I have a lot of ajaira (free) time now a days, so sometimes I indulge in reading and reflecting to find about the compatibility of the ideals that we were taught in schools and colleges with Islam. I was forced to think about the concept of nationalism because everyone knows that it sometimes can be a factor in getting a job. Like I was about to get an offer from a company in Saudi, but the Saudi government denied Bangladeshi visa to them, and they could not offer me the job.
Anyway, after some readings and reflection, I came to conclude that nationalism and nationality are concepts that are incompatible with Islam in a fundamental sense. Please re-read “in a fundamental sense”. To properly communicate what I have conceived and concluded through my reflection and reading and churn out a nice article, I would require a few more hours. This post is actually a reply that I wrote to my dear friend Sakib while talking about the issue on nationalism. I did not spend further time to polish my response, thus I would recommend you to:
- read carefully.
- keep your head cool, because some of the revelations can be quite shocking.
- remember that this post analyzes nationalism in the light of Islam.
- remember that this is strictly my personal opinion. Since I am not a scholar of Islam, no one needs to take it seriously.
Here we go. Bismillah.
According to the Messenger of Allah, every human child borns with ‘fitrah’. The word ‘fitrah’ means natural inclination. It is something that you neither can teach nor do need to teach. For example, if a one year old wants to touch a hot kettle, you may explain how it would hurt the finger. However, despite the best explanation from you, the child will never properly understand ‘hotness’, unless the child touches the kettle. Even if you had never taught the child that hot kettle would hurt fingers, any child would still instantly put his or her fingers away after touching hot kettle. This is fitrah (sense of instinct or natural inclination), and Allah gives it to every human being.
A form of expression of fitrah is the natural love a person feels towards his or her birthplace. Like the Messenger of Allah had harbored natural love for Makkah-his birthplace.
However, the Messenger of Allah said that the purity of fitrah is often corrupted by our surroundings. Like according to the Messenger of Allah, every human being is born with the inclination to worship just one God (Islamic monotheism), but familial and societal influence corrupts his or her inclinations and make him or her a polytheist, an atheist, an agnost, or whatever. Similarly, our natural love for our birthplace was corrupted according to the following ways:
01. Confusion between ‘identity’ and ‘recognition’:
In the Quran, Allah has declared:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted”. [Surah Hujurat, Verse 13]
[You can read several other translations of this verse from this website http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/49/13/default.htm]
If you carefully read the translation, you will see that Allah has instructed us to use our cultural and tribal differences as a means to recognize each other; He did not instructed us to use that difference as our identity.
I would like to bring in a different example to further clarify the difference between ‘identity’, and ‘means of recognition’. Didn’t Allah create each human being (except twins) with unique face? He did. Why? Because it helps us to recognize each other.
Now, can our face or skin color be our identity? I personally believe that such parameters cannot be, and should not be used to identify ‘who we are’. Because our face or skin color or anything that we do not have any control over may be used as a means of recognition, but if any of them is used as an identity, it infringes our personal freedom. Because if I have the right to choose if I will become a doctor or an engineer, if I have the right to choose my own political affiliation, if I have the right to choose which cloth I will wear, if I have the right to choose which religion I will follow, then it is also true that I have the right to identify myself with something that I have control over. If it is unjust to force the choice of X on Y, then it is also unjust to force some people to identify themselves with labels they may not be comfortable with.
We live in a time and society that gives people the freedom to identify themselves as gay or straight, but denies their right to reject their national identification. Hypocrisy, isn’t it?
When the Messenger of Allah brought the message of Islam, he also brought the message of freedom, although it is projected otherwise. The Messenger of Allah provided us with the simplest possible means of identification, and that is: “I bear witness that there is no deity of worship except Allah, and Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and greetings be upon him) is His Messenger”.
To identify yourself as a proud citizen of a rich country, you need the luck to born there. To identify yourself as a doctor, you have to have the right to education, a right that is yet not affordable to many people of this world. On the other hand, the option of identification that the Messenger of Allah left the humanity with needs no luck, money, hard work, or any other trouble. It is the simplest possible identity and its simplicity is self-evident. It is universal because it appeals to every human being, and is attainable by every human being, as it only requires the use of common sense and instinct (fitrah), something that every human being is blessed with. And this identity is most honorable as people choose it consciously, and it disassociates them from everything else, and connects them with the Creator.
02. Harmful Consequence:
Since forcing a person to identify himself or herself with a label that he or she has no control over would be like forcing people to wear masks that they otherwise may or may not put by choice, it results in several harmful ways:
- Pride and haughtiness
- Insecure Feeling
- Shirk (Polytheism)
a. Pride and haughtiness
Nationalistic pride is observed in people of all countries. The people of developed countries feel this pride because they think they are superior to other nations because of their wealth and military might, whereas people of lesser nations feel nationalistic pride out of anguish that they do not possess those things. Such feeling of pride is and works as a barrier in spiritually bringing the Muslims of a developed country and the Muslims of a poor country closer. It is one of the reasons why the ummah is divided today. Bangladeshi Muslim, American Muslim, Egyptian Mulism-did Messenger of Allah use such tag? Why today some Saudis treat Bangladeshis with contempt? Why can’t they think of us as brothers? Are we also not Muslims like them? As long as the nationalistic pride exists, the division between the ummah will continue, and thus the true Islamic brotherhood will never be a reality.
