In the definition of the Islamic civilization, it must be said that this civilization is a special way of life that is subordinate to the assets and achievements inclined to human needs that have been institutionalized in the Muslim community through the passage of time under Islamic teachings. Therefore, Islamic civilization does not necessarily originate from Islamic piety or Muslim fabrication. It is rather a product that has been developed under the Islamic umbrella of a Muslim community. Surely, if Islam did not exist and the Muslims did not match their actions, such a civilization would never emerge.
Joseph Burlot, in the book Islamic Civilization, says: “At the beginning of the first Hegira century, a new religion appeared in Arabia that transformed the history of the world. This religion, which was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (S), relies on the firm conviction of a single God. The followers of the Islamic religion quickly conquered Middle Eastern countries and spread Islam and the Arabic language in the region that had ancient civilizations. From the encounter between this religion and the heritage of Greece and Iran, a new civilization emerged.”
Lothrop Stoddard, an American historian in his book “The New World of Islam” says Islam is one of the most renowned civilizations that has adorned the general history of the world and has filled the history with its brilliant works forever.
Stoddard says the civilization originated from Islam is not something that can be denied; if Islam did not have a real and great civilization with special colour based on the book and tradition of Islam, the scholars of Western civilization, even those who are known for their attacks on Islam, would not keep citing Islam and would not describe its history and would not measure it with other civilizations in the world.
Martyred Professor Mortaza Motahhari says in the book “Islam and New Civilization” that according to sociologists there are several genuine civilizations in the world.
Arnold Toynbee, a prominent professor of philosophy, divides the history of civilizations into 32 categories, one of which was the Islamic civilization; then he classified the most important of them into 10 civilizations, one of which was still the Islamic civilization; and eventually he selected three to five civilizations, one of which was the Islamic civilization.
The religion of Islam was the first driving force behind the Islamic civilization, and it is still one of the fundamental elements of this civilization and has given it a foundation that, at least until the new era, remains unchanged.
Andrei Michel and Henri Laurent in the book “Islam and the Islamic Civilization” have said that the Islamic civilization, like any other civilization, needs material support and cannot be influenced by material factors. This influence can penetrate its most basic foundations and even include the Islamic religion itself, but if we accept such an action, we should note that this will have less influence in Islam than in other societies. Islam under various social systems, under different skies, and also through different places and times, has always presented an incredible ability to spread and transfer the principles of unchangeability as Islamic attributes.
In addition to religion, the Islamic civilization has benefited from other elements such as ethics, science, justice, laws and regulations, as a central element.
Abdol Hossein Zarrinkoub, a prominent Iranian historian and literary scholar in the book “Record of Islam”, says that the Islamic civilization which, at least from the end of Muslim conquests to the emergence of the realm of Islam in terms of ethics, higher standards of living, forbearance and relative avoidance of prejudice, development and advancement of science and civility through long centuries, was a pioneer of the civilized world and the culture of human world, is undoubtedly a brilliant era of human civilization, and what the culture and civilization of the world owes it today if it is not more than what it owes to Greece it is not less with the difference that Islamic culture still has a spiritual effect in the present world and its attraction and spirituality has no defect.
Over 500 years of the superiority of Islamic scholars over the production of science in the darkest era of European history indicates the capability of Islam in establishing civilizations. The engine of human knowledge reappeared through Islamic philosophers and scholars, and the rich heritage of Greek knowledge fell into the hands of the new rationalist fathers and the pioneers of scientific research. The Muslims, with the help of important tools of experience and experiment, stepped in the path of progression and elevation, thereby playing the role of the interlocking ring between the scientific achievements of Greece and the modern age.
The Islamic civilization as a historical phenomenon with centuries-old life has enjoyed eras of prosperity, zenith, and constructive elements, and pillars, attributes, and principles and backups.
Elements of Islamic Civilization
Ali Akbar Velayati, in the book “Culture and Civilization of Islam and Iran,” enumerates the constructive elements of the Islamic civilization as follows: enjoying a secure environment, forging the spirit of solidarity, boosting the spirit of cooperation, promoting morality, tolerance and forbearance, Islamic unity, benefiting from relative welfare, struggle with economic pressure and, ultimately, the Islamic religion itself with all its features and characteristics.
Mohammad Mehdi Ahmadi, author of the book “History of the Islamic Civilization and Culture”, also considers tolerance in the behaviour of Muslims, the acquisition of knowledge and technology, thinking and reflection, working, departure. taking the situation of the oppressed into account, and faith as the basis of civilization as the components of the Islamic civilization.
Pillars and Features of Islamic Civilization
From the perspective of Zarrinkoub, tolerance as the mother of the human civilization of Islam, the high status of knowledge in Islam, the comprehensive human and universal culture of Islam, the educational method of Islam, and the political, social and administrative system of the Islamic civilization are characteristics of the Islamic civilization.
Fatemeh Khan Ahmadi, author of “History of Islamic Culture and Civilization”, also introduces religious laws, monotheistic attitudes, the factor of intellection, science and acquisition of knowledge, observing the rights of the oppressed and the underprivileged, departure, tolerance and forbearance as elements of the Islamic civilization.
Principles and Backups of Islamic Civilization
Abdullah Nasih Ulwan considers the principle of science, the principle of reflection on Paradise, the principle of reverence of man by God, the principle of equality of human beings in partnership for the establishment of human civilization and the principle of socialization, and the recognition of individuals, nations, thoughts and …” among principles and backups of Islamic civilization.
Modern Islamic Civilization
The question is whether Islamic civilization is a phenomenon related to the past and history, or is it a continuous and constant reality that is also a matter of concern of human beings and the world today?
