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Are Muslims a Single Nation?
Social Issues
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Tariq Haashmi)

Man has an inherent sense of belonging to a nation defined by common colour, lineage, language, cultural tradition and geographical boundaries. All human beings are children of a single progenitor, Adam. Yet, the feeling for one’s blood relations is not extended to the entire mankind. This also holds true for one’s nation also. For man usually feels and expresses a sense of individuality with reference to not only his person, family, and the near relatives but also to his nation. He always desires to see his person, family, tribe and nation outdo all others in all aspects of life. It is actually this sense of self-identity which is translated into common society where men help each other in all human affairs. The Holy Qur’ān calls this phenomenon ta‘āruf (identity) and clarifies that the tribes and the clans are but a result of this.

Islam perfectly harmonizes its teachings with human nature; it is dīn-i fitrat, a religion matching the nature modeled by God. It recognizes natural urges of humans in this regard too. What it disapproves is conceited nationalist feeling. It disapproves of showing hatred for other nations instead of simply feeling for one’s nation. It targets curbing the tendencies to mark others as inferior and subjugate them, to usurp their rights, and to define one’s nation in terms of superiority and exaltedness and others in terms of lowliness, baseborn and insignificant. All the preceding characteristics of common nationalism are condemned by Islam as criminal ideals. However, Islam does not negate natural feelings for one’s nation. All the foundations of a modern nation usually defined in academic works on political science are acknowledged. Desires of nations to outdo one another in different fields and positive and balanced expression of such an ideal are acceptable. Muslim factions can claim self-identification on the basis of their original nation, demand certain rights as a distinct group, decide to establish their separate state on these very bases.

Seen in this perspective, the view that Islam does not acknowledge the usual foundations of a nation independent of other Muslim nations seems no more tenable. The Qur’ān does not, explicitly or implicitly, state that Muslims are a single nation or they should become one. The book acknowledges the possibility of different nations among the entire body of Muslims. The only thing that the Book stresses is that believers are a single brotherhood (inna mā al-mu’minūn ikhwah, 49:10). Thus according to the Book, Muslims are united by a religious brotherhood. Their unity and bond is not defined by nationalism. They are tied together by the Faith even if separated by dozens of political boundaries and distributed in a number of continents. Therefore, they can be expected, and in fact required, to take care of their religious brotherhood, help them in hard times, rescue them from oppression, prefer them for social and economic relationship, and keep doors open to them in all circumstances. They can, however, never validly be demanded to divorce their birth states, abandon their original national identities and form a single nation under a single Muslim state. The Qur’ān and sunnah allow them not only to form separate states but also to live in a non-Muslim state identifying themselves as part of that nation on the basis of common country, if they can follow the sharī‘ah openly and practice their religion freely.  

(Translated by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi from Ghāmidī’s Maqāmāt)




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