Nationalism and patriotism according to Islam
Islam is the indispensable part of the centuries-old history and the spiritual traditions of the Tatars. It has played a crucial part in the Tatars’ lifestyle, mindset and spiritual values for more than a thousand years. Islam was introduced and started to spread on the territory of the Middle Volga at the turn of the 7th-8th centuries. Love to own country and its people can inspire a person to succeed in various walks of life. Being encouraged by own patriotism, a person might excel oneself and step out of the limits of own capabilities and needs. This way the greatest civilisations of the past were created. Due to people’s feeling of patriotism the countries could secure their victory, consolidate their position and allow their culture to rapidly develop.
Strong faith gives birth to love to own country and motherland. The notions of patriotism and motherland are not mentioned in the Holy Quran. Yet, it says: “…And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers…” (Surah Al-i’Imran, Ayah 103). This means that all the believers are brothers and related to each other. They are connected with each other spiritually and there is nothing better than this brotherhood.
The Muslim society is an integral social and cultural phenomenon which is not restricted to any ethnic frameworks. The Muslim brotherhood may be considered to be an international brotherhood connecting nations and nationalities beneath the same roof. At the same time, this does not mean that a Muslim is supposed to renounce his own nation, leave his people, dislike his motherland and be out of touch with his national culture. Regulations of the Holy Quran teach us to treat all the people equally and be kind to everybody, no matter if he is your relative, friend, traveler or just a stranger. According to Islam, every Muslim has fundamental responsibilities towards his relatives and neighbours. In other words, patriotism is based on the realisation of own responsibilities towards his relatives, nation and motherland.
Motherland is our family, our house and home, the land we are living on, the air we are breathing in, the water we are drinking and the specious territory where our friends, our parents and our relatives who we were growing up with are living. A community with common language, history and culture is called the nation. An individual does not choose a nationality for himself. Allah makes him as a representative or a certain nationality. With regard to this the Holy Quran says the following:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted” (Surah Al-Hijurat, Ayah 13).
However, Islam does not allow nationalism in its negative connotation when a nation dominates the other one by means of humiliation. Islam serves to maintain peace and order. This allows every Muslim to adequately fulfill his duty towards Allah and the society. An exemplary Muslim obeys the laws of his country, wants it to have a social welfare and makes all his efforts to help it flourish economically. He prays for his fellow-nationals who are in charge of the future of Islam. He asks Allah for their well-being. The Islamic thinker Al-Fudayl ibn ‘Iyad (he was one of the pious predecessors - Salaf) once said: “If I could ask for something that Allah will definitely reply to, I would pray for our sultan’s well-being”. When he was asked why he would pray for the sultan, he said: “If I pray only for myself, this will benefit only me. If I pray for our sultan and Allah will extend His mercy to him, this do a world of good to many nationalities and nations.”
There is no room for violence and wars in Islam. Islam is not compatible with any ideology of inflaming the war. Islam is the religion of friendship, unity and knowledge. Therefore, the Muslims of our country should get together against those who make use of Quran and Sunnah under various pretexts to achieve their own political goals and to split and confront the nations. The Muslims should appeal for solidarity, peace and order on the way to Allah.
When the Prophet of Allah Muhammad, peace be upon him, was relocating to Medina in Hijri year, he stopped at the place called al-Hazwara and looked at his birth town Mecca sadly. Then he said: “By Allah! You (O Makkah) are the best of Allah’s land, and most beloved one. Had I not been driven away from you, I would have never departed (from you).”
Once when the Prophet, peace be upon him, looked at the mountain Uhud, he said the following:
“We love Uhud and Uhud loves us.” (Bukhari “Jihad”, 71; Muslim “Hajj”, 504). This shows the Prophet’s eternal love for his dear land and its mountains and stones…
According to one of the hadiths, “There are two eyes which the fire of hell will not touch: one pair of eyes which cried out alone and repented and the other one which did not close defending the motherland and guarding its boundaries.” In other words, we should treat our spacious country as a deposit and a great testament given to us for custody by our ancestors.
In order to love own motherland, a person should know his mother tongue, history and culture very well. If an individual does not value his first language and his national culture, he gradually estranges from his roots. The language is a reflection of the person’s inner spiritual world. The mindset of every nation is manifested through their language. So, preserving a language setting is one of the ways to preserve the nation itself. Islam does not forbid any nation to preserve their mother tongue and respect it. It is crucial to realise that while the language forms the human thought, the history forms consciousness and memory. History is the source of profound wisdom and force.
