“History is written by the victors” is a phrase that we grew up with. Victors have repeated it throughout history for centuries, while defeated people use it as an excuse to defend their past. What if losers had a chance to rewrite history, what would change?
Let’s look into the method of narration chosen by a defeated person to rewrite history. Emerging new information from manuscript verification, an archaeological discovery, or even a study that deepens our apprehension to the history would not add much.
The only thing that can be added is a project of restoring the loser’s esteem through a populist narration that reveals our perceived identities and intentionally ignores the details that are not suitable for us. The populist memory of heritage would be formed into tangled stories explaining who we are now as a nation, not how we were in the past; then we would drop time factor. We once read about an army that was defeated in a battle, losing half of its soldiers. While the army’s commander doubled back he passed by a nest of a pigeon lying on its eggs. The commander changed his soldiers’ road to avoid terrifying the pigeon. This story is what remained in the popular memory, while people forget the martyrs and wound’s stories.
Another approach followed by the losers put in doubt stories narrated by victors. The issue, then, transformed into a conflict of identities between the victor and the loser, even the victor’s narration of history was entirely authentic, it would not be accepted or considered. The defeated person needs an honest stand to issue a new copy; rewriting history is another defeat limiting our ability to learn from the past. Then, defeats will be repeated in every battle we face today.
The Quran has never celebrated defeats but called the defeated people to analyse reasons for their defeat. It considered that the defeat happened because of the loser’s method, not only due to the opponent’s strength. Take the Battle of Uhud as an example among other examples that Allah told us about in the
Allah addresses the defeated people and says: “And is it that as soon as an affliction befell (Literally: afflicted) you, (and) you had already afflicted twice over the like of it, did you say, “However is this?” Say, “It is from your own selves; surely Allah is Ever-Determiner over everything.” This was a clear call to accept and analyse defeats, away from consolation, to tend to wisdom to reach recovery through learning lessons from defeats and to move on without clinging to past glories.
I wanted, with this Editorial in the first issue of the magazine issued by the Muslim Council of Elders to emphasise the need to follow a genuine method that is not ashamed of defeat, or construe events of the past to beautify them, but one that faces time and its new realities with wisdom and humility.