Asabiyyah - the disuniting solidarity Part 1

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Safar 16, 1432 2011-01-21

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

There are many events that take place and there is a lack of understanding of these events simply because the pertinent information is not there. What is taking place and what right now has many lines focused on it is the popular movement in Tunis, Tunisia. In order for us to have a little better understanding of this potentially significant development we should try to understand Allah and His Prophet more than we do with the main stream information speaking about Allah and His Prophet the way they do. As we said in the previous khutbah, Asabiyah is a problem. The word Asabiyah does not really have an English word that captures its full meaning so let us try to understand it from its roots. The word Asabiyah relates to the word asab. Asab in its very simple linguistic meaning means nerves- a person’s nerves, that’s his asab. The plural of nerve is aa’saab- nerves. You and I know what the nervous system does to one individual. There can be an event that sets off the nervous system of an individual so the individual becomes nervous. He loses his objectivity/ calm/composure/balance of thought. That is when one person becomes asabiy. If you can understand what nervousness is to an individual you can understand what Asabiyah is to a society. When a society turns frantic/off balance/loses its rationality/objectivity that is referred to as an Asabiyah. Now as we said, there’s nothing in English that can convey the full scope of its meaning. We try to approximate it by saying clannish solidarity. As a person can become nervous/ neurotic a society becomes jingoistic. This is what the meaning of Assabiyyah is. Now if we’ve captured that meaning then we can go on to try to explain what happened at the time of Allah’s Prophet to deal with this issue. We previously mentioned there were two major expressions of this Asabiyah. One of these were among the Arabians and that was in their tribal structures and the other was the one among the People of the Book particularly Yahud in Yathrib. Then Allah’s guidance came from above and Allah Prophet says to a new human being/reborn individual and be Allah’s subjects as brothers of each other. This conflicts with the meanings of Asabiyah because it is ripping individuals out of their tribal solidarity. It is putting them on a new level/frame of mind. The Prophet of Allah says this because even if you leave a previous Asabiyah and you become, (in your mind), the Muslim/Mu’min you are supposed to be that in itself can become an Asabiyah- this is extremely important to understand. Allah says- to guide us in this problematic position that we are venerable to as individuals/communities/societies-

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ

And hold tightly to Allah’s cord/binding instructions that has been extended/given to you... (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

Habl in the English translation/language it is a rope/cord. If we wanted to go back to the genesis of the word- when you look at a rope, a rope is made out of strains of fibre together. So Allah, (and He knows best), is equating His instructions- one instruction at a time- when we put together the Qur’an and the Sunnah its like putting together fibres. All of these fibres put together are in a similar meaning to the rope that we speak about. So Allah is telling us to

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا

Fortify ourselves with these fibres of instruction that consolidate into this lifesaving extension from Allah- all of you, whatever Asabiyah background you came from… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

Whether you are from Quraysh/Hudhayl/Thaqeef/Aws/Khazraj- wherever you’re from is all gone; now you become a new solidarity. This new solidarity itself can become an Asabiyah. This is dangerous. We want you to understand this because it is very relevant to much of what happens in today’s world around us that has no Qur’anic or Prophetic explanation to it because our minds have not probed these areas. We haven’t thought about them. The Prophet of Allah says O people- verily the Sustainer is one and the father is one... This is in reference to Allah and to our common father Adam (alaihi as salaam), respectively. … and Arabiyyah, (this language of the Qur’an and the Prophet), is not to be referred to a father nor to a mother… meaning this is not to be understood as an ethnic/racial/bloodline issue. … rather it is the tongue, (meaning), the language therefore whoever speaks Arabic is an Arab. Now, because of the Asabiyah, some people can’t understand what the Prophet is saying. Just put your Asabiyah- the tension, the nervousness and the partiality- that comes into play aside and understand this as the Prophet is speaking about it. The Prophet of Allah is pre-empting the Asabiyah that will originate from a language which means the racial/linguistic/ nationalistic and therefore the cultural Asabiyah that comes from being an Arab and therefore an Arabian. This cannot happen. This should not happen.

