The teachings of Islam, with their emphasis on knowledge, thinking, and intellectual growth, have laid the foundation for the progress and advancement of Muslims and the establishment of a shining civilization. Islam and the spiritual community have historically been pioneers in the progress, development, and spread of civilization in the world. Western scholars like Will Durant believe that Islamic civilization contributed significantly to the advancement and spread of knowledge and culture, particularly in Western society. Many different fields of knowledge owe their development to the activities of Muslims. Islamic scholars and Islam oppose the principles and secularism dominant in Western civilization, which, with its one-dimensional and materialistic view of humanity, has eroded moral and spiritual values and led humanity into various crises.
Western Indebtedness to Islamic Civilization
If the West claims civilization and progress today, Muslims, guided by the teachings of Islam, have enjoyed centuries of progress and civilization, and the West owes its progress to Islam. The illustrious history of Islamic civilization is a clear testament to the intellectual capacity, scientific achievements, and practical contributions of Islam to progress and development.
Acknowledgments by Western scholars
Will Durant, in his book "The Story of Civilization," writes: "Islam during five centuries, from A.D. 700 to 1200, was the pioneer of the world in many respects such as power, order, expansion of government territory, refinement of morals and behavior, standard of living, establishment of fair human laws and religious tolerance, literature, scholarship, science, medicine and philosophy. Islam had a great influence in the Christian world. Western Christendom adopted from Islam foods, beverages, drugs, dyes, textiles, treatment, weapons, the use of special family emblems, artistic taste and motivation, tools and techniques of industry and trade, and maritime laws and routes and an extensive vocabulary of scientific, philosophical, and artistic terms. Islamic scholars preserved and perfected Greek mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, and medicine and transferred this Greek heritage, which had become much richer, to Europe. Islamic doctors were the world's medical experts for five hundred years. Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd were the shining stars of the East according to the philosophers of Europe, who placed these two in authority after the Greeks. This Islamic penetration came by trade and Crusade, translation of thousands of books from Arabic to Latin, and the journeys of scholars like Gerbert, Adelard, and Michael Scot... into Muslim Spain." Montgomery Watt states: "We Europeans tend to take our culture for granted; we often give the Muslim culture a short shrift, and sometimes we ignore or neglect the importance of the Islamic impact on our cultural heritage... It is we Westerners of today who must correct our misunderstanding and admit our debt to Islam and the Arab world."
Zigurd Hoehne writes: "The Islamic civilization, which began with Muslims, not only saved Greek heritage from destruction and oblivion, it also systematized and expanded it, and transmitted it to Europe, but they have the foundation of experimental chemistry, physics, algebra, modern accounting, and spatial trigonometry, geology, and sociology. The Islamic civilization has presented a large number of expensive discoveries and inventions in all branches of experimental sciences, most of which were later attributed by European authors to themselves. Still, the most precious of them all may be the method of the natural sciences, a prelude that has opened the way for Europe, and has enabled it to know the laws of nature and to master and control them."
Islamic Scholars Have Not Opposed the Principle of Development and Progress
Islam and scholars do not oppose the principles of development, progress, and human achievements. The teachings of Islam, special emphasis and encouragement towards science and knowledge, the importance of thinking, reflection, work, etc. became the basis for the growth and progress of Muslims and the foundation of a brilliant civilization. What Islam and scholars oppose are the foundations of secularism prevalent in Western civilization, which, with its one-dimensional and materialistic view of humanity, has pushed moral and spiritual values into oblivion and entangled humanity in numerous crises. Some scholars' opposition to certain aspects of civilization is not related to its fundamental principles but is related to the negative effects this culture has on people's values and behavior. Scholars' opposition to cinema, theater, radio, television, and similar forms of entertainment is in this context. Therefore, the issue is not merely the use of technology; it is also about the culture that technology carries with it. Technology is inseparable from its values, and with the introduction of technology, its culture becomes part of life. This can lead to a distancing from Islamic culture. The principle behind these reactions is not blind prejudice or unconditional acceptance; rather, scholars approach various aspects of civilization with a critical and thoughtful perspective, considering the different dimensions of each issue. Scholars' approach to dealing with aspects of civilization is not one of baseless bias or outright rejection but rather a balanced, pragmatic, and realistic perspective that takes into account the positive and negative aspects. Among the scholars, some individuals have shown conservative dogmatic reactions to certain aspects of civilization. These reactions are sometimes used by opposing factions within the religious community to portray the entire religious community as opposed to progress and development. However, these views are individual and do not represent the mainstream views of the religious community as a whole. Progress and development do not have a single formula, and achieving progress is not limited to accepting all the requirements of Western civilization. Islam, based on its progressive teachings and principles, has laid the groundwork for progress and can serve as an appropriate model for progress in the contemporary era, offering an alternative to the Western model of progress.
Challenges of Civilization Arising From the Foundations Governing Western Ideology
The crises of Western civilization extend to knowledge, thought, moral, political, and social dimensions of humanity, and material, and technological progress has failed to hide the heavy shadow of the decline of moral, spiritual, social, and political values. René Guénon writes about the consequences and impasses of the new civilization: "Those who had created well-being and prosperity as their ideals, and who had profited from the improvements resulting from progress and development, are they happier than human beings in previous times? Today, communication tools are faster, and there are more amenities, but the lack of balance, inequality, and the feeling of greater need have put them in danger, and their security is increasingly threatened. The goal of the new civilization is nothing but increasing artificial needs, frenzied use of facilities, natural talents and drowning humans in mechanized life."
- This article is mainly taken from "روحانیت و توسعه و تکنولوژی" on Persian Wikipasokh.