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Islamic Culture and Modern World

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“In the eyes of history, religious toleration is the highest evidence of culture in a people. It was not until the Western nations broke away from their religious law that they became more tolerant, and it was only when the Muslims fell away from their religious law that they declined in tolerance and other evidences of the highest culture. [Pickethall]


Presently it is very common expression that; Muslims as a community are not adjustable to the global environments with divergent cultures. The Muslims in Europe have failed to adapt to the European culture, which has become a bone of contention and Islamophobia. The Muslims settled in Europe and America come from different continents and countries speaking different languages, belong to different races, colour but they are all grouped as one cultural class due to their common values embedded by their faith in Islam. It is important that the Islamic Culture is understood in perspective for accommodating the Muslims in divergent cultures for peaceful coexistence. 
Islamic culture is a contentious term. Muslims live in many different countries and communities, and it can be difficult to isolate points of cultural unity among Muslims, besides their adherence to the religion of Islam. Anthropologists and historians nevertheless study Islam as an aspect of, and influence on, culture in the regions where the religion is predominant. Islamic culture is a term primarily used in academia to describe the cultural practices common to historically Islamic peoples.
With the rapid expansion of the Islamic empires, Muslim culture has influenced and assimilated much from the Persian, Turkic, Pakistani, Mongol, Chinese, Indian, Bangladeshi, Malay, Somali, Berber, Egyptian, Indonesian, Filipino, Greek-Roman Byzantine, Spanish, Sicilian, Balkanic and Western cultures. Hence some of the cultural practices adopted by local Muslims like circumcision of females in some Arab & African countries, honour killing for marriage by choice, denying inheritance to women etc cannot be termed as Islamic culture but they are local in nature. Any cultural practice with the broad parameters of Islam are acceptable as part of Islamic culture while others rejected being un-Islamic.........

The Spirit of Muslim Culture- According to Dr.Muhammad Iqbal

Allama Dr. Muhammad Iqbal describes ‘The Spirit of Muslim Culture’, it can be summarized as:
·         The unity of human origin, as a social movement the aim of Islam was to make the idea a living factor in the Muslim's daily life, and thus silently and imperceptibly to carry it towards fuller fruition.
·         It is one of the most essential teachings of the Quran that nations are collectively judged, and suffer for their misdeeds here and now.
·         Devine life is in touch with the whole universe on the analogy of the soul's contact with the body. The soul is neither inside nor outside the body... Yet its contact with every atom of the body is real.
·         The finality of the institution of prophethood... The abolition of priesthood and hereditary kingship in Islam, the constant appeal to reason and experience in the Quran, and the emphasis that it lays on Nature and History as sources of human knowledge, are all different aspects of the same idea of finality
·         The idea (finality), however, does not mean that mystic experience, which qualitatively does not differ from the experience of the prophet, has now ceased to exist as a vital fact. Indeed the Quran regards both "Anfus" (self) and "Afaq" (world) as sources of knowledge. God reveals His signs in inner as well as outer experience, and it is the duty of man to judge the knowledge-yielding capacity of all aspects of experience
·         The inner experience is only one source of human knowledge. According to the Quran there are two other sources of knowledge - Nature and History
·         It is a mistake to suppose that the experimental method is a European discovery... Europe has been rather slow to recognize the Islamic origin of her scientific method. But full recognition of the fact has at last come. Let me quote one or two passages from Briffault's Making of Humanity:
a.    "... It was under their successors at the Oxford School that Roger Bacon learned Arabic and Arabic Science. Neither Roger Bacon nor his later namesake has any title to be credited with having introduced the experimental method. Roger Bacon was no more than one of the apostles of Muslim science and method to Christian Europe; and he never wearied of declaring that a knowledge of Arabic and Arabic Science was for his contemporaries the only way to true knowledge... The experimental method of the Arabs was by Bacon's time widespread and eagerly cultivated throughout Europe"
b.    In the history of Muslim culture... we find that both in the realms of pure intellect, and religious psychology, by which term I mean higher Sufism, the ideal revealed is the possession and enjoyment of the Infinite........
Keep reading e-Book : Islamic Culture and Modern World

Excerpts .....................

