Why Muslims should study their past – Contextualising the Modern Day – Niyaz Ahmed

Every successful teacher, preacher and reviver of Islam has to have a good grasp of history. Someone who foregoes their past will not understand the present and will therefore have no impact in the future. History is one of the best ways to teach and caution. We learn from mistakes of the past and hope not to replicate them today. In Islam, we seek knowledge not to recollect information but to apply to ourselves and the society around us. Learning the History of Islam is no different. Through history, we learn the rise and fall of nations and what happens to people who seek to prioritise the Dunya over their akhirah, comparing it to those who do the same today.

In reality, human beings relate to the experiences of fellow human beings. As individuals, we are not capable of identifying and relating to every experience that exists. The present is limited to what we see around us, in our locality and through our work. Therefore, as Muslims, to understand and contextualise the experiences of the modern world, we need to look at the past. Every event has a beginning, and it is in its roots that we can better understand it and thus provide a solution. Historical knowledge provides perspective, which gives hope and a stronger sense of our Islamic identity. We only have to remember that only 300 years ago, the Muslims were the superpower of their day and when the Mongols ransacked the lands of Islam, only decades later they became Muslims.

We have all heard the saying that history repeats itself. While it may seem an oversimplification, it is hard to disagree with it. The question we have to ask ourselves is how and why. This also not confined to the history of Islam, but the history of all humanity is important. As long as our foundational framework is Islamic, Muslims should endeavour in the science of history of all people.

By Niyaz Ahmed