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Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn on Fighting for the Sake of Nationalism

Posted by Abu Iyaad
Saturday, Nov 18 2023
Filed under Miscellaneous

THE FIGHTING MENTIONED in the Qurʾān, which is praised, is the one that is qualified with (في سبيل الله) “in the path of Allāh”, and this is the fighting in which making Allāh’s word uppermost is intended. However, fighting for nationhood, nationalism, national pride and passion and the likes, all of that is futile, of no benefit and does not return martyrdom upon a person if he is killed fighting for it. The promotion of nationalism, and Arab nationalism in particular, has not brought any benefit to anyone, only harm and splitting, and it has invited people to come under the banner of Arab nationalism (such as Marxists, Communists, Secularists, Socialists and others), who are the cause of ruin and loss.

The scholars of the Muslims, those who are upon the Sunnah, upon the Prophetic methodology, they warn from tribalism and nationalism, because they are a path to defeat and humiliation.

NOTE: Having said that, this does not mean that one cannot have a sense of affinity, belonging and identity based upon one’s culture, ethnicity and language, because these variations in colour and language are signs and manifestations of Allāh’s immense creative power (30:22-), so they are to be recognised and celebrated. Hence, the repudiation and repugnance of racism and claims of racial superiority. Similarly, splitting in religion on the basis of nationalities and national pride, which pave the way for strife and conflict between Muslim nations and weakening of their power, this is also prohibited. It is from this angle that fighting for the sake of nationalism is censured, because it is derived from sentiments that governed behaviours in the pre-Islamic days of ignorance, such as bigotry, zealotry and fervour. Thus, there is a balance between recognising variation in colours and languages (race, language, culture) as manifestations of Allāh’s creative power, and not trying to dissolve and erase them altogether in the name of fighting racism and equality, as is the way of the Marxists and Communists, and on the other hand, not stoking such pride and bigotry through nationalistic pride such that one no longer acts for the sake of Allāh, for truth, for justice, but for nationalism, be it in truth or falsehood.

The Ḥadīth

Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī (رضي الله عنه) relates that Allāh’s Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) was asked about a man who fights for bravery, and one who fights for passion and pride [for his tribe, nation], and one who fights to show off, as to which of them is [fighting] in the path of Allāh. So the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Whoever fights so that it is the word of Allāh that is uppermost, he is in the path of Allāh.”[1]


In his commentary upon this ḥadīth, Shaykh Ibn ʿUthaymīn (رحمه الله) briefly explained that the one fighting out of bravery, this means that he is brave and likes to fight to manifest his bravery. Thus it is because of love of fighting and bravery that he fights. As for the one who fights for pride and passion, then it is for his tribe, his nation, his homeland. And as for the one fights for show, then it is so that the people see his bravery and fighting, he wants to be seen (and praised).

Then the Shaykh (رحمه الله) said:[2]

And from this we know it is obligatory to correct the manner of speech that many people express today:

[The first]: The speech of a people who fight for nationalism, Arab nationalism. Fighting for Arab nationalism is a fighting of the days of Jāhiliyyah [pre-Islāmic ignorance].

Whoever is killed [fighting for it] is not a martyr, and has lost the world and lost the Hereafter because that is not in the path of Allāh. Fighting for Arab nationalism is fighting that is [a remnant] of pre-Islāmic ignorance, it does not benefit a person with anything.

For this reason, despite the strong propaganda for Arab nationalism, we have not benefited from it with anything. The Jews have occupied our land, and we have split up.

A disbelieving people have entered the scale of this nationalism, from the Christians and other than the Christians, and a Muslim people who are not Arab are outside [of this scale of nationalism], so we have lost millions from the world, millions of people due to this nationalism.

And a people have entered into it in whom there is no good, a people who when they enter into any [affair], desertion and ruin are written for it.

The second manner of speech is [of] a people who fight for the [sake of the] country. When we fight for the country, there remains no difference between our fighting and the fighting of the disbeliever for his country, even the disbeliever fights for his country and defends his country.

The one who is killed for defending his country is not a martyr. However, what is obligatory upon us Muslims—and we are Muslims and we are in an Islāmic land, and all praise is for Allāh, we ask Allāh to keep us firm upon that—what is obligatory is that we fight for the sake of Islām in our country. Beware of the difference. We fight for the sake of Islām in our country, so we protect Islām which is in our country, and we protect Islām even if we were furthest east or west. If our country was in the furthest east or west, we would fight for Islām and for the country only.

So it is obligatory for us to correct this manner of speech. So it is said: “We fight for the sake of Islām in our country, or for our country because it is Islāmic, we defend the Islām that is in it.”

As for just nationalism [on its own], then that is a futile intention, it will not benefit a person with anything. There is no difference between a person who says he is a Muslim and a person who says he is a disbeliever if the fighting is for the country, because it is [their] country.

And what is mentioned that “Loving [one’s] country is from faith”, and that it is a ḥadīth from the Messenger of Allāh (صلى الله عليه وسلم), it is a lie.[3]

Loving the country, if it is because it is a Muslim country, you love it because it is Islāmic. There is no difference between your country which is birthplace, or the country that is far away, from the countries of the Muslims. All of them are Muslim countries, it is obligatory that we protect them.

In any case, it is obligatory to know that the correct intention is that we fight for the sake of defending Islām in our country, or for our country because it is an Islāmic country, and not for pure nationalism.

1. Related by al-Bukhārī and Muslim.
2. Sharḥ Riyāḍh al-Ṣāliḥīn (1/65-67 onwards).
3. Al-ʿIjlūni said in Kashf al-Khufaʾ (1102): Al-Ṣanʿānī said: “Fabricated.”

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