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In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

 Islam and the West

Presented by Waleed Faris <wfaris@vt.edu> as part of the Seminar:

Understanding Islam and Muslims, Blacksburg, VA, Oct. 16, 2001



Good evening everyone.

My talk today will be about Islam and the West.

I guess one question that comes to mind when we hear the title is: what about Islam and the east?

The answer is that Islam is a universal religion, which expanded in just thirty years after the death of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) from Morocco in the far west of north Africa to the territories of China in the east.

In fact, there is a major difference between the expansion of Islam in the west and in the east. In east, Islam expanded in a faster way with little resistance and mostly by travelers and traders not by conflicts and war.

In the west, the situation was different. Islam expanded through conflicts with the existing civilizations, and this conflict still living till now. That conflict will never cease until the west try to open its eyes and look upon the potentials and powers that Islam can bring without putting its own dogmas as the best all the time.

In this talk, I am trying to gap this conflict by bringing in some of the major conceptual differences between Islam and the west in their look at civilization, ethical codes.

Basically, I am going to rely on the infallible Islamic source which Quran and on history to put things into perspective.

·       Civilization:

 Lerner in his book “America as a Civilization” mentioned that in times of war the fighting powers try to justify their fight by posing themselves as “civilized” against “Barbarians”.

So, the concept of civilization here is manipulated for the sake of politics. This is why Islam put clear and definite rules for the “civilization” concept.

1)     Humans are agents of God on earth, only if they obey God and worked according to his rules.

Also, Humans are not the owners of the earth.

I am quoting some the verses that support this view.

{And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: "Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth." They said: "Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, - while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You." He (Allāh) said: "I know that which you do not know."} 2:30.

{Mūsa (Moses) said to his people: "Seek help in Allāh and be patient. Verily, the earth is Allāh's. He gives it as a heritage to whom He will of His slaves, and the (blessed) end is for the Muttaqūn (pious - see V.2:2)."  They said: "We (Children of Israel) had suffered troubles before you came to us, and since you have come to us." He said: "It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you successors on the earth, so that He may see how you act?"} 7:128-129.

{Allāh has promised those among you who believe, and do righteous good deeds, that He will certainly grant them succession to (the present rulers) in the earth, as He granted it to those before them, and that He will grant them the authority to practice their religion, that which He has chosen for them (i.e. Islām).  And He will surely give them in exchange a safe security after their fear (provided) they (believers) worship Me and do not associate anything (in worship) with Me. But whoever disbelieved after this, they are the Fāsiqūn (rebellious, disobedient to Allāh).} 24:55.

{Those (Muslim rulers) who, if We give them power in the land, (they) order for Iqamat-as-Salāt.[] [i.e. to perform the five compulsory congregational Salāt (prayers) (the males in mosques)], to pay the Zakāt and they enjoin Al-Ma'rūf (i.e. Islāmic Monotheism and all that Islām orders one to do), and forbid Al-Munkar (i.e. disbelief, polytheism and all that Islām has forbidden) [i.e. they make the Qur'ān as the law of their country in all the spheres of life]. And with Allāh rests the end of (all) matters (of creatures).} 22:41.


2)     No elite in Islam, and civilization is not associated with certain ethnicity or group of people, only the pious and defendants of the right are the civilized people.

{You [true believers in Islāmic Monotheism, and real followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways, etc.)] are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind; you enjoin Al-Ma'rūf (i.e. Islāmic Monotheism and all that Islām has ordained) and forbid Al-Munkar (polytheism, disbelief and all that Islām has forbidden), and you believe in Allāh[]. And had the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) believed, it would have been better for them; among them are some who have faith, but most of them are Al-Fāsiqūn (disobedient to Allāh - and rebellious against Allāh's Command).} 3:110.


3)     Civilization is not based on materialistic development, but basically on its human content.

God destroyed before us great materialistic civilizations because they were void of this essence and of no use to humanity.

{And many a township have We destroyed while it was given to wrong-doing, so that it lies in ruins (up to this day), and (many) a deserted well and lofty castles!} 22:45.


4)     Civilized people fight to free the oppressed from the oppressors.

{And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allāh, and for those weak, ill­treated and oppressed among men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from You one who will protect, and raise for us from You one who will help."} 4:75.


·       Ethical code:

1)     The truth in Islam is eternal and absolute and related to the human being “Fitra” or natural purity.

2)     Changing names will not change the truth. (e.g. Alcohol => Spirits, prostitute => sex care provider, adultery => friendship,...).

3)     Firm stand against those who change the word of God.

4)     No racism.

Quran does not have a single word that has the implication of racism, and Islam stood firm fighting against racism in the west between blacks and whites as it stood against cast system in India.

5)     Ethics of war (e.g. Jerusalem, Spain).

6)     Justice for every one.


·       Intellectual impact of Islam on the west:

The religious freedom that was guaranteed by Islam to other religions facilitates the nourishment of several religious movements that were the catalysts for the renaissance era. These movements like Cabalism in Judaism and Illuminati in Christianity. The so called “Golden age” of Judaism was the one under Islamic ruling in Spain.

The scientific and philosophical contributions of Muslims were the major source for the renaissance of Europe.


E-mail icb@islamview.org with questions or comments.
Last modified: 06/26/06