The Pillars of Islamic Civilisation
The Pillars of the Islamic Civilisation
What were the Achievements of the Islamic Civilisation built on?
Whenever anyone asks what Islamic Civilisation is, the first thing which comes to our mind is usually our scientific achievements, of which we are rightfully proud Alhamdulilah.
However, I would like to look deeper and focus on the pillars which underpinned the Islamic Civilisation. These can be broken down into five main principles.
Islam is a Divine System which Allah Almighty sent down to humanity from Adam to the last Prophet (peace be on him) and was perfected by Him. Allah Almighty never proclaimed before this that He had perfected the divine system for us.
The very last verse He sent down to our Master Muhammad (peace be on him) on the Day of Arafah, in Hajj, during the Farewell Sermon, was:
This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3)
From this perfection flowed the fruits of this perfection – the achievements of the Islamic Civilisation.
Before these achievements could take place, we had to have the pillars on which the whole civilisation was built. And these pillars were built, simply, on mankind. Allah Almighty sent the system to mankind as they are the carriers and the builders of this civilisation.
1. Relationship with Allah Almighty
Allah Almighty freed man’s minds from old traditions, from idols and superstitions. And invited us to reflect and ponder upon the creation of Allah Almighty. Instead, the divine system connects man to Him directly without intermediaries. We have a direct relationship with our Creator, and this is our aqeedah (creed).
Tawheed (monotheism) was the first concept Allah Almighty sent to all His Messengers and the common factor among the Abrahamic religions. How does this relationship function? There are plenty of verses in the Qur’an which elaborate this relationship in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
2. Relationship with Ourselves
After we fix our relationship with Allah Almighty by knowing His attributes, the Prophet (peace be on him) taught us to fill in gaps in our education, moral conduct, and character through tazkiyya, or purification.
This special system which Allah Almighty perfected for us, teaches us how to deal with ourselves. This is called tazkiyya which is how we develop and progress through the purification of our heart, intentions, devotion, perseverance, and so on.
Crucial to this process is salah, which purifies our shortcomings during the day. In the famous narration, the Messenger of Allah (peace on him) said:
‘If there was a river at your door and he took a bath in it five times a day, would you notice any dirt on him?’ They said, ‘Not a trace of dirt would be left.’ The Prophet said, ‘That is the parable of the five prayers by which Allah removes sins.’ (Bukhari and Muslim)
Dealing with the heart is a tough task. Looking after your appearance is much easier. Looking after your heart is uncommon. Usually what is exposed to people is beautified more than what is kept hidden, just like the inside story of our homes.
To purify your heart from rancour, hatred, envy, arrogance is not easy. These are very common diseases in every community. Unless we learn how to purify our hearts, we are living in internal spiritual gaps. How many times do we envy our colleague or neighbour for something we dearly want but didn’t get? It can give us sleepless nights. The remedy for this is the purification process.
3. Relations with People
After we deal with ourselves, we have our dealings with others, which are further divided into subcategories. Our dealings are based on birr (goodness) and prioritised with parents at the top of the list, who have been given a special status.
Then we have a multitude of narrations in hadith on how to deal with our blood ties (arhaam), beginning with siblings, spouses and close family, then extending beyond. These interlinked strong bonds connect the family and extended family.
Our achievements and civilisation are the outcome of sound relationships with Allah Almighty, our self and our family and community. We have detailed rulings on how to deal with all those we come into contact with, whether they are neighbours, friends, colleagues, or doing business with us.
4. Relationship with Dunya
As believers, we have to take responsibility for our actions. We have to act with responsibility. As long as you are a sane adult, responsibility for your choices and their execution lies with you. Children are different, they are under the supervision of their parents.
Islam teaches us to connect belief with action:
‘…those who believe and do good’ (103:3)
Action cannot be carried out without responsibility. We don’t have the concept that someone else will carry our sins. (This is not a reference to shafa’a or intercession on the Day of Judgement).
Understanding the Relationship between Reliance and Actions and Faith
We are also being taught that we have to go and seek our provision (rizq). Rely on Allah Almighty, but we still have to work. We do not have reliance (tawakkul) without action. Thus responsible action is interlinked with imaan. Imaan drives us to do good deeds and motivates us to do more.
Trying your Best
We have a whole methodology of how to do good deeds and do perform them with excellence.
The Prophet (peace be on him) said:
Allah loves from you if you do something to perfect it. (Abu Ya’la and Tabarani)
You might be surprised about the time when the Prophet (peace be on him) said this when he passed some men in the graveyard who were not digging a grave straight. He taught them that Allah wants us to undertake tasks properly. Don’t say that it is just a grave, do it well.
