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...
"Fear Allah in your treatment of animals." [Abu Dawood]A companion came to him with the young ones of a bird in his sheet and said that the mother bird had hovered over them all along. He was directed to replace her offspring in the same bush (Mishkat, Abu Dawood)
During a journey, somebody picked up some birds eggs. The bird's painful note and fluttering attracted the attention of the Prophet (pbuh), who asked the man to replace the eggs. [Sahih Bukhari]
As his army marched towards Makkah to conquer it, they passed a female dog with puppies. The Prophet (pbuh) not only gave orders that they should not be disturbed, but posted a man to see that this was done.
He stated, "Verily, there is heavenly reward for every act of kindness done to a living animal."Read more...
ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA confirms:
"....a mass of detail in the early sources show that he was an honest and upright man who had gained the respect and loyalty of others who were like-wise honest and upright men."
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW said about him:
"He must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness."
(The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936)
He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numerous social and political reforms, established a powerful and dynamic society to practice and represent his teachings and completely revolutionized the worlds of human thought and behavior for all times to come.
"His Name is MUHAMMAD"
May Peace of God Be Upon Him (pbuh)
He was born in Arabia in the year 570 C.E. (common era), started his mission of preaching the religion of Truth, Islam (submission to One God) at the age of forty and departed from this world at the age of sixty-three. During this short period of 23 years of his Prophethood, he changed the complete Arabian peninsula from paganism and idolatry to worship of One God, from tribal quarrels and wars to national solidarity and cohesion, from drunkenness and debauchery to sobriety and piety, from lawlessness and anarchy to disciplined living, from utter bankruptcy to the highest standards of moral excellence. Human history has never known such a complete transformation of a people or a place before or since - and imagine all these unbelievable wonders in just over two decades.
LAMARTINE, the renowned historian speaking on the essentials of human greatness wonders:
"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls....his forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was two-fold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words."
"Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, Is there any man greater than he?"
(Lamartine, HISTOIRE DE LA TURQUIE, Paris, 1854, Vol. II, pp 276-277)
The world has had its share of great personalities. But these were one-sided figures who distinguished themselves in but one or two fields, such as religious thought or military leadership. The lives and teachings of these great personalities of the world are shrouded in the mist of time. There is so much speculation about the time and place of their birth, the mode and style of their life, the nature and detail of their teachings and the degree and measure of their success or failure that it is impossible for humanity to reconstruct accurately the lives and teachings of these men.
Not so this man. Muhammad (pbuh) accomplished so much in such diverse fields of human thought and behavior in the fullest blaze of human history. Every detail of his private life and public utterances has been accurately documented and faithfully preserved to our day. The authenticity of the record so preserved are vouched for not only by the faithful followers but even by his prejudiced critics.
Muhammad (pbuh) was a religious teacher, a social reformer, a moral guide, an administrative colossus, a faithful friend, a wonderful companion, a devoted husband, a loving father - all in one. No other man in history ever excelled or equaled him in any of these different aspects of life - but it was only for the selfless personality of Muhammad (pbuh) to achieve such incredible perfections.
MAHATMA GANDHI, speaking on the character of Muhammad, (pbuh) says in (YOUNG INDIA):
"I wanted to know the best of one who holds today's undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind....I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to this friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet's biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life."
THOMAS CARLYLE in his (HEROES AND HEROWORSHIP), was simply amazed as to:
"how one man single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades."
DIWAN CHAND SHARMAwrote:
"Muhammad was the soul of kindness, and his influence was felt and never forgotten by those around him."
(D.C. Sharma, THE PROPHETS OF THE EAST, Calcutta, 1935, pp. 12)
EDWARD GIBBON and SIMON OCKLEYspeaking on the profession of Islam write:
"'I BELIEVE IN ONE GOD, AND MAHOMET, AN APOSTLE OF GOD' is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honor of the Prophet has never transgressed the measure of human virtues; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion."
(HISTORY OF THE SARACEN EMPIRES, London, 1870, p. 54)
Muhammad (pbuh) was nothing more or less than a human being. But he was a man with a noble mission, which was to unite humanity on the worship of One and Only One God and to teach them the way to honest and upright living based on the commands of God. He always described himself as, "A Servant and Messenger of God,"and so indeed every action of his proclaimed to be.
Speaking on the aspect of equality before God in Islam, the famous poetess of India, SAROJINI NAIDU says:
"It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: 'God Alone is Great'... I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother."
(S. Naidu, IDEALS OF ISLAM, vide Speeches & Writings, Madras, 1918, p. 169)
In the words of PROF. HURGRONJE:
"The league of nations founded by the prophet of Islam put the principle of international unity and human brotherhood on such universal foundations as to show candle to other nations." He continues: "The fact is that no nation of the world can show a parallel to what Islam has done towards the realization of the idea of the League of Nations."
The world has not hesitated to raise to divinity, individuals whose lives and missions have been lost in legend. Historically speaking, none of these legends achieved even a fraction of what Muhammad (pbuh) accomplished. And all his striving was for the sole purpose of uniting mankind for the worship of One God on the codes of moral excellence. Muhammad (pbuh) or his followers never at any time claimed that he was a Son of God or the God-incarnate or a man with divinity - but he always was and is even today considered as only a Messenger chosen by God.
MICHAEL H. HART in his recently published book on ratings of men who contributed towards the benefit and upliftment of mankind writes:
"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels."
(M.H. Hart, THE 100: A RANKING OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS IN HISTORY, New York, 1978, p. 33)
K. S. RAMAKRISHNA RAO, an Indian Professor of Philosophy in his booklet, ("Muhammad, The Prophet of Islam,")calls him the
"Perfect model for human life."
Prof. Ramakrishna Rao explains his point by saying:
"The personality of Muhammad, it is most difficult to get into the whole truth of it. Only a glimpse of it I can catch. What a dramatic succession of picturesque scenes! There is Muhammad, the Prophet. There is Muhammad, the Warrior; Muhammad, the Businessman; Muhammad, the Statesman; Muhammad, the Orator; Muhammad, the Reformer; Muhammad, the Refuge of Orphans; Muhammad, the Protector of Slaves; Muhammad, the Emancipator of Women; Muhammad, the Judge; Muhammad, the Saint. All in all these magnificent roles, in all these departments of human activities, he is alike a hero."
Today after a lapse of fourteen centuries, the life and teachings of Muhammad (pbuh) have survived without the slightest loss, alteration or interpolation. They offer the same undying hope for treating mankind's many ills, which they did when he was alive. This is not a claim of Muhammad's (pbuh) followers but also the inescapable conclusion forced upon by a critical and unbiased history.
The least you could do as a thinking and concerned human being is to stop for a moment and ask yourself: Could these statements sounding so extraordinary and revolutionary be really true? And supposing they really are true and you did not know this man MUHAMMAD (pbuh) or hear about him, isn't it time you responded to this tremendous challenge and put in some effort to know him?
It will cost you nothing but it may prove to be the beginning of a completely new era in your life.