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Features of Unity in the Civilization
of the Islamic World

1.  Pre-Islamic Civilizations:

    Islamic civilization, like all others, did not arise in a vacuum. Rather, it was preceded by other deep-rooted civilizations in the same region, in a context of mutual interaction and influence.

    The first attempt to create a unified state comprising regions in Europe, Asia and Africa, and extending from Macedonia to India, was undertaken in the 4th century B.C. by Alexander of Macedonia (356-323 B.C.).  Alexander was not satisfied with political unification; therefore, he adopted other measures to unite the human elements across this domain, for example, respect for all religions and the performance of prayers in its various shrines. About 37 new cities were founded, all known as Alexandria, some in Balkh

and Soghdiana, some in the lower Caucasus and Egypt. His objective was to enable the local inhabitants and the Greeks to mix, to yield a new culture stemming from earlier civilizations.

The new cities became melting pots for this new culture. To set a good example, he married the Persian, Roxana and instructed his leaders to follow suit.

    Alexander's empire did not last after his death and disintegrated into kingdoms ruled by his generals; nevertheless the scientific movement he pursued continued and prospered after his death. To distinguish it from its Hellenic predecessor, it was known as "Hellenistic", with Alexandria in Egypt being the most famous centre, having a library and a scientific school that was a mixture of all former civilizations, particularly the ancient Egyptian civilization.

    Ashoka, king of north India in the third century B.C. tried to make Buddhism an international religion and to create a universal unity. Although a large number of Greeks embraced Buddhism, his attempt did not last and remained confined to India and east Asia.

    This attempt by Ashoka was preceded much earlier by the Pharaoh Akhnaton in the 14th Century B.C. when he propagated in his famous song" Aton", the God of the Universe, who looks after all aspects of nature; humans, animals and plants, as if trying to create an international spiritual unity that linked various parts of his kingdom from Syria in the north to Nubia in the south.

    The same applies to the Persian civilization with its deep-rooted Asian legacy, its ancient royalistic traditions and its developed administrative systems together with the various Hellenistic centres like Balkh, Meru, Gundisapur, etc. Iranians commenced their religious life, like many other nations, by worshipping the forces of nature. In the 7th century B.C. Zoroaster came and claimed that there is a cosmic war between good and evil or light and darkness (Ormazd and Ahriman) respectively. And since light comes from the sun which in turn is from fire, therefore fire played an important role in this doctrine and was worshipped, being the source of illumination and radiation. Then they had a holy book called the Avesta i.e. knowledge.

    Because of its dominance and rigidity, Zoroastrianism was countered by religious movements like Manichaeism founded by Mani in the third century B.C. Followers of Mani had a destructive mystic inclination calling people to austerity, non-marriage and productivity. They viewed good as the absolute nullity. Thus it was rejected and remained clandestine.

    Another religious reformer emerged in Iran called Mazdak who called people to solve their problems and to abandon their conflicts by sharing funds and women. His call was well received by the common people and by the deprived; however, he was murdered in the middle of the 6th century A.D. and his call, like Manichaeism, did not last. This points to the religious chaos and confusion in Iran prior to Islam.

    To sum up, deep-rooted and inter-connected civilizations existed in this region before Islam. There were even attempts, though unsuccessful, to unite some of their components. However, they infused this region with a new spirit, that modified and adapted Greek Philosophy. This same spirit was transmitted from one generation to the next. Natural and social environments helped to distinguish it from the western thought.

    Civilizations of the East differ in various aspects from those of the West. The various religions like Buddhism,

    Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity made this spirit non-materialistic, believing in one God above the whole world, hoping for a paradise, afraid of a hell, discerning real spiritual happiness to be beyond these worldy and sensual desires.

    Islam came as a way of life that marks the path and illuminates ways of guidance. It provided the practical and permanent solution to the problems of humanity which was suffering from a religious, intellectual, political and cultural vacuum. Greek thought, for instance, believed only in the concrete and was concerned with earthly sensations and temptations and was dominated by narrow regional trends, adopting the inductive method or analogy based on materialistic philosophy or thought without consideration of the trial approach. Thus, Greek thought seems as if it were restricted to materialism in its culture, science, philosophy, poetry and life.

