Taken from "The Life of Muhammad" by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,
translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi
Islamic and Western Civilizations
Muhammad left a great spiritual legacy which enveloped the world in its light and guided man's civilization throughout many centuries, a legacy which will envelop the world again and guide man's civilization once more until the light of God has filled the universe. The legacy of Muhammad had such great effect in the past and will have great or greater effect in the future precisely because Muhammad established the religion of truth and laid the foundation of the only civilization which guarantees the happiness and felicity of man. The religion which Muhammad conveyed and the civilization which he established at his Lord's command for the benefit of mankind are inseparable from each other. Islamic civilization has been raised on a foundation of science and rationalism, and that is the same foundation on which western civilization of today is based. Moreover, Islam as a religion has based itself on personalist thinking and intentional logic. The relation between religion and its propositions on the one hand, and civilization and its foundation on the other, is binding and firm. Islam links metaphysical thought and personal feelings with the rules of logic and the precepts of science, with a bond that all Muslims must discover and grasp if they are to remain Muslims. From this aspect, the civilization of Islam is radically different from that of western civilization which dominates the world today. The two are different in their description of life as well as the foundation on which they base such description. The difference between the two civilizations is so essential that they have developed in ways which are radically contradictory to each other.
The West and the Struggle between Church and State
The difference is due to a number of historical causes to which we have alluded in the prefaces to the first and second editions of this work. In western Christendom, the continuing struggle between the religious and secular powers, or-to use the contemporary idiom-between church and state, led to their separation and to the establishment of the state upon the denial of the power of the church. The struggle to which this will to power led has left deep effects upon the whole of western thought. The first of these effects was the separation of human feeling and reasoning from the logic of absolute reason and the findings of positive science based on sensory observation and evidence.Read more...
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...
Knowledge of God and belief in Him constitute the very foundation of Islam. The subject is so vital that it calls for a thorough and clear discussion. For the purpose of clarity some simple demonstrations will be used. This may sound boring or too simple for those who already know something about the subject. Such informed Persons are invited to have patience and show appreciation of the importance of the matter.
There are individuals who like to doubt the concept of God in the name of science, or because of a lack of experience and understanding. The attitude of such people reflects an uneasy mentality, although they claim to be learned intellectuals. My concern will not be with their claims; rather it will be with their true position. This will explain why a great deal of the discussion is designed in a simple shape as if it were directed mainly to children, and not to adults. On the other hand, a major objective of this work is to convey the true concept of God in Islam to the young Muslims. Another consideration here is that the concept of God in Islam is distorted in the minds of many non-Muslims who are so-called believers in God and advocates of religion.
For these reasons some simple and perhaps elementary demonstrations are used in this presentation. Yet the simplicity of some arguments here may provoke profound thinking in many adults. If it does so, it will prove to be a desirable and creative simplicity, which itself is a distinct characteristic of Islam.
As we look around in our environments, we see that every family has a head; every school has a principal; every city or town has a mayor; every province state has a premier governor; and every nation has a head of state. Moreover, we know beyond doubt that every product is the work of a certain producer, and that every beautiful art is the creation of some great artist. All this is obvious, yet it does not satisfy the hunger for knowledge and the curiosity of man about the great things in the world. One often wonders at the beauties of nature with its scenic charms and marvels; the almost endless horizons in the sky and their far-reaching expansions; the ceaseless succession-of day and night in the most orderly manner; the course of the sun, the moon, and the great stars; the world of animate and inanimate objects, the continuous process and evolution of man generation after generation. One often wonders because one would like to know the maker and maintainer of all these things with which we live and which we immensely enjoy.
Can we find an explanation of the great universe? Is there any convincing interpretation of the secret of existence? We realize that no family can function properly without a responsible head, that no city can prosperously exist without sound administration, and that no state can survive without a chief of some kind. We also realize that nothing comes into being on its own. Moreover, we observe that the universe exists and functions in the most orderly manner, and that it has survived for hundreds of thousands of years. Can we, then, say that all this is accidental and haphazard? Or can we attribute the existence of man and, the whole world to mere chance?
If man were to come into being by accident or by sheer chance, his entire life would be based on chance, and his whole existence would be meaningless. But no sensible man can conceive of his life as meaningless, and no rational being would leave his existence at the mercy of fluctuating chance. Every reasonable human being tries to make his life as meaningful as possible and set for himself a model of conduct according to some design. Individuals, groups and nations do plan their course of action, and every careful plan produces some desired effects. The fact of the matter is that man does engage in planning of one sort or another, and can appreciate the merits of good planning.
Yet man represents only a very small portion of the great universe. And if he can make plans and appreciate the merits of planning, then his own existence and the survival of the universe must also be based on a planned policy. This means that there is a Designing Will behind our material existence, and that there is a Unique Mind in the world to bring things into being and keep them moving in order. The marvelous wonders of our world and the secrets of life are too great to be the product of random accident or mere chance.
In the world, then there must be a Great Force in action to keep everything in order. In the beautiful nature there must be a Great Artist who creates the most charming pieces of art and produces everything for a special purpose in life. This Force is the strongest of all forces, and this Artist is the greatest of all artists. The true believers and deeply enlightened people recognize this Artist and call Him Allah or God. They call Him God because He is the Creator and the Chief Architect of the world, the Originator of life and the Provider of all things in existence. He is not a man because no man can create or make another man. He is not an animal, nor is He a plant. He is neither an idol nor is He a statue of any kind because none of these things can make itself or create anything else. He is not a machine. He is neither the sun nor is He the moon or any other star, because these things are controlled by a great system, and are themselves made by someone else. He is different from all these things, because He is the Maker and Keeper of them all. The maker of anything must be different from and greater than the thing which he makes. We also know that nothing can come to life on its own, and that the marvelous world did not create itself or come into existence by accident. The continuous changes in the world prove that it is made, and everything which is made must have a maker of some sort.
The Maker and Sustainer of the world, the Creator of and Provider for man, the Active Force and Effective Power in nature are all one and the same, and that is known to be Allah or God. This is the Secret of all secrets and the Most Supreme of all beings. The Holy Qur’an the True Book of God says:
It is God Who has made the night for you, that you may rest therein, and the day to see. Verily God is full of Grace and Bounty to men. Yet most men give no thanks. Such is God, your Lord, the Creator of all things. There is no god but He; why then do you turn away from Him. Thus are turned away those who deny the Signs of God. It is God Who has made for you the earth as a resting place and the sky as a shelter, and has given you shape and made your shapes beautiful, and has provided for you sustenance of things good and pure; such is God your Lord. So glory to God, the Lord of the worlds! He is the Living (One); There is no god but He: Call upon Him, giving Him sincere devotion. Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds. (Qur’an, 40:61-65).
It is God Who has subjected the sea to you, that ships may sail through it by His command, that you may seek of His Bounty, and that you may be grateful. And He has subjected to you, As from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth. Behold; in that there are Signs indeed for those who reflect (Qur’an, 45:12-13).
The Supreme Master of the whole world and the Creator of everything is Allah (God). Because He is so great and different from the other beings, man can know Him only by reflection and through meditation. He exists at all time and His great power is in action everywhere in the world. Man has to believe in His existence because everything in the world proves that he exists. Belief in God and His great power alone can provide mankind with the best possible explanation of many mysterious things in life. This is the safest way to true knowledge and spiritual insight, the right path to good behavior and sound morals, the surest guide to happiness and prosperity.
Once man believes that God exists he must know His attributes and names. Generally speaking every perfection and absolute goodness belong to Him, and no defect or wrong applies to Him. In specific terms, one should know and believe the following:
1. God is only One, has no partner or son and neither gives birth, nor is He born. He is eternally besought by all and has no beginning or end, and none is equal to Him (Qur’an 112:1-5)
2. He is the Merciful and the Compassionate, the Guardian and the True Guide, the Just and the Supreme Lord, the Creator and the Watchful, the First and the Last, the Knowing and the Wise, the Hearing and the Aware, the Witness and the Glorious, the Able and the Powerful (Qur’an, for example, 57:1-6; 59:22-24)
3. He is the Loving and the Provider, the Generous and the Benevolent, the Rich and the Independent, the Forgiving and the Clement, the Patient and the Appreciative, the Unique and the Protector, the Judge and the Peace (Qur'an, for example, 3:3 1; 11:6; 35:15;65:2-3).
Each one of these names and attributes of God is mentioned in various places in the Holy Qur’an. We all enjoy the care and mercy of God Who is so Loving and Kind to His creation. If we try to count His favors upon us, we cannot, because they are countless (Qur'an, 14:32-34; 16:10-18).
God is High and Supreme, but He is very near to the pious thoughtful people; He answers their prayers and helps them. He loves the people who love Him and forgives their sins. He gives them peace and happiness, knowledge and. success, life and protection. He well comes all those who want to be at peace with Him and never rejects any of them. He teaches man to be good, to do the right and to keep away from the wrong. Because He is so Good and Loving, He recommends and accepts only the good and right things. The door of His mercy is always open to any Who sincerely seek His support and protection (Qur’an, 2:186; 50:16).
