Wednesday, June 21, 2006

History Made Personal...

Peace, one and all...
As I explained in the opening post of this blog, one of my key aims here is to explore what you might call the more 'personal' aspects of family history. That is, I intend to use this space to reflect on how exploring the history of my own family makes me feel.
In many ways, family history seems to stand at the crossroads of the academic study of history and the personal search for 'roots'. My family's chequered history is academically interesting (insofar as it reveals one strand of British social history through the last 200 years).
It is also a deeply personal affair, because I have a connection with these individuals. Although I am greater than the sum of my parts, I am also very a creation of my peculiar circumstances and backgrounds. Their experiences, hopes, dreams, fears, failures and successes have all in some way helped make me the man I am today (ah! so it's their fault! Just kidding!).
Tracing them is thus, in a real sense, tracing myself; understanding their mistakes is to try and avoid them in my own life. Ya Allah! It really is history made personal.
However, in a strange way, I am also disconnected from my forebears. Their desires and actions were their own ('No soul shall bear the burden of another'). Does this distance make me any more or less 'objective'? Is such a term even applicable here? To take a concrete example, the origins of my surname are shrouded in some obscurity; I don't know the name of my paternal grandfather's father. Given what I know and given what I also know of the period, this could possibly indicate a bit of ''ow's your father?' (as we say in London). The very fact that there is obscurity seems important: there seems to have been a need to keep things rather quiet. But, although I feel for my grandfather, and his probable early homelife, I feel no shame regarding this. I'm here by the will of Allah, the means of my arrival feels unimportant.
Given my interests and inclinations, I do feel under an obligation to explore my family history. I have a duty to my children to give them a full and honest account of their heritage, so that they themselves can also find their places in the world (and then, by the will of Allah, learn to transcend it). Position is of great importance (see The Corner for my religious position; Education Matters also contains an essay on Perspective in Education)
In some ways, this feels very different from my former historical studies (for which, see Matters Academic). This is about me in a direct sense, rather than about the history of the world in which I find myself.
Wa akhiru da'wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Peace, one and all...
Welcome and ahlan wa sahlan to my latest blog. As the title indicates, the subject of this blog is family history. Specifically, this blog will be devoted to my thoughts and reflections on tracing the history of my own family. I aim to discuss the practical, academic and personal implications of geneaological research.
As you can imagine, this is a long-term project. So, perhaps a little about me is in order at this point. I'm a 33 year old English Muslim from the East End of London. I currently reside in the Valleys of South Wales. I am married and have two young children. My faith is important to me: you can find my collected thoughts on things Islamic at The Corner (my principal blog).
I work in the Religious Studies Department of a nearby university, where my main role lies in student support (amongst other things). I've posted my thoughts on Higher Education on Matters Educational...
I'm a historian by inclination and trade (so to speak). My academic interests, though extremely varied, are mainly focused in three main areas: ancient history (principally Rome and the Ancient Near East), Islamic Studies (mainly focusing on Islamic history, though all things Islamic fascinate me) and family history (hence this blog). You can find essays on these topics on Matters Academic...
It's worth noting in advance that I won't be giving out any personal information. I value the privacy of myself and my family. Indeed, Abdur Rahman is very much a nom de plume (and hence does not appear on official records). Having said that, I'm happy to answer questions as I can (so please feel free to contact me through the site).
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman