Islam and the Origins of Contemporary Western Civilisation
This short article is taken from the full article (by Prof. Abdul-Hafez Helmy Mohammad) which is available here as 8 page PDF file
The contemporary Western civilisation, which is basically a scientific and technological one, is a great florescence and a wide-spectrum development of the preceding Islamic civilisation. On the other hand, the latter itself was a ring in the eternal chain of human progress. However, this was a unique ring that opened its heart and mind to preceding civilisations, whatever might have been their sources and trends. Thus the Islamic civilisation was both tolerant in reception and generous in giving.
It is interesting to find out the reasons for the flourishing Islamic civilisation argues, Professor Abdul-Hafez Helmy Mohammad, that Islamic science was not the direct outcome of the Islamic State, in its geopolitical sense, but was rather a true expression and reflection of the main principles of Islam itself, which the pioneering generations and centuries of Muslims had apprehended and responded to by an open and clever nature. A state may decline or fall, but if its civilisation survives it will conserve the essence of its principles passing them to its heirs. Given these premises, it would be illogical to expect the issue of any conflict or struggle between Muslims of this age and the present Western civilisation, as it is sometimes claimed. Real causes of conflict should be frankly and truly sought, diagnosed and faced, and the basic ideology common to Islamic science and Western civilisation should be clarified to both partners, opening bridges of mutual understanding that leads to a real human civilisation, which is virtually an ultimate goal of Islam.
It was the status of Science "Ilm", in its widest sense, and scientists, in the Quran and the saying of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), in other words the basic principles of the religion of Islam, that led to the rise of Islamic science. ...Say: Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? ..." (39:9). In addition, and from the early days, the teachings of the prophet (pbuh) was to establish a "methodology" for research and scince free from superstitions and false tradition, as was the case in his comments on solar eclipse that happened on the day the prophet's son, Ibrahim, died. The teaching was "The sun and the moon are two of God's signs; they are not eclipsed on account of anyone's death or birth".
It was this new spirit of Islam that made the streams of knowledge from Babylon, Greece, Alexandria, Persia, Jundishapur, India and China flow into a common new sea. Treasures of ancient civilisa
tions and sciences were transferred to Arabic and availed to students and researchers to be comprehended, analysed, critically verified - with great respect, honesty and appreciation - augmented and developed. That is how earlier "sciences" were fused in the Islamic crucible, re-synthesised and modelled into a new unified form, becoming - for the first time in history - a universal heritage that challenged all previous national, religious and ethnic bigotry. Thus the universality of Islamic science was the reflection of the universality of Islam itself. This was the greatest gift Islam presented to Europe in its Renaissance.
However, what stood clear in Islamic science was its integral concept of life. Islam is a complete statute for life in all its aspects. Thus it was quite natural that Islamic science rose tied up to the high values of Islam and in intimate relation with the Islamic society. The messenger of Allah said: "Knowledge from which no benefit is derived is like a treasure from which nothing is expended in God's path". (Benefit is meant here in its broadest sense: material, environmental, and spiritual). This guidance distinguished Islamic science from it predecessor Greek science which was basically philosophical. Unfortunately, when Western science rose in Europe on the shoulders of Islamic science, it had to drop some of the latter's intrinsic values. Europeans became greatly fascinated with the new scientific discoveries; some scientists acquired an arrogant attitude and put their back up to religion. Philosophers stated that good science should be objective, value-free and should not be affected by the scientist person or his society. To make things worse, the Church attained - for political and historical, but not religious, reasons - an antagonistic and hostile attitude to new science and oppressed scientists. Scientists were apparently defending their scientific research's freedom and independence. Gradually, appeals opposing this situation started to be declared, and signs of conciliation between science and values dawned and came to crystallize in the last two decades of the twentieth century, especially in the domain of energy, environment and biotechnology. There is at last a start in modern science to retrieve those elements of Islamic science that western science had lost in a phase of its development. Now the question of "ethics" is often raised in all scientific practices.
Figure (front). An artist impression of a portrait of Al-Khwarazmi (Source: www.wikipedia.org -The picture was taken from a stamp issued September 6, 1983 in the Soviet Union)
Figure (top). An artist impression of Ibn Sina or Avicenna crowned as a king of science in a Latin manuscript (Source: www.wikipedia.org).
Figure (bottom).A page from an early manuscripts of the Quran. (Source: Qur'an by Dervish Hasan b. Ilyas, 1508, Suleymaniye library, Ayasofya nr. 1.)
by: FSTC Ltd , Thu 30 November, 2006