Why is civilisation a problematic concept, and is Western civilisation a failed experiment?

By Spahic Omer

(Summary: This article explains why civilisation, as promoted by the West and its scholarship, is a problematic concept. The article argues that civilisation is entirely a Western construct. Its genesis and spread were closely related to the phenomena of colonisation and westernisation. Thus, civilisation stood for subjugation, exploitation and control. To be civilised meant to be colonised, controlled, and modelled according to the life standards of the “masters”. In modern times, this understanding of civilisation sustains its influence under the aegis of progress, democratisation and globalisation. The essence, however, remains the same. As a result, the pure Muslim consciousness for long resisted the idea, producing diverse responses. Finally, since “civilisation” is responsible for the greatest predicaments of mankind, including the potential clashes of civilisations, one wonders if the model of Western civilisation is a failed experiment.)

As an idea and a wide variety of perceptible realities and phenomena, civilisation is the holy grail of the modern world. It is its mantra too. There is virtually no pursuit – individual or collective – that is not somehow associated with it, and that is not undertaken either in the name of, or for the sake of strengthening and expanding, it.

The modern man lives for civilisation, embodying its disposition and multidimensionality. He flies its flag in whatever he does and wherever he goes, on the planet earth and beyond. Hence, the most ideal manifestation of civilisation will spell what Francis Fukuyama calls “the end of history and the last man”.

The idea is synonymous with the end of human evolution, denoting a human condition, as well as a socio-politico-economic system, that will fulfil the deepest and most profound yearnings of man. The end of evolution corresponds to the pinnacle of civilisation, whereas the presence of the last man accords with mankind’s final evolutionary phase – and the end of it – together with mankind’s reaping of the fruits of its long civilisational journey. 

Several earlier philosophers, such as Hegel and Karl Marx, both German, posited that the progress of man and his society was not open-ended. It would end when mankind achieves its most perfect ideological state, and when it becomes what it always craved for – both consciously and subconsciously – and was intrinsically meant to be.

For Hegel, that condition was the liberal state, while for Marx it was a communist society. The “end” here means perfection, fulfilment and contentment. The natural cycles of life at all levels will continue unchanged, with many important events still taking place, but “there would be no further progress in the development of underlying principles and institutions, because all of the really big questions had been settled” (Fukuyama).

For Fukuyama, on the other hand, the emergence of liberal democracy signifies the “end point of mankind’s ideological evolution” and the “final form of human government”. It managed to conquer rival ideologies like hereditary monarchy, fascism, and most recently communism, advocating blanket civil liberties, the rule of law and economic freedom.  As such, liberal democracy, or Western democracy, as a political ideology and a form of government, constitutes the “end of history” and the “last man” (Fukuyama).

Civilisation and culture

The soul and benchmark of all historical developments is civilisation. Civilisation is the overall way of life of a productive and progressive people, involving their values, norms, standards, institutions, modes of thinking, and development in all critical life sectors. Thus, to Samuel Huntington, “human history is the history of civilisations. It is impossible to think of the development of humanity in any other terms.” It is either civilisation or otherwise: un-civilisation, barbarism and savagery.

It is owing to this universal meaning of civilisation that many identify, or closely relate, it with culture. Civilisation is a cultural entity; or a milieu (a whole) that encompasses a number of nations and their cultures (parts); or the inevitable destiny of culture; or the external indexes and conclusions of culture and its visionary as well as creative potencies.

Culture shapes the behaviour of society, and propels and also sustains its civilisational ambition and performance. Accordingly, culture is the mind and soul of society, while civilisation is its configuration and form. They are different but the same, unified by fulfilling the pressing organic and ideological needs of society.

However, inside Germany, before and now, there is a clear distinction between culture and civilisation. “Nineteenth-century German thinkers drew a sharp distinction between civilisation, which involved mechanics, technology and material factors, and culture, which involved values, ideals and the higher intellectual artistic, moral qualities of a society. This distinction has persisted in German thought but has not been accepted elsewhere” (Huntington).

Oswald Spengler (d. 1936), a German historian and philosopher of history, for one, not only separated between culture and civilisation, but also expounded that culture precedes civilisation. It eventually comes to its phase, which however signifies culture’s autumn and decline.

Some anthropologists have gone so far as to reorder the relation. They conceived of cultures as characteristic of primitive, rude, static and non-urban societies, whereas more complex, refined, developed, urban and dynamic societies were perceived as civilisations (Huntington).

Be that as it may, since the nineteenth-century German thought was extremely advanced and influential, the propagated differences between culture and civilisation, even though failing to catch on globally, left their mark. As a result, people are still grappling with reference to the precise definitions and scopes of each of culture and civilisation, and where exactly they unite and part company, theoretically and in actual fact. They also struggle to come up with a unified set of criteria which would make individuals – and nations en bloc – cultured and civilised, or otherwise.

Separating – or not – civilisation from culture entailed some greater implications and far-reaching consequences than it at first glance might have seemed. Since the concept of civilisation was a Western construct, in order to at once intensify and justify the colonisation, cultural imperialism and westernisation of the “Other” – as will be explained later – it is no wonder that a close especially ideological relationship between civilisation and culture was championed by most Westerners. In that case, colonisation was intended to be as much a process of civilising as a process of acculturating. Total domination and authority were ensured thereby. It was a two-in-one operation.

Alternatively, those who espoused separation between civilisation and culture rendered colonisation and everything that went with it – both as dogmas and processes – all the more challenging. The battles had to be fought on two separate fronts, halving the competences and diffusing the focus. The approach was set to give the victims more impetus and enthusiasm to resist the onslaughts. Greater leeway was furthermore afforded for audacity and insubordination. If nothing, some moral victories were always in the offing. Hope was never lost.

For instance, it is rightly said now and then that when the Europeans started systematically colonising the Americas from 1492, while they were more “civilised” than the indigenous peoples, the latter were more cultured than them. The same holds true with regard to the colonisation of the Muslim world. Despite the fact that Western colonisers were far more superior in terms of military establishment, weapons, machinery, technology, and other material factors (“civilisation”), Muslims in every colonised land were much better than their adversaries in respect of spirituality, morality, values, and even intellectuality and art in relevant fields (culture).

In any case, it seems logical that the entire civilisation-versus-culture dialectic was in part premeditated and closely monitored. It was aimed to serve a clandestine set of colonisation- and westernisation-related objectives.

