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Taking Stock
Digging into history
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahThe history of India is, in fact, part of the Muslim history otherwise it is a compilation of accumulated myth and fiction based on hearsay. It does not mean that nothing had happened on this vast land and it had been nascent and dormant before the advent, introduction, arrival and settlement of Muslims in various capacities – as sailors, tourists, traders, invaders, rulers and preachers. As has been the evolutionary process of most civilizations through the ages, Muslims having settled in various parts of this land had interactions with the natives in all walks of life. That was the beginning of the give and take on a wider scale and tourists, traders and scholars were travelling both ways. Thus Al-Biruni (11th century) and Ibn Batuta (14th century) introduced India, its rich diversity and sciences to the Arab world, and beyond that to the Europeans. It was siminal to further expansion and exchange of knowledge. Thus Brahmin scholars of those days were invited to the Persian courts where they were honoured and were held in high regard. They helped in the translation of Sanskrit texts in Persian and Arabic.

Unfortunately, during those earliest days of the expansion of knowledge, the tradition here was to keep knowledge concealed into one’s bosom. Brahmins believed knowledge to be their exclusive prerogative and were not prepared to share it with other sections of the society divided into castes, and the mechanism of untouchability was devised to close the doors of knowledge upon others. The Arabs took great pains to learn what possibly they could in India. They translated masterpieces in Arabic and Persian. It was a great service and contribution to the Indian science and philosophy. But for their efforts that could not have come to light to become part of the history of India. So what is wrong in saying that the history of India is virtually Muslim history.

After that basic premise comes the Muslims’ contribution to the arts and sciences, traditions and culture including literature of this vast land which spans from Khyber Pass to the Indian Ocean, from Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. The disinformation campaign to deny the Muslim contribution to the Indian cultural heritage amounts to falsification of facts and misleading one’s own people. Is it believable that so many assertive people would have been sitting idle for centuries doing nothing except marrying and forsaking women and in the process begetting children to add to the mass of idlers? Is it believable that if they had been doing anything at all was to demolish the earlier cultural heritage and historical effects? 

In fact the British rulers made every possible effort throughout their rule of about two centuries to tarnish and brush off the Muslim contribution to all walks of Indian life. Thus generations of Indians came up unaware of what facts were withheld from them and what knowledge was denied to them. As a consequence the generations that have grown up after the independence are totally unaware of Muslim contribution. Hence they may be right to some extent in their ignorance. This is to a great extent true about the new generations of Pakistanis also. They do not have proper perceptions about their ancestors’ contribution to the richness of life on this vast land. They seem to believe as if a new nation state suddenly came into existence from nowhere. This is an eye opener for all right thinking people who should see how a powerful vicious community of the vested interest has conspired to misinform and divide the people and make big fortunes for themselves. They have a stake in the common ignorance. 

It was the job of our historians to record the events in social perspective, instead they chose a different course which was a sort of doctored history and not a narrative one. The narrations of Albiruni and Ibn Batuta could have been used not only as a source material but could have been followed as a pattern for writing history. In that case the events through the ages would not have been described only with reference to rulers and their rise and fall including their wars and conquests. It divided people into groups of the victors and the vanquished, bearing hatred for each other. The fanatic rulers came in to add fuel to the fire. 

Unfortunately, the science of history did not follow the course set by the Arab historians but were led astray by the western master craftsmen. They had already roused much rabble and had caused much damage in Europe by setting races against each other. They used that technique to undo the Muslim effect on the social life in India. They were fortunate enough in having got a long span of time for taking their campaign to fruition. Hindus had fought shoulder to shoulder with Muslims against the British rulers but when the Britishers captured power it was natural for them to go as far as they could to please them. The fallen Muslims had little time besides licking their wounds so they did not, rather could not, devote much needed attention to matters which could have long term effect. 

However, centuries of history recorded in the languages of Muslims of past centuries is still lying buried deep in libraries and archives. It is our burden to dig it out, bring forth and present in languages people speak and understand today. No denying the fact that many burdens have fallen on our weak shoulders, and unsympathetic attitude of governments and unhelpful bureaucracy have made things more difficult. But we should muster courage, find time, gather people and explore resources to do what must be done. There can be two ways of doing this: one, establish a foundation for restoration of Indian history or to form a coordination body for seeking cooperation of Urdu academies and other such organizations which may be requested to donate a small amount for the cause. These propositions are not simple and easy but the difficult task must be taken up for rebutting the falsifications as far as possible. We have eminent historians and political scientists in the universities of Delhi and Aligarh. They may come forward to begin the brick work. Once the proposed body takes form it may invite jobs from university departments, academic institutions and provide assistance to research scholars who run helter skelter for reaching, reading and translating the source material in Persian, Urdu and Arabic languages. Those jobs done for a fee could be a good source of income to run the organization. 

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