Islam VS Nationalism

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Jumada' al-Akhirah 07, 1431 2010-05-21

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,

Very few are those who understand the continuum/ongoing/connected parts of our historical and contemporary efforts and struggles. Many Muslims look at what happened 1,400 years ago in a fragmentary way (and think) “well that’s a spent effort that occurred 1,400 years ago. What happened thousands of years ago the time of Nuh, Ibrahim and the early Prophets of Allah is an effort that has gone. And then what is happening today is another effort by the Muslims.” As if they are not connected/related to each other. We know that only a select few know this, and we hope that as the days and the experiences go by we can begin to integrate all of this together. We, Muslims, don’t have any problems with moral issues. All of us are united on the moral issues and values/standards/principles that we all share. Have you ever seen one Muslim arguing with another Muslim because of a moral issue? No. Very rarely does that happen. So where is it that we begin to develop our contentions? Where do we begin to disagree on things? We are going to revisit from another perspective/angle our earlier efforts that are related to our current efforts.

When Allah revealed this message of light/direction to us it all began in Arabia. We know that there are certain people who because of certain sensitivities they have problems when Muslims are going to speak about something that they can sense an issue of nationalism/ethnicism or any of these other isms out there. This is because we are weak. There is nothing wrong if we are going to speak about Arabia. It is a geographical/historical fact and there’s much information that goes with that. When we don’t have enough information, we turn defensive (and say) “why are you speaking about Arabia?” What’s wrong with that?! Allah in the Qur’an says

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَّعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

Verily We have made accessible (and) brought down to your attention/thinking zone an Arabic Qur’an. (Surah Yusuf verse 2)

Listen- Allah is not a nationalist and He is not promoting an ethnic group of people. The fact of the matter is we have a Qur’an in a human language and Allah in His infinite wisdom selected that language to be the Arabic language. Why should anyone have any problems with that? We don’t understand! The only thing we can understand is that people who have problems with this don’t have enough information about this! That’s where the problem begins. So Allah, (as we all know), chose these people in Arabia to be the first recipients of His words. That’s a historical fact. We don’t care what historical book you are reading, what school of thought you belong to, what interpretation you have of whatever matters there is- the trans-denominational, trans-cultural and trans-national fact remains that Allah revealed this message to the people who lived in Makkah i.e. to one of them- a person called Muhammad the son of Abdullah. This person was not a Habashi/Farisi/Byzanti. He was an individual from that geography (and) from that language and no one should have any problems with that because that’s a fact. But when Allah revealed this message to this person in that particular area of the world within that particular society Allah did not want to promote a nationalism. Allah did not automatically want to make Arabians the best people in the world. No. Just because the Qur’an was revealed in their language does not mean that they have a feather in their head or they are something exclusive of other people. These people were the same people who attacked/wanted to kill Allah’s Prophet. Remember, in Makkah, they were fed up with him and they decided the best thing we can do to get rid of this person is to kill/eliminate/assassinate him once and for all. These same people. So Allah did not come to promote/give special status to a people because of their ethnicity or bloodline. What happened was a struggle within that society to see who is going to follow and who is going to assault Allah’s Prophet. We had these two dynamics at work in Makkah and then in Al Madinah and during this time of struggle there were, (what people would call in today’s language), “the founding fathers of Islam” along with the Prophet. There were people who were sacrificing/struggling with him. These were not struggling because they were Arabians/Arab Nationalism/Arabian superiority. No! These were fighting, struggling and sacrificing because of Allah and His Prophet. The Qur’an is in Arabic; the Prophet of Allah spoke in Arabic, but they were not giving all that they had because Allah revealed His word in Arabic or because Allah’s Prophet was speaking Arabic. The whole struggle was not about that. The Prophet tried to clarify this sensitive issue in the psyche of Muslims. He said in a hadith Arabic as it pertains to one of you is not a matter of being born to a father/mother who is Arabian. That is not what makes you an Arab. What makes you an Arab using the Arabic language which is the language of the Qur’an and the Prophet. Speaking the language itself doesn’t make you an Arab Nationalist nor give you a sense of superiority against other people who can partially speak/cannot speak it at all. That’s not the case. Whoever can communicate in Arabic (the language of the Qur’an and the Prophet) then he becomes an Arab. And the door was open to everyone to come to this fold of being an Arab. Everyone is welcome. At the beginning of this struggle the Arabians in Makkah, Al Hejaz and the Arabian Peninsula were fighting this concept because they had an Arabian history/culture and they didn’t want other people who can step into this new milieu and claim this Arabic status rendering them “tertiary” Arabs- if that. This was an offense to them, so part of their opposition and warfare against Allah’s Prophet and the Muhajirin and Ansar (radi Allahu anhum) who were with him is because they didn’t want all of this being taken away from them. So, internally becoming an Arab by thought/language was eliminating/diminishing Arabian Nationalism. We don’t know that this dynamic has happened in any other language in the world. Nothing like this has ever happened i.e. you now belong to Allah and in that process you no longer belong to the culture, people and society that you belonged to for generations and for centuries. You tell us where this ever occurred? This was to be repeated by other people who were not Arabs. They could have been Greeks/Byzantines/Persians/Turks/Ahbash from Africa/South-East Asians (who) once they begin to acquire Allah’s word and the Prophets words in a native way, they no longer belong to their social/historical/cultural character. They begin to part from it. Now this is hard for people who harbour in them Nationalism/Ethnicism. But this is a struggle. This is where it begins. When this struggle began, inside of this context, these people were in Arabia. What were they before Allah’s Prophet and the Qur’an? They were the toy of superpowers i.e. the Byzantines/Persians (and even) Al Ahbash of the time. Some people think that Africa has always been at the bottom of the totem pole of things and they never had aggressive policies somewhere else. In this case, they had aggressive policies. Our knowledge is limited, but from what we know and we stand corrected if it is otherwise, the Ahbash from Africa had a thrust of power inside of Arabia. Remember- in the history of Yemen? So these were the people/nomads of Arabia/society (if we may call it that), (who) were on the very bottom of the political and military structure of the world at that time and Allah chose these helpless/powerless people to be the potential recipients of His words and His direction.