The etymological origin of the word “civilisation”

The word “civilisation” did not exist in Middle English, which is a form of the English language spoken from the 11th to the end of the 15th century. It entered the language in the early 18th century.

It was firstly used as a technical legal term possessing both a specific and general meaning. In its more limited sense, it defined “a law, act of justice, or judgment, which renders a criminal process civil; which is performed by turning an information into an inquest, or the contrary”. Generally, however, the word referred to the process of “assimilating common law to civil law” (Caffentzis). The earliest use of such sense, which is now obsolete, was in 1704 (etymonline.com).

“The term’s definition changed in the last half of the 18th century. The 1828 edition of Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defined ‘civilisation’ as ‘The act of civilising, or the state of being civilised, the state of being refined in manners, from the grossness of savage life, and improved in arts and learning’. Webster made it clear that the legal definition was a secondary one, and he placed next to it a cautionary ‘not used’” (Caffentzis).

Civilisation in the sense of “civilised condition, state of being reclaimed from the rudeness of savage and primitive life” was first recorded in 1772, probably from French civilisation. It served as an opposite to barbarity and savagery (etymonline.com).

The term’s precursor, also in the 18th century, might have been the word “civility” (Caffentzis), which means “formal politeness and courtesy in behaviour or speech.” However, “civilisation”, from “to civilise”, was deemed more appropriate in the sense opposed to barbarity, as it indicated the outcome of a process, which civilisation in reality is. It is a process of either becoming civilised, or transforming someone from savagery and barbarity to civilisation. “Civility” is not only less abstract and less versatile, but also more attributive and more definite, than civilisation.

The root word of “civilisation” were the Latin words “civitas” and “civis”, which mean “city” and “citizen” respectively. The English words “civic”, “civics”, “civil”, “civilian”, “civilisation”, “civilise”, “citadel”, “citizen” and “city” are all derived therefrom.

However, it should be observed that in Latin, two separate words were used for the physical aspects and features of the city, and the body of citizens together with a milieu wherein they live and operate as such.

For the former, the word “urbs”, which means “stronghold”, was employed. In English, it produced such words as “urban”, “urbane”, “urbanity”, “urbanise” and “urbanisation”, all being related to, characteristic and designative of city; that is, to become “urbanised”, “physically developed”, or “citified” (Dominik).

Whereas the word “civitas” (“city”) was used for the large body of citizens and the milieu of their lives and functions. This word is more abstract and more substantial than “urbs”. It is also more humanistic, pertaining to the immediate and more innate interests of the lives of people. It can yet be receptive of some spiritual undertones.

The example is St. Augustine’s best-known work “the City of God” (Civitas Dei). He uses the word “civitas”, rather than “urbs”, as he talks in spiritual and ethical terms about the Christian church and its relationship with Rome (Dominik). To St. Augustin, the City of God is marked by people who forgo earthly pleasures to dedicate themselves to the eternal truth of God. The Earthly City (Civitas Terrena), on the other hand, consists of people who have immersed themselves in the cares and pleasures of the present, passing world (Taylor).

Civilisation and urbanisation

As a small digression, it becomes clear why city is the essence and at the same time receptacle of civilisation, and why urbanisation and physical development are its main characteristics – while prominent elements of culture can be found elsewhere, like in small townships, rural communities and even nomadic tribes, which nevertheless without civilisation tend to be significantly undermined and undervalued.

It likewise becomes clear why – because being “civilised” was good and highly sought-after, and being “uncivilised” was bad and highly detested – advanced cities were always favoured over other forms of settlements. Living in cities was equated with being civilised, sophisticated and even cultured. Living elsewhere was less so: the smaller a settlement, the reduced amount and extent of its civilisation. Non-cities were unconducive to civilisation.

This in turn triggered the phenomenon of the steady population shift from rural to urban areas. The trend caused a series of massive problems to which different societies reacted differently. The trend, moreover, became global in nature with the global spread – and imposition – of Western civilisation and values. The heavy rate of migration from rural to urban areas kept increasing over the years, showing no signs of abating.

Rapid and pervasive urbanisation became the most recognisable feature of the modern civilisation. According to the U.N., from 2008 half the world’s population live in urban areas, and about 70 percent will be city dwellers by 2050.

Uncontrollable urbanisation became one of the most painful realities of this civilisation. Being initially the source of its pride and identity, urbanisation eventually turned into a bane. It became a direct and indirect cause of the problems that beset humanity most nowadays, such as high population density, slums, overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, lack of affordable housing, flooding, pollution, environmental degradation, vice, crime and poverty.

All of a sudden, cities and their uncontainable urbanisation techniques grew into the breeding grounds for the antitheses of civilisation (and culture). They became caught in a vicious circle: they could exist and “prosper” only if they were impregnated with the spirit and modules of civilisation, functioning as the latter’s physical loci, but the more assertive and more civilised they became, the unhealthier and more off-putting they turned out to be, with their long-term futures giving the impression of being ever uncertain and bleak.

Cities may in the end become the embodiments of everything civilisation is not and should not be. They may yet become the modern man’s and his civilisation’s undoing. If cities were both the cradles and objects of the modern civilisation, they may still, ultimately, come to be its necropolis and resting place. As if Civitas Terrena is set to emerge victorious over Civitas Dei. As if the idols of the mind, ego and vain desires, furthermore, were set to subdue and prevail over the considerations of Heaven.

 It is hardly surprising then that the main civilisational conundrum of the modern man and the main focus of his endless civilisational interactions, exchanges and discourses revolve around the newly coined notions of sustainability and sustainable development. The crux of the matter is how to ensure the continuity of quality existence and how to ensure as well as sustain the wellbeing not only of the present but also future generations, while maintaining peace with the natural world, people and the self. In short, the concern is how to ensure the survival of civilisation.

How and why did the concept of civilisation become opposed to barbarism?

At its face value, the concept of civilisation appears totally innocent and positive. It oozes an aura of enthusiasm, progressiveness and drive. However, taking a closer look reveals that such is not entirely the case. There is more to civilisation – albeit seriously problematic and questionable – than it seems. The concept has widely been misconstrued, manipulated and abused.

Thus, there were scholars who declared that they had for some time rejected the notion of civilisation because of its “discriminatory implications”. Questions have also been raised concerning the ethical inclinations and contents of civilisation (Caffentzis).

