Can you please provide us with some guidelines regarding the national anthem being sung by our school during its various functions?
Is it permissible, standing up for it, placing hands on chest etc..?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
As-salāmu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullāhi wa-barakātuh.
The National Anthem: Background
A national anthem (also national hymn, song etc.) is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and eulogizes the history, traditions and struggles of its people, recognized either by a nation’s government as the official national song, or by convention through use by the people.
The national anthem of South Africa, Nkosi Sekelel’ iAfrika was composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga, a Methodist school teacher. It was originally sung as a church hymn but later became an act of political defiance against the apartheid Government. Die Stem van Suid-Afrika/The Call of South Africa was written by C.J. Langenhoven in 1918. “Die Stem” was the co-national anthem with God Save the King/Queen from 1936 to 1957, when it became the sole national anthem until 1994. The South African Government under Nelson Mandela adopted both songs as national anthems from 1994 until they were merged in 1997 to form the current anthem.
The lyrics of the anthem employ the five most populous of South Africa’s eleven official languages – isiXhosa (first stanza, first two lines), isiZulu (first stanza, last two lines), seSotho (second stanza), Afrikaans (third stanza) and English (final stanza).
The National Anthem: What does it mean?
The national anthem could mean different things for different people. For some, it could be an expression of being a proud citizen having the choice to do whatever he believes in, for others it could mean celebrating unity in diversity and for others it could mean celebrating the success of the liberation struggle. Generally, the underlying spirit and motive of the national anthem is to spur nationalism and patriotism. This is also understood from the rulings of the courts in the USA when a school wanted to make singing the national anthem compulsory. The court ruled against it and stated that the school cannot impose patriotism on the students. Children should be left free to inculcate and develop their own minds and feelings. The courts in South Africa have not yet ruled on the issue. Since the general purpose of the national anthem is an expression of patriotism, we wish to highlight that angle in our Fatwaa.
Recognition of Diversity and Patriotism in Shariah
Moderation is the hallmark of Islam. Any deviation towards negligence or extremism is condemned.
Shariah gives recognition to every natural angle and dimension of human beings, from the male gender to the female gender, from blood relations to milk relations, from families to tribes and from nations to trans-nations.
Consider the following verses:
يا أيا الناس انا خلقناكم من ذكر و أنثي
Translation: “Oh People! Indeed we have created you from male and female” (Surah Hujurat, 13)
وجعلناكم شعوبا و قبائل
Translation: “And we have created you as Nations and Tribes” (Ibid)
ياأيها الذين آمنوا لا يسخر قوم من قوم
Translation: “Oh you who believe! One nation should not look down upon another nation” (Surah Hujuraat, 11)
Shariah also appreciates the diverse values and practices emanating through gender, family, cultural, ethnic and national differences and accordingly have laws governing such issues.
The divine reason given for the categorization of human beings as tribes, families and nations in mutual recognition and respect for each other. After explaining the basics of human beings, Allah (Subahanahu Wa Ta’ala) says:
Translation: “So that you may recognize each other” (Surah Hujuraat, 13)
It is natural for a human being that is born and brought up in a particular tribe or country to love his tribe and country. This is also appreciated and recognized in Shariah. Hazrath Bilal (Radhiyallahu Anhu) migrated to Madeenah Munawwarah and he fell sick. He began thinking of valleys, trees, and water wells of his native land, Makkah Mukarramah and expressed his wish in poetic form. Consider the following Hadeeth:
حدثنا قتيبة عن مالك عن هشام بن عروة عن أبيه عن عائشة أنها قالت لما قدم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم المدينة وعك أبو بكر وبلال رضي الله عنهما قالت فدخلت عليهما
وكان بلال إذا أقلعت عنه يقول
ألا ليت شعري هل أبيتن ليلة بواد وحولي إذخر وجليل
وهل أردن يوما مياه مجنة وهل تبدون لي شامة وطفيل
Translation: Aisha (Radhiyallahu Anha) says that Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) came to Madeenah and Abu Bakr and Bilal (Radhiyallahu Anhuma) did not agree with the climate of Madeenah. She further states: “Whenever the fever would subside from Bilal, he would say: “If only I could spend one night in a valley with Izkhir and Jaleel around me and how I wish for a day when I would drink the water of Mijannah and How I wish Shamah and Tufail would appear before me.” (Saheeh al-Bukhair, Hadeeth # 5330)
The books of Hadeeth have dedicated chapters on the recognition of the various tribes, for example the Quraish:
قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : الناس تبع لقريش في الخير والشر
Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: “Mankind are followers of the Quraish in good and bad” (Musannaf, Hadeeth # 4755)
Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) also mentioned the other tribes.
