The Prohibition Of Nationalism In Islam

A Chapter from The Roots of Nationalism in the Muslim World
by Shabir Ahmed and Abid Karim
Published by:
Islamic Cultural Workshop
PO Box 1932 Walnut, CA 91789 USA
Tel: (909) 399-4708

Nationalism is a concept alien to Islam because it calls for unity basedon family and tribalistic ties, whereas Islam binds people together onthe `Aqeedah, that is belief in Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saaw). Islamcalls for the ideological bond.Grouping the Muslims on tribalistic lines is clearly forbidden. It isnarrated by Abu Da'wud that the Messenger of Allah (saaw) said,
"He is not one us who calls for `Asabiyyah, (nationalism/tribalism)or who fights for `Asabiyyah or who dies for `Asabiyyah."

And in another Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (saaw) referring to nationalism,racism, and patriotism said:
"Leave it, it is rotten." [Muslim and Bukhari] and in the Hadith recordedin Mishkat al-Masabith, the Messenger of Allah (saaw) said,
"He who calls for `Asabiyyah is as if he bit his father's genitals"
Also, the Messenger of Allah (saaw) said, narrated by At-Tirmidhi andAbu Dawud,
"There are indeed people who boast of their dead ancestors; but in thesight of Allah they are more contemptible than the black beetle that rollsa piece of dung with its nose. Behold, Allah has removed from you the arroganceof the Time of Jahiliyyah (Ignorance) with its boast of ancestral glories.Man is but an Allah-fearing believer or an unfortunate sinner. All peopleare the children of Adam, and Adam was created out of dust."
Also, the Messenger of Allah (saaw) said,
"Undoubtedly Allah has removed from you the pride of arrogance of theage of Jahilliyah (ignorance) and the glorification of ancestors. Now peopleare of two kinds. Either believers who are aware or transgressors who dowrong. You are all the children of Adam and Adam was made of clay. Peopleshould give up their pride in nations because that is a coal from the coalsof Hell-fire. If they do not give this up Allah (swt) will consider themlower than the lowly worm which pushes itself through Khara (dung)." [AbuDawud and Tirmidhi]
There are many examples in the Seerah where the Messenger of Allah (saaw)had rebuked those who upheld nationalism. One one occasion a party of Jewsconspired to bring about disunity in the ranks of the Muslims after seeingthe Aus and Khazraj within Islam. A youth from amongst them was sent toincite remembrance of the battle of Bu'ath where the Aus had been victoriousover the Khazraj, and he recited poetry to bring about division betweenthem. As a result there was a call to arms.
When the news reached the Messenger of Allah (saaw), he (saaw) said,
"O Muslims, remember Allah, remember Allah. Will you act as pagans whileI am present with you after Allah has guided you to Islam, and honoredyou thereby and made a clean break with paganism; delivered you therebyfrom disbelief; and made you friends thereby?"
When they heard this they wept, and embraced each other. This incidentclearly highlights how the messenger of Allah (saaw) rebuked any formsof tribalism. Allah (swt) then revealed,
"O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared and die not exceptin a state of Islam with complete submission to Allah. And hold fast, allof you together, to the rope of Allah (i.e. Qur'an), and be not dividedamong yourselves; and remember with gratitude Allah's favors on you; foryou were enemies and He joined your hearts in love, so that by His Graceyou became brothers; and you were on the brink of the pit of fire, andHe saved you from it. Thus Allah make His signs clear to you that you maybe guided." [Surah Al'Imran (3); ayah 102-103]
It is narrated by Qatada that Ibnu Abi Hathim said that in the versesquoted above Allah (swt) has ordered the Muslims to hold fast to the bookof Allah, His Deen, and to his covenant, and He has forbidden the Muslimsto divide amongst themselves and to dispute with each other.
In another incident, Jabir ibn `Abd Allah al Ansari, narrated what happenedat the watering place of al Muraysi which led to the Munafiqun stirringup the traces of `Asabiyyah and seeking to destroy the unity of the Muslims.He said: "We were on a raid when one of the Muhajirun kicked one of theAnsar. The Ansar said, `O Ansar! Help me! (calling his tribe) and the Muhajirsaid, `O Muhajirun! Help me! (calling his tribe). The Messenger of Allah(saaw) heard them and said,
"Why are you stirring up something which belongs to Jahilliyah?"
The Messenger of Allah (saaw) did not deal with the situation only byspeaking to his men, but he walked with the men all that day until nightfall,and through the night until morning and during the following day untilthe sun distressed them. Then he halted them, and as soon as they touchedthe ground, they fell asleep. He did this to distract their minds fromwhat had transpired.
It is transmitted by at-Tabarani and al-Hakim that in one incident somepeople spoke very lowly about Salman al-Farsi. They spoke of the inferiorityof the Persian in relation to the Arabs, and upon hearing this the Messengerof Allah (saaw) declared,
"Salman is from us, the ahl al-bayt (the Prophet's family)."
