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Abul Hasan Nadwi-Islam and Civilization

Abul Hasan Nadwi-Islam and Civilization

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Published by Syed Ahsani

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Published by: Syed Ahsani on Oct 07, 2010
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05/02/2011

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Islam and Civilization
 By Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi
Scope and Significance
Islam and civilisation is a realistic and living issue which relates not only to the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the teachings of Islam, but also to the reality of life itself,the present and future of mankind and the historic role played by Muslims in the development of culture and the building up of a flourishing civilisation. This is a subject important enough toreceive the attention of an academic body instead of by just a single individual. In its depth andscope, it can compare with any discipline of thought pertaining to the life of man. It covers animmense area in time and space, from the first century of the Islamic era to this day and fromone corner of the world to the other. In its immanence, it encompasses everything from creed tomorals and behaviour, individual as well as social, and is linked with diverse phenomena,whether if be law, political, international relations, arts, letters, poetics, architecture, culturalrefinement, etc. Each of these aspects of human life are indeed many-sided and, hence, anacademic body composed of scholars of different disciplines is required to study them so thateach may undertake objective research and present his detailed findings courageously, withoutfear or favour. Each of these scholars, specialist in his own field, can discuss the issues in greater detail as, for example, one can study the creed and religious thought of Islam, another sociologyand culture, a third Islamic law, a fourth the equality and dignity of man, a fifth the position of women, and so on. Detailed discussions on each such subject can indeed cover an encyclopaediainstead of being dealt with by an individual like me who has little time to spare for literary pursuits. But as the saying goes, the thing which cannot be owned completely should not begiven up altogether. I have, in working on this subject, kept in mind the Qur’nic verse whichsays: And if no torrent falls on it, then even a gentle rain (Al Baqarah: 265).A Delicate Task An analysis of the ingredients of any developed culture is perhaps a very difficult and delicatetask. For the intrinsic constituents of any culture become assimilated over time; these are alwayselusive and their interaction is difficult to indicate after they have shaped themselves into awholeness that is known as a society and its culture. They enter into peoples lives imperceptiblyand become a part of their soul and life blood; give it a distinct identity much in the way thatinstincts, education and training, circumstances and it go to make the personality of anindividual. No chemical laboratory exists which is of any help in such a historical analysis nor has a microscope been invented which can minutely examine the constituent elements of anyculture.Such difficulties mean that the only way to achieve this is by an in-depth study of differentnations and their cultures so that their past and present may be compared to determine the effectsof Islamic teachings and, the revolutionary call of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for thereformation and the guidance of human society.The part played by this call in reforming or changing earlier creeds, pagan ways of thought, themanners and customs of the ancient world as well as in giving birth to new ideas and values thathave helped give rise to a new culture and civilisation, has to be studied and examined. This is
 
stupendous task but one which is also rewarding enough to be undertaken by an academic bodyor university in any Islamic country, if not by organizations like UNESCO or the moredeveloped academic centres of Europe or America. There is not the least doubt that suchresearch would be more useful than those in which these universities and literary bodies areengaged at present.
Difficulties Confronting the task 
Identifying the influences of Islam on human life and culture is an extremely difficult task sincethese have by now become part and parcel of the life and culture of different nations. This tosuch an extent that these people themselves cannot indicate whether they are extrinsic or intrinsic, borrowed from Islam or evolved by them internally. Many of these Islamic influencesare now the flesh and bone of their existence and are integrated with their modes of thought andculture.
The all-pervasive Influence of Islam
Here I would first like to cite a passage from my own work 
 Islam and the World 
in which I havedelineated the impact of Islamic civilisation in shaping the attitudes of people and their culturaladvancement during the heyday of its glory:"The rejuvenating currents of Islam ran through the world, infusing men everywhere with a newlife and an unparalleled enthusiasm for progress. The lost values of life had been discovered.Paganism became a sign of reaction, while it was considered progressive to be associated withIslam. Even nations that did not come directly under the influence of Islam, profoundly, thoughunconsciously, benefited by the freshness and vitality of the new creative impulses released byits impact on large parts of the world. Numerous aspects of their thought and culture bear evidence to the magic touch of Islam. All the reform movements that arose in their midst, owedtheir origin to Islamic influences." (Nadwi, S. Abul Hasan Ali, Islam and the World, Lucknow,1980 p.87)It is well-nigh impossible to enumerate the influence exerted by Islam in different fields and ondifferent nations and countries. We can only attempt here to describe these in a few sphereswhere they have played a conspicuous role in the reformation, guidance and progress of humanity towards a better and healthier existence in contradiction to the norms usually adopted by the Muslims during the period of their decadence.We will now turn to a brief discussion of some of these universal gifts which Islam has givenmankind. Namely: a clear and distinct faith in the Queness of God; the concept of human unityand equality; and Islam’s proclamation of human dignity.
A Clear and distinct faith in the Oneness of God
The initial gift of Islam, which also constitutes the invaluable heritage of Muhammad (peace beupon him) is the gift of the Absolute and undiluted Oneness of God. This creed is revolutionary,life-giving and vigorous, and cannot be compared with anything else that man has pinned hisfaith on, either before or after the Prophet of Islam. (peace be upon him)
 
