Enlightenment in Western and Muslim traditions:
Which tradition provides greater Enlightenment?

In the universe we live, we are ever faced with conflicting political orientations that influence our thought. This is surely true about Islam and secularism. In my instance and in the instance of most Moslem persons who live in a modern society, society sometimes demands us to reject secular Western values and follow Islamic values and frailty versa. Due to such at odds influences on our thought, we are sometimes confused as to which tradition to follow as a nonnatural determination: the Islamic tradition or the Western tradition?

To assist make up one’s mind which tradition to follow, I am traveling to look into which tradition provides greater enlightenment. I will make this by interrupting the paper into the undermentioned parts:

1. General construct and definition of the word enlightenment.
2. The Age of Enlightenment in the West.
3. Enlightenment in Islam.
4. Successs and Failures of enlightenment in the West.
5. Why Islam is more enlightened than the Western political orientation of enlightenment and should be promoted?

General construct and definition of the word enlightenment.

The word ‘enlightenment ‘ has many different significances depending on the context in which it is used. If we look at the actual significance of the word enlightenment, we will happen that it comes from the verb to buoy up. The prefix ‘en ‘ agencies to do or go and the suffix ‘ment ‘ means a province of being. Therefore if we join the constituents of the word ‘enlightenment ‘ together, we will happen that it literally means to go brightened.

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However the wide definition of the word ‘enlightenment ‘ harmonizing to most civilizations and societies is “the acquisition of new wisdom or understanding” ( Wikipedia, 2006, Enlightenment ( construct ) subdivision, ¶1 ) . If we look at this definition, we will happen it is really similar to the actual definition of enlightenment. When we say a individual has become brightened, we mean he has become wiser ( more intelligent ) or has acquired new wisdom.

In general, there are two different constructs of enlightenment: religious/spiritual enlightenment and intellectual/secular enlightenment. Both constructs of enlightenment are strong antonyms of each other. This is why most people that believe in secular enlightenment frequently reject spiritual enlightenment and frailty versa. Secular enlightenment is enlightenment that is non regarded as spiritual, religious or sacred, whereas spiritual enlightenment is the antonym. Harmonizing to Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher of the enlightenment, the Enlightenment was the period in the development of European civilisation when “Mankind grew out of its self-inflicted immaturity” ( as cited in Davies, 1996, p.596 ) or it is “man ‘s release from his self-incurred tutelage.” ( as cited in Dupre , 2004, p.1 ) . The construct of Secular enlightenment was of import in Europe during the eighteenth century, because it caused a dramatic alteration in the mundane thought of Europeans. The features of Secular enlightenment were the rejection of old dogmatic beliefs, which were replaced with the belief in ground as a step over all things. The Enlightenment was in fact the rational motion that advocated this construct.

The Age of Enlightenment in the West.

The Age of Enlightenment refers to the eighteenth century in American and European doctrine or harmonizing to some bookmans it besides includes the 17th century and the Age of Reason. This was the period where advanced and rational thoughts were being propagated so as to dispute traditional dogmatic thoughts and beliefs. During this period an rational motion known as The Enlightenment advocated ground as a method to look into and analyze all the assorted scientific Fieldss, which included the societal scientific disciplines ( aesthetics, moralss, doctrine, logic, economic sciences ) , literature and natural scientific disciplines ( natural philosophies, biological science, chemical science ) . They believed this would let human existences to obtain nonsubjective truth about the universe.The chief figures of the enlightenment were Descartes, Pascal, Bayle, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau.

Among them Denis Diderot was one of the first people to suggest the six cardinal rules on which enlightenment are based in his Encyclopedie. The first rule was strong belief in human concluding to the point, where it was considered the best step over everything. The 2nd rule was the belief in a Supreme Being ( God ) , who is exalted over everything. However these enlightened minds besides believed that God did non step in with nature. The 3rd rule was the rejection or less significance given to religious values and metaphysics. The 4th rule was the belief that secularism, which is the separation of the church and province, is better. The 5th rule was the strong belief in the scientific method, which lead to utmost philistinism. The last rule was the outlook of limitless advancement.

