Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

History, in a simple sense, is a narration of events. Whereas the interpretation of history is related to the philosophy of history, that is, to discover those laws which are at work in the process of history. Various theories have been put forward in this regard, but all of them are based on human imagination. The correct interpretation of history is that which is in accordance with the Creator’s plan of creation about man.

In ancient times, the king enjoyed the position of the central character. History practically was reduced to the history of kings. In the wake of the Renaissance in Europe, the era of democracy dawned in the world. Consequently, society came to occupy the central space in history instead of the individual king. Then history came to be written in the light of social ideas. One of the prominent figures in this context is Karl Marx (d. 1883), the German thinker. In the 20th century, Marx introduced a new concept of history called ‘historical materialism’. According to his idea, it was not human consciousness but material conditions that shape history. He writes, “The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual process of human life.”

Another interpretation of history is nation-based. A record of various activities of a nation is considered its history, such as the history of the Indian nation, the history of the German nation and so on.

Arnold Toynbee, the British historian, has presented another historical theory. He has written a book on the subject in twelve volumes, entitled ‘A Study of History.’ Toynbee has introduced the idea that history progresses through evolutionary stages of civilization. Therefore, the architects of civilizations are, in fact, the architects of history.

Yet another concept of history is one which is known as ‘religious history’. This concept of history has not been accepted, academically, as an authentic interpretation, rather it is not even considered worthy of being referred to in modern times. Patrick Lancaster Gardiner, an essayist in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, in his dissertation, Philosophy of History, writes, “The age of religious and metaphysical conjectures concerning the destiny of human affairs had, in their opinion, come to a close.” (1974: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 8, p. 962)

In other words, it means that for modern historians, the era of interpretation of human destiny, in the light of religion and metaphysics, is now over. This is undoubtedly baseless. It is as unscientific as saying, ‘the age of God is over’, or ‘the revelation of the Prophet was just a poetic experience’, or that ‘there is no basis for religion’, that it was only a social phenomenon and so on.

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