On a more practical citation, in the history of Allah’s Prophet two individuals had got into a disagreement- one of them from the Muhajirin and the other from the Ansar. These are committed Muslims from the cream of the crop of committed Muslims- Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar (radi Allahu anhu). These are honorific components of the Prophet’s society at that time. They got into a disagreement. They are not Angels/Ma’sums/beyond making mistakes. They made a mistake, but this mistake was a serious one. They were drawing water and because of who is going to draw first and how long they are going to stay there and whose turn it is and these things… What happened between them when these two individuals got into this personal conflict one of them said Ya lal Muhajirin and the other said Ya lal Ansar. One of them is calling on the Muhajirin to come to his support the other one is calling the Ansar to come to his support. Doing that was an Asabiyah- something that never should have occurred; but it did. Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar are favoured individuals in the Qur’an and Sunnah and history but can the concept of Al Muhajirin and the Ansar become an Asabiyah? Yes and it did become on this occasion. So when this affair came to Allah’s Prophet he said what is it? How come we hear the words of jahiliyah/pre-Islamic times? Then he said, (and this is in reference to this Asabiyah), part with it because it is foul- literally meaning- it stinks. In another hadith the Prophet of Allah says Allah has relieved you of the arrogance of jahiliyah and its pride in its ancestors/forefathers. This is another strike on this Asabiyah. Another hadith from Allah’s Prophet says whoever fights under a banner of this Asabiyah… (that we are speaking about), here in this hadith ummiyah means a blind Asabiyah- … who gets angry because of/promotes/solicits for this Asabiyah and then this type of person dies he dies as if he died in a jahiliyyah/his death is a jahili death... Then the Prophet says he doesn’t belong to my Ummah. This is a strong fact that people who even though they have Islamic appearances but if they have an Asabiyah core they don’t belong. Do you think/see/sense that this knowledge is alive and working in today’s world? (Take a) look at/think of the Muslims you know? We go to Islamic Centres/Masajid it is very rare that we don’t sense some type of Asabiyah in them. So are they from the Ummah of the Prophet? Who sustains/finances/propagates/shelters/ protects that Asabiyah? Ask yourself! You are reading Allah’s words and listening to the Prophet’s words and you don’t understand what they mean in real life?!

Now that being said we have a question, (and people ask this), “OK- what if a person likes his people?”. You come from a certain race/ethnic group/nationality or what ever way you want to look at it; you think of yourself within that crowd of people – how ever way you think of that. Now, are you allowed to feel an affection for/like the people that you come from? We come from certain strands of people referred to in today’s language as nationalities/cultures/ethnicities/races etc. These are blocs of people. Some of us, because of the way we are born and brought up, we have this feeling for the particular people we identify with. So the question is “can you have a good feeling for the type of people you consider yourself from?” The answer to that is obviously you can if the people you are identifying with didn’t do you any harm or they didn’t violate any of Allah’s instructions and teachings from the Prophet- what’s wrong with that? Just like you feel towards your family. Think about the larger bloc of people that you relate to as a family- “are you allowed to have affection for your family?” Of course you’re allowed to have affection for your family. It’s normal. That’s one level and one issue but there’s another level and another issue. “What if your family/this bloc of people are involved in one way or the other with what is called dhulm/injustice/ offensive character/ oppression? How do you feel then?” This is not a hypothetical idea. A contemporary person of Allah’s Prophet by the name of Waafilah ibn Al Asqa came to Allah’s Prophet because an idea like that was circulating in his head and he asked him O Messenger of Allah- is it considered Asabiyah for a person to have an affection/love his own people. Qawm here can be very local and more regional; it depends on how you describe qawm. It could be a community/society/nation. The person, Waafilah, is asking the Prophet is it an Asabiyah to have feelings of affinity with a person’s qawm/people. The Prophet’s answer was no, but it is/become of Al Asabiyah for a person to support his own people when they are acting with a behaviour of dhulm, injustice, offense and oppression. Do you hear that?! If those features are in this person’s qawm and then he identifies with them, this becomes an Asabiyah. Ok- now we go to the time when Allah’s Prophet arrived at Yathrib, (we know it’s very cold out here), and he put together a document called Wathiqah Al Madinah or Kitab Al Madinah- it’s referred to al wathiqah/kitab. In this document, listen to the wording. We know the make-up of Al Madinah/Yathrib at that time. We had Arabian individuals, the major tribal set-up between the Aws and the Khazraj and the Yahudi factions who are all living in Yathrib and then Allah’s Prophet arrives and this document is agreed upon. What does it say? Of course it’s a long one but among what it says is a sentence in which Allah’s Prophet by-passes all of the Asabiyaat that were prevalent and defined society at that time and says the committed Muslims as well as the Muslims, (meaning even those Muslims who are nominal/less than living out their commitment), coming from Quraysh and Yathrib, in reference to Muhajirin and Ansar and whoever joins them and whoever catches up with them and struggles with them… Now listen to Allah’s Prophet’s words- these define action. It has nothing to do with race/nationality/ethnicity/culture/tribalism. None of these elements of Asabiyah are included here. Do you here these words? … and who follows them, (this means whoever becomes in their behaviour/character or fits into the mould of the Muhajirin/Ansar), and whoever comes later on and joins and struggles with them… All of these are defining actions/attitudes; they’re not defining colour/language or whatever. So all of this … constitutes one body of people. And Yahud- Banu Qaynuqa’/Banu An Nadhir/Banu Quraydah… The Prophet here was not giving recognition to the internal differences among Yahud. He could have said Banu An Nadhir constitutes one body of people. Banu Qaynuqa’ constitutes one body of people. Banu Quraydha constitutes one body of people. No. Even in the writing of this statement the Prophet wanted to consolidate away from Al Asabiyah the population of Yathrib, Al Madinah now. Yahud have their deen and the Muslims have their deen. If we take a look at today’s world, (we can’t help it, but we have to make the leap from 1,400 years ago to today), we had an open mind/heart that could envision the co-existence of the Muslims and Yahud in one political order. There was no inferiority complex here, there was no feeling here that “oh- well we don’t have enough power.” Remember, this was when the Muslims were in the first days of the Islamic State/Society before Badr/Uhud when the Muslims proved that they were a power. They spoke with this confidence and they were still inclusive. No Asabiyah was going to interfere with them and no economic-financial-religious-cultural-intellectual Yahudi clout was going to interfere with their understanding of Allah and His Prophet. And as they say the rest is history. We know how that worked itself out. The Muslims were the ones who were knocking down Asabiyah and Yahud were the ones who were inflaming it; and because Yahud could not co-exist with a non-Asabi society they winded up having to leave Al Madinah as we know from the particulars and details of the Seerah.

