The Unkind History

19 Jun 2016

We need to look closer at what we’re teaching new generations


By: Syed Zeeshan Haider

A colossal number of fights that erupt in the world today have something to do with history. Disagreements on historical facts give rise to conflicts that result in the loss of human lives. If the people of the world learn to agree on the historical incidents, a major number of violent disputes will be eradicated from the world. There is hardly any incident or historical figure that is not subject to some sort of controversy. Even the elaborations of the same incident by different historians seem to contradict. Here the question arises: how should one read through the history then?

If we look at the situation closely, it becomes clear that the history has always been written by the victorious, be it the Muslim history or the non-Muslim. Hence, we rarely get to read anything against the rulers or the victorious in our history books. The case is more or less similar for almost all of the world including the sub-continent, middle East, Africa, Europe, the Arab world etc. However, if we compare today’s world with that of our ancestors, the current generation will not be able to believe the kind of obstacles that were placed in the path of free speech, in the past by the rulers. Their thoughts and ideas were considered the ultimate. The practice is still in place in a few countries where monarchy still exists and any remark against the ruler is met with severe backlash by the regime. Now imagine the extent to which the rulers of the past were able to play with the most basic of the human rights. In situations like these, anyone who had the audacity to speak up against the ruler, must have had faced sheer persecution.

Let’s have a look at the history of the sub-continent. The Mughals are praised with immense exaggeration, as the ultimate Muslim rulers. While, most of us fail to realize is that they are the ones who killed their brothers and fathers in order to ascend to the thrones. One of the Mughal rulers is known for not missing even a single prayer during his lifetime but what most people fail to look at is he did not spare even one of his brothers’ lives in order to get the throne. Similarly, another Mughal ruler, apparently, was so strong that he could run on his palace’s walls with two men on his shoulders. Nobody would have questioned the historian even if the number of men he could carry was narrated as four. Such is the extent to which our history has warped.

Moving on to Pakistan, everything has been turned into a controversy, from Quiad-e-Azam’s religious beliefs to Liaqat Ali’s cause of assassination. This nation has gained nothing from all of this except a few conspiracy theories. Consider the example of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He made Pakistan the first Muslim atomic power, gave nation the idea of an Islamic bank and a constitution that was passed by the representatives of the people, for the first time. However, the historians together turned him into such a controversial figure that his hanging by a dictator has been narrated as completely justified by some historians. Same goes for the military dictatorships and martial laws. Zia-ul-Haq, tried to dictate the history according to his sweet will. There are a number of historians from his era who are still alive and can vouch for how the military dictator tried manipulating the history regarding ZAB, just like the monarchs of the past. In today’s world, we have started relying on social media and media in general so much that we no longer know what is authentic and what is morphed. This version of distorted history is what has and will cause issues in this already disintegrated nation.

At this point in time, if we wish to make our future better, we need to first respect our history. It is likely that my truth is different than yours but what needs to be understood is that the amount of love and reverence you have for your version of history, I have for mine as well. Therefore, instead of fighting about history aimlessly, it is better to treat it like a subject only. If we want to prosper as a nation, we shall have to judge the history based on research and subjectivity, instead of emotions. Otherwise, we will just stay stuck in the past while other nations conquer the future.

Published in “Pakistan Today” on 18-06-2016

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