وَاذْكُرُوا إِذْ أَنتُمْ قَلِيلٌ مُّسْتَضْعَفُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ تَخَافُونَ أَن يَتَخَطَّفَكُمُ النَّاسُ

Bear in mind, remember when you were few and powerless in this world you were afraid that any power of people could come along and sweep you away but Allah (through the Qur’an)… (Surah Al Anfal verse 26)

Through this Arabic Qur’an- don’t be offended this is a fact- not a Nationalist/Ethnic Qur’an; a Qur’an that speaks to your thinking ability through the medium that Allah chose which is Arabic- there’s nothing Nationalistic about that and through the Prophet of Allah who was an Arab- don’t feel offended because the Qur’an and the Prophet got rid off Nationalism. Remember, what remained was just a language/medium/bridge of communication between us and Allah. Why should anyone be offended knowing this? But the Arabians themselves who spoke this very language felt offended; the same way other Nationalists today- they can be Persian/Turkish even Arabian Nationalists and all these other Nationalists feel offended! Offended of what? Why should you feel offended if you know the facts? The problem is we don’t know the facts so we begin to harbour in ourselves this notion of “Oh because I speak/know Arabic or I’m born in an Arabic speaking family or I lived in Arabian countries somehow I am better than another person or another Muslim.” This is all false. That’s not what makes you and Arab. So when this struggle began, we had supporters of Allah’s Prophet in Makkah who we call today Al Muhajirin and we had supporters of Allah’s Prophet in Al Madinah who were called and remained known as Al Ansar. Al Muhajirun and Al Ansar- were the bedrock/basis of the language of the Qur’an and the Prophet of Allah- were Arabs.

The Prophet of Allah passed away. When he passed away, what do you think: these currents of Nationalism and division were not there? Of course they were there. They were there when the Prophet was alive in the form of a segment of society that is highlighted by the ayaat of the Qur’an and ahadith of the Prophet. This segment was called Al Munafiqin. The Prophet passes away (and) what do you think: the Muslims are arguing about moral issues? No. So what is it now that tended to disperse/divide the Muslims? It was the issue of power. Where does this power go?