قريش و الأنصار و جهينة و مزينة و أسلم و غفار , أشجع موالي، ليس لهم مولي دون الله و رسوله
Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: “The Quraish, Ansaar, Juhainah, Muzainah, Aslam, Ghifaar and Ashja are masters, they do not have any master except Allah and His messenger” (Bukhari, Hadeeth # 3512)
The recognition given to the various tribes induces a sense of honour and pride in its members.
Whilst there is general recognition of diversity in ethnicity and nationality, if there is a good quality or moral that enhances the value of the tribe or nation, that is also recognized and praiseworthy.
حدثنا ابن أبي عمر حدثنا سفيان بن عيينة عن أبي الزناد عن الأعرج عن أبي هريرة ح وعن ابن طاوس عن أبيه عن أبي هريرة قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم خير نساء ركبن الإبل قال أحدهما صالح نساء قريش وقال الآخر نساء قريش أحناه على يتيم في صغره وأرعاه على زوج في ذات يده
Translation: Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said “The best women are those who ride camels, one of the narrators said “The pious Quraishi women and the other narrator said “The women of the Quraish, the most kind to an orphan in infancy and most considerate to her husband’s wealth and possessions.” (Saheeh Muslim, Hadeeth #2527)
Conversely, if there is anything un- Islamic, for example oppression based on patriotism, that will be condemned.
و عن بنت واثلة ابن الأسقع أنها سمعت أباها يقول : قلت: يا رسول الله: ما العصبية؟ قال: أن تعين قومك علي الظلم
“Hadhrat Wathila Bin Asqa asked Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam): What is Asabiyyah? He replied: To assist your nation/people upon oppression.” (Abu Dawood, Hadeeth # 5119)
Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
عَنْ جُبَيْرِ بْنِ مُطْعِمٍ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : ( لَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ دَعَا إِلَى عَصَبِيَّةٍ وَلَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ قَاتَلَ عَلَى عَصَبِيَّةٍ وَلَيْسَ مِنَّا مَنْ مَاتَ عَلَى عَصَبِيَّةٍ
“He who invites towards Patriotism, fights because of Patriotism and dies upon Patriotism is not from amongst us” (Abu Dawood, Hadeeth # 5121)
Hadhrat Moulana Khalil Ahmed Saharanpuri (Rahmatullahi Alayhi) states under the commentary of this Hadeeth that “The meaning of dying on Asabiyyah is that Asabiyyah becomes entrenched in the heart of the person and one becomes desirous of Asabiyyah even though he did not invite anyone nor did he kill anyone.” 
Patriotism has a tendency of evoking deep emotions in a person which could overshadow the correct and proper thinking of an individual. Such a person is robbed with his moderation, justice and fairness.
Consider the following thought provoking incident of patriotism that took place at the time of Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam)’s response to such patriotism.
اخبرنا ابن جريج قال : أخبرني عمرو بن دينار أنه سمع جابرا يقول: غزونا مع النبي و قد ثاب معه ناس من المهاجرين حتي كثروا ، و كان من المهاجرين رجل لعاب فكسع أنصاريا، فغضب الأنصاري غضبا شديدا، حتي تداعوا، و قال الأنصاري: يا للأنصار و قال المهاجري: يا للمهاجرين، فخرج النبي فقال: ما بال دعوي أهل الجالية؟ ثم قال: ما شأنهم، فأخبر بكسعة المهاجري الأنصاري، فقال النبي: دعواها فانها خبيثة
Hadhrat Amr Bin Deenar narrates that he heard Jabir saying: “We went out in battle with Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) and a group of Muhajireen also joined until they increased, and there was a very playful/jovial man from the Muhajireen and he hit an Ansari on the back, the Ansari became very angry until they both rallied for support. The Ansari said: Oh Ansar! Help me. And the Muhajir said: “Oh Muhajireen! Help me. Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) emerged and enquired: What is the condition of the claim of the people of Jahiliyyah? Then he said: “What is their matter? Then he was informed of the Muhajir’s hitting of the Ansari. Then Nabi (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: leave that for verily it is filthy”. (Bukhari, Hadeeth # 3519)
Shariah Analysis of singing the National Anthem
The National Anthem is generally sung at official government platforms and national events. It is generally observed that the nationalistic and patriotic sentiments and emotions of the participants of such events are stirred up and ignited. The feelings of National Pride, Patriotism and National Loyalty are instilled and entrenched in the hearts of the participants of such events. This is clearly understood from the emotional reactions of the citizens and supporters of one’s national team.
