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The contribution of Muslims to human civilisation is a fact of history that
cannot be denied. Even the greatest non-Muslim scholars have stood a testimony
to this fact, in the numerous volumes that they have produced over the centuries.
It has been revealed that Muslims made cataclysmic and revolutionary additions
and prognoses of the knowledge that existed then.
The sciences developed by Muslims from the second Islamic century onward, is
certainly one of the great achievements of Islamic civilization. Without
it, not only would there not have been Medieval, Renaissance and later Western
science but neither would one of the most important studies of nature in
relation to a religious universe which the most important sciences represent
ever have been achieved. For some seven hundred years, from the second to the
ninth Islamic centuries, Islamic civilization was perhaps the most productive
of all civilizations in the domain of science, and Islamic science was at the
forefront of activity in many fields ranging from medicine to astronomy.
for the cultural contributions of Islam in the fields of philosophy, architecture,
agriculture and the crafts, easily one could retrace them. Galen's writings
via Arabic translation found their way to Italy. Aristotle was rediscovered
in Paris thanks to ibn Rushd's commentaries. Ibn Khaldun's "Muqqadima"
was discovered by the West, rather late, as the foundation of modern historiography
and sociology. The Gothic arch in Western cathedrals is of oriental origin as
As for science, mathematical vocabulary such as "algebra" and "algorithm" are actually borrowings from Arabic words, that were later translated into Latin. It was a Muslim mathematician who formulated the trigonometric function explicitly. The word "sine" was actually the direct translation of the arabic word "jayb". An English mathematician Robert of Chester, who flourished in the middle of the twelfth century, was the first to use sinus equivalent to this Arabic jayb in its trigonometrical acception (Hitti 573). Al-Khwarizmi, founder of trigonometry and Algebra, composed the oldest book on mathematics, known only in translation. He presented more than 800 examples of the calculation of integration and equation, later anticipated by Neo-Babylonians (Hitti 379). They introduced it with the Arabic numerals into Europe and taught Westerners the most convenient convention of arithmetic concept. "The zero and Arabic numerals lie behind the science of calculation as we know it today" (Hitti 573-574).
The Muslim Spain is remembered as the "Golden Age". Islam, indeed, then was a civilization, a superpower and a genuine geopolitical rival to the West. The traditions borrowed and learned from each other, whether it was in relation to scholarship, philosophy and scientific enquiry, or medicine, architecture and technology. The classical learning from Athens and Rome, which was all but lost to Christendom was preserved by the Arabs and came to Europe. That Europe came to define its civilization as a renaissance of Greece and Rome and excised the Arab contribution to its foundations and wellbeing is an example of racist myth-making that has much relevance to today.
If in the Middle Ages, the civilizational current was mainly one way, from Muslims to Christians, in later periods the debt has been paid back. Yet this later epoch of West-Islam relations has been marked not by geopolitics of civilizational superpowers but by a triumphant West. In terms of power, Muslim civilization collapsed under Western dominance and colonialism and it is a moot point whether it has since been revived or suitably adjusted itself to Western modernity. This leads to power relations of domination and powerlessness, a context in which Muslim populations suffer depredations, occupation, ethnic cleansing and massacres with little action by the civilized world or the international community. (source: Muslims In The West Tariq Modood)
Roger Garaudy (1984) has described Islam as the third, forgotten pillar of Europe alongside Graeco-Roman ad Judaeo-Christian pillars, while Claus Leggewie (1993) proposes that modern Europe should thank Arab/Islamic civilisation for assistance in its very birth.
Muslims have something important to contribute to the future of the West through helping it to overcome the moral and societal crises in which the Western world finds itself. The West will either learn from Islam to honor again some of the most basic values only recently forgotten there, or that it will collapse in turmoil. You can live against the divine order of things some of the time, but not all of the time.
Murad Wilfried Hofmann, a German ambassador and convert to Islam, highlights twelve potential contributions that Islam can offer, not for the greening but for the healing of the West:
- The West is suffering from racial prejudice almost everywhere. Islam has not managed to eliminate that vice entirely. But there is no other religion which has done as well in combating racism. Islam is a color-blind religion if there ever was one.
- The West, in spite of the Christian commandment of loving ones neighbor like oneself, definitively suffers from a cooling of social relations. Some people do not even have contact with their neighbors. The Muslim Ummah, also in the West, demonstrates the very warmth, friendliness and readiness to help that Western kids miss so much.