When the Prophet was here, they accepted this with full hearts/half hearts/reluctantly- that was the case- but they accepted. When the Prophet left, now there were notions: where should this power go? And because Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar had a history of supporting Allah’s Prophet the person that came to mind is that this power should be within Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar; but with all the credit and merit that goes to Al Muhajirun and Al Ansar, do they also have these tendencies of Asabiyah/the clannish solidarity that is the building bloc of Nationalism and Ethnicism? Of course, they are human beings and it is to be found in them. Even though they were the cream of the crop of that and other times/generations but they were still human beings and this tendency was still lurking in them. So there was this internal fear in the Muslim public at that time with its different degrees of maturity on one side or inexperience in the other side. There were tens of thousands of Tulaqa’ i.e. those who came into Islam because Islam was the wave of the future. These were not individuals/communities steeped into the Islamic struggle/sacrifices. No. All of these were around and now they said the Prophet is gone where does this power go? Who now is going to be in charge of the Muslims? When we say Al Muhajirun and Al Ansar are vulnerable to a clannish solidarity, we don’t say this just as a matter of speculating human nature or second guessing of what they maybe capable of leading themselves to. No. On a particular occasion, these two bodies of people were drawing water outside of Al Madinah and there was a little disagreement between two individuals- one is a Muhajir and the other is an Ansari. (A) small disagreement between two individuals from this semi-impeccable class of people brought out their deepest internal notion. When these two different individuals disagreed one of them called out Oh help me- Muhajirin and the other called out Oh help me- Ansar. Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar was not meant to be a tribalistic grouping of people but when they were encountered with the challenges of the time the deepest notions came out, they expressed these words. When this was conveyed to Allah’s Prophet, he summoned these individuals and asked them did this happen? They said yes. According to some narrations he said part with it. What does it stand for here? Leave this notion of clannish solidarity because it is muntina’. These are the Prophet’s words. Muntina’ has shades of two meanings it stinks or it is rotten. They wanted this solidarity amongst the two best classifications of Muslims in the time of Allah’s Prophet i.e. Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar and the Prophet of Allah said if you Al Muhajirin and Al Ansar form this type of solidarity among you, you are putting together something that is foul/awful and shouldn’t exist. Stay away from it. (Do) you see how selfishness can express its own self socially and politically? Even amongst the best of people it is possible. We have this one demonstration or example from our reference history to show us that we are all capable of moving in the same direction that they were cautioned not to move into. So what happens here? Who is in charge of power (since) Allah’s Prophet has passed on to heavenly company? Who now is to assume this responsibility with these social/cultural/historical/even commercial currents in Arabian society and in an Islamic society? We don’t want to go into the details of a series of khutbahs that we and you went through many months/years ago. We’ve covered that territory and we hope that we’ve understood from it that the goodwill of Muslims- not the bad will of Muslims- neutralised/kept at bay these powers that wanted to assault an Islam that is Nationalist or Ethnicity free. They wanted to assault it and then cage it. This happened after the first forty years of Islam. The gradual incarceration of this “Islam for all” took place at the political level but when Muslims began this movement with the details that we know of how they tried… It’s like in today’s world. It’s alright brothers and sisters, we’ll try to make the information of those times relevant to the information and knowledge of our times. You have Islamic parties and we have an Islamic State in the making, (and it’s been in the making for years), and we observe that the same forces that were at work then are working in Islamic organisations/parties/Governments. They didn’t go away. We are not angels. We are human beings subjects to doing what is right and also allured by Shaytani insinuations to do what is wrong. All the descendants of Adam are prone to making mistakes and the best of those who make mistakes are the ones who amend for them/ask for forgiveness not to do it again. So if we have done it once in our history… It was a slow motion doing. It didn’t happen all of a sudden. This took generations/centuries so now we have to atone for a political deviation in our history without falling into the same mistakes/moving into the same diversion/direction that we can observe them going through. Them is us in the past. So the Muslims went with this Islam to the people who are beyond Arabia and they went with a clear ayah. Allah says

لَا إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ

There is no coercion in matters pertaining to deen… (Surah Al Baqarah verse 256)

