Building an Islamic Culture
One thousand five hundred years ago, a movement was born that shook the very foundations
of human history. A sun, the likes of which this world will never see again rose over the
Arabian peninsula sending its light to every corner of the world. This movement would
eventually give birth to every modern philosophy and convenience that humanity cannot be
without. The destiny of mankind was rewritten when an angel descended and commanded an
illiterate man to read.
The madrassa, the school, and any other educational institute are created for the propagation
and continuation of whatever creed it espouses. Since time immemorial whenever a group of
people fancied an idea or concept they would gather for its discussion and revision and
propagation. Blacksmiths would gather to discuss their trade, share their secrets and
techniques which would revolutionize warfare through the quality of weapons. Ensuring their
place in society as a necessary force. Merchants would gather, trade, form guilds, share
information about safe trade routes where to avoid dangers and which items yielded the most
profits in which localities. In Greece, the philosophers gathered to discuss their inferences,
sudden insights, and observations. A school, a place of study a madrassa is nothing but a
gathering of people who value what they do and wish to see it continue.
In ancient Greece, that gathering of philosopher rose up in rebellion against those they saw as
enemies to their craft, the sophists. They were intellectuals who sought to sell the art of
persuasion, and dishonesty as knowledge. Socrates, who first dared to go against them, did so
by establishing a school claiming “knowledge is virtue and virtue is happiness” he trained
Plato, who trained Aristotle, who trained and equipped Alexander the Great with every bit of
knowledge he needed to spread this legacy all across the world. The conquests of Alexander
laid down the borders for three great empires and spread a culture that affects the world to this
Seven hundred years after the death of Alexander, the Sassanid Persians and the Byzantine
Greeks both inheritors of his imperial legacy began a series of wars that threw the entire region
into chaos. This magnificent stage was the backdrop in which Allah decided to send his
prophet. An illiterate prophet sent to a forgotten people. To a world in turmoil, to a people
ignored by the powerful in their bid for the world. The Arabs at this time were nothing to look
at, they were but a few scattered tribes in the desert. Any Arab civilization advanced to set up
trading, religious or education facilities, or guilds were forced into submission by these great
powers as mere pieces to be traded and used in their transcontinental wargames.
The Arab like any other group of people had a strong sense of identity, pride in their
forefathers and pride in their history. In front of the great warring powers they lacked might,
they lacked unity and they lacked a cause. In front the Greco-Roman Christian kings their
culture was just too insignificant, and in comparison to the might of Persians, they were too
disorganized and weak. The Arab were left barely able to survive in this world filled with
strife and swallowed by war. Their culture was still far too weak to take them to the world
stage. They would fight amongst themselves for years until Allah intended to bring them
The prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his message descended like a
storm. He was an unsheathed sword over the neck of every oppressor, and an outstretched
hand to the poor and destitute. He reformed the Arab mindset, let them know that Allah, the
one and true god of humanity cares about you, and doesn't wish to see you in pain. The advent
of Islam turned their scattered values and principles into a culture. He gave the Arab and all of
the oppressed people caught in between wars that didn't concern them, hope.
Islam was slowly revealed by Allah to his prophet over the course of 23 years. It introduced to
its followers a new daily routine, social and economic reforms, a new take on family life and a
brand new approach to how a community is managed. The prophet trained his companions in
all matters of the heart, which things should be prioritized, when one should be patient and
when one should take up arms. Islam redefined who the people of the Arabian peninsula were,
a type of top-down reform the likes of which the world has never seen. Stablehands became
scholars, bondsmen became bishops, merchants became charitable and tyrants were softened.
The Islamic culture took hold of the Arab.
Culture in English is defined as belief systems, knowledge and behavior that are transmitted;
Belief, social norms, traits of a group; a set of shared values, goals, and practices, that
characterize an organization; Or the collective conventions, social practices and values
associated with the field. Simply put, a culture, is defined by what people value. Culture is not
static, not a blot to removed or replaced, they are value systems that differ with people. Racial,
regional, and religious culture are not mutually exclusive. Islamic culture doesn’t replace
traditional values in a society. The Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, did not condemn
the entirety of pre-Islamic Arab culture to death and oblivion. He worked over the course of
two decades, to teach them how to judge between good and evil, the beneficial and the
harmful. He placed iman in their hearts and he let it become their moral compass. Islam and its
cultural values infuse and revitalize other cultures, bringing the best out of their traditional
values and purifying it from the evils of ignorance.
The cultural revolution that took place in Arabia, the birth and propagation of the Islamic
culture, surged forth with the fire of a thousand suns. The oppressed people of the Roman and
Persian empires adopted it, the entirety of the Persian state and its client states adopted it and
the Romans fell under its might. The people of the former empires of Egypt, Carthage and
Babylon rejected their own heritage, history and language. They not only answered the call to
Islam, they adopted the Arabic language as their own, going as far as styling themselves
“Arabs”. They left no possible barrier or divide between them, and the people who brought
The Muslim conquests after the passing of the prophet served to, for anyone familiar with the
course of history, be a sign of the perpetuity of Islam. Men have in the past, like Alexander,
Julius Caesar, Attila, Qin Shi Huang, forged great empires and bred great cultures. None of
them however, were ever its moral foundation; The people never looked to them for guidance
in everyday affairs. Their conquests were admired, their justice and sometimes even their
brutality were praised and copied, but none of their works could survive the test of time.
If the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, were to be compared to great reformers like
the philosopher Socrates, then know that the prophet Muhammad had one hundred thousand
companions the like of Plato, Aristotle, and Alexander. His rebellion against the hedonistic,
godless, patriarchy of the ancient world led to the establishment of his masjid, the first true
school of Islam. His every word was guidance; People would come from every corner of the
world to sit at his feet. They learned and taught others, establishing a state based on faith and
justice, their students just as, or even more numerous than the previous generation. Hundreds
of thousands of students engaged in study. Passing down his word, his activities, his practices
and implementing them, with the lofty goal of becoming his like in the world.
The madrassa is an institution that seeks to emulate and copy the system of the prophet’s
masjid. An institution made to become the anchor and source of Islamic culture in any society.
To protect the madrassa is to ensure the survival of the Islamic way of life, to discard it and
abandon the madrassa is to disgrace the prophetic legacy that was guided mankind for so long.
To join and be a part of this legacy is my life’s greatest achievement. In the pursuit of
knowledge, I, like my predecessors have suffered greatly. The incredible balancing act of
managing family, work, study, and all the distractions in between, fighting the whispers of
shaytan while trying to manage to accomplish something can only be described as difficult, the
benefits, however, of such study are innumerous. To engage in this study is to connect yourself
directly with the prophet peace and blessings be upon him, to serve this cause is to be in the
service of Islam and guarantor of its propagation. I ask Allah to keep me in the service of his
path, that these six years of continuous study, learning and living with my teachers becomes a
mean for my guidance and those around me.
The madrasa is a place for serious study. It is not a rehabilitation center or a prison. Only those
that truly wish to serve Islam should come or be sent. It is a place for the intellectual elite of
the Muslim community, to gather study and learn.
A school, a place of study, is nothing but a gathering of people who value what they do and
wish to see it continue. The question is now how much do we value the gifts Allah has given
us and how far will we go to protect them?