In the ancient and medieval worlds, the people’s right to supervise the actions of their rulers was denied, and the relationship between the people and their ruler was that of slave and master. The ruler was the absolute master who did whatever he wanted with the people, and the kingdom was regarded as the personal property of the king, to be inherited from him like the rest of his wealth. Because of that, they regarded it as permissible to wage war against another state to demand a princess’ right to the throne or because of a dispute concerning a son-in-Law’s inheritance. As for the relationship between warring countries, it was usually one of violating the sanctity of everything owned by the defeated party, his wealth, honor, freedom, and dignity.
This is how things remained until the emergence of Islamic civilization which proclaimed as one of its basic principles that the people had the right to supervise the activities of their rulers, and that these rulers were no more than hired workers who were expected to work hard in taking care of the people’s interests with honesty and integrity. Hence for the first time in history, an individual from among the people was able to call his ruler to account for what he was wearing and ask where he had got it, and no one ruled that he should be executed or imprisoned or banished from the land, rather the ruler came and explained himself until that man and the people were convinced! And for the first time in history, one of the people said to the supreme ruler: “Peace be upon you, O’ hired worker!” and the ruler acknowledged that he was the hired worker of the people and that he shared the hired worker’s duties of sincere service and fulfilling the trust. This was one of the things that the Islamic civilization proclaimed and implemented. It was like a breeze of freedom and awareness blowing among the peoples neighboring the Islamic civilization. They began to complain, then to stir, then they revolted and liberated themselves.
This is what happened in Europe, for the westerners came to the land of Syria during the Crusades and they had previously seen in the lands of the Andalusian caliphate that the people kept a watchful eye on their rulers and that the rulers were not under the supervision of anyone except their own people. The kings of Europe compared the Arab and Muslim kings who were not subject to the influence of any particular class but rather the whole people, with their own submission to the authority in Rome and the ever-present threat of ex-communication unless they showed obedience to the religious king of Rome (i.e., the pope). After their return to their own countries, they rebelled until they freed themselves, then their own peoples rebelled against them until they freed themselves.
After that, the French Revolution did not take matters any further than the freedoms that our civilization had proclaimed twelve centuries earlier! Among the principles that our civilization followed in its wars were: respecting treaties, respecting freedom of belief, leaving places of worship to their people, guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of people. This generated a spirit of pride and dignity in the conquered peoples and awoke in them a sense of their own worth. For the first time in history, a father among the conquered people complained to the supreme ruler of the state that the son of the governor had hit his young son twice with a whip on the head for no reason. The supreme ruler of the state got angry and called the governor to account. He passed judgment that the injured party is given the right to retaliate, and he rebuked the governor saying, “When did you enslave the people who were born free?” This was a new spirit that was awoken by our civilization among individuals and peoples.
The westerners made contact with our civilization in the Middle Ages in Syria and in Andalusia, before which they had never known of a king revolting against a pope or the uprising of a people against a king. They never thought that they had the right to call a ruler to account for or to support one who was oppressed. When one of them differed with another concerning some matter of doctrine or sect, they would slaughter one another like a butcher slaughters sheep! But when they made contact with us, their renaissance and revolution began, then they freed themselves.
After this, can anyone deny the effect of our civilization in freeing the world and saving people? These are some of the lasting effects of our civilization in five important fields that are among the most prominent features of life among nations and civilizations. For this reason, the peoples who were liberated by our civilization are indebted to us and we have to realize that, not because of false pride or wishful thinking, but so that we may know who we are and appreciate the value of our civilization and heritage, and realize that we deserve to be the just (and the best) nation, witnesses over mankind, leading them to goodness, truth, and dignity.