Choice of Texts

Michel Aflak

On Heritage



Everything that Islam has achieved in victories and culture was in the germinal stage in the first twenty years of the message. Before they conquered the lands, the Arabs had conquered themselves and penetrated into the innermost of their souls. Before they governed nations, they governed themselves and controlled their passions and were in possession of their wills.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 -April, 1943)

We might not be seen among those who pray and we might not fast with those who fast, but we believe in God because we are in dire need of Him. Our burden is onerous, our road is rough and our aim is high. We have reached this faith; we did not start with it. We arrived at it through sufferings and hardships and did not receive it by inheritance nor was it handed down to us conventionally. For this reason it is invaluable for us, being the fruit of our efforts.
)In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 -April, 1943(

Until now the life of the prophet was regarded from the outside, as an admirable image for our appreciation and consecration. We now have to start looking at it from within, so that we can live it. Every Arab at present can live the life of the Arab prophet even though by comparison he is no more than a stone to the mountain or a drop of water to the sea. Naturally, no man, however great he is, is capable of doing what Mohammed did. It is also natural that any man, however small his capacity, could be a miniature of Mohammed, so long as he belongs to the nation, which concentrated all its powers to produce Mohammed. Or rather, so long as this man is one within a nation which Mohammed concentrated all his efforts to produce. Sometime in the past, the life of a whole nation was summarized in one man. Today the whole life of this nation in its revival should be the detail of the life of its great man. Mohammed was all the Arabs. Let all the Arabs today be Mohammed.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet -April, 1943)

But does this mean that Islam has come to be confined to the Arabs? If we say this we shall be far from the truth and so deviate from reality. Every great nation deeply connected with the eternal meanings of the universe, moves in its very genesis towards the eternal and universal values. Islam is, therefore, for the Arab people in its actuality, and for all mankind in its ideal objectives. The message of Islam is to create Arab humanism.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 April, 1943)

Therefore the meaning which Islam reveals in this historic and important epoch and at this decisive stage in development is that all the efforts should be directed to strengthening the Arabs and awakening them and that these efforts should be within the framework of Arab nationalism.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 -April, 1943)

A day will come when the nationalists will find themselves the only defenders of Islam. They will have to give a special meaning to it if they want the Arab nation to have a good reason for survival.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 April, 1943)

The pure nationalist idea in the West was consistent with itself when it separated nationalism from religion.
Religion entered Europe from the outside; therefore it is alien to its character and history. It is a combination of otherworldly faith and morals. It was not revealed to them originally in their languages. It did not express the needs of their environment nor was it fused with their history. Islam, on the other hand, neither is to the Arabs, not only an otherworldly faith nor is it merely a moral code, but it is also the clearest expression of their universal feeling and their view of life. It is the strongest expressions of the unity of their personality in which word, feeling, thought, mediation, action, soul, and destiny, are all integrated and work in harmony together.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 -April, 1943)

The connection of Islam to Arabism is not, therefore, similar to that of any religion to any nationalism. The Arab Christians, when their nationalism is fully awakened and when they restore their genuine character, will recognize that Islam for them is nationalist education in which they have to be absorbed in order to understand and love it to the extent that they become concerned about Islam as about the most precious thing in their Arabism. If the actual reality is still far from this wish, the new generation of Arab Christians has a task which it should perform with daring and detachment, sacrificing for it their pride and benefits, for there is nothing that equals Arabism and the honor of belonging to it.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet -April, 1943)

Islam is nothing but offspring of sufferings, the sufferings of Arabism. These sufferings have come back to the Arab land in a degree of violence and depth unknown to the Arabs of Jahilyah (Pre-Islamic Arabs). How many more such sufferings will be brought by a cleansing revolution equal to the revolution that Islam carried on its banner? Only the new Arab generation can shoulder the responsibility for such a revolution and appreciate its necessity, for the sufferings of the present time have prepared it to do so. Its love of its soil and history has prepared it for knowing its spirit and orientation.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1.April, 1943)

The true glorification of heroism stems from participating in it and assessing it through suffering and experience. No one can appreciate the hero if he has not realized at least a small part of heroism in his own life.
(In memory of the Arab Prophet, 1 -April, 1943)

