I remember the day clearly, as though it was yesterday. We were in the maktab madrasah, and Moulana had not yet arrived. In our midst was a newcomer to the madrasah, a young boy named Abdul Hameed who had relocated from another town.

As young children, aged around five or six, we were fascinated by Abdul Hameed as his accent was completely different and sounded foreign to our own. Hearing Abdul Hameed’s unique accent, one of the children jokingly asked him, “Abdul Hameed! What language do you speak?” Without hesitating for even a second, and in all seriousness, Abdul Hameed replied, “I speak Islam.”

At the time, we found this answer hilarious, but in retrospect, it has given me much food for thought.

Throughout our lives, we have various affiliations with different groups and entities. In terms of our ethnicity, one person may be Bengali and another Somalian. In terms of the places where we live, one may be a Durbanite and another a Capetonian. In terms of language, one may be English-speaking while another may be Urdu-speaking.

More than twenty-five years later, what strikes me regarding the young Abdul Hameed is that he did not say that he spoke English, but rather that he spoke Islam. This indicates that from all the various affiliations which he may have had, his link, affiliation and attachment to Islam and the Muslims was the greatest and the most deeply ingrained in his heart and mind.

The young children, as well as the adults, of today are pulled in many directions, and there are many groups and entities that are vying for their affiliation and competing for their loyalty. They are taught to be loyal to their school, and hence when they grow up, many people are proud to be alumni of a certain alma mater and even attend the reunion functions.

Likewise, they are instructed to be patriotic and loyal to their country of residence, and thus display the slogan “Proudly South African”. At the time of the recent rugby world cup, many Muslims – children and adults alike – dressed in Springbok colours and displayed the Springbok logo on their WhatsApp statuses, expressing loyalty and support for their country’s team.

Similarly, many people are proud supporters of a certain sports star. Accordingly, they faithfully follow the match and loyally ‘support’ their player, cheering and booing when appropriate.

However, the question is, “Should a Muslim express loyalty for these non-Muslim entities and attribute himself to these non-Muslim groups and people?” To better understand this issue, let us ponder over the following hadeeth:

Sayyiduna Abu ‘Uqbah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), a freed-slave who hailed from Persia, reports: I participated in the Battle of Uhud with Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam). I struck a man from the disbelievers and exclaimed, “Take this (strike) from me, and I am the Persian slave!” (Hearing this,) Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) turned towards me and said, “Why did you not say, ‘Take this from me, and I am the Ansaari slave!’?” (Sunan Abi Dawood #5123)

Commenting on the above hadeeth, Mulla Ali Qaari (rahimahullah) explains that it was as though Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was saying to Sayyiduna Abu ‘Uqbah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu), “When you are expressing happiness and bravery over striking the enemy, then attribute yourself to the Ansaar whom I performed hijrah towards and who assisted me.”

Mulla Ali Qaari (rahimahullah) then further explains, “The people of Persia, at that time, were kuffaar, and hence Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) disliked Sayyiduna Abu ‘Uqbah (radhiyallahu ‘anhu) attributing himself to them (when expressing happiness over the achievement). Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) commanded him to attribute himself to the Ansaar so that he may be affiliated and linked with the people of Islam.” (Mirqaat vol. 8, pg. 642)

From this, we understand that though we may be South African, as we live in South Africa, however it is nothing to be proud about as South Africa is a non-Muslim country. Hence, a Muslim should not call himself “Proudly South African”, as his pride and joy is in being a Muslim from the brotherhood of Islam.

Having understood the above, we realise that it is even worse when a person attributes himself to a sports team or sports star etc. – especially as these sports teams and sports stars are symbols and figureheads of the very disbelievers who seek to destroy Islam and the Muslims.

Though we should not be following or supporting any of these teams – how can we support and cheer on these teams and players who represent the very countries which are responsible for slaughtering and massacring our innocent brothers and sisters in Palestine?

Remember – a Muslim’s loyalty lies with Islam. Islam is our happiness and joy. Never should we be proud or find joy in attributing ourselves to the non-Muslims.

May Allah Ta‘ala make us true Muslims, aameen.