Ten Major Attributes of Islamic Society:

The Islamic society can clearly be distinguished from any other society in the world. It has certain characteristic attributes that differentiate it from the rest of the societies of the world and the identity of a Muslim society is universal and Muslims from different parts of the world can easily form and adjust in an Islamic society, regardless of their cultural differences. Here are some verses of Quran that describe the ten major attributes of an Islamic society. Less than 0.001% extremist terrorists distort some verses (revealed for defensive wars between early Muslims and polytheist opponents) to justify their heinous activities and crimes against humanity, maligning 1.6 Billion Muslims:
1.    Belief in One God: “O you who believe! Fear God as He should be feared and die not except in a state of Islam.” (3:102)
2.    Justice, Peace and Balance: "Thus have we made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Apostle a witness over yourselves…..” (2:143), "Among the people, one may impress you with his utterances concerning this life, and may even call upon GOD to witness his innermost thoughts, while he is a most ardent opponent. If such people attain political power they create corruption in the earth. Their rule results in destruction of the produce of land and labor and the damage done by them affects generations. Allah loves not corruption and mischief."(2:204,205)
3.    Brotherhood: “Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your lord and cherisher. Therefore, fear me (and no other).”(23:52)
4.    Consultation/Democracy:“And those who have responded to their lord and established prayer and whose affair is (determined by) consultation among themselves, and from what We have provided them, they spend.” (42:38)
5.    Freedom of Faith: “…there is no compulsion in the matter of religion.” (2:256).
6.    Justice and Good Treatment of Minorities: “.. Nearest in affection to the believers (Muslims) are those who say: "We are Christians…”(Qur’an;5:82), "As for such (of the unbelievers) as do not fight against you on account of your faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, Allah does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity. Indeed, Allah loves those who act equitably"(Qur’an;60:8)
7.    Commending Good, Forbidding Evil: “You are the best Ummah raised up for people: you enjoin good and forbid evil and you believe in Allah.” (3:110)
8.    Not Disputing: “….And dispute not one with another, lest you get weak-hearted and your power depart, and be steadfast. Surely Allah is with the steadfast.” (8:46)
9.    Self Defence: “Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, Allah does not like transgressors.” (2:190)
10. Gender Equality: “Whoso does good whether male or female, and is a believer, shall enter Paradise and they shall not be wronged a whit.” (4:124)
In short, an Islamic society is an ideal society or the next thing to utopia that a particular group of people can create in this world. The need of the time is that the world in general and Muslims in particular understand the true concept of an Islamic society and create a community where people cooperate with each other and there is justice and peace among its members. The past history is reflection of success of Muslim society and culture and its contributions towards development of humanity: ..............................

The Sources of Islam:

Quran, the revealed word of God, is the primary source of Islam. According to Allama Dr.Muhammad Iqbal; The second great source of Muhammadan Law (Shari’ah) is the traditions of the Holy Prophet. .........................

Hadith and Muslim Culture:

Hadiths have been the subject of great discussion both in ancient and modern times. The early forms of Muslim culture were predominantly Arab. With the rapid expansion of the Islamic empires, Muslim culture has influenced and assimilated much from the local cultures. Traditionalists advocate adherence to all practices of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), though being an Arab he was adhering to Arab cultural, but where ever there was conflict with Islamic principles he did not hesitate to change. According to the progressive Muslims   strict adherence to Arab cultural traditions is not necessary to be a good Muslim. They emphasize adherence to the core Islamic tenet and values and Islamic principles for their universal application among all cultures. Since Hadith literature contains mix of cultural and religious contents, there is a need to segregate them very carefully. Some progressive Muslims in a hurry try to totally disregard the valuable Hadith literature, which is unreasonable. However the central issue with Hadith is its authenticity. From the legal theoretician's point of view, Hadith can be divided into Mutawatir (transmitted via numerous chains of narrators, number of such Hadiths varies from 100 to 300 as against thousands) and ahad (anything that is not Mutawatir, reported by single narrator or few). The medieval scholar Al-Nawawi argued that any non-Mutawatir Hadith is only probable and cannot reach the level of certainty that a Mutawatir Hadith can. ...........

Mutawatir (Successive, Continuous chain) Hadith:

A Mutawatir (‫continuous, successive) Hadith is a report of such a large number of narrators (at different times) that their agreement upon an untruth is inconceivable thus being accepted as unquestionable in its veracity. A Hadith is said to be Mutawatir if it was reported by a significant, though unspecified, number of narrators at each level in the chain of narration, thus reaching the succeeding generation through multiple chains of narration leading back to its source. This provides confirmation that the Hadith is authentically attributed to its source at a level above reasonable doubt. This is due to its being beyond historical possibility that narrators could have conspired to forge a narration. In contrast, an Ahaad Hadith is a narration the chain of which has not reached a number sufficient to qualify as Mutawatir. There are only two types of texts in Islamic sharīʿah which are immutable (Qaati’) a) verses of Qura’n and b) Mutawatir Hadith. If someone denies a Mutawatir Hadith he does Kufr. There are only 100 to 310 Mutawatir Hadiths according to different collections. ....................................

New Work on Hadith in Turkey:

There are approximately around 159,000 Hadiths or narrations, which include repetition. For example, in the Bukhari text there are 7,275 Hadith including repetitions. When repetitions excluded the number is 2,230. Similarly when exclude the repetitions in the total 159,000, we are left with about 20,000 Hadith. In Turkey a project has been launched to understand Hadiths in present era. Professor Mehmet Gormez, vice-president of Turkey’s “Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet” ...................................

