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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:

  • The first kind is the asabiyyah of relatives relationship and ethnic discent: it is the most ancient and the strongest kind of asabiyyah. The closer the relationship is, the stronger the asabiyyah. The further away the relationship is, the weaker the asabiyyah. Tribalism, ethnicism, and nationalism are of this kind of asabiyyah. From this comes a Jahili (unIslamic) slogan, "Support your brother whether he is oppressing or oppressed."
  • The second kind is the asabiyyah of principles and mathaahib schools of Islamic laws: This kind of asabiyyah grows amongst a group of people who are binded by one thought or one principle, be it religious or not, or the followers of a certain math’hab school of Islamic law. The individual in this group of people strongly supports his group or the followers of his math’hab whether they are right or wrong.
  • The third kind of asabiyyah is regionalism: It is formed amongst a group of people who live in one region. They think that just because they are living together in one region, that by itself will give them better qualifications than others. So they look down on others and think highly of their own selves even if those other people have lived with them for tens of years and even if they were born in their region but they are not originally from them. This kind of asabiyyah has grown in intensity within the Muslim ummah after the fall of the Islamic Ottoman Khilafah. This regionalism was a goal that was sought by the enemies of Islam, so they planted this deadly thought and nourished it with all means, and people ended up victims of this deadly asabiyyah that only benefited the opportunistic people by keeping and strengthening their positions.

    In the past, this kind of asabiyyah (regionalism) was the reason behind losing Andalousiah (Al-Andalous).

  • The fourth kind of asabiyyah is racism: It is formed amongst people with the same color of skin, thinking that their skin color by itself makes them better than other people of different skin color. This kind of asabiyyah did not exist in the Muslim ummah (walhamdulillah), but it is deep rooted in the west; the people of dark color skin were deeply hurt and oppressed because of their color in these countries which claim to be advanced and civilized for a very long time. So much blood was shed, they were dishonored, and stripped from their human rights because of their skin color and we know many details about that in this society that we live in. This oppressive situation gave birth to a violent reaction that manifested itself in many rebellions, violent acts and hate crimes that are initiated by different people out of asabiyyah for their own color at different times and different places.

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.

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