Clash or Harmony of Civilizations! .. A New Reading

  • | Monday, 25 March, 2019
Clash or Harmony of Civilizations! .. A New Reading

     In 1993, the American academician and politician Samuel P. Huntington (1927 – 2008) wrote his controversial, yet famous, article on the clash of civilizations, which he later developed into a book entitled “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”. In this book, Huntington wants to convey a main idea that “conflicts between civilizations would dominate the future of world politics, and that an international order based on civilizations is the best safeguard against war.”[1]

In an independent chapter under the title of “The Global Politics of Civilizations”, Huntington dedicated a sub-section entitled “Islam and the West” to highlight the Muslim-Western relationship wherein he clearly states that “The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy”;[2] he even went further to describe this relationship as a “continuing and deeply conflictual relation.”[3] Yet, he meanwhile confessed that “peaceful co-existence (between Muslims and the Westerners) has prevailed, at times.”[4] Here, we shall pose the question, “what are the barriers that prevent the continuity of such peaceful coexistence?!” In other words, as long as it prevailed and already existed for sometimes, why should not it continually exit?!

Huntington, on his part, believes that the main cause of this ongoing conflict stems from the “nature of the two religions and the civilizations based on them.”[5] This point directly makes us inquire: “Is each of these two religions of an aggressive nature that they do not accept each other?”[6]

Answer to this question shall be divided into two parts: the first has to do with nature of the religion of Islam and whether or not it allows coexistence with others, while the second has to do with the nature of Christianity itself.[7] As Muslims, we shall address the first point even though we fully know that true Christianity, like Islam, has no connection at all with violence or extremism.

In the very beginning of our answer, we prefer to give the floor for Sir. Thomas Arnold (1864 – 1930 C.E.), author of The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, who, commenting on the existence of Christians in the Muslim-ruled countries, said:

The very existence of so many Christian sects and communities in countries that have been for centuries under Muhammadan[8] rule is an abiding testimony to the toleration they have enjoyed …[9]

Very objectively, Arnold states that Islam has no barriers or obstacles that prevent its followers from accepting and coexisting with people of other religions and cultures, which is actually a well-established Islamic principle, for Muslims are told in their Quran that their own religion is what concerns them, that is, they should not interfere in others’ religions or creeds. (The Quran, 109: 1-6)

This clearly means that they were not banned to engage into relations with non-Muslims as long as the latter do not commit any act of aggression against them, which is already stressed by (The Quran, 60:8). Not only that, but they are also allowed to get married to Christian and Jewish women and to eat their lawful food. (The Quran, 5:5)

The question that shall be posed now is “as long as Islam does not ban Muslims from dealing with others as to food, marriage, social dealings- main prerequisites for any society, why shall Huntington or any other researcher accuse it of not accepting the other or of being a religion that brings about clashes with others?!”

We believe that Huntington, like many others, has a biased attitude against Islam that makes him, fearing Islam will undermine the western, false materialism, state: “Islam is the only civilization which has put the survival of the West in doubt, and it has done that twice.”[10]

It is thus crystal clear that Islam has no clash with any other religion, and that it is a religion that approves religious plurality and differences among mankind.



[1] See Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 1. ‎

[2] Ibid., 209.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 10.

[6] We opine that these two aforementioned points are ‎interdependent with each other, believing meanwhile that the ‎writer had some sort of confusion in the use of the two words ‎‎“Islam” and civilization”, for he usually uses them ‎interchangeably to justify his ideas and thoughts, which is not ‎correct because there is a big difference between Islamic ‎civilization and the religion of Islam itself.  ‎

[7] The word “nature” here means the true teachings and instructions of these two religions.

[8] Arnold uses the word “Muhammadan” to refer to the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), i.e. Muslims.

[9] See T. W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith (London: Constable & Company LTD, 2nd  ed., 1913), p. 420

[10] See Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations, p. 210.

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