The Influence of Islam on Arab culture
|Islam, Community, Multiculturalism, 🔡 Linguistics
Since the emergence of Islam as one of the major religions in the world, it has essentially been tied to Arabic culture. This is because both Islam and Arabic culture have had an influence on one another to such an extent that it has become possible for both to achieve growth. Islam is a religion that enabled the culture of the Arabs to spread to other parts of the world, when previously; it was largely confined to the Arabian Peninsula and its environs. Furthermore, Islam is also responsible for the considerable assimilation of the cultural aspects of other cultures into the Arab culture. A consequence of this situation is that Islam has had a positive impact on Arabic culture because it has ensured that there is considerable cultural exchange between the people of the areas known as the Arab world and beyond. This paper makes an analysis of the way through which Islam has had an impact on Arab culture, and the consequences of this influence on the development of the contemporary Arab culture.
One of the most fundamental factors to consider is that Islam essentially developed in an Arab culture, and this has resulted in a situation where other cultures that have adopted Islam also became influenced by Arabic customs (Waardenburg, 2016). Islam ended up acting as a unifying factor not only for the Arabs, but also the communities in the Middle East and North Africa that adopted the religion. A consequence of this situation was that there developed a situation where close cultural affinities between the communities in this region were achieved. Arab culture was able to spread because of the prevalence of Islam in the region and this allowed for its swift adoption even by people that were otherwise not of Arab descent. The culture that is promoted by Islam is one that was born in the desert, and this is in such a way that while it is simple, it is not simplistic. Islam has developed a culture that essentially encourages the transmission of culture through the use of poetry and oral tradition. This is an important aspect because it has involved the adoption of the oral tradition that has always been a pertinent part of Arab culture (Ahmad & Lakhvi, 2015, p. 29). Moreover, Islam has also has a considerable impact on the written culture of the Arab world because it has encouraged and stressed the value of education in the region for centuries. The Arab civilization has benefited greatly from Islam because this religion helped it to achieve a civilization that was especially dominant during the medieval period, when Europe was far behind.
In addition, the main language that is used in Islam is Arabic, and the emergence of the latter as a major world religion ensured that Arabic came into common use. Arabic forms the basis for the development of an understanding of many of the most pertinent concepts that are an essential aspect of the Muslim community (Helms, 2017, p. 29). This is especially the case considering that despite Arabs sharing the same religion, they have developed along very different paths based on their respective regions and their local political situations. A consequence has been that Islam has led to the advancement of the most common aspects concerning the Arab culture so that rather than considering themselves different, Arabs have come to focus more on those aspects that bind them together. The traditions that were emphasized by the Prophet Muhammad, which are based on the sunna, have become extremely important aspects of Arab culture and this is to such an extent that adhering to them is considered a means through which individuals are able to follow the right path (Waardenburg, 2016). Therefore, while Arabs before Islam had a culture that loosely followed the basic tenets of the sunna, these aspects gained more meaning with the coming of Islam. It helped to advance a situation where there was the development of stronger initiatives aimed at unifying the Muslim community; ensuring that the Arab culture came closer together. Thus, Islam in the Arab world has come to be tied strongly to the culture of its people because of the influence that they have on one another.
Islam has also come to have an impact on Arabic and this is to such an extent that the purest form of Arabic is often considered to be based on the Quran. The Quran is one of the most significant connections between Islam and Arab identity, which is especially the case when it comes to the records of the life, words, and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (Lambarraa & Riener, 2015, p. 70). All of the later have been recorded in Arabic and this provides a picture of the important ties that have been established between Islam and Arab culture. The common use of Arabic by Arabs, as well as non-Arabs who profess the Muslim faith is important because it ensures that there is the advancement of Arab culture. Islam has promoted a situation where while in other cases, there would have been numerous dialects of Arabic that would have even evolved into different languages, there is currently considerable understanding between the dialects that the Arabs use throughout the Middle East. Having a common language source, this time based on the Quran and its constant use, has ensured that there is the achievement of a level of understanding between Arabs from different parts of the Arab world, from Morocco to Yemen and beyond. The classical Arabic that was used during the time of the Prophet and is still used today in prayer has enabled for the advancement of Arabic language, with standard Arabic being in common use today throughout the Arab world.
