Because Islam originated and has developed in an Arab culture, other cultures which have adopted

Islam have tended to be influenced by Arab customs. Thus Arab Muslim societies and other Muslims
have cultural affinities, though every society has preserved its distinguishing characteristics. Islamic
culture inherited an Arab culture born in the desert, simple but by no means simplistic. It has an oral
tradition based on the transmission of culture through poetry and narrative. However, it has been the
written record that has had the greatest impact on civilization. Islam civilization is based on the value
of education, which both the Qur'an and the Prophet stressed.
This dark green jade pot, 14 cm. (5½"), once furnished the Safavid palace at Tabriz, and probably
passed into Ottoman hands after the Battle of Çaldiran in 1514. Before that, the dragon-headed
handle suggests it may have belonged to a Timurid ruler. (Aramco World Magazine, JanuaryFebruary 1995; photo Ergun Çagatay).
Knowledge and Education
In the Pre-Islamic period, one of the traditions was that of the mu'allaquat (literally "the hangings"). In
the city of Mecca, poets and writers would hang their writings on a certain wall in the city so that
others could read about the virtues of their respective tribes. Their travels from city to city and tribe to
tribe were the means by which news, legends, and exploits would become known. The tradition
continued as the Qur'an was first memorized and transmitted by word of mouth and then recorded
for following generations. This popular expression of the Arab Muslim peoples became an indelible
part of Islamic culture. Even today Muslims quote the Qur'an as a way of expressing their views and
refer to certain maxims and popular tales to make a point.
Great centers of religious learning were also centers of knowledge and scientific development. Such
formal centers began during the Abbasid period (750-1258 A.D.) when thousands of mosque schools
were established. In the tenth century Baghdad had some 300 schools. Alexandria in the fourteenth
century had 12,000 students. It was in the tenth century that the formal concept of the Madrassah
(school) was developed in Baghdad. The Madrassah had a curriculum and full-time and part-time
teachers, many of whom were women. Rich and poor alike received free education. From there
Maktabat (libraries) were developed and foreign books acquired. The two most famous are Bait alHikmah in Baghdad (ca. 820) and Dar al-Ilm in Cairo (ca. 998). Universities such as Al-Azhar (969
A.D.) were also established long before those in Europe.
Then exalted be Allah the True King! And hasten not (O Muhammad) with the Qur'an ere its
revelation hath been perfected unto thee, and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.
Qur'an 20:114
Islamic history and culture can be traced through the written records: Pre-Islamic, early Islamic,
Umayyad, the first and second Abbasid, the Hispano-Arabic, the Persian and the modern periods.

But they added insight to facts and gave to . Contacts with Greece and Persia gave a greater impulse to music. the Islamic framework of values. Islamic culture as well as commerce and contacts with many other parts of the world flourished. The same is true of early legal writings of Muslim scholars such as al-Shaybani. The influence of Islam ultimately made possible the European Renaissance. 1198). The study of history held a particular fascination for Arab Muslims imbued with a sense of mission. and at times their absorption into. particularly Western civilization which has depended so much on their works. Plato. Thereafter Syria. one does not witness the synthesis or homogenization of different cultures but rather their transmittal through. Islamic philosophy was influenced by the writings of Socrates. That great center of learning continued after 641. d. Throughout the first four centuries of Islam. developed his views of Aristotle through the translation of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). and because the Qur'an states that God created the universe and caused it to be inhabited by men and women and peoples and tribes so that they may know each other. Egypt. 1037). intellectually faithful to the originals. and Persia became similar channels for the communication of essentially Greek. Ibn Rushd (Averroes. which was transmitted orally. when Egypt became part of the Muslim state. the founder of Catholic naturalism. Baghdad.The various influences of these different periods can be readily perceived. as can traces of the Greek. Indeed. was recorded mostly during the Umayyad period (661-750 A. which frequently accompanied the recitation of prose and poetry.D. During the Ptolemaic period. because Islam is a religion for all peoples and all times. It was essentially through such works. Alexandria. which was generated by the ideas of the Greeks filtered through the Muslim philosophers. that Western civilization was able to benefit from these earlier legacies. 1406). In the fourth century B. The great Muslim philosophers such as Ibn Khaldun (d. By the mid-800's in the Baghdad capital of Abbassids under Harun al-Rashid and al-Ma'mun. he set the stage for the great migration of Greek philosophy and science to that part of the world. was the radiant center for the development and spread of Greek culture throughout the Mediterranean. al-Farabi and al-Ghazali translated the works of earlier Greek philosophers and added their own significant contributions. d. and the Pre-Islamic Persian cultures. Ibn Sina (Avicenna. As a result. Pre-Islamic poetry and prose. St. Syriac. when Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor and founded Alexandria.. These great philosophers produced a wealth of new ideas that enriched civilization. who in the seventh century started the case method of teaching Islamic international law that was subsequently put into writing in the twelfth century by a disciple in India. As a result Muslims recorded their own history and that of others. It was the basis for the writings of the legal canonists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries on certain aspects of international law. in particular the laws of war and peace.) when the Arab way of life began shifting from the simple nomadic life prevalent in the peninsula to an urban and sophisticated one. the Indian. Thomas Aquinas. and Aristotle.C. Islam has been a conduit for Western civilization of cultural forms which might otherwise have died out. pre-Islamic Persian and Indian cultural values. In fact. there was a quest for discovery and knowledge.