The Love of God for His creatures is immense and beyond human imagination. We cannot measure or count His favors. He creates us and takes good care of us not only from the time of our birth onward, but even long before that. He makes us in the best form of creation and gives us all the senses and faculties that we need for our growth. He helps us when we cannot help ourselves, and Provides for us and for our dependents. He creates in man the mind to understand, the soul and conscience to be good and righteous, the feelings and sentiments to be kind and humane.
By His mercy we gain true knowledge and see the real light. Because He is Merciful He creates us in the most beautiful shape and provides us with the sun and the moon, the land and the sea, the earth and the skies, the plants and the animals. He is the Creator of all these things and many 'others for our benefit and use. He makes things that are of service to us in this life, and gives man dignity and intelligence, honor and respect, because man is the best of all created things and is God's viceroy on earth. The mercy of God gives us hope and peace, courage and confidence. It enables us to remedy our grief’s and sorrows, to overcome our difficulties and obtain success and happiness. Indeed, the mercy of God relieves the distressed, cheers the afflicted, consoles the sick, strengthens the desperate, and comforts the needy. In short, the mercy of God is active everywhere all the time in every aspect of out lives. Some people may fail to recognize it only because they take it for granted. But it is real and we can feel it with our hearts and appreciate it with our minds.
The Loving Merciful God never forgets us or lets us down or ignores our sincere calls upon Him. By His Mercy and Love He has shown us the Right Way and sent to us messengers and teachers, books and revelations-all are meant for our help and guidance. The Last Messenger from God is Muhammad, and the most genuine existing book of God is the Qur’an. From the traditions of Muhammad and the teachings of the Qur'an, we learn about the Forgiving God. If a person commits a sin or does something wrong, then he is violating the Law of God, committing a grave offense against God and abusing his own dignity and existence. But if he is sincere and wishes to repent, regrets his wrong deeds and wants to turn to God, faithfully seeks pardon from God and honestly approaches Him, then God will certainly accept him and forgive him. Even those who reject God or His Oneness are assured of. forgiveness, should they realize their erroneous attitude and resolve to come back to God. In his connection the Qur'an says:
God forgives not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives anything else, to whom He pleases; to set up partners with God is to devise a sin most heinous indeed (Qur’an, 4:48, 116).
Say: 'O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: For He is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. Turn to your Lord (in repentance) and submit to Him, before the penalty comes on you; after that you shall not be helped. And follow the Best of the courses revealed to you from your Lord, before the penalty comes on you of a sudden while you perceive not! (Our’an, 39:53-54).
In return for all these great favors and kindness God does not need anything from us, because He is the Needless and the Independent. He does not ask us to pay Him back, for we cannot reward Him or value His immeasurable favors and mercy. What He commands us to do, however, is only to be good, to be thankful and appreciative, to follow His recommendations and enforce His Law, to be the proper manifestation of His goodness and excellent attributes, to be His honest agents and true representatives on earth. He does not want to enslave us, because He is the One Who grants us dignity and honor. He does not wish to subjugate us, because He is the One Who emancipates us from fear and superstitions. He does not desire to humiliate us because He is the One Who creates us and exalts our ranks above all other beings. So whatever rules and prescriptions He passes unto us are designed for our own benefit and good. They are meant to help us to enjoy our lives with one another in peace and kindness, in brotherhood and cooperation. They are destined to make us attain His most pleasant company and adopt the surest approach to eternal happiness.
There are various ways to know God, and there are many things to tell about Him. The great wonders and impressive marvels of the world are like open books in which we can read about God. Besides, God Himself comes to our aid through the many messengers and revelations He has sent down to man. These messengers and revelations tell us everything we need to know about God. So by reflecting on nature, by hearing the words of the messengers, and by reading the divine revelations we can gain most convincing knowledge about God and find the Straight Path to Him.
To complete this portion of discussion, some representative verses of the Qur’an may be rendered as follows:
Allah bears witness that there is no god but He-and so do the angels and those possessed of knowledge-Maintainer of Justice; there is no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise (Qur’an 3:19).
Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Guardian over all things. To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth (39:63-64).
Allah originates Creation; then He repeats it; then to Him shall you be brought back (30:12).
To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are obedient to Him. It is He Who originates the Creation, then repeats it, for it is most easy for Him. His is the most exalted state in the heavens and the earth. He is the Mighty, the Wise (30:27-28)
Taken from: Islam in Focus