The term ‘culture’ denotes a form of life that has been created by humankind on the strength of intellectual and physical capabilities, consisting of patterns of feeling, thought, and behaviour, and further developed as it is handed down and from generation to generation.
The Qur’an contains several verses referencing the significance of language as one of the elements that go into the creation of culture. Where it is written: ‘And of His signs is […] the diversity of your languages and your colors.’ (30:22), the ‘languages’ are a reference to culture, and the ‘colors’ refer to the different peoples, and hence to cultural diversity. It is also written that every prophet has been sent to his people, speaking its own language, and, as a representative of the respective culture, the prophet has translated the messages received from God into this language, uniting revelation with culture (14:4; 41:44). The passage about Adam (2:31‑33), on the other hand, relates how God taught Adam the names of all things; there it is emphasised that, unlike the angels, people possess the special capacity to name objects, i.e. to pass culture along by means of symbols. Because man makes an effort to name the things around him, he can explore nature, simplifying and enriching his life with the things he produces, in the end developing further and higher, as an individual and in society, through the culture he has created.
A culture reflects a society’s most important essential traits and encompasses all of the accomplishments brought forth over the course of time by means of its resources. These accomplishments include objects of art, architecture, literature and clothing; tools and devices for everyday use; as well as language, ethics, aesthetics, customs and ways of life, traditions and conventions. Just as these individual elements of a culture are mutually influential, so, too, does religion – in this case, Islam – exert a strong influence over culture. In Islamic cultures, this influence can be seen particularly in the areas of language, literature, art, architecture, customs, ways of life, philosophy, science, law, politics, and ethics. For instance, because the language of the Qur’an is Arabic, there are numerous traces of Arabic to be found in the religious cultures of Islamic societies. The use of Arabic in calligraphy paved the way for creation of an aesthetic culture shaped by religion. The traces of religious culture are also clearly discernible in Sufi music, which is influenced by mystical-religious elements. If one considers the relationship between religion and culture, it turns out that Islam is not independent of the culture in which it arose, nor is it independent of those cultures to which it spread later on. And by the same token, in its turn, Islam also has a shaping influence on culture as well.
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