Books and Documents

Islamic History

When Paris and London were no more than a collection of timbre and mud dwellings, the city of Cordoba could boast of public parks and libraries. Knowledge was cherished and people of all faiths held positions of honour at Court. The Muslims of that so-called Golden Age of Islam showed that Islam can be both strong and sweet. The extent of the Islamic nation at this time was at its peak. Muslims were zealous in their faith and outstanding in their example. Any visit to the mosque, then, is a great reminder of the rich history of Islam. Faith, though, is not a journey into the past. It teaches us about our lives today. Another visit to the mosque of Abu Al-Abbas Al-Mursi might teach us something altogether different. -- Idris Tawfiq


The “Birth of Pakistan” was in the majestic Mohatta Palace, however the space we had for “State of Being So Divided” was more compact and the format of storytelling had to be adapted to a simplified, linear story to follow the clean lines of the architectural space. Every few years is a visual timeline with pictures, videos and audio interviews of people who experienced that particular phase in the timeline. Also, the 1947 Partition Archive, a non-profit based from the USA collaborated with CAP and provided 4 video interviews with the Indian perspective of partition. We want history to be made memorable, to be made into an intuitive subject, where you should know everything about the country you call your own and take pride in. One can only have far-sighted vision and goals to change the world they live in if they know everything about where they come from. It’s not about making history easy; it’s about making you fall in love it. -- Alia Chughtai 


More than 4000 years ago, in the then city of Ur, a young man by the name of Abram or Ibrahim stole in the temple of Nanna, when the high priests were away attending a town festival and broke all the idols, the false objects of worship and submission, as he thought to himself. This was perhaps, the first act of ideological revolution in a civilized settlement of humans and the first ever expression of the rejection of false gods. As we can see, this conflict between the truth and falsehood, monotheism and polytheism, Towheed and Shirk started right at the dawn of civilization and is with us ever since. The Qur’an says that Ibrahim (A) was the imam (the leader) of the mankind. A leader is the one, who sets out to articulate his message; in this case inviting people to believe in one god and to reject false gods. As the history has told us, Ibrahim (A) left Mesopotamia; went to Kan’an, Syria and Egypt (the so called Fertile Crescent), before settling in Kan’an, the present day Palestine. This was the whole world of civilization at that time. Wherever he went, he invited people to Towheed (belief in One God, the creator, the one who gives life and takes life, the one who makes the sun rise from the east, acts which no one else in the universe can emulate, nor have any share in such action. Thus the essence of the kalmia: La ilaha illa Allah, the first element of the Islamic faith was institutionalized and which permeated the consciousness of every human being for all times to come. -- Waheeduddin Ahmed Ph.D.

After losing its eastern wing in 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto replaced General Yeah Yeah Khan as the country’s new premier. Bhutto’s socialist Bakistan Beoples Barty (BBB) had won the 1970 elections in West Bakistan before East Bakistan separated due to a civil war and became the independent republic of Pangladesh.

The hefty General Yeah Yeah blamed the defeat of the Bakistani army to nationalist Pengali forces backed by flying Hindu yogis on his new dietitian who had advised him to stop eating meat and stick to vegetables if he wanted to attract the attention of Elizabeth Taylor. -- NADEEM F. PARACHA

Pakistan came into being on the 14th of August 712 AD. Gallant Arab leader, conqueror, poet, and expert javelin thrower, Muhammad Bin Qasim, is believed to have founded the country. However, some modern-day Pakistani historians suggest that Pakistan was first established by Adam, eons ago (and that is why some areas of Pakistan produce such delicious apples). Qasim’s forces entered what is now the Sindh province of Pakistan in 712 AD. After defeating the infamous infidel playboy Raja of the area, Qasim proclaimed a pious republic, which he soon called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. After Qasim’s success (for which he was thanked by the Caliph through torture), Muslim rulers of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan expanded the boundaries of the country. Some Pakistani historians believe that Pakistan’s boundaries once stretched from Bharat through China and all the way to Alaska. -- NADEEM F. PARACHA

