ACHIEVEMENTS, IMPACTs AND CONTRIBUTION OF ISLAM TO WORLD CIVILIZATION
In the name of Allah, the most beneficent and the most merciful. The restorer of peace and bestowal of understanding, the creator and he who has indeed made Islam a source of world knowledge and civilization.
I decided to write on this topic ACHIEVEMENTS, IMPACTs AND CONTRIBUTION OF ISLAM TO WORLD CIVILIZATION because i consider it to be most daring and expository, especially to some of us who haven’t taken the time to look at the contribution of Islam to what the world celebrate and enjoy today in terms of civilization, urbanization, technology, art and science.
Let me start by saying, The first positive impact of Islam in the world can be seen in the encouragement of Muslims to the pursuit of knowledge, as prophet Mohammed said, the best form of worship is the pursuit of knowledge.
History shows that, the rise of Muslims which later translated the rise of the world to the zenith of civilization in a period of four decades was based on Islam’s emphasis on learning. This according to scholars is obvious when one takes a look at the Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammed which are filled with references to learning, education, observation and the use of reason.
Are those who have knowledge and those who have no knowledge alike?
Only the men of understanding are mindful (Qur’an 39:9).
Through education, Muslims became founder of most major accomplishments in the world which later leads to western and world civilization in Medicine, technology, geometry, mathematics, chemistry, physics, urbanization, art,poetry and moral culture.
It has also been established that, the Islamic empire for more than 1000 years was said to have remained the most advanced civilization in the world. The main reasons for this according to history was that, Islam stressed the importance and respect for learning, forbade destruction and cultivated respect for authority, discipline and tolerance for other religions. The teaching of Islam inspired many Muslims to their accomplishments in science and other great achievements which had today became the source of world civilization.
It was recorded that, by the tenth century, Muslims zeal and enthusiasms for learning resulted in all essential Greek medical and scientific writings being translated into Arabic in Damascus, Cairo and Bagdad, and Arabic became the international language of learning and diplomacy. The centre of scientific knowledge shifted eastward and Bagdad emerge as the capital of the scientific world. The Muslims became scientific innovators with originality and productivity through education.
It is worth to note that, it has been stated that, some of the best and most eloquent praises of science came from the pens of Muslims scientists who consider their work to be acts of worship. The same motives which led to the establishments of Al-Azhar (800 AD) the first university in the world. As Campbell describes it, the European medical system is Arabia not only in origin, but also in its structure. The Muslims are the intellectual forbearers of the Europeans.
Furthermore, Carly Fiorina, the CEO of Hewlett Packard gave a speech defining the relevance of leadership in today's world which stated that, We are Often Unaware of our Indebtedness to the Islamic Civilization.
CEO of Hewlett Packard stated that, there was once a civilization that was the greatest in the world. It was able to create a continental super-state that stretched from ocean to ocean, and from northern climes to tropics and deserts. Within its dominion lived hundreds of millions of people, of different creeds and ethnic origins. One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization's commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between. And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
Its writers created thousands of stories. Stories of courage, romance and magic. Its poets wrote of love, when others before them were too steeped in fear to think of such things.
When other nations were afraid of ideas, this civilization thrived on them, and kept them alive. When censors threatened to wipe out knowledge from past civilizations, this civilization kept the knowledge alive, and passed it on to others.
While modern Western civilization shares many of these traits, the civilization I'm talking about was the Islamic world from the year 800 to 1600, which included the Ottoman Empire and the courts of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo, and enlightened rulers like Suleiman the Magnificent.
Carly noted that, Although we are often unaware of our indebtedness to this other civilization, its gifts are very much a part of our heritage. The technology industry would not exist without the contributions of Arab mathematicians. Sufi poet-philosophers like Rumi challenged our notions of self and truth. Leaders like Suleiman contributed to our notions of tolerance and civic leadership.
And perhaps we can learn a lesson from his example: It was leadership based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It was leadership that harnessed the full capabilities of a very diverse population–that included Christianity, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture,
sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.
The Hewlett CEO concluded that, In dark and serious times like this, we must affirm our commitment to building societies and institutions that aspire to this kind of greatness. More than ever, we must focus
on the importance of leadership– bold acts of leadership and decidedly personal acts of leadership."
Also contributing to the discus is Jim Fry in his publication titled, Positive Impact of Islam on Europe. Jim stated that, Historians are of the point of view that Islam laid the foundation of modern Europe and it is it fact the reality. History has noticed Europe dominating the world in the past centuries through its knowledge and power but if we study early invention of mathematics, physics and astronomy, not surprisingly; all the credit goes to Muslim world of science. Muslim mathematicians worked in every field of mathematics such as Al-Jabir founded algebra. Galileo and Newton, the great scientists of their time, would never have been able to formulate the modern theories of mathematics and physics without the basic and important tools invented by Muslim scientists. Plato and Aristotle laid the institution of classical writing and texts in ancient Europe but these sculptures were lost in the history and were almost doomed during the Dark Age.
