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Books and Documents

Islamic History

Palmyra: A Changing Townscape
Emanuele E. Intagliata

Palmyra:  A Changing Townscape
Emanuele E. Intagliata

Based on a reassessment of published reports and unpublished archival data from past archaeological excavations and surveys, along with a large corpus of Latin, ancient Greek, Syrian, and Arabic written sources, the project has so far managed to shed new light on the fate of Palmyra. It appears that the events of 272/273 CE marked an important watershed for the history of the city....

 

But analysts have noted that the initiative involves political risk, as the project could very well rankle the kingdom’s Wahhabi establishment that has long dominated the nation. Wahhabism is a rigid strain of Sunni Islam that emerged in Saudi Arabia some 250 years ago. Adherents of this creed regard the veneration of objects—especially those that predate the emergence of the Prophet Mohammed—as idolatry. As such, they advocate neglecting these sites or destroying them altogether....

How a Rising Canada Shaped the Fall of The Last Muslim Empire
Hassam Munir

Many of the earliest Muslims in Canada were immigrants from the Ottoman Empire, but the two states are not known have any significant diplomatic relations between them. The Ottoman dynasty had already ruled for more than 500 years before Canada was created in 1867, and they preferred to deal directly with Britain, Canada’s “mother country”. This continued through the First World War—but with an interesting plot twist at the end....

 

The Destruction of Mecca: the Middle East’s Largest Building Project Has Effaced 1,400 Years of Islamic History

Critics call this Islamic Maoism. Out went the city’s heterogeneous mix of Maliki, Shafii and Zaydi rites; in came homogenisation under the Wahhabi creed. Alongside the black and white dress they forced on women and men respectively, the new tribal rulers reshaped the urban environment, stripping away the past. They replaced the four pulpits at the foot of the Kaaba, one for each of Sunni Islam’s schools, with a single one, exclusively for Wahhabi preachers. ....

 

Reflections on the History and Memory of Andalusian and Ottoman Religious Belonging
Jeremy F. Walton

In Spain especially, Islam and al-Andalus have maintained an ambivalent relationship to national identity as a simultaneous source of disdain and pride. Spanish historians and politicians of a variety of ideological stripes have faced a vexing question: How to incorporate, and even celebrate, the accomplishments of a long era of Iberian history against which “Spain” itself has achieved definition? How to honour the Battle of Covadonga while also admiring the Alhambra?...

 

Marvelling At Egypt's Historic Civilization, Man-Made Structures
Anand and Madhura Katti

Egyptian Museum with repositories of more than 120,000 artefacts seemed like an essential prerequisite to learn about the country’s historic civilization before heading to its popular monuments. Precious exhibits like the Mummies, Sarcophagi, the famous Tutankhamun’s treasure and the boy king’s golden death mask, ancient JEWELERY and pottery made it easier to connect to the land. ...

Revealing the Muslim World’s ‘Forgotten’ Role in European History
Nabila Pathan

"A common story has developed throughout history that Muslims have not played a pivotal role in shaping European culture. The exhibition strives to re-orientate that misconception. It's not about a triumph of one religion over another. Instead, it's about seeking parity - that Islam like its Jewish and Christian counterparts, has contributed to European culture."...

 

From Bulleh Shah and Shah Hussain to Amir Khusro, same-sex references abound in Islamic poetry
Haroon Khalid

Bulleh Shah of course had pre-modern notions of sexuality and religion. For him the rigid categories between religion, gender and sexuality did not exist. For example in the following verses he has no scruples in incorporating a Hindu deity into his Muslim ethos, blurring the distinction between Muslim and Hindu concept of God.

 

It is High Time to Discard the Pernicious Myth of India’s Medieval Muslim ‘Villains’
Audrey Truschke

It is high time we discarded the pernicious myth of India’s medieval Muslim villains. This poisonous notion imperils the tolerant foundations of modern India by erroneously positing religious-based conflict and Islamic extremism as constant features of life on the subcontinent. Moreover, it is simply bad history. India has a complicated and messy past,...

The ‘crown jewels’ have been handed to a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world. Saudi Arabia will head a Consultative Group of five Ambassadors empowered to select applicants globally for more than seventy-seven positions to deal with human rights violations and mandates.

 

The Future of Ancient Sites in the Middle East
George Richards

As a necessarily speculative case-study, ISIL's stated policy not to destroy Palmyra - the spectacularly preserved Roman oasis-town in eastern Syria that it captured in May - may be driven by a reluctance to alienate the local population in one of the most strategically important Syrian cities under ­­ISIL control. ...

 

From Defeat to Disintegration: Reflections on 1967 and Afterwards
Hisham Melhem

Not only the Arab secularists and leftists saw the 1967 as more than a military debacle, but something that reflects deeper cultural and even moral maladies, this was also the view of some of the Islamist critics, who agreed with the leftists that the defeat was an indictment of Arab nationalism in both of its incarnations, Ba’athisim in Syria and Nasserism in Egypt. It was in the aftermath of 1967, that the Islamists, who were suppressed in Egypt and Syria during the heydays of Arab nationalism....