criticized. it is probable that texts which later exercised a formative influence over Western culture would never have survived intact. Dante's "Divine Comedy" contains reference to the Prophet's ascension to Heaven. explained. and. Islamic scholars stepped in to preserve that heritage from destruction. scholarship. Victor Hugo writes of Persians as do Boccaccio and (Chaucer. For the culture and civilization that were founded on Islam not only preserved the heritage of the ancient world but codified. The Sciences From the second half of the eighth century to the end of the eleventh century. Indeed. (Aramco World Magazine. The West's fascination with Arabo-Islamic (culture can be seen in many ways. Why is it that so many ancient Greek texts survive only in Arabic translations? How did the Arabs. Even "Robinson Crusoe" and "Gulliver's Tales" are adaptations of "The Thousand and One Nights. then into English). moreover. The story of Islam's role in the preservation and transmission of ancient science. to say nothing of its own lasting contributions. people. finally. photo courtesy of ARCH). November-December 1995. In the introduction to his multi-volume work he devoted an entire volume to the science of history and its implications. "The Thousand and One Nights" captured Western Europe's cultural and popular fancy in the 1700's (first translated into French by Galland in 1704. for . built on past contributions in the process of making distinctive contributions of their own. It is certain. The Wonders and Curiosities of Creation Iran or Iraq 14th c.events. the Umayyad dynasty located in Damascus evinced an interest in things Greek. systematized. From the first. Shakespeare in "Othello" and the "Merchant of Venice" describes Moorish subjects. Islamic scientific developments were the basis of knowledge in the world. is truly fascinating—and a bit of a puzzle. who had no direct contact with the science and learning of the Greeks. that the modern world would look much different than it does today." Arabo-Islamic culture. modified. Al-Tabari also wrote an authoritative text on the history of prophets and kings which continues to be a most comprehensive record of the period from Abraham to the tenth century. and science fed the Western world's development for five hundred years between the tenth and fifteenth centuries. and places a philosophical dimension expressed in the universal history written by al-Tabari of Baghdad (838-923). without the cultivation of science in these early centuries by Islamic scholars. it appears. At a period of history when the scientific and philosophical heritage of the ancient world was about to be lost. come to be the inheritors of the classical tradition? The answers to these questions are to be found in a unique conjunction of historical forces. knowledge.

a dialect of Aramaic. and who made great contributions to optics and physics. Algebra was essentially developed by the Arab Muslims. He also developed experiments on light which were nothing short of extraordinary at that time. one of them on medical ethics.they employed educated Greek-speaking civil servants extensively. a 25 volume practical encyclopedia. Razi (860-940) is reported to have written 200 books on medicine. But medical science soon led into zoology. it gave rise to the development of planetary theory. However. and the Hawi. pharmacology and chemistry. such as Farsi. based on the finding that light travels in straight lines. algebra. an encyclopedia on all known diseases in the world. Indeed the word "chemistry" derives from the Arabic word al-kemia or alchemy as it was later known. Islamic scholars also used the concept of zero. which was a Hindu concept. The Arabic zero proved indispensable as a basis for all modern science. developed and expanded from the original Indian contribution." because the place of a sign gave as much information as its unitary value did. nor cybernetics would have developed. The theory of numbers. He had advanced long before Newton the thesis that extraterrestrial scientific phenomena governed the motion of the earth and stars. Early friezes on mosques from the period show a familiarity with the astrological lore of late antiquity. the very word derives from the Arabic al-jabr." one of the basic algebraic problems. The medical sciences were largely developed throughout the works of Ibn Sina (Avicenna). additional letters have been added to serve the need of other languages using the Arabic script. al-Razzi. and Turkish until the early part of the 20th century. Traditionally the Semites and the Greeks assigned numerical values to their letters and used them as numerals. continued to flourish under Islam. It was translated into many languages. Without the zero. Dari. In addition. who developed the "Alhazen problem. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters. developed by the Babylonians. veterinary medicine. But the Arabs developed the numbers now used in languages. which after 738 became part of the Muslim world. and Husayn bin Ishak al-Ibadi. neither mathematics. who translated Hippocrates and other Greeks. Iran. It was managed by Syrian Christians and became . Astronomy. Among the most prominent scholars is the Basra born Ibn al-Haytham (965-1030). pharmacy. He demonstrated the theory of parallels. and the passing of light through glass. in a region now part of Jordan. Ibn Sina (980-1037) became a famed physician at 18 who wrote 16 books and the Canoun. It soon expanded beyond the science of observation into the design of measuring instruments. The Arab scholars recognized the need for a sign representing "nothing. The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic. and Urdu. resulted in the "Arabic numbers" 1 through 9. The invention of the "zero" is credited to the Arabs though it has its origins in Hindu scholarship. The most important medical school was that of Judishapur. The Arabic alphabet developed from the ancient script used for Nabataean.

