In the modern world, the idea of nations and nationality is widely acknowledged. After the end of World War I and with the establishment of the League Of Nations in 1920, the idea that all nations should have their separate states had become a fundamental right. This concept, however, was not always understood. There are primarily two factors which were responsible for the rise in these modern nation states:
- decline of feudalism
- decline of church power
During the Medieval period of Europe, which lasted from 9th to 15th century, most of Europe was under the influence of feudalism. Feudalism is the system of government based on land ownership. The Monarchs played a vital role in weakening the feudal system (for their own benefit) and Europe soon became feudal free. The monarchs introduced the concept of taxation. Coupled with the decline in feudalism, 15th century Europe also experienced a decline in the power of Church (authority of the Church over the affairs of the state), which paved the path for the modern nation states.
What is a nation state?
In simple words:
"A nation state is a state of well-defined territory with an independent and sovereign government made up of people sharing a common culture, tradition, history and language."
This concept of nationhood is practiced in the modern world up to the present time.
The reason I am writing on this issue is that most Muslims suffer from the effects of an identity crisis. Most Muslims all over the world try to associate themselves with the Arab culture and traditions with the assumption that they will become more pious Muslims while doing so. This attitude is causing tremendous effects on the Muslims. They are becoming more and more unaware of their own culture, history, language, traditions and are more inclined towards the Arabic culture.
Factually, the religion or the beliefs of a person is his very personal affair. He is never judged by his dogma or cult. If an Indian goes overseas, he will be recognised as an Indian, no one would call him an Indian Muslim or an Indian Hindu. The primary purpose of religions is to tell the people how to live a happy and successful life (as they more often claim). A religion is not meant for granting identity to people. It is the land not the religion that gives people their identity.
This proposition that the identity of all Muslims in the world is "La Ilaha il Lalah" and that the Muslim Ummah is like a single body, is very weak and baseless. History tells us that Pan-Islamism never got materialized and it doesn’t seem particularly probable in the future either.
You cannot unite an Arab and a non-Arab just on the basis of the same faith. They have different languages, different culture and a different way of living their lives.
Even if we refer to the Holy Quran , it says, "O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted (Verse 49:13).
Therefore, the Holy Quran itself made nations and tribes as the basis of recognition or identification of a nation.
The basis of nationhood in Islam is not Islam itself, as is generally understood. At no place in the Qur’an and Hadith has it been said that Muslims must become one nation.
On the contrary, what the Qur’an has said is (49: 10)
All Muslims are brothers to one another, (49:10)).
Thus the relationship between Muslims is not based on nationhood; it is rather based on brotherhood. While being divided into several nations, countries and states they are brothers in faith. Hence, what can be demanded from them is that they should keep themselves aware of the circumstances of their brothers, help them in their troubles and tribulations, support those who are oppressed among them, give them preference in economic and social ties and in no circumstances close their doors on them. However, what cannot be demanded from them is that they give up their nation states and national identities and become one nation and one state. Just as they can create separate nation states, in the same way if they have the freedom to follow their religion, they can live in the capacity of citizens of non-Muslim states and adopt their nationality.
The state of Pakistan is a clear example that nations are not formed by religion. If religion can unite people then why are there so many ethnic crisis in Pakistan? Why is East Pakistan separated from West Pakistan? Why in almost all the provinces nationalist movements are working to get independence. It is clear that religion alone can never unite the people. Unity comes from common culture, language and history.
The subcontinent produced many Muslim scholars who focused on nationalism rather than pan Islamism. Some of them include Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Husain Ahmed madani and Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, etc. All of them believed that it is the land that gives identity to the people, not religion.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, president of the Congress and a renowned scholar said about Pakistan :
"Mr Jinnah and his followers did not seem to realise that geography was against them. Indian Muslims were distributed in a way which made it impossible to form a separate state in a consolidated area. The Muslim majority areas were in the north-west and north east . These two regions have no point of physical contact. People in these two areas are completely different from one another in every respect except religion. It is one of the greatest frauds on the people to suggest that religious affinity can unite areas which are geographically, economically, linguistically and culturally different. It is true that Islam sought to establish a society which transcends racially, linguistic, economic and political frontiers. History has proved that after the first few decades or at the most after the century, Islam was not able to unite all Muslim countries on the basis of Islam alone. This was the position in the past and this is the position today. No one can hope that East and West Pakistan will compose all their differences and form one nation. Even within West Pakistan the three provinces of Sindh, Punjab, and the frontier have internal incompatibility and are working for separate aims and interests. "(India Wins Freedom).
Muslims need to give up their pan Islamist approach because for the past few centuries it has only proved to be more harmful for them.