The region was initially a dry, boundless desert but some divine happenings had made it so special to the heart of Prophet Ibrahim alaihissalam. As he finished erecting the Kaaba as inspired, Ibrahim prayed for its peace and prosperity – two important components of a country:
“O Rabb, make this (place) a peaceful country. And provide the citizens who believe in Allah and the Judgment Day with fruits for sustenance.”
It is a common premise that love for one’s country and patriotism are instinctual in human beings, designed so by Allah. And these two anecdotes are common prophetic examples of upholding the Islamic spirit of patriotism.
Nevertheless, there may be two extra perspectives to ponder on.
Firstly, neither Prophet Ibrahim nor Prophet Ismail alayhimussalam was born in Makkah. They were eventually there due to divine instruction.
Secondly, regardless of how great was Prophet Muhammad SAW’s patriotic love for his hometown, he chose not to abandon the mission of Da’wah that caused the locals to expel him from his hometown.
For both, their patriotism was beyond the love of their homeland.
Now, beyond the simple excuse of celebrating the God-created ‘human nature’, what else makes our patriotism Islamic then?
Patriotism and ideologies
If you think that patriotism is simply about the love for your land, you may have to extend that thought.
Over the centuries, the concept of patriotism in the West, for instance, had transformed vastly according to the ideologies of the time.
The root in the concept of patriotism changed from initially ‘the physical features of the fatherland (patria)’ to become the love for the church that centred in the Roman empire.
Such a concept of patriotism led to religiously inspired colonialism, which ended up eating piece by piece into the Muslims’ lands and empires as well.
Then, when the post-colonial concept of nation-state was established, the concept of patriotism became synonymous with nationalism.
As the spirit of tribalism was already weakening patriotism in the Muslim lands, the intersection of patriotism and nationalism only contributed to the gradual break up of the Ummah’s unity, and leading eventually to the fall of the caliphate.
If we take a look at the geopolitical race today, we should begin to wonder if the concept of patriotism in Muslim contemporary nations is not shaped by the neo-colonial economic-political power interests.
Even though it is human nature to love one’s homeland, it seems that the fundamental narrative of patriotism is always moulded more by local and global political schemings than anything else.
In fact, it was out of these divergent politically desired narratives of patriotism that the ‘formal’ version of any country’s history was written and the patriotic slogans normalised among the citizenry. An obvious extension to the policy of divide and rule practised by the colonial empires.
Can’t Islam become the fundamental basis of our patriotism?
It is not wrong to link the Islamic concept of patriotism to the God-created human nature of loving one’s homeland.
However, since the love for the country is there in the human soul and the governance of the country is heavily linked to politics, isn’t it time to take the Islamic discussion of patriotism to another level?
The question here would then be: what is the kind of Islamic ideology that should drive and construct our patriotism?
Going back to the anecdotes, there was a reason on why our Prophet Muhammad SAW chose not to neglect Tarbiyyah, Da’wah and Jihad over his patriotism.
The prophet SAW upheld the following principles in his concept of Islamic patriotism:
love for Allah, love for the faith of Islam, and love for one’s homeland should make a Muslim’s patriotism be solely for the sovereignty of Allah.
a nation’s life systems have to be divinely-inspired, so that every citizen of the land, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, is able to live and prosper under the mercy of Islam, and embracing Islam as a result.
Prophet Muhammad SAW was invited to lead and govern Madinah, but he finally brought back the light of Islamic governance and system to his beloved land of Makkah. His patriotism didn’t make him abandon his hometown. Instead, he made it greater.
In other words, the ultimate meaning of Islamic patriotism is the establishment of Da’wah Ilallah – something that the Daies and Muslim Leaders today ought to comprehend conscientiously. Our patriotism should not breed divisive nationalism, and it should not fire up conflicts between nations.
Perhaps the response from Allah to Prophet Ibrahim’s ‘patriotic’ prayers (as described by many) was to educate us with regard to this Da’wah Ilallah as the salient fundamental principle of an Islamic political system.
“And when Ibrahim prayed, “O Rabb, make this (place) a peaceful nation. And provide the citizen who believes in Allah and the Judgment Day with fruits for sustenance.”
“Allah answered, “And whoever disbelieves, I will still grant him enjoyment for a little. Then I shall drive him to the punishment of the Hellfire.”