Moreover, the history of Islam can be traced through written records, which is important because the history of Islam is also the history of the Arabs. While the spread of Islam brought Arab culture to the world, it also enabled the development of a situation where Arab culture was also influenced by other cultures that it encountered. This is because Arab culture, during the early stages of the spread of Islam, came to be influenced by Greek, Indian, and Persian cultures, which came about through their absorption into the framework of Islamic values (Von Grunebaum, 2013, p. viii). A consequence is that through the adoption of some aspects of these cultures, Arab culture acted as a conduit through which the preservation of some cultural forms was enabled. It was also through the absorption of some aspects of other cultures that it became possible to develop a written tradition that helped to record the oral traditions that were previously prevalent in Arab culture. The development of Islam made it possible for Arabs to significantly develop their poetry and music through maintaining written records. The contacts with Greece and Persia that was enabled by Islam helped in creating an impulse towards music, with the frequent accompaniment of poetry and prose. This achievement because of the influence of Islam ensured that Arab culture became more diverse in such a way that helped Arabs transition from a purely nomadic culture to one that appreciated a diversity of other cultural aspects. It further enabled Arabs to become more active transmitters of culture not only in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Europe as well because of commerce, religion, and conquest.
Islam is also responsible for having created level of cohesion among the various Arab tribes that occupied the Arabian Peninsula and the areas around it. This is because the identity of Arabs was one that was quite diverse before the coming of Islam, and the word was used to refer to the various Semitic-speaking tribes that occupied the Arabian Peninsula. Islam has been characterized as a religion that has essentially melded the numerous cultural practices of the Arabs. It is a religion that has sought to ensure that the Arab way of life is held up as the ideal and this is to such an extent that not only is Arabic used as the language of religion, but the Bedouin culture of rejecting authoritarian rule has been seen throughout Arab history since before the advent of Islam (Khan, 2014). The rich oral culture of the Arabs has become widespread because of the adoption of Islam by the disparate Semitic tribes on the Arabian Peninsula and this is to such an extent that it allowed these tribes to adopt a common identity that not only enhanced their status as Arabs, but also the people of the Prophet Muhammad. Islam brought with it political and economic advantages for those individuals who converted to it, especially in the Arab world, and this ensured that a considerable number of people, especially those who had not previously identified as Arab, to adopt Arab culture as a means of achieving social advantage. Therefore, Islam ended up playing an important role in the promotion of means through which Arab culture not only spread, but also in the achievement of unity among the various Semitic tribes of the Arabian Peninsula within a common Arab identity.
The use of Arabic as a medium of communication became more widespread in the Arab world following the rise of Islam. Prior to this, Arabic was mainly used on the Arabian Peninsula, while Arabs tended to adopt the language of the places where they conducted commerce with other peoples outside the Peninsula. However, the rise of Islam and the Muslim conquests that followed the death of Muhammad made it possible for Arabic to come into common usage not only in the Middle East and North Africa, but also in the southern parts of Europe and considerable parts of Asia (Stauffer, 2017, p. 11). This achievement enabled Arabic to become a high status language, especially in the early centuries of Islam, and it promoted a situation where its use has continued to be common in the whole of the Arab world. The considerable literary developments and achievements of Arab culture were brought about during this period and this is allowed the language to flourish. The cultural aspects of the Arabs were swiftly transmitted through writing down the oral traditions of various tribes and this allowed Arabic to not only thrive, but also to come into common usage in the regions that were occupied by the Arabs (Zwettler, 1978, p. 29).
Additionally, Arabic has ended up developing into two very distinct forms because of the influence of Islam. The first of these is classical Arabic, which has become the standard when it comes to its being used in religion and as a language for literature. Classical Arabic has achieved common usage not only in the Arab world, but also among Muslims across the world. In the Middle East, it is a language that has essentially come to act as a bond for all literate Muslims because it is considered to be the purest form of Arabic. The second form of Arabic is colloquial Arabic, which is used as an informal spoken language, with variations in dialect based on the region from which the speaker comes from. This latter form of Arabic has evolved in such a way that sometimes, it is not mutually intelligible when spoken by individuals from different regions (Kadri et al., 2005, p. 193). However, despite the differences found in the latter, both forms of Arabic are important forces when it comes to the achievement of the cohesion of all Arabs.
In conclusion, Islam has had a powerful influence on the development of Arab culture. This is because it has ensured that there is the advancement of a situation where disparate Semitic communities that originated in the Arabian Peninsula came to have a common identity as Arabs. Furthermore, Islam was responsible for the considerable interactions between Arabs and other cultures to such an extent that Arabic culture came to be influenced by others. The adoption of written records that replaced the oral tradition was an important step of making sure that the culture was preserved. Islam also helped in the development of means through which there was the advancement of Arab culture outside the Arabian Peninsula because following the Arab conquests in the aftermath of the death of Muhammad, Arab culture became the dominant force in the areas that they occupied.
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