Psychologically some people are obsessive by nature. Perfectionists at times can be a source of stress to those around them, and prevent their team from progressing because they are focusing too much on the detail. We should not be obsessed with perfection, and afraid to settle for 99% instead of 100%. Sometimes, the time scale, budget or circumstances prevent us from reaching perfection, but we should aim for perfection without being troublesome and OCD about it.
The Prophet (peace be on him) was teaching us to how to perfect our intentions and our character. He said:
The best of you in imaan are the best in character. (Abu Dawoud)
And Allah Almighty said:
And tell My servants to say what is best. (17:53)
He stated not just what is good but what is ‘best’.
Allah Almighty is teaching us that to build the perfect civilisation, you need the perfect human with the perfect character, with the perfect intention and the perfect action, then you have perfect fruits.
We therefore have to try our best as we can within the realms of our possibility, with the available means around us to have excellence in what we do.
Interacting with ALL People with Goodness
We have dealings with people around us – Muslims and non-Muslims. This relationship has to be based on loving goodness for everyone, regardless of their faith. In Musnad Ahmad the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
None of you [truly] believes until he loves for people that which he loves for himself. (Musnad Ahmad)
This includes all mankind, not just fellow Muslims. We have been given the system with all details for how to deal with others, but sadly this is not often acted upon due to rigid views. For example, on social media there has been a message circulating that saying ‘Merry Christmas’ is more sinful than zina. This is utter nonsense. Unfortunately, we have such extreme people everywhere and the Muslim community has its fair share.
5. The Relationship with Akhirah
We worship Allah Almighty and He subjugated the universe to serve us, this is called taskheer. We are not subjugated by the universe. It is the other way round. When we understand this, we realise that all the provision Allah Almighty has given us is to improve our life in order to serve Him and have purpose.
Utilising Dunya as a Means to the Akhirah
How do we deal with dunya? Dunya is like a bridge to the akhirah. We are not here to stay but to pass time. This does not make it haram to enjoy yourself, within Islamic limits of course, but at the same time we need to understand that this life is preparation for the hereafter.
Staying within the Boundaries
The divine system teaches us that by design we are limited in our understanding and so we need to know where to draw the line. When we overstep the boundaries put in place for our own safety then troubles invade us. This is what we are facing now.
The Way Forward
Going through these principles and pillars these are what made Islamic civilisation prosperous, fruitful and enormously beneficial. Regrettably, we are not leading the way anymore. We are more than 100 years behind. This perception is not about a being pessimistic. Muslims have to be a people of optimism.
We start by freeing our mind from cultural background and airy fairy views. We have to be rooted in Qur’an and sunnah. From the very first verse, Allah Almighty says ‘iqra’, so the whole Islamic system is based on knowledge. Not only religious knowledge.
Our priority is our relationship with Allah Almighty. This is the most important. Allah Almighty will not ask us to show our physics GCSE certificate, without undermining the importance of the sciences, but He will ask us about our salah and our relationship with our parents, children, friends and colleagues.
The divine system is based on delivering justice and freeing the world from oppression. We cannot abolish oppression entirely as that is only the reality of akhirah where we will be truly freed from all oppression.
Governing ourselves by moderation helps us accommodate our differences. The mentality which currently prevails and our practices these days lack moderation. But we lost moderation, which is why we have the likes of ISIS. Conversely we have new projects and new institutes with fresh academic output, but these are not dominant yet. It is crucial therefore that the majority of us keep the balance away from extremes and act with moderation.
Even in the scholarly world, during discussions with other scholars from different backgrounds, you have those who will not budge an inch from their madhab’s view point whether it is Hanafi or otherwise. Who told you that Islam is Hanafi or Shafi? They are from Islam but they are not Islam itself. You cannot restrict Islam to one viewpoint.
We need to learn moderation in our relationships and all our affairs. We have to have a balance between the physical and the spiritual. Dunya and akhirah. Between duties and responsibilities. Between two different schools of thought or opinions.
Even if you do not adopt them you have to open your mind to other viewpoints, listening to them and understand where they are coming from. We cannot block our minds. 80 percent of conflicts in the world according to statistics, arise from obstructing other viewpoints. If we just allowed others to express themselves the way they want to portray themselves, and not to jump to conclusions before they finish we would be in a better place.
In conclusion how to perfect the individual is how we perfect civilisation. if we can change the mindset we can change the outcome. Without changing the circumstances we will be suffocated by the same failures.
Einstein has been famously attributed with saying ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
The motto for the New Year is aim for perfection even if you cannot achieve it. You will be rewarded for that. Work hard to improve your knowledge, your relationship with Allah Almighty and those around you, prepare for the akhirah and understand that the dunya is just a bridge to the akhirah.
We can change our reality if we go back to the divine system which Allah Almighty sent humanity then insha’Allah we can be in the forefront again.
Talk given by Shaykh Haytham Tamim at Nadi Park Royal on 30th December 2018.
January 22, 2021