Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
Language: English | Format: PDF | Pages: 117 | Size: 1.5 MB
It is important to understand Islaam from a cultural point of view because the basis of much of the current turmoil within Muslim countries and conflict with their neighbors can be attributed to cultural clashes. Consequently, a clear understanding of culture and its derivatives is necessary to comprehend the relevance of Islaam to the civilization of Muslim peoples in the twentieth century and beyond. The word “culture” comes from the Latin cultura which is a derivative of the verb colere meaning “tending” or “cultivation.” It was first recorded in the Oxford Dictionary of English in 1510 as meaning: “training of the mind” or “manners.” However, culture in anthropological usage, may be defined as “the way of life of specific group.”
“Basically, the idea of culture arises from the observation that what human beings do and what they refrain from doing is, in part, a consequence of being brought up in one group as opposed to another. People have a social heredity as well as a biological heredity.” Biological heredity represents practices common to all human societies, like, sleep, marriage, care for children and smiling, while social heredity refers to customs which usually vary from one society to the next. A simple definition of culture would then be ‘the man-made part of the human environment.’ “Members of the human species are trained in the family and in their education, formal and informal, to behave in ways that are conventional and fixed by tradition.”
The culture of most of the world today is that of Western Europe and America. It was exported to the remainder of the world during the period of European colonization and continued during the neo-colonial era by way of indirect rule. In the twentieth century Western culture has been promoted on a massive scale through the far-reaching effects of the media. Today, it is not surprising to find in the pages of National Geographic pictures of South American Indian youths in loin cloth in the middle of the Amazon wearing baseball caps with a Nike logo or Mongolian horsemen in the middle of the Gobi Desert wearing striped Adidas sweat pants and Rebok trainers. Western culture now represents the dominant cultural influence in most countries, both non-Muslim and Muslim. And it is the natural conflict that arises from the clash of cultures, which dominate the social and political policies in both the West and the East. Harvard University Professor, Samuel P. Huntington summed up the essential issues of the cultural clash in his following observation.
“The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not CIA or the U.S. department of defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superior, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to impose that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West.”