Fatima Abdul Raouf

Fatima Abdul Raouf

The fall of the Ottoman Caliphate is a pivotal event in the civilizational history of our Ummah. Previously, the fall of an Islamic caliphate was followed by the rise of another, carrying the same religious identity regardless of ethnicity, race, and nationality. But the sacred religious foundation would remain untouched, serving as the legitimacy for the new caliphate.

However, the experience of the Ottoman Caliphate was entirely different. The caliphate, which had weakened and suffered from the afflictions of dying nations—an expected occurrence in what is known as the cycle of civilization—was toppled along with the identity that granted it legitimacy, namely, the Islamic union. The center of the caliphate transformed into an extreme nationalism that sought to disdain the Islamic identity, criminalize it, and blame it for civilizational backwardness. This also influenced our Arab countries, which pursued the narrative of Arab nationalism as an alternative identity to the Islamic union that had been discarded, associating it with ignorance, corruption, tyranny, and stagnation—traits found in dying civilizations that have nothing to do with religious identity. In fact, Islamic values that highlight shura (consultation), justice, and responsibility are completely contrary to these negative traits.


After the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate, two new identity trends emerged: patriotism and Arab nationalism.

However, the contradiction between the major values of identity and the miserable reality, along with attempts to reconcile the two, ultimately led (with intellectual and military conspiracies from the Western civilization that had renewed its identity) to a repulsion from the Islamic identity. Religion came to be considered an individual and personal matter, while identity was linked to race and language. Consequently, Arab nationalism flourished as an alternative capable of confronting occupation and its imperialist project in Palestine.


The June Defeat

There is no conflict between national, ethnic, and religious identities—these are merely overlapping circles that may start with smaller identities, perhaps beginning with the family and ending with broader identities encompassing all of humanity under the concept of human brotherhood; however, this notion seems theoretical. There is always one identity that dominates a nation at a given time and becomes the “mother of identities,” so to speak. After the tragic collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate, two new identity trends emerged: one was patriotic identity, and the other was Arab national identity. However, with the partitioning of Palestine, the declaration of a national homeland for the Jews, and the war in 1948, the trend of Arab nationalism was heightened as a new identity for the nation in opposition to the occupation and its spearhead in Palestine.

Everything was paving the way for this new identity: educational curricula, arts, new popular organizations, newspapers—everything intertwined to create the new Arab capable of defeating the Zionist entity, liberating his nation from the occupation’s hell, and elevating it to the ranks of advanced nations.

Here, we can observe that the consolidation of the new identity proceeded in two directions: one was popular, represented by student unions in universities, labor unions, and newspapers; the other was official, through attempts at unity, the creation of directed political organizations, and even silencing opposing voices by imprisoning them.

In this context, we observe the emergence of major projects and bold political decisions that challenge colonial powers and attempt to create new international alliances, such as the Non-Aligned Movement. Such efforts ignited the enthusiasm of the masses, eagerly awaiting the anticipated grand step of defeating the Zionist enemy, cleansing the land of its impurity, and, if possible, casting it into the sea!

The fervent poems, speeches, and nationalist songs that represented the youth's consciousness during this period served as the emotional and sentimental fuel for this new identity, which formed the great narrative of “Arab nationalism.” The Palestinian cause became a national sacred issue, according to this narrative. Freedoms were marginalized, opposition was rejected, and any discussion of other identities, even the Islamic identity, was dismissed—no voice was louder than the voice of battle.


The heavy defeat in June 1967 represented the first nail in the coffin of Arab nationalist identity.

This was until the nation awakened to the disaster of the Six-Day War, which shattered all the grand dreams and great sacrifices that the Arab people had experienced. It was a disgraceful defeat by all measures, with armies that did not fight, new Arab lands swallowed up along all lines of the conflict, and the loss of the remaining sacred land of Palestine.

The heavy defeat on the ground represented the first nail in the coffin of Arab nationalist identity and opened the door wide for questions and reassessments. The image of the charismatic leaders in whom the nation had placed its hopes fell. The Arab nationalism trend continued to represent the new identity for several more years, perhaps due to inertia or to shift the responsibility of the defeat onto some corrupt leaders rather than the project itself. The defeat was thus considered merely a setback in the path of Arab nationalist progress.


The “Al-Aqsa Flood” Battle

The victory of October 1973 served as a restoration of the nation's dignity, which had been squandered in 1967. The slogan “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is Great) raised in this war signaled the emergence of a new identity for the nation. However, what followed was a state of identity conflict between the nationalist identity, which had the highest cultural momentum, and the Islamic identity, seeking renewal away from the Ottoman legacy and its associated schools and experiences. There was also a resurgence of patriotic identity after large sectors rejected national identity and, following the start of negotiations, peace, normalization, reconciliation, and acceptance of the Zionist entity as part of the “Middle East.”

All this led to the gradual emergence of a new identity that partially or almost entirely abandoned the Palestinian cause. Normalization, which began as cold, limited, and condemned in most countries, became normal and enthusiastic, with steps accelerating to catch up with it. The fragmented patriotic identity melted into the new globalized identity, where acceptance and engagement with the Zionist entity became one of the conditions for integration.


The “Al-Aqsa Flood” marks the beginnings of a new identity for an Islamic Ummah that is feared and capable of action.

A distorted version of globalization has shaped our nation's identity in recent times. Pragmatism as a philosophy, despotism as a mode of governance, a rentier economy as a source of income, the absence of any genuine major projects on either the national or pan-Arab levels, the rejection of the Arabic language in youth and educational circles, and worst of all, the feeling that we are compelled to accept this identity, unable to act. The Zionist entity has become an existential reality that must be accepted and dealt with.

The “Al-Aqsa Flood” Battle on October 7, 2023, came to shake the course of events, as if the victory of the enemy in the Six-Day War and the subsequent developments were met by this battle to shake its foundations and shatter its illusions. The enemy and the new imperialist powers were on the verge of achieving a decisive victory, not like the June War, which could be a setback to correct the course, but rather on the level of penetrating consciousness and identity. The nation was made to accept defeat willingly, even seeing defeat as a victory and perceiving their enemy and its supporters as an unbeatable force, thus deciding to surrender under the guise of friendship.

However, the “Al-Aqsa Flood” proves to them that they have fallen victim to psychological defeat and that a small, primitively equipped resistance group terrifies and frightens the enemy simply because they adopted Allah's words: “And you did not throw when you threw, but it was Allah who threw.” (Al-Anfal: 17) as their slogan. They strove in their efforts and relied on Allah, achieving what the helpless deemed impossible.

We can say that the “Al-Aqsa Flood” marks the beginnings of a new identity for an Islamic Ummah that is feared and capable of action, not just mere scum. Effort, striving, and victory are the gateways for nations to form identities.



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