Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nationalism and sectarianism tearing the Ummah apart

Reflections by Zafar Bangash

The Muslims’ natural habitat is the Islamic State; the vehicle for establishing the Islamic State is the Islamic movement. It is therefore necessary for workers in the Islamic movement to be clear about the methods they use in pursuit of their goals. In particular, they must be aware of the pitfalls that impede progress of the Islamic movement.

Two impediments can immediately be identified that stand out amid many others: nationalism and sectarianism. Nationalism has been imposed on Muslims from outside while sectarianism is internally generated. Nationalism is totally alien to the values, ethos and culture of Islam. It was injected into Muslim political thought by colonialism. The colonialists had a clear objective: to divide the house and power of Islam. They succeeded in this because the tiny elites in the Muslim world, alienated from the values and culture of Islam immediately accepted this Western concept and adopted it as their own. The Muslim masses firmly wedded to the universal concept of the Ummah that Allah (swt) has given in the noble Qur’an, have not accepted this. The masses may not be able to articulate this but they practice it in their lives, hence their deep concern for fellow Muslims suffering in any part of the world.

The Qur’anic concept of the Ummah is clear. Any person who utters the shahadah, declaring the Oneness of Allah (swt) and the Prophethood of Muhammad (s) automatically enters the fold of Islam and is considered part of the Ummah. Naturally, there are many other steps required to elevate an individual to higher levels but nobody can deny that person his place in the Ummah. Regrettably, in much of the Muslim world, this concept has been smothered under the stifling notion of nationalism. Muslim lands have been divided into nation-states like different species of animals in the cages of a zoo, where Muslims are separated from each other on the basis of color, language, ethnicity and place of birth. Where no nation-states existed, new ones like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, etc. have been created by the colonialist powers to divide the House of Islam.

Such divisions have led not only to the dismemberment of the Ummah but to its defeat and humiliation as well. The Saudis, Egyptians, and Jordanians, for instance, do not help the Palestinians because of their perceived “national interests.” The same is true of Pakistan vis-a-vis Afghanistan. The previous Pakistani regime abandoned the Afghans in 2001 because of American threats. The Pakistani dictator, General Pervez Musharraf invoked the doctrine of “national interest” to justify his surrender to the US.
If nationalism is imposed from outside, sectarianism is internally generated. Its roots go back into early Islamic history when the khilafah was subverted into mulukiyah. The Umayyad clan imposed their rule on the Muslims through intrigue and brute force. Further, by conflating exclusivist tribal solidarity with sectarian rationalizations, they institutionalized a nonrepresentative form of governance, thereby preventing future generations of the Ummah from representing the rest of the world’s peoples in the areas of social justice, equity and prosperity.

In recent years, sectarianism has been stoked to contain the liberating influence of the Islamic revolution in Iran. While traces of sectarianism have always existed among Muslims, its most virulent form — attacks on the followers and masjids of different madhhabs — is a more recent phenomenon. Instigated by the US, the illegitimate Arabian and other rulers in the Muslim world eagerly grasped this in order to target and isolate Islamic Iran. The level of sectarianism among Arabian rulers is directly proportional to the degree of their subservience to the US, hence their vicious campaign to open centuries’ old controversies.

Three countries where sectarianism is most pronounced and used to deadly effect are Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, all bordering Islamic Iran. These countries are also directly or indirectly occupied by the US. It is natural to assume that influence of the Islamic revolution will spread to these countries first.

It is also interesting to note that in Pakistan and Afghanistan, sectarianism is promoted through the Deobandi “scholarly” establishment, linked to the Deoband madrassa in India, yet there is little or no sectarian conflict in India from where such ideas emerge. The Deobandis also have close links with the Saudis. This toxic nexus has led to an alarming rise in sectarianism in Pakistan, thus frustrating the possibility, in the near future, of an Islamic revolution in Pakistan.

It is also not surprising, therefore, to note that Pakistan is a virtual colony of the US and dependent on Saudi patronage. Unless Muslims identify the impediments blocking their way, they will not be able to make progress toward their natural habitat — the Islamic State

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