The Ideas of Nationalism and Racialism
The idea of nationalism has greatly advanced this century. The cunning European tyrants in particular awaken this among Muslims in negative fashion so they may divide them up and devour them.
Furthermore, in the idea of nationalism is a thrill of the soul, a heedless pleasure, an inauspicious power. For this reason people involved in social life at this time cannot be told to give it up. However, nationalism is of two kinds: one is negative, inauspicious, and harmful; it is nourished by devouring others, persists through hostility to others, and is aware of what it is doing. It is the cause of enmity and disturbance. This is the reason the Hadith
states that Islam has abrogated what preceded it and put an end to the tribalism of Ignorance.(1) And the Qur’an decrees:
While the unbelievers got up in their hearts, heat and cant – the heat and cant of Ignorance – God sent down His tranquillity to His Messenger and to the believers, and made them stick close to the command of self-restraint; and well were they entitled to it and worthy of it. And God has full knowledge of all things. (48:26)
The above Hadith and verse reject in definite terms negative nationalism and racialism. For positive, sacred Islamic nationhood leaves no need for them.
What race has three hundred and fifty million members? (2) Which racialism can gain for those who subscribe to it so many brothers – and eternal brothers at that – in place of Islam? Negative nationalism has caused untold harm in history.
I n S h o r t : The Umayyads combined some nationalistic ideas with their politics, and vexed the World of Islam. They also brought down many calamities on themselves. Also, the European nations have promoted the idea of racialism enormously this century; the ghastly events of the Great War demonstrated just how harmful negative nationalism is, in addition to the perpetual, ill-omened enmity of the French and Germans. And with us, in the Second Constitutional Period, – like the myriad tongues at the destruction of the Tower of Babel, known as the “ramification of peoples” and their resulting dispersal – various refugee societies called “clubs” were formed, chiefly by the Armenians and Greeks, because of their negative, nationalistic ideas, and these were the cause of division. From that time to now, the condition of those devoured by the Europeans due to those clubs, and of those made wretched by them, has again demonstrated the harm of negative nationalism.
As for the present, when the peoples and tribes of Islam are most in need of one another, and each is more oppressed and more poverty-stricken than the others, and they are crushed beneath European domination, to regard one another as strangers due to the idea of nationalism and look on each other as enemies, is such a calamity it is indescribable. It is quite simply a lunacy like turning one’s back on dreadful serpents so as to avoid being bitten by a mosquito and struggling with the mosquito – due to the idea of nationalism. To attach no importance to the European nations, which are like huge dragons, at a time when with their insatiable greed their grasping hands are outstretched, indeed, to in effect help them and to nurture enmity against fellow-citizens in the eastern provinces or brother Muslims to the south, and to take up positions opposed to them, is extremely detrimental and dangerous. In any event there are no enemies among the people to the south that they should form a front against them. The Qur’an’s light comes from the south; it is where the light of Islam came from. It is present among us and is found everywhere. So to be hostile towards those fellow Muslims is indirectly harmful to Islam and the Qur’an. And hostility towards Islam and the Qur’an is hostility of a sort towards the lives in this world and in the next of all those fellow-citizens. To destroy the foundations of their two lives while claiming to serve their social life in the name of patriotism, is not patriotism but stupidity!
Positive nationalism arises from an inner need of social life and is the cause of mutual assistance and solidarity. It gives rise to a beneficial strength, and is a way of reinforcing Islamic brotherhood.
The idea of positive nationalism should serve Islam and be its citadel and armour; it should not take its place. For within the brotherhood of Islam is a hundredfold brotherhood that persists in the Intermediate Realm and World of Eternity. So whatever its extent, national brotherhood may be an element of it. But to plant it in place of Islamic brotherhood is a foolish crime like replacing the treasure of diamonds within the citadel with the citadel’s stones, and throwing the diamonds away.
O sons of this land, who are the people of the Qur’an! Challenging the whole world, you have proclaimed the Qur’an as its standard-bearers, not for six hundred years, but for a thousand years since the time of the Abbasids. You have made your nationhood a citadel to the Qur’an and Islam. You have silenced the whole world and repulsed awesome attacks. You have confirmed the verse:
Soon Allah will produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him, lowly with the believers, mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah. (5:54)
Now you must refrain from succumbing to the stratagems of Europe and the dissemblers who imitate them, thus corroborating the passage above; you must be frightened of doing such a thing!
A Noteworthy Situation: The Turks are the most numerous of the Islamic peoples, and wherever they are found, they are Muslims. They have not divided into Muslims and non-Muslims like other peoples. Wherever there are Turks, they are Muslims. Turks who have abandoned Islam or who are not Muslims are no longer Turkish, like the Hungarians. But even small races consist of both Muslims and non-Muslims.
O my Turkish brother! (3) You watch out in particular! Your nationhood has fused with Islam and may not be separated from it. If you do separate them, you will be finished! All your glorious deeds of the past are recorded in the book of Islam’s deeds, and cannot be effaced from the face of the earth by any power. So don’t you efface them from your heart at the evil suggestions and devices of Satan!
Twenty Sixth Letter, Risale-i Nur Collection
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
(1) See, Bukhari, Ahkam, 4; ‘Imara, 36, 37; Abu Da’ud, Sunna, 5; Tirmidhi, Jihad, 28; ‘Ilm, 16; Nasa’i, Bay’a, 26; Ibn Maja, Jihad, 39; Musnad, iv, 69, 70, 199, 204, 205; v, 381; vi, 402, 403.
(2) Today, Muslim population is around 1,5 billion.
(3) Here, we may consider our own nationalities.