The Extraordinaire Ibn Kathir's Extraordinary Book on History

bidayah wa nihayah

LONG before internet searches ‘democratized’ information and encyclopaedic websites made life easier for students and researchers alike, there was a class of scholars – men and women of knowledge – who thrived in the hardest of circumstances, undeterred by the most meagre of means.

They worked not for name and fame, but with their sights set on Eternity; they considered the pursuit of knowledge and its dissemination a sacred duty – not just among the people of their own time, but for all of humanity until the Last Day.

Abu’l Fida Imaduddin Isma’il Ibn ‘Umar Ibn Kathir Ibn Daw’ Ibn Kathir Ibn Zar` Al-Qurayshi (may Allah have mercy upon him), best known as ‘Ibn Kathir’ is one such scholar, and his works are fine examples of enduring scholarship, which continue to benefit scores of people throughout the world over 700 years after he passed away.

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Battle of Dhat Al-Salaasil: When Muslims ruled Arabia

 

This battle took place after the Battle of Mu’tah in Jumada al-Thani, 8AH, in which the Muslims gained victory against the Romans. These days were among the last days of the Prophet , a period where the Muslims gained victory over all of Arabia, opening doors to the domination of truth.

As-Sallabi writes:

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Hajj in 1860s: How the journey was for Indian pilgrims

Indian-pilgrims_1940s-ship
Hajj pilgrims from India disembarking at Jeddah, 1940. Picture for illustration purposes only. - Royal Geographical Society/Gerald de Gaury

TO perform Hajj once in a lifetime has been the dream of believers for centuries. When we look at the difficulties they went through for this journey — when there were no trains, let alone airplanes —, we may well shake our heads in disbelief that such times actually existed.

We share an excerpt from a well-cited book (see reference) that shows how a typical Hajj journey was for Indian pilgrims in the 1860s during British rule. While there are several travelogues and personal accounts from that era, this gives a good summary in a few words:

“...most pilgrims had been preparing—both financially and mentally—for this journey for years, if not decades. This was necessary too as, apart from the expenses involved, the Haj from South Asia continued to be extremely arduous even after the use of steamships had become quite common. The hardships along the way are perhaps comparable only to those experienced by indentured labourers from the Subcontinent travelling to the Caribbean islands. Some idea of these hardships can be gained if we imagine a hypothetical male pilgrim setting off from somewhere in north India, and reconstruct all the various stages in his journey.

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What United Them Will Unite Us

camels in the desert

Before The Dawn Of Islam

THE sun is beating down the hot sands of Arabia. There is hardly any water to drink or anything to eat. The sun is at its highest peak and there is no one in sight, bird or beast.

The only thing seen is the Ka’bah, surrounded by the 360 idols of the Arabs.

During the sacred months, you would see the Arabs worshipping idols, making Tawaf around them and sacrificing animals to their revered idols. The number 360 might seem big, but then every tribe had its own idol and almost every house kept an idol too.

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Zaid ibn Amr: '...a nation on his own'

camel

They said to one another: “You know, by Allah, that your people are not following anything (any true path), and they have deviated from the religion of their father Ibrahim (Peace be upon him);(Abraham). What is this stone that we circumambulate, which can neither hear nor see, and can neither cause harm nor bring benefit? O people! find yourselves a religion, for you are not following anything!" So they split up and traveled to different lands seeking the religion of Ibraahem.1

HISTORIC texts have preserved for us the stories of four wise men of Quraysh who withdrew from the people during one of the festivals of Quraysh that celebrated an idol. The men were Waraqah ibn Nawfal, ‘Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, `Uthman al- Huwayrith ibn Asad and Zayd ibn Amr.

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What really happened: Martyrdom of Hussain, Karbala & the Shia

karbala


"I know even if I were to place myself before your riding camel to stop you, you will still ride over me to go there," Ibn Abbas cried.

HE knew for certain that Hussain (رضي الله عنه) would not change his decision, but Ibn Abbas tried his best. Many other giants among the Sahabah – Ibn Umar, Abu Saeed Al-Khudri and Ibn Zubayr (رضي الله عنهم) – also tried. But Hussain (رضي الله عنه) was firm.

From the time Yazeed ibn Mu’awiah became the new caliph, Hussain (رضي الله عنه) was disturbed with the dynastic approach to the caliphate which was contrary to the previous methods of nomination. He refused to give the pledge of allegiance to the newly nominated Yazeed. Hussain (رضي الله عنه) left Madinah and travelled to Makkah.

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Abbas ibn Firnas: Father of the Flying Machine

Model-of-Abbas-ibn-Firnas's-flying-machine-at-Ibn-Battuta-mall-DubaiModel of Abbas ibn Firnas's flying machine at Ibn Battuta mall, Dubai

IN 9th century Muslim Spain, more than a thousand years ago, on a hill in Cordoba, Abbas bin Firnas, boldly set out to do what no man had done before. He was ready to test the first flying machine in recorded history.

To the crowd invited to witness the event, he said, “Presently I shall take leave of you. By guiding these wings up and down, I should ascend like the birds. If all goes well, after soaring for a time, I should be able to return safely to your side.”

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Water Clocks & How Al Jazari’s Castle Clock Works

castle-clock-ibn-battuta

WATER CLOCKS, among the earliest timekeepers created by mankind, were initially used as important aids to astronomy.

One of the earliest forms of water-clocks, Clepsydra, is a simple Egyptian Vase (1500 BCE) from which water flowed out of small spout near its base. Divisions imprinted on its side indicated the time as the level dropped.

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Al Jazari: The Great Muslim Inventor & Engineer

al-jazari

THE most brilliant engineering mind of his time, Al Jazari was a genius remembered for his design of five water-raising machines and a series of ornate, water clocks all of which were released in his famous book "Book of Ingenious Mechanical Devices".

Originating from an area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, Al Jazari lived in the 13th century and worked for a greater part of his life in Anatolia (in present day South East Turkey). He served the king as Chief Engineer, as his father had done before him.

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Battle of Chaldiran Part 2: Coming to a country near you?

chaldiran

THIS year sees the 500th  anniversary of the Battle Of Chaldiran - an important moment in the history of the muslim world, and one that kicked off  the Ottoman-Persian Wars. These wars put the Ottoman empire up against the various Persian dynasties and descended into a series of bloody Shia- Sunni conflicts for control over the regions of Turkish Anatolia, Iraq and the Caucasus.

The outcome of these wars has shaped these regions and heavily influenced the political thinking of the Middle East.

Today as we approach the 'end game' in Syria and look at the 'post conflict' Iraq, with the recent strategic alignment of Iran with the West and the Iraqi shia 'call to arms' against sunnis, I thought it would be worth reflecting on the legacy of Chaldiran and its relevance today, 500 years on. 

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