This statement of the Messenger of Allah (saaw) disassociates all linksbased on lineage and tribal considerations.
It was also transmitted, in two different versions, by Ibn al-Mubarakin his two books, Al-Birr and As-Salah, that some disagreement occurredbetween Abu Dharr and Bilal and Abu Dharr said to Bilal, "You son of ablack woman." The Messenger of Allah (saaw) was extremely upset by AbuDharr's comment, so he (saaw) rebuked him by saying,
"That is too much, Abu Dharr. He who has a white mother has no advantagewhich makes him better than the son of a black mother."
This rebuke had a profound effect on Abu Dharr, who then put his headon the ground swearing that he would not raise it until Bilal had put hisfoot over it.
These incidents demonstrate that tribal ties have no place in Islam.Muslims are commanded to stick together and not to disassociate themselvesfrom each other just because they come from different tribes. The Messengerof Allah (saaw) also said,
"The believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close ties, arelike one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds to it withwakefulness and fever." [Muslim],
"The faithful are like one man: if his eyes suffers, his whole bodysuffers." [Muslim],
"An Arab is no better than a non-Arab. In return, a non-Arab is no betterthan an Arab. A red raced man was not better than a black one except inpiety. Mankind are all Adam's children and Adam was created out of clay."[Al-Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Abu Musa]
Meaning that the Muslims, whether they are of Chinese, African, Europeanor Asian origin, are one Ummah and they cannot be separated from each other.No tribalistic ties should ever break their unity.
Furthermore, Allah (swt), says,
The Faithful are but brothers..." [Surah Al-Hujurat (49): ayah 10]
And the Messenger of Allah (saaw) said,
"The Faithful are to one another like [parts of] a building - each partstrengthening the others"
"Every Muslim is a brother to a Muslim, neither wronging him nor allowinghim to be wronged. And if anyone helps his brother in need, Allah willhelp him in his own need; and if anyone removes a calamity from [another]Muslim, Allah will remove from him some of the calamities of the Day ofResurrection; and if anyone shields [another] Muslim from disgrace, Allahwill shield him from the disgrace on the Day of Resurrection." [Al-Bukhariand Muslim, on the authority of `Abd Allah ibn `Umar]
Some people claim that the Messenger of Allah (saaw) approved of nationalismbecause during the migration to Madinah, he (saaw) said about Makkah withtears in his (saaw) eyes,
"You are the most beloved land of Allah to me."
However, this saying has nothing to do with nationalism, and this canbe seen from the full saying which people often do not quote,
"You are the most beloved land of Allah to me because you are the mostbeloved land of Allah to Allah."
The Messenger of Allah's (saaw) lover for Makkah was based on the noblestatus that Allah (swt) has given to Makkah, and not because he (saaw)was born there. All Muslims should have this love and affection for Makkahbecause it is the most beloved land in the sight of Allah (swt). Afterall, the Muslims pray towards Makkah and go there to perform Hajj thereas it houses the Ka'ba. The above saying of the Messenger of Allah (saaw)therefore has nothing to do with nationalism. If Rasoolillah (saaw) andthe Muhajireen amongst the Sahabah (raa) were tied to the homeland (ofMakkah), they would have settled in Makkah after it became part of theIslamic State.
Not only does Islam forbid people from grouping on nationalistic ties,but it also prohibits the establishment of more than one state, whetherthese states are based on nationalism or otherwise. The only state thatis allowed for the Muslims is the Islamic State, which is a state thatis governed exclusively by Islam. Allah (swt) addressed the Messenger (saaw),
"And rule between them by that which Allah revealed to you, and do notfollow their vain desires away from the truth which came to you" [SurahAl-Madinah (5): ayah 48]
"And rule between them by that which Allah revealed to you and do notfollow their whims, and beware (be on the alert) that they may deviateyou away from even some part of what Allah revealed to you." [Surah Al-Maidah(5): ayah 49]
The speech of Allah (swt) to the Messenger (saaw) is a speech to his(saaw) Ummah unless specific evidence comes to restrict this. In this case,there is no such restriction, and so it becomes obligatory for the Muslimsto rule according to Islam. And ruling according to Islam leaves no roomfor nationalistic constitutions whatsoever because what is applied, andwhat forms the criteria for judgement, is the Book of Allah (swt) and theSunnah of the Messenger (saaw).
Ruling according to Islam can only be achieved in one state, with oneKhalifah. It is reported in Muslim that `Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn al-'As narratedthat he heard the Messenger of Allah (saaw) say,
"He who gave the bay'ah to an Imam, giving him the clasp of his handand the fruit of his heart has to obey him as long as he can. If anothercomes to dispute with him (his authority) strike the neck of that person."
Abu Said al-Khudri narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saaw) said,
"If a bay'ah is taken for two Khalifahs, kill the latter one."