There is a great gap separating this nation from its past. There is also a great gap between it and the other nations of the present time. This nation pursues one goal, which may seem at first sight a double one. It wants to be elevated and be equal to its glorious past and be developed to reach the present stage of other nations...
Thus its remembrance of its past and its awareness of the present of other nations become a dual urge for it to rise. We would say in other words that it should have from its awareness of the present of other nations and its remembrance of its past an impetus as well as an inevitable course of action.
(The duty of nationalist action -1943)

We should not forget that Arab culture in the past was not possible and could not have been realized had it not been for that period of struggle which did not take more than a few decades; but it was the spiritual yeast, the psychological and moral treasure which permitted the Arabs to expand, spread and intermingle with various nations who were in a luxurious cultural milieu.
In spite of the latter they were able to retain their capacity Łor creativity and inventiveness.
(The party of radical change-February, 1949)

The past as the reality of the Arab soul, as an actual reality of the Arab soul, cannot come or return and descend on us. We have to march towards it in progressive and forward way. We have to rise and ascend to it. We have to go to it through a rough on tiring road so that we cultivate in ourselves the virtues, gifts and forces that will enable us at last to understand it. Then we will be fused with it when meeting it. The forward march, the ascending advance on the road of genuine change is the only way for us to meet our past and this meeting cannot take place except through ascension. It cannot be a descension or a motion downwards, nor can it be reached through inertia and immobility.
(The meanings of Radical Change, 1 -February, 1950)

Our attachment to the Spirit of the nation and its heritage will increase our drive, strengthen our forward march and ensure our orientation, thus we shall not be irresolute for we shall then be confident that every, thing will be consonant with the spirit of our nation.
When our point of departure is strong, which is the saturation in the spirit of our nation and the clear understanding of ourselves and our reality, truly sensing our needs, we shall not be susceptible to assuming artificial ideas or imitating others. Our ideas will be natural to us and creatively so for they will be the result of our true feeling and our true needs. Our sense of this profound nationalist bond with our nation will open our eyes to our present and painful state of affairs and will let us see the contrast between our reality and our truth. It will give us with the responsibility of saving the nation, and consequently will let us reach the progressive change.
(The relation between Arabism and the movement of radical change, 1 -1950)

The past for which we long and which was the reason for the strength of the Arabs, their freedom and their historic renaissance is it anything but a true and courageous progressivism compared with the thinking and conditions proceeding it?
(Progressivism is the way to contact our past, I -Al-Baath - February 7, 1950)

Our strength, therefore, is not only the strength of the large number of the Arabs at this time but it is also the strength of Arab history for we are marching in the direction of the genuine Arab Spirit, we are acting according to what our heroic ancestors would want us to do at all times.
(The Arab Baath is the will of life, 1 -April, 1950)

We are supported by three fundamental forces sufficient to fill our hearts with confidence and determination. The present time force of the Arab people, that of Arab history in the past and the force of human history in its progress toward liberty, socialism and unity.
(The Arab Baath is the will of life, 1 -April, 1950)

It could be said that Syria represents the focal point of the currents that attract the Arabs in our time. It is open to the impact of Western culture while its heart is full of Arab sentiments and memories. For this reason every interaction between Syria and the cultures of modern times stirs its Arabic conscience and leads to a new expression of this conscience, awakened to new conditions of life.
(The Arabs between their past and their future, I -1950)

Destructiveness does not lie, as the exploiting and conservative cliques pretend, in the surges of liberation, but in the misguidance which retards the release of living elements from the prison of a conservative milieu and delays the deliverance of the liberation forces from false, superficial and degenerate conditions.
(The Arabs between their past and their future, 1 -1950)

Any definition of the spirit and its values, which does not essentially include the impact of the economic factors, assess their importance and envisage their results is an inadequate and false definition. The danger to spirit does not come from those who deny it and who challenge it but from those who feign it and conceal some of its fundamental aspects. Any emphasis on spiritual values that stops at words and abstract principles and does not dare to face the real truths and the march with the principle to the end of the road of realization, is in fact treason and a denial of the soul as well at it is a confirmation of its opposite, that is, a screen concealing blind matter.
(The Arabs between their past and their future, 1 -1950)