For instance, is the deliberate and systematic perpetration of horrid crimes sufficient to make an individual or a society uncivilised? If the answer is in the negative, what is then the true meaning and raison d’etre of civilisation? Civilisation will lose its credibility if it keeps contradicting itself and defeating the purpose of its existence. It cannot coexist and share the stage with calculated evil, cruelty and injustice.

But if the answer is in the affirmative – as it should be, for all intents and purposes – never, after the witch-hunt, the slave trade, bloody colonial history, Palestine, Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Bosnia, “could we bring ourselves to speak of Western civilisation”. None of the peoples and countries characterised as civilised are genuine embodiments of that ideal state (Caffentzis). Just as none of the peoples and nations described and targeted as uncivilised are completely worthless, regressive and barbaric. Their sheer humanness is their – and everyone else’s – greatest asset and value. Everyone’s life and wellbeing matter. 

Civilisation was a Western construct and paradigm. Initially, it featured rather restricted and obscure origins, together with its subsequent compass and influences. Because its genesis is generally ignored, the concept of civilisation is viewed as a timeless ideal, rather than a specific historical process.

People normally perceive civilisation as something to be aspired to, and as a “truth” few ever question. But if the history of “civilisation” were better known, “we might be more cautious in granting this term our unquestioning seal of approval” (Caffentzis). Civilisation is relative, instead of absolute. It is an ideal, but whose actualisation is determined, to a large extent, by the sway of the vicissitudes of time and space factors.  

The trajectory of the notion of “civilisation” from its linguistic origins to its final end point, portraying “the highest form of social existence”, occurred in the geographical, socio-political and cultural domains of Scotland, and by extension in the domains of Great Britain (in 1707, Scotland and England formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain).

According to George Caffentzis, an American political philosopher, in his article “On the Scottish Origin of ‘Civilisation’”, “the development of ‘civilisation’ is genetically intertwined with that of the British financial system, with the subjugation of Scotland to the British Crown, and the eighteenth-century social struggles in and out of Scotland. Thus, ‘civilisation’ originally referred to three different but interconnected processes: the rationalisation of intra-capitalist relations (civilisation qua reason); the disenfranchisement of the English workers from their ‘traditional’ rights and liberties (civilisation qua repression); and the destruction of communal relations in the Scottish Highlands, resulting in the integration of Scottish society into the orbit of Britain’s imperial economy (civilisation qua progress from barbarism). Fundamental to each of these processes was the assimilation of the English Common Law to the Scottish Civil Law, the first meaning, in the English vocabulary, of the term ‘civilisation’.”

In other words, “civilisation” meant giving preference to the importance and rule of law in general, and civil law in particular. It also meant bringing all facets of society, including the noncompliant and rebellious ones, under the influence of (civil) law. That denoted domination, control and authority, which in turn was regarded as a process and procedure of civilising those facets.

So long as some people, or some aspects of society, remained outside the jurisdiction of (civil) law and authority (civilisation), they were considered barbarians and law-less, that is, uncivilised. As such, they and their unpredictability posed a threat to the political establishment – and civilisation. They thus needed to be civilised. They needed to be contained by law, controlled and their threats mitigated. They needed to be rendered “equal”, on the same page and the same wavelength as those who have already become civilised.    

Non-civilisation (barbarism) was perceived as a source of danger to civilisation because the latter was affiliated with refinement, luxury, lack of carriage and martial spirit, commerce, unmovable property, softness, sluggishness, indifference and even effeminacy. Non-civilisation (barbarism), conversely, was associated with heroic and martial spirit, toughness, courage, resilience, rawness, simplicity, movable property, impermanent settlements and even manliness.

While civilisation and its people proved vulnerable and had everything to lose, non-civilisation and its people, on the other hand, were more impervious and had nothing to lose. In any confrontations between the two, non-civilisation could only gain and civilisation only suffer.

Describing how and why the 1745 invasion of the Scottish Lowlands and England by the Scottish and Irish Highlanders happened, Adam Smith, as reported by George Caffentzis, wrote: “Another bad effect of commerce is that it sinks the courage of mankind, and tends to extinguish martial spirit…The defence of the country is therefore committed to a certain set of men who have nothing else ado; and among the bulk of people military courage diminishes…This is confirmed by universal experience. In the year 1745 four or five thousand naked unarmed Highlanders took possession of the improved parts of this country without any opposition from the unwarlike inhabitants. They penetrated into England and alarmed the whole nation, and had they not been opposed by a standing army they would have seized the throne with little difficulty.”

The problem was blamed on civilisation, whereas the success of the barbaric Highlanders was ascribed to the lack of it. Nonetheless, inasmuch as the civilised English and Scottish population was not going to give up its civilisation status, the only way forward was to civilise, and so, weaken, subjugate and control the barbarians (Caffentzis). Hence, civilisation became identifiable with authority, repression, usurpation, proselytisation and control. It was anything but contract, convention, freedom, or democracy. It was not an innocent or good thing at all.

It is interesting to note – in passing – that Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) – arguably the father of such modern disciplines as sociology, historiography, economics and demography – made some fascinating and similar observations on somewhat comparable topics.

He said, for example, while analysing the laws of history and of socio-political development: “Obstacles on the way toward royal authority are luxury and the submergence of the tribe in a life of prosperity”; “While a nation is savage, its royal authority extends farther”; “As long as a nation retains its group feeling, royal authority that disappears in one branch will, of necessity, pass to some other branch of the same nation”; “The vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive mark(s), his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs.”

From Scotland and Great Britain to the world 

The Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th and early 19th century – which was a period of such intellectual and scientific accomplishments that propelled the country to the forefront of Europe’s scholarly movements – and the Industrial Revolution also in the 18th and 19th century – which was taking Europe and the United States by storm – turned Scotland into an intellectual and commercial hub. 

One of the effects of this was that by 1750, with an estimated 75% level of literacy, the Scots were probably the most well-read nation on earth. Voltaire, a French Enlightenment philosopher, historian and author, was compelled to remark: “It is to Scotland that we must look for our idea of civilisation” (Welsh). And the title of American historian Arthur Herman’s book says it all: “How the Scots Invented the Modern World: the True Story of how Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It”.

