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Western Nationalism and Islamic Nationhood

Western Nationalism and Islamic Nationhood 

by Murtada Mutahhari

Translated from the Persian by Dr. Wahid Akhtar

Vol. V  No.3 and 4

This article is an introduction (pishguftar) that Martyr Murtada Mutahhari wrote for his book Khadamat-e mutaqabil-e Islam wa Iran (The Mutual Services of Islam and Iran) first published in 1349 H.Sh./1960. The translation of this book is under way and will soon be published by the Sazman-e Tablighat-e Islami, and we hope to publish some parts of it in the future in al-Tawhid.

In the Name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The relations, conflicts and clashes between various nations have in the present age become a daily issue which has acquired much greater significance than in any other epoch of human history. One of the problems related to it, or perhaps one of the most fundamental of them, is the problem of nationalism, its constructive elements, its scope and limits.

During the last two or three decades many new nations, whose number exceeds fifty, have come into existence, or have acquired a new shape and name. In some cases, a country or a nation was divided into two or more parts, each pursuing a different path. In some cases nations with specific ideological, religious and geographical characteristics have completely changed their philosophical and religious conditions to replace them by a totally different system of ideas and social institutions. All these changes and the birth of new nations accompanying them, were preceded by years of struggle, resistance, endeavour and bloodshed, which consumed immeasurable time, energy and talents of peoples and called for many sacrifices, small and great.

Did the nations that emerged during recent times have no existence in the past? Did the nations that were separated and divided not form a real, stable social unit in their previous state? Those nations that changed their system while preserving most of their specific traits such as language, race, ecological conditions and geographical boundaries, are they still what they were in the past? Moreover, all the main political, social, and military problems of our age are formulated in terms of nations and national interests. Nationalism is the most current and popular of all ideologies at present. Even those social and political ideologies that are opposed to nationalist tendencies, on initiating a movement, present themselves in nationalist garb and fall back upon nationalist slogans.

From a different point of view, for us Iranians, too, the issue of nationalism has contemporary relevance, in spite of the fact that our nation and homeland have not been attacked or occupied by any foreign power, and we see much difference and many contradictions between interpretations given by various individuals to nationalism. At present two factors are at work: first, there is the racial and hereditary factor which is related to our history preceding the last fourteen centuries; the second factor relates to the ideological, religious, social and cultural traditions formed and developed during the last fourteen centuries. As for our physical and racial roots, we belong to the Aryan race, and with regard to our ideological and cultural constitution, traditions and social institutions we are linked to Islam, which came to our land through a non-Aryan race. If we give basic importance to the factors of race and heredity in our definition of ‘nation’, it will, under the present circumstances, take our nation on a particular course in the future. However, if the social institutions and the ideological structure prevailing for the last fourteen century…/

Read more:

An Introduction to ‘Ilm al-Kalam


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