Enlightenment in Islam

Even though in Islam there is no construct of enlightenment, Islam came as an enlightened faith and manner of life for the whole humanity. During the clip the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ) was born, which was in the twelvemonth 570 A.D. , the whole universe lived in the Dark Ages. Belief in superstitious notions, myths, common patterns of black thaumaturgy, devotion ( polytheism ) and pagan religion was common. One of the major concerns of that clip was the loss and change of the original Holy Scriptures such as the Bible and Torah and the increased power of the Church, which dictated its ain version of faith and was chiefly responsible for changing the Holy Scriptures. In Arabia polytheism and pagan religion was the dominant faith of the Arabs. Ignorance towards scientific discipline and illiteracy were rampant among the people. The Holy Kaabah, which was built by Prophet Abraham and Ishmael was filled with 100s of graven images. Besides dark imposts and traditions such as the female infanticide and ritual gaming ( Maysir ) on camels were common.

When the Prophet Muhammad started his mission of prophesying Islam, which was propagating the Oneness and Unity of God ( monotheism ) , he was met with utmost opposition. However as he kept his prophesying consistent with the same asperity, the figure of his followings increased dramatically till they were able to wholly alter the civilizations of Arabia and the remainder of the universe.

Islam brought enlightenment in the Arab universe by positively altering the dark imposts and attitudes of society such as get rid ofing female infanticide, bondage, chancing and alcohol dependence.

Islam besides brought justness and provided human rights for each person. In Islam, the life and belongings of all citizens in an Islamic province are considered sacred, whether Muslim or non. Islam besides protects the award of every person. It does non let insulting or doing merriment of others. The Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh ) had said: “Truly your blood, your belongings, and your award are inviolable” ( as cited in Ibrahim, 1997, p.61 ) .

Islam besides abolished Racism and brought human equality. The Quraan speaks of human equality in the undermentioned words:

“O world, We have created you from a male and a female and have made you into states and folks for you to cognize one another. Truly, the noblest of you with God is the most pious. Truly, God is All-knowing, All-Aware” ( 1997, p.61 ) .

Islam rejects that an person is superior to another person by his wealth, power or race. God created human existences as equal to one another. One is merely better than the other if he has greater religion or piousness ( taqwa ) . A individual who greater taqwa is one who prevents himself from all types of wickednesss, performs good workss that God commands us to make, and frights and loves God. Refering equality our Prophet Muhammad besides said:

“O people! Your God is one and your sire ( Adam ) is one. An Arab is non better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is non better than an Arab, and a ruddy ( i.e. white tinged with ruddy ) individual is non better than a black individual and a black individual is non better than a ruddy individual, except in piety” ( 1997, p.62 ) .

Refering the position of adult females, Islam has from the really get downing given adult females equal rights as work forces. In the Holy Qur’aan, God says “O Mankind, maintain your responsibility to your Lord who created you from a individual psyche and from it created its mate ( of same sort ) and from them couple has spread a battalion of work forces and women” ( as cited in Badawi, 1971, p.11 ) . El-Khouly Al-Bahiy, a bookman who pondered about this verse provinces: “It is believed that there is no text, old or new, that trades with the humanity of the adult females from all facets with such astonishing brevity, fluency, deepness, and originality as this Godhead decree” ( 1971, p.11 ) . In other poetries, the Qur’aan besides expresses distinct grounds about the equality of adult females such as: “…So their Lord accepted their supplications, ( stating ) : I will non endure to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female. You will continue one from another….” ( 1971, p.13 ) . Besides, harmonizing to the Qur’aan, adult female is non entirely blamed for Adam ‘s error of eating from the out tree in Paradise. Both Adam and Eve jointly committed the error, repented and were forgiven by God. Refering spiritual duties in Islam such as praying, fasting, giving charity and pilgrim’s journey, adult females are no different than work forces. In fact, in some instances adult females are more exempted from obligatory responsibilities than work forces. When a adult female has catamenial periods or is pregnant during the past 40 yearss, she is exempted from fasting and supplications. Refering the pre-Islamic usage of burying female babies alive at birth, the Qur’aan clearly forbids it and considers it a offense like slaying. It is said in the Qur’aan refering this offense: “When intelligence is brought to one of them, of ( the Birth of ) a female ( kid ) , his face darkens and he is filled with inward heartache! With shame does he conceal himself from his people because of the bad intelligence he has had! Shall he retain her on ( sufferance ) and disdain, or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an immorality ( pick ) they decide on? ” ( 1971, p. 15 ) .

