While Islam spread through the Arabian Peninsula, Prophet Muhammad, just like all the other prophets who came after Prophet Adam, struggled to reconstitute broken justice, revitalize concepts and values that had lost their original meaning and restore human honor.
First of all, tawhid (divine oneness) removed confusion about "the oneness of God" and then, Islam, as a religion of tawhid, was taught to the people through revelation and the prophet's example. Living as fragmented tribes in a constant state of chaos and war, Arabs were united under an authentic religious precept, a new belief and a new prophet.
Islamic fraternity reconstituted equality and justice, and revitalized community feelings by the daily ritual of prayers. The Prophet Mohammed's religious teachings shaped a disciplined and honorable society with high intellectual alertness. Even during the period of the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab, the lands of the Muslim state stretched from the Arabian Peninsula to the present borders of Iran, and then to the Eastern Roman Empire.
While Islam spread throughout the world, Islamic scholars and philosophers flourished first in Madinah, which was transformed into a center of religious thought, education and law with the establishment of the Ashab al-Suffa (the study room fraternity) in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi by Prophet Muhammad.
The same thing was then replicated in Damascus and Baghdad after their acquisition from the Eastern Roman empire, and finally in Bukhara and Samarkand following Islam's expansion in the region of Transoxiana.
Especially during the period of the Abbasid caliphs, Baghdad not only contributed to the development of Islamic thought, but also nurtured the study of Indian manuscripts and Ancient Greek philosophy. A massive translation project of these resources preserved the ancient wisdom, and later constituted the foundational material for the Western Renaissance.
As Islam does not exclude Christianity and Judaism, Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars worked together for philosophical and scientific development, while the members of these three religions coexisted peacefully in Islamic cities. Indeed, up until the modern age, Islamic cities have always been pluralistic and prosperous. Therefore, the same climate that created the madrasahs, which formed the religious education and doctrines of all religions, in Baghdad, continued to flourish in Istanbul, the capital cities of North Africa, Cairo and Cordoba.
With its constant Western-orientation, the Ottoman state transformed into a sophisticated civilization by providing an economically prosperous milieu of religious tolerance for its massive population (who were composed of more than fifty different races of all religious sects from monotheistic religions) in its lands, stretching from the Arabian Peninsula to Austria and from North Africa to the Caucasus. Indeed, Ottoman statesmen were composed of Muslim, Christian and Jewish people.
The emergence of the Industrial Revolution and the succeeding Enlightenment Age strengthened Western states to the disadvantage of the Ottoman Empire. The studies of political science enabled the Western countries to construct better state structures in comparison to the fragmenting structures of old empires. The British colonial empire eventually succeeded to occupy almost the whole Islamic world. Although those Muslim countries acquired their territorial independence after the end of World War I, Western states have continued to control and exploit most of the Islamic world.
Today, the colonial powers aim at not only occupying our lands, but also destroying our existence, religion, values and truths. Within such a wholesale project of occupation, certain Muslim states serve as their collaborators. Repeating their strategy before World War I, the colonial powers manipulate terrorist organizations (such as al-Qaida, Daesh, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and the Shiite militia) to destroy the Muslim world. Thus, the political leaders of Muslim countries must reproduce the pluralist cities of Islam in which Islamic thought and the Islamic civilization can be revived.
About the author
İhsan Aktaş is Chairman of the Board of GENAR Research Company. He is an academic at the Department of Communication at Istanbul Medipol University.