FRIDAY SERMON: The Anatomy of Tribalism – Are the Muslims spared?, by Abu Jabir Abdullah

Abu Jabir Abdullah
Abu Jabir Abdullah

I begin with the Name of Allaah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

“O Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with Allaah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa (pious, fear Allaah).” Qur’an 49:13

One of the most amazing things in the life of humans, with all their differences, culture, color, creed and background, is the fact that they all have a common origin – Adam and Eve. This common denominator in their lives is the guiding principle that solidifies the idea of the world being a global village. Humans have a Creator, Who through His Signs and creations, is known. Undoubtedly, racial variation and ethnic diversity are amongst the Signs of Allaah, the Exalted.

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Accordingly, Allaah, the Exalted says: “And amongst His Signs is this, that He created you (Adam) from dust, and then [Hawwa (Eve) from Adam’s rib, and then his offspring from the semen, and], – behold you are human beings scattered!” Qur’an 30:20. The racial difference amongst humans is not a despicable tool but rather one that enables them to get to know one other. Mujahid (may Allaah have mercy on him), one of the commentators of the Qur’an said that Allaah’s statement (that you may know one another.) refers to one’s saying, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so, from the tribe of so-and-so.” Quoted in the Tafseer of Ibn Katheer under Qur’an 49:13.

Furthermore, the Prophet (peace be upon) is reported to have said: “He is not one of us who calls to tribalism. He is not one of us who fights for the sake of tribalism. He is not one of us who dies following the way of tribalism.” Though this hadith has been declared weak by many scholars of the hadith, Shaykh Shu’aib al-Arnaoot in Takhreej Sunan Abi Dawud (5121) said, its chain is weak though the meaning is correct. Be it as it may, there is an authentic narration in Sahih Muslim (1850) to buttress this, “Whoever is killed under the banner of blind following, who calls to tribalism or supports tribalism, then he has died upon ignorance.”

Alas! Satan knew very well, that one of the ways that the son of Adam could innocently get destroyed is through tribal sentiments. Evidently, from inception he has been playing the superiority complex card and has unleashed it against humanity, such that, even the Muslims have subjected Islam to a nationalistic/ethnocentric scrutiny. Nationality first, then Islam -I am Nigerian Muslim, I am an Arab Muslim, I am an American Muslim- Nigerian first, then Muslim last. This is a web of Satan!

Noting the persuasive nature of Satan, he weaves the destructive web of tribalism/nationalism, subliminally and sequentially in the minds of people until they become full-fledged tribalists and nationalists. Consequently, luring them into relegating their Islamic heritage and universal brotherhood to the tail end. Innocently, an African man (as a way of identifying one another and not to despise one another) goes to a foreign land and goes to pray in a masjid (mosque) full of Europeans. In this masjid, he finds five men all from Africa in the midst of hundreds of Europeans. Innocently, after prayer, he stands up and feels the need to introduce himself first to these African men, because to him, they share the same color and culture (at continental level).

Progressively, he bonds more with these five men while subconsciously alienating about 99% of other Muslims (mainly Europeans) that he met in the Masjid. Again, amongst these five men, three happen to be from a different country from him. The other two that hailed from the same country with him, become closer to him, innocently so. By the same token, one of his two fellow countrymen share the same tribe with him and subconsciously, he becomes more attached to him. This web keeps growing until for example, they form the African Muslim community of Europe, with a further segregational tendency of forming the Nigerian Muslim community and finally the Yoruba, or the Igbo or the Hausa Muslim community of Europe.

Subsequently, Satan then psychological brainwashes these Muslims until they put Islam under a nationalistic/ethnocentric microscope. So much so that, when there is a misunderstanding between two Muslims of a different nationality, each group turns a blind eye to justice in order to blindly support “their own” simply because of tribalism. Sadly, it will reach an obnoxious stage of a pious Muslim boy having his marital proposal turned down because of nationality.

