It is still a haunting mystery to me, how imaginary lines on sand drawn by western politicians in 1916 still affect my everyday life. Yes you know it, the infamous Sykes-Picot agreement, that is ironically well known to some 500 million arabs breathing today. We will openly speak horribly of how the English and the French divided us into tribes of what still is a “one nation” , the “Umma”. What is haunting is how ironic and false this is, how the Lebanese mother refused a Palestinian groom, how the Jordanian teen reminds his Syrian neighbour that he’s still a “visitor”, how the Kuwaiti openly mocks his Saudi colleague’s ancestry, how a Syrian would feel more deserving of a job than his Iraqi competitor in a busy Damascene market, how every school and every university specifies one day a year that celebrates our separate nations creating a platform for nationalistic competition, and how our youth think it’s an act of glory and pride. Examples can go on, where I am almost certain every one of us, no matter where we’re located (we’re everywhere by the way) has been easily trapped in this patriotic nationalistic vortex.
It is alarming how 100 years from the Sykes-Picot, today in 2016, we still seem to willingly grow further and further apart, and happily intensify the black lines of borders on maps. For all we know Sykes might have sneezed and erroneously shifted a line that includes “Palestine” as a part of “Lebanon”, or Picot just day dreamed and doodled for a bit, or a simple fly landed on his hand forcing him to move it, and tada Damascus is the capital of today’s “Jordan”. Does this mean the Palestinian groom is automatically fit for the mother’s opinion? Or is the Syrian neighbour no longer a visitor and more of a proud citizen? Would today’s loud mouth patriots, so happily boasting about their countries very few successes in life say any different? One can only dream and wonder of the possibilities of everything that could have (and maybe should have) been so different.
A lot of us ask ourselves why it is the way it is, why people who speak the same language, pray in the same mosques and churches, eat the same food, pretty much look the same, think the same, use the same bathroom bidets would want to think that way? How is it that these lines affect how my and your mother thinks and how people a mere 10’s of kilometres away would be so hostile towards each other just because they live on opposite sides of a fence. How can this happen when our combined history prides itself with a man who 1437 years ago made it one of his primary missions to break such cultural and social barriers, inviting us to connect and unify on something far more majestic. A man with who transmitted revelations and direct orders from God Himself such as
” يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاكُم مِّن ذَكَرٍ وَأُنثَى وَجَعَلْنَاكُمْ شُعُوبًا وَقَبَائِلَ لِتَعَارَفُوا إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِندَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ“
“O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct”.
لتعارفو which literally translates to meet or to know. Such a simple word with so many progressive meanings : To meet and learn from one another, understand one another, embrace the differences between one another, be use to one another and progress together which is emphasised again in:
وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ “مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favour of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favour, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.”
To unify ourselves in the name of God, in the name of right and equality, in the name of helping ourselves ,educating ourselves , to become brothers even though we come from different parts of the land, not to unify by blood or kin or the colour of passport documents and immigration statuses.
God continuously urges us to internally moderate and manage our hearts and to strip off that needless ounce of arrogance which makes us automatically background scan ourself as better people and states in his book:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ بِالْقِسْطِ شُهَدَاء لِلّهِ وَلَوْ عَلَى أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوِ الْوَالِدَيْنِ وَالأَقْرَبِينَ إِن يَكُنْ غَنِيًّا أَوْ فَقَيرًا فَاللّهُ أَوْلَى بِهِمَا فَلاَ تَتَّبِعُواْ الْهَوَى أَن تَعْدِلُواْ وَإِن تَلْوُواْ أَوْ تُعْرِضُواْ فَإِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرًا
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.”
Not even your own mother should have an advantage over others , so how light is the scale when talking about a countryman ?. God also specifies avoiding ” الهوى” making it perfectly clear that our hearts are weak and are so likely to lean in towards the people closest to us and how it is our responsibility to internally monitor ourselves . In this verse God is calling upon people with Iman, the people who truly believe to try and try harder to avoid personal inclinations, it is a direct measurement of faith , this is how serious this is.
The first thing the Prophet PBUH planted after his immigration to Medinah was “المؤاخاة بين المهاجرين والانصار” where the Prophet PBUH literally created a society tying the immigrants and helpers together. He did not assemble people based on tribal rank, social class, political influence etc. rather he created the very first civil law that made all people equal. This was so bizarre then that some historians claim it was the first real constitution in the history of the region .This point was continuously addressed by him throughout his prophecy where he clearly reemphasised on this in one of his last sermons and said
أيها الناس إن ربكم واحد وإن أباكم واحد كلكم لآدم وآدم من تراب أكرمكم عند الله اتقاكم، وليس لعربي على عجمي فضل إلا بالتقوى – ألا هل بلغت….اللهم فاشهد قالوا نعم – قال فليبلغ الشاهد الغائب.
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa) and good action”
In his eyes, it’s not even a case of tribes or arabs, he went on to be inclusive to all muslims regardless of race, so who are we to come in and create such needless racial differences after the greatest man on earth? If the Prophet would come and visit his people today, would he claim a nationality, choose certain people over others, require immigration documents? Would he disallow business with certain people and be generous to another? Why do we seem to think that we will not be accounted for this by God, are we going to show Him our passport on judgement day and expect an easy Visa to heaven? We are accounted for everything, what we say, what we hear, and even what we feel and think
“إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُوْلَئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُولًا“
“Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.”
I hope anyone reading this would get the core idea behind it. I am not into politics, I actually really hate it, and I’m not calling for chaos or loss of security. I am also not calling for complete abandonment of our rich cultural heritage, I am talking to everyday average arabs just like myself and urging them to overlook the negligible differences between each other and to autonomously choose to equally treat one another as much as we possible can through simple actions of marriage, hospitality, gifts, or just good manners and a smile. To forget and ignore the ridiculous patriotic thoughts that only leads to exclusion, and to unify on the Straight Path God has blessed us upon.