It was again Muslims who acted as the caretakers of those important writings and preserved them. Even some of that work was present only in Arabic. Ibne-Rushd, a Muslim, known as Averroes in Europe, had a major name in this regard. European explorers are famous for their voyages and explorations but it was only made possible by the accurate maps produced by the Muslim mapmakers. These maps paved the way for European explorers to discover new worlds in minimum time span. This is only the tiny amount of donation made by Islam to Europe directly or indirectly.
Jim Fry also noted that, Although Islam was manipulated to be the religion of extremism and terrorism but when people began to study Islam after the 9/11 attack which was blamed on the Muslims, their views changed and they found Islam to be the complete code of life and the best religion of the world. So they adopted it after their vast researches. The Muslim immigrants from the Muslim world to Europe living there for decades are clear symbols of peace loving Muslim culture.
‘’Today media, in Europe especially, talks alot about the the disrespect given to women in Islam, but in fact, this is not true. Islam is the only religion that has raised the prestige of women from one of the poorly humiliated creature, to that of a respectful being possessing equal rights to man. Under the wrong ideological concept of child marriage by the non-Muslims, the Muslims have been criticized by the western media but in fact there is no concept of child marriage in Islam and such incidents are purely restricted to few old customed tribes. Jim said.
A professor of Islamic, Mr. Al-Allaf, the University of Toledo's first professor of Islamic Studies cited numerous verses from the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, to support his assertion that Islam has been a positive influence on human culture.
For example, he said, the Qur'an, written by the Prophet Mohammed in the 7th century as a revelation from God, states in chapter 24, verse 31, that women should wear veils or head coverings, called hijabs, to assert their equality with men and keep them from becoming sexual objects. Since at that time, women are merely seen as such. Islam remains the religion which liberated women from being an object of possession to a worthy and equal partner.
The rights of women and men are equal. Al-Allaf in his presentation displayed a slide showing the visual similarities between Islamic women in hijabs and a portrait of the Virgin Mary with a head scarf and a photo of a Catholic nun in a habit. He added that Islam promotes reverence for Mary as "a woman obedient to God." He said the West has put too much emphasis on materialism, and said it also has created a gap between science and religion that is not found in Islam.
In a publication titled, transfer of technology from the Islamic world to the West, O.A. Joseph stated that, Technology is the tool of civilization, and for Islamic civilization to have been such a leading force in the world for several centuries, it must have been based on important technological achievements. The blossoming of science and culture in Islamic civilization was the result of the increasing quality of material life in its cities. The material prosperity, the varied local industries, the local and international trade, and the flourishing science and culture, in these cities, were all linked together, and would have been impossible without a developing
technology. If Islam was the force behind the rise of cities, as is frequently asserted, then it was also the force behind all aspects of the prosperity of these cities and hence the technological efforts associated with it.
Joseph explained that, In addition to the positive effects of the ideology of Islam as a religion, Islam achieved a unique effect in the history of mankind. It united the civilizations and populations of the vast expanse of territory which lies between the borders of China and the Atlantic. This area comprised the lands of those ancient civilizations which were also the seat of later civilizations in the Near East, such as the Hellenistic.
It remained under one government during the first centuries of Islam.
Moreover, even after the rise of various dynasties, the region benefited from the cultural unity Islam provided. Islam abolished the barriers which had isolated these countries from each other, so that the whole area now had one religious tradition and one literary and scientific language. The cultural unity also ensured free passage and free trade from China in the east to Spain in the west. Scientists and men of letters were free to travel, and crossed vast distances to meet other scholars. Moreover, although the Umayyads in Spain did not acknowledge the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad, there always exited links between Spain and the Eastern territories under Islamic rule.
Research shows that, the traditional view of Western historians is that European culture is the direct descendant of the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome. According to this theory as established by Joseph, the works of classical authors–mostly in Latin, but some in Greek–were preserved by the Church during the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire, to re-emerge as a potent source of inspiration in the later middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Few would deny the strong influence of classical literature on European thought. Until recently, the works of Homer, Thucydides and the Greek dramatists, of Tacitus, Virgil and Horace, to name but a few, were part of the cultural background of every educated European.
In science, however, the situation is very different. During the sixth century after the Hijra (twelfth century CE) the writings of such scholars as al-Farabi, al-Ghazali, al-Farghani (Afragamus), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) were translated into Latin, and became known and were esteemed in the West. The works of Aristotle, soon to become the predominant influence on European thought, were translated from the Arabic together with the commentaries of Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd to the medieval Europeans. These commentaries were as important as the works of Aristotle himself in forming European scientific and philosophical thought. Many other scientific works, which had originally been translated from Greek into Arabic centuries earlier, were now translated into Latin. However, most of these were from the Hellenistic period, and though they were written in Greek, their authors came from all the countries of the Near East and eastern Mediterranean. It seems, therefore, that some European writers, being deeply appreciative of the literary masterpieces of Greece and Rome, have been led to believe that Western civilization, in all its aspects, was based upon Greek and Roman foundations. This is not the case with science and technology.
