Asabiyyah is a Diseases that weakens the Muslim Ummah Part I
(Friday speech delivered by Imam Mohamed Baianonie at the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC on July 31, 1998)
The causes and the diseases that have weakened the Muslim ummah are many, and the asabiyyah with all its kinds and forms is one of these deadly diseases that have weakened the Muslim ummah in the past as well as today; the once unified, merciful, and cohesive Muslim ummah has transformed into differing, conflicting, warring entities.
For this reason, it is a must for us to know what asabiyyah with all its forms is and to know what Islam says about asabiyyah and why Islam has fought it, and how we can rid ourselves from it.
Definition of asabiyyah:
Linguistically, asabiyyah comes from the word asabah, which is the relatives of the person from the father side. These relatives are called asabah because they strengthen and defend the person that makes him/her stronger.
Idiomatically, asabiyyah is man's supporting his people to whom he belongs, whether they are right or wrong, oppressing or oppressed. The belonging to these people can be due to kith and kin, ethnicity, color, birthplace, citizenship, school of thought, or a group of people with common interest.
What causes asabiyyah?
The drive that causes asabiyyah is the feeling of being better than others, and that others are at a lower class. So, the person that has this feeling of asabiyyah thinks so highly of himself and of those to whom he belongs, and thinks that other people are as good as his own people.
This kind of thinking is corrupted, and it is in fact a kind of arrogance that comes from the mentality of Iblis, which led him to disobey the command of Allah when He ordered him to prostrate to Adam. Iblis said, "I am better than him, You created me out of fire and you created him (Adam) out of clay." The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) warned us when he said, "No one enters Paradise if they have in their heart a grain weight of arrogance." The prophet (S.A.W.) defined this arrogance in two things: Rejection of the truth and looking down on people.
What are the harms of asabiyyah?
Asabiyyah is harmful in many ways. It destroys the ummah, and changes the unity and harmony to disunity and disharmony. This is beneficial to the enemies of the ummah or an opportunistic group of people from this ummah. This situation is witnessed many times in the past as well as today.
The asabiyyah, in Jahiliyya time before Islam turned the Arab tribes into enemies and made from their Arabian Peninsula a battlefield. Allah (S.W.T.) told us about their situation before Islam in surat Al-Imran, (verse 103), what can be translated as, "And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another, but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic Faith)…" This kind of situation is not restricted to the Arabs, it actually plagued all nations that were disunited because of asabiyyah.
The different kinds of Asabiyyah:
Islam rejects all kinds of asabiyyah, because all these kinds of asabiyyah are not suitable to be a fair and just framework for the human societies; they are in fact manifestations of oppression, corruption and transgression on the earth.
Allah (S.W.T.) proclaimed that He created the differences amongst people to be a reason for them to get to know each other, and live together in cohesion and collaboration and not a reason for them to look down on one another. In reality, the scale of being better than others is at-taqwa (rightousness) and the good deeds. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Hujurat, (verse 13), what can be translated as, "O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah is those who has most taqwa…"
Allah (S.W.T.) also says in another verse, that the differences amongst people are a sign that indicates the greatness of Allah's creation and His power like the sign of the creation of the earth and the sky. Allah (S.W.T.) says in surat Al-Ruom, (verse 22), what can be translated as, "And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge."
We all as Muslims, those who inherited Islam and those who converted cannot be true Muslims if we still carry any kind of asabiyyah. When we accept Islam we have to leave and throw away all kinds of Jahiliyya beliefs, thinking, mentality, and behavior. This is how we will accept Islam as a complete way of life.
Next week, if Allah's willing, we will present the stance of Islam toward asabiyyah, why Islam fought it and warned against it and how we can rid ourselves from it.