[Friday Sermon] Nigeria At 60: It Is Our Duty To Love, Respect And Defend Our Country By Imam Murtadha Gusau

In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

ِAll praises are due to Allah and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, companions and those who follow him well until Judgement Day.

Dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrates Nigeria’s Independence from colonialism (1st October, 1960 – 1st October, 2020) some selfish people argue that we have nothing to celebrate, insisting that the country is underdeveloped and impoverished. As Nigerian, I have always been and will continue to be optimistic about the future of this country. Yes, our journey from 1960 to this date has been slow and rough, but we have accomplished a lot despite the challenges of ethnocentrism, religious bigotry etc. The task of moving Nigeria to the dreamland should be collective. We shouldn’t fold our arms as citizens, expecting only our leaders to perform the miracles, we have a huge role to play.

Allah has endowed us as a nation with both natural and human resources, we have the biggest population in Africa which means we are capable of becoming the biggest market in Africa. We have the most brilliant and creative youth in Africa, our cultural diversity is unique and we are the leading tourist destination in Africa.

What we need in Nigeria right now is to find a way where we can accommodate our differences, if not, the Nigeria we have been yearning for 60 years ago will continue to elude us. May Allah Almighty help us, ameen.

Dear brothers and sisters, know that, loving one’s country and its people is a good trait of Muslims, as our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has amply demonstrated. This is what we mean by patriotism.

But there is an intense and dangerous form of it called ‘nationalism’ that urges people to adopt the position that their country is right and should be supported in whatever it does, even if that means supporting injustice.

Muslims have to necessarily abide by Allah’s commandments regarding truth and justice. Therefore, they cannot adopt an attitude of blind patriotism or blind nationalism because it tends to instill into people a belief that their nation is superior to other nations, notwithstanding the principle of human equality and brotherhood upheld by Islam.

Besides, extreme nationalists relegate Allah and His religion to a secondary status, placing nationalist considerations uppermost. And nationalism tends to pit one nation against another in pursuit of political hegemony or economic exploitation. They reject the guidance of Allah to adopt shortsighted jingoism out of a desire to dominate other nations.

Nationalists do not stand for justice in causes, but cling to narrow sectarian allegiance. Hence they may oppose Muslims who support those fighting for their basic human rights irrespective of national borders, such as the Palestinians, etc.

Dear brothers and sisters, nationalist’s political philosophy is derived from ancient tribal affinities and goes back to pre-Islamic times (Jahiliyyah). As observed by the Muslim scholar Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the ideology of nationalism was first planted in Muslim societies by Western occupiers and their stooges.

Muslims living in the contemporary world should be realistic enough to adopt a policy of harmony and peace as far as possible. They should understand that the national flag and national anthem are powerful symbols of a country, and respecting them simply means that they are ready to live there as loyal citizens.

Disrespecting the national flag or the anthem would be considered an open challenge to the government attracting due punishment.

Moreover, Islam orders us to do our best to become good citizens in the countries we live in. Muslims have to honour the laws of the country where they live as long as such laws do not contradict the teachings of Islam.

In this connection the opinion of Sheikh Faisal Maulawi, deputy chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, is relevant:

“Muslims living in non-Muslim countries are to respect the symbols of those countries such as the national anthem, national flag, etc. This is part of what citizenship dictates as per modern customs…. Thus, standing up for the national anthem is not a form of prohibited loyalty. If a Muslim is to change a wrong action in a majority non-Muslim country, let him do that through Da’awah, wisdom, and fair exhortation. At the same time, he should not obey any rules that involve disobedience to Allah.”

When Muslims in their countries or Muslims living in non-Muslim countries stand up to respect their national anthems, their intention is not to approve the un-Islamic rulings prevalent in those countries. They are simply performing a national duty, that is, loving their nation.

And this expression of patriotism has nothing to do with worship, as there is neither prayer nor remembrance of Allah involved in it. Thus, it cannot be called a prohibited act.

It is important that Muslims ought to be mindful of their religious duties wherever they live. Performing the daily prayers, paying Zakkah (alms), fasting, and going for Hajj are essential duties.

