By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
21 November 2020
The Arabic word ‘Asabiyyah or Asabiyyat’ can be simply expressed through several related meanings in English such as, ‘prejudice’ and ‘bigotry’, ‘sectarianism’, ‘tribalism’, ‘chauvinism’, ‘bigoterie’, ‘fanaticism’, ‘partisanship’, ‘clannishness’ and ‘party-spirit’.
The Asabiyyah refers to ‘the concept of a strong and blind adherence to a particular party, faction, cause or person’, or in other words, to ‘the concept of excessive or prejudiced support for one’s own cause, group, tribe, nation, person or thing without fair consideration of the facts’.
The Asabiyyah was deeply rooted in the pre-Islamic era. Islam abolished all the forms of Asabiyyah (bigotry/prejudice etc.) in several ways mentioned in the Quran and the Ahadith. A few of them are as follows;
Allah Almighty says in the Quran, “O mankind! Truly We created you from a male and a female, and We made you peoples and tribes that you may come know one another. Surely the most noble of you before Allah are the most reverent of you. Truly Allah is Knowing, Aware” (49:13)
This verse signifies the manner in which differences in religion, race, tribe, ethnicity, language, nationality can be sources through which the human beings attain a deeper appreciation for the reality of the human condition.
This is a late Madinian verse which denotes a revamping of the moral order of Arabia to one in which true worth is no longer determined by the Asabiyyah but by the depth of faith and righteousness (Taqwa).
The things mentioned in this verse signify the eradication of all forms of the Asabiyyah (bigotry/prejudice etc), be it in the context of nationality, race, caste, tribe, region and language, majority and minority or whatever. In several Ahadith the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade the Jahiliyyah attitude of the Asabiyyah. Some of them are as follows;
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “One who is killed under the banner of a man who is blind (to his just cause), who raises the slogan of the Asabiyyat (bigotry or prejudice etc.) or supports the Asabiyyat, dies the death of one belonging to the days of Jahiliyya (pre-Islamic days). (Sahih Muslim 1850).
Having condemned the Asabiyyah in another hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) further said, “….Whoso attacks my Ummah (indiscriminately) killing the righteous and the wicked of them, sparing not (even) those staunch in faith and fulfilling not his promise made with those who have been given a pledge of security - he has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.” (Sahih Muslim)
It is recorded in Sunan Abu Dawud that the Prophet (peace be upon him) condemned the Asabiyyat (bigotry/prejudice), “whoever raises the slogan of the Asabiyyat has nothing to do with us, whoever kills due to the Asabiyyat has nothing to do with us, and whoever dies the death of Asabiyyat is not from among us”.
When asked about the Asabiyyah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied saying, “The Asabiyyah is when a man helps his people to do wrong” (Sunan Ibn Majah/Sunan Abu Dawud)
The reason of the Asabiyyah being forbidden is that Islam does not accept bigotry in any matters, but rather it repeatedly suggests that one should deal with everything on the basis of justice, truthfulness, honesty and reality and not on the basis of bigotry which blocks the minds to grasp the humane morals and ethics.
If we ponder over the present circumstances of the world, we will find that most cases of the killing or fighting are directly or indirectly the consequences of Asabiyyah (bigotry/prejudice). Not only does the Asabiyyah lead to violence, but also to block the vast space of one’s mind and thus the one finds difficulty to experience the realities of many things in the world. Our minds are created by Allah Almighty and they can achieve higher culmination of mental development only when they are used in the correct directions which are not possible for the minds affected by the virus of Asabiyyah. We have seen above that Islam clearly forbids the Asabiyyah by condemning it. It is our collective responsibility to refrain from holding the Asabiyyah in all forms and move forward to look for solutions to numerous challenges of the modern-days.
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