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

day.

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

together.

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

them salvation.

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?