Scotland’s rise to prominence, and its intellectual as well as scientific impact on the world, were undoubtedly aided by its becoming since 1707 an integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. With the latter’s role as a leading world empire and a foremost global power – described while at its height as the “empire on which the sun never sets” and the “workshop of the world” – many seminal ideas of Scotland’s intellectuals were able to enjoy wide currency, locally inside the whole Kingdom and abroad.

Following the Union, thousands of Scots, mainly Lowlanders, took up numerous positions of power in politics, civil service, the army and navy, trade, economics, colonial enterprises and other areas across the nascent British Empire. Scotland lay at the core of Britain, especially pertaining to the latter’s economy (Wikipedia).

One of the principal ideas that needed to be popularised, “globalised” and its latent significations optimised, was the idea of civilisation.

Britain was generally the most powerful and most active colonising power. The population in its African territories was about 52 million in 1913, in Asia about 330 million, in the Caribbean about 1.6 million, and in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand about 18 million. The total population of the Empire was 412 million – ten times as big as Britain itself. About 24 percent of the earth’s total land area was under its control (Maddison).

The civilising mission

To civilise was the mission of rampant colonisation, the latter ostensibly being rationalised, justified and encouraged thereby. The biggest culprits, apart from Britain, were also French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish governments. Hence, the concept of “civilising mission” was created. It is rendered in French as “mission civilisatrice”. The concept tells the kernel of colonial policies and goals.

Later, the United States also jumped on the bandwagon, seeking its share of the available riches. Its continuous purported democratisation – as an expanded and modernised version of civilisation – of the world, especially of the Middle East and North Africa, is a recent and good case in point.

The colonial powers felt it was their duty to civilise the colonised peoples whom they regarded as backward, incapable, primitive and barbaric. To add an extra legitimacy to their unholy enterprises, the colonisers often infused them with nationalistic and religious zeal as well. Hence, “to civilise” was habitually perceived as equivalent to “westernising”, “proselytising”, “Christianising”, “integrating” and “assimilating”.

The intellectual origins of the “civilising mission” can be traced back to the Christian tradition dating from the Middle Ages, when Christian evangelism, missionary work and proselytisation were disseminated. Some progressive thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment, like Nicolas de Condorcet (d. 1794) from France, believed that it was a holy duty incumbent upon the civilised nations of Europe to help the colonised backward nations by civilising them. He said that “these vast lands are inhabited partly by large tribes who seem to require nothing, in order to civilise themselves, but to receive from us the means, who wait only to find brothers amongst the European nations to become their friends and disciples” (Pitts).

Condorcet’s faith in the superiority of European civilisation and a disdain for non-European cultures were unparalleled. He also trusted that the enlightened (civilised) morality of the Europeans could and soon would replace the benighted cultures of other parts of the world “through a non-oppressive process of tutelage” (Pitts).

It is because of this rather “advanced” French Enlightenment thought that the term “civilisation” in the 18th century might have commenced to be used almost concurrently in the English and French languages.

Some contend that the first known use of the word “civilisation” in French was in 1757 by Victor de Riquety Marquis de Mirabeau, a French economist, and the first use in English was in 1767 – ten years later – by Adam Ferguson, a Scottish philosopher and historian of the Scottish Enlightenment, in his influential book “the History of Civil Society” (Wikipedia).

The civilising mission of the European colonisers was two-fold. It was aimed to bring the colonised peoples to the rule and sway of the new law(s), institutional (governmental) policies and systems, and to thus gradually divest them of any abilities, qualities and unpredictability that could potentially cause danger to the colonising masters. The mission was all about institutionalised power, control, hegemony and suppression. It was a poisoned chalice.

Secondly, the civilising mission, at first site, also entailed an affirmative aspect. It targeted the extermination of benighted and inept indigenous cultures, values and lifestyles, replacing them with better Western values and culture in areas such as industry, science, technology, politics, government, economics, lifestyle, values, norms, law, customs, traditions, philosophy, language, alphabet, clothing, diet and religion.

As outwardly appealing as it was, the second dimension of the civilising mission was as devastating and painful as the first one. It was designed but to achieve absolute conquest and domination through the prospects of alienation, westernisation, assimilation and integration. It spelled a cultural death and a future civilisational existence on a Western life support. This was to be realised by means of governmental apparatus and the hierarchy of its institutions.

No wonder that Adam Ferguson stressed that it was impossible for a people to be (more) civilised “till they have established some regular government, and have courts of justice to hear their complaints.” He also emphasised that civilisation means “the state of nations in respect of their laws and government; and men civilised were men practiced in the duty of citizens.” Men civilised, in addition, were “scholars, men of fashion and traders.”

The definitive climax of this intellectual and ideological penchant was modernity, both as a historical period and an aggregate of norms, values, practices and phenomena. Modernity was a natural consequence of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment Age, which displayed utmost disdain and tried to destroy everything that was traditional, old-fashioned, conservative and “different”. To many observers, therefore, the modern notions of globalisation and the Information Age are no more than the modified and upgraded versions of colonisation (neo-colonialism), westernisation, Western imperialism and “civilisation”.

Adam Ferguson and his book “the History of Civil Society”

By way of illustration, Adam Ferguson mentions in his seminal book the word “civilisation” and the verb “civilise” (in its past tense) eight and eleven times respectively. He does so in relation to standards of politeness, civility, progress, refinement, happiness and moral certitude of human nature. He contrasts civilisation with rudeness, barbarism, savagery, impoliteness, corruption and vice. To him, civilisation is the goal of human existence. Not only is it that “the individual advances from infancy to manhood, but also the (human) species itself from rudeness to civilisation.”

Adam Ferguson moreover employs the words “modern” as an adjective and “modern” as a noun thirty six and three times respectively. He does so in his references to “(modern) Europe”, “(modern) nations, states, governments and arms”, “(moderns of) Europe”, “(modern) race and conquerors”, “(modern) literature”, “(modern) gallantry, fable and heroes”, and “(modern) history and times”.

Where are Muslims?  

However, it should also be remarked that Adam Ferguson speaks about the (global) history of civil society “from rudeness to civilisation”. He does so after the “civilisation” of Islam and Muslims had dominated the world stage in varying degrees of intensity and success for about a thousand years, and was set to remain a force to be reckoned with for about an additional century or so following his death.

In spite of this, he, in essence, completely overlooks the subject. Only once does he mention the “Saracen Empire”, in the context of the Crusades when “our ancestors” partook of the former’s spoils (parenthetically, before being called Muslims in the West, Muslims were called Ishmailities, Saracens and Mohammadans).