The Arab Baath is a nationalist movement, which addresses itself to all Arabs of all religions and sects and sanctifies the freedom of faith and looks at religions with equal respect and appreciation. But it sees in Islam a nationalist aspect of grave importance in the formation of the Arab history and nationality .The Baath considers this aspect to have close connection with the spiritual heritage of the Arabs and the qualities of their genius.
The Arab Baath was the first movement to clarify this connection and it has put it in its final formula, thus resolving an age-old crisis and saving Arab nationalism from two deviated concepts: The concept of abstract nationalism which imposes artificiality and impoverishment on it, and concept of religious nationalism which condemns it to contradiction and annihilation.
(The Arabs between their past and their future, 1 .1950)

As religion is the overflowing spring of the soul, the secularism, which we want for the state, is one that by liberating religion from the exigencies and intricacies of politics will allow it to soar freely in the life of individuals and society, instilling its profound and genuine spirit, which is a pre-requisite for the revival of the nation.
(The Arabs between their past and their future -1950)

It is quite natural, therefore, that the people closest to Islam and the most keenly sensitive and responsive to it are the revolutionary generation, the generation in revolt against the corrupt old. But we do not see this, in other words, the revolutionary generation, either entirely or in its majority, does not recognize this connection between itself and Islam, while those who pretend to be aware of this connection and cling to it are the enemies of the revolution, the representatives of old conditions which must be eradicated for the Arab nation to rise.
(Our view of religion, 1 -March, 1956)

Religion, as it appears to us when reviewing the history of mankind from the most ancient times to the present day, is fundamental in the life of humanity. In this we leave behind the cheap cynicism with regard to religion assumed by some young but shallow people. The question of religion is quite serious and we cannot solve it by words or by a superficial and transient judgment.
But we have to differentiate between religion with its true and genuine aims and religion as incorporated, or as it appears, in certain concepts, conventions, customs and interests, in certain conditions and places.
(Our view of religion -March, 1956)

If we imagine the first Muslims who knew the fight for the principle and who experienced all its hardships, passed its test and paid its price, if we imagine that community or certain of its members coming today and descending on our present Arab life. ..Imagine them in their revolutionary and struggling frame of mind, with their acute sense of what is right, and their conviction that right is a sacred thing the knowledge of which is not sufficient, but we have to teach it to the others and we have to be ready to die for it until the others can have it, this is the frame of mind of the believer in the call of his right. Should they come today, which milieu they would find appropriate and trustworthy, where they feel at home? It is that of social injustice, that of the rich and distinguished men of society, the exploiters of the people who sleep soundly while ninety per cent of our people live in misery, disease and indignity? Could they live with this class of exploiters and occupiers of leading positions? Or would they live with those who defend that class, at times in the name of religion, at others by any other name? I believe that the first Muslims, should they come back today, would not find life bearable except in dark and miserable villages, together with the oppressed and the enslaved, and in prisons together with the fighters, for those who urge for right always side with right.
(Our view of religion, 1 -March, 1956)

We do not approve of atheism and do not encourage it. We consider it a fake attitude towards life. A false, injurious and fallacious stance, for life means belief, and the atheist is a liar, he says something and believes in something else. he is a believer in something, in certain values. We see in atheism a pathological symptom the causes of which must be known for it to be cured and do not view it as something that should be punished, as this will not eliminate atheism but increase it. When we find the causes then we can eradicate atheism.
I said that atheism is a false attitude and this means that the atheist pretends something but acts on something different. The revolution against religion in Europe is itself a religion. It is a belief in high and human ideals and values. It is nearer to the true and genuine religion.
That revolution has carried the seeds of creativeness and reform as it has shaken society and individuals in a violent manner. It has lead them to know themselves and shown them the deceit by which they were duped for long. It has liberated them, released their humanity and individuality. However, this attitude is inadequate. When the revolution has induced them to reject religion, it has awakened them to half of the problem. Religion in the present state of affairs only creates the problem and helps increase misery and servitude. When the peoples become fully awakened and when they restore their rights and dignity, they will not be content with atheism. Then they will take the new step and make the deficiency good by a positive step, by going back to a sound, clear and healthy religion in full consonance with its early goals.
(Our view of religion -March, 1956)

