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Are a vast majority of first layer resources (I don't know what is jargon of this word, I mean resources which are not based on another resource) about history of Islam written by Muslims? If yes, is it possible to reach an unbiased history of that time?

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  • @TomasBy I'm not sure, English is my second language and therefore I don't know many phrases especially in this field, but thanks for suggesting. Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 19:50
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    Would non-Muslims be any less biased? Searching for an "unbiased history" is going to be a long and fruitless search.
    – user15620
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 20:01
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    Primary sources, secondary sources. I guess you are looking for primary sources. As with everything, there's four sides to every story -- the one side, the other side, the truth, and what really happened... Remember that most primary sources about any religion are from people from that religion, and that people "from the outside" often have their very own agenda.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 20:31
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    @Amir reza Riahi Very carefully. A huge fraction of our historical data is known from only one source who is either an interested party or a later writer with a clear bias. You make do, cross-check, look at archeological evidence, judge writers' reliability based on what we can cross-check -- all the usual tools of historical research.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 20:34
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    Perhaps you could clarify just what period of Islamic history you're interested in? For the first century or two, I doubt that you'd find much that is not from Islamic sources (such as the Hadith), since they were off in an isolated corner of the world, and had a rude way of dealing with the opinions of unbelievers. Not that much different from early Christians in that.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 4:05

2 Answers 2

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No, it is not possible to reach a totally unbiased history of that time, or indeed any time.

There are a lot of people out there who will tell you that information sources being "biased" is a boolean thing, as is "truth", and further that you should just totally ignore anything they declare "biased". These people are in fact not real seekers of truth. They are cultists. Don't listen to them.

In point of fact, anything processed at some point through a human being has some kind of bias associated with it. Even the simple decision of what to report and what not to report was a judgement call a human being made. And of course the ancients were every bit as prone to producing propaganda as we moderns are.

The way we deal with this, if we want to get at some kind of fuzzy notion of what is probably true (vs. what probably isn't), is to logically analyze the sources we have, what their biases likely were, and try to factor that in when we're reading what they left us. If we're lucky, we have multiple sources, and we can use that to triangulate in on what's more likely true, and what isn't.

This is called source criticism, and its a vital part of The Historical Method.

As for applying it to the early Muslim era, that's hit and miss. A lot of the early early stuff (eg: the life of The Prophet) isn't super well-sourced. However, after that the Muslim World was one of the most literate corners of the entire planet. Our history of most of the early Middle Ages is far better sourced in Muslim-run areas than in Christian-run ones.

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  • Protip: This doesn't just apply to History.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 2:51
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There are primary sources from that period written by non-Muslims, but they are not as detailed or as close to the events in question and have their own issues with bias and misunderstanding (they’re mainly just fragments and passing references made by Christian clerics and the like). They can be used to cross check, validate or slightly modify some of the broad outlines of the accounts contained in the Muslim sources but cannot be used as a substitute for the Muslim sources.

Robert Hoyland has collected most of these documents in a book entitled Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, which may be of interest. He combines some of these documents with Muslim sources to provide a history of the early Arab conquests in a book entitled In God’s Path. This review provides a good summary of the approach (as well as highlighting some of its limitations).

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