The Prophet (peace be upon) never allowed nationalism and tribalism to crop up amongst his Ummah (nation) let alone grow. In the midst of the battle of Banu al-Mustaliq, when he (peace be upon him) heard the Muhajiroon (Emigrants) and the Ansar (helpers) calling out on each other with nationalistic tone, he rebuked them and said, “leave it (such calls) for it is obnoxious.” The hadith has been reported by both al-Bukhari and Muslim.

An equally destructive aspect of this satanic web is the fact that it has permeated all levels of human engagement -globally and locally. In the global arena, Africans are seen to be inferior to Europeans. While continentally, within the African continent, Nigerians feel they are ahead of others. Correspondingly, within Nigeria, the three major tribes of Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo feel every other tribe is inferior to them. While regionally, amongst these three major tribes, there has been a raging storm of who is more superior.

At the same time, within each region of a nation like Nigeria for example, there is a particular tribe that feels the banner of that region belongs to her. As a way of illustration, the Hausas in the North feel more superior than other tribes within the same region. While at the same time, the Hausas from a certain state within the same Northern region, further look down on certain Hausas from other states. While this is a reality, it is evident that within each state, there is a clear dichotomy between the majority and minority tribes, chiefly fueled by ethnocentric and tribalistic ego. Between the Nupes and the Gwaris in Niger state, between the Igalas and Igbiras in Kogi state. Sadly so, within the Nupes for example, those from Bida feel they are more original than others. Inna lillahi wa inna illahyi raji’un (Truly! To Allaah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return).

Accordingly, within each neighborhood, it is easy for Satan to infuse within the psyche of some of its residents, the feeling of superiority complex. Thinking themselves to be more equal than other residents. There is no end to this satanic web of tribalism and racial superiority, it leads to many more segregations until humanity is plunged into utter destruction.

The family unit has not been spared by this web. It is common knowledge also, that within extended families, certain members of the family feel they are more equal than others. It is easy to find within a polygamous setting, the denigration of a particular wife and her children in favor of the other. Equally, the nuclear family or a monogamous setting has not escaped from this also. Many a family have been destroyed because of injustice on the part of the parents in relation to how they treat their children. Some have superior status while others have inferior status.

What is the way out?

As Muslims, Allaah, The Exalted has commanded: “O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad peace be upon him), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allaah and His Messenger (peace be upon him), if you believe in Allaah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” Qur’an 4: 59

Therefore, Allaah has stated categorically in Qur’an 49: 13 (quoted at the beginning of the article) that, humanity earns honor with Allaah the Exalted on the account of piety, not family lineage, not regional identity, not continental identity, not racial and tribal superiority.

While Islam stresses the obligation to treat others kindly and justly regardless of color, creed, and background, it laid special emphasis on upholding the Islamic brotherhood. This brotherhood dictates that one must treat his fellow Muslims as equal, whether they are Africans, Arabs or Asians or Europeans. Similarly, whether they are Igbo or Hausa or Yoruba a Muslim must not look down upon others or show contempt for them on the basis of their tribes. The blanket condemnation of a tribe is abhorrent in Islam and it is tantamount to criminalizing an entire tribe unjustifiably because there are good people amongst them just as there are bad ones.

Everyone must remind themselves that they are not more equal than others and nobody was born into a tribe by choice, rather, Allaah the Exalted out of His Divine Wisdom and Perfect Justice decided so. Whenever a person feels that he is more superior than others, he will probably not treat them equally or even give them their due rights. Racial superiority, tribal bigotry, nationalism, clannishness, classism are nothing but things of this transient world. When the dust is settled, man will realize whether his tribal, ethnic and racial identity will earn him salvation or not!

Mr Abdul (Penabdul), an architect, is the Chairman/CEO of Sustainable Project Works (SPW) Ltd & a Lecturer at Baze University, Abuja.  Twitter: @Penabdull Instagram: @Penabdul