Therefore, communism is not profound in every aspect, although in many of its aspects it is very profound.
It has remained negative in many situations: Marxism has observed, and justly so, that religion in Europe has become a weapon in the hands of oppressors, exploiters and imperialists, in order to keep the people under the yoke of exploitation and enslavement. That observation is right, sound and is driven from reality: Marxism says religion is the opium of the peoples, the drug... the poison preventing the people from revolution, therefore Marxism declares atheism a creed, atheism with regard to everything that goes beyond the senses. This is a sentimental view, full of bias and rancor, induced by suffering from injustice: the true message of religion and the original good of religion are to spread justice and lift injustice, but according to Marxism religion has become a means for oppression, and humanity must be liberated from it.
(Our view of religion -March, 1956)

In our national life there is an event of grave importance: the emergence of Islam. It is a national as well as a human and international event .I do not see that the Arab youths are giving this event the careful attention that is due it. I do not see that they study it and comprehend all its teachings and significance for in it there is an infinite greatness, a tremendous experience of humankind that could enrich them, and enrich their practical as well as political education. It could enrich everything for the Arab youths.
(Our view of religion -March, 1956)

Marxism is based on the denial and negation of any creed transcending nature and matter as well as perception. This is not, in Marxism, a result of the incapacity of understanding. It has a practical motivation: as religion has been used throughout history, and especially throughout modern history, where class differences and class exploitation have been aggravated, to perpetuate and buttress exploitation, as it has been used to prevent human emancipation, siding with backwardness, oppression and injustice, Marxism found it necessary to root it out. The reason is practical and is not incapacity to understand the importance of religion and its true nature. We do not approve of this motivation in spite of its realism for it shows a lack of confidence in man by assuming that he cannot bear the truth in its fullness.
Although we adopt a critical view of religion, and in spite of our knowledge of the reactionary use religion has been put to, making it a support for injustice, backwardness and enslavement, we trust that man can rebel against this way of using religion and against the false and distorted religiosity and at the same give to true religion its due care and attention.
(The question of religion in the Arab Baath, 1 April, 1956)

We consider religious reaction and social reaction as one camp defending the same interests and believe that religious reaction constitutes the greatest danger to religion. This reaction carries the banner of religion in our time, deals with it, exploits it and fights any liberation in its name while lets it intrude into all matters great and small in order to hamper the new march. Had it not been for us and for our movement the Arab society would have been threatened by disfiguration through atheism. In our uncompromising and unappeased resistance to religious reaction and with our daring and steadfast stands vis-a-vis this reaction, we are rescuing our Arab society from the mutilation of atheism.
(The question of religion and the Arab Baath -April, 1956)

The doctrinal movement cannot grow if it ceases to have a bond with its heritage and its past. This does not mean that we should stand still with regard to the past, but that we should have a living and conscious link with it in a way that realizes the unity of the party, its march and the soundness of its orientation.
(A speech to the branches of the Syrian region, 3 January 18, 1966)

The Arab Baath was the first, a quarter of a century ago, to give another precious value, another spiritual value, religion, its due. Religion has revealed its creative, true and positive aspect, after progressive movements in the world have seen in it only a means to misguide the people, a means used by the exploiters and oppressors of the people. They looked at it as something to drug the people with, and deceive it and kill the spirit of revolution and struggle in it. The Arab Baath came and started its struggle and its history by exposing the genuine face of religion, and especially the face of the great heritage of the Arab nation and the eternal message of which we are all proud. Why, brethren, then do we not see the treasures discovered by our party, why do we hesitate in appreciating these values?
(In memory of the Ramadhan Revolution, February 8, 1965)

Our party was the one that revealed the positive aspect of religion in backward countries. It has said that not all religion have sided with reaction and that religion has revolutionary aspects. We now see that the political movements in Africa and Asia are moving in this direction. Read, my comrades, the writings of African thinkers, and you will find that they have some back to the truths, which we have been propagating for a quarter of a century.
(A speech to the branches of the Syrian region, January 8, 1966)

If certain nationalisms have followed the way of bigotry and oppression, it is necessary that we follow in beat they tracks? Our nationalism has a guarantee from the past because it is accompanied by a humane message. This is something particular to the Arabs. Their message is spiritual and they envisage their nationalism as a means to achieve their message. The guarantee that comes from the present is that for the people who suffer from injustice, weakness, fragmentation and the foreign rule, this very suffering becomes a protective idea, for it can by analogy and spiritual sympathy, understand the meaning and the impact of injustice on the others.
(The abstract thinking, 1 -1943)

