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19 May 2019 CE | 15 Ramadhan 1440 AH
Explanation below

Hadith Explanation

National Identity

Rasul Allah (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “He who calls for Asabiyyah (nationalism/tribalism) is as if he bit his father’s genitals.” [Mishkat al-Masabih]

“The nation is a purely modern construct, though here there is considerable disagreement among “modernists” as to the period of its emergence in Europe, with some favouring the eighteenth century or earlier and others preferring the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.” [National Identity by Anthony Smith, page 44]

The issue of national identity (which nation do I belong to and which group should I support) has set the world on fire. As stated by Fred Ikle: “(Nearly every spot on earth) is inhabited nowadays by two, three, or more peoples that differ in race, religion, or ethnic background. For each of these disparate groups, the same spot is their inalienable land, their rightful home, their patrimony.”

Once the idea of national identity and the nation state took on, each culture began demanding its own independent piece of land. The Islamic empire alone broke up into more than 80 different countries. Further fragmentation waits to happen across the world as the hundreds of different cultures hidden within the present countries ask for self-determination.

The non-Muslim world first incited nationalism in the world’s population and then with the world ablaze, it is experimenting to put the fires out. There were two basic solutions applied during the past century to deal with the problem of ethno-nationalism actively promoted during the “Enlightenment.” One was the Marxist idea of proletarian internationalism, that the working classes would join forces across national borders. With the break up of the Soviet Union into many pieces, this idea has proven to be a failure.

The second solution the world tried out is the idea of self-determination of all peoples. This has proved to be an even bigger failure than the first idea as it has resulted in the killing of whole populations. Everywhere we turn to look, we see people fighting for ethnic reasons. At least half the countries of the world face challenges from subsets of their population fighting for their own country. Many times the conflicts are across national borders.

Islam achieved phenomenal success in bringing together people belonging to dozens of different cultures and races, having scores of different languages and multiple religions, into one nation. This was a basic reason for the prosperity of the Islamic civilization. So successful was this amalgamation that more than one thousand and three hundred years later, even the thought of inciting the population of the Islamic empire to break it up seemed ridiculous. Sir Mark Sykes in defence of the Sykes-Picot Agreement wrote to Percy Cox: “The idea of Arab nationalism may be absurd but our Congress case will be good if we can say that we are helping to develop a race on nationalist lines under our protection.” [Pandaemonium: Ethnicity in International Politics by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, page 128]

The teachings of Islam provided a solution for hundreds of years to the “problem” of ethnic belonging. Our beloved Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told us that a person’s colour, race, or mother tongue were no reason for distinction; that we are all the children of Aadam (alaihis salam) and it is only the recognition of Allah’s rights on us that distinguishes us. Inciting people on ethnic or nationalistic lines is abhorred by Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) and the extent of its despicability can be judged from the above mentioned hadith of the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam). The next time you feel like casually condemning somebody because they belong to a particular race or culture, think about it!

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