He furthermore refers to the Arabs only four times, implying that they were uncivilised, wild and tribal. No surprise that one of his references on the Arabs is D’Arvieux’s “History of the Wild Arabs”. While indirectly referring to the Arabs and their alleged cultural “double standards”, he writes: “Every tribe of warlike barbarians may entertain among themselves the strongest sentiments of affection and honour, while they carry to the rest of mankind the aspect of banditti and robbers.”

The same applies to the Persians. Adam Ferguson’s interest chiefly pertains to ancient Persian empires and the perennial conflicts with their Greek and Roman counterparts. Not even once does he mention, for example, the Safavid dynasty, one of the greatest Iranian empires, or any other dynasty that preceded or succeeded it in the region.

By the same token, mighty Ottomans and their cosmopolitan and affluent Constantinople (Istanbul) are hastily mentioned only once each.

All this is understandable, though, in that both the Renaissance and Enlightenment – including their subsequent modern and post-modern sequels – virtually completely sidestepped the presence of Islam and Muslims on the world’s cultural and civilisational scenes, trying to connect directly with classical culture, that is, the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.

The sources of inspiration and guidance were the concept of Roman Humanitas (embedded virtues of humanity or human nature) and the rediscovery of classical Greek philosophy. This in turn led to the emergence of a new worldview which synthesised the humanist and naturalist ideas of God, reason, humanity, life, knowledge, beauty, nature, happiness and humanity. The worldview gained wide assent in the West and “instigated revolutionary developments in art, philosophy and politics” (Britannica).

Apart from a few enlightened European nations: the torchbearers of civilisation, civility and liberty, to Adam Ferguson and his many Enlightenment associates everyone else was barbaric, savage, ignorant, rude and dull: “From one to the other extremity of America; from Kamschatka westward to the river Oby; and from the Northern sea, over that length of country, to the confines of China, of India, and Persia; from the Caspian to the Red Sea, with little exception, and from thence over the inland continent and the western shores of Africa; we everywhere meet with nations on whom we bestow the appellations of barbarous or savage” (Ferguson).

Distorting history

Unfortunately, this tactic led to the significant distortions of history. Many historical episodes with many leading protagonists were simply omitted and others gravely misrepresented. What was intended to be projected thereby is that in the fields of science, technology, philosophy, art, civilisation and industrial progress, nothing remarkable happened between the end of classical culture or classical antiquity, marked by the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the advent of the Renaissance, followed by the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason – which is an epoch of about nine centuries.

Such deliberate perversions, certainly, constitute crimes against history, science, common sense and, of course, civilisation. Premeditated gaps in history have been thus created that keep puzzling a great many inquisitive researchers and students.

Parenthetically, filling those gaps is the primary objective of an outstanding project called “1001 Inventions: Discover a Golden Age – Inspire a Better Future”. The project is conceptualised and run by Salim al-Hassani, Emeritus Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Manchester, and his dedicated team.

According to its website: “‘1001 Inventions’ is a British based, award-winning science and cultural heritage organisation engaging over 400 million people around the world. It uncovers a thousand years of scientific and cultural achievements from Muslim Civilisation from the 7th century onwards, and how those contributions helped create the foundations of our modern world.”

In his article titled “1000 Years of Missing Industrial History”, Salim al-Hassani writes, quoting John Glubb and his book “History of the Arab People”: “Modern oriental studies have proved the falsity of this historical propaganda (the idea of the 16th-17th century Renaissance, and that nothing happened between the 450s, the fall of the Roman Empire, and such Renaissance), although the latter is still widely believed by the general public. Unfortunately, a great part of the educational world still adheres to these ancient taboos and the period of some five or six centuries, which separates the decline of Rome from the Norman invasion of England, is omitted from school curricula and from public examination.”

“As is always the case, this falsification of history for propaganda purposes has injured us more than anyone else, and has largely been responsible for the many political errors, which our governments have committed in the Middle East in the last sixty years. The history of ‘progress’, the rise of man from a primitive state to his modern condition, is a fascinating story. The interest is lost, however, when the continuity is concealed by the omission of periods of several centuries and the presentation of bits and pieces of history, gathered from here and there, in accordance with our own emotional prejudices or our national vanity” (al-Hassani).

Civilisation as the self-consciousness of the West         

As stated by Norbert Elias – whose book “the Civilising Process” (1939) is universally regarded as a fundamental treatise in the fields of philosophy and evolution of civilisation – the concept of civilisation expresses the self-consciousness of the West. It likewise involves the national consciousness. It sums up everything and every existential aspect wherein Western society of the last two or three centuries sees itself superior to earlier societies or “more primitive” contemporary ones. “By this term, Western society seeks to describe what constitutes its special character and what it is proud of” (Elias).

It was believed that human society progresses in a straightforward or linear mode. This evolution moves from savagery and barbarism, arriving finally at the stage of civilisation. To that final stage the Europeans arrived first. They then became duty-bound to help others and to expedite their own progress. In this manner, a “gospel” of civilisation was born, and was preached alongside other religious and political “gospels”.

Since its inception in the 18th century, predominantly in the corridors of the British and French philosophical and political thought, the concept of civilisation provided a standard to the Westerners by which to judge other non-Western and non-European societies. The aim was to distinguish between civilisation and barbarism on the basis of being – or otherwise – settled, urban, literate, cultured and enlightened in the Western (European) senses.

The aim was also to identify positive and negative traits, together with good and bad sides (guys), sending the aphorism “might makes right”, concerning the origin and compass of morality, into full swing.

Moreover, during the nineteenth century, “Europeans devoted much intellectual, diplomatic and political energy to elaborating he criteria by which non-European societies might be judged sufficiently ‘civilised’ to be accepted as members of the European-dominated international system” (Huntington).

Historically, the concept of civilisation underwent several changes in its connotations, which sometimes were very positive and forward-looking. That was done in response to changes in the social, political, economic and cultural arenas of the world. However, the concept never betrayed its essential purpose and disposition; nor did its main central characters.

Brett Bowden, a professor of history and politics at the University of Western Sydney, sums up the sentiment: “At its inception, the idea of civilisation was imbued with a sense of progress, peace, and optimism. The historical record, however, belies much of this sense of optimism. Somewhat paradoxically, civilisation has come to be closely associated with conflict and conquest. In the two-hundred-and-sixty years since the term was coined, many things have been done in the name of civilisation; sadly, among them are such grave matters as war, conquest, and colonialism.”