- Young Western people hate hierarchies in every field, including their job, their church, and their family. Islam is pluralistic and does not even have sacraments which a clergy might administer; no Pope in Islam. Without any possibility for intercession, directly facing Allah on his prayer rug, a Muslim is the most emancipated believer one can imagine; and emancipation is in!
- The West cherishes rationality. It is indeed the irrationality of Church dogmas like Original Sin, Trinity, and Divine Incarnation which set Islam apart as the most rational of all religions. Is it not the only one whose Holy Book constantly urges people to think, observe, and reflect?
- Muslims are structurally sober people, always ready to appear before their Lord or, if the need arose, to drive drunken people home after a party. In view of the degree of addiction in the West-from crack to TV-Muslims are the only hope for drug infested city quarters, be it in L.A. or in Johannesburg.
- No society and no State can survive for long the breakdown of the family. If the family disintegrates, society will disintegrate. In a region where only homosexuals seem to fight for the survival of marriage as an institution (for themselves, that is) the Muslim defence of the family becomes essential.
- Western women seek to defend their dignity. In their process of emancipation, through competing with men and copying them, they may have gained job openings and economic independence, but they did not manage to protect their dignity. Women in the West remain sex objects as much as ever, as every beauty contest will demonstrate. Against that background, Muslim women demonstrate how to protect their female dignity effectively.
- Western people are constantly stressed and in need of psychiatric help. Every American has his shrink, and emotional intelligence is underrated. Esotericism, the Japanese tea ceremony or T. M. do not do the trick. Prayer, a Muslims regular linking up with God, is much more effective in healing modern mans feeling of being alone and abandoned.
- As Western societies are ageing, most capital now being held by widows, the saturated capitalist system is in danger of losing its vitality. Security is valued highest, and there is insurance against every possible risk, including the risk of being blessed with a child. Islam helps to protect and maintain the entrepreneurial spirit by insisting that capital be used not for fixed returns but in a profit-and-loss sharing modality.
- At the same time, Islam can reacquaint the West with its obscured aim of putting the interest of man into the center of economic policy, demanding that social justice and human dignity will really be given preference over other economic targets.
- Western people are becoming more and more conscious of the risks involved in eating the wrong kind of food. They may discover that the Muslims have been right all along in refusing the unhealthy meat of pigs. In their growing concern for health, based on the control of weight and dietary discipline, Western people might discover Islams pillar of Ramadan, as a very modern thing indeed.
These are 12 individual contributions which Muslims can make towards the healing of Western society. Each one may not have much impact; but in their totality, to adopt these Muslims attitudes would amount to a social and moral revolution.
One may argue that some of these qualities or methods are not exclusively Muslim
but also Christian. This is true. However, the de-Christianization of Europe-not
of the United States-has reached a point where this religion no longer has a
chance of bringing about the moral revolution necessary for saving the West
from itself. Nor can any artificial religion like modern Shamanism
do the trick. Only a partial Islamization of the West could turn the driving
wheel sufficiently, steering the West away from its present course towards decline
"We cannot promise not to export
our example because it is a moral one, and moral examples do not know any borders."
While polytheism allows every tribe or nation to be content with their particular god(s), monotheism, believing in one God for everybody, is necessarily universal and therefore expansive. Each monotheistic religion is thus a threat to every other religion.
Seen under this angle, Islam is a universal religion par excellence. From the Muslim point of view any person who submits to God is Muslim, and self-surrender, al-Islam, is the attitude required of mankind in its entirety. In this sense Islam is God's Own religion. Others would call this an inclusivist attitude, the position of including for in stance all Jewish prophets (pbut), from Ibrahim (pbuh) to Jesus (pbuh), into an Islamic chaine.
The early Muslims realized this right away, as manifested in Muhammad's (s) letter campaign in the year 628 (pbuh), in which he invited all potentates around al-madinah to accept Islam. With that letter campaign, the internationalization of Islam began. The Muslims did not subdivide the world into geographic regions. Rather in the true spirit of universalism they divided the entire world into two sectors: The world of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the not yet Islamized world (dar al-harb). Conceptually that meant that the Muslims from early on, saw their faith as a religion with global aspirations and the absence of Islam in the rest of the world as merely temporary situation.
Consequently, Islam, always universal in aspiration, has really become universal,
for the first time ever, during the 20th century. There are now 30 million Muslims
living on Western soil with big mosques that have been constructed in places
like Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Brussels, Vienna, Rome...