 

The Empire Must Not Strike Back
Khaled Diab

When it comes to the Middle East, nostalgia politics is in vogue. While ISIL is busy "restoring" an a-historical caliphate, others are pining for the apparently lost innocence of empire. The Tanzimat of the mid-19th century, among other things, created a common citizenship, erased ethnic and religious inequality and even decriminalised homosexuality, though they marked the beginning of more direct rule....

 

Art, History and Artefact
Rafia Zakaria

Over half a century after its culmination, however, its ideas are being replicated in equally grotesque ways. Whether it is the Taliban in Bamiyan or Daesh in Palmyra, the wilful destruction of history has become a stunted and self-destructive form of anti-colonial resistance....

 

Islamist terror groups in West Asia have not only destablised entire nations but have also threatened to snap mankind's civilisational linkages with its ancient past. Not satisfied with having laid waste to modern-day Iraq and Syria, the savages of the Islamic State are steadily obliterating the historical remnants of the ancient empires of Mesopotamia, Rome and Greece — one museum, statue, temple and tomb at a time.

 

The big question, of course, is why the antipathy between Sufis and Salafis is becoming a civil war in Islam. Indeed, the war itself is fairly one-sided, as the other side is the victim of the attack and has no strategy for a concerted counter-attack. But without romanticising either Sufism — any ‘ism’ is problematic — or the “good Muslim”, we only have to peruse early Sufi medieval texts to see how Sufi philosophies provide major sources of resistance to Salafist and other exclusionary ideologies....

 

Any Destruction of Humanity’s Shared History is ‘Not Just a War Crime But ... An Enormous Loss to Humanity’
Hajrah Mumtaz

Palmyra is a Unesco World Heritage site, dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries. Considered one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world, it is also called the Venice of the Sands. Unesco’s director-general Irina Bokova says that any destruction in Palmyra would be “not just a war crime but ... an enormous loss to humanity”....

 

Why the Ancient City of Palmyra, Seized by the Islamic State, Matters
Ishaan Tharoor

Palmyra, which is located in the center of Syria, was an old oasis town that turned into an influential desert crossroads for around the first century A.D., at a time of significant Roman influence in the Near East. Its architecture and artifacts reflect its place as a meeting point between civilizations and cultures….

 
Sir Syed’s legacy
Muhammad Ali Musofer

Sir Syed’s legacy

To highlight the importance of rational thinking, Syed Ahmad Khan wrote extensively in Urdu and his exegesis of the Holy Quran is viewed as one of the prominent examples of rational interpretation of scripture in the modern age. To align Muslim religious thought and scientific knowledge, Sir Syed asserted that scientific knowledge did not contradict religion….

How Damascus Can Learn From the ‘Conquest of Kabul’
Jamal Khashoggi

The Mujahidin leaders gathered in Rawalpindi surrounded by hundreds of Afghans, from judges and politicians to field commanders, to merchants and immigrants in the biggest “loya Jirga” seen in the history of Afghanistan, all of them dreaming of building a new Afghanistan founded on Islam and freedom....

 

The Quran narrates the story of the meeting between King Solomon and Queen of Sheba, a sun-worshipper and the latter embracing Islam after some observations she made in the palace and gave her own succinct explanation for leaving sun-worship and embracing Islam. The story has a deeper meaning which till now has generally been ignored. ... It drives home the message that belief in non-gods or false gods is due to a lack of understanding of the reality of universe and nature and science only helps lift the curtain from this illusion of falsehood and enlightens the mind….

The Crisis of National and Religious Identity in Afghanistan Today
Amanullah, King of Afghanistan,1919 - 1929

Arabic Muslims completed the campaign they began in 642 to dominate the lands that make up present day Afghanistan. During the next five centuries, most Afghanis converted to Islam. Afghani Muslims have made major contributions to Shariah, theology, Sufism, philosophy, physical sciences, literature, and art with local features....

Freedom at Risk
Irfan Husain

Freedom at Risk
Irfan Husain

One of the abiding myths of the last half of the 20th century was that democracy, combined with free trade, would lead to liberal societies and peace between nations. Welcome, then, to the bloody new world of resurgent nationalism and religious extremism. Once suppressed by autocratic rulers allied to either of the two superpowers, these forces are now threatening to tear the world apart....

 

Challenges for the Muslim Ummah
S M Hali

The parliamentary leaders of Pakistan for once have seen through the stratagem of involving the military might of the Muslim Ummah in a protracted war, which would weaken them and cause substantive damage….

 

Out of the ‘Kingdom of Sands' came to life Frankenstein breeding monsters that behead, crucify and even eat human organs. Four years ago, extremists of the so-called "Islamic State" that are well-nursed with Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi thought started to sweep across the region beginning their blowout in Syria, with Saudi Arabia being its major source of financing and backing....

 
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