Rajiv began the meeting with his friends by showing them some photographs that he had recently taken, explaining:
Rajiv: I took these during my visit to Turkey upon the invitation of one of my friends. I have been struck by what I saw of the effects and manifestations of this civilization in that country which has such a long history. My friend surprised me with information about the aspects of Islamic civilization in his country, and made me recall what I had seen in my country India.
Michael: But I have other information on the Islamic civilization that represents another aspect of this civilization.
Yousef: I think that we should first define the concept of civilization, and then evaluate, if we wish, the Islamic civilization.
Michael: I think that we can all agree on this concept!
Yousef: Still, there is no harm in identifying it first, and if we already agree upon it, then we can set off from that point.
Michael: Civilization is the product of human and humanitarian (both physical and intellectual) activity, by which a society reflects its creativity and progress within a specified time.
Rajiv: To add a little detail to Michael's explanation, a civilization is a social order that helps man to increase his cultural production. Moreover, civilization is composed of four components: Economic resources, political systems, moral traditions, and the pursuit of science and the arts.
Civilization is based on scientific research and fine art, in the first place. The scientific side is represented in technical innovations and sociology. As for the side of fine art, it is found in architecture, sculptures and some of the arts that contribute to advancement, as art and science are two complementary elements that drive any civilization.
Yousef: I first want to comment on the words of my friend Michael; if we adopt the concept he has just mentioned, it should be noted that civilization is a human activity in the first place. As a result of noting that, all dimensions of the components of man must be considered, without neglecting any of them, otherwise the civilization would be considered as being incomplete, or it cannot, to begin with, be described as a civilization. This is one point.
The other point is that aspects of a civilization may differ from one human society to another, as they are a reflection of the values that this society is based upon. Accordingly, looking at the correctness or wrongness of these values and their compatibility with human rights and their consistency with its environment is a measure of the goodness or the corruption of that civilization. This is what shows us the wide disparities between different civilizations and the tragedy experienced by humanity under the Western, especially the contemporary, civilization.
Michael: I see that Mr. Yousef is trying to evade the discussion of the darker sides of the Islamic civilization, which we were going to consider.
Rajiv: Perhaps this is why we should request from Yousef to mention the characteristics of the Islamic civilization, and how it differs from that of other civilizations.
Yousef: Well, the Islamic civilization is based upon the Islamic perception of man, the universe and life. I shall mention to you its most important characteristics, but let me also add the counterparts of these characteristics in contemporary Western culture.
The most important characteristics of the Islamic civilization are:
Man in the Islamic perspective - upon which this civilization is founded - is a creature who is subservient to the Supreme Lord, and is living on this earth as a trustee, entrusted with propagating Allah’s way of life and with a free choice, and therefore, he is ordered to do the good deeds that are indicated in this way of life. He also will be held responsible for his voluntary actions, in this life and in the Hereafter.
As for the view of the contemporary Western civilization towards man, it is that he is the master of the universe. He is free, not constrained by anything except in what he himself specifies, out of his sovereignty over himself and the universe. His interests revolve around his desires and pleasures, which are interests he shares with other animals. The Western civilization believes that man was created uselessly for no purpose, and he will not be taken to account except in the context he himself defines. Moreover, all man's goals in the Western civilization are inferior, worldly goals.
The universe in the Islamic perspective is also a creature which is subservient to a Supreme Lord, just as man is. The difference, however, is that the universe was created to serve man, and thus a human being who follows Allah’s way is always in harmony with that universe, and is at one and feels at peace with it.
As for the Western civilization perspective of the universe, it is centered on a conflict, not a harmonious relationship, between man and the universe. And in such a case, the battle is fierce between the two.
The Islamic perception of life is that it is owned by the One Who created it and created this universe. It is a station in the process of a life greater than what we perceive, for there is a worldly life, ending by the death of all human beings, and there is another life that awaits us after death. Man is commanded to establish life on this earth in a way that pleases Allah, man's Creator and the Creator of the universe and of all human life. This worldly life is cultivating ground for the Hereafter, and there will be an accounting and reckoning of man for those actions he did in this worldly life.
The Western civilization, on the other hand, regards this life only as a worldly life. It does not believe in a Hereafter or in being held accountable, or in the reckoning. Man's opportunity, therefore, is only in this worldly life.
From all that, we can deduce that it is impossible for the Western civilization to meet with the Islamic civilization on a common ground with regards to the way they perceive matters, for they are on opposite sides.
