the unique reflection of beliefs – Hamid Jamil


Culture has been defined as “the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought characteristic of a community or a population. It is the set of shared beliefs, attitudes, values, and behavioural patterns of a group or organization”. (Readers Digest Universal Dictionary)
Such school of thought argue that culture is an historical heritage of a nation, people or society in the fields of art, architecture, dress, cuisine, language, literature and other cultural norms and pursuits. Islam, on the other hand, consists of beliefs, acts of worship, a code of conduct and jurisprudence. So long as the culture of a society lies within the parameters of Islamic beliefs, acts of worship, code of conduct and the Shariah, that culture would be acceptable in Islam. Many an artist, architect, poet, author and chef has, upon acceptance of Islam, adjusted himself/herself so as conform to the Islamic requirements.

In Islamic Culture there is reflection of the Islamic values. In the name of art and culture, Islam does not encourage open or hidden obscenity. Rather, it declares obscenity of all kinds as clearly unlawful (haram/????). Likewise, Islam does not permit the doing of any action which is against human development and dignity. Islam has its own values according to which it moulds the human character. The basis of Muslim Culture is Islam. And any interpretation of Culture cannot be acceptable which is against the basic concepts of Islam. Islamic Culture is fully constructive, full of peace, full of excellence, and based on welfare and well-wishing of the people. By its expression purity, modesty and sincerity prevails in the atmosphere. Islam means “surrender” and its central idea is a surrendering to the will of God. Its central article of faith is that “There is no god but God and Muhammad (peace be upon him)is his messenger”.
The term ‘culture’ is a much abused term, even as the term, ‘civilization’, and an endless variety of definitions of it have been advanced from time to time. A number of these have identified culture exclusively with one or other of the several aspects of its manifestation. Some have laid undue emphasis on only a few of the ingredients which compose it to the neglect of other ingredients.

Basic concept of Islamic culture:
Islamic culture represents the unification of all the cultures influenced by common beliefs and practices. The guiding religious phenomena and cultural aspects bind its people historically. The religious practices and beliefs of Muslims are centered on the religion of Islam. The original Islamic literature is in Arabic, the Prophets (peace be upon him) language. Most of the literature is religious in nature. It comprises communication and documentation of the belief system from the Quran, Sirat and Hadith.

History of Islamic culture:
Secular Muslim literature developed in the Umayyad Empire. It was taken by the Arabs to distant lands and became part of a popular culture. In due course of time, Persian became one of the main languages of the civilization. In the sub-continent, syncretistic poetry from the Sufis propagated the foundations of Islamic culture.
The culture in terms of its elements:
The Culture in terms of its elements consists of seven sections, namely:
1. Equipment and supplies human life in the form of clothing, dwelling, household furnishings, weapons, means of production, means of transportation, and others.
2. Meeting the needs of life and economic systems such as agriculture, animal husbandry, production systems, distribution systems, consumer systems, and so on.
3. The system of social/kinship, social and political organization, mating systems.
4. The language used both orally and in writing.
5. Art.
6. Science and technology.
7. Religious ideology.

The Period of Islamic Culture and Culture of Islam;
If we see the period of time between the Islamic Culture and Culture of Islam, the Culture of Islam continues until Muslim exists- means until the world ends. Every ethnic and territories are varying in addressing each of the teachings of Islam, both in the form of worship and mu’amalah. Generally, differences can be seen around the technical implementation of these teachings in using symbols. Chinese ethnic provides mosque shape differently compared with African ethnicity. Education management and teaching in Saudi Arabia is different from the implementation in Indonesia. Wedding ceremonies, deaths, and others from one region to others are different. These circumstances continue until humans Muslims at the level of ethnic differences and different regions continue to react to it. It is perfectly natural to surface, but the record still has control of the common basic teachings of Islam which is based on the Qur’an and Sunnah. The above conditions are different from the Islamic Culture. Islamic Culture takes place when the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is pointed as a Messenger of Allah till he is dead. This time is a time of revelations under the decline of the Shari’a to human being. Its content is to touch the whole of human life and the environment and to provide information about the future of human beings after death and the end of the universe to the hereafter. Issues of nature visible and invisible notified. Attitudes perpetrated by man against God, himself, others, the environment have been regulated in detail in the revelation. By the end of the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it means that it is the end to the Islamic Culture. However, the leaving is only the assessment of him in every field of human life that can be useful in their lives. If there is a clash between civilization and conflict with the Qur’an, then simply examine that Islamic culture has ended. Humans can no longer take action on the penetration of Islamic Culture at Cultural Islam. Humans should not exert him to match the Islamic culture with the culture. It is useful to maintain the purity of the teachings of the revelation of the penetration of human culture. Arabs can be served as a miniature model for the whole of human culture by the revelation because it is dropped there and nothing is forgotten by the revelation at all in the texts.

