Many parents ask me for book recommendations for their teenage children. I generally recommend adult Islamic books for my daughter, and if the book is a bit hard for her to understand, we will read it together. She will read one chapter, and we will discuss it. She might ask me for the meaning of difficult words while reading, and I'll explain the complex concepts in the chapter.
During this school holiday, I recommended that she read The Lost Islamic History by Firas al-Khatib. She will then have to present what she reads after Maghrib to the family.
But why history? In the few years of serving the Perth Muslims, I find that many of our teenagers and youth feel inferior about being Muslim. Reading history from most Western authors will make you feel that way. Learning history from the Western lens may make you think that the world only revolves around Western civilisation. The rise and fall of humanity depend on the West — when Europe fell into the Dark Ages, it was as if the entire world was dark.
Our children must know their history from them to have 'izzah in Islam. Islam contributed significantly to human civilisation. And if we were to read history thoroughly, we would see that the East and West borrowed from each other throughout human history. While Europe was going through their dark ages, the Muslims had the most modern cities, prestigious universities, and advanced health care system.
Europe emerged from the darkness through interactions with Muslims, discarding religion and separating themselves from the Church. Hence, we see the antagonism that the West has towards religion. But we Muslims did not have that baggage — our civilisation was centred and powered by the faith. The pursuit of knowledge is a Quranic injunction. Science was viewed as signs of the Creator.
We did have debates and disagreements between religious scholars and scientists. But no Muslim scientists were killed, imprisoned, or punished for holding views contrary to orthodoxy.
We do not need to carry the intellectual and philosophical baggage of the West. We have our tradition, and it served humanity well for over a thousand years. And to do that, we need to read our history.