In response to this question, the Islamic civilization, supported by Islamic religion and Islamic culture, is a living, dynamic, lasting and vibrant existence that has been constantly seeking to revive its civilization, despite the departure from its zenith and suffering in decadence. These revitalizing concerns and attempts in the last two centuries have led to the formation of a kind of Islamic awakening, which has been named under various titles such as Islamic movements, Islamism, Islamic renaissance, Islamic modernism, Islamic reformism, political Islam, and so on. It is now called “modern Islamic civilization”.
Richard Hrair Dekmejian in the debate on “Islamic Revival” or Pan-Islamism very well illustrates how the Islamic World and the Arab World have entered the era of Islamic revival or for centuries after going through the stages of Turkish nationalism (Pan-Turkism), Persian nationalism (Pan-Iranism), Arab nationalism (pan-Arabism).
(André) Miquel and (d`Henry) Laurens in the book “Islam and Islamic Civilization” say: “Islam can neither quit worldly prosperity nor lose its soul. A moderate and special way it tries to step in together with the Third World is a path based on two negations: neither Capitalism nor Marxism, neither West nor East… Islam in its history, like its cultural renaissance, has called to play the role of a bridge among different humanities. Today that the Islamic World does not want to be Western or Eastern, but wants to be itself, who can deny that Islam, by associating with its destiny and the global destiny, can, in its turn, be the flag-bearer of the old exchanges and talks that have never been halted.”
Samuel Huntington also believes that “Muslims are dramatically moving toward Islamic guidance and emphasizes that Islam is the only solution. The revival of Islamic civilization is an attempt to find a solution, not in Western ideology, but in modern Islam, which rejects Western culture and considers the commitment to Islam as a guide to life in the modern world. ”
Requirements for Revival of Islamic Civilization
The revival of a new civilization is a major concern that cannot be removed without knowing the basic civilization-building principles of Islam, that is, the ontological, anthropological, and epistemological foundations that the Islamic civilization has bloomed with them, albeit with the identification of the civilizational capacities of Islam that have always existed in history. These are the issues that Muslims, especially the elites of the community should pay attention to because, in the civilization-building precinct, it is the humans who play the main and maybe the exclusive role.
Through profound recognition of the components and conditions of the rise and elevation of the Islamic civilization, Muslims can revive the Islamic civilization. The basic conditions and requirements for the revival of the Islamic civilization are True return to the Quran, following the Prophet’s (S) tradition, the pursuit of unity, systematization, identification of harms and dangers, and the Islamic civilization.
Islamic Awakening as the greatest socio-political development of the Islamic World started since the second half of the 20th century and expanding at a promising pace can be the basis for the revival of the Islamic civilization.
The main features of Islamic Awakening can be mentioned as follows: referring to the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (S) and the tradition of the great men of Islam, the feeling of regret about the decline of the Islamic World and attempts to compensate for the past, playing a serious role by the Muslim scholars in provision of the grounds of awakening, the effect of the wave of awakening on the intellectuals and the huge masses of the people, the extent of the wave of awakening on the geographical territory of Muslims, the feeling of confrontation and opposition with the political systems influenced by the West and the East, the feeling of oppression caused by the domination of colonialism on the destinies of the Muslim world, the tendency to play a more real role in global equations and achieve its true status.
Challenges to Revival of Islamic Civilization
Creation and elevation of civilization are subject to a series of specific factors and conditions the absence of which can lead to the decline and stagnation of the civilization. The barriers to the formation of the Islamic civilization can be divided into two categories: internal factors and external factors. Internal factors include despotism of the rulers, ignorance and unawareness of the Muslim masses and their lagging behind the caravan of science and civilization, the influence of superstitious beliefs on the thoughts of Muslims and their distancing from the initial Islam, religious differences, and incorrect interpretation of some Islamic concepts. External factors also include the influence of Western colonialism and the destructive activities of the enemies of Islam, which are often manifested in the form of military, political and cultural onslaughts.
Other challenges facing the revival of the Islamic civilization include lack of a single leadership, Western cultural invasion, ethnic differences among Muslims, economic problems of Muslim societies, lack of faith in religious rationality, confrontation of the West with the Muslim World, and the distortion of Islam and the reversal of religious concepts by some extremists and political tendencies of rulers of Islamic countries (laic, monarchy and following big powers).
Is the Islamic civilization capable of maintaining a dynamic and competitive presence in the current world of radical transformation through rearrangement? It should be noted that the Islamic civilization, over time and for some reasons, has failed to play a significant role in the field of civilization for a long time; though Muslims were not aware of what had happened for a long time because they were neither in touch with the world around them to realize the shortcomings in a comparative and critical perspective nor they basically believed in the superiority of another civilization. This was the case until in the past century, with the spread of interactions between Muslims and the Western world and modernity and the emergence of the mass media and information development, a group of new thinkers in a comparative approach between the status of the Islamic World and others’ assets, went in search of ways to solve it after decoding the situation.
Some looked at the past of the Islamic civilization and by assessing the ability of the experienced progress spoke of the Muslims’ capability in creating new civilization; others with a patriotic outlook at the process of Islamic civilization presented views, theories and suggestions that would enable the revival of the Islamic civilization or the necessity of creating a new Islamic civilization.
In conclusion, it must be said that the Islamic civilization, despite the weaknesses that have afflicted it willingly or unwillingly, can regain its place in the global scene, with the assumption that the foundations and capacities of the civilization-building principles and capacities will allow such an opportunity to reintegrate into a civilizational rivalry.
• From the book “Modern Iran’s Civilizational Status in the Islamic World,” by Mohammad Bagher Khorramshad, Professor of Allameh Tabataba’i University, and the article “The Possibility of Islamic Civilization in the Current World, A Look at the Foundations and Capacities” by Alireza Vaseei, Faculty Member of the Institute of Islamic Sciences and Culture.