Asabiyyah and Political Motives
According to Ayatullah Khomeini Asabiyyah is: “an inner psychic quality which is manifested in patronizing and defending one’s kindred and those with whom one has some kind of affinity or relation, whether it be religious creed or ideology, or whether it be soil or home. The affinity may also be similarity of profession or the relationship of teacher and pupil, or something else. It is a moral vice and an abominable trait which itself begets many more moral and behavioural deviations and vices as well. In itself a condemnable quality, it may take the form of defence of truth or religion, but in reality it is not aimed to defend a just and truthful cause but for extending one’s own influence or that of one’s co-religionists and allies.” Source.
Islam considers asabiyyah to be one the greatest of sins. It was this contemptible attribute that lead the pagans of Makkah to reject the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (a) with the following words: “No! we shall follow the ways of our fathers.” (Quran 2:170). It is this sort of close-mindedness and asabiyyah that has lead to some people’s vehement adherence to blood shedding. Thus we find that some people promote blood shedding only because it is a culture that they have become familiar with, and because of familial and community ties.
People who suffer from asabiyyah and close-mindedness can also be found among those who are considered to be people of religion and knowledge. History shows us that many knowledgeable Muslims have been people with undesirable characteristics.
Ayatullah Khomeini writes about the asabiyyah as seen in some scholars: “One of the types of `asabiyyahs is stubbornness in intellectual matters and the habit of supporting the statements and ideas of one’s own or that of one’s teacher or spiritual master not for the sake of defending truth and refuting falsehood. It is obvious that such a kind of `asabiyyah is worse and more improper in some ways than other types of `asabiyyah. This, because a scholar and an intellectual ought to be an instructor of mankind, scholarship being a branch of the tree of prophethood and wilayah itself.” Source.
Indeed according to Ahlulbayt (a) scholars can be amongst the best and the worst of people:
Imam Ali (a) was asked, “Who are the best of God’s creatures after the Imams?” He replied, “The scholars, when they are righteous.” He was asked, “And who are the worst of God’s creatures, after the Devil and the Pharoah?” He replied, “The scholars, when they are corrupt.”
A hadith of Imam al-Askari, Bihar al-Anwar, volume 89.
Blood flagellation has also been strongly promoted by some because of political motives. It has been used as a means to oppose and vilify the leadership of the Islamic Republic or Iran.
We must never reject the truth because it goes against beliefs that we have become accustomed to, nor should we reject it because it is against the views of our near ones, and we should not reject it due to any hatred that we may hold within ourselves. As Imam Ali (a) says: “… you should prefer truth (even) when it harms you rather than falsehood (even) when it benefits you …”.