Romantic Nationalism (1)

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Stir up any of them you can with your voice and rally against them your cavalry and your infantry and share with them in their children and their wealth and make them promises! The promise of Satan is nothing but delusion. (Surat al-Isra’:64)

There is a subtle danger that leads people away from religion, prevents them from submitting to Allah (God) as their Lord, and ultimately brings numerous other forms of trouble and distress upon them. This danger can be recognised in many different areas of our lives: the clenched fist of a fascist, the rousing anthem of a communist, or in the words of a letter written by a young man expressing his love to his loved-one. All arise from the same pernicious source.

The most disturbing aspect of this danger is that an overwhelming number of people do not see it as a danger at all, nor do they realise either that it is actually a state of mind completely inimical to religion. In fact, many view it, not as a dangerous error, but rather as a virtue to be encouraged and widely propagated.

This danger of which we are speaking is sentimentality that leads people to live, not according to their reason, but according to their emotions; that is, according to their desires, hatreds, their susceptibility to temptation, and their stubbornness.

Sentimentality has become part of a culture of ignorance that has now brought millions of people throughout the world under its influence. In fact, it is one of the weapons that Satan uses to divert people from following the way of Allah, because someone who has fallen into the clutches of sentimentalism loses the ability to use his reason. And, when he cannot use his reason, then he cannot appreciate the fact that Allah has created him, nor can he come to recognise His signs and purposes, nor can he live in accordance to the sublime truths of religion. A life lived righteously is dependant on the use of one's reason, for Allah sent the Qu'ran "so that men of understanding may ponder its Signs and take heed." (Qur'an, 38:29)

More precisely, if not treated, the disease of sentimentalism renders it impossible for a person to understand or experience religion in its true sense. Moreover, unless treated, the disease of sentimentality will make it impossible to bring an end to the pointless disputes, senseless suffering, assaults, distress and cruelty people inflict upon themselves in this world. Romanticism is one of the outcomes of sentimentalism which is understood as romance or the Romantic movement of the nineteenth century, but besides these forms, romanticism is also closely related to certain political sentiments. Chief among them is "romantic nationalism," which appeared at the end of the nineteenth century, and exercised a great influence in the world until the middle of the twentieth.

First, it must be clearly stated that our criticism is not against nationalism per se, but against "romantic nationalism." There is a great deal of difference between the two.

Those who disbelieve filled their hearts with fanatical rage-the fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance-and Allah sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and bound them to the expression of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Surat al-Fath: 26)

Nationalism, in the most common sense of the term, refers to an individual's love for his people and for his country. This is a good and completely legitimate sentiment. Since it does not go against religion, it has no damaging effect for humanity. Just as an individual's love for his mother or father is a legitimate feeling, so also is love for the nation, that nurtured him in a common faith and culture, a legitimate feeling.
Nationalistic sentiments become illegitimate when they become irrational or overly passionate. If a person, out of love for his country, begins, without justification, to harbour feelings of hostility towards another nation, or tramples over the rights of other nations and peoples in the interests of his own-for example, if he seizes their land or confiscates their property-he has exceeded legitimate bounds. Or, when he lets his love for his nation turn into a kind of racism, that is, when he claims that his own nation is inherently superior to another, he has adopted an irrational outlook.

Allah draws our attention to this irrational nationalism in the Qu'ran. What is described in the following verses as "fanatical rage," is a characteristic feature of societies who are divorced from the religion.

Those who disbelieve filled their hearts with fanatical rage-the fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance-and Allah sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and bound them to the expression of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Surat al-Fath:26)

While the above verse speaks of "fanatical rage," it also speaks of the serenity that Allah bestows upon those who believe in Him. This juxtaposition points to the fact that if a person who loves his kindred, his clan or his community, harbours hatred or aggression towards others as a result of that love, his behaviour is errant. On the contrary, Allah desires His servants to enjoy peace, tranquillity and security; in other words, the spiritual state that Allah desires for His followers is one where reason is foremost.

"Fanatical rage" does not permit such a desirable condition to exist, but pits one group against another, based solely on differences in language, colour, tribe or clan.

Allah described this "fanatical rage" already 1400 years ago in the Qu'ran, and today it is still possible to witness its effects in every part of the world. There are people in Africa who strangle others to death just because they belong to a different tribe. In Europe, a football match deteriorates into armed combat when "hooligans" beat fans of the opposing team almost to death, just because they belong to the opposing side. In the Western world, there are organisations whose sole purpose is to foster hatred against Africans, Jews, Turks and other minorities, even to the extent of making them targets of terrorist assaults.

The influence of "fanatical rage" pervades not only the lowest classes, but also the highest echelons of some societies. There are many countries that exploit the matter of a simple border dispute as an excuse to carry out open acts of aggression. To satisfy their belligerent tendencies, they throw their countries into a war, persisting stubbornly in their aggression for years, plunging not only the citizens of the enemy country, but even their own people into misery. Those authorities who make such decisions are afflicted with what we are referring to as "fanatical rage." As explained in the above quoted verse, he who "fills his heart with fanatical rage" lives in ignorance.

Among these ignoramuses are also they who instigated the two greatest calamities of the twentieth century: the First and Second World Wars. Moved by such false notions as "German heroism," "English pride" and "Russian courage," they subjected their own people, as well as the whole world, to great suffering, spilling the blood of 65 million people, and leaving tens of millions crippled, widowed and orphaned. The root cause of these calamities was "fanatical rage" which we are now referring to as "romantic nationalism." (For further reading, see Romanticism: A Weapon of Satan by Harun Yahya)

2008-04-23 17:25:10

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