And so, both colonisation and civilisation never ceased to be questioned. Both before and nowadays, they could be marketed and sold only to such as have lacked a true identity and self-worth, were collaborators, and had vested interests in what was going on.

Aime Cesaire, a Martinican politician and author, wrote that the colonisers of the past were predominantly adventurers, pirates and ordinary folks such as grocers, ship-owners and gold diggers. They were not necessarily interested in civilising the colonised Other. Colonisation denoted de-humanisation and a “thingification”. In reality, it de-civilised both the coloniser and the colonised (Rash).

Accordingly, Aime Cesaire defines colonisation using its proclaimed attributes to present an account of what it is not: “(It is) neither evangelisation, nor a philanthropic enterprise, nor a desire to push back the frontiers of ignorance, disease and tyranny, nor a project undertaken for the greater glory of God, nor an attempt to extend the rule of law” (Rash).

The clash of civilisations    

Bearing this in mind, one can understand why Samuel Huntington was able to come up with such a controversial thesis as “the clash of civilisations”, positing that the main axis of conflict in the future will be along the lines of cultures and civilisations, the latter exemplifying the highest grades of the former’s identities.

It must be clear, nevertheless, that this thought signifies a culmination of at least a century-old philosophy. It could yet be interpreted as a form of cumulative thought, for as early as in 1926 there was a book titled “Young Islam on Trek: a Study in the Clash of Civilisations”. The book’s author was Basil Matthews who, unsurprisingly, composed another book titled “the Book of Missionary Heroes”. There existed regular usages of the same, or analogous expressions throughout the 20th century. The phrase is derived from “clash of cultures”, which was already used during the colonial period and the (La) Belle Epoque (Beautiful Epoch) (1871-1914) (Wikipedia).

For the reason that the idea of Western civilisation, which was planned to be advanced and imposed as a universal and global civilisation, was inextricably tied to colonisation, most of the colonised peoples had no choice but to loathe and rise against both of them. The twos were seen as twins, one supporting the other. There was no subsistence for one without the other. Thus entangled in a give-and-take relationship, without really considering which one exactly was the cause and which one the effect, colonisation and civilisation were primed to rise, subsist and fall together.

Hence, for the colonised, fighting colonialism also meant fighting the imperial (Western) civilisation. Anti-colonialism sentiments quickly morphed into the enterprises of reviving indigenous cultures, and reviving as well as advancing traditional and “home-grown” civilisations. It was a tit-for-tat strategy. “Civilisation” qua colonisation was opposed with “civilisation” qua fight for independence and freedom.

It all depends on the lens (eyes) through which one wants to see the matter. From a prejudiced and myopic Western perspective, whatever the nonconforming Other does, that is always (mis)construed as anti-civilisation, anti-humanity and anti-progress. The perspective’s one-dimensional and monolithic self should not be challenged by anybody.

Since they, more than anybody else, wish to restore their original cultures and civilisation, and live accordingly and freely, Muslims, more than most, ended up being at the receiving end of this discriminatory norm. And if they further resist, the language is set to change to something more pejorative and condemning, such as fundamentalism, extremism, fanaticism and terrorism.

But if civilisation is viewed through the prism of a principle that civilisation is a universal ideal and goodness, almost corresponding to the absolute truth, which is meant to be pursued and shared by all mankind, then the thesis of “clash of civilisations” comes into sight as highly detested and objectionable. It is as bad as intentionally choosing to remain uncultured and uncivilised, i.e., to become unnatural. The thesis, additionally, is utterly unethical, whereas the real essential nature of every civilisation ought to be ethics, as affirmed by Albert Schweitzer in his “the Philosophy of Civilisation”.

As a result of this encouraging civilisational normalcy, there are growing initiatives from diverse corners of the globe calling for “inter-civilisational dialogue, understanding and cooperation”. They are purposed to put forth and promote the universality and intrinsic nature of civilisation, and to combat the inappropriateness and abnormality of the notion of “clash of civilisations”.

They are furthermore purposed to combat the latest and most advanced forms of colonisation, which can be proliferated only in the name of civilisation and globalisation. And that is where the biggest problem with the West lies. The issue was never in resisting “civilisation”, but in resisting “colonisation”, and only those who are determined to hold on to colonisation are inclined to speak about potential clashes of civilisations. They know clashes will happen as they will generate them.

Doing so is such people’s effective defence, plus diversion, strategy as well. They and their predecessors live with blood on their hands, resulting from the undue civilising, modernising and democratising – aka colonising, controlling and westernising – processes across the globe. As such, those people can thrive only in environments of perpetual apprehension, conflicts and fear. Authentic peace, equality and impartial justice are their nemeses, and exact opposites of what they propagate and live for. Those qualities could easily prove their downfall. So, preaching and forecasting clashes of civilisation is the only option, connoting an act of intellectual and moral asylum-seeking, so to speak.

The decline of Western civilisation

It is owing to this that more and more people speak about the rapid deterioration, and moral, spiritual, as well as intellectual, bankruptcy of Western civilisation. Some, like Seyyed Hossein Nasr, even speak of it as a failed experiment.

Undeniably, the edifice of Western civilisation is in terminal decline and the first irrefutable signs of its collapsing have long since come to pass. According to Albert Schweitzer, the age of Illuminati (in general the Age of Enlightenment and in particular an Enlightenment-era movement and society based in Bavaria, Germany) and the age of rationalism (the Age of Reason) were the incubators of Western civilisation, which was meant for the world.

The ideals that underpinned the appearance of the civilisation phenomenon had begun, “both in philosophy and in general thought, to get into contact with reality and to alter the general environment.” In the course of three or four generations, there had been such progress made “that the age of true civilisation seemed to have dawned upon the world and to be assured of an uninterrupted development”.

But about the middle of the nineteenth century, things started to go downhill. So much so that in the course of the next few decades – about the end of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century – “without resistance, without complaint, civilisation abdicated. Its ideas lagged behind, as though they were too exhausted to keep pace with it” (Schweitzer).

Albert Schweitzer attributes the abdication of civilisation to “philosophy’s renunciation of here duty”, and to a state when “a real combination of ethical ideals with reality was no longer possible”.