Another ground why Islam is an enlightened faith is because of the illustriousness of the Qur’aan in footings of its scientific soundness and being the best chef-d’oeuvre of Arabic literature. The Qur’aan was non authored by the Prophet as he was illiterate and did non possess the intelligence shown by the Qur’aan. The Holy Qur’aan was merely authored by God. The Prophet Muhammad merely received godly disclosure from God and so communicated it to his people.

Refering the soundness of scientific facts, the Qur’aan references some scientific miracles that have been discovered late in the past 100 old ages, even though the Qur’aan was revealed 1400 old ages ago. For illustration, the Qur’aan speaks about the phases of embryologic development: “We have created adult male from an infusion of clay, Then made him as a bead in a topographic point of colony, steadfastly fixed. Then We made the bead into an alaqah ( leech, suspended thing, and blood coagulum ) , so We made the alaqah into a mudghah ( chewed substance ) ….” ( as cited in Ibrahim, 1997, p.6 ) . The scientific inside informations expressed in this poetry were put frontward to Professor Emeritus Keith L.Moore. Dr. Keith Moore is one of the universe ‘s most prima scientists in the field of anatomy and embryology. He was impressed after analyzing and carry oning scientific research on them and when nowadays at the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, he said “It has been a great pleasance for me to assist clear up statements in the Qur’aan about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must hold come to Muhammad from God, because about all of this cognition was non discovered until many centuries subsequently. This proves to me that Muhammad must hold been a courier of God” ( 1997, p.10 ) . He besides said that the Qur’aan must be the word of God and proposed that a new system of categorization could be developed on embryologic cognition utilizing the Qur’aan and Sunnah ( traditions ) .

Other scientific miracles that the Qur’aan references are about the beginnings of the existence, that the celestial spheres and Earth were one connected entity, that there is a barrier between two different seas when they meet, that the mountains are pegs that stabilise the crust of the Earth and that as you go deeper down the sea it gets darker.

Successs and Failures of Enlightenment in the West.

The successes of enlightenment were of great benefit to humanity. The enlightenment ‘s rule of utilizing ground ( Son ) , observation and experience to explicate phenomena around us contributed to the rapid promotion of the natural scientific disciplines such as the find of physical Torahs ( e.g. gravitation ) that govern the existence, infinite geographic expedition and familial technology. The promotion in the natural scientific disciplines in bend led to a better criterion of life for world for illustration: the innovation of fractional distillment led to a greater production of gasoline and gasolene which led to more efficient and convenient agencies of conveyance such as autos.

Enlightenment besides led to advancement in the societal scientific disciplines such as Economicss. The construct that free markets maximize public assistance in an economic system and find the best allotment of resources, as proposed by Adam Smith in his book The Wealth of Nations, was an illustration of the successes ensuing from enlightenment. Some of the other fruits of enlightenment were the regulation of jurisprudence and broad democracies. Despite all these successes that resulted from enlightenment, there were even greater failures ensuing from enlightenment.

Most of the six elements of enlightenment led to some failure. The rule that logos ( ground ) is a step over all things was overestimated as logical thinking could non grok what is the Godhead or unobserved. Reasoning can non explicate for illustration black thaumaturgy that goes on in some states such as Oman. Reasoning besides can non to the full explicate the being of God. This is because we can non see or hear God. Until we do non physically see God, we will non be able to cognize about his being. Another failure of overrating logical thinking was it led to a general diminution in faith. While all the chief figures of the 18th century enlightenment were Deists, who believed in a non-interventionist cloud-maker God, their 19th century replacements became atheists or at least doubters.

Another failure of construct of enlightenment in Europe was the anarchy produced from fascism and communism. This anarchy was produced as the construct of enlightenment rejected the construct of Godhead jurisprudence and believed that the footing of jurisprudence can be found in nature. As what was called the natural jurisprudence was really made by the people, it was under the influence of either the bulks in a democratic state or barbarous totalitarian swayers.

The Enlightenment ‘s sense of limitless advancement besides had negative effects. Tradition, which is the footing of all major faiths including Islam, was wholly abandoned. The construct of sacredness was besides neglected. Rather any alteration was welcomed. By the terminal of the 19th century many people anticipated that the Earth will go a Eden one time all scientific finds would take topographic point.

