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The Formation and Development of the National Community in the Arab World

(1) The Term

Establishment of the idea:

One of the advantages of modern social sciences is its steady and persistent interest in the movement of human communities, or what we may call it the laws and social norms, and the more the scope of the work of these sciences has expanded in the scientific universities and institutes of the Arab World; the more that idea of steadiness and persistence has flourished and stabilized.

However, there arethree key problems encountered us in addressing the modern social sciences to this issue, since these problems are not made in our Arab World, but rather they are parts of the structure of these sciences as produced and employed by the Western mind in general, and the following are among of these problems:

  • The great difference as to these laws, and which one represents the first logic for the social change and transformation; is it the social act, or the nature of social relationships, or a phenomenon developing in a dialectical relationship among a group of overlapping phenomena, or others.
  • The broad scope of the interpretation and intuition in these laws has pushed some countries to exploit the social sciences for improper political purposes, and to call for maintaining the status quo under the alleged scientific umbrella, even the departments of the social sciences in some major universities in the world were involved in the arrangement to invade some countries, as is the case with the United States with some South American countries.
  • The third problem is that the tendency of many sociologists to suppose that there is a social compulsion arising from the persistence of these laws and their oppression to the individual who is subject to them, even if there are who reject this trend such as the famous social German philosopher Max Weber.

In any event, we do not find these problems in the Islamic sources that are indicating to the laws and social norms, although they did not concern with considering these social norms, nor provide further elaboration in them as they are not their main task. If we for example had a look at the words of God Almighty: (Many similar ways (and mishaps of life) were faced ﴿by nations (believers and disbelievers) that have passed away﴾ before you, so travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who denied.) [āl ʿimrān 137] the Qur’anic verse referred to the human freedom that the Sharia established for the human being, this balance seemed to call the person to direct these cosmic laws in achieving his straight objectives, not to violate them and leave himself a victim to them.

we, therefore, based on this introduction, want to establish the idea of “National community” that is a kind of human social resurrection imposed by a society’s need to protect a dimension of society or one of its rights that might be added to its representation at the external level and its management in the crises, then the birth of the government and monitoring it through a framework that is more general than the framework of official institutions.

The social resurrection that gives birth to this “community” in each era is being coloured according to the prevailing political and social culture. As long as we are in the era of the national-state and nationalism, this community – which we are about to talk about – has been characterized as “national”. Hence, we can say: other images of the national community have emerged in every human community and in every era in one form or another, but it was on pattern aligned to its era or on a pattern other than the model of our time in which we live.

The meaning of the term:

The term “National community” has been coined by the prominent Egyptian thinker, Tarek El-Bishry, who defined it as “the unity of basic political belonging on which the political formation is based, is being concerned with it alone, which includes many forces and groups that make up the elements of political community”[1].

He focused on defining the aspects of this community as a political entity carrying out its role within the general structure of people or the nation, and he distinguished it by the following:

  • The national community is not the whole people, it is only a part of the general social structure of people; and it is not also “the citizens” nor even the “patriots”  but this does not mean to deprive a person of his right to belong to his nation and country, or to grant rights to some people without others for an unlawful or immoral reason. But by the very nature of the case, everyone does not practice politics and work in a larger scope of his personal or family scope, but rather this is confined to certain groups of people, whom the se-called “the national community” is formed from them.
  • He completed the previous point as he said that the national community is not an enclosed entity for its members that other citizens cannot access it. However, the membership is conditioned to serving the national issues intellectually or as an activist or whatever aspect of public service.
  • The national community is not necessarily a single political spectrum, but rather any person, party, group or community adopts Political attitudes in which it consider that such attitudes meet the interests of the nation.
  • The previous element implies that the national community should accommodate the religious, sectarian and ethnic diversities represented in the nation. As all of those are different in thoughts but express common belonging to the homeland.

El-Bishry uses another term close to that term in some of his writings which is the “mainstream”, as he meant by it that there is an existent common national project that bring together multiple national components, which it is “a basic framework that organizes the relationship between these different components, and accommodates various opinion, without denying the national priorities that the historic phase requires[2].”

Other problems

There is no doubt that there are other problems in the issue of national community at the theoretical level that need to be studied, including the following questions: is the national identity, in that case, repeals the rest of religious, sectarian, cultural and linguistic identities of the nation?, and in case there are multiple identities in the national community, which one should prevail over the state’s constitution and its general cultural system?, and is it necessary for the national community to have an umbrella, or it is sufficient to have an inclusive idea related to the nation’s interest in general?, and  there are other questions that we will discuss them further in upcoming episodes Insha’Allah.

Although El-Bishry’s pervious definition avoided considering the national community as a product of crises as if its existence is a natural social matter, we should a appreciate the feeling of danger and the occurrence of the crises in this side, as they are the catalyst for gathering and the agreement to exert efforts to preserve oneself, identity, culture, land and honour.

As a result of the importance of the national community, alongside its effect in moving the political and social atmosphere and changing it, some of those that affected by its existence may resort to creating a parallel national community that is appropriate for who made it, those simply are the internal authoritarian regimes and external occupation forces, for either to fill the vacuum that they fear it might be filled by other forces clashing with them, or they seek to disturb an existing national community working against them.

These two parties – occupation and authoritarian – often seek to penetrate the national groups through recruiting the agents into its ranks, dispersing its forces, and maybe dispersing it by harsh means. This means that the national community needs a double effort at the time of crises. Because it does not often work in ideal conditions nor favourable conditions.

There is no doubt that the awareness of the components of the national community and its spectraums to their common destiny that brings them together and the country that includes it, is a fundamental element in postponing differences and disagreements when needed, and focusing on what bringing them together, which is what the sayings of the Christian patriots in Egypt and the Levant approve of that they are Christians by religion, but they are Muslims of civilization!.

“The opinion stated herein does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Barq for Policies and Consultations”

All rights reserved to Barq Policies and Consultations © 2021


[1]  – Tarek El-Bishry Towards a Basic Current for the Nation, pp. 38-39. He also has another important and great book entitled “Muslims and Copts within the National Community”.

[2] . El-Bishry: pervious pp9

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