The concept of Islamic culture and its content:
In order to speak of Islamic culture, we should, first of all, define the concept of culture in general then the concept of Islamic culture in particular. The Arabic language defines “thaqafa”, i.e. culture, as dexterity and cleverness, derived from “Thaqaf”: to become well-versed, skilful. “Thaqaf” means to learn to know. The term in our times is devoted to the type of education through which methods of thinking and working grow in a manner suiting the time and the place. Thus, culture is a dynamic concept which signifies fertilization of the mental faculties through acquaintance, investment of knowledge by guessing, contemplating and exerting efforts, and development of Man’s personal energies. This comes in line with the French term “Culture”, i.e. cultivation and fertilization. Culture adds to the value of the cultivated individual, thanks to the fertilization of his mental faculties in the same manner as the value of land is increased by making investment in it in order to expand its proceeds. Culture is the outcome of the accumulated information and methods of thinking differing in their range by virtue of their relationship with the issues of concern to the individual in general and with what is related to subjectivism and identity, in particular. The cultivated individual is quite different from the scholar ; the former is aware, through his social senses (contacts) of his being human whether the matter is related to his times or not. This is the humanistic aspect of culture. As for what he lives in, his identity and his national and spiritual affiliation and the interactions facing him, it may be said that this is the subjective psychological aspect of the cultivated individual. The culture of an individual is measured by the extent and diversity of his knowledge, his ability to deduce, coordinate and compare the acquired 44 Concepts, characteristics and sources information so as to arrive at conclusions and take positions which may crystallize a given concept or rectify a mistaken idea/view. Being rather a double-edged weapon that might be used either to bring change or to maintain the current state of affairs, culture is far from being unbiased. In fact, culture may be used as a ruminative instrument of past history or a molding force for future progress. It might, likewise, be either an inclusive barrier or a wider horizon opening up on other cultures; a cause for war, or a source of peace. Every society is endowed with a specific culture which constitutes the ordering pattern of its whole life, and revolves around three interrelated components, namely:
1. The religious creed, principles, values, morals, characteristics, beliefs, traditions, customs, as well as the skills and means man deploys to react to his social and natural surroundings. This is what Ibn Khaldoun calls human ethics that subsume each people’s specific creeds and life patterns.
2. Creative outlet to the in-depth content of the human mind, which finds its expression in the various works of art, especially fiction, poetry, drama, in addition to such expressive arts as music, painting, dancing, etc.
3. Intellectual, scientific, philosophical, literary and theoretical tendencies and debates.

