One of the ways of seeking Allah’s pleasure is to clear ourselves of feelings of pride and greed, to control our desires, and to do good deeds so that we may come closer to Him (swt). While many talks in Masajid around the world and Islamic speakers speak about the importance of the “purification of the soul,” we find that there is less attention given to the “purification of the mind,” which is understanding how to use Islam to shape our viewpoint when working to understand everything around us.
Nationalism – A Bond Rejected by Islam
In fact, it could even be argued that understanding how to view the world from the Islamic perspective based on correct Islamic concepts about life may be a higher priority for the Ummah today than anything else since it is the greatest area of weakness and corruption that the Ummah is experiencing today. Furthermore, how does one purify the soul without a purified mind?
While we know Allah (swt) may forgive the sins and shortcomings of His slaves, we know that contradicting core concepts in the Deen can lead to Kufr. Therefore, it is much more serious when it comes to adopting ideas that fundamentally contradict core beliefs in the Deen.
One such idea adopted by the world today – Muslim and non-Muslim – is the idea of nationalism.
Due to the adoption of the idea of nationalism by Muslims, we find Muslim “countries” that are neighboring each other completely ignoring the plight of their brothers and sisters next door as they are massacred by local and foreign aggressors. We find Muslims refusing to inter-marry between these “countries.” We find Muslims even going to war against each other and killing each other due to their loyalties to each “country.”
The question arises here: What is Islam’s position on nationalism? Is it an idea that Muslims are allowed to adopt and endorse – viewing the world through its lens – or it is an idea that we must reject and speak out against?
Nationalism: Is there an Islamic basis for it?
Some Muslims may have misunderstood the verse:
“O mankind, We have created you from male and female, and made you peoples and tribes, so that you may know one another. Truly, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah are those with the most Taqwa. Truly, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” [49:13]
Some have incorrectly considered this verse to be a justification for nationalism, from which they assume that Allah (swt) made different tribes and peoples and that each group of people should be represented by a nation-state. This is an incorrect conclusion, caused by either intentional misinterpretation by those seeking to justify nationalistic bonds – and thereby justifying the existence of the illegitimate governments that divide the Ummah – or caused by misunderstanding the texts due to being influenced by the current societal norms that surrounds us all.
The correct view is that we must “Hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allah and be not divided.” [3:103]
Nationalism – A European Invention
Whenever one seeks to understand the terminology of any word, one must refer it back to the originator of the idea and understand it from its contextual basis. So, to say that nationalism (Qawmiyyah) simply refers to loving one’s “own” ethnic people, their food, their language, and their traditional practices, is not correct; rather, in order to properly understand nationalism, we need to look at the originator of the modern-day application of the idea, which is the Capitalist nations – particularly France and the United States.
During the period between the 1500s to 1800s, when the major powers in the world such as France and Britain operated under the mode of kingdoms and empires, there was the authoritarian rule of the royal families and Papacy (the clergy). At the same time, the ‘Uthmani (Ottoman) Caliphate was present as the legitimate political representative of Muslims globally, and it primarily determined the Ummah’s global political affairs.
In the late 1700s, we saw the major revolutions take place against long-established monarchies in France and in the United States, which gave birth to the modern-day concept of the nation-state.
It is stated by Andreas Wimmer, a professor of sociology and political philosophy from the University of Columbia, that “The French and American revolutions of the late-eighteen century gave birth to the ideal of the modern nation-state, an independent state with a written constitution, ruled in the name of the nation of equal citizens.”Nationalism thus emerged simultaneously with the concept of secularism – which states that God must be separated from the management of life’s affairs and societal legislation (also known as “separation of church from state”). Therefore, after removing the bond of religion and subservience to the authority of the monarchy as the primary bond between people in society, another bond was needed to unite the people, which gave birth to the modern-day conception of the “nation” – referring to countries with arbitrary, yet permanent, borders.
The origin of the nation-state also has its roots in the Treaty of Westphalia, which took place in 1648. After enduring the 30-year war between the Catholics and Protestants – which claimed the lives of 8 million people – the European nations determined that divisions should not be fought on the basis of religion, but on the basis of the nation-state. The idea of national sovereignty was also born out of this treaty – where borders had to be respected.
Nationalism – A tool by Europe to fight Islam
Muslims must understand that these treaties between the European nations were originally established due to their need to counter the unity and growth of the ‘Uthmani Khilafah. Before the Treaty of Westphalia, there was the concept of the Res Publica Christiana (The Christian Commonwealth), which was an attempt by Europe to unite in a way similar to how the Muslims united. The Treaty of Westphalia became the new basis upon which Europe would confront the ‘Uthmani Khilafah – and they ultimately managed to successfully destroy the Khilafah by spreading Arab and Turkish nationalism throughout the Muslim lands, breaking down the Islamic bond of unity between Muslims, followed by directly conquering the Muslims through military invasion, and finally culminating in the destruction of the Khilafah in 1924.
The colonialist powers then colonized the Muslim lands, promoted the idea of national sovereignty throughout Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and then fooled the Ummah into accepting – and even fighting for – false “independent” nation-states that now number more than 50 countries.
These nations were never actually independent of the colonialist powers after the so-called “liberation” movements of the 20th century. Instead, colonialism mutated itself from direct occupation and control to indirect control through proxy puppet governments. This has become blatantly clear for the Ummah to see with the events of the past 20 years, as we witnessed continual US and European aggression throughout the Muslim world – and yet we saw from the treacherous puppet regimes ruling over the Muslim lands nothing more than spineless support for the colonial powers’ aggression towards our Ummah.
Muslims must realize, by studying the origins of nationalism, that it is a creation by the enemies of the Muslim Ummah to divide and conquer us, and it is one of the primary causes of the downfall of the Khilafah itself. Therefore, we are required to reject it completely, and to return to the pure Islamic societal bond, which is the bond of “the Muslims are one Ummah to the exclusion of all others,” as stated by the Messenger of Allah (saw) in the Charter of Madinah.
Corrupt times require pure Islamic effort
As Muslims surrounded by corrupt concepts today, we must understand that attempting to move forward while carrying erroneous ideas such as nationalism will neither bring us success in the Dunya, nor in the Akhirah. Allah (swt) will not give victory to the Ummah through means forbidden by Him (swt). Palestine will never be freed under a Palestinian nation-state flag. Kashmir will never be free under a Kashmiri nation-state flag. The Muslim Ummah and all our lands will only be free once we reject all bonds – whether nationalism, or tribalism, patriotism – and unite exclusively under the banner of Islam.
“So (to Islam) invite, and remain on the right course as you are commanded, and do not follow their inclinations; but say, ‘I have believed in what Allah has revealed of the Qur’an, and I have been commanded to do justice among you’.” [42:15]