Joseph continued that, Charles Singer has discussed some of the points already touched upon. The Graeco-Roman heritage was built upon the great civilizations of the Near East and, furthermore, the major achievements in science and technology that are called Hellenistic and Roman were mainly Near Eastern achievements due to the scholars and artisans of Egypt and Syria. The pre-Islamic civilizations from Spain to Central Asia and northern India were inherited by Islam. Under the influence of Islam and the Arabic language, the science and technology of these regions was developed and improved. Referring to the Eurocentrism of Western historians, Singer wrote: ‘Europe, however, is but a small peninsula extending from the great land masses of Afrasia.
This is indeed its geographical status and this, until at least the thirteenth century CE, was generally also its technological status.’
In skill and inventiveness during most of the period CE 500 to 1500, Singer continues: ‘the Near East was superior to the West... For nearly all branches of technology the best products available to the West were those of the Near East... Technologically, the West had little to bring to the East. The technological movement was in the other direction.’ The adoption by Europe of Islamic techniques is reflected by the many words of Arabic derivation that have passed into the vocabularies of European languages. In English these words have often, but not always, entered the language from Italian or Spanish.
About CE 1277 the secrets of Syrian glass-making were communicated to Venice under the terms of a treaty made between Bohemond VII, titular prince of Antioch, and the Doge. Such direct examples of technology transfer are still comparatively rare but more will undoubtedly come to light as research proceed. He concluded that, The contributions of Islamic civilizations to science, notably mathematics and astronomy, have long been recognized. The application of this scientific expertise to technology, however, has been neglected. The story of Islamic technology is far from complete. Research in this area is still at an early stage and, notwithstanding what has been published so far, contributions by Islam to science and technology have yet to be fully revealed. Joseph said.
Furthermore, it has also been established that, During the nineteenth and the first quarter of the twentieth centuries, Western research into Islamic science yielded outstanding results, but only after a long period of silence has that interest now been revived. There is still a need for additional co-ordinated research if significant results are to be obtained. The field of alchemy/chemistry and chemical technology is a case in point. At present this is an almost totally neglected area in which few seem to have taken even a slight interest since the admirable research several decades ago of Kraus, Ruska, Stapleton and Wiedemann.
Islamic civilization based on scientific disciplines with material and mental cultural concepts has no doubt proved the characteristic of "scientific civilization". Science means "scientific thought" and "scientific research method". The source of this science and technics is this method. This is "the means of science" which all humanity needs to improve for ages. Islamic scholars have applied this "scientific methodology" and gained results, even stunning in today.
It is certain that the importance of Islamic science has resulted from "scientific thought method" it used, namely "scientific thought principles", not only from dazzling results. The main source of Islamic civilization's improvement and rise is positive study habit and maturity of thought. The secret of Islamic civilization is presented in here. "Scientific methodology" which Islamic civilization has suggested is the principles and methods which we have used now and will need to use tomorrow. In a primitive age when humanity was deprived of technical opportunities, it is really significant to invent mechanical tools and at least to invent a watch. For, these machines are not fungible things. Astronomical tools are not, either... However, a watch or another machine belonging to those times is of course deemed as something easy when compared to present electronical machines. Therefore, where does the superiority of Islamic civilization come from? From here; because the mentality inventing a watch in those times used the scientific principles and research methods discovering all mechanical marvels not only the watch.
H.G. Wells exclaims, "Islamic scholars gave the hope and opportunity of dominating the nature to the people and developed 'experimental sciences methods'."Islam chemists used "the experimental method" in a planned and systematic way and literally became the founders of experimental chemistry. Dr. Sigrid Hunke emphasizes this fact in the book "Allah's sun over the Occident" by saying: "Muslims first initiated the planned observation method by repeating it masterfully, modifying and controlling it. Thus they established the experimental chemistry in sense of science. The English historian Custom stated, 'Muslims upgraded the experimental chemistry to a level which is necessary for discovering modern organical and inorganical chemistry.'"
The development of cities in Medieval Europe can be indeed greatly attributed to the Islamic influence. The Islamic rule in the region of al-Andalus saw the construction of many major cities as flourishing trade outposts; the southern Spain had remained the most densely populated part in the entire Iberian Peninsula, and still is one of the most populous regions.
In conclusion, It is safe to conclude at this point that, the cars we ride, the planes we fly, the drugs we take, the computers we use, the watch, science and technology, medicine, mathematics, physics and chemistry that we study were all made possible through the contribution of Islam.
The best form of art and poetry, civilization and modernization, the urbanization and education, observation and methodology all have impacts of Islam.
The rights of children and women in the society, duty of parents to children and vice ver sa, responsibilities of husband to wife and vice ver sa, and the role of government to citizens and vice ver sa were all well spelt out and protected by Islam when there was none in any part of the world.
In view of this, I am proud to say that the achievements, impacts and contribution of Islam to world civilization is the greatest in the world.
What is expected of us as Muslims is that, we continue to serve as positive agents to the world, by contributing to make the world better for all and attain peace.
Written By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat