“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and the Messenger, and those who are in authority over you.”
Holy Qur’an 4:60
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is reported to have said ‘Love of one’s country is part of your faith.’ True Islam thus encourages us to love and support our neighbours — regardless of their faith, beliefs, or background. To support local communities in all good things is therefore an essential part of the Muslim character.
First and foremost, a fundamental principle of Islam is that a person’s words and deeds should never manifest any form of double standards or hypocrisy. True loyalty requires a relationship built on sincerity and integrity. It requires what a person displays on the surface to be the same as what lies beneath. In terms of nationality, these principles are of the utmost importance. Therefore, it is essential for a citizen of any country to establish a relationship of genuine loyalty and faithfulness to his nation. It does not matter whether he is a born citizen, or whether he gains citizenship later in life, either through immigration or by any other means.
Loyalty is a great quality, and the people who have displayed this attribute to the highest degree and best standards, are the Prophets of God. Their love and bond with God was so strong that in all matters they kept in view His commands and strived to fully implement them, no matter what. This illustrated their commitment to Him and their perfect standards of loyalty. Hence, it is their standards of loyalty that we should use as an example and model. However, before proceeding any further, it is necessary to understand what is actually meant by ‘loyalty’.
According to the teachings of Islam, the definition and true meaning of ‘loyalty’ is the unequivocal fulfilment of one’s pledges and covenants at every level and under all circumstances, regardless of difficulty. This is the true standard of faithfulness required by Islam. At various places in the Holy Qur’an, Allah has instructed Muslims that they must fulfil their pledges and covenants, because they will be held to account by Him over all undertakings that they have made. The Muslims have been instructed to fulfil all covenants, including those made with God Almighty, and also all other pledges they have made, according to their respective degrees of importance.
In this context, a question that could arise in the minds of people is that because Muslims claim that God and His religion are of paramount importance to them, thus it follows that their pledge of loyalty to God will be their first priority, and that their covenant to God will be what they value above all else and which they endeavour to fulfil. Therefore, the belief may arise that a Muslim’s loyalty to his nation and his pledge to uphold the laws of the land will only be of secondary importance to him. Thus, he may be willing to sacrifice his pledge to his country on certain occasions.
To answer this question, I would firstly like to inform you that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself taught that the ‘love for one’s nation is a part of faith.’ Thus, sincere patriotism is a requirement in Islam. To truly love God and Islam requires a person to love his nation. It is quite clear, therefore, that there can be no conflict of interest between a person’s love for God, and love for his country. As love for one’s country has been made a part of Islam, it is quite clear that a Muslim must strive to reach the highest standards of loyalty to his chosen country, because that is a means of reaching God and becoming close to Him. Hence, it is impossible that the love a true Muslim holds for God could ever prove to be an impediment or barrier preventing him from displaying true love and faithfulness towards his country. Unfortunately, we find that in certain countries, religious rights are curtailed or even completely denied. Therefore, another question that can arise is whether those people who are persecuted by their state can still maintain a relationship of love and loyalty to their nation and country. With great sadness, I should inform you that these circumstances exist in Pakistan, where the Government has actually legislated against our Community. These anti-Ahmadiyya laws are practically enforced. Thus in Pakistan, all Ahmadi Muslims have been officially declared by law to be ‘non-Muslims’. They are, therefore, forbidden from calling themselves ‘Muslim’. The Ahmadis in Pakistan are also prohibited from worshipping in the way Muslims do, or acting in accordance with any Islamic practice or custom that could identify them as a Muslim. Thus, the state itself in Pakistan has deprived members of our Community from their basic human right to worship.
Bearing in mind this state of affairs, it is quite natural to wonder how, in such circumstances, can Ahmadi Muslims follow the laws of the land? How can they continue to display loyalty to the nation? Here I should clarify that where such extreme circumstances exist, then the law, and loyalty to the nation, become two separate issues. We, Ahmadi Muslims, believe that religion is a personal matter for every individual to determine for himself and that there should be no compulsion in matters of faith. Thus, where the law comes to interfere with this right, undoubtedly, it is an act of great cruelty and persecution. Indeed, such state-sanctioned persecution, which has occurred throughout the ages, has been condemned by the vast majority.
