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  • Writer's pictureAhmed

Different Periods of Civilisation and Culture

We now wish to point out that periods of civilisation and culture come at times in isolation and at times in combination. They come separately at one time and simultaneously at another. Occasionally a nation attains to a great civilisation but not to a great culture; occasionally to a great culture but not to a great civilisation. Rome in its glory was the bearer of a great civilisation; but it had no culture. Its Art and its Philosophy did not spring from any foundational ideology. Every individual was free to grow in his own way and to interpret life without reference to any large and basic principles. During the first few centuries of its existence Christianity gave no civilisation to the world but it gave culture of a very high order, a culture which sprang from a determinate outlook on life and which accordingly had its own characteristic features. Early Christians had their activities rooted in certain principles; their lives were defined by certain limits. These principles and limits were laid down for them by their religious teaching. On the other hand, the principles and limits within which the Roman mind worked were dictated by materialistic urges. In short, early Rome was an excellent example of a civilisation and early Christianity a similar example of culture. Later, in Rome civilisation and culture mingled together. When Rome became Christian, it had both a civilisation and a culture, but its civilisation was subordinate to its culture. At present Europe possesses both a civilisation and a culture but, owing to the dominance of materialistic conceptions, its culture has become subordinate to its civilisation. When we study the history of the world, we find that times during which religion has succeeded in promoting a true philosophy of morals or a true culture seem to have been very similar to our own time. Similarly, times during which a materialistic outlook on life has produced a true civilisation seem to have been very similar to our own. But two differences seem to be outstanding. Civilisations and cultures which arose before the advent of Islam were not universal in their appeal or conception. They were not derived from a universal principle. Religion and civilisation were not like branches shooting out of the same root. If they ever seemed to be so, they lacked true unity. In the Jewish religion, no doubt, an effort has been made to combine civilisation and culture. In the Old Testament, to a very large extent, social ideas and ideals have been combined with material conceptions, and both centre around religion. But this attempt of the Old Testamentcanbedescribedasafirstattemptonlyandnotafinallysuccessfulattempt. The same is true of the Hindu and the Zoroastrian religion. The thousand and one needs of human life seem to require an ideology and a system of thought which is elastic enough to serve as a guide for all occasions and all needs. Such an ideology the older religions do not provide. A wooden, inelastic teaching bearing on the needs of civilised society is also offered by them. But the innumerable needs of a wide human society cannot be met by an inelastic system of teaching. What distinguishes man from other animals is the very important fact that human beings, while they are so much alike, are at the same time so very different from one another. The animal world is distinguished by a dead uniformity. Buffaloes, cows, lions, tigers, hawks and fishes, in short, animals and birds whether they live on land, in water or in the air, are all alike in their external appearance as well as in the structure of their brain. They seem to obey one uniform law. But man is different. Human individuals come into the world with the same kind of body. They have the same kind of appearance, and their limbs and sense organs also seem to be very similar. But in respect of their mind and in respect of what they think and feel they are very different from one another. If we must have guidance for all these differently situated and differently constituted human individuals, it must be one, the rigidity of which is tempered by a due degree of flexibility.

Will be continued...

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