racial. too. Persian astronomers from Gandeshapur could work side by side with mathematicians from Alexandria in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Baghdad. The rise of Arabic as the international language of science and government administration helped matters along. The Greek work. whose attitudes toward the pagan philosophers were shaped by the experience of Roman persecution. whose language was Syriac. which is closer to Arabic. soon making Arabic the language of choice for international commerce and scholarship as well as divine revelation. however.) The Abbasids. Rather. they had first to be rendered in Syriac. Unlike the Christian communities of late antiquity. the language with which Christian translators were most familiar. tended to know Greek. and intellectually apart. Most important of all. from the first century BC. was translated into Arabic in the ninth . whereas Muslims generally found it easier to learn Syriac. the expressive resources of Arabic blossomed as well. who displaced the Umayyads and moved the seat of government from Damascus to Baghdad. The Abbasid rulers. and intellectual heritages to mingle and exchange ideas as equals. even if that search was to be in China (deemed the most remote place on the earth. it was the attitude that developed within the Islamic state toward the suspect writings of the Greeks. the success of the Islamic conquest had erased existing national boundaries which had worked to keep peoples linguistically. This circuitous route was made necessary by the fact that Christian communities. The Arabs clearly followed the Hadith of the Prophet urging them to pursue knowledge from birth to death. no matter what the source or where it might lead. the Qur'an enjoined Muslims to seek knowledge all their lives.the center for most Muslim practical learning and the model for the hospitals built under the Abbasids (between 749-1258). This made it easier for people of differing cultural. unlike the Umayyads who remained Arab in their tastes and customs. politically. A doctor and patient discuss vitrified lead poisoning on this page from the Materia Medica of Dioscorides. As a result. For the first time since Alexander the Great former rivals could meet and exchange ideas under the protection of a single state. Then. made the first serious effort to accommodate Greek science and philosophy to Islam. As the cultivation of the sciences intensified and the high civilization of the Abbasids blossomed. Muslims did not suffer—or at least to the same degree—the conflict between faith and reason. and then translated into Arabic by native speakers. conceived an Islamic polity based on religious affiliation rather than nationality or race. On the contrary. Muslims of the Abbasid period quickly set about recovering the scientific and philosophical works of the classical past—lying neglected in the libraries of Byzantium—and translating them into Arabic. The task was herculean and complicated by the fact that texts of the classical period could not be translated directly from Greek into Arabic.

The translation effort began in earnest under the reign of the second Abbasid caliph. Arabic Words That Entered the Western Vocabulary AL-JABR = ALGEBRA AL-KEMIA = CHEMISTRY . and. al-Mansur (75475). Al-Hasan. Muslim scholars generally were concerned to understand. as far as can be determined. was perhaps the foremost geometrician of his time. devoting their lives and expending their fortunes in the pursuit of knowledge. It would be wrong to suggest that the scholars of the House of Wisdom were occupied with task of translation only. quite literally. Their activities were all the more noteworthy because they carried on their research and writing as private citizens. where scholars from the House of Wisdom played a critical role in fusing the Indian and classical traditions. which permits numbers to be expressed by nine figures plus zero. The effort was subsequently systematized under al-Ma'mun. This development not only simplified calculation but paved the way for the development of an entirely new branch of mathematics. The greatest of these scholars were original and systematic thinkers of the first order. Not only did they sponsor the translation of numerous Greek works but contributed substantial works of their own. photo Jeffrey Crespi). Not only Euclid but Aristotle. Galen and Hippocrates. The study of geometry was sustained by a remarkable series of scholars. Perhaps the most distinctive and noteworthy contributions occurred in the field of mathematics. sons of the al-Ma'mun's court astronomer. They embody the "place-value" theory. The output of the House of Wisdom over the centuries was prodigious. The first great advance consisted in the introduction of Arabic numerals—which. the Banu Musa or "Sons of Musa. encompassing as it did nearly the entire corpus of the Greek scientific and philosophical thought. This single gift. correct. His Catalog of Sciences had a tremendous effect on the curricula of medieval universities." who were all. and Archimedes were among the authors to receive early treatment. this is a 13th-century copy made in Iraq. January-February 1989. more than any other perhaps. most importantly. called the Bait al-Hikmah or House of Wisdom. which was staffed with salaried Muslim and Christian scholars. (Aramco World Magazine. one of the sons. translating six books of the Elements and working out the remainder of the proofs on his own. thus inaugurating the great age of Islamic mathematical speculation. who founded an institution expressly for the purpose. were Indian in origin. like the great Arab philosopher al-Farabi who died in 950. assimilate the learning of the ancients to the conceptual framework of Islam. codify. algebra. He sent emissaries to the Byzantine emperor requesting mathematical texts and received in response a copy of Euclid's Elements. ignited a passion for learning that was to last throughout the golden age of Islam and beyond.century. Musa ibn Shakir.