He then goes on to elaborate that the causes of the collapse of civilisation revolved around: people’s self-deception as to the real meaning and condition of “our civilisation”, the collapse of the worldview on which “our ideals were based”, the crisis in spirituality and morals, the superficial character of modern philosophising (a crisis of intellectuality), the undeveloped condition of the modern man and his lack of humanity. These causes at the same time revealed a path to the restoration of civilisation and its potential hindrances.

“The emperor has no clothes”

Albert Schweitzer’s honesty and wisdom notwithstanding, Western civilisation, ever since it started disassociating itself from medieval scholasticism and the Christian worldview, values and practices, never reached a notable level of ontological certitude. Its epistemological and artistic outlooks, compasses and overall legacies, in spite of the proliferation and diversification of methods, approaches, means and styles, in point of fact, kept going round in circles. The results were misconstrued and so, misleading. Cultural and civilisational heights were subjective and slanted. As for ethics, furthermore, it was never Western civilisation’s forte; and to be fair, it was never its preferred goal and destination either.

The initial euphoria, caused by remarkable philosophical enthusiasm and a long series of scientific advances, was soon overshadowed by setbacks inherent in any sceptical, nonspiritual and poorly-grounded-in-ethics civilisational undertaking. It was increasingly becoming evident that the edifice of Western civilisation contained little élan vital with which it could sustain itself in the long run. It had little in the tank to answer the mounting crucial questions, and to satisfy the pressing multiplying needs, of humanity. It had little wherewith it could defend itself against itself. With the decline of colonisation came the decline of civilisation.  

The notions of ethical relativism, liberalism as a moral philosophy, evolution as an ideology, secularism, agnosticism, scepticism, nihilism, hedonism, rampant materialism, merciless exploitation of people and nature – are all calculated and otherwise products of Western civilisation. They are at the same time the banes – acknowledged and otherwise – of its modern and most decadent phases. The modern man slowly but surely suffocates in the fetters of their mendacity. Overwhelming statistics speak for themselves.

Without a doubt, the writing is on the wall for Western civilisation. Which is foreseeable in the eyes of many cognisant and perceptive observers, for how something can carry on in an upward fashion, which is hollow, morally and intellectually unsettled, and is contingent on utter rejection of spirituality and Heaven, and on the exaltation of matter and the deification of man and his talents.

The whole thing is reminiscent of the parable of “the emperor’s new clothes”. Everybody knows there is something seriously wrong in the “civilised” and “modern” ways our lives unfold, but not many dare to question the status quo for fear that they will be branded regressive and retarded, i.e., uncivilised. Most people still prefer to live in their cocoons and to keep consoling each other with endless sweet lies. It will take a lot of institutional, rather than individual, guts to “shout” – and prove – that the emperor, actually, has no clothes.

Oswald Spengler – by way of example – published in 1918 a book called “the Decline of the West”. In it, he predicted that in about 2000, Western civilisation will enter the period of pre-death emergency. The period will last about 200 years which will be a time of excessive turmoil marked by Caesarism or political dictatorships. After that, Western civilisation will experience its ultimate collapse.

More recently, in 2018, Shivaji Lokam published a book called “the Fall of Western Civilisation”. In it, the author argues that of late, in matters of culture and civilisation, the West is “tired, hopeless and dying”, and has been “in a self-destruction mode for the past hundred years”.

The condition of Western civilisation and the condition of its ideological frameworks could be related to the Qur’anic idea of “a bad word” (kalimah khabithah, i.e., a bad, unproductive and unsustainable ideology, philosophy, thought, system and creed). The “word” is likened to a bad tree which is barren, unattractive, uprooted from the surface of the earth, and has no purpose, direction, or stability whatsoever (Ibrahim, 26).

The opposite of “a bad word” is “a good word” (kalimah tayyibah, i.e., a good, productive and sustainable ideology, philosophy, thought, system and creed), which is, similarly, likened to a good tree.

Allah says: “Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, (making) a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches (high) in the sky? It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded” (Ibrahim, 24-25).

A Muslim response

This comprehension of civilisation never appealed to the untainted Muslim consciousness. That is why the same concept made slow inroads into Muslim scholarship. Even the Westerners were reluctant to associate Islam and Muslims with civilisation, which was logical given that Muslims belonged to the realm of the Other. The relationship between the West and Muslims was that of occident-versus-orient.

The earliest Western studies concentrated on various aspects of Islamic culture, tradition, theology, mysticism and law. Such was a segment of Orientalism as a Western scholarly discipline of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries that encompassed the study of the languages, literatures, religions, philosophies, histories, art and laws of Asian societies (Britannica). However, the discipline was intricately connected to the colonising and imperialist powers, serving their expansionist interests wherever the Other lived.

Perhaps the first example of the use of the concept of Islamic civilisation by a Western scholar was in 1926 in the context of the embryonic idea of “the clash of civilisations” by Basil Matthews in his book “Young Islam on Trek: a Study in the Clash of Civilisations”. It was followed by others such as H.A.R. Gibb’s “Studies on the Civilisation of Islam” published in 1962.

Illustrating further the matter, Brill’s first edition of “the Encyclopaedia of Islam” was originally published between 1913 and 1936. It is said concerning its purpose and scope: “The demand for an encyclopaedic work on Islam was created by the increasing colonial interest in Muslims and Islamic cultures during the nineteenth century. The scope of the Encyclopaedia of Islam (first edition) is philology, history, theology and law until early 20th century.”

As far as Muslim scholars are concerned, they had to grapple on the intellectual, spiritual and moral planes with “civilisation” and its sundry negative undertones. They were torn between being utopian, or idealist, and realist. They had to strike a delicate balance between the fast fading of a great many Islamic ideals – both in thought and practice – and the aggressive as well as coordinated imposition of Western civilisation, philosophy, norms and values by the Western colonisers in the occupied territories, and by the evangelists and proselytisers of everything Western in those rare territories that remained politically under Muslim control.

Many scholars were of the view that it was better to be wise and pragmatic, rather than naïve, clueless and impractical, even if a few compromises had to be made along the way, and one had to act on the grounds of expediency rather than of principle. Indeed, it was less painful if people endured in such a state under the guardianship of trustworthy scholars, rather than to be attracted to and consumed by the false glitter of Western colonisation-cum-civilisation. It was as if the Islamic tenet to the effect that “necessity permits prohibited matters” was partially activated.