These Muslims who were progressing out of Arabia in different directions were convinced you cannot change convictions of other peoples by force. This flies in the face of most of the information that circulates today in the mass media about Islam and Muslims. We are/have always been convinced that you cannot change people’s persuasions through the use of force. So when Muslims went out into the four corners of the Earth they went with this conviction. People of whatever denomination/religion/belief they had, had all of the freedom in the world to enjoy it (and) to stay the people that they are provided Muslims have the liberty and freedom to express this Islam to them. It didn’t take a lot of effort to see that many people began to flock to Islam of their own free will. No one was forcing anyone to become a Muslim. To the contrary if Muslims understood Islam accurately… We have yet, as a community and as a significant number of people, to understand that it is difficult to become a Muslim. It’s not like today’s world. If in today’s world someone wants a job in Saudi Arabia and to secure that job he has to become a Muslim so he goes into an Islamic Center, (just like this one here), and he says “I want to become a Muslim.” There’s not much scrutiny done and so the person says “OK-we need two witnesses.” So he goes and pulls out two witnesses from somewhere and this person says ash hadu an laa ilaha illalah wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah and the witnesses hear this and they put their signatures down on a declaration in this piece of paper that says “this person now is a Muslim.” So Joe Smith, (or whatever his name), is now a Muslim and he can go and have his job in Saudi Arabia or other parts of Arabia or the Muslim world where it is required to be a Muslim to obtain certain jobs. This person is not a Muslim. Who knows when did he attend Jum’ah? How long has he been going? What does he understand of this Islam to Allah? What is Islam to him? It’s just a matter of getting a piece of paper to have a job in this world. This is Islam and Muslims now participate in this adlib becoming Muslim?! No. It should be in a sense “difficult” for a person to become a Muslim because if we were in the Prophet’s time, once a person becomes a committed Muslim i.e. a Muslim with commitment and he decides he doesn’t want to be a Muslim anymore, this is a serious/capital offense. It carries with it the death sentence. So you better think/take it seriously before you say ash hadu an laa ilaha illalah wa ash hadu anna Muhammadan Rasulullah. Now Muslims are not in charge so all of these things happen. People come into and leave Islam as if they’re drinking a cup of tea! When this was done properly/accurately, people thought because along with Shari’ah came hikmah. We’ve lost course of this. People today, (especially those who belong to Islamic Movements), want to they tell us “we want to apply the Shari’ah” Do you want to apply the Shari’ah without any hikmah!? They want to jump to Shari’ah and before they get there, there’s a blank. There’s no thinking process. They want to promote al wahy/revelation in the absence of al aql/rationality. How can this be? Brothers and sisters- you are listening- think for a moment. Allah reveals this Qur’an to people in this world but people in this world don’t have minds. Take away the mind factor from the people of the world and what’s the value of the Qur’an and Allah’s Prophet? Could it be appreciated/applied? Could you move with it one inch forward without the faculty of thought/reasoning? Impossible! So in today’s “everything goes world” they want to apply Shari’ah without hikmah. They want to promote wahy without aql and this pretty much summarises the activities of the Muslims today unlike those Muslims in the formative years of our Islam fourteen centuries ago. They weren’t acting like the way we are acting today. So when they went out of this world to speak about “pluralism”… “Islamic societies” or societies that were regulated by Islam at that time were rich in pluralism i.e. many people speaking their own languages- no one told them you have to speak Arabic even though it’s the language of the Qur’an and the Prophet; no one told them you have to become an Arab, if they did, they did it of their own conviction/persuasion/free will and many people did become Muslims and that includes Arab in it or Arabs which comes in the broad definition of Islam. One of the factors involved here is that Islam was a power and peoples of the world tend to move with power. It’s just like in today’s world. (In) the last century, when the British and French were rising powers, people wanted to be just like the British and the French. When the US (now it is in decline), in the world was an ascending order, people wanted to be Americans. When Islam begins to move forward and grow then there is this social tendency- people want to become Muslims with everything that that means. Some of them do so in an opportunistic sense and others do so because it’s in the grain of them. So what happened, (to abbreviate some history), when this issue of power came (was that) because of lack of understanding- and what we mean by understanding is a balanced understanding. When this balanced understanding was lost in the Muslim midst, those who were responsible for power after the first forty years after the Prophet passed away, then we had two clannish solidarity forces now polarised against each other. There was the Arabian tribalism and there was the non-Arabianpeopleism.” What are you going to call it? In the history books it is called ash shu’ubiyyah. These two forces appeared with intentions of war during the years of Al Imam Ali (radi Allahu anhu) and then they developed further during the reigns of Bani Umayah and Bani Al Abbas. These were two monarchies that were in-charge of power at that time. They were administering the affairs of Muslims. To bring to you/have you grasp a sense of what happened… One of the serious deviations added to the other previous serious deviations was (that) during the time of the Bani Abbas when the Muslim capital was in Baghdad, one of the rulers in Bagdad, (inaccurately called Khalifah by almost all historians or public speakers), whose name was Al Mu’tasim figured that if the Allawi opposition begins to gain popularity among the Arabic speakers of the Islamic domain, it’s going to threaten his position in power. So what did he do? He and those who were with him said let us bring a non-Arabic configuration into the Islamic midst. Let’s rely on our power by bringing in a non-Arab population. This is when the Muslims began to change from relying on their understanding of Allah and His Prophet with some of the flaws that followed/were included in this, they said now we’re going to rely on the military. This was the first time in which reliance on military became accentuated in Islamic history. So they brought in this new class of military people and settled them in Samarra in Iraq- the same Samarra that we know today. So there was a shift of power from Baghdad to Samarra and it was only a matter of one or two generations that this military class of people took over power and they killed the Abbasi ruler- Al Mutawakkil at that time and from there on the military took over. Those who belonged to the rational school of thought or were scholars in their own right had to take the last seat. This is when, (if we want to put it in the terms of those days), the sword trumped the pen. This is when the military silenced the ijtihad among the Muslims. No longer were we allowed to pursue our God-given right of ijtihad. Now you throw into this witch’s brew the external threat. So far this was introspection- we’re looking at ourselves, but now we look at the larger picture and there’s threat by the Moguls/Tatars from the East and there’s a threat by the Europeans and what is going to become the Crusaders in the West and there was a type of justification for that policy. Remember we were moving in a very significant way because of our application of our rationality to what Allah and His Prophet say to us, but once this happened we have been suffering from it for the past almost 1,000 and some odd years. This is yet another indication of how gradually we began to break up/come apart. If we can integrate, (as we said at the beginning of the khutbah), our efforts/struggles from those early years up to today, we can understand much of what happened and then we can begin to understand without Nationalism/Ethnicism/Sectarianism in an objective way the Prophet of Allah when he is reported to have said- and please listen to this with your minds not your emotions; understand this with your reasoning and not with your cultures- if the Arabs are humiliated or then Islam is humiliated. This has nothing to do with Nationalism/clannish solidarity/Shu’ubiyyah/Qabaliyyah but it certainly has something to do with human beings understanding what Allah and His Prophet are telling them in the language that they are speaking to them in- far away from these distractions.

