December 25, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    THAT was straight up the awesomest thing I have EVER heard and seen. Masha’Allah!

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    December 25, 2010 at 5:46 AM


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    Ashraf Ali

    December 25, 2010 at 7:19 AM

    Here you go :)

    Boonaa Mohammed – Fundamentally Alive

    Show me a stranger and I’ll show you a friend that you haven’t met yet.
    To say the obstacle in the way of anything
    Is usually one of the prices of success and
    People are more than numbers, to crack a smile is really no stress

    Divide my time like economics
    I love to say “Hi” and “Bye” less
    Multiply first impressions by everything, you might’ve guessed
    Prejudice takes time but my time is business and
    This just makes big dollars and sense
    Why would you hate when love just cost less

    In fact, the muscles it takes to make a frown
    Make more work than to just turn it upside down
    But you hate it when I’m polite, can’t stand when I’m sincere
    Calling me all these names wondering why I’m still just standing here
    Mainly because your ignorance leaves me to believe
    That you really need just a hug

    And I’ve been public enemy number one
    Ever since I learned to kill them with love
    I’m a psychotic serial lover
    Seriously only considering complimenting our mothers
    Because whether you like it or not
    I am your brother

    A teddy bear terrorist chilling with my well-mannered crew
    Yeah, you a racist but I’mma still hold the door open for you
    ’cause seriously dude, ain’t no need for the attitude
    and I ain’t mad at you, I have bad days too
    Here’e my cel-ly, let’s talk, I’m a great listener too
    Family driving you crazy? Man, I know how they do
    Let me know, I love kids. I could be your babysitter too!

    Yeaaah boy! ’cause i’m nice like that
    I’ll even watch your car if you promise that you’ll be right back
    So relax and be cool, ain’t no point in lying to you
    I am a servant and my master sees all that I do
    So tell me what you need dude?
    A dollar? Here, take two.
    Achoo’! May Allah bless you, guide you, and make things easy for you

    This respect thing is just what I do
    And it’s past tolerating
    It’s on the path of understanding and appreciating you
    So tell me what you gonna do when the love come for you?
    Insult my heritage? We both from Adam and Eve, fool!
    Aww snap! how you like that? You gave me extra change and I gave it right back

    I let people pass when they wanna switch lanes
    ’cause if it was me, I’d hope they do the same
    You butchered my name, but it’s a-okay
    It happens all the time, I won’t correct you anyways
    And it may sound strange, but I’mma be that change
    And prove every day, to prove that rudeness is lame

    I believe in modesty and tryin’ to lower my gaze
    And if everything is from above, then everything is the same
    I ain’t impressed by money, cars, clothes, or fame
    I am a Muslim, so the trinkets of this world don’t mean a thing

    I was taught that peace is not the absence of war
    But peace is a feeling that can only come from remembering your Lord
    So for the sake of peace, there is no point in hating me anymore
    It’s a big place, we can all live together in this world

    I invite you all to join me in this jihad of love
    And see first hand why fundamentalism still begins with fun
    And if you don’t agree, I won’t even judge
    I’ll just kill you all, with love. :)

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      Tariq Ahmed

      December 28, 2010 at 3:08 PM

      Jazak Allah khayr! Much appreciated!

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    December 25, 2010 at 7:45 AM

    Boonaa, MashaAllah. I love what you do. May Allah grant you jannatal firodows for using the abilities Allah swt gave you the RIGHT way. I always remember the sahabi (Hassan ibn Thabit) and how he use to defend our beloved prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) through poetry. You got mad skills. Keep doing what you do, and I ask Allah subhanna wa ta’alla to bless you along your journey.

  6. Yahya Ibrahim

    Yahya Ibrahim

    December 25, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    Masha Allah tabark Allah, la quwata illa billah.

    I always enjoy Boona’s verse.

    He is a good brother Masha Allah from what we hear. Jazak Allah khair for posting this.
    I missed him in Australia when he was down…I was abroad. He opens for me at the Journey of Faith Conference in Toronto and always shines Masha Allah.

    Allah grant him success in this dunya and the next.

    Yahya Ibrahim

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    December 25, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I exited without making a comment then I came back on web-site just to write how beautiful this was, MashaAllah.

    We pray that Allah swt puts Barakah in your time & talent so you keep spreading the message of <3 InshaAllah

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    Daughter of Adam (AS)

    December 25, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    I showed this to my English class last week and they absolutely loved it, especially the teacher! Boonaa is an inspiration masha’Allah subhanAllah!

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    December 26, 2010 at 12:13 AM

    Brothers and sisters, if you liked this, then please make duaa from your heart that Allah grants him sincerity, always. It is very difficult for one to keep intention pure when he is such a breathtaking performer. The battle with the nafs is insane. May Allah help Boonaa, mashaAllah he is a great man.

    And secondly, that Allah grants him success, dunya and akhira, and benefits the Ummah through him.

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      December 26, 2010 at 10:44 AM

      Good point.

