Clash of Civilisations

What is the Islamic stance regarding the current struggle of cultures?

The clash between Islamic culture and the dominating culture of the Western civilization, on one hand, it addresses the situation that exists in the world today; which is important for us in the context of da’wah, to explain the contradiction that exists, that is, us saying that Islam means peace and Muslims being at the center of the major conflicts around the world. On the other hand, it addresses the position of the Ummah with respect to this struggle; are we on a road to success or failure? We have to analyse our existing circumstances and understand the forces that are at play and then we have to set up for ourselves a path by which we can successfully maintain Islam and apply it in the times to come.

The beginning of this concept of cultural struggle takes the world situation back to one of culture which is related to religion but is not necessarily religious, a struggle that has its relationship in religion but is not necessarily a purely religious struggle. The struggle in general has been defined for us quite systematically by Professor Samuel P Huntington, a professor of political science in a leading university in the States and also advisor to the President in his book called ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ saying that,

The underlying problem for the west is not Islamic fundamentalism, it is Islam; a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the US department of defence, it is the West. A different civilization, whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that they are superior if the climbing power poses on them the obligation to impose that cultue throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflicts between Islam and the West.

His book develops a number of different ideas; I do not say that I believe and support everything that he has written, but in this statement he has summed it up quite well. The problem that the West and those people who are involved in the decision-making process face is that they are well aware that the problem is not Islamic fundamentalism although this is what is in the media. For example, there was a statement in the New York Times (1993), which stated that,

Muslim fundamentalism is fast becoming the chief threat to global peace and security and as well as the cause for national cause and local disturbance and terrorism. It is akin to the menace posed by Nazism in the 1930’s and Communism in the 1950’s.

That was their perspective. However, Samuel P Huntington says that this is not the problem; it is definitely an elemental problem that the West has to deal with, but the major problem is Islam itself; a civilization that has its own cultural outlook which is fundamentally in conflict with the Western world outlook.

What I am trying to emphasize is that there are some elements here that we have to be aware of. And when Allah said regarding the people who were burnt in the trench in Surah al-Burooj, that they were killed only because of their belief. Hence ultimately when it comes to Muslims, what is happening to them internationally relates back to their belief system, which is not a changeable or modifiable one. Although, for example, from a Western perspective, they like to deal with moderate or liberal Muslims who may take a drink once in a while, may eat pork, who prays sometimes. But any kind of a Muslim who says that praying 5 times a day is compulsory, does not shake hands with women, does not drink alcohol is considered a fanatic, intolerant and an extremist. All these terms are used for a person who just wants to practice basic Islam.

Islam has never tolerated liberal reforms like the Jews, though there have been movements from the early part of the 20th century which tried to develop a kind of reformist approach in Turkey, Egypt, to make Islam fit in with western civilization, but this has never succeeded, and the reason for this is what Huntington has pointed out: Muslims, in spite of whatever they have experienced historically in the world, do have in their psyche a sense that Islam is superior. Allahu Akbar. It is in our athan, and that cannot be taken out of the psyche of Muslims. No matter how long Islam is subjugated, it will always bounce back. For example, Chechnya was absorbed into the Russian empire, their people sent to the Siberia, half their population died in transporting them from Russia to Siberia, yet they came back and are a major thorn in the side of Russia today. And they are calling for establishing Islam, after all those years of torture, communist rule, etc. This is the resiliency that Islam has because of the fundamental concept that Islam is in fact the truth, greater and better than anything else.

We hear in the West about modification of the text books in schools so that the people do not feel that their religion is superior to all of the others. They want the students to have the modern world religious outlook, that all the religions are good and hence one should not feel anything special about his /her religion. To do so is to be intolerant.

But this is not what Allah says:

“And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him...” [1]

There is only one religion, the fundamental principle, no matter what the West tries to do, they cannot change it. You cannot change the Qur’an. You can change some Muslims, the governments, the textbooks, but you cannot change the Qur’an. 1400 years have passed and the Qur’an remains the same, it is not going to be changed, it is something beyond their reach.

The essential problem lies in the Western civilization and its world outlook, which can be summed up in 2 principles: secularism and democracy. This is what is preached time and again. Whenever leaders from the West speak you hear them echo speeches of ‘our way of life’, ‘our democracy’, ‘these countries oppose us’, ‘they hate and are jealous of us’ and so on about the great democracy of the West. Their attitude is that it is superior to all other, it is universal and all societies are supposed to come to it. This is their point of view. All societies should be democratic and secular ultimately.


[1]  [Surah Al Imran, 3:85]

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