There’s another that element that the contemporary Muslim mind has not investigated with detail and that is Al Mawaali. There was a concept in the Arabian Peninsular called Al Mawaali. Al Mawaali is a word that is the plural of mawla. This word was given to a person that was extraneous to the tribes of Arabia. He didn’t belong to a particular tribe. He may have come from Persian/ Ethiopia/Byzantium. Wherever he came from, he came and settled somewhere in Arabia. He didn’t settle by himself. He wasn’t living as an isolated person in the desert. He was living with people and these people had their tribal structures. So in order for this person to fit he had to fit into the tribal structure. So they gave this person/these particular type of persons a status called Al Mawaali. Before Islam came you can say, (to a certain degree), there was in the relationship between Al Mawaali and the tribes of Arabia discrimination. The word/concept that we use today i.e. prejudice/ discrimination fit between the original structure of the tribes/clans of Arabia and these foreigners. The word foreigners wasn’t used but the understanding of it was there. These were foreigners who just joined the crowd in Arabia and so they were given this position of Al Mawaali. How do you deal with this? When we speak about the Prophet’s hadith Muslims being equal like the teeth of a comb. Not one goes up or down; they’re all on the same level. But here we have Al Mawaali and Al A’rab/the tribes and their clients/second tier citizens of Arabia. When Allah’s Prophet was knocking down/away this concept of Al Asabiyah he had to deal with it in this regard too. You had Al Mawaali here and you had the Asabiyah of the tribes against them so he amalgamated the Mawaali with the tribes that they were affiliated with, meaning right now there’s no separation between the two. That’s also breaking down the Asabiyah that existed. Then the Prophet’s hadith, (and this is very famous in the Saudi sponsored mindset (that) we have right now- “well, where is your daleel”). OK- the Prophet said three words; we’re not quoting one page. He said a Mawla that belongs to a people is one of them. There’s another hadith but we simply don’t have that time for the other hadith. The issue here- brothers and sisters, committed Muslims- is the issue is how we Muslims are going to outgrow this Asabiyah and it probably is going to be somewhat impossible to obliterate it altogether because it’s part of what comes with human nature and we can’t obliterate human nature. So there’s going to be remnants/representations of this Asabiyah here and there. During the time of Allah’s Prophet when many people became Muslim there was the issue of two categories of people that could generate a Asabiyah by the Muslims themselves. One of them is Al A’rab.

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا

These were more-or-less the freelance/free wheeling nomads who said “now we are committed Muslims”… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 14)

Wait a minute. Hold your horses. You are committed Muslims?! What proof /struggle/record do you have that speaks and says you are committed Muslims? The ayah

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا

These nomadic/freelancing/free wheeling Arabians said “but we are committed Muslims”… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 14)

They have no history/record/struggle/background to show/prove it and then they appear and say “oh we are committed Muslims.” The ayah says

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ

These nomadic Arabians said “we have committed ourselves”; say to them “no you haven’t committed yourselves, what you have become are legal/on paper, (as we say today) Muslims” and still up till now iman has still not penetrated your hearts… (Surah Al Hujurat verse 14)

