Islam is not only a system of belief and practices. It is also a civilization with religion as its unifying factor. Muslims in the 8th and 9th centuries became the pioneers of art, science, and culture and established an Islamic Civilization. Arabic language and tradition became the language of literature, culture and public discourse not only for Muslim, but also for the multiethnic and religious group of new Arabic speaking peoples. Translation and literature centers were established. Greek, Latin, Persian, Coptic, and Sanskrit manuscripts were translated into Arabic, and the best works of philosophy, science and literature from other cultures and civilizations were made accessible.
The activities of the cultural centers in Cairo, Baghdad, and Cordoba are reflected in the development of literature and philosophy, art and architecture, and science and medicine. Muslim scholars and philosophers not only preserved the heritage of Greek science and philosophy, they added to the Hellenistic thought by writing commentaries and glosses and extended the teachings of Greek philosophy within an Islamic context and perspective. Islamic philosophy played an important role in transmitting Greek philosophy to medieval Europe. Through Muslim scholars, ancient Greek learning was kept alive and eventually transferred to the West in the 12th century and after.
The huge accomplishments of Islamic philosophy and science were the products of the intellectuals mastered in multi-disciplines such as philosophy, astronomy, and math. Islamic science was a synthesis in the sense that Muslim philosophers viewed the physical universe from within their Islamic context as a manifestation of the names and attributes of God and source of beauty and order in nature. They brought forward the wedding of the heart and mind so as to pave the way for the perfect humans of thought, action, and inspiration. They were able to combine spirituality with intellectual training, religious sciences with natural sciences and dedication to serve others.
Throughout the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, one can find a strong emphasis on the value of knowledge. The Qur’an encourages Muslims to learn and acquire knowledge, stemming from, but not limited to, the Islamic emphasis on knowing the uniqueness and oneness of God. Muslims believe that God is All-knowing, and they also believe that the human world’s quest for knowledge leads to further spiritual knowledge of God.
Islam does not consider itself only a collection of practices and worship; its goals include giving meaning to humanity and the universe and becoming open to human nature in its essence and spirit. There is no separation of this world and the next in the life of Muslim: there are no obstructions between the mind and the heart; the faithful’s emotions are always united with their reason, and their inspirations are not ignored by their judgment.
Esposito, John. Islam: The Straight Path, fourth edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Gulen, Fethullah. Towards The Lost Paradise. İzmir, Turkey: Kaynak Publishing, 1998.
Gulen, Fethullah. The Statue of Our Souls. New Jersey: Tughra Books: 2009