Islam Between East and West is a modern treatise on cultures and civilization which attempts to show how so many philosophies have failed to give human beings what they need. Izetbegovic was no coward, and in this fine book he makes strong assertions: "Every culture is theistic in its essence; every civilization is atheistic." By differentiating between culture and civilization, he shows the difference between critically analytical Islamic thought ( best exemplified by the Golden Age of Muslim philosophers) and the Christian turning of "the human spirit in upon itself" (witness the convents and monasteries betokening the negation of worldly life). Tomb of Alija Izetbegovic Izetbegovic argues that the Islamic ideal offers firm middle ground between Christianity, which focuses on the spirit, and Judaism, which "represents the 'this-world' tendency." In support of the latter assertion, he writes, "The Jews have never entirely accepted the idea of immortality. . . . The Kingdom of God which the Jews were predicting before Jesus' appearance was to materialize on earth, not in heaven as the Christians believed." This, then, apparently explains why the Jewish nation has tended to focus on external progress: "It seems as if they have been constantly migrating from a civilization on the wane to one on the rise." Izetbegovic was the farthest thing from a fundamentalist, royalist, or nomad,which in some part explains the tepid interest of the Saudi government when he approached it during the Bosnian War at the very moment when Serbs began machine gunning hordes of Caucasian Bosnian Muslims in front of pits--the educated first. Perhaps the Bosnian Muslims looked, to the Arab World, a little too much like Westerners. Indeed, perhaps Izetbegovic himself looked a little too much like a Westerner.Certainly he had a secular education, involving himself, as a young man, in activism and politics--both dicey concepts in the Arab Gulf.. Izetbegovic does not ignore the East at all, pointing out that those lands swallowed by socialism, communism, and fascism show how if religion, by itself, does not necessarily lead to progress, "science does not lead to humanism and in principle has nothing in common with culture." Izetbegovic defines culture as "the art of being man," while civilization is "the art of functioning, ruling, making things perfect." Both are indispensable, he says: "Civilization educates; culture enlightens." He explains education as something that makes human beings more capable but not freer, better, or more human. In many ways, he contends, the progress of education has made mankind less happy, if longer lived. He points out that man has the propensity to grow in nobility specifically when faced with adversity, yet science treats man as an animal, and that is why psychology is an accepted science in a material world. But in a scientific world, there can be no equality or brotherhood--that is only possible when we accept that man is created by God. The equality of human beings is spiritual and not a natural, physical or intellectual fact. Izetbegovic uses art as proof of the existence of the soul--it matters not that the artist himself should be a believer in God. His argument? Art, he offers, is a spiritual rather than material act; the flip side to this argument is that "A human being is not the sum of his different biological functions, just like a painting cannot be reduced to the quantity of paint used." This book proves that in our modern time, there have been exceedingly erudite Muslim thinkers, far from the inflexible psychosis of fundamentalism.
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