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The True Face of Nationalism

Nationalism has gained political momentum, growing on an anti-immigration sentiment. Many political movements, parties, and individuals have jumped on its platform, whether right-wing movements in Europe (e.g., EDL, AfD) or individuals like Trump with his xenophobic comments about Hispanics, building a wall on the border with Mexico and his Muslim-targeted travel ban. Very shallow, very backward, very divisive – but simple and effective.

The mere fact that a low level thought such as nationalism has gained significant traction speaks volume of the ideological weakness of capitalism and its inability to truly manage and solve human and societal problems.

But a point about nationalism that for the most part has been overlooked, though well covered and documented in the media, has been the emergence of movements seeking to break away from the central political authority and become autonomous and/or completely independent (e.g. separatist movements in Catalonia-Spain, Bavaria-Germany, Lombardy-Italy, Frisia-Holland, Quebec-Canada, Texas-USA). And it is abundantly clear that the central governments of these countries exhaust their efforts to counter such movements and retain the unity of the country, its regions, and people. They recognize the damage, weakness, and division such independence would create.

This brings into sharp focus the following observation. While the government of such countries expends sweat, money (and blood if required) to remain unified – this disease of nationalism was exported and injected into the political bloodstream of the Muslim world under the colonial banner of ‘Divide and Rule.’ Artificial borders were erected, National Days established and celebrated, national flags are adorned with houses, streets and public buildings and illegitimate rulers installed to reinforce a fake, unnatural national identity. Unlike their western counterparts, the governments in the Muslim world expend their sweat, money and the blood of the people to maintain the division of Muslims.

Generations of Muslims are born into this reality and taught that their Muslim and Islamic identity is intertwined with their national identity. And this teaching has been sprinkled with distortions of their political history, the twisting of verses from the Quran and the narrations from Prophet Muhammad (saw), even though Allah (SWT) warned:
وَلاَ تَلْبِسُواْ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُواْ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ
“And do not mix the truth with falsehood nor conceal the truth while you know.” (TMQ Al-Baqarah 2:42)

It is apt to remind ourselves of the famous incident during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW): Islam had united the hearts of the Ansar, i.e., the two tribes of Aws and Khazraj. One day, a Jew sat in an assembly of mixed people which belonged to the Aws and Khazraj and told a young boy to recite some poetry to them, reminding them of the wars they had fought against each other. This incited tribalism (nationalism), and they gathered, taking up arms and aligning to fight against each other. At this point, Allah (SWT) revealed verses including:

وَاعْتَصِمُواْ بِحَبْلِ اللّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلاَ تَفَرَّقُواْ وَاذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاء فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىَ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ

“And hold fast to the Rope of Allah, all together, and be not disunited; and remember Allah’s Favour on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts and you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it; Allah makes clear to you His Signs that you may follow the right way.” (TMQ Al-Imran 3:103)

The Prophet (saw) went and stood between the Aws and Khazraj, read the verses and raised his voice in the process saying, “Oh Muslims! You fight because of the call of pagan ignorance, even though I am still in your midst, and Allah has honored you with Islam by means of which he severed from you the whole matter of pagan ignorance and united your hearts. Will you then revert to that which you used to do when you were disbelievers? Allah! Allah!” When he (saw) finished, they all dropped their weapons and embraced one another, crying.

How our eyes swell with tears when we see the destruction in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya; the occupation of Palestine; the economic and political isolation of the people of Qatar by neighbours in the region; the plight of the Muslims in Burma; the economic and political hardship of the Muslims across the region; and the inaction of the Muslim armies to liberate and unify the Muslim lands – all sanctioned and reinforced by nationalism.

We need to free our minds from the shackles and disease of nationalism. It does not belong in the body of the Muslims. As western governments will struggle to retain the political and geographic unity of their people and land – the Muslims, by being Muslims commanded by Allah (SWT), by greater reasoning must struggle to re-establish the Islamic political and geographic unity, upon the Prophetic method.