The Islamic Civilization: Nature and Features
By: Dr. Muhammad Abu Laylah, Egypt
This article tackles the issue of the Islamic civilization regarding both its nature and characterizing features. In this article, we shall focus on the value of forbearance with which such a great civilization is characterized, and how this value does represent the secret behind the spread and supremacy of this civilization. As we shall se, forbearance with which Islam has come originates from Islam and derives its strength from it.
Forbearance: Meaning and Concept
Forbearance, according to the Prophetic Sunnah, means adopting a noble attitude towards someone or a group whether they are of a different religion, race or color, and whether they are fully or partially against a certain matte. Moreover, forbearance, in Islam, originates from the heart and is related to ethics and manners, and it is not something fake or pretended imposed by a certain situation regardless of the presence of hatred in hearts.
Forbearance, in Islam, is a principle from which other sub-principles branch, such as freedom, equality, responsibility, and cooperation with others and caring for their rights. The Muslims have built a great civilization based on the principles and teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. This civilization has been originated and branched from Islam, and it has extended everywhere spreading the values of right, good and beauty, and calling towards freeing humans of ignorance, fear, racism, pride and boastfulness. In addition, the Muslims’ civilization is characterized with its divinity and being related to religion not to a specific nation. Hence, it derives universality, encompassment and forbearance from Islam.
In this regard, we have two points that should be stressed on. First, the Islamic civilization has started spiritually and cognitively while stressing on upbringing the man who will be able to carry its message spreading it all over the world so as to achieve the universality of the call. After the establishment of the Islamic nation in Madinah and the spread of Islam in the Arab peninsula as well as the exposure of the Muslims with the non-Arab nations as a result of the Islamic conquests, taking interest in the material aspects began to appear in the Islamic civilization. For more illustration, the material interest began to grow with regard to the establishment of official departments, urban planning, building of schools, colleges, facilities, hospitals, libraries, drawing maps, discovering and exploring land and sea, etc.
The second point can be represented in questions such as: Is there indeed an Islamic civilization now? What is its nature? Can such a civilization stand in the face of the dominating Western civilization? The answers to these questions, in my opinion, lie in the fact that ‘civilization’ is not only represented in its material aspects and specific values, but it is also measured according to how deeply-rooted it is in the hearts and minds of its founders through generations, even at the times of severe distress and weakness. Such aspects can be felt in how many benefits such a civilization offers to humanity, and how many harms it expels.
Thus, any civilization void of spiritual and moral values and lacks the factors of internal and external balance is a weak civilization liable to degradation and corruption, and hence it cannot stand for long. The day a civilization depends on only power, the day it starts to collapse. On the other hand, the powerful and renewable civilization is that based on morals, high spiritual and humane values that cannot be affected by accidental matters.
Upon this, we can conclude that there is indeed an Islamic civilization. This is supported by the fact that Islam is there and still has a massive influence on the Muslims and even on the world policy. Moreover, the book of the Islamic civilization is still there having unmatched influence on every Muslim; namely, ‘The Noble Qur’an.’ The Muslims’ life established by Islam in accordance with the Qur’an, the Sunnah, and the faculties of the Muslim mind is very clear in the social structure, culture, language, way of thinking, and way of living.
As for the material aspect of the Islamic civilization, though it depends on the West or the Westernized East, still the Muslim mentality is able to compensate for such a deficiency which have so many reasons. In support of this, there were and still are Muslim minds contributing in making the civilization of the West. Additionally, the Muslims have offered the West a civilization representing the base on which its civilization has been founded; the West rediscovered itself through the Muslims.
It is worth-mentioning that the Muslim civilization has several features, such as extensiveness, encompassment, multiplicity, variety, ideality and reality. It is also a divine civilization as it has been based on the stable, consistent, universal Islamic values. In addition, it is a man-made civilization as it has been made by different races and people of religion who worked together on forming and enriching it, so that they can benefit from its fruitages. Hence, we notice that the values of Islam are not restricted to a certain place or time, and thus it is valid for all places and all times.
Allah, Exalted be He, says:
﴾And thus We have made you a middle nation.﴿
[Al-Baqarah (The Cow): 143]