On the Nature and Emergence of Islamic Civilization: Some Philosophical Implications

Topaloğlu A.

Humanities and Islamic Hikmah (wisdom) , Tehran, Iran, 09 November 2021

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: Tehran
  • Country: Iran
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


Islamic Civilization, like many other civilizations in history, is very special and it has created a unique culture of its own. In different geographies, starting from a small region where it emerged, it revealed the various complementary ethical elements of this culture. Contrary to popular belief, especially in the West, and expectations of modern positivistic ideologies, there did not exist among the foundations of Islam the 7th-century Arab’s settled culture, mainstream lifestyle, or social elements, such as class superiority, economic interests, political aims, tribalism, racism, or paganism. On the contrary, there was a very strong reaction against the contemporary Arab (Bedouin) culture.  A transition was made to a new world in which the foundations of universal ethical values were laid in every field. This transition not only occurred when the Qur'an was sent down, and it also was not limited to the period when the Prophet lived. It has continued for centuries in terms of establishing the targeted values and has survived to the present day.

Unfortunately, not only the emergence and spread of Islam, but also the process of creating a civilization has been the subject of many misunderstandings, speculations, and polemics; groundless and unfair accusations have been put forward. Behind these misunderstandings, of course, there can be found many just and unjust factors. In addition to these accusations, besides the efforts to show Islam as an Arab religion or its own historical culture, the distorted approaches of some orientalists also played an important role.

In addition to some orientalist’s purposeful approaches to the main texts, or to controversial issues in early Islamic history, the main negative reasons also include some people's antipathy towards 7th-century Arabia that is due to some historical, cultural, and political factors; seeing Islam as the religion of the people living in this geography, and the teachings of the Qur'an quite unfairly combined with the culture of Bedouin Arabs. If this were so, we would not be able to talk about a civilization that would last until today, and we would not be able to witness countless examples of this civilization, as seen in the works of historians of science and civilization, such as Fuat Sezgin and George Sorton.

In Islamic Civilization and the geographies where this civilization is accepted, a common civilization based on monotheism, legal rights, justice, and wisdom has been cultivated, and a peaceful world has been established where the rights of other people or people with different beliefs are also respected. To understand the historical and cultural significance of Islamic civilization, it is of great importance to first see its intellectual basis and to realize the main ethical factors behind its rapid spread.

In this paper, I will try to focus on the early ethical and theological challenges of Islamic Civilization and then I will attempt to evaluate its subsequent historical, cultural, or scientific developments. It is another aim of this presentation to dwell on the possibility of talking about any Islamic civilization in today's world, and to question the alleged backwardness of some Muslim peoples if any.