Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Tafsir Surat Al Imran 103 and the Dangers of Nationalism

  • Imam Ibn Kathir in his tafsir on verse of surat Al `Imran writes:
“Allah’s saying: {recall the favours of Allah for you when you were enemies to each other and then He made your hearts join together and made you – out of His bounty – brothers to one another…} to the end of the verse. This is in context of the tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj who had many wars between them in the pre-Islamic times (al-jahiliyya). They were bitter enemies of one another, with hatred and ill-feelings and hence because of that there were extended fighting and confrontations between them.[1] When Allah gave them Islam they embraced it and became brothers to one another loving each other out of the Majesty of Allah, having good ties for Allah’s sake as well as encouraging one another in righteousness and God-consciousness…”[2]
وقوله تعالى: }وَٱذْكُرُواْ نِعْمَةَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُم أَعْدَآءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَاناً } إلى آخر الآية، وهذا السياق في شأن الأوس والخزرج، فإنه قد كان بينهم حروب كثيرة في الجاهلية، وعدواة شديدة، وضغائن وإحن وذحول، طال بسببها قتالهم والوقائع بينهم، فلما جاء الله بالإسلام، فدخل فيه من دخل منهم، صاروا إخواناً متحابين بجلال الله، متواصلين في ذات الله، متعاونين على البر والتقوى
“[...] the Aws and Khazraj tribes were sitting down and talking and then Sha’s b. Qays al-Yahudi passed by them in their gathering and meeting. So he ordered a young Jewish boy to sit amongst them and remind them of the Day of Bu`ath and recited some poetry about the events of that day and it happened to be that the tribe of al-Aws were victorious.[3] As a result, both tribes began to fall into dispute, boasting about their past and falling into anger with each other shouting, ‘To arms!’, ‘To arms!’ The Messenger of Allah approached them and his Companions and with the utmost character and manners and said: ‘Do you call to what is from the pre-Islamic days while I am amongst you and after Allah has honoured you with Islam and severed you from the pre-Islamic affairs and joined your hearts together?’ They realised this dispute was caused by Satanic whisperings and the plot of their enemies [s: to disunite them]. They threw down their weapons, sought forgiveness from each other and embraced one another and turned towards the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace)…”[4]
نزلت في نفر من الأوس والخزرج كانوا جلوساً يتحدثون، فمر بهم شاس بن قيس اليهودي فغاظه تألفهم واجتماعهم فأمر شاباً من اليهود أن يجلس إليهم ويذكرهم يوم بعاث وينشدهم بعض ما قيل فيه، وكان الظفر في ذلك اليوم للأوس، ففعل فتنازع القوم وتفاخروا وتغاضبوا وقالوا السلاح السلاح، واجتمع مع القبيلتين خلق عظيم، فتوجه إليهم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وأصحابه وقال “أتدعون الجاهلية وأنا بين أظهركم بعد أن أكرمكم الله بالإِسلام وقطع به عنكم أمر الجاهلية وألف بين قلوبكم” فعلموا أنها نزغة من الشيطان وكيد من عدوهم، فألقوا السلاح واستغفروا وعانق بعضهم بعضاً وانصرفوا مع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم 
  • Disunity is unlawful.
  • Creating disunity was a ruse and plot of the Muslim enemies.
  • Muslims must be and remain united.
  • Unity is an obligation.
  • Unity must be established on an Islamic basis, i.e. belief-based.
  • Tribal unity is not permitted.
  • There are a number of primary reasons why the Muslim umma is in the predicament that it is and they include:
  1. The adoption of a secular outlook and ruling system that has supplanted the Islamic system of the Khilafah.
  2. The political division of the Muslim umma along nationalistic lines and not belief-based lines.
  3. The despotic Muslim rulers and their anti-Islamic policies.
  • The Prophet (saw) sternly forbade any type of racial, tribal, patriotic or nationalistic bond between Muslims and prioritised the ideological bond (that based on a single and unifying creed). Thus, the Islamic viewpoint is strictlyanti-nationalist by critiquing the nation as the basic unit of political rule. In other words, there is in Islam the political idea of a global community (ummah) that advocates a total elimination of national boundaries.
  • Below are some narrations regarding the prohibition of “`asabiyyah” – a term that encapsulates a primitive tribal cohesion and loyalty that precludes other bonds:
Hadith 1:
ليس منا من دعا إلى عصبية وليس منا من قاتل على عصبية وليس منا من مات على عصبية
“The one who calls for `asabiyya, fights and dies on `asabiyya is not one of us…”[5]
Hadith 2:
من قتل تحت راية عمية، يدعو عصبية، أو ينصر عصبية، فقتلة جاهلية 
“Whoever fights under the flag of `amiyya (s: a familial bond), calling to `asabiyya, or aiding `asabiyya his death is that of the jahaliyya…”[6]
Hadith 3:
قلت يا رسول الله ما العصبية قال أن تعين قومك على الظلم
“I asked: Messenger of Allah, what is ‘`asabiyya’? He replied: to assist your people in injustice and oppression (zulm)…”[7]
Narration of Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri:
ما دخل في رجل من العصبية شيء إلا خرج منه من الإيمان مثل ما دخل فيه من العصبية
“No man enters `asabiyya except that the equivalent amount of iman leaves with him when he leaves `asabiyya…”[8]
  • A bond based on lineage, race, mere historical culture or a defined territory that forms a nation was entirely foreign to Islam and Muslims who were always bonded by a single creed (`aqida) that forged a solid brotherhood.
  • It was Western colonial interventionist policy that thrust the idea into the Muslim world in order to carve up nations from the Ottoman Khilafah territories but loyalty to such imposed and contrived nation-borders was always nominal and figurative and never entrenched within the Muslims.
  • Nationalism is still exported into Muslim lands in order to maintain political divisions within the ummah while at the same time in Europe for example it is leading to deep political and economic divisiveness, disunity and turmoil as in the re-surfacing Euro crisis; increased racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia all because of upholding a doctrine of a single national group to the exclusion of others.
  • Therefore, just like the old flames and differences were stoked amongst the Aws and the Khazraj during the time of the Messenger of Allah (saw), likewise the same attempts will be continued in our current times in order to divide and weaken the Muslim ummah along lines of nationalist identities and affiliations so that an arena of political and economic exploitation can exist. This will serve the consolidation of political power for a Western ideological state that has hegemony within the region; primarily in this case the United States and Britain and more pertinently, creating a means to thwart the emergence of an ideologically rival state based on Islam.
And with Allah is true and real success.
London 2010