AL-KUHL = ALCOHOL AL-MIRAL = ADMIRAL AL'UD = LUTE 'ANBAR = AMBER BAWRAQ = BORAX GHARBALA = GARBLE GHOL = GHOUL LAYMUN = LEMON MAKHZAN = MAGASIN (French) NARANJ = ORANGE QAHWAH = COFFEE. and Arabic made him invaluable. such as Archimedes' Measurement of the Circle (later translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century). In addition to mathematics and geometry. known to the west as Rhazes. He wrote over 184 books and was an early advocate of experiment and observation in science. But it wasn't only the pure or abstract sciences that received emphasis in these early years. CAFE QANAH = CANE QITAR = GUITAR SAFARA = SAFARI SUKKAR = SUGAR = ASUKAR (Spanish) TAFRIK = TRAFFIC TA'RIF = TARIFF TUNBAR = TAMBOURINE (French) ZIRAFAH = GIRAFFE The enormous intellectual energy unleashed by the Abbasid dynasty left no field of knowledge and speculation untouched. Hunain ibn lshaq not only translated the entire canon of Greek medical works into Arabic—including the Hippocratic oath. Abbasid scholars in the House of Wisdom made important and lasting contributions in astronomy. he also wrote over 70 original works on a wide range of subjects. obligatory for doctors then as now—but wrote 29 works by his own pen. In addition to his translations of key works. mechanics. too. Creek. . Recruited from the provinces—where he had worked in obscurity as a money changer—he came to the Bait al-Hikmah to work as a translator. Here several great scholars deserve mention. His sons. music. medicine. the most important a collection of ten essays on ophthalmology. physics. There his exemplary grasp of Syriac. In the process men of enormous intellect and productivity rose to prominence. One of these was Thabit ibn Qurra. The greatest of the 9th century physician-philosophers was perhaps Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi. The practical and technical arts made advances as well. ethics. were to found a dynasty of scholars that lasted until the 10th century. medicine the first among them. and philosophy to name a few.

His masterwork. just as many Greek texts now survive only in Arabic dress. leadership would pass to the provinces. the first historian to explicate the laws governing the rise and fall of civilizations. A number of Arabic words relating to the trade and commerce have found their way into modern Western languages. is founded on moral and ethical principles. was to pass to medieval Europe and the modern world. fulfilling Umar's pledge to Bishop Sophronious. as did damask fabric (from Damascus). to allow freedom of religion and access to Jerusalem to Christian religious pilgrims. from these flow its perfect shape and physical infrastructure. the Holy Roman Emperor. Trade and Commerce as a Cultural Vehicle Because Arabs historically had a tradition of trade and commerce. The Perfect City. in al-Farabi's view. scribes in Europe were preserving the Muslim scientific tradition. principally Khorasan and Andalusia. and scientific measuring devices that Arab and Muslim commerce and trade developed and reached so many peoples throughout the world. Indeed. Spain was to serve as a conduit through which the learning of the ancient world. Harun al-Rashid established the Christian Pilgrims' Inn in Jerusalem. and the Abbasid caliphate came to an end. The Arabs were at the crossroads of the ancient trade routes from the Mediterranean. and the Indian subcontinent. With the death of the philosopher al-Farabi in 950 the first and most brilliant period of Islamic scientific thought drew to a close. Scholars regularly traveled the length of the known world to sit and learn at the feet of a renowned teacher. all the way to China. fustain cloth (from Fustat. astronomy. when he first entered Jerusalem. East Africa. One of the interesting results of these trading relations occurred during the caliphate of Harun alRashid (786-809) when he exchanged envoys and gifts with Charlemagne. Undoubtedly he had in mind the round city of Baghdad. (See list of words. many Arabic scientific works only survive in Latin.Simultaneously. in far off Spain (al-Andalus). augmented and transformed by the Islamic experience. It was due to their superiority in navigation. The death of al-Farabi is perhaps a fitting event to mark the end of the golden age of Muslim science. the Muslims continued that tradition. Egypt).) Muslin cotton developed in Mosul (Iraq) became a favorite commodity and a new word in the Western vocabulary. As the political empire fragmented over the next 300 years. exemplifies the extent to which Greek culture and science had been successfully and productively assimilated and then impressed with the indelible stamp of Islam. shipbuilding. the Arabian Gulf. This is why. The brilliant flowering of Islamic science in Andalusia was directly stimulated by the renaissance in Baghdad. the social and natural sciences were being advanced by men such as Ibn Khaldun. At the very time that Baghdad fell to the Mongols in 1258. The perfect city. . As a result. The City of Peace.