    Roman thought glorified military power to the extent of worshipping and sanctification, and was characterized by a purely materialistic view of life, with the result of over-estimation of life, scepticism in religion, weak belief and disturbed doctrine. Therefore, there were numerous gods, with hostility or hatred between God and Man. To them life is but a chance of enjoyment, luxury in life and engagement in sensations. Persian thought before Islam adopted the strength of the ruler and physical power with the Divine blood flowing in the veins of the Persian empires. It also spread the theory of class disparity .

    In the other side of the world, in China and India, there was a clear imbalance between theoretical and the

    practical aspects of man's life with either one dominating over the other, leading either to spiritualism or to materialism. The outcome was lack of balance and harmony.

    With the revelation of Islam, the landmarks of earthly and heavenly lives became clearly distinguished. By divinity, humanity achieved justice, equality, dignity and freedom. Allah alone is worshipped; the Muslim is led and submits to the orders of Allah alone. Allah is also the owner of everything. Islam was neither limited in place, national in scope, restricted to its own followers, nor for a special class. It was rather for all humans, with a broad horizon, establishing human brotherhood.

    "O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct". (49:13)

    The Islamic view of man and life was comprehensive, recognizing man as a body, mind and spirit, with instincts  and desires in the body; the mind is a means of realizing desires and overcoming intervening obstacles; the spirit is the centre of hope, pain, passions and feelings. Refinement was the balancing factor between spiritualism and materialism. Refined spiritualism is the basis for refined materialism.

In the name of Allah:

    "But seek the abode of the hereafter in that which Allah hath given thee and neglect not thy portion of the world". (28:77).

    In the tradition, the Prophet (PBUH) is quoted as saying: "Your God has a right upon you; and so does your body. Therefore, give each his due right".

    In Islam, Man's relations with his Creator are based on organization and dominance. The Muslim surrenders completely to his Creator without a mediator but through self-supervision denoting an independent but strong personality that duly worshipped Allah and enjoyed life as ordained by the Almighty Allah.

    With the advent of Islam and the spreading of its light over these eastern states, this spirit was bolstered and augmented. It worked to unite individuals of the Islamic State, despite their races and origins. Consequently, Islam, as a religious ideology, an approach to life and a unifying force, managed to establish a human unity based on freedom. equality and tolerance; acting to abolish political barriers between various countries extending over three continents to give them a certain unified form.

    Whenever a Muslim travels in these countries he finds the same religion, the same prayers and the same laws. When he is far from home. a Muslim feels at home because Islam. which is his "extraordinary" passport, facilitates his journey.

    It should be noted that the Islamic community in medieval times was not divided into nationalities as it is today. Instead, there were horizontal strata throughout the Islamic world: scientists. ulama, traders, sufis, soldiers, etc. with members of each group being sympathetic to their fellows, regardless of their race or nationality. The Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta says that he managed to tour the countries of the Islamic world by means of the sufi's influence and was accorded with a warm reception and provided with assistance. This points to the clear presence of one nation, with one literature, one culture and one science.

    The Islamic world, despite distances between its parts and differences in sects and policies, represents a unique historical unit. The political differences among its states and governments do not prevent their meeting on the popular and civilization levels. This is because belief In Islam as an integrated system of morals, civilization. sociology, economics and politics remains the safety valve among Muslims wherever they are. Islam builds the foundations of Islamic civilization and distinguishes between the good and bad elements of civilization, defending its discipline and origins. The morals of individuals and the unity of the nation and the preservation of the Islamic Nation depend on this faith. The principles of Islam are capable of yielding strong elements that may confront all political regimes and philosophical ideologies that try to harm Islam and stand fast before the march of materialistic, capitalistic and communistic theories. Other religions did not remain steadfast; therefore those theories spread and became common among their nations and peoples.