Islam and Nationalism: Are They Compatible?

In the first place, we would like to make it clear to that it was the wisdom of Almighty Allah to create people in nations and tribes. The wisdom is that they know each other and explore their particular cultures and backgrounds. This variety should never be a source of difference or disagreement or fighting; rather, it should help more in acquaintance and mutual understanding. The evidence for this is the verse that reads: “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.” (Al-Hujurat: 13). Almighty Allah also says: “And if thy Lord had willed, He verily would have made mankind one nation, yet they cease not differing, save him on whom thy Lord hath mercy; and for that He did create them.” (Hud: 118-119)

These verses show in clear words that Almighty Allah willed that people be created in different colors, places, races so that each single human being would be urged to try to explore other places and races and get to know them. However, Islam blames any call to take places, races or colors as bases of discrimination. Almighty Allah states: “The noblest of you in the eyes of Allah is the most pious.” (Al-Hujurat: 14) Also, in his Farewell Hajj, which constituted the declaration of the constitution of the whole Muslim nation, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) declared that no Arab is superior to a non-Arab, nor is a black inferior to a white. It is only by the merit of taqwa (piety and fear of Allah) and moral soundness that man can be superior.

Regarding the point of nationalism, if we mean by that exaggerated patriotism and blind practices that are run against Islamic brotherhood and the unity of the nation, then we cite the following words of the prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi:

“We should stand hand in hand against those who call for blind nationalism. We are totally against them in certain points that constitute the core of their call. Among these points are the following:

1- They believe in this call of nationalism and give it priority over everything else, even over their loyalty to Allah and His Messenger. They believe in the necessity of showing full loyalty to this trend and bearing it in the heart of hearts. They further believe that all political, cultural, educational systems of the state should be based on nationalism and all other trends and ideologies should be cast aside.

2- The natural outcome of nationalism then will be that people will give their cause a higher place than any other consideration. That is why we find that Arab nationalists give priority to Arabs over non-Arabs and even forget about any religious bonds. This goes contrary to the clear words of the Qur’an that state: “The believers are naught else than brothers.” (Al-Hujurat: 10) The Qur’an commands us clearly to cast aside all considerations or links once they come in contradiction with Islam and the bond of Islam. Almighty Allah says: “O ye who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for friends if they take pleasure in disbelief rather than faith.” (At-Tawbah: 23). The supporters of nationalism will blame us for standing for the causes of Muslims in Kashmir, Ethiopia or Russia. However, they will find no sin in supporting Hindus, Communists or anybody else that are linked with them under the umbrella of nationalism.

3- Nationalists call for separating religion from the state. They call for a secularist state and restricting religion to the places of worship where it is confined to a certain number of practices and spiritless rituals. In their thinking, religion has no role to play in life; rather, it should be put on the shelf and removed from the core of life and just put on the margin. They find it acceptable to quote Freud in his approach to explain human behaviour and cite Sartre in his explanation of life and arts. They will never think whether such ideas go in line with Islam or not.

4- This idea of nationalism is an ignorant idea that traces back to the pre-Islamic paganism and tribalism, something which Islam clearly denounces and rejects. In the Hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) it is stated: “He does not belong to us the one who calls for `asabiyyah (sectarianism). He does not belong to us the one who fights for `asabiyyah. He does not belong to us the one who dies for `asabiyyah. “ This ideology of nationalism call for supporting the oppressor and failing the oppressed.

5- The nationalists take an alien stance against the Islamic awakening and any Islamic movement calling for the return to Islam and sticking by its teachings and guidance. This enmity stems from two things:

a) Their acceptance of Islam will demolish their belief in secularism and make their fight against Muslim unity meaningless.

b) This ideology of nationalism was firstly planted and supported by the Western occupation and missionary.”