Nov 16, 2012

Brotherhood in Islam and the threat of nationalism

By Danielle Garvey


"He is not one of us who calls for 'asabiyyah, (nationalism) or who fights for 'asabiyyah or who dies for 'asabiyyah." (Abu Dawud) 

We are all familiar with nationalism to some degree. It may just be the simple fact that your local mosque is identified as ‘belonging’ to a particular ethnic community. Or it may be more pronounced, such as being obstructed from marrying the person of your choice due to their being of a different ethnicity. Unfortunately, these issues have become such a common occurrence in the ummah that we often accept and even expect it. However, allowing such nationalistic inclinations to exist and grow within our community is a dangerous practice which will inevitably lead to yet further divisions and conflict within our community.

Recent Islamic history testifies to this fact in the case of the last Islamic Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire. In the last decades of its existence, the empire witnessed the rising prominence of ethnic nationalist movements both in its government, which was ruled by Turkish nationalists after they overthrew the Sultan, and amongst its constituents. An example from the latter category was the Arab nationalist movement which culminated in ‘The Arab Revolt’. This involved the Grand Sharif of Makkah and his sons collaborating with the British to rebel against the empire and establish an independent Arab state. Such events undoubtedly caused great disunity both within the empire and the ummah as a whole. It also arguably served to facilitate the destruction of the caliphate in 1924.

It is important to note that disunity arose within the caliphate when the Muslims ceased uniting upon the truth - Islam. Unity and brotherhood was instead placed with those who, of no will of their own, shared with them an ethnicity, language, culture, and history. In practical terms, this meant that non-Muslims who shared their ethnicity were more beloved to nationalists than their brothers in Islam who belonged to other ethnic groups. In some cases, their brothers in Islam were treated with suspicion and animosity due to their ethnicity. This is in clear opposition to the teachings of our Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam who said:

"Do not have malice against a Muslim; do not be envious of other Muslims; 
do not go against a Muslim and forsake him. O the slave of Allah! 
Be like brothers with each other. It is not allowed for a Muslim to desert his brother for over three days." (Muslim & Tirmidhi)

It is of the beauty of Islam that all the believers, regardless of age, status, ethnicity, gender, colour or level of education, are brothers and sisters to one another within one noble nation. Considering the effects of ethnic nationalism not to mention the evidence against it within the Qur’an and Sunnah, it is clear that it is a movement which is not only foreign to, but forbidden in Islam. It is a powerful tool which has been consistently used throughout Islamic history to divide the believers in order to disempower the ummah. Therefore, if we are to maintain the blessing which is the brotherhood of Islam, we must take this issue seriously and actively work to address nationalist sentiments both within ourselves and the community.

In this regard, there is no better guidance than that of Islam therefore to overcome our weaknesses in this area, we must look to its teachings to develop our characters in accordance to the deen and establish those practices which please Allah and keep us far from that which harms ourselves and/or our brothers and displeases Him.

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together 
and you became, by His favour, brothers.” (Surat ‘Ali Imran, 3:103)


I'd love to hear your views on this topic. Please post in the comments section below! :)


Jzk Sis. Danielle
Islam has no race or colour or country; yet unfortunately these factors cause deep fractures and separation among the Ummah. It is our duty as muslims to exemplify brotherhood/ sisterhood in every way starting from our hearts, then in our communities and masjids. The young ones should live it to learn, practice and contextualise from an early age. Our situation will never change untill we change what is in our hearts.. May Allah unite us upon faith and goodness.

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