Islam in 21st Century:

“The claim of the present generation of Muslim liberals (progressive Muslims) to reinterpret the foundational legal principles, in the light of their own experience and the altered conditions of modern life is, in my opinion, perfectly justified.” – Allama Dr.Muhammad Iqbal
The terminology “Liberal Muslim” or “Liberal Islam” is used here to mean “Progressive Muslim” not in the sense defined and used by West. Liberalism is a Western political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasises the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. 

Why Progressive Movements Failed?

The reasons for the lack of success of progressive movements in Islam may be attributed to a series of historical circumstances, rather than to some inherent flaw in Islam. Some reasons according to Aykol are: ..................

Several generally accepted tenets have emerged:

There are many trends, which are not considered acceptable by the traditionalists, like; the autonomy of the individual in interpreting the Quran and Hadith. More liberal trends include rejecting Hadiths completely (like Quran Alone Muslims) or partially (including Hadiths considered authentic (Sahih) by traditionalists) like Gamal Al-Banna. .................................

Islamic Modernism:

The Salafi movement or Salafist movement or Salafism is an ultra-conservative reform movement within Sunni Islam that developed in Arabia in the first half of the 18th century, against a background of European colonialism. It advocated a return to the traditions of the "devout ancestors" (the salaf). Some scholars define this movement as Modernist Salafism. The Salafist doctrine can be summed up as taking "a fundamentalist approach to Islam, emulating the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) and his earliest followers – al-salaf al-salih, the 'pious forefathers'." "They reject religious innovation,...........................................

Quran and Hadith Distinction:

Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish writer, never expresses any doubt that Allah is real or that the Qur’an is a revelation that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received from Allah. Instead, he argues from within the Islamic tradition that there have all along been multiple interpretations of the Qur’an, and that the fundamentalist ones currently popular are their corruptions due to unfortunate historical circumstances of the post-Qur’anic era. In particular, he distinguishes between the Qur’an and the Hadiths .....................

Muslim Contributions in Human Development:

The contributions in the advancement of knowledge for betterment of humanity are enormous, which have been summed up in Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The Madrasahs generally offered instruction in both the religious sciences and other branches of knowledge. The contribution of these institutions to the advancement of knowledge was vast. Muslim scholars calculated the angle of the ecliptic; measured the size of the Earth; calculated the precession of the equinoxes; explained, in the field of optics and physics, such phenomena as refraction of light, gravity, capillary attraction, and twilight; and developed observatories for the empirical study of heavenly bodies. They made advances in the uses of drugs, herbs, and foods for medication; established hospitals with a system of interns and externs; discovered causes of certain diseases and developed correct diagnoses of them; proposed new concepts of hygiene; made use of anesthetics in surgery with newly innovated surgical tools; and introduced the science of dissection in anatomy. Muslims furthered the scientific breeding of horses and cattle; found new ways of grafting to produce new types of flowers and fruits; introduced new concepts of irrigation, fertilization, and soil cultivation; and improved upon the science of navigation. In the area of chemistry, Muslim scholarship led to the discovery of such substances as potash, alcohol, nitrate of silver, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, and mercury chloride. ........................................... 

Influence on Europe:

Europe has known art objects of Islamic origin since the early Middle Ages, when they were brought home by the crusaders or manufactured by the Arabs in Sicily and Spain. Much admired and even imitated, they formed part of the material culture in those times, so much so ..................................

European Islam:

European Islam is a hypothesized new branch of Islam, which some believe is emerging in Europe, and which would combine the duties and principles of Islam with the contemporary European cultures, including Europe's post-Enlightenment values and traditions such as..............

The Perfected Religion:

Islam was completed during lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), during last Hajj, Allah declared:
“…. This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as religion al-Islam.”(Quran”: 5:3)
The famous six Hadith (Tradition) books were written about 250 years later, through individual private collections. While the Quran had been officially compiled and approved, Hadiths had not. Muslims were already offering prayers 5 times a day, all other practices were in place, some not fully elaborated in Quran, were very much in practice, through Sunnah of Prophet (pbuh) in Twatir (unbroken continuity). Probably this could be one of reason of not officially codifying Hadiths by rightly guided caliphs, Allah says: ...............................

Salient Aspects of Islamic Society and Culture:

·         Islamic society is to be governed through (Shura) consultation, based upon justice through Shari’a law, which is only possible in Muslim dominated societies. There are many Muslim countries which are secular. The choice should be left to the people rather than imposing through coercsion. The Muslims living in other countries have to adhere to the law of land, which grants freedom of faith and religion to everyone according to UN charter. ...........

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