Reorientation of Islamic History: Some Methodological Issues

  1. The Meaning of History

To clarify our subject-matter, we may start by defining history as a record of human action in a given space-time. This may be too general, but it will restrict the subject to human activity and will exclude theological views such as "God's Intervention, Incarnation and personal revelation"', which make history revolve around "His own acting in space-time"'. The Islamic understanding of history is that it is carried out by man's action. Freedom of human will therefore, rather than divine determinism, is at the basis of the Islamic concept of history. This means that the latter assigns no Specific predicament to history such as the "realm of suffering and sin" or the "realm of death''.

Our working definition presumes three fundamentals: first, it recongizes the natural role of hidayah contained in the Qur'an or other heavenly scriptures, yet it underscores the constructive role of human beings in a given human society. Second, it liberates history from the common understanding of it as " ... the entire human past as it actually happened ... man's attempt to describe and interpret that past.", or as "the attempt to discover on the basis of fragmentary evidence the significant things about the past".' And last but not least, the insistence on the freedom of the will suggests the existence of a moral dimension which to confirm human action.

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