Immortality is not the advance of the present toward the future but the carrying of the future to the present. The heroes of Arabism (Uruba) in the past have not become immortal because they performed great feats but they performed great feats because they were living in their life within the sphere of immortality.
(The new Arab generation, 1 -1944)

This nation which expressed itself and its sense of life in various ways, in the codes of Hammurabi, in the poetry of Jahilyah (Pre-Islam), in the religion of Mohammad, in the culture of the age of Al-Ma'moon, has one feeling which moves it in all the ages and one goal in spite of periods of interruption and deviation.
(On the Arab message, 1 -1946)

We believe that Arabism (Uruba) is above everything, meaning that it is above interests, selfishness, ephemeral on false considerations but there is one thing, which we believe to be above Uruba and that is right.
Uruba should be linked to a constant principle, which alone will guarantee the renewal, integrity and continuation of its life, directed to growth and expansion.
Our slogan should, therefore, be, that right is above Uruba until such time as Uruba is united with right.
(On the Arab message, 1 -1946)

The eternal Arab message is to understand this present, respond to its call and satisfy its requirements. Immortality is not something distant on the horizon or outside the confines of time. It springs from the depths of the present. If the Arabs understand it truly and live it faithfully, they will be able to perform their eternal mission. When they understand this experience and live it to the end, when they overcome their weakness, reluctance, their shallow and feigned motives they will not only build their nation and establish a national entity but they will offer the whole humanity, through this experience, adequate means to carry the greatest and truest of missions.
(On the Arab message, 1 -1946)

Brethren, at time when waves of pessimism and defeatism increase as do calamities and disasters, the true Arabs feel that the day of salvation is approaching, for the road has been opened at last for the Arab psyche to be shaken, to be deeply moved so that it remembers itself, and its task and rises with alacrity, vitality and faith, finding all sufferings and sacrifice sweet for the sake of achieving its mission in existence. In these times, when disasters abound and pessimists are plentiful, the truly faithful must emerge and true faith cannot be acquired except through experience and suffering.
(The meaning of the eternal message -1950)

We- struggle and combat the dismemberment of the Arab nation into artificial and false small states, so that we can attain the unification of these dispersed parts and reach a healthy and natural state in which no amputated member could ever speak in the name of the whole.
When we deliver ourselves from this unnatural situation, then the Arabs will all meet together with their souls and ideas purified, and their morals unblemished? They will have an open horizon for their minds to become creative, for they will then be a normal and sound entity, one nation. This is the healthy and true experience with which to ward off those conditions until we reach the right conditions. This is the Arab mission and a mission is what is offered by one segment of humanity to all mankind. The significance of the message will not be adequate if it relies on narrowness and selfishness, but has to have an eternal, humane and comprehensive meaning.
(On the meanings of the radical change, 2. February, 1950)

The Arab message is not words we sing. It is not principles contained in the programs, nor is it articles in legislation. All these things are dead and feigned, for between us and the time in which we can legislate, inspired by our message, there is a long distance and a big gap. What is this message?
It is our life itself. It is that we accept experiencing this life, that we go through a tremendous, profound, genuine experience which is commensurate with the greatness of the Arab nation, equal to the depths of afflictions suffered by the Arabs, equal to the magnitude of the dangers threatening the survival of the nation. This is true and living experience which will bring us at last to ourselves, to our living reality, and will entrust us with our responsibilities and place us on our right track so that we can combat these diseases and barriers, these false conditions, and struggle against social injustice.
(On the meanings of the radical change, 1 .February, 1950)

Life cannot be constantly based on inconsistency. It has to find a way to resolve it, either by deadening the urge for the mission and the genuine aims, by acquiescing to facile reality and surrendering to it, or by moving the forces that respond to the aspiration of the nation to realize the genuineness of its existence. This movement is to transfer this aspiration from the realm of sentimental and inactive wistfulness to a combative interaction with the wills, forces and vital interests, to bring forth the potential of the nation that are contained in it.
(The Battle between superficial and genuine existence)


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