MUHARRAM is the month with which the Muslims begin their lunar Hijrah Calendar. It is one of the four sanctified months about which the Holy Qur an says, Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months [in a year], in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are Sacred [i.e. the 1st, 7th, 11th and 12th] (Surah Al-Taubah 9:36) -- Mufti Taqi Usmani

Another feature of the Arab conquest of Sindh is that in spite of the occupation and remaining a part of the Caliphate for 150 years, the Arabic language could not become the lingua franca. This is quite contrary to the other regions which came under the Arab control such as North Africa where the local languages were eliminated and Arabic became the predominant language of the people. Why did this not happen in Sindh? -- Dr Mubarak Ali


Apart from their love for architecture, the Emperor Shahjahan and the Director General (DG) of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have another thing in common: their residence at the Red Fort.

Inside the colonial buildings at the 17th Century World Heritage Site, the ASI DG Gautam Sengupta and senior officials have found two-bedroom sets. The Mughal building of Naubat Khana has been turned into an office.

Besides the Red Fort, the ASI has guesthouses at Purana Quila, Safdarjung’s Tomb and even in Fatehpur Sikri — to name a few. -- Sweta Dutta


By Farooq Argali

The new, revolutionary social contract that Islam gave to Arabia in the 7th century, and which Hussain salvaged, remains the ideal for Muslims to pursue around the world today. Though Muslims may largely continue to be ruled by autocratic regimes, their value system has not been obscured; bogus referendum and votes aside, no one, since the time of Yazid, has managed to get public endorsement of his autocratic rule.

A tyranny, in the form of the erstwhile Taliban rule in Afghanistan, may last awhile, but it must do so without the backing of the people. Closer home, ask the people of Swat who were subjected to repression and coercion by the Pakistani militants until last year, and they will tell you how blessed they feel having seen the back of their tormentors. Tyranny is called tyranny because it goes against the will of those on whom it is imposed; it cannot be justified under any pretext, garb or excuse — be it religious, secular or ideological. -- Murtaza Razvi


By Farooq Argali

By Farooq Argali


By Dr. Hamidullah Siddiqui

Shivaji’s confidential secretary was Maulana Haider Ali and the chief of his cannon division was Ibrahim Gardi. Rustom-e-Jamaan was his bodyguard.

As a matter of fact, Shivaji is popular amongst people, not because he was anti Muslim or worshipper of Cows and Brahmins, but because he reduced the taxation on the poor peasants. Shivaji adopted humane policy in all the aspects of his administration, which did not base itself on the religion. In the recruitment of his soldiers and officers for army and navy, religion was no criterion and more than one third of his army consisted of Muslims. The supreme command of his navy was with Siddi Sambal, and Muslim Siddis were in navy in large numbers. Interestingly his major battles were fought against the Rajput army lead by Raja Jaisingh, who was in the administration of Aurangzeb. When Shivaji was detained at Agra forte, of the two men on whom he relied for his eventual escape, one was a Muslim called Madari Mehtar. -- Ram Puniyani

Ideologues whose aim is to uncritically glorify the Muslims in history at the expense of other groups remain in control of the mosque pulpits. Through the fog of deliberate misrepresentation they create an illusion of the unity of the Muslim fraternity or ummah. Reconciliation of Qur’an’s charter of universalism with Muslim claims to be a distinct people or “the best nation” is a serious undertaking, which needs fresh insights. Remaining adherent to outmoded approaches and ways of thinking cannot accomplish it. This is the responsibility of the present generation of educated Muslims and cannot be left to the preachers in the mosque pulpits. -- Dr. Nazir Khaja

 By Adil Siddiqui

Why I love Imam Hussain

Yesterday was ‘Chehlum’, the fortieth day after the observance of Muharram, an event that is closer to my heart even more than Eid. I have been born and brought up in a family that has a great affinity with Imam Hussain and his cause. It has some sort of emotional attachment or appeal for all Muslims. The martyrdom of Imam Hussain bin Ali bin Abi Talib is a true example of non-violent resistance against a dictator or a tyrant or an unjust system where the poor are getting poorer day by day. -- Syed Hassan Kasim, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Hazrat Zainab (SA), Messenger of the Karbala Revolution 

The noble lady of Islam Hazrat Zainab (SA), the magnanimous daughter of Imam Ali (AS) safeguarded the holy region by conveying the message of the martyrs of Karbala through her fervent speeches, which served to awaken Muslims throughout the world.

