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 to receive the attention of an academic body instead of by just a single individual. In its depth and scope, it can compare with any discipline of thought pertaining to the life of man. It covers an immense area in time and space, from the first century of the Islamic era to this day and from one corner of the world to the other. In its immanence, it encompasses everything from creed to morals and behaviour, individual as well as social, and is linked with diverse phenomena, whether if be law, political, international relations, arts, letters, poetics, architecture, cultural refinement, etc. Each of these aspects of human life are indeed many-sided and, hence, an academic body composed of scholars of different disciplines is required to study them so that each may undertake objective research and present his detailed findings courageously, without fear 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 sociology and 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 encyclopaedia instead 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 be given up altogether. I have, in working on this subject, kept in mind the Qur’nic verse which says: And if no torrent falls on it, then even a gentle rain (Al Baqarah: 265).Read more...
During the centuries of the crusades, all sorts of slanders were invented against Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). But with the birth of the modern age, marked with religious tolerance and freedom of thought, there has been a great change in the approach of Western authors in their delineation of his life and character. The views of some non-Muslim scholars regarding Prophet Muhammad, given at the end, justify this opinion.
But the West has still to go a step forward to discover the greatest reality about Muhammad and that is his being the true and the last Prophet of God for the whole humanity. In spite of all its objectivity and enlightenment there has been no sincere and objective attempt by the West to understand the Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). It is so strange that very glowing tributes are paid to him for his integrity and achievement but his claim of being the Prophet of God has been rejected explicitly or implicitly. It is here that a searching of the heart is required, and a review of the so-called objectivity is needed. The following glaring facts from the life of Muhammad (pbuh) have been furnished to facilitate an unbiased, logical and objective decision regarding his Prophethood.Read more...
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ صَوَّرْنَاكُمْ ثُمَّ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلآئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لآدَمَ فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ لَمْ يَكُن مِّنَ السَّاجِدِينَ
قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلاَّ تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ قَالَ أَنَاْ خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ
قَالَ فَاهْبِطْ مِنْهَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيهَا فَاخْرُجْ إِنَّكَ مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ
"By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been stern and ill-tempered, they would have dispersed from round about you" [Qur'an 3:159]
About himself the Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Allah has sent me as an apostle so that I may demonstrate perfection of character, refinement of manners and loftiness of deportment." [Muwatta; Musnad; Mishkat]
Islam and the Manners of Giving
Not satisfied with mentioning charity, nor with prescribing for it the same reward as for faith in God and the observance of prayer, the Qur'an furnishes norms for the manner of giving in charity. It says: "If you give alms openly and to the public at large, it is good and you have done well. But if you give it to the poor and you do so in secret, it is better for you." God also says
"A word of kindness and an act of forgiveness are superior to an act of charity followed by injury or harm. God is self-sufficient and fore-bearing. O Men who believe, do not vitiate and annul your charitable deeds by taunting or injuring those to whom you give.? [Qur'an, 2:271, 263-64]
God-may He be praised-specified the people who may be recipients of charity: "Rather, alms belong to the poor, the destitute, the protectors, those whose hearts need to be reconciled. They are for the freeing of slaves and debtors, for the cause of God, and for the wayfarers. To give alms is a duty imposed by God, the Omniscient, the All-Wise." [Qur'an, 9:60]
Zakat as Act of Worship
Zakat and charity, therefore, constitute two of the major duties and pillars of Islam. It may be asked whether the performance of these duties is a matter of worship or merely of ethics and moral refinement. Without doubt the answer is worship. The believers are brethren; no man's iman is complete until he wishes for his neighbor that which he wishes for himself. The believers love one another by virtue of God's light and grace. The duties of zakat and charity are intimately related to this fraternal feeling. They are not pieces of moral sophistication nor elements of the Islamic theory of contracts. In Islam, that which pertains to brotherhood pertains equally to iman, or religious conviction of God; and all that pertains to iman is worship. That is why zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam, and why, after the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr required the Muslims to pay it. When some Muslims failed to do so, the immediate successor of Muhammad regarded their failure as a fault of faith, a preference for wealth, and a violation of the spiritual system revealed in the Qur'an-in short, as abjuration of Islam itself. Hence, Abu Bakr conducted the Riddah War in order to confirm the establishment of the message of Islam in its totality, a message which has remained a cause for pride forever.
The Will To Wealth
To regard zakat and charity as duties essentially related to iman, i.e., to faith as religious conviction of God, is to regard them as part of the spiritual system which ought to govern the civilization of the world. Such regard is, indeed, the highest wisdom which can guarantee happiness to man. The pursuit and acquisition of wealth, and its use as an instrument for the dominion of man over man, have always been and still are the cause of the misery of the world, of revolutions, and of wars. The worship of wealth was and still is the cause of the moral deterioration which has enveloped the world and of which human society continues to suffer. It is the acquisition, pursuit, and hoarding of wealth which has destroyed human fraternity and planted enmity between man and man. Were men to follow a higher vision and had they a nobler bent of mind, they would have realized that fraternity is more conducive to happiness than wealth, that to spend wealth on the needy is worthier with God and with men than the subjugation of men to its dominion. Were they truly convinced of God, they would realize this fraternity toward one another; and they would fulfill, as the least requirement of such a fraternity, the duties of rescuing the needy, assisting the deprived, and putting an end to the misery and suffering brought about by poverty and want. Granted, some highly civilized countries in our day do establish hospitals and communal buildings for rescuing the poor, for sheltering the homeless and assisting the deprived in the name of humanity and mercy. Still, were these constructions and communal services founded upon fraternal feeling and love in God for the neighbor as an expression of praise for His bounty, they would constitute nobler efforts and lead more truly to the happiness of all men. God said
"In all that God has provided for you, seek the higher value and do not forget to seek your share of this world. Do good as God has done good to you; and do not spread corruption in the world. God loves not the agent of corruption." [Qur'an, 28:77]