Alhamdulilah, I was fortunate enough to attend Al Maghrib’s new class, New Dawn, an Islamic history class. Since I’m a homeschool mom, I thought it fitting to attend a history class, especially given the lack of materials available that teach history from a Muslim’s perspective. As with almost any of Al Maghrib’s classes, I walked away with a bit more food for thought than I originally expected.
Studying history shouldn’t be simply for the purpose of memorizing facts, names, and dates. Ask yourself, why are there historical stories in the Qur’an? Allah doesn’t intend tell a story without a purpose.
Likewise, learning history should be with a purpose: to learn valuable life lessons. Learn what worked and what didn’t. Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned from Al Maghrib’s class, New Dawn.
Learn history from a variety of sources
Everyone has their slant, perspective, and agenda. Even the most neutral source will have some cultural baggage that colors their understanding of historical information. How do they center their thinking? Do they have Euro-centric thinking? Afro-centric? Makkah-centric? Everyone has an angle, and it’s important to let everyone speak. Let the facts speak for themselves. As Allah tells us in the Qur’an (emphasis my own):
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things [Qur’an 2:256]
Too often I think we become so engrossed with defending “our people” that we only listen to what will give us ammo in a debate. Not all Muslims were great leaders, and it’s valuable to understand and accept the shortcomings of our leaders in history. Knowing as such can help us see clearly the great leaders, and what they all had in common. Learn not only from Muslim sources, but also from Christian, Jewish, polytheist, and secular sources.
Find the patterns
Our teacher, Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, pointed out that the great leaders throughout the Islamic eras all lived close to the prophetic way. They didn’t keep much money for themselves, mingled with the people, and make sure the poor and needy were well cared for. Many times the larger and more elaborate the castles, the closer they were to their downfall. SubhanAllah! Providing free education to the populations, and never forcing Islam on the population were also very important in the success of a society.
Different leaders for different needs
It takes a different type of person to make changes than it does to keep established order. As our teacher pointed out, you have initiators and consolidators. Each are important and have their need. You can not be ruled for decades by someone who always wants to start new projects and make changes. You can’t have progress with someone who wants to maintain the status quo. You need both. Even for my own personal life, it’s good to have this outlook. Do I need to take an initiator approach, or a consolidator approach? Different seasons in life will call for different approaches.
Present global view
I need to make a clear effort to present a global view to my kids, in sha Allah. If I don’t make sure to open the conversation, and show various viewpoints, they may not learn to question information they are given. I remember being a small child and questioning commercials and their motives. Maybe it was because my parents were cynical when it came to advertisements, maybe it’s a natural skill. Either way, I can’t assume that my kids will naturally question the motivation behind information they come across. If I give them various viewpoints, they can use their own minds, in sha Allah. After all, isn’t that why Allah gifted us with reason and intellect?
Jenny Bergren says
I love studying history. It is so important to understand the past in order to understand the present.
And I agree that “everyone has their slant, perspective, and agenda.” Your can’t write from a purely neutral perspective. Our beliefs and experiences inform our thoughts and in turn our writing. I constantly tell my girls that knowing the worldview of the author is so, so important. Even when you are reading literature.
Shannen Espelien says
Absolutely! I was trying to point out some of the worldview aspects with my daughter when she was reading literature from the medieval period. Since she hasn’t grown up Christian, she didn’t understand some references and descriptions, and much of the medieval reading list from The Well Trained Mind is European, so it’s a big factor in the author’s context. Well said, Jenny! Thanks for coming by!