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      December 27, 2010 at 2:56 PM

      Ameen, Ameen

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      February 27, 2011 at 11:18 PM


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    December 27, 2010 at 1:03 AM

    MashaAllah, loved it! May Allah grant him success in this life and the next, InshaAllah. :)

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    December 28, 2010 at 6:21 PM


    I love Boonaa Mohammed; he is indeed a great poet.

    However, when he came to my school last year, there were some issues in one of his poems that I found to be totally un-Islamic. He was talking about the challenges of being black in his days, and in one of his verses he said:

    ” . . . that I couldn’t even get a date except for Black History Month . . .”

    Now, I find that to be wrong.

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      December 28, 2010 at 7:44 PM

      Br. Massoud, I think that probably was just a play on words or at least we can use that as one of his excuses. He could have been talking about dates (the fruit) :-)

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      December 28, 2010 at 11:50 PM

      He coupled date with a month. I think he might be talking about time.

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      abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

      December 30, 2010 at 5:14 PM

      Massoud, I have deleted your follow-up comment intentionally.

      If you intend good, then cover the mistakes of your brother and do not publicize them. Offer him naseeha directly and privately, and if you are not capable of giving him naseeha then at least hold your tongue. And fear Allah, Who covers the deeds of so many people, including you and me, that they might repent and reform.

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      December 31, 2010 at 8:49 PM

      People change. He has changed. You’d notice his style and content has changed over the years.

      Step by step improvement.

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      Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

      January 1, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      That was one of his old poems. It’s pretty well-known that he changed a lot from how he used to be ma shâ Allâh.

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    Your Brother

    December 29, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    Brother Boonaa, may Allah SWT keep you steadfast and increase you in your Love.


    Keep doing what you are doing Brother!

    JazaakAllah Khayr!

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    Umm Salam

    December 30, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    fundamentalism still begins with fun…. hehe!!! Iaugh out loud!

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    January 1, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    Brother Tariq Ahmed,

    First of all, my intention was not to shame brother Boonaa, rather it was to advise him and the ones who listen to him that this mstake should be taken seriously . . . It is not allowed to take such matters as jokes, especially in a public gathering . . .

    And I believe that you have become confused in this (that I have harmed the brother even though that I have advised him), but Al-Hafidh Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali cleared this matter up when he said:

    “In advising and shaming, both share the qualities of being disliked. This is because there is a mention of flaws and mistakes of a person. So now, both of these statements can be confused to be one another.”

    If you still argue that I have shamed or backbitten the brother-and I seek refuge of Allah from that-then I would argue that this is an exception which is permissable, as a scholar clarified this in his lines of poetry:

    الذم ليس بغيبة في ستة . . . متظلم ومُعرِّف ومحذر
    ولمظهر فسقا ومستفت ومَنْ . . . طلب الإعانة في إزالة منكر

    Criticizing is not Gheebah in six (cases) – complaining, identifying, warning,

    When the person is committing evil openly, when advice is sought, and when one is asking for help in removing an evil.

    And Sheikh Ali Al-Halabi said:

    It is Haram in principle, but if what results from it is a benefit, then it becomes recommended.

    And it should be noted that it is forbidden to joke about such matters, as it shows a lack of responsibility and deserves to be admonished.

    أَبِو هُرَيْرَةَ رضي الله عنه ‏‏قَالَ ‏: ‏قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ‏صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ‏: ‏ ثَلاثٌ جِدُّهُنَّ جِدٌّ وَهَزْلُهُنَّ جِدٌّ : النِّكَاحُ ، وَالطَّلاقُ ، وَالرَّجْعَةُ

    It was narrated from Abu Hurairah that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “There are three matters in which seriousness is serious and joking is serious: marriage, divorce and taking back (one’s wife).

    [Jami’ At-Tirmidhi (Darussalam Publishers, 2007), vol. 2, p. 554, Hadith # 1184. Abu Eisa (At-Tirmidhi) said: “This Hadith is Hasan Gharib.” Classed as Hasan by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair Ali Za’i; Sunan Ibn Majah (Darussalam Publishers, 2007), vol. 3, p. 167, Hadith #2039. Classed as Hasan by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair Ali Za’i; Sunan Abu Dawud (Darussalam Publishers, 2008), vol. 3, p. 29, Hadith #2194. Classed as Hasan by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair Ali Za’i.]

    And Allah knows best.

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      Tariq Ahmed

      January 1, 2011 at 3:03 AM

      Allah Knows best your intentions, akhee. May Allah put good in what you have written.

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      January 3, 2011 at 3:28 PM

      Assalamu alaikum

      Subhanallah, please don’t further the stereotype about practicing Muslims losing their capacity for abstract thought. He coupled the word date with Black History Month – I read it as African Americans not being remembered at any other time besides that single month. If you want to look for sins, you can find it anywhere, even when it’s not there.

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        Tariq Ahmed

        January 3, 2011 at 3:36 PM

        Jazak Allah khayr for that, sister. A very good post.

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    January 3, 2011 at 5:57 PM

    As mentioned before, Allah knows best.

    But the reaction of the audience proved otherwise, and therefore, a clarification was absolutely necessary if the case was as you described.

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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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