The Effect of Paganism of Human Life
Man has been proud and presumptuous, boastful of his creations, such as philosophy, poetry andthe art of government; he has taken as much pride in enslaving other countries and nations as hehas in digging canals and turning arid lands into gardens; often he has arrogated himself to the position of God; but he has also demeaned himself by bowing his head before inanimate, lifelessobjects, things of his own creation which neither harm nor do him any favour:"
 And if a fly should rub them of aught,they would never rescue it. Feebleindeed are the seeker and sought (Al-Hajj: 73)
Man prostrated himself before his own creations, feared them and begged them for help. He wasover-awed by mountains, rivers, trees, animals and harboured credulous beliefs and irrationalfears of demons and devils. He paid divine respect even to reptiles and insects. He spent his lifein fear of the unknown and hope from non-existent powers, all of which went to produce mentalconfusion, cowardice, doubtfulness and indecision in him. Brahmanic India shot ahead of everyother region in the world with its 33 million gods and goddesses.( Dutt, R.C., Ancient India, Vol.III, p. 276 and O’Mally, L. S.S. Popular Hinduism: The Religion of the Masses, Cambridge,1935.) Everything which fascinated man or appeared frightening was elevated to the position of a deity.
The Effect of Monotheism on Human Life
The Qur’an and the Holy Prophet declared that this universe was neither without (peace be uponhim) a Lord nor was it jointly controlled by a set of deites. It had One Lord and Master, theCreator and Controller wielding complete and Absolute power over it. The Qur’an announced:
 Lo! His is the Creation and the Command 
, (Al-Araf: 54) meaning that God was the Sole Creator,the Sole Originator, or, the Sole Creative Principle and everything around man was dependent onHim by virtue of its creation by Him.
Yet to Him submitted whose is in the Heavens and theearth, willingly or unwillingly
(Ali-Imran: 83), was a natural corollary of this declarationmeaning that all things in nature, whether heavenly or earthly, bow down to His decrees andhave perforce to submit to His Physical laws— so Exalted is he. So was it not incumbent on thecreature possessing will and option to submit to Him willingly? sincere and exclusive obeisancewas due to God alone.
 He asks: Belongs not sincere religion to God?
(Sad: 3)The natural consequences following from this belief was that the world was united through aCommon Principle; a Universal Law ran through it. Man was led to acknowledge a unity of  purpose, motive and law in the varied phenomena of nature which could also help him findmeaning and significance in his own life since it was integral to the wisdom underlying theintegrated nature of this universe.The Prophet of Islam acquainted man with the clear and easy creed to the Unity of God whichwas satisfying and full of vitality since it took away all irrational fear from him. This simplecreed made him self-reliant, courageous, rational and undoubting by removing the fear of everything else save that of His real Master and Lord. It was because of this creed that man came

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