In the 20th century the existent failures of enlightenment showed up. The consequences were two universe wars that destroyed most of Europe and America. The usage of chemical and atomic arms in these wars killed 10s of 1000000s of people. In between these two universe wars the overzealous totalitarian systems of communism ( Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Cambodia, Congo, Vietnam and Algeria ) and fascism ( Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Greece ) arouse. These one-party systems strongly discriminated against other parties and cultural groups. They killed 1000000s of people as a consequence of cultural cleaning and category warfare. Examples of such ferociousnesss include the Holocast, which was carried by the Nazis against the Jews. All these ferociousnesss were a effect of the inhumane rationalism that contradicted the subject of moralss in doctrine, which in bend contradicted the thoughts of the early philosophers and laminitiss of enlightenment.

Such catastrophes including the possibility of a World War Three are in front of us. However, the present negative consequences of enlightenment are unnecessarily high ingestion forms in Western states, a farther diminution in religionism, broad graduated table environmental debasement, increased inequality between the hapless and rich and the negative consequences of globalisation, which include the widening spread between rich and hapless states in footings of national income and criterion of life.

Why Islam is more enlightened than the Western political orientation of enlightenment and should be promoted?

When analysing the successes and failures of Islam, I found that Islam has no failures and is a perfect manner of life, which is why it is such an enlightened faith. However when I studied the successes and failures of enlightenment in the West, I noticed that there were a batch of major failures that resulted from enlightenment even though there were some great successes such as the promotion in engineering.

The successes achieved from enlightenment in the West could hold besides been achieved by the Muslims if they had non deviated from the way of the Prophet Muhammad, which is the Qur’aan and traditions ( Sunnah ) of the Prophet. If we look the earlier epochs in Islamic history, the Muslims were much in front of the West in engineering and scientific disciplines. The Muslims besides had their ain imperium which extended from China to Southern France. At that clip the West lived in the Dark Ages and were inspired by the Muslim philosophers and sociologists such as Averroes ( Ibn Rushd ) , Ibn Khaldun and Avicenna ( Ibn Sina ) . A batch of words in English and French were borrowed from Arabic such as intoxicant ( al-Kohol ) , algebra ( al-Jabr ) , bravo ( hashshashiyeen ) and java ( kahva ) .

Besides if we look at the clip period ( between the 19th and twentieth century ) , when the enlightenment was doing desolation in the West such as the two universe wars and the Holocast, we will happen that there were no such major struggles in the Islam universe. The Muslim states were at peace with each other.

Besides if we study the Qur’aan we will happen that it provides a great trade of enlightenment even during the present twenty-four hours. It is sound in conformity with the latest finds in scientific discipline. In fact the Qur’aan has been a taking usher to enlightenment for 1400 old ages since it begun. Since the clip of the Prophet, it has been by far the best piece of Arabic literature and had a enormous influence on the Arabic linguistic communication peculiarly in layman ( prose ) and spiritual authorship. During the clip of the Prophet it challenged the best poets in Arabia to compose even one poetry every bit facile as the Qur’aan. Many of these poets ( such as Kaab Ibn Zuhayr ) accepted Islam due to the Qur’aan ‘s fluency and originality. In the present universe, the Qur’aan is functioning as a usher to scientific research and law.


Badawi, J.A. ( 1980 ) . The Status of Women in Islam. Al-Ittihad, 8 ( 2 ) , 1-28.

Davies, N. ( 1996 ) . Europe, A History: Enlightenment And Absolutism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dupre , L. ( 2004 ) . The Enlightenment & A ; the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture: A Definition and a Probationary Justification. Yale: Yale University Press.

Enlightenment ( construct ) . ( n.d. ) . Retrieved December 6, 2006, from hypertext transfer protocol: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightenment_ % 28concept % 29

Hofmann, M.W. ( 2002, Summer ) . Has Islam Missed Its Enlightenment? American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, 19 ( 3 ) , 1-10.

Ibrahim, I.A. ( 1997 ) . A Brief Illustrated Guide To Understanding Islam ( 2nd ed. ) . Houston: Darussalam, Publishers and Distributors.


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