If we glance at the history of Europe, we find that people in this Continent have also been the victims of religious persecution, and as a result, many thousands of people had to migrate from one country to the next. All fair-minded historians, governments and people have deemed this to be persecution, and extremely cruel. In such circumstances, Islam advocates that where persecution goes beyond all limits and becomes unbearable, then at that time, a person should leave the town or country and migrate to a place where he is free to practise his religion in peace. However, alongside this guidance, Islam also teaches that under no circumstances should any individual take the law into his own hands and nor should he partake in any schemes or conspiracies against his country. This is an absolutely clear and unequivocal command given by Islam. Despite the grave persecution they face, millions of Ahmadis continue to live in Pakistan.
Despite being subjected to such sustained discrimination and cruelty in all aspects of their lives, they continue to keep a relationship of total loyalty and a true allegiance to the country. Whichever field they work in or wherever they are based, they are constantly engaged in trying to help the nation to progress and succeed. For decades, the opponents of Ahmadiyyat have tried to allege that Ahmadis are not loyal to Pakistan, but they have never been able to prove this or show any evidence to support their claims; instead, the truth is that whenever there has been a need to make any sacrifice for the sake of Pakistan, for the sake of their country, Ahmadi Muslims have always stood at the forefront and been constantly ready to make every sacrifice for the sake of the country.
Despite themselves being a victim and target of the law, it is Ahmadi Muslims who follow and abide by the laws of the land better than anyone else. This is because they are true Muslims, who follow true Islam. Another teaching given by the Holy Qur’an in relation to loyalty is that people should keep away from all things that are immodest, undesirable and that form any type of rebellion. A beautiful and distinguishing feature of Islam is that it does not just draw our attention to the final point of culmination, where the consequences are extremely dangerous; instead, it warns us about all of the smaller issues as well, which act as stepping stones leading mankind to a path paved with danger. Thus, if Islam’s guidance is followed properly, then any issue can be resolved at the earliest point, before the situation gets out of hand.
For instance, an issue which can gravely harm a country is financial greed by individuals. Often, people get consumed by material desires that spiral beyond control, and such desires ultimately lead people to act in a disloyal fashion. Thus, such things can ultimately be a cause of treachery against one’s country. Let me explain a bit. In Arabic the word bagha has been used to describe those people or those acts of people that cause harm to their countries. It refers to those who take part in wrong practices or who inflict harm on others. It also includes those people who commit fraud and so try to acquire things in an illegal or unjust manner. It refers to those people who transgress all limits and so cause harm and damage. Islam teaches that people who act in these ways cannot be expected to act in a loyal manner, because loyalty is intertwined with high moral values. Loyalty cannot exist without high moral values and high moral values cannot exist without loyalty. Whilst it is true that different people may have different views about high moral standards, yet the religion of Islam revolves solely around seeking God’s pleasure. Thus, Muslims are instructed to always act in a manner that is pleasing to Him. In short, according to Islamic teachings, God Almighty has forbidden all forms of treachery or rebellion, whether against one’s country or one’s government. This is because rebellion or acting against the state is a threat to the peace and security of a nation. Indeed, where internal rebellion or opposition occurs, then it fans the flames of external opposition and encourages outsiders to take advantage of the internal disorder. Hence, the consequences of disloyalty to your nation can be far-reaching and extreme. Thus, anything that can cause harm to a nation is included in the term bagha that I have described. Keeping all of this in mind, loyalty to one’s nation requires a person to display patience, to show morality and to follow the laws of the land.
Generally speaking, in the modern era, most governments are run democratically. Therefore if a person or group wishes to change the government, then they should do so by following the proper democratic process. They should make themselves heard by voting at the ballot box. Votes should not be cast on the basis of personal preferences or personal interests, but in fact, Islam teaches that a person’s vote should be exercised with a sense of loyalty and love for his country. A person’s vote should be cast with the betterment of the nation in mind. Therefore, a person should not look at his own priorities and from which candidate or party he can personally benefit; instead, a person should make his decision in a balanced way whereby he assesses which candidate or party will help the entire nation progress. The keys to government are a huge trust and thus they should only be handed over to the party who the voter honestly believes is best suited and most deserving. This is the true Islam, and this is true loyalty.
