Islam, Nationalism, and the 4th of July- A Discussion

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There are many ways to tackle what any religion says about a certain topic, as taboo or non-taboo as it may be.


For Muslims, the most basic approaches to understanding what is right and wrong, what to believe, and what stance to take on any particular subject is to look directly to the Quran- the words of God or the Hadeeth and Sunnah- words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) and his life.


Saying what “a Muslim” believes about a certain topic ranges greatly in the amount of interpretations out there that exists. An extremely liberal Muslim might interpret a verse in one way, whilst a more conservative Muslim might believe something to mean another thing.


The truth is, Islam is the Middle Path- there is no extremism in religion. No extreme conservatism, and no extreme liberalism either.


In truth, whatever is in the middle and is a balanced way of life, is what Islam believes in. And this “middle path” is the middle, not too light and not to harsh way of translating and understanding the words of Allah and His Prophet (peace be upon him).


There are multitudes of scholars left and right who interpret the words of the Holy Quran to the best of their ability, and based on their own subjective levels of belief. Of course, the rule of thumb is to stick closest to the words of God and His Messenger as possible.


So, why this backdrop, if the topic is nationalism and the 4th of July? Why give a backdrop of the middle path, an understanding of the way Islam is understood, to understand American Independence Day?


Nationalism, in truth, oftentimes results in extremism. People with an extreme love for their countries end up doing things, and acting in ways that is not in par with their beliefs.


Islam teaches us that all of the Earth is made for all of mankind, that mankind can pray on any corner of the Earth, can migrate from one corner of the Earth to another.


From the beginning of time when there were barely any conception of differences between peoples, the newfound notion of a nation and pride based on imaginary, man-made borders is a thing to ponder about.


For the function of this day and age, it is true that nations are needed. For peace, for understanding, for relations, for the function of the modern society and globalized world at large- even for organization’s sake.


And yes, no country has been in existence for more than a certain amount of years. Almost every nation has a birth date, and this birth date is celebrated joyously, the beliefs upheld by each nation reveled at and remembered and celebrated.


As a Muslim, one must always obey the laws of the land as long as it does not interfere with the laws of Allah and religion and the beliefs and practices that fall beneath it. Having pride or belief in a nation’s purport and pride is nothing inherently wrong or out-rightly forbidden.


Yet, there is a nuanced understanding in the middle path that people seem to miss out on.


Be in American Independence or the independence of any other country on the planet, there is no reason in which the birth of a nation must be celebrated with an extreme nationalism where others are hated, where one is believed to be better than others, to be the conquerors by the sword- or by the nuclear power as today, per se.


Allah says in the Holy Quran, that He has created nations and tribes so that they may come to know one another.


God created diversity to appreciate and love, to understand and learn. To marvel at the beauty of God’s creation, and love and remember Allah all the more for it.


So what is the true stance on nationalism in Islam? Did we spend our July 4th’s wisely?


We don’t know for sure. Certainly, Allah did not choose to foretell the birth of the American nation in His Holy Quran, and neither did He choose to forbid or make incumbent upon mankind to celebrate its birthdate- a date fraught with atrocities and negativity in the history of a land of many natives and burdened, tortured souls. History plays on both sides of the coin, and it is the story of the conqueror we are told.


The fact of the matter is, we cannot practice extreme nationalism for any nation, for borders change, borders are made. It is the Earth we all belong to, and it is with respect to all mankind, people of all nations and tribes- we must live.


Is nationalism looked down upon in Islam? No. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) loved Makkah more than any city on Earth. But Allah commanded him to move to Madinah when it was not safe for him to live there anymore- and he was taught to love a land to which he did not belong, to live, grow old, and defend a land- have pride for a land- to which he did not belong.


For Muslims living in America, it is  okay to be a proud American. It is okay to stand for values that you find aligned to those you believe in. But it is never okay, to go to extremes. To love and celebrate the day of a bloody independence in the way you would celebrate the biggest occasion on the planet. It is never okay, to hate other lands simply out of extreme love for your land.

All of Earth is the same, and national borders are man-made, malleable.


I am not here to give you a ruling, to quote the Quran or to pass judgments on what is allowed and what is not- but just to provide an intimate discussion, some food for thought. So we can come back to the basics, rethink our daily lives.


And, rather than running with the cycle of things, take a step back from the wheel and take a much deeper, analytical look in the actions we take in our every day lives.


We are part of a nation, of nations. All of us have a mixture of many nations within us- some we are more proud of than others.


What matters is not what nation we belong to, but how we represent ourselves as human beings, as Muslims or Jews or Christians. As human beings.


And in the end, there is no nationalism that is stronger than the bond between each human being- the bond of being human.


So rejoice in what gives you pride, agree to disagree and agree to the laws of the land you believe to be free.


And as Muslims- one must always remember that we are all of one Earth, the same Earth. All of the Earth belongs to Allah, and to the Earth- and to Allah- we must all return in the end.


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