Civilization of Faith was a book I bought years ago. I buy books like other girls buy shoes and my room is full of books I have read and a few of those I still haven’t gotten to because I was so busy buying books. When I started Mosaic, I went through all my books and pulled out all the Islamic ones and put them on a separate shelf that I designated for Mosaic research. I then started reading any of those that I hadn’t read and rereading those that I did. Civilization of Faith was one of those that for whatever reason, I had never read. However, when I started reading it, I was shocked and delighted and so intrigued by this book that within just the first few pages it immediately became my favorite book of all time.
Civilization of Faith is written by Dr. Mustafa As-Sibaa’ie (may Allah have mercy on him) and was published in the late 1950’s in Arabic. It is based on some talks that Dr. As-Sibaa’ie broadcast on the Damascus radio from September 8, 1955 to December 15, 1955 (20 Muharram 1375 to 23 Rabee athThani 1375). The book educates its reader on the history of the Islamic world in which most of us Muslims are ignorant. It discusses how the Muslim world was the superpower and Muslims the leaders in culture, science and technology. It highlights the strong Muslim cities and how they were the centers of learning. It educates the modern Muslim-whose infatuation with the West and its advances overpowers their view of the not so advanced Muslim world-on the glorious past of which they are oblivious and offers a different perspective on history itself.
What makes this book stand out and resonate with the reader is the sheer genius and approach of the author. Dr. Sibaa’ie’s understanding of what makes a civilization successful is clear in his setup of the book. The thirteen chapters are divided into categories such as our human tendency, racial equality, religious tolerance, etiquette in war, kindness to animals, charitable institutions, schools and educational institutions, hospitals and medical institutions, private and public libraries, academic gatherings and conferences, and capitols and major cities. Dr. Sibaa’ie discusses in each chapter how the Muslims excelled in that category and that is all because the Quran and hadith commanded them to each of these things. It is the Muslims’ devotion to their religion that resulted in their success. The icing on the cake is that Dr. Sibaa’ie doesn’t just discuss what the Muslim world was like at the time but also what Europe was like in comparison and how many of today’s advancements in Europe are a result of their interaction with Muslims! In addition to Dr. Sibba’ie worldwide credibility as a scholar, in this book he also establishes his credibility as a historian with his understanding and explanation of current and previous events in history, politics, philosophy and other areas, which he uses to emphasize his points. Don’t be intimated though, the book is an incredibly easy and enjoyable read.
The most important issue for me, and maybe for anyone else who will read it in English, is that this book is translated beautifully. This latest English edition that is out is the revised and improved English translation and it is done so well that when I first read it, I thought the book was originally in English. Kudos to great translations! Another surprise I had was that this book was written over 60 years ago. However, the issues and topics that Dr. Sibaa’ie discusses, especially in his author’s forward, are so applicable to issues we are dealing with today worldwide.
The biggest impact this book had on me was that it completely changed the way I look at history. Let me give you an example. I am a nutritionist and many of what we learn that was established by the USDA, FDA, ADA or any other organization was mainly done in the past 80 or so years and nutrition is still considered a new science. So you can imagine my surprise (and delight) to read about Islamic hospitals 1000 years ago and that they had already discovered and implemented many of the regulations we are still trying to enforce in hospitals here in the US. This made me realize that history does not move in the way we have been taught, which is that each society that comes is more advanced than the one before. History moves in a circle, things get discovered then lost and rediscovered as if they are new. Don’t forget that all the knowledge in the Muslim world was destroyed when the Mongols invaded and burned all the libraries and destroyed all the books. What would the world have been like if that had never happened?
This book is such an important read for all Muslims, especially those who grew up in the West, to know that hospitals, modern libraries, the modern university system and much more were actually started by Muslims. We Muslims need to know our history and we need to understand that the only reason that Muslims were so successful was their devotion to their religion and it is only when we moved away from our religion that we got to the state in which we are in now.
If you would like to sample what kind of information you can find in this incredible book, check out my posts on Islamic Libraries and Ancient Islamic Hospitals which I wrote using this book as a reference. Inshallah, throughout Ramadan, I will be writing some more articles from this incredible book.
24 Sep 2012