An Introduction to Islamic Culture

An Introduction to Islamic Culture

Culture has been defined in many different ways by cultural experts and scholars. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has so far [1] cited 164 various definitions of culture. By studying these definitions carefully, it may be concluded that some of them intend to identify certain cultural elements, e.g. scientific culture, artistic culture, literary culture and moral culture, […]

  • Allamah Muhammad Taqi Ja'fari
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    Culture has been defined in many different ways by cultural experts and scholars. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has so far [1] cited 164 various definitions of culture. By studying these definitions carefully, it may be concluded that some of them intend to identify certain cultural elements, e.g. scientific culture, artistic culture, literary culture and moral culture, all of which serve only to describe various aspects of the cultural phenomenon such as art. Some definitions refer to pursuant culture, and some others depict pioneer culture, although they do not directly do so. Let us consider a simple example to elaborate on the fact that all the existing definitions fail to put forth a thorough explanation of culture. Suppose a number of people are trying to find the centre of a circle by considering many points in it. Clearly, none of them would prove to be the real centre; thus, cultural scholars and sociologists have not taken into serious consideration the true identity of man, which lies in the boundary between nature and the supernatural. “Truly, it was you who made the circle of the universe whole.” (Sheikh Mahmoud Shabestan) Instead, they have merely studied some of the cultural elements, especially physical phenomena and cultural activities. Therefore, it is obvious that the number of physical outcomes could lead to countless definitions, much higher than 164. In proof of this, notice the neglect toward the innate virtues of culture, the aspect of virtual beauty to name one. On the contrary, culture consists of two parts: internally virtual and externally virtual. The most complete definition that can be derived from most of the present ones is: “Culture is the necessary or proper quality in man's physical mental activities, based on sound logic and emotions rising from sensible evolutionary lifestyles. [2] The elements and examples presented in the current encyclopaedias and lexicons refer to qualities of both necessity and appropriateness. In other words, they consist of proper facts and also necessities for human life. French Encyclopaedias state that: “Culture consists of all the knowledge acquired by man or society, such as a set of activities based on various socio-historical rules, or structures caused by changes in behaviour or deeds due to specific educational conditions” The sentences above include both, the absolute vital and also the unnecessary but proper conditions of life. However, as we will see further on, the necessities and proper conditions do not totally exclude man’s personal needs. Some experts believe that culture consists not only of the essentials of life, such as natural sciences or humanities, but only the suitable aspects worthy of forming the basis of a culture. Here we must keep in mind two important principles. One: The more distance between culture and natural life and fatalistic facts, and also the more evolutionary virtual facts it includes, the more human it will be. Two: The highly elevated spiritual value according to which man constantly wishes to fill every aspect and action of his life with excellent virtues. On the basis of these two rules, some idealistic and pioneering anthropologists believe that culture has always played a major role in the evolutionary progress of mankind. Concern about the Future of Evolutionary Culture If a day comes when humans begin to lose the desire to reach harmony in dignified freedom, unconscious fatalism will put them in a mechanical life ignorant of the truth, and call it human unity. If someday the plague of deculturization infiltrates humans so strongly that it even ruins the common virtues of evolutionary cultures in various nations, it would unquestionably reveal the shameful incompetence of their leaders. Despite centuries of evolutionary endeavour by holy prophets men of wisdom, moralists, and the sacrifices of those martyred for the sake of freedom and human dignity, social leaders today have not only proved themselves unable of uniting mankind in search of spiritual and behavioural harmony based on evolutionary cultural virtues, but have also lowered man to ignorant components of a machine. They have deprived man of the glorious life he deserves, and restricted him to only the physical desires of life, such as greed for power, dominance and selfishness. On that terrible day, which might not be so distant, history's sensitive conscience and God, who provided men with conscience to guide them through time, will take revenge on those who have demolished human dignity and values. All authentic human cultures, holy prophets, distinguished anthropologists, moralists and those who have contributed to the culture of man's history clearly show that the only way to establish harmony and dignity among mankind is definitely through elevated virtues and morals, not mechanical characteristics and qualities. The reason is that the more man deviates from highly moral virtues, the more influenced he will be by his natural animal self. Animals also possess this kind of self -although in a more limited form -whereas in humans it handles the essence of man, for human capacities are so many and mighty that they mutually infect the universe and their peers.... Source:alhassanain.com

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