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Islamic Civilization : An overview

Literally, civilisation derived from Latin word civitas, which means living in town

and city. In Arabic, civilisation is known as Tamaddun derived from the root word

Madanna. According to Ibn Khaldun, civilisation refers to Umran and Hadharah

referring to the attribute of development and advancement of flourishing and property

of lives in the aspect of social, industrial, and cultural organization. These include the

needs of food, clothes and house facilities. Umran also means urbanization.

Islamic civilization is the way of life basically founded on the teachings revealed to

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The traditional beginning of Islamic

civilisation is associated with Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who received

his first revelation from Allah on Mount Hira. On 622 C.E, Prophet Muhammad and

his followers fled from Mecca in the middle of the night and journeyed to Medina. This

event, the Hijra marks the first year of Islamic calendar 1 A.H (after Hijra). Prophet

Muhammad (peace be upon him) gained new followers and was appointed as the leader

of Medina, and set the ruling of the city in accordance with the revelation he received.

This event also marks the beginning of expansion of Islam. Islam then expanded to

North Africa, Andalusia, Central Asia, Asia Minor, Balkans and later to African

continent, Indian sub-continent and Southeast Asia.

The First Caliph : Abu Bakr As-Siddiq

After Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died, the islamic empire was ruled by

caliph. This period of ruling is also called, the caliphate. Abu Bakr was elected as the
first caliph or successor to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Abu Bakr, who

ruled for only two years, faced the centrifugal forces of Arab tribalism, which

threatened to break up the political unity of Arabia created by the Prophet. However

Abu Bakr succeeded in putting down the tribal uprisings and preserving the unity of the

newly founded political entity with its capital in Medina.

The Reign of Umar

The second caliph, Umar was appointed by Abu Bakr, the first caliph. Adopting the

title Ameer al-Mumeen or commander of the Believers, Umar extended Islams

temporal rule over Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Persia. Within four years after the death of

the Prophet, the Muslim state had extended its way over all of Syria. During Umars

ruling they also had fought during sandstorm near the River of Yarmouk, they

succeeded in blunting the power of Byzantines. Umar who served as a caliph for ten

years, he ended his rule with a significant victory story over the Persian Empire. His

caliphate was a high point in early Islamic history. He was noted for his justice, social

ideals, administration and statesmanship. His innovations left an all enduring imprint

on social welfare, taxation and the financial and administrative fabric of growing


The Caliph Uthman

Uthman was picked by the leaders of the Islamic community after the death of Umar.

Uthmans great wealth and trading experience made him an able administrator. Under

Uthmans reign, the Quran was compiled in a single book. Muslims had memorized or
written down the revelations recited by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and some of the

written forms differed from one another. Uthman then set up a committee that gathered

the complete revelations and compiled them together as a single Quran. All other

written versions were burned, making the Uthmans text the standard version of the

Quran that we have nowadays.

Uthman appointed members of his own clan, the Umayyads, to important positions.

This nepotism seemed to be wrong decision as many of the family members that he

appointed had been long-time enemies of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammads

closest supporters who were not from Uthmans family were left without powerful

position. The Muslims in Egypt rebelled against Uthman and wanted him to be replaced

by Ali. It was up to a point, they broke into Uthmans house and killed him.

Divisions within Islam

With the assassination of Uthman, he was replaced at Medina by Ali, the cousin and

son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. Muawiya, Uthmans nephew and the Umayyad

governor of Syria, demanded that Ali should turn over the killers of Uthman. However

Ali did not do this, Muawiya then refused to recognize Ali as caliph and rebelled

against his authority.

The tension over who would rule the caliphate tore apart the Islamic community. A

civil war broke out and in the end Ali died and was replaced by Muawiya, the one who

then created the Umayyad Dynasty. Those who opposed Muawiya and his family, and

instead belief that the descendants of Ali should rule, became known as Shiites. The
conflict upon the power struggle between Muawiya and Ali continues up to this day and

resulted a fundamental division within Islamic community, the Sunni-Shiites



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