Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

What has tribalism done to us?

  |  April 10, 2013

There is nothing wrong with being proud of one's tribe, but boasting about it is problematic. In the Arab world, tribalism has only divided people. Many marriages and relationships have been broken because of the tribal superiority complex. One can see the distaste on the face of some people when they talk about others' tribes as though as they are less of a human.

A few days ago, a 14-year-old girl approached me in one of the shops and asked me: Which family do you belong to? It was extremely disheartening to hear such a question from such a young girl. What assumptions was she making?

Many families plant the seed of tribal arrogance in their children's hearts, causing them to look down upon others who have lesser-known family names.

I don't understand what is so great about belonging to so-and-so family? Many youth brag about their tribal names and sometimes use it to harass others. I wonder, what have they done to earn that title? Did they shed their blood and lives for that? The title was given to them by birth, like a stamp on a passport.

The poet Zayn Al Din Umar Ibn Al Wardi once said:

A manís true worth lies not in his lineage, but in what deeds his hands make Though fatherless, a man can rule and good judgement will always prevail Value, whether lacking or abundant, is the measure of a manís merit

It is ironic that many Arab and non-Arab Muslims have memorised the final sermon of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) where he stressed: An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab. Also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except in piety and good action.

Indeed, the value of a man lies in his action and character rather than a name that is passed on. Unfortunately, these words remain only that Ė words, rather than deeds Ė for many Muslims. Too many have not internalised the meaning and implemented it in their lives.

This will not change anytime soon. All we can do is try to teach our children that who they are is more important than the name they bear.