Мaterial and spiritual legacy of the great wars and catastrophic defeats and the poems about our ancestors’ acts of bravery will forever leave their mark in human history. This is why Islam encourages people to study the history and draw a lesson from it. According to Islam, Muslims are to protect the following five things: religion (faith), life (soul), mind (mental power, knowledge, reason), reputation (conscience, posterity), and property. Protection of motherland is one of these five things. If the person dies protecting these values, he or she will die fighting for the holy cause. It is widely known that those who died in the name of Allah, will get into Paradise on the Judgment Day. The Holy Quran says the following:
“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not” (Surat al-Baqarah, Ayat 154). Therefore, we rank those who risked their lives to protect their motherland and the future of their nation among those who died in the name of Allah. We will pray for them so that their souls are in Paradise. As for those who intended to become a shakhid suicide bomber by exploding a bomb among common people under the pretext of the name of Allah, they are condemned and cannot be approved of. Allah says in the Quran:
“… whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he has slain mankind entirely” (Surat Al-Ma’idah, Ayat 32).
This is why the Muslims always approve of the peaceful life. During the first years of Islam foundation, the Muslims lived with the neighbouring Jewish and Christian communities peacefully. The 2nd and 25th articles of the Charter of Medina (also known as the Constitution of Medina) ensured freedom of religious beliefs for the Jewish. The representatives of other religions were not put pressure on during the Caliphate. As a rule, their rights were always protected. Muslims’ justice and tolerance was very much appreciated and therefore, the representatives of other cultures tended to convert to Islam. For instance, the Jewish Rabbi Abdullah ibn Salam embraced Islam. Love for own country implies love to own nation, place of living and all the related values. A Muslim does not choose his birthplace, but he is in charge of it. His life should be related to his birthplace. He should be responsible for its development and spiritual growth. Respect to own motherland is connected with the faith. Our motherland is full of countless number of gifts of Allah. The person’s motherland is the blessing of Allah. This is why love to own motherland helps to multiply gratitude and faith in Allah. Love for own motherland is the innate feeling. A righteous person takes it as mercy from Allah. Those with bad soul and a cold heart are not able to discharge their duty of love for their motherland. Love for own native land and respect towards the people of own country start up in the family. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A ruler of the country is a shepherd and he is responsible for those in his care. A man is a shepherd in respect of his family and is responsible for those in his care. The woman is a shepherd in respect of her husband’s house and is responsible for those in her care (al-Bukhari, 583; Muslim, 1829). So, the head of the family is responsible for ensuring that his child is well-educated. Also, it is up to the family to engrain values such as respect towards own nation, motherland and religion in a child. If a child did not manage to take respect and love for own native land from his parents, he will not become a genuine believer and a true character. Love for own motherland stimulates the person to do his best so that his land flourishes and the younger generation is eager to learn more. Therefore, according to Islam, the best charity is made by those who help the younger aiming for knowledge. This way they care for the future of their country. The latest research showed that the Muslims’ development is impeded due to three diseases. They are ignorance, internecine quarrelling and poverty. Having the good of the nation at heart, the educated Muslim makes sure that the younger generation has state-of-the-art knowledge and skills and brought up in a patriotic spirit with accordance to the Muslim traditions.
Restoration of the mosques and madrasahs proves the fact that the right-minded citizens want their country to prosper. May Allah bless them! The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “When the human being dies, his deeds come to an end except for three: ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, or a righteous child who prays for him (Muslim, 1383).” So, working for the good of society and doing good deeds is the mission of every Muslim. With regard to this, Quran says the following:
“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah” (Surat Ali-‘Imran, Ayat 110).
Working for the society well-being is a very broad notion. First of all, an individual should abide the law and obey the senior. This is crucial for preserving order and living in a society peacefully. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “You should listen and obey to your ruler, even if he was an Ethiopian slave whose head looks like a raisin”. Allah says in the Holy Quran: “… fitnah is worse than killing” (Surat Al-Baqarah, Ayat 119). It is also the Muslim’s responsibility to suppress discord and revolts in a society. Quran and hadiths prescribe us to do so. Refusing radical and injudicious actions is the best way to manifest own faith. The Holy Quran says: “O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you” (Surat An-Nisa’, Ayat 59). Consequently, it is everybody’s duty to preserve peace and well-being in our own country. Justice and well-being can be achieved by observing the state law as well as respecting imams in mosques. When disputes occur, a person should not try to get the better of his opponent, but rather he should be guided by the law. Alternatively, he can talk to the representative of the local spiritual directorate (a mufti or an imam, for example). This is the basis for organising and uniting the Russian Muslims. In addition to this, Islam prescribes us to have good relationship with the representatives of other religions. Quran says: “And do not argue with the People of the Scripture except in a way that is best” (Surat Al-Ankabut, Ayat 46). In other words, if we genuinely love our motherland, we should not destabilise its peace. We are to suppress any attempts to destroy a quiet life of our society.
Unity and undivided opinion of the Muslims is certainly one of the gifts of Allah. If Allah did not give people such lofty feelings, they would be able neither to shape a civil society nor to keep in touch with their relatives. Nowadays some radical groups do their best to weaken people’s connection and unity. It is up to parents, children, relatives, brothers and sisters to make sure that healthy living, creative labour and the best personal qualities are promoted in our society. If we cooperate with each other to achieve this, our country will flourish.