And `Arfaja said that he heard the Messenger of Allah (saaw) say,
"If someone comes to you when you are united over one man and wantsto break your strength and divide your unity, kill him."
This unity of the Muslims was clearly highlighted in the document thatthe Messenger of Allah (saaw) wrote when he established the Islamic Statein Madinah. In this document, which was to regulate the relationships ofMuslims and non-Muslims in the Islamic State, the Messenger of Allah (saaw)said regarding the Muslims,
"Allah's covenant amongst them is one" and "The Believers are brothersto the exclusion of others" and "The peace of the believers is indivisible.No separate peace shall be made with believers are fighting in the wayof Allah."
These statements serve to indicate that Muslims are one body and theyare not to be treated separately. Furthermore, the obligation of havingone state, and not many nationalistic states, also comes from the Ijma'of the Sahabah. When the Messenger of Allah (saaw) died, the Sahabah (raa)convened to discuss the appointment of the Khalifah in the courtyard ofBani Sa'ida. One person had proposed that the Ansar should elect theirown Amir and the Muhajireen their own, but Abu Bakr (ra) narrated the Hadiththat forbids the Ummah from having more than one leader. Thus, the Sahabah(raa) never allowed more than one ruler and their consensus is a legitimateevidence for us.
Islam therefore leaves no room for the Saudi state, and Egyptian state,a Malaysian state, an Iraninan state, or a Pakistani state. Islam callsfor one state with one ruler where all Muslims are bound by the `Aqeedahof Islam. And this is a matter deciddd by Islam to which we must submitto, for Allah (swt) says,
"O mankind, verily We have created you from a male and a female, andmade you peoples and tribes, so that you may recognize each other. Verily,the most honored of you to Allah is (he who) safeguards himself againstevil with full awareness of Divine Laws. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing,All-Aware." [Surah Al Hujurat (49): ayah 13]
This verse was revealed immediately after the triumphant entry of theProphet (saaw) into Makkah. After the declaration of immunity to the Quraysh,the Prophet (saaw) requested Bilal (ra) to give the Adhan. A group of threenew Muslims were observing the proceedings when Bilal (ra) was asked tomake the Adhan. One of them remarked how happy he was that his parentswere not present to see such a disgusting sight. Another one, Harith binHisham commented that the Prophet (saaw) couldn't find anybody other thana black crow to make the Adhan. The third one, Abu Sufyan, abstained frommaking any adverse comment, stating that if he said anything, Allah (swt)would send a revelation to Muhammad (saaw) addressing his statement.
Allah (swt) sent Jibreel (as) to inform the Prophet (saaw) of the discussionthat had just taken place. The prophet (saaw) asked the three men abouttheir conversation, who confirmed to the Prophet (saaw) what Jibreel (as)told him. The verse of the Qur'an was subsequently revealed.
Because these individuals from the Quraysh were differentiating betweenthemselves and Bilal (ra), Allah (swt) revealed this verse, concludingthat the only criteria that Allah (swt) uses to judge between Muslims isthat of Taqwa, which Bilal (ra) had and of which they were devoid of. Thisverse destroys the basis of nationalism in Islam.
In the first part of the Ayah, Allah (swt) revealed to humanity thatall human beings were created from a single pair - Adam and Eve. This statementclearly refutes any claim of certain people that humans came from animalsthrough the process of evolution or any other such claim.
The part of the Ayah, "..and made you peoples and tribes, so that youmay know each other..." is usually misinterpreted as `nations and tribes'to justify the differences created by the existing borders, specificallyin the Muslim World. In addition, such misinterpretations are also usedto encourage Muslims to foster pride in these affiliations.
Unfortunately, these Muslims quickly jump to conclusions without lookingat what Allah (swt) says. The errant understanding of this Ayah attemptsto legitimize the current situation of the Muslim Ummah as many nations- divided and powerless - resulting from the destruction of the Khilafahstate on March 3rd, 1924 by the puppet of the Kuffar, Mustafa Kamal.
Furthermore, such a misunderstanding lends legitimacy to the continueddivision of the already divided Muslim lands that occurred throughout thetwentieth century, with the division of the Indian Subcontinent into Indian,Pakistani and Kashmiri regions; the further division of Pakistan into twocountries with the creation of Bangladesh; and the renting asunder of thelast Islamic Khilafah by the British agent Sykes and the French agent Picotduring World War I in which they used the pencil and ruler to divide theMuslim Ummah.
"It is not for a believer (male or female) that when Allah and His Messengerhave decreed a matter that they should have any choice in their decision.And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed inplain error." [Surah Al-Ahzab (33): ayah 36]
And those who still uphold nationalism, remember what Allah (swt) says,
"And let those who oppose the Messenger's commandment beware, lest someFitnah (disbelief, trials,afflictions,...) befall them or a painful tormentbe inflicted on them." [Surah An-Nur (24): ayah 63]

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