The Unique Characteristics of Our Civilization - I

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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.”

Civilization consists of four main elements: economical resources, political systems, moral traditions and science and arts. The development and progress of a civilization requires many factors such as geographical and economic factors, and psychological factors such as religion, language and education. The collapse of a civilization stems from factors which are the opposite of those which lead to its rise and development; the most important of these destructive factors include moral and intellectual decadence, lawlessness and breakdown of social systems, the spread of oppression and poverty, the spread of pessimism and apathy and the lack of competent and sincere leaders.
The story of civilization began when man first appeared, and it is a long chain which one civilized nation passes on to those who come after it. Civilization is not unique to any one land or race, rather it stems from the factors we have mentioned above. There is hardly any nation that has not written some of the pages of the history of civilization, but the thing that distinguishes one civilization from another is the strength of the foundation on which it is built, the great influence that it may have, and the benefits that humanity may enjoy as a result of its rise. The more universal a civilization is in its message, the more humane it is in its inclination, the more moral it is in its direction and the more realistic it is in its principles, the more lasting will be its impact on history, the longer it will endure and the more it will deserve to be honored.
Our civilization is a link in the chain of human civilizations; some civilizations came before it and others will follow. There were factors that contributed to the rise of our civilization, and there are reasons for its decline, but this is not the topic under discussion here. Rather, before we examine the wonders of this civilization, we should discuss the serious role that it played in the history of human progress, and how much it contributed to the fields of belief, science, ethics, rule, art and literature, and how it had a lasting impact on humanity of all peoples and in all places.
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.     It is based on a foundation of absolute oneness in belief. It was the first civilization that proclaimed the message of One God Who has no partner or associate in His rule and dominion; He is the Only One Who is worshipped and He is the Only One Who is sought.
Allah Almighty Says what means: {It is You we worship and You we ask for help.} [Quran 1: 5]
He is the One Who honors and humiliates, Who gives and withholds, and there is nothing in the heavens or on earth that is not subject to His dominion and held in His grasp.
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, powerful men and the clergy; in reforming the relationship between rulers and subjects; in guiding people to Allah Alone, Who is the Creator of the universe and the Lord of the worlds. 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, rule, art, poetry and literature. This is the reason why Islamic civilization refrained from translating the Iliad and the best of idolatrous Greek literature. It is also the reason why Islamic civilization fell short in some of the arts of sculpture and image-making, despite its prominence in the arts of inscription, engraving and architectural adornment. Islam, which declared war on idolatry and its manifestations, did not permit any expressions or relics of idolatry from ancient times to exist in its civilization, such as statues of great men, righteous men, Prophets or conquerors. Statues are one of the most prominent features of ancient and modern civilizations, because none of them took belief in oneness to the extent that Islamic civilization did.
This belief in oneness has an impact on all the foundations and systems produced by our civilization. So there is unity in its message, unity in its legislation, unity in its general aims, unity in humanity in general, unity in the way of life and pattern of thinking. Researchers studying the Islamic arts have noticed a unity of style and taste in different kinds of art, so that a piece of Andalusian ivory, a piece of Egyptian textile, a piece of Syrian pottery and a piece of Iranian metalwork, despite the differences in their forms and ornamentation, all have the same style and character.
2.     The second of the characteristics of our civilization is that it is human in its inclinations and objectives, universal in its ambition and message.
The Quran declared the oneness of mankind despite the differences in their races, places of origin and abodes. Allah Says (what means): {O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.} [Quran 49: 13]
When the Quran declared this universal oneness of mankind with regard to truth, 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. Hence, whilst every civilization may be able to boast of its brilliant sons of one nationality, only Islamic civilization can boast of the brilliant minds from all nations and peoples who built it. For Abu Haneefah, Maalik, Ash-Shaafi`i, Ahmad, Al-Khaleel, Sibawayh, Al-Kindi, Al-Ghazaali, Al-Faraabi, 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.
3.      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, and never abandoned these principles or used them as means of benefitting a state, a group or an individual. In ruling, in science, in legislation, in war, in peace, in economy, in the family; it paid attention to these moral principles in legislation and in implementation of laws. In this field it reached a high level that has never been attained by any civilization before or since. The Islamic civilization left behind a legacy in that field which deserves to be admired for it alone, among all civilizations, guaranteed the happiness of man in the purest sense, not contaminated with any misery.

The Unique Characteristics of Our Civilization - II

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