In addition, Muslims should cooperate with their brothers and sisters in commanding good and prohibiting evil, in seeking religious knowledge, and in promoting all the virtues that Islam advocates.

They should also be bold enough to stand up for their rights as well as for the rights of their brothers and sisters because Allah says in the Noble Qur’an:

“O you who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Qur’an, 4:135]

Every Muslim has a role to play in the process of establishing a better life for all the people living together as members of the society, regardless of whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims.

Islam urges Muslims to be active and even proactive in any society they reside in. Muslims have to be positive and have to participate in public life in a way that enjoins what is good and forbids what is evil.

This participation is required, as long as it is not motivated by selfish desires and individual opportunism. You can read in the Qur’an the injunction:

“Cooperate with one another on virtue and Allah-consciousness.” [Qur’an, 5:2]

It is only by means of active participation in the sociopolitical life of a society that we can struggle for the causes dearest to our hearts: fighting poverty, rooting out crimes and vice, working toward employment equity, and social justice.

Muslims have a duty to stand united to work for a unified country that embraces all of its citizens irrespective of differences of race, region, religion, or language; a country that strives to defeat those forces whose vision is ethnocentric, backward-looking, and exclusivist.

The state of Muslims in the world will only go from bad to worse if Muslims continue to remain outside the mainstream and fail to participate in the political process, allowing others to decide some policies and laws that may jeopardise their interests.

And remember, Allah the Almighty has described Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as:

“A mercy to the worlds.”

He was a sign of Allah’s mercy to all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims.

In his kindness and fair treatment he did not differentiate between the believers and nonbelievers. He was kind to the pagans of Makkah and fought them only when they fought him. He made treaties with the Jews of Madinah and honoured the treaties until they broke them.

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is reported to have received the Christians of Najran with generous hospitality in his Mosque in Madinah. They debated with him about Islam, but he treated them with honour and respect. There are many examples from his life that show that he was the friendliest person to all people. And the Glorious Qur’an teaches Muslims that:

“Surely Allah enjoins justice, kindness, and doing of good, to kith and kin, and forbids all that is shameful, evil, and oppressive. He exhorts you so that you may be mindful.” [Qur’an, 16:90]

This verse highlights the basic Islamic values of justice and compassion. These should be the overriding principles guiding our social engagements and deals. Hence we should ask ourselves whether we sincerely practice these values in our day-to-day life.

Realising that the rules of Allah are sufficient for us, we need not only to practice them, but to teach them to others in the best possible manner.

Fellow Nigerians, there is no difference between following Islam as a religion and having loyalty to one’s country of residence. Being loyal and having love for one’s country is a part of the Islamic faith. The Qur’an states:

“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Prophet and obey those in authority from among you.” [Qur’an, 4:60]

Allah has provided us with the perfect way of life for every aspect of human society. Islam urges love and peace between husband and wife, gives direction to take care of our neighbours, directs Muslims to help their communities, and on the greater level, loyalty to one’s country of residence. All of these different responsibilities have one overarching goal — peace in society.

I feel it is my responsibility to convey to all people in general, but especially to my Muslim brothers and sisters, to understand our obligations toward Allah and particularly toward our community. Many Muslims like me come from different parts of Nigeria to build their lives, and Nigeria provides us with all the opportunities to do so. Being Muslim is not just a matter of returning kindness with consideration, but Allah also commanded us to be loyal and to have love for our country of residence. With all the other directives, which we hold dear, why do we forget about this very important aspect of Islam, which has a very clear essence of establishing peace in every society?

I want to reiterate that this is the time when the world is in great need of collaboration and harmony among different faiths and ideologies. We as Nigerians are part of this global village. If one person in a house is not at peace, the whole family becomes distressed; if one house in a neighbourhood is disturbed, it can affect the whole society and it will not stop there. Every thing is linked with one another, but peace starts at the smallest level. We need to start with our community, our neighbours and our families.

Dear brothers and sisters, in Islam, speaking about one’s country’s progress and development, and professing love for it is not a discussion which revolves around racism, tribalism, bigotry or nationalism. Rather it is a discussion revolving around one’s life, place and growth; it is based on the depth of one