Now when you know there is a people like that your knowledge of this can trigger an Asabiyah in you. You become Muta’assib/Asabiyy vis-a-vis these type of people. There’s another type of people called Al Mu’allafati Al Qulubuhum. A Qur’anic concept/word

إِنَّمَا الصَّدَقَاتُ لِلْفُقَرَاءِ وَالْمَسَاكِينِ وَالْعَامِلِينَ عَلَيْهَا وَالْمُؤَلَّفَةِ قُلُوبُهُمْ

… and these are the ones who you have to win over to Islamic commitment so you give them support/money/finances so that they can reconcile themselves … (Surah Al Tawbah verse 60)

There is hope for them, they just need a little help so from the Muslim treasury money goes out to them. A Muslim knowing this can begin to develop a Asabiyah against them. So when Muslims develop their own Asabiyah, they don’t develop it strictly because they are fanatics/come from an Asabiyah background. No. It could be the best person in the world, but when he sees a discrepancy or when there is a distance between him and the other Muslim he begins to develop a Asabiyah and we developed these types of Asabiyahs until we reached the day that we are in today.

Brothers and sisters, committed Muslims…

We have today around 300 million people who don’t even know who they are. We’re sorry to say this brothers and sisters because this is not easy for me to say because in a sense “I’m one of them.” We have around 300 million people in the world today who don’t know who they are. This is not an easy subject matter to open up. They got rid of their original Asabiyah, what ever that may have been and because of their attempted sincerity, (we’re not talking about one individual/generation, we’re talking about 300 million people in 1,400 years), they no longer have the Asabiyah they had originally before they became committed Muslims. After they became committed Muslims they could no longer gel around their Islamic duty/obligations. Part of this 300 million people are the 10 million who the world is focused on now in Tunisia. How other people can motivate/move themselves with elements of Asabiyah, but what do you do with people who don’t have these elements of Asabiyah. Remember, we’re speaking about Tunis, Tunisia. Tunisia is not Arabia. These people who live in Tunisia and in North Africa are not Arabians. They have nothing to do with the Arabian Peninsular if it wasn’t for Islam, but all of a sudden they became Muslims and through the process of becoming Muslims they shed their Asabiyah- that is to be registered for them. They have to be honoured for that. But what happened? You shed your previous Asabiyah but you cannot move ahead with your Islamic responsibilities?! Something is wrong here. Why can’t you do that? What has happened to your historical/ideological/social character that now when the time comes- this is a serious time. A person burns himself and ten-million other people take to the streets. The tyrants from Morocco to Iraq are shivering in their palaces because they don’t want to see this happen again in their countries- just the reaction. Imagine- there’s no Islamic centrality/ reference. We hope that this can take-off and move with an Islamic direction in the coming months/years. That is in Allah’s knowledge not in ours but the fact of the matter is that these people who have stolen Islamic history for hundreds of years as Kings, Monarchs, despots and tyrants are right now afraid. They’re so afraid that the Tunisian media/broadcasting TV for the first time ever in contemporary history they cut-off/suspend the airing of a program to have the adhaan expressed when the time of salaah comes. This is from a strictly, deeply and well entrenched secular Europeanised society. What are these other scared stiff Governments doing? Some Governments like the one in Algeria slashed the price of necessary commodities in half. Another Government such as the one in Syria began to have meetings among the security people and then they thoughts out something, “Ok- for those who served in the military let us slash seventy-five percent of the cost of certain items in the market for them” Other young people in Mauritania/Algeria/Egypt are burning/hanging themselves. All of this is just a reaction. It’s just something done without a plan in mind. These other rulers- the Government in Arabia/the Saudi Arabian Government says by words only it is with the people in Tunisia but what does it say in fact? It says to the Dictator that used there “come here. You’re welcome in our Kingdom.” They welcome dictators and they cut-off the heads of paupers from Africa/South Asia/South East Asia. An Algerian young girl- fifteen years old- during the time of Umrah in Ramadhan falls from a building that is about twenty storeys high onto another building several storeys lower and she dies. They bring the criminals to court in the presence of the Algerian Representative to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they have this kangaroo legal process that doesn’t take into account the sanctity of a fifteen year old Algerian that was there during the time of the Umrah for religious purposes. The representative of the King who comes to treat himself here, (whose bosses are the Zionist/Imperialists), wash their hand off trying to solve the issue in Lebanon. We have a perspective for all of these and much more of the details/information/news that come our way provided we think of what Allah and His Prophet are telling us. None of these events here are dislocated from the issue of Asabiyah, it’s just that we don’t have the information about this issue from Allah and His Prophet thought out in our minds.

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