Brothers and sisters, committed Muslims…

On this day of taqwa when we are supposed to be focused on Allah’s authoritative and powerful presence in our lives, we should not coil/retreat from expressing the truth as much/far as Allah gives us the ability/insight to do so. Many Muslims, because of this Asabiyah/Nationalism/false ethnic pride, don’t want to come out and say the first successful endeavour to bring Islam back into all of its range of applications has been done by Muslims in Iran. This person who’s speaking to you is not an Iranian/ a Persian speaker/is not classified as a Shi’i the way the cultural/historical classification goes, but you should have- as yours truly should have- enough integrity/taqwa to say/speak the truth about our current condition. What is wrong? Why can’t people come out and say “for the first time in a long time Muslims in Iran with all the problems that they have.” (Do) you think that if we are speaking about Iran they don’t have problems of Nationalism and Sectarianism? Yes. They have it and in a very serious way and they are trying to deal with it in their own mannerism. You may not know it but there are people the Nationalist types- some of them will not come out and say “we are Nationalists when it comes to discussing Islam” but they look at those who are ruling/making the final decisions in siring that State in world/regional/even in local affairs (and) say “these are more Arabs than Iranians.” They have a problem. Do you want to complicate that problem by taking/adopting the same attitude in your own national/cultural group/context of people? That is contributing to the problem. Can we not step out of that and see where the merits are? For God’s sake- in today’s world (we observe that this word is on its way out and hopefully it leaves forever), but there’s “superpowers” in this world- Governments/regimes/militaries who have accumulated weapons of mass destruction/warfare and all of them are united for the purpose of trying to cripple the first successful Islamic attempt at implementing Islam and Muslims can’t, (among themselves), join their hearts to agree that this is the first effort that should be supported. No one should be running away from it. There are termites inside of the Irani house that are trying to weaken the structure of that first Islamic ideological/political/military expression of Islam. (Do) you think that they don’t exist? It is natural that they do exist. They existed at the time of Allah’s Prophet, but the shoe is on the other foot. In the time of Allah’s Prophet there were those who harboured Arabian Nationalism. In our time there are those who harbour Persian Nationalism and because we have not matured enough, they feed on our Nationalistic cultures. They try to pick us against each other and if we can’t see/evaluate what is happening in the real world, we are a sorrowful group of people. You’ve seen, (we hope), in the past few weeks/months they want to clamp sanctions on this State. Why do they want to clamp sanctions on them? It doesn’t have any nuclear bomb as they are saying it is on its way to happening. The Israelis have between 300 and 400 at least nuclear bombs and delivery systems for those bombs and no one speaks a word about it?! It’s like Muslims are on mental leave and they have a type of Islam that is preached from the Masajid that doesn’t want to take in the facts of our past effort to combine it with the facts of our current efforts so that we can bring back the unity of purpose that belongs to us when Allah says

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا

And be fortified with the extension that comes to you from Allah and don’t be divided… (Surah Aal Imran verse 103)

Suspect yourself when there is a notion of division in you. Ask yourself “why do I want to be separate from other Muslims who are breaking new grounds/leading the way?” Where do you belong? (Do) you belong to Allah and His Prophet and those who are on that Sirat Al Mustaqeem or (do) you belong to some type of agenda/selfish organisation/Nationalism/Sectarianism that puts you in a distance from those who are breaking new grounds.

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