He was the precursor of Marco Polo. a refuge from the cares of the world. individuals and congregations—indeed the entire Muslim world—face Mecca. Architecture and music The word "Arabesque" entered into the Western lexicon as a description of the intricate design that characterized Arab Muslim art. the Maldives. Through them civilization was transmitted in an artistic environment that was at once intellectually inspiring and emotionally uplifting. Russia. who over a period of 25 years traveled to Asia Minor. a 16th century Ottoman builder who was responsible for the Sulaimaniye mosque in Istanbul. many of these contain mosaics of rare beauty. a decorated niche in the wall. sky. Islamic craftsmanship in bookmaking and bookbinding were items of trade which carried the message of Islamic civilization far and wide. Since the worshipers should be in a pure state of mind and body before they begin to pray. and splendor of Islam. Baybars—the Great Umayyad Mosque of Damascus. whose accounts contained detailed descriptions of various cultures with which Arab and Muslims traders had long been in contact. Mongolia. a fountain is placed in the courtyard for ritual ablutions. Sultan Hassan. Shoes are removed on entering the prayer hall. the "Dome of the Rock" or Mosque of Umar in Jerusalem built in 685 is the oldest example of Muslim architectural genius. The direction of Mecca is clearly indicated by the mihrab. The Haram Mosque of Mecca. the Quairawan in Tunisia.The most interesting accounts of other cultures encountered by Arab Muslims are contained in a book on the travels of Ibn Battutah of Tangier (1304-1377). Amr. China. namely that the mosque should be a garden of paradise. The wood carving (masharabiyah) in most mosques are equally distinctive and characteristic of Islamic art. At times of prayer. Islam's greatest architect was Sinan. The technique of dome construction was perfected and passed on to the West. and the Mosque of Isfahan. the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The most notable examples of masharabiyah are in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo. might. After the Ka'ba in Mecca. such as magnificent geometric designs. Southeast Asia and Africa and recounted his travels and the influence of early Muslim traders in those regions. the numerous mosques in Cairo—Al-Azhar. But the great mosques that were first built throughout the Islamic world were not only places of worship but places of learning which remained as great examples of architecture and design. the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. the Mosque of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem. The technique of dome . His mosques visibly display the discipline. frequently painted in the blue and green of the sea. and vegetation. Its function is best described in the Prophet's own words. which is usually carpeted. The larger mosques have a minbar or pulpit. For Muslims the mosque is a place for worship and education. In addition to distinctive architectural characteristics. the Cordoba Mosque in Spain and the Kutubiyah in Marakesh are among the most noteworthy. The mosque is usually a domed structure with one or more minarets from which the muadhin gives the call to prayer five times a day.

has since been copied all over the world.structural support was used in the Capella Palatine in Palermo (1132). In the 18th century the Wahabi reform movement developed in Saudi Arabia and its orthodox teachings continue to the present. it follows that a reform movement predicated on religion necessarily confronts the social. have emerged from colonialism and neo-colonialism and are seeking to develop free from certain western influences which may corrupt or subvert basic Islamic values. Because Islam is a holistic religion integrating all aspects of life. But artistic contributions were not limited to architecture. design. decoration. the horseshoe arch. This must be distinguished from Islamic revival which is a peaceful movement calling for the return to basic traditional values and practices. metalcraft and wood carving. Similarly. Arabic-Islamic music was characterized by the harmony of sound and evocative emotional expression. calligraphy. Furthermore in Islam there is no division or distinction between what in the West is called "Church and State". construction. mosaic. nor do they advocate resorting to violence in order to achieve such a goal except where rebellion against unjust rule is legally justified. which was so prevalent in Islamic form and particularly well realized in the Great Mosque of Damascus (707). Islamic Fundamentalism Many non-Muslims perceive Islamic Fundamentalism as a form of revolutionary ideology and associate it with groups and movements which engage in violent acts or advocate violence. To that extent they are fundamentalists. The Arab Muslims (al-Farabi in particular) were the first to develop a technique of musical harmony paralleling mathematical science. Examples of peaceful reform ideas are found in the learned teachings of the 13th century philosopher-scholar Ibn Taymiyya in Syria. while the campaniles or steeples of the Palazza Vecchio of Florence and of San Marco in Venice are inspired by the minaret which was first built in Qairawan. . Musiqa is the Arabic word for music. Adherents to and followers of such a movement believe that the best way to achieve the "true path of Islam" is to develop an integrated social and political system based on Islamic ideals and the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunna. and political realities of the society in which it develops. and his views continue to be studied by religious and secular scholars all over the world. Tunisia (670). They extended to music through the development of new instruments and new techniques of sound and rhythm. however. In fact westerners refer to the Islamic form of government as a theocracy. Muslim societies. economic. Reform ideas which derive from revival movements are not new to the history of Islam. Probably the best known example of Islamic architecture is the Alhambra (meaning al-Harnra or the red one) palace built in 1230 in Granada. painting. Also in the 19th century the ideal of the "true path to justice" or al-salaf al-salih was eloquently propounded by Sheik Muhammad Abduh in Egypt. Spain. These and other reform ideas have in common the search for Islamic truth and justice and their applicability to the solutions to Muslim societies' problems.

and violence. the great influence that it may have. But since all mass movements carry the risk of excess. The more universal a civilization is in its message. Enlightened reform ideas continue to develop in the Muslim world. Institutions like Al-Azhar University in Cairo. fanaticism. The contributions they make toward a better understanding of Islam. The resurgence of Islam is flourishing in every part of the world and dedicated Muslims are trying hard to meet the challenges of modern times while remaining faithful to the values of their past. language and education. and psychological factors such as religion. This is enlightened Islamic Fundamentalism. the Muslim World League in Mecca. A distinction must be made between Islamic reform and Islamic political activism conducted under the banner of Islam. (OR) Some of those who have written about the history of civilization define civilization as “a social system which helps man to increase his cultural output. one should not judge the higher values shared by the many on the basis of the extreme deeds committed by the few. Civilization is not unique to any one land or race. as well as its peaceful propagation. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference headquartered in Jeddah are the examples of the contemporary. the most important of these destructive factors include moral and intellectual decadence. lawlessness and breakdown of social systems. and the benefits that humanity may enjoy as a result of its rise. They oppose the secular state and instead call for the establishment of a "Muslim State". extremism by some is likely to occur at times.” Civilization consists of four main elements: economical resources. the spread of pessimism and apathy and the lack of competent and sincere leaders. which is the oldest university in the world. but the thing that distinguishes one civilization from another is the strength of the foundation on which it is built. are free from extremism and violence. the more humane it is in its inclination. The collapse of a civilization stems from factors which are the opposite of those which lead to its rise and development. the spread of oppression and poverty.Thus contemporary political-religious groups focus on social. and economic aspects of Muslim societies. The development and progress of a civilization requires many factors such as geographical and economic factors. intellectual. and diplomatic forces in the resurgence of Islam. However. Its continuation and growth are ongoing. There is hardly any nation that has not written some of the pages of the history of civilization. rather it stems from the factors we have mentioned above. political. political systems. and it is a long chain which one civilized nation passes on to those who come after it. which are contrary to Islamic precepts. moral traditions and science and arts. educational. The latter is sometimes characterized by extremism. But these manifestations of a socio-political nature must not be confused with the ideals and values of Islam. The story of civilization began when man first appeared. the more moral it .