Indeed, in Chapter 4, verse 59 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah has commanded that a person should only hand over trusts to those who are entitled, and that when judging between people, he should make his decision with justice and honesty. Thus, loyalty to one’s nation requires that the power of the government should be given to those who are truly entitled to it, so that the nation can progress and come to stand at the forefront amongst the nations of the world.
In many parts of the world we find that members of the public take part in strikes and protests against government policies. Furthermore, in certain Third World countries, the protesters vandalise or damage possessions and properties belonging either to the state or to private citizens. Though they may claim to be acting out of love, the truth is that such acts have nothing to do with loyalty or love for the nation. It should be remembered that even where protests or strikes are conducted peacefully, without recourse to criminal damage or violence, it still can have a very negative effect. This is because even peaceful protests often result in a loss of millions to the economy of the nation. Under no circumstances can such behaviour be considered to be an example of loyalty to the nation. A golden principle taught by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama‘at was that under all circumstances, we must always remain obedient to Allah, to the Prophets and to the rulers of our nation. This is the same teaching given in the Holy Qur’an. Hence, even where a country permits strikes or protests to take place, they should only be conducted to the extent where they do not harm or cause damage to the nation or to the economy.
Another question that often arises is whether Muslims can join the military forces of the Western countries, and if they are permitted to join, can they then partake in military attacks on Muslim countries? One underlying principle of Islam is that no person should assist in acts of cruelty. This key command must always remain at the forefront of any Muslim’s mind. Where a Muslim country is attacked, because it has itself acted in a cruel and unjust manner and took the first step of aggression, then in such circumstances the Qur’an has instructed Muslim governments that they should stop the hand of the oppressor. This means they should stop the cruelty and endeavour to establish peace. Thus, in such circumstances to take action as a means to end cruelty is permissible. However, when the nation which transgresses reforms itself and adopts peace, then that country and its people should not be taken advantage of or be subjugated on the basis of false pretences or excuses. They should instead be granted normal state freedom and independence once again. The military ambition should thus be to establish peace, rather than to fulfil any vested interests.
In the same way, Islam permits all countries, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, the right to stop cruelty and oppression. Thus, if necessary, non-Muslim countries can attack Muslim countries to achieve these genuine aims. Muslims in those non-Muslim countries are allowed to join the armies of those non-Muslim countries and prevent the other country from cruelty. Where such circumstances truly exist then Muslim soldiers, whichever Western army they may be part of, must follow orders and fight if required in order to establish peace. If, however, a military makes a decision to attack another nation unjustly, and thus becomes the oppressor, then a Muslim has the option to leave the army, because then he would be assisting cruelty. By taking this decision it would not mean that he is being disloyal to his country. In fact, in such circumstances, loyalty to his country would demand that he should take such a step and counsel his own government that they should not allow themselves to fall to the same depths as those unjust governments and nations that act in a cruel way. If however, joining the army is compulsory and there is no way to leave, but his conscience is not clear, then the Muslim should leave the country, but cannot raise a voice against the law of the land. He should leave because a Muslim is not permitted to live in a country as a citizen, whilst at the same time, acting against the nation or siding with the opposition.
Thus these are just a few aspects of Islamic teachings, which guide all true Muslims towards the real requirements of loyalty and love for one’s country. In the time available I have only been able to briefly touch upon this topic.
Thus in conclusion, I would like to say that today we observe that the world has become a global village. Mankind has become very closely knit together. The people of all nations, religions and cultures are found in all countries. This requires that the leaders of every nation should consider and respect the feelings and sentiments of all people. The leaders and their governments should strive to create laws that foster an environment and spirit of truth and justice, rather than making laws that are a means of causing distress and frustration to the people. Injustices and cruelties should be eliminated and instead we should strive for true justice. The best way to do this is that the world should come to recognise its Creator. Every form of loyalty should be linked to loyalty with God. If this occurs then we will come to witness with our own eyes that the very highest standards of loyalty will be established by the people of all countries and new avenues leading us to peace and security will open throughout the world.