These elements are interrelated in such a way that it would be unjustified to draw a line between them in an attempt to fathom them as a whole. Indeed, the specific culture of a people, no matter how civilized they are, is the amalgamation of all these elements. Culture is supposed to promote mental training, refine the senses and strengthen consciousness and awareness. Therefore, it is included in the education of the individual, as a right to enjoy and a duty to possess. Man has been created with the element of love for knowledge and curiosity, to be acquired through his social senses which may be vast or narrow, sometimes, in a manner which may develop in the cultivated individual the characteristics of selfishness, prejudice and hatred or the qualities of preferring others to himself, tolerance and humbleness. Culture has its impact on individual and collective behavior in terms of morals, and ideological, political and ethnic tendencies and inclinations. Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World 45 It is to be borne in mind that the nature of the elements of culture and that of its quality, sources and the methods followed in its communication makes this impact positive or negative and indeed advantageous or harmful. Here, we can see very clearly the importance of the divinely revealed Islamic religion which calls for decency and which dispraises inflexibility and prejudice. It recalls the unifying origin of all human beings. It also recalls that piety constitutes the sole measurement of superiority since Allah the Most Exalted says : “O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. “And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (Hujurãt, verse 13). It is needless to say that thought, science and creativity in arts are the basic components of culture. They correspond to the fields of human nature and mankind’s ambitions and inclinations in general. Man experiences a persistent desire to know and understand and to let his senses enjoy the beauties of the image, colors and rhythms in accordance with the heavenly laws promulgated by Allah and contained in the Holy Book : “Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet” ( Al-i-‘Imran, verse 14). Here we raise a question: Does the desirable harmony between the elements of culture and the latent instincts and nature of mankind need to be linked to moral and spiritual criteria or not? The materialistic and secular currents reject such a linkage and consider that no criterion is attached to thinking, sciences or arts and that thinking, sciences and arts be emancipated and rendered devoid of any external theology. They claim that this is an emancipation of mankind from illusions and backwardness. Islam, however, does not go along this view. It considers that nature and instincts need to be guided and cultivated, and that is in keeping with the welfare of man who is the entrusted vicegerent. Islam also considers that reason and law should go hand in hand since they are complementary to each other and that science and arts are not ends in themselves. They are rather means to these ends. The objective is, of course, the welfare and happiness of mankind. The end is to carry out the responsibility of being the vicegerent 46 Concepts, characteristics and sources in the short worldly life, the life of the hard work and affliction in preparation for the eternal life, the Day of Judgement and reward. Therefore, the Islamic environment requires that the Muslim individual develop his culture and behavior within the framework of his creed. The Muslim, in other words, should adapt his culture and behavior, and all their elements, to the precepts and guidance of the Islamic Sharia so as to avoid the occurrence of any discrepancies between reason and law, between science and religion or between religion and state and also in order to preserve the oneness of his identity and to protect it from falling apart when he feels that there is a vacuum in respect of his objectives. In fact, it is very difficult to perceive a culture that is abstract and neutral, i.e. a culture not linked to historic or doctrinal background forming the resources of its balances, criteria and values. The western civilization, for instance, avoids the religious source due to reasons connected with the relations of its states with its religious and ideological institutions. Therefore, despite the general guidelines contained in the modern western culture, culture in various countries generally bears a description which determines its framework and dimensions. Hence, culture is affiliated to a language such as the French or German cultures or to a religion as the Islamic culture or an ideology like Marxism, or to a country or region such as the Pharaonic or Greek or Chinese cultures. In all cases, its contents incorporate the concept of its name. The French culture, for instance, covers all that is linked to the French language as a vessel and all that is related to the sciences, arts, customs and morals of the institutions of France which constituted the source of this language. The Islamic culture too, when put on the mantle of Islam, became wide enough to incorporate all the contents of this term, bearing in mind that Islam is a religion, a law, an ideological and civilizational trend and a system of values. Thus, culture, in its concept which is harmonious with the Islamic methodology, would be the expression of the scope of progress and development in the different aspects of human life and its various fields and underlying the creativity displayed by man during his interaction with the universe bestowed on him by Allah for the service of His creed and human Cultural Strategy for the Islamic World 47 values, and the presentation of his latent characteristics of thinking and behaviour which are in line with the reality of the individual and the society in accordance with Islamic criteria and contents emanating from the true Islamic creed based on the Holy Book, the sound tradition of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), Islamic order contained in the glorious Islamic Sharia, and the general principles of the political, economic and cultural aspects of the Islamic thinking agreed upon unanimously by the Fiqh schools, the righteous predecessors, and the contemporaneous scholars.[9][10]

Contributions of the Mosque and the training of Imams to the dissemination of Islamic culture:
In consideration of the fact that any sound, integrated preparation of the Muslim should build on marshalling together all psychological and instinctive drives underlying genuine Islamic faith, and on account of the outstanding role played by the Mosque in promoting Islamic good demeanor and spreading good values far and wide, any attendance to the Mosque intended to be comprehensive shall ensure the following:
1. Rehabilitate the Mosque through renovation of its integrated role consisting of the dissemination of Islamic culture, propagation of such Islamic virtues as unity, solidarity and collaboration, and fostering religious education and society.
2. Train competent Imams able to publicize Islamic culture through authorized channels like the Friday Sermon and such other original religious ceremonies.
3. Provide the mosques with diverse Islamic books pending the setting up of public-reading libraries attached to each mosque.
4. Encourage revival of the Mosque’s education system and capitalize on the cost-effective learning opportunities offered by the mosque with a view to lightening government’s burden.[11]

Characteristics of Islamic culture:
The Quran is considered to be the sources of many aspects of Islamic culture. Certain acts or rituals that Muslims do almost subconsciously are actually encouraged, or allowed by Allah , or mandated, in the Quran.

Festival and Marriage:
Festivals like Eid ul- Fitr , Eid ul-Adha and Lailat al Miraj are classic examples of the influence of the religion in the lives of Muslim people. According to Muslim culture, Marriage is, in the words of Mohammad, [half of Religion]. The bonding of two souls is holy matrimony is looked upon as a legal bond and social contract.

Islam has its own history of culture as well as culture of history which by itself unique from that of other cultures. Islam accumulated all other existing cultures based on its main principles of Islam and gave a new, modern, unique forms which reflected and still reflecting its own beliefs, norms.

The writer is an under graduate student at the University of Dhaka.