This sublime understanding of the concept of oneness has a great effect in raising the level of mankind and of liberating the masses from the oppression of kings. nobles. Statues are one of the most prominent features of ancient and modern civilizations. The second of the characteristics of our civilization is that it is human in its inclinations and objectives. before we examine the wonders of this civilization. Islam. did not permit any expressions or relics of idolatry from ancient times to exist in its civilization. righteous men. It was the first civilization that proclaimed the message of One God Who has no partner or associate in His rule and dominion. the more lasting will be its impact on history. Who gives and withholds.is in its direction and the more realistic it is in its principles. and how much it contributed to the fields of belief. art and literature. It is also the reason why Islamic civilization fell short in some of the arts of sculpture and image-making. The most important thing that attracts the attention of the one who studies our civilization is that it is distinguished by the following features: 1. so that a piece of Andalusian ivory. There were factors that contributed to the rise of our civilization. He is the Only One Who is worshipped and He is the Only One Who is sought. all have the same style and character. unity in its legislation. Prophets or conquerors. Who is the Creator of the universe and the Lord of the worlds. art. 2. Researchers studying the Islamic arts have noticed a unity of style and taste in different kinds of art. unity in the way of life and pattern of thinking. in guiding people to Allah Alone. but this is not the topic under discussion here. which declared war on idolatry and its manifestations. powerful men and the clergy. . This belief also had a great effect on Islamic civilization which is virtually unique among all civilizations before or since in that it is free from all forms of idolatry and of idolatrous literature and philosophy in its beliefs. a piece of Egyptian textile. ethics. rule. This is the reason why Islamic civilization refrained from translating the Iliad and the best of idolatrous Greek literature. because none of them took belief in oneness to the extent that Islamic civilization did. rule. and how it had a lasting impact on humanity of all peoples and in all places. Allah Almighty Says what means: {It is You we worship and You we ask for help. It is based on a foundation of absolute oneness in belief. despite the differences in their forms and ornamentation. poetry and literature. such as statues of great men. So there is unity in its message. engraving and architectural adornment. This belief in oneness has an impact on all the foundations and systems produced by our civilization. and there are reasons for its decline. and there is nothing in the heavens or on earth that is not subject to His dominion and held in His grasp. Our civilization is a link in the chain of human civilizations. universal in its ambition and message. despite its prominence in the arts of inscription. some civilizations came before it and others will follow. we should discuss the serious role that it played in the history of human progress. Rather.} [Quran 1: 5] He is the One Who honors and humiliates. the longer it will endure and the more it will deserve to be honored. a piece of Syrian pottery and a piece of Iranian metalwork. in reforming the relationship between rulers and subjects. science. unity in its general aims. unity in humanity in general.

among all civilizations. For Abu Haneefah. So it addressed the rational mind and the heart at the same time.” . Cairo. 4.} [Quran 49: 13] When the Quran declared this universal oneness of mankind with regard to truth. Ahmad. Superiority was determined by one's level of taqwa (piety) and service to people: The Prophet said: “By Allah. if Faatimah the daughter of Muhammad were to steal. Muhammad would certainly cut off her hand. Indeed. Each group of scholars had its field of specialization. guaranteed the happiness of man in the purest sense. places of origin and abodes. Al-Ghazaali. Maalik. Rather religion was one of the greatest factors in its development. based on belief in the purest principles. whilst every civilization may be able to boast of its brilliant sons of one nationality. Ibn Rushd and their like were all of different origins but they were among the brilliant minds through whom Islamic civilization gave to humanity the marvelous intellectual products of sound human thought. The third of the characteristics of our civilization is the way in which it gave prominence to moral principles in all its systems and fields of activity. The head of state was the Caliph and a leader of the believers (Ameer Al-Mu’mineen). In ruling. Sibawayh. Indeed. Ash-Shaafi`i. Al-Faraabi. only Islamic civilization can boast of the brilliant minds from all nations and peoples who built it. in war. From the mosques of Baghdad. In this field it reached a high level that has never been attained by any civilization before or since. not contaminated with any misery. Cordoba and Granada the rays of knowledge shone into all parts of the world. but he ruled in accordance with the truth. Allah Says (what means): {O mankind. in peace. it provoked emotions and thought at the same time. and legislation was left to those scholars who were specialized in that field. Islamic civilization is the only one in which religion was not separated from the state even though it was spared the misery that resulted from the mixing of the two as happened in Europe in the Middle Ages. in legislation. This is an advantage that has not been shared by any other civilization in history. The Islamic civilization left behind a legacy in that field which deserves to be admired for it alone. it paid attention to these moral principles in legislation and in implementation of laws. and never abandoned these principles or used them as means of benefitting a state. Damascus. in science. goodness and dignity. it made its civilization the factor that brought together all the brilliant minds of all nations and peoples over whom the banner of Islam flew. The fourth of these characteristics is that it believes in knowledge in the truest sense. Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. in economy.The Quran declared the oneness of mankind despite the differences in their races. The reason why this particular characteristic of our civilization is to be so admired is because it was able to establish a state system based on principles of truth and justice. Al-Khaleel. and all of them were equal before the law. a group or an individual. based on religion and belief without religion becoming an obstacle to the development of the state and the progress of the civilization. the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. in the family. Hence. indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. 3. Al-Kindi.