Also the feeling of pride and arrogance is strictly not allowed in Islam. It was narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood that the Messenger of Allah said: “No one who has an atom’s-weight of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.”
b. Insecure feeling
If someone feels insecure because of their nationality, it subconsciously expresses their disappointment towards the divine decree. While I understand that living a life with the passport of a certain country may be a challenge, a Muslim must be patient and take this challenge as a trial from Allah. Allah tests us in many ways. Some people come to this world with physical defect. Some people are born in poor families. Surely they wish they were born without physical defect or they were not poor, but Allah made them born that way for two reasons:
- to see if the slaves who have physical defect or who are poor remain happy and patient with His divine decree.
- to see if the people who do not have any defect or who are wealthy express gratitude towards Allah and remain humble and impartial with what He has blessed them.
I once came across a person who was feeling insecure for being Bangladeshi, I gave the following advice:
“There are many reasons why you can be thankful to Allah that He has made you a Bangladeshi. That Allah has sent you in this part of the world, where 90% of the people are Muslim, you have born as a Muslim. There could be no greater gift from Allah than faith. It could have happened that you born in a British family or a Canadian family or an American family, who are non-Muslim, and subsequently you may have led your life as a non-Muslim and then died as a non-Muslim. Be thankful to Allah that He didn’t decreed that for you. (Note: Since God has blessed human beigns with free choice, this world is a place of live and let live. I would like to make it clear here that I have nothing here against non-Mulims. As a Msulims we believe that we are all from Adam and Eve. We are simply humbled and grateful to God for the blessing of faith)
Set the religion aside, what you could have done if Allah made you born in one of the war torn countries of Africa? Countries where children of 10 years old and 12 years old are forced to become soldiers? Countries where children die out of hunger, children where they have no access to food and drinking water, let alone modern amenities and medi-care? At least be grateful to Allah that a Bangladeshi passport has enabled you to come to a developed country, which may eventually allow you to settle you in more developed countries in future.
And so what if some people of other nationalities look at Bangladeshis with disdain? Take it as a trial from Allah. There happened to live one young man who was looked down upon by his people for a fault that the young man had no control over. The young man used to remain silent and never replied back to those who teased him. When the young man died, his mother saw his son through a vision. The son told her mom that Allah had honored him in the after life as a recompense for all scorn he received in this world and admitted in the highest rank of Paradise. Ranting like this over an issue of nationality that you have no control over means you have failed in a test where patience or silently working to make things better would have made you come out successful over this divine trial”.
The bottom line is, there are always ways to remain happy and content with the divine decree. If people taunts you for something that you have no control over, just be patient and Allah will surely recompense you in the hereafter.
c. Shirk (Polytheism)
The form of shirk (polytheism) can be very subtle. We live in a world, where people take a lot of false deities beside Allah. They may not be exactly called deity, but people cry for them, people give allegiance to them, people die for them. Such deities do not have to be in the form of sculpture always; it can be concepts too. Say science, democracy, or communism. Atheists claim that they do not believe in a God, but sub-consciously they have taken science (or this materialistic universe) as their God, whether they admit it or not. Some people take enormous pride saying their country is democratic. Indians for example take pride in the fact that they have the biggest democracy in the world. Some people do the same for communism or many other -ism. Let me ask you: Does any of these -isms has any meaning or value in the eye of Allah? Their value in the eyes of Allah is NADA. NOTHING. These are man-made ideas that have been instilled in human minds just to fool them. Do you want to know how? There was a time in America where homosexuality was a taboo. Then because of democracy, which gives people the sovereignty to change laws, people came to think that this should be permitted because this is individual choice and freedom of individual should not be interrupted. True sovereignty lies with Allah, but look where democratic sovereignty took people. They changed laws to allow bestiality. Who can guarantee that people will not change laws in future saying that incest is also permissible because people have the freedom to do whatever they want? I have given this example to illustrate how futile man made ideas are.
These concepts of country and nationalism are also based on falsehood and thus they are sort of false deities, although people perceive it not most of the times. Millions of people have died for countries. What has it earned them? Also you should only willfully die for something that you give allegiance to. Is a Muslim allowed to give allegiance to anything or anyone except Allah and His Messenger? Also, you may have not given your allegiance verbally, but remember, saluting the national flag, chanting zindabad/joy bangle slogan, singing national anthem, and observing independence days are acts that sub-consciously make you give allegiance and fuel your nationalistic pride. Thus these un-Islamic acts are deplorable from the viewpoints of Islam. When your reverence, zeal, and devotion for such activities become very high, these acts may constitute subtle forms shirk. Just 300 years back, people could never imagine that there would be countries. Can you guarantee that this country system will remain in existence after 300 years? You cannot guarantee. So, is nationalism worth fighting for? Or bragging about? Anything that is man-made is false and anything that has come from the Lord is permanent and indestructible. So personally, I do not care at all about my nationality. Some foolish people drew some lines on the earth and people then started fighting over it. So, the best way is remembering that the whole world belongs to Allah, and the most intelligent thing is associating yourself with whatever He has sent for us though his honorable Messenger and renounce every false deity, which serves no purpose but cause division, false anguish and make the slaves of Allah displeased with His divine decree and thus fail in the hereafter.
03. Quotes from the Holy Quran and the traditon of the Messenger of Allah about the futility of nationalism