Maulana Nadeem-ul-Wajidee critiques Arif Mohammad Khan’s “fallacious” arguments on Yazid’s succession and Karbala

 Maulana Nadeem-ul-Wajidee analyzes the "fallacious" arguments of former union minister Arif Mohammad Khan regarding the occurrence of Karbala, bringing the Sahaba-e-Karam (companions of the Prophet) into disrepute with reference to Yazid’s succession. He argues that a respect for all Sahaba-e-Karam is an essential part of Islamic faith. According to the Maulana the Sahaba could do no wrong and all their decisions have to be respected by all Muslims. He says that Mr. Arif Mohammad Khan’s arguments against the succession of Yazid are just a rehash of Maulana Maududi’s comments on the subject.

Translated from Urdu by Raihan  Nezami, NewAgeIslam.com

Abu ‘Ammar’s History of Karbala being published below is bound to prove controversial. New Age Islam has no interest in intensifying sectarian conflicts. But we have decided to publish this on this occasion of remembering and mourning for the greatest and the most universally admired and respected martyr Islam has produced so that people belonging to all sects can see how difficult it is to trust any narrative, no matter how fervently we have been brainwashed from our childhood into believing them. It is imperative we understand that if we cannot arrive at the truth of today’s events happening in front of live television cameras, how well nigh impossible it is to know and understand fully the events and the dynamics of what propelled those events 1400 years ago. The best way out therefore is to close our controversial books and narratives and at least understand that there is room for doubt in all the narratives given to us by the historians of that age. We Muslims should be living in the 21st and not in the 6th century A D. Let us realise that it is neither possible nor necessary to do so. Islam’s universality has to be seen both in terms of place and time. It is possible to be good Muslims and be attuned to the contemporary era and its mores. – Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam

One Of A Kind: The distinctiveness of Indian Muslims is asserting itself again

The distinctiveness of Indian Muslims is asserting itself again. Over the past few months, Muslim theologians distanced themselves from what has come to be branded "Islamist terror" in the media followed by an organised expression of unqualified disapproval by as many as 6,000 ulema from around the country gathered in Hyderabad specifically for the purpose. This highlights the distinctiveness of Indian Muslims which has evolved through centuries of Indian history. There is probably no other instance of the ulema rising up in protest against terrorism on this scale anywhere else in the world. And in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, ordinary as well as elite Muslims also gave public vent to their outrage, says renowned historian Harbans Mukhia.

Up to some time ago I was convinced that Muhammad was a historical figure. Although I always based my thinking on the assumption that the Islamic historical narrative regarding Muhammad was very unreliable, I had no doubts that at least the basic lines of his biography were historically correct. I have now moved away from this position and will soon publish a book in which I will, among other things, comment on this question and explain my arguments in more detail. This essay is only a short summary of my most important arguments. It also deals with the question of what implications historical-critical research has for the Islamic theory and how I deal with my research results as a theologian. -- "Islamic Theology without the Historic Muhammad -- Comments on the Challenges of the Historical-Critical Method for Islamic Thinking," by Germany's Prof. Muhammad Kalisch, a Muslim. A related article by ANDREW HIGGINS posted below.

 Ashok V. Desai on a book about how Islam changed the world. The story of Islam's rise is told by Hugh Kennedy in The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In (Da Capo Press).


THE current controversy about the Ramasethu highlights the numerous traditions concerning the story of Ram. The Tamil Kamban, or Kampan, version is only one of at least 300 versions popular in different parts of India and neighbouring countries. While Valmiki’s Ramayana is generally considered as the original there is evidence of even earlier versions and it has many differences even with the much more popular poem, the Ramachiritramanas of Tulsidas, writes Murad Ali Baig in The Mail Today, New Delhi.

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