Love for own motherland is manifested by respect towards our ancestors’ faith. The Holy Quran says: “O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant firmly your feet” (Surat Muhammad, Ayat 7). We need to realise now that maintenance of the traditional Islam setting (Hanafi Madhhab) is the responsibility of the clergy and every educated Muslim. There are more and more people who build mosques and madrasahs all around our republic. It is crucial to realise that we need to promote religious awareness. This should be done to please God. Tatarstan history shows that all the good deeds, such as construction of mosques, madrasahs, libraries, bridges, bathhouses, etc., was done by means of private charity.
What does love for own country mean? First of all, it means that a person should protect and add to its legacy and take care of everyone’s part of it. This requires patriotism, deep knowledge and creative work in the name of the country’s future. The vivid example which demonstrates all these qualities is the life of Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz. This remarkable leader was very careful about using state-owned supplies. In Umar's office, there were two candles. If he wanted to write something to do with state affairs, he would use the candle that belonged to the state. However, if he wanted to write his own personal letters, he would use the candle which had been bought from his own money. This shows the way he treated the state property.
The country will start to prosper only when there appear more people for whom the interests’ of the state are more important than their personal ones. It is widely known that these qualities are currently a crying need. We are to explain Islamic principles to believers so that the unity of the whole nation is reinforced. We should serve as a model by our actions. This is the essence of love and devotion to our motherland. Everybody should try to do the best he can. Hadiths say: “Even if the Day of Judgment is coming tomorrow, go ahead and plant the tree.” These words demonstrate a feverish desire to benefit its own motherland.
Taking care of own motherland implies considering the environment too. In one of the hadiths, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Beware of two things cursed by Allah: contaminating the roads where people walk and contaminating the blessed places.” The Prophet, peace be upon him, was very sad when he was made to leave Mecca. He prayed to Allah with the words: “O Allah! You let us love Mecca. Let us love Medina too! Make our love to Medina more than our love to Mecca! Bless your fruits! O Allah! Make the weather in Medina nice and transfer its fever and send it to Al-Juhfa” (Bukhari “Fazail-E-Madinah), 12; Muslim “Hajj”, 480).
Love for own country stimulates the person to protect and fight for it. The radical groups make advantage of this. They aim at creating the so called “caliphate” in our country. Democratic changes of the 1990-s allowed Tatarstan people and those in power to raise the profile of our republic not only in Russia, but also at the international level. So, nowadays, there are much more people among the Tatars who respect their nation and religion.
However, there is quite a negative tendency in our society which is worth to be mentioned. Some people seem to be out of touch with their motherland. They forget their ancestors and do not find it essential to protect their land, preserve their traditions and mother tongue. So, the more people understand how dangerous this tendency is, the stronger and more consolidated our nation will be. We cannot keep silent and be indifferent when we hear supremacist views in the country which defeated fascism. Yet, alien to Russia doctrines manage to penetrate into the country. They make various nations of the country to be at enmity with each other. This is why a Muslim should remember that patriotism is a manifestation of his faith. A Muslim does not choose his or her birthplace. He is in charge of it. Love for own motherland is a part of an individual Muslim’s faith. He loves his native land because the mercy of Allah towards him is embodied in his motherland.
According to all the monotheistic religions, the man came from the earth. Our forefather Adam was created out of clay. All further nations were originated from him. Our flesh and blood consist of the earth crust elements. There is something very important which makes us connected with the place we were born in. Over the years this bond is only getting stronger.
It is narrated in the hadiths that “Whenever a person would complain from an ulcer (or a canker), or a wound, the Messenger of Allah would put his finger in the soil (on the ground after inserting it in his mouth, then raise it) saying, "In the Name of Allah, with the soil of our earth has got a moisture with the saliva of some of us, let our sick be cured, with our Lord’s permission". He moistened the wound with the saliva and touched the clean soil with his index finger. Then he touched the sore place with it. Muslim doctors applied this method when dealing with a range of serious diseases and there are cases of recovery recorded. The doctors explained that the earth soaked up a disease which starts up in a human body. They advised to eat and to be treated by the things which were grown on the person’s motherland. These days there is so much fraud that whereas the lie is presented as a fundamental truth, the simple truth needs to be proved. Some people express their love for own motherland by being devoted to supremacism. Others deny this as a notion and call everyone to get together as a whole Ummah. Some other people cover their ignorance under the pretext of Islam. However, the truth always lies somewhere in the middle between two extremes. The truth is that Supreme Allah connected all the Muslims as the united Ummah preserving distinctions between the nations at the same time:
“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you“ (Surat Al-Hujurat, Ayat 13).
A believer loves his motherland. He is connected with it and realise his responsibility for its well-being. He appreciates and knows the history, culture and the language of his native land. He respects the differences between various nations and he is open for the intercultural dialogue. He sees himself as a part of the great Ummah which unites hundreds of people and nations. A believer will never betray the interests of the Ummah. Fortunately, there are a lot of people having this mindset. Yet, understanding this is not sufficient. We need to educate others and act. Inertness of sensible people can lead to the situation when voices of the know-nothing people will be louder.