Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Muharram 7, 1446 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Man between civilisation and culture

The displacement from war in some Arab countries and the repercussions of the Ukrainian war are all manifestations of the cultural narrowness and cultural wars
A man looks at destroyed Russian military equipment in Mykhailivska Square in downtown Kyiv amid the Russian war on Ukraine. -- AFP
A man looks at destroyed Russian military equipment in Mykhailivska Square in downtown Kyiv amid the Russian war on Ukraine. -- AFP
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The two terms ‘civilisation’ and ‘culture’ are inextricably interrelated. No civilisation would ever exist without culture. Civilisation is linked to humans by means of science, reason, discovery and norms whereas culture is linked to human identity. We have ethnic identity, religious identity, sectarian identity and the traditional identity.


Cultures refine themselves, but they do so within the framework of a civilisation. Allah Almighty says in the holy Quran: (And among His signs is the creation of the heaven and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are signs for those who know) —22 Ar Room.


Disclosing the Quranic verses (containing the laws of the universe) and starting from them has something to do with civilisation. The differences in languages and colours (natural variations) both of which have an impact on culture. Culture is refined when construed through the framework of civilisation.


Ethnic and religious conflicts occur when culture is interpreted separately from civilisation. The building of the civilisation lies in the purification of cultures and utilising them in the building of humans and civilisations.


Civilisation is based on the values of existence and the greater human principles. The value that lies in existence is the discovery of its laws and utilising them in land amelioration and serving humankind by mimicking those laws to invent machines and instruments. Humans invented aircraft by imitating birds. Likewise, by means of imitation man managed to invent the telephone, television and printing press, among other inventions.


This would not have been possible if man could not understand the laws of nature.


That didn’t happen in one fell swoop meaning civilisation and along with it the transformation of the humankind did not emerge out of the blue nor did it descend from heaven. But rather it resulted from man’s travel on the land and his attempts to detect and imitate tools that make his life easier which resulted in the invention of the machines that were used for farming, cooking and construction of houses. Each civilisation represented a push-forward for the next one leading up to our contemporary civilisation.


The greater human values are represented by the human commonalities in terms of the essence of existence. These values represent innateness. “So set your purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright-- the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He has created mankind. There is no alteration to (the laws of) Allah's creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not.” (chapter 30 Surat Ar-Rum).


People were originally born equally with no essential differences which is why the reading of civilisation from the perspective of the natural laws would realise human dignity and achieve justice, equality, freedom and the avoidance of tyranny.


Civilisation is interrelated to the laws of nature, mind and discovery, however it spawns varied cultures some of which may affect civilisation continuity whether traditional values or customs. Consequently, cultures should be critically construed away from bigotry.


Today as the parts of the world are coming closer together in one civilisation, all people regardless of race or religion contribute to developing that civilisation.


However, some parts of the human world still degrade to a degree closer to animals and consequently their cultural narrowness prevails over civilisational broadness. Such people wage wars that result in poverty, famine and inhuman conditions.


The major famine that reoccurs in close time proximity in Somalia, the primitiveness in some parts of Black Africa and the poverty and diseases that kill hundreds of people in parts of Asia and Latin America as well as the displacement from war in some Arab countries and the repercussions of the Ukrainian war are all manifestations of the cultural narrowness and cultural wars.


We are still experiencing clash of cultures, egocentricity and the arrogance of the politicians and the opportunism of the religious men. All that’s because we are living in a state of cultural narrowness and lack of civilisational wideness.


Finally, the humanitarian and civilisational reading of culture moves us directly to the utilisation of the ‘existence for man as essence’, rather than the man belonging to a specific identity be it religious, ethnic or cultural.


It is pointless that the wealth of nations be confined to a segment of people who are not different from others. It is absurd that the riches of nations are stolen while the people are left in abject poverty.


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