[1] M. Ayoub, The Qur’an and its InterpretersThe House of `Imran, 2:271-286.
[2] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an, 2:88.
[3] Sh. `Abd Allah ibn Al al-Shaykh, The Biography of the Prophet (tr. S. Strauch), pp.386-387.
[4] al-Baydawi, Anwar al-Tanzil, 1:156 and al-Qurtubi, al-Jami` li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 2:158-164.
[5] Abu Dawud, Sunan (#5121); Ahmad, Musnad, 15/201; al-Munawi, Kashf al-Manahij (= the takhrij of the Mishkat of al-Tabrizi), 4:270; Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Hidyat al-Ruwat, 4:405 and al-Suyuti, al-Jami` al-Saghir (#784).
[6] Musim, Sahih (#1850) and al-Nasa’i, Sunan (#4115) with the wording wa yaghdubu li-`asabiyya “and hates for the sake of `asabiyya…”.
[7] Abu Dawud, Sunan (#5119) graded as hasan according al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar in Hidyat al-Ruwat, 4:405.
[8] Abu Dawud, Kitab al-Marasil (#504). The narration is mursal. The narration in al-Muttaqi al-Hindi’s Kanz al-`Ummal, 16:64 (#43952) from Ibn `Abbas (ra) is very weak (da`if jiddan):
هلاك أمتي في ثلاث: في العصبية والقدرية والرواية من غير ثبت
“My umma will be destroyed by three things: [1] `asabiyya; [2] qadariyya and [3] narrations that are not established…” Cf. al-Haythami, Majma` al-Zawa’id, 1:146.


DeliveringDawah said...


Where can I get the tafseer by Ibn Kathir. Thank you

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jazakallah khair