but if a person follows a religion and believes that his religion is true and that his belief is the best of beliefs. President. taking power and sitting in the position of a judge. are in a position of weakness and are the ones whom the strong are planning to rob of their resources and to rule their country with avarice. so how about an entire civilization which is based on religion but was the most tolerant. then he wields the sword and conquers cities. educating and teaching people. It is sufficient here to note that our civilization is unique in history because it was established by one religion but it was for all religions. The last of these unique characteristics of our civilization is this amazing religious tolerance which has never been seen in any other civilization that was based on religion. These are some of the unique features of our civilization when compared to the history of other civilizations. It is unfortunate that we did not really notice the bias of the strong against us. compassionate and humane civilization known to history! This is how our civilization was. no special privileges and immunities are there for a chief (Caliph. the views of western researchers differ concerning our civilization. but his belief in his religion and his pride in his belief does not cause him to be unfair in his judgments or to deviate from the path of justice. noble or rich… Allah Almighty Says what means: {Say. it was admired by the whole world and loved by free and intelligent people of all races and religions. Thus. They would not have done that were it not for the fact that they — the ones who set the standards and whose opinions are followed are in a position of strength and are behind the steering wheel of civilization nowadays. along with their civilization. and we will mention dozens of examples later on. Our history of exemplary characteristics includes fairness in judgment. purity of intention and sincerity of conscience. Hence. whereas those who are being judged. strong and weak alike. the way in which people looked at it changed. Some began to look down on it and others admired it. a clergyman. When it collapsed and was succeeded by another civilization. or their unfairness in judging our civilization. it is not strange for him to regard all religions as being equal and to treat the followers of all religions fairly. Many of them were either religious fanatics whose prejudice blinded . If a person does not believe in any religion or any god. for we were fair towards people. at the time when it was strong and when it was ruling. whom they despise and belittle. or force people to follow his religion.This is the religion on which our civilization is based. just. it is strange to find such a man in history. and we acknowledged virtue in easterners and westerners alike. Prime Minister). Perhaps this is the attitude of the strong towards the weak. “I am only a man like you…"{[Quran 18: 110] 5. This is what the strong have always done throughout history... directing. apart from us when we were strong. Some spoke of its virtues and some went to extremes in criticizing it.

The decisive battles of ancient times or of the Middle Ages cannot be compared to the battles of the Second World War. and a material element. But what is our excuse for being influenced by their view of our civilization? Why do some of our own people look down on a civilization to which the whole world bended the knee for many centuries? Perhaps the excuse of those who belittle the worth of our civilization is that it is nothing when compared with the wonders. and it reached a level that has never been matched in any age of history. Civilizations are not measured by materialistic standards or by quantities or areas. they are still regarded as important historical battles because of their far-reaching effects.their eyes to the truth. This is enough to give our civilization a lasting impact. It is the spiritual and ethical element that makes civilizations endure and enables them to bring happiness to mankind and save mankind from fear and pain. So the material element of civilization can never be the basis for differentiating between them. food and clothing. This is one of the laws that Allah has decreed for the development of life. Rather they are measured by the impact they have on human history. and in this regard our civilization managed to do what no other civilization in the east or in the west managed to do. because of the things that our civilization has invented and the means and manifestations of civilization that were not known to any of the earlier civilizations. Our civilization surpasses all previous and subsequent civilizations in this regard. Every civilization consists of two elements: a spiritual ands ethical element. It is nonsense to expect an earlier civilization to have reached the level of material development of a subsequent civilization. Even if this is true. inventions and scientific marvels of modem civilization. The purpose of civilization is to enable man to reach the highest degree of happiness. for although the numbers of soldiers and the means of fighting may appear insignificant. then it would be permissible for us to look down on all the civilizations that came before our own. if that were acceptable. or by luxurious standards of living. With regard to the material element. The . 2. it does not justify looking down on our civilization for two reasons: 1. or nationalist fanatics whose nationalistic pride made them refuse to attribute anything good to anyone who was not of their nation. they are not measured by the size of the battlefield or the numbers of soldiers. The same applies when we speak of battles and kingdoms. undoubtedly each civilization supersedes those that came before.