The concept of Patriotism is highly debated. Patriotism is a nationalistic feeling of pride that manifests itself in small and big ways. Some say it is a civic virtue while others believe it is a dangerous way of thinking. There are some positives in Patriotism like unity and obedience. People of a country tend to be united on nationalistic issues and also tend to obey their government. Others believe that Patriotism is bad and has many negative consequences such as inculcating a conformist attitude to the Government of the time. This leads to complacency against the evils emanating from the Government. Extreme Patriotism leads to a sense of superiority of one’s nation and creates a sense of inferiority for others.
According to Shariah, the good of anything is good and the bad of anything is bad. The ruling of the national anthem could be analogous to poetry. Poetry itself is not prohibited. The good of poetry is good and the bad of poetry is bad. Consider the following Hadeeth:
Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
الشعر بمنزلة الكلام فحسنه كحسن الكلام و قبيحه كقبيح الكلام
Translation: Rasullullah (Sallallahu ALayhi Wa Sallam) said “Poetry is like speech. The good poetry is like good speech and the evil poetry is like evil speech” (Tabrani)
However, excessive poetry has a potential of many negative effects and therefore we are warned against such dangers of excessive poetry. Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
و عن ابي الزعزاء قال: قال عبد الله يعني ابن مسعود: لأن يمتلئ جوف الرجل قيحا، خير له من أن يمتلئ شعرا
Translation: It is narrated from Hadhrat Abdullah Bin Mas’ood that “It is better that the mouth of a person be filled with pus than being filled with poetry” (Tabrani)
وَجْهَهُ عِنْدِي أَنْ يَمْتَلِئَ قَلْبُهُ مِنَ الشِّعْرِ حَتَّى يَغْلِبَ عَلَيْهِ فَيَشْغَلَهُ عَنِ الْقُرْآنِ وَعَنْ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ فَيَكُونُ الْغَالِبُ عَلَيْهِ فَأَمَّا إِذَا كَانَ الْقُرْآنُ وَالْعِلْمُ الْغَالِبَيْنِ عَلَيْهِ فَلَيْسَ جَوْفُهُ مُمْتَلِئًا مِنَ الشِّعْرِ (فتح البارى، ج 10، ص 549، دار المعرفة – بيروت)
The Muhadditheen have mentioned that the reprehensibility for poetry in the above Hadeeth occurs when poetry overpowers one and makes one negligent of reciting the Qur’an and making the Zikr of Allah.
While we acknowledge that the national anthem represents some broad Islamically accepted principles, etc, it also has a potential of un-Islamic factors in it for example:
1) Inducing a conformist attitude. There are many un-Islamic values and practices in a nation. It is incorrect for a Muslim to agree and conform to such values.
2) Inducing Superiority and the feeling of inferiority of others. This too is un-Islamic. Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said:
يا أيها الناس ألا إن ربكم واحد وإن أباكم واحد ألا لا فضل لعربي على أعجمي ولا لعجمي على عربي
Translation: Rasullullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) said “Oh People! Indeed your Rabb is one and your father is one. Behold! There is no virtue for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadeeth # 22391)
The un-Islamic conduct of national superiority is evident from citizens of first class countries.
3) There are a host of other negative consequences of patriotism like xenophobia, jingoism, warfare, etc.
The purpose of introducing singing the national anthem at Islamic schools is to induce patriotism in the students and make them feel proudly South African. While we appreciate being South African citizens due to enjoying many human and religious values in our beautiful country and maintain a co-operative relationship with our Government and citizens, we have to guard and protect our Islamic ethos from being overshadowed by anything else. We therefore advise against introducing the singing of the national anthem at Islamic schools.
As an Ummah, we transcend cultural, geographical and national boundaries and bind ourselves universally with the value and reverence of the Kalimah.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Mufti Ebrahim Desai.