04 December 2007

Is Islam Anti-National?

The question is inflammatory. Let me explain what I am saying.

The relationship between a nation and its people involves two things: loyalty and identity.
a) Loyalty – The nation demands absolute loyalty from its people. A person's first and last loyalty must be to his country and his fellow countrymen, not to any other country/organisation/entity.
b) Identity – The nation demands that its people identify first with the nation. A citizen of XYZ nation, when asked "Who are you?" is expected to first say,"I am an XYZian". Other answers must follow - not precede - this answer.

Now anything that comes in the way of a person's absolute loyalty to his country or absolute identification with his country can be considered anti-national. It is in this sense that I am using the word "anti-national" here.

This absolute loyalty and identification is found in most people of the world. With one prominent exception: Muslims. Not because they are bad people or traitors, but because it is what their religion demands of them.

To understand this, we must first understand the concept of Ummah - a central concept in Islam. 'Ummah' is the Arabic word for 'community'. When Muhammad founded Islam, he founded it primarily as a social reform movement, not as a personal quest for Truth. Hence the Muslim community or Ummah is of paramount importance in Islam. And this Ummah must be united. Why? Because Islam is a fiercely monotheistic religion. It believes that God is One and Indivisible (it regards the Christian doctrine of Trinity as unacceptable). This unity of God must be reflected in the unity of the Ummah. Hence the obsession with the Ummah's unity.

Thus all the Muslims of the world - regardless of which country they live in - form the Ummah. And their first allegiance is to this Ummah, not to their respective countries. This is true not just in India and America, but also in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. So a Saudi Muslim is a Muslim first, and then a Saudi. He is not being a bad Saudi; he is just being a good Muslim. If a Muslim of XYZ country thinks he is an XYZian first, and then a Muslim, it only means that his Islam has been 'diluted'.

So we see there is a conflict between the demands of nations and the demands of Islam. This conflict is at the root of much suspicion and mistrust in the world today. Will this conflict ever be resolved? If yes, how? These are interesting, and important, questions.

PS: The United States, surprisingly, seems to be another exception to this rule. With the recent increase in Christian fundamentalism, many Americans think of themselves as Christians first, and Americans second.


guyfromblore said...

I used to have the exact same thoughts on this topic a few years back, till I realized that the whole notion/ concept of a country can also be argued to be artificial? Maybe some people argue that it makes sense to believe in/ identify with something more permanent?

I still cannot completely reconcile with the strong 'I am a Muslim' thing, but I certainly understand that that gives them a sense of identity and allows them to do sensible things for the most part.

Of course, using that to do stupid things is an entirely different matter.

Psomax said...

Well, that way everything can be argued to be artificial :-) In fact, this is precisely what our philosophy says: that the whole universe is Maya (illusion) and the only reality is Brahman (Ultimate Truth).

But in the everyday world, we need relative/partial truths. And among such truths, the concept of nation is one of the most important.

Psomax said...

Comment from Aniruddha:
Maybe this could help:
"All spiritual traditions have common goals and values. We have to develop ourselves from the narrow limited identification with a certain nationality, race, religion, culture and language to a conciousness where every person is a part of the universal spirit first, and then a human being. This is the fundamental basis for a peaceful way of living together and is the foundation for world peace." - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Anonymous said...

My dear indian,
Islam teaches to be loyal to his/her country.

Shruthi Vishwanath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Indianmediawatch said...

In our gen -one earlier to yours-we did not ask that question. Hence the burden is on your generation. It is a very relevant and pertinent question.Even the US and European nations have started asking the same. Many feel that the world is too late in waking up to this. There is no philosophy in Islam other than spread itself by conversions, terror and cleansing of existing populace. The message of Islam is simple -It is unquestioned surrender. If you are to be my neighbour you become a Muslim or you die. There is no third option. It is a mental conditioning. Moderate Muslims are a smoke screen. It is not a question of whether they exercise the choice of becoming a true Muslim, it is about when. To get over this problem Koranic teachings are to be brought to discussion in the public and discussed with THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a bench mark for co-existence. For that matter all religions are to be examined.