Michael: But allow me Mr. Yousef to make two remarks on what you've just said:
First is that you left out an important aspect of Western civilization, which is the Christian religion, and also the Jewish. You say, for example, that the Western civilization believes that, where life is concerned, there is no Hereafter and there is no being held accountable, nor is there any reckoning. This is not true; both religions believe in the Hereafter, but the details of this belief are different from one religion to the other.
The Second thing is that what you've just said is with regards to the foundations of the Islamic civilization as compared with Western civilization, but you did not address the underlying characteristics of the Islamic civilization, as our friend Rajiv asked you to.
Yousef: As for the first remark, I disagree with you as there is a difference between the foundations of the civilization and the components of the society that created this civilization. There is no doubt that Christianity and Judaism has had an impact on Western civilization, but we cannot at all claim that Western civilization is built on the basis of these two religions. Rather, we can confirm exactly the opposite, which is that it has been founded on what contradicts with religion in general and with the control of the church in particular, i.e., it has been founded on abstract rationality and pure worldliness, which is crystallized in secularism, which in turn means the separation of religion from everyday life, and I think that you both agree with me on this.
I, however, agree with you about the second remark, but I will add to it that from these foundations the characteristics of Islamic civilization can be deducted, which are:
That heavy industry in the Islamic civilization is put to use to leave a good impact on man, aiming at taking into account the make-up of man, the satisfaction of his humanity, him being in harmony with the universe, and the attainment of the purpose of his creation.
Keeping a suitable link and interaction between religion as a part of daily life and dealings on the one hand, and between religion as a part of intellectual thought to develop the mind and science on the other, so as to produce behavior and cultural activity that is built on this link and interaction (so forming a well-rounded personality).
Coherence and compatibility in the basic, accepted sources of human knowledge. All the facts, those related to matter and those related to what is beyond that (unseen matters), can be known by man; he knows them using his different faculties, which support one another, since his actions resulting from his instinctive faculty are a result of what he feels with his sensory faculties, and how he understands these sensory faculties depend on his mental faculties, and the use of one’s mental faculty enables one to start asking about the unseen, a matter that depends on his faculty of belief, as the knowledge of the unseen only comes through revelation, and recognizing and complying with this revelation.
Openness to other cultures and civilizations and being affected by them, as well as having an impact on them. This results in adopting the features of other nations which are consistent with the foundations of the Islamic civilization, and opening the way for other nations to take advantage of the features and ideas of the Islamic civilization.
Rajiv: Pardon me, Mr. Yousef, but Michael has said that he has information on a dark side of the Islamic civilization. Please allow us to listen to him to get a complete picture.
Michael: The most important thing about this aspect is that the state that founded this civilization was established by the sword, and it was associated with force and violence.
Yousef: The sword, my friend, does not create a civilization, because one of the most important conditions of a civilization is stability, which is inconsistent with the state of war. Moreover, military victory does not necessarily mean a victory in the fields of thought, culture and civilization, and you can contemplate the history of the Tatars and Mongols, and other nations that have had an overwhelming military force, but they did not make such a strong civilization.
But if you are referring to those allegations about the spreading of Islam and its expansion through Jihad (Holy War), let me just point out that Islam has spread and its civilization was established in a large area of the world that the Islamic armies did not reach. This subject has many details, but I shall refer you to the testimonies of some Western thinkers in this regard. The American author Lothrop Stoddard writes in his book (The New World of Islam) : "…They (Arabs) were no bloodthirsty savages, bent solely on loot and destruction. On the contrary, they were an innately gifted race, eager to learn and appreciative of the cultural gifts which older civilizations had to bestow. Intermarrying freely and professing a common belief, conquerors and conquered rapidly fused, and from this fusion arose a new civilization, the Arab civilization."
French army colonel Count Henri de Castri said, ".. We believe that surveying the state of this religion in the present age does not show any trace of what some claim concerning it being spread at the point of the sword. If the religion of Muhammad [peace be upon him] was spread by violence and coercion then, by necessity, Islam would have stopped spreading upon the termination of the Muslim conquests. Yet we continue to see the Qur'an spreading its wings all over the inhabited earth..."
I cannot find a word that is able to express the impact of Islamic civilization on the history of mankind that is more honest than that of the French historian Gustave Le Bon:
"We cannot find in history a nation that made such a prominent impact as the Arabs did, for all nations which were connected to the Arabs embraced their civilization, even if it was just for some specific time..."
Finally: It is possible for you to see how life has started to be threatened by the destruction of humans through destructing their human characteristics, which is the case under the existing civilization; a matter which makes the establishment of an Islamic community a human necessity, and a natural inevitability.