|Imam Zijad’s Corner: SINCERE LOYALTY TO CANADA
Those who know Canadian Muslims well and interact with them on a regular day-to-day-basis know that in general, Canadian Muslims are far more law-abiding than their mass-media portrayals; some, in fact, are shown to be more loyal to Canada than most average citizens, as a 2007, 2010 or 2017 Environics reports show. The link: https://www.environicsinstitute.org/projects/project-details/survey-of-canadian-muslims
Why do I believe Canadian Muslims are more loyal and law-abiding than current stereotypes might suggest?
In recognition of living in Canada and benefiting from the freedoms and opportunities that this great nation presents to its naturalized citizens, I gave an explicit pledge of loyalty by taking an Oath of Allegiance during the ceremony in 2000 at which I became a citizen. My formative religious principles demand that I “faithfully observe my trusts and my covenants” (Qur’an 23:8; 70:32), while my citizenship Oath of Allegiance similarly demanded that “I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada and fulfill my duties as a Canadian citizen.”
Being faithful and compliant to the laws of Canada and fulfilling my duties as a citizen do not make me more loyal to my homeland than to God. Neither God nor Canada demands exclusive loyalty. God requires that I worship none but Him, but does not prohibit loyalty to others outside the sphere of worship. Canada’s constitution and civil laws rightly require that we be loyal to our nation, but at the same time, they do not prohibit loyalty to God.
Similarly, there is no conflict between being loyal to and caring for the worldwide Muslim community (Ummah) and being loyal to and caring for our Canadian neighbors and citizens of all faiths, or for that matter, the entire global human family. Actually, there is nothing in Islam that suggests Muslims should not be caring toward all human beings. As Prophet Muhammad said; “The best among the people are those who benefit other people” – and in this he meant all people everywhere, regardless of background, nationality, or belief.
Muhammad’s (S) message was, and always has been, a universal one; we are all a global family!
Among the historical recorded sayings of Muhammad (or hadith), the theme of caring for “neighbors,” our fellow human beings, is a recurring obligation. When the Prophet once repeated three times, “By God, he is not a believer!” he was asked, “Who is that, O Messenger of God?” Muhammad replied; “One whose neighbor does not feel safe from his/her evil.” Another narrative reports Muhammad as saying that, “He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his/her wrongful conduct,” and that “Angel Gabriel kept recommending treating neighbors with kindness until I thought he would assign for a neighbor a share of inheritance.”
There is no evidence in the Qur’an, or in the Prophetic tradition that comprises Islamic intellectual heritage, that I as a Canadian Muslim am asked to be disloyal to, or to betray my country and my people. On the contrary, Islamic sources provide ample encouragement and commendation to loyalty, faithfulness and respect for the nation and government under which we live.
This does not mean that I must blindly obey or believe whatever our national leaders tell me. For the well-being of Canada and Canadians, each citizen must be both self-critical and critically vigilant toward the government in power. There are times when citizens need to speak up on issues critical to the welfare and image of Canada and oppose forces of chaos that could threaten us both internally and internationally.
Loyalty to Canada thus means working toward domestic and foreign policies that are in Canada’s best interests and opposing those that one believes are harmful. As citizens in a democratic society, we will never agree unanimously on everything; but we need to agree on matters of common concern and relevance to us all.