3) Constant Advancement of the Human Condition: The third characteristic is its being a generous civilization which drew on the human civilizations and cultures experienced by the peoples of the ancient world. the Creator of men and all creatures. The fact that the battles of Cannae. imbued with its values and principles. indeed. The battles of Khaalid ibn al-Waleed in the conquest of Syria are still studied and admired by western military experts. Badr. built on sturdy religious background of faith. It is a civilization which shields all human beings and whose fruits are generously yielded at hand's grasp for any one. Its output benefited humanity at large. and for us they are golden pages in the history of military conquest in our civilization. beauty and virtue. Al-Qadisiyah and Hit-teen happened so long ago does not snake people ignore that they were decisive historical battles.battle of Cannae in which the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal defeated the Romans is one of the battles that are still studied in the military colleges of Europe to this day. race or historical era. 2) Universalist Aspirations: The second characteristic is its being a civilization with a human. These are the elements which constitute the characteristics of the Islamic civilization. industrial facilities. The holy. Its soul is the set of creeds and concepts which condition the behaviors of individuals and groups. indeed a human action in the first place. equality. regardless of . (OR) Like the human being. universal dimension. The body of a civilization is its material achievements in terms of buildings. knowledge and the values of justice. righteous religion was. and not associated with a particular geographic region. The Islamic civilization is predicated on the idea that Man has precedence over the rest of Allah's creatures. every civilization has a body and a soul. It rather concerns all peoples and nations and has echoes that reach different parts of the world. It is also partly a man-made civilization. a strong factor which contributed to the rise and prosperity of this civilization. but contributed copiously to the advancement of science. their mutual relationships and their worldview. It is a monotheistic civilization based on the belief in the oneness of Allah Almighty. Characteristics: Five main characteristics do distinguish the Islamic civilization from other past and present successive human civilizations and place it at an outstanding position: 1) Islamic Faith: The first characteristic is the fact that it is a civilization based on Islamic faith. that all human activities should lead to the happiness and welfare of Man and that any action intended to serve this goal is a God-blessed action. machinery and anything which reflects welfare and earthly advancement. indifferently.

From 750AD to 1100 AD. since they are founded on them and are intrinsically bound up to them. no neglect. The Islamic civilization is therefore permanently buoyant and has self renewing cycles and unrelenting dynamics. no recklessness. it is a civilization with unique characteristics. and over another 250 years. coexisted together within the Islamic civilization. Thus. Afghan or Persian Muslims who excelled in various domains such as Chemistry. in his book : "Introduction to the History of Science". 350 years. From 1100AD on. Al Razi. Muslims and non Muslims. it is worth pointing out that George Sarton. Al Bairouni and Omar Al Khayam who were all Arab. all token scientists were from the Islamic world: Jaber Ibn Hayan. Al Massoudi. They are like a precious diamond that remains unaltered whatever are the historical circumstances or the upheavals shaking Islamic societies up and down. This established historical fact was affirmed and emphasized by the Muslim scientist residing in Germany. It is a moderation built on justice and equity. The five characteristics outlined hereabove draw their sustainability from the principles of the Islamic religion. Europeans started to translate. i. classified scientific accomplishments throughout history into several periods. no ill-founded extremism. Natural Science and Astronomy. Dr. . In this respect. these may become weak or less influential but Islam remains firm. No excess. Abou Al Wafa. Jewish or pagans. Al Khawarizmi. a civilization that never withers away since it is not a national or a racial civilization nor does it run counter to human nature. Al Tossi and Ibn Annafis.race. be they Christians. color or even religion. Islam should not be identified with Muslims. Geography. and identified with the name of a scientist at a world scale. Medicine. 5) Eternality: The fifth characteristic is its being a perennial civilization which will last as long as Islam. In all cases. Europeans started to appear alongside Muslim scholars such as Averroes. and at the outset of the European renaissance. each lasting half a century. At this juncture. study and develop sciences so far practiced by the Islamic world. 4) Balance between Material and Spiritual: The fourth characteristic is its being a well-balanced civilization which secures fair equilibrium between the materialistic and the spiritual sides with exemplary moderation that has always been a characteristic of Islamic thought and a distinctive feature of the Islamic civilization throughout its history.e. The Islamic civilization had once headed the march of science and knowledge during the Middle Ages which are considered in Europe as the age of darkness while they are an age of enlightenment for our civilization. Turkish. because it is based on the very principles of Islam which Allah will preserve eternally. Mathematics.

Civilization being a response to human needs. for many decades. the uncontested leading civilization of the world.Mohamed Mansour. to the acceleration of the advent of the renaissance and the ensuing revival of different sciences which continued. who was chosen by the Cambridge University as a member of 2000 international personalities who marked human life throughout the last century. civilization is the yield of all efforts made by humans to improve their living conditions. mathematics and physics. The Islamic civilization has therefore the privilege of setting up the cornerstone of modern European civilization since it had contributed through its achievements in the areas of medical science. to develop and yield . Therefore. since then. the Islamic civilization is the blessed fruit of the efforts made by the Islamic Ummah throughout different ages to improve life and improve human conditions. regardless of whether such effort is intentional or not or whether its outcomes are material or moral. pharmacy. Generally speaking. chemistry. the Islamic civilization has met all these needs at different eras and had been.