Essay on Islamic civilization
1 Deﬁnition of civilization
2 The birth of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the situation in Arab
3 Beginning of Islamic civilization
4 Imprints of Islamic civilization
5 Five pillars of Islamic civilization
Civilization is generally deﬁned as an advanced socio-political stage of cultural evolution which helps man to make advantageous use of his leisure time to develop writing, mathematics, sciences, engineering, architecture, philosophy and arts.
ln achieving these ends, the central authority (over a city, a community or a large region called a state) is supported by four basic factors i.e. economic means, a political set-up, a code of ethics and a set of principles to consolidate sciences and arts. Civilization came into focus once man of the “dark era” learned to live in an organized manner. The links of civilization are inter-connected without interruption, which every nation has been transmitting to its successors through the ages.
At the time of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there was virtually no civilization in the Arabian Peninsula while the two ‘super- powers’ of that epoch, the Roman and the Persian empires, despite their material resources, had touched the nadir of degeneration in this respect. There was no concept of dignity of mankind and respect for human rights in the entire pre-Islamic world.
Such were the conditions when the Holy Prophet (PBUH) sought to lay foundations of a civilization that was to deliver man from centuries old state of serfdom and ignominy. The Islamic civilization has played key role in the evolution of humanity and has left deep-rooted imprint on disciplines such as creed and ideology, learning and arts, statecraft, philosophy and literature apart from spiritual elevation. It not only beneﬁted those coming into its fold, but prepared them to lead other nations also to the righteous path. As such lslam came not for Muslims only, but for the entire humanity. The Almighty Allah addresses the believers in the following words:
“You are the best of people evolved for mankind enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah…(Ala-e- lmran:110).
The ediﬁce of Islamic civilization stands on solid moral foundation. lt places before us an ideal that has an irresistible force in shaping man’s conduct in a way best suited to his spiritual and material progress. It binds its followers into one common brotherhood regardless of their territorial affiliations.
The ﬁrst and foremost principle, which facilitates the achievement of this vital objective, is the belief in the unity of Allah. This unity implies belief in His Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience, lslam, as such, struck at the roots of polytheism and idolatry in all conceivable forms. This creed raised man’s status and released him from the bondage of kings, chieftains and liberated him from the hold of papacy, Brahmanism and false deities. lt ensured unity in the message and the ultimate goal.
The believers reiterate their belief in the unity of God five times a day in their prayers thus: “You (alone) we worship and You (alone) we ask for heIp.”(AI-Fatiha: 5)
To regulate the conduct of its followers, Islamic civilization treats ‘this-worldly’ life as ephemeral and the ‘other-worldly’ life as eternal. Belief in the Hereafter is the second most important factor in this civilization. It instills a sense of accountability in man which helps to create a tranquil society. According to a Tradition of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), this world is the seed ground for the next world. Man will get reward or punishment for his earthly-actions in the Hereafter. The Almighty Allah proclaims:
“Whoever wishes for the transitory things (of this life), We readily grant him such things as We will for whom We like. Then afterwards We have appointed for him Hell, he will burn therein disgraced and rejected. And whoever desires the Hereafter and strives for it with the necessary effort which is due for it while he is a believer, then such are the ones whose striving is thanked and rewarded (by Allah).”(Bani Israel: 18 & 19)
The third pillar of Islamic civilization is unity of mankind. It embraces the entire humanity, irrespective of caste, color race and region. It was the result of this trait that the Islamic civilization spread far and wide in the world vindicating the dignity of mankind. There is no concept of “lesser creature” in it. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “ All mankind is the family of Allah.” According to Islam, man has descended from the primordial parents (Adam and Eve). Their tribes, races and nations are convenient labels to identify them and know characteristics. Before Allah they are all one, and he gets the most honor who is the most righteous as the Almighty holds in the Holy Quran:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you._.”(AI-Hujurat: 13)
Islam assigned priority to moral principles in its scheme of things. Application of these principles (the fourth distinguishing feature of Islamic civilization) has always been kept in view in governance, learning, distribution of wealth, arts and crafts, legislation, external affairs and familial ties. No hoodwinking is allowed in public or private life.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “ He who deceives is not from (among) us.” Islam haste practical code of ethics which strikes an equitable balance between rights and duties. Allah has set orderliness on earth by charging all natural forces to work in, a coordinated and regulated manner. He directs that we should not depart from His guidance thereby creating a state of moral and spiritual chaos on earth. The Quran ordains: “And do no mischief on earth after it has been set in order…”(Al-A’raf: 56)
Besides, Islam has a comprehensive list of do‘s and don’ts which Imam Ghazali regards as Fazail (virtues) and Razail (vices). These virtues or vices can make or mar the character of a person and a nation at large. According to Al-Ghazali, the four cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage, temperance and justice. The rest which follow from them include fear and love of God, performance of obligatory duties, bravery, self-respect, endurance, ﬁrmness, dignity, modesty, forgiveness, contentment, tranquility, geniality, piety, etc.
Vices are unethical form of natural propensities of man. They become harmful when they engender love for the world at the expense of spiritual development. They include lavishness, boasting, ostentation, meanness, self-abasement, extravagance, hypocrisy, obscenity, barbarity, envy, anger, lust, stinginess, pride, sloth, covetousness, gluttony, ﬂattery, malice, passion, slandering, etc. Islamic civilization envisages a society whose members adopt and enforce virtues, while avoiding and eradicating vices as a way of life. Those who are at the helm of affairs have a special duty in that context (Al-Hajj: 41) .
The fifth basic pillar of Islamic civilization is religious tolerance. In an Islamic society, all religions are equally respected and their followers are treated on equal footing. lslam rules out any compulsion in matters of religion because religion depends upon the faith and will, which will be meaningless if induced by force. The course of righteousness has been so clearly spelled out in Quranic injunctions and the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that there should be no doubt in the minds of any person of good intention about the essential requirements of faith. The Quran maintains: “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily the right path has become distinct from the wrong. path…” (Al-Bamqrah: 256)
These are but a few of the peculiarities of Islamic civilization by dint of which it has survived the vicissitudes of the ever-changing times. Of course, powerful nations swayed by their religious bigotry and vested interests present a distorted view about it. But that we ourselves should be inﬂuenced by this opinion is not understandable. lt is a pity that some of us look disparagingly at our own civilization. The service our civilization has rendered to humanity has no parallel in history.