Against this background certain views and positions of such Muslim scholars – who are often labelled as pioneers of “Islamic modernism” – as Jamaluddin al-Afghani (d. 1897), Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), Muhammad Rashid Rida (d. 1935) and many others, are to be studied. The mosaic of their philosophies and models as to how to deal with the influx of Western civilisation and thought – whether to reject, adopt, Islamise, or ingeniously integrate them, and how – catches most attention. Among others, nascent ideas about drastic transformations within “Islamic civilisation”, and even the possibility of an “Islamic renaissance”, were mooted.

At any rate, the first Muslim scholar who explicitly wrote about Islamic civilisation was an Indian scholar Salahuddin Khuda Bukhsh (d. 1931). In 1905, he composed a book titled “Contributions to the History of Islamic Civilisation”.

As one would expect, not only this book, but also the other writings of this author, clearly show an influence of Western thought and modernism which were unacceptable to those who had a direct access to Islam and the original works on Islamic history. “He was nevertheless held in esteem by Western scholars, particularly those of England” (Nadwi).

Abul Hasan Nadwi explains the overall situation and nature of the Muslim response, particularly in the Indian subcontinent: “Muslim writers of that period, that is, the span stretching from the later part of the nineteenth to the beginning of the twentieth century, suffered from the weakness of being unduly impressed by Western philosophy and science, although these categories were then passing through the stage of infancy. These writers seemed to be too anxious to explain away the facts of mute reality, miracles and supernatural events; they tried to harmonise, on the one hand, laws of physical sciences and its discoveries with the metaphysical concepts, and, on the other, went out of their way to demonstrate compatibility of the Islamic and Western thought and culture. Their writings were, in a nutshell, defensive and apologetic.”

Studies on Islamic civilisation continued afterwards, intensifying with the intensification of Western-Muslim “civilisational” interactions. Different, often contradictory, conceptions and interpretations of Islamic civilisation were set forth in the process. Subject to who undertook the studies, why, where and when, the theme was cast sometimes in pure Islamic, sometimes in pure Western, and at other times, in joined moulds. The results accordingly varied: from complete and partial truth, to complete and partial falsehood. Many students and researchers of Islam, consequently, were lost and confused, without knowing what to do and where to turn for solace.

This disturbing climate must have embodied a main reason that prompted Sayyid al-Maududi to write his authoritative book on Islamic civilisation titled “Islamic Civilisation: Its Foundational Beliefs and Principles”. The book aims to explain in an emphatic fashion the central values and standards of Islamic civilisation, and to facilitate thereby its proper understanding and application.

Having repudiated a series of misconceptions about Islamic civilisation, al-Maududi explains the meaning of civilisation in general as follows: “Generally, people think that science and manners, arts and crafts, ways of social life, style of culture and conduct of politics, or a conglomeration of these things, is called ‘civilisation’. In fact, this is not civilisation, these are the results and facades of a civilisation; in other words, these are not the roots of civilisation, they are branches and leaves. The value of a civilisation cannot be determined by its external appearances and its fancy dresses. For determining the value of a civilisation, we should delve deep into its soul and explore its foundation.”

The actual ingredients of civilisation are: the concept about worldly life; the aim of life; the fundamental thoughts and beliefs; the training and “production” of individuals; and the collective system of human relations (al-Maududi).

In passing, many universities in the contemporary Muslim world are ever more passionate about teaching courses on “Islamic civilisation”. This is regarded as a form of paying ideological and civilisational dues to Islam along with the protracted struggles of Muslims. It is regarded as an academic exoneration too, after which life could be business as usual.
However, studying Islamic civilisation only and in isolation is not a path to follow. Studying Western civilisation as an expansionist and pretentious phenomenon – yet a challenger, as it were – and to study where exactly the two universes can meet, conduct dialogues and cooperate, and where exactly they differ, disagree and go their separate ways, is of equal importance.

Studying Islamic and Western civilisations
It goes without saying that studying at once the Muslim and Western worlds and their civilisational proclivities, is essential for today’s Muslims. Both are critical for the prospect of reviving Islamic and Muslim civilisational fortunes.

If the civilisational fate of Muslims was sealed as much by the internal as external factors, the tasks of regeneration and “renaissance”, obviously, can only be accomplished by navigating the challenges posed by both domains. To lay the blame for the predicament only at one side’s door, or to look for answers only from one of them, is a seriously misleading plan.

Besides, Islamic civilisation is not only to be studied, theorised about and romanticised, but also actualised and applied as a living and extremely dynamic spectacle. Both the ideas that underlie civilisation and their material embodiment are to be taken care of. That is the only right way to pay homage.

If they are truly sincere, the same Muslim universities should dedicate all their academic curricula and programmes to the missions of properly conceptualising, comprehending, generating, promoting and implementing constituents of civilisation anchored in the worldview, values and ethics of Islam. Their faculties and colleges of humanities, social sciences, law, economics, education, built environment, engineering, science, medicine, etc., represent nothing but fields, or life dimensions, for doing so.

Students should not deal with Islamic civilisation in an academic subject or two, and then be nourished with totally different, often discordant, substances elsewhere. This approach, positively, is a supply line for disoriented, confused and alienated personalities. We should not only talk the talk, but have to be prepared to take whatever necessary risks and walk the talk.

The case of Ibn Khaldun
Lastly, it is asserted that within the framework of his diverse intellectual interests Ibn Khaldun extensively spoke about civilisation: its conception, purpose, rise, function, decline and fall. However, that is not true. It would be grossly unfair and unethical to impute to the man that which he did not do. In any case, this only demonstrates how complicated and confusing the subject matter can be.

Ibn Khaldun could not speak about “civilisation” because he and his thought predated the idea by more than three centuries. Rather, he articulated his seminal philosophy of “‘umran”, together with the ideas of “hadarah” and “tamaddun”. These are purely Arabic-Islamic concepts, with their origins contained in the messages of the Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah (life paradigm).

However the three concepts of Ibn Khaldun are understood and translated, they by no means should be equated with the Western understanding of civilisation. The two are worlds apart, and the foregoing pages have shown why.

What then is “civilisation” in Islam, how it is relatable to “‘umran”, “hadarah” and “tamaddun”, and where its converging and separating points with Western civilisation are – that requires a whole new study, which is forthcoming in-sha’-Allah.***

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