The term "Islam" is an augmented derivation from the Arabic words "salam" and "salamah". "salam" means "peace" and "salamah" means "safety". Therefore, the term "Islam" literally means "to establish safety" as well as "to establish Peace". But according to the terminology of the Shari’ah it means "to submit to the Will of Allah irrespective of whether it is the Manifested Non-Verbal Will of Allah or the Verbally Expressed Will of Allah. The first aspect of the Will of Allah is the Fitrah or Nature aspect of Islam to which all creations willynilly submit without choice. And the second aspect is of the will of Allah is the revealed aspect of Islam which Allah addressed to the intelligent creatures through His Messengers from time to time. This has come in the form of Injunctions and Prohibitions. For the submission, in respect of this aspect of the Will of Allah, the intelligent creatures have choice and free-will. It is this aspect of Islam which is called the Shari’ah. It is in this sense Islam means "submission to the Will of Allah in order to establish peace and safety".
This aspect of the Will of Allah sets forth the Divine Injunctions and Prohibitions covering the entire field of human activities, suiting all conditions, states and avocations of man without discrimination of age, sex, colour, language, country or clime. It includes the Do’s and Don’ts in respect of both the individual and collective human engagement in all human activities be it eating, drinking, dressing, dwelling, earning one’s livelihood, marriage, birth, death, conduct in family, conduct with neighbours, conduct in society conduct with friends and foes and in respect of duties to oneself, one’s family, one’s neighbours, one’s society, one’s nation and to the world and the creatures therein. In short nothing has been left out without stipulating the Do’s and Don’ts thereof to man through Injunctions and prohibition, for all normal and abnormal situations including all types of emergencies and including all human dimensions, physical, spiritual, moral, economic, social and political.
And the definition of the term "Culture" has been universally recognized as "the training and refinement of mind, taste and manners". Therefore, the definition of the term "Islamic Culture" can be derived from the definitions of the terms "Islam" and "Culture" as "the training and refinement of mind, taste and manners in submission to the verbally Expressed Will of Allah i.e. to His Injunctions and Prohibitions in order to establish peace and safety".
Now let us look at what is "Relevance". According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary it merely means "the quality or fact of being connected with or being pertinent to the matter in hand". But this relevance may either be a Conceptual Relevance or a Practical Relevance and each of these two divide into positive and Negative. What I mean by Conceptual Relevance is the quality or fact of a thing being connected with or being pertinent to a matter in hand only in the mental concept (and without it manifesting in the reality outside and by Practical Relevance I mean the quality or fact of a thing being connected with or being pertinent to a matter in hand not only as a mental form but also as a manifest form outside. And what I mean by Positive is the quality or fact of a thing being positively connected with or being pertinent to a matter in hand. For example if a religion institutes a prohibition on the consumption of intoxicants when the practice is prevalent, as a corrective measure and institutes an injunction on charity when charity and kindness are widely practised in order to emphasize its importance and to ensure its continuance then such institution has a Positive Relevance to the situation. And what I mean by Negative Relevance is the quality or fact of a thing being negatively connected with or being pertinent to a matter. For example, if a religion institutes a prohibition on the consumption of intoxicants when the practice is not there, in order to emphasize the importance of abstaining from its consumption and to ensure the continuance of that state, and institutes an injunction on charity when charity and kindness are practised little or not at all, as a corrective measure, then such institution has a Negative relevance to that situation. Therefore, the types of relevance stated are four: Conceptual Positive Relevance, Conceptual Negative Relevance, Practical Positive Relevance and Practical Negative Relevance. Islam has all these four types of relevance to the Modern World.
There is little difference between the modern world and the world of the times when religions came into being. For there are now that many percentage of pious, good and law abiding people in our modern world as were there in those days, if not less. And there are that many percentage of impious, bad and disobedient people in our modern world as were there in those days, if not more. A change there is, but for the worse and not for the better, in the moral and spiritual dimensions. And a change there, but for the better and not for the worse in the areas of scientific and technological advancement and development. The technological advancement and development are neutral and are not in themselves good or bad, but in what way man makes use of that and the purpose for which they have been designed and given forms and shapes are the ones which determine whether they are good or bad. As we can see, man has been making use of these scientific and technological advancements for good purposes as well as bad purposes, but his use of them for the bad purposes has left an indelible mark on the pages of human history and has become a cause for serious concern for the future of humanity and the world. This is because, mankind has lost its sense of direction being drunk deep in the joy of its limited victories over matter, forgetting the limitless battles that lie ahead which are yet to be won, and it is increasingly becoming morally depraved, irrespective of whether it is in respect of individual morality, social morality, national morality or international morality and is definitely heading towards a spiritual bankruptcy. This state of affairs itself provides ample evidence for all the four types of Relevances being present. Now it is for the religions to prove that they have the teeth and claws with the required strength, to grapple with this situation. The Muslims believe that Islam has the teeth and claws, with both conceptual and practical strength measuring upto the requirement, to grapple with the situation.
The relevance of any religion to the modern world is one thing and the relevance of the conduct of the followers of any religion is another thing. The relevance or irrelevance of the conducts of the followers of any given religion to the world heavily depends on the pullings and pushings of the forces that are current in the world human society. What I mean by forces is, Communism, Capitalism, Materialism, Monopolism, Money-Theism, Power-Craziness and the spirit of finding pleasure in chaos and disorder.
No man is in isolation. No society is in isolation. Man’s individual, social, national and international conduct is determined by the pullings and pushings of the forces that are current. Therefore, no individual is left to practise his religion in its pristine purity unaffected by the forces that be, so that the credit or discredit of any perfection or imperfection he works out can be attributed solely to that religion. And no society or nation is left to organize its life on the system of codes of ethics provided by the religion it professes to follow in its pristine purity, intact, unaffected by the forces that be, so that the credit of any success or discredit of any failure can be attributed wholely and solely to that religion to the exclusion of others. Therefore, as it is, if any Christian individual or society achieves success or meets failure the credit or discredit must go not only to Christianity but also to all the other existing forces, and if a Hindu or Buddhist individual or society achieves success or meets failure the credit or discredit must go not only to Hinduism or Buddhism but also to all the other existing forces, and likewise, if any Muslim individual or society achieves success or meets failure the credit or discredit must go not only to Islam but also to all the other existing forces. Therefore, as it is, no single religion can be rightly considered as the sole cause for the success or failure, perfection or imperfection of its followers unless tie followers of that religion are given a free hand to practise that religion in its prestine purity without being affected by the forces that are current in the society.
As an eminent theologian put it, no religion is devoid of truth and goodness, however, in some the truth and goodness are thrown open on the surface apparent and visible and in some others the truth and goodness are buried in varying degrees of thickness of debris. But no religion or religious community has stopped claiming its capability to solve the problems faced by the modern world. Islam, too, has such a claim and the Muslims throughout the world firmly believe that their religion has the capability to solve the problems faced by the modern world, whether it be of individuals or society, national or international and whether economic, educational, political, moral or spiritual. Only by giving the religious communities a fair chance to practise their religion free from being affected by the forces that are current in the society they would become able to prove what they claim.
But first of all there trust be a peaceful co-existence amidst the various religious communities in order to achieve that freedom. That peaceful co-existence cannot be achieved without putting into practice inter-religious goodwill and understanding. This can be best achieved only through educating our younger generation in their religion based moral values, the essentials of their respective religion together with a fair knowledge about the other major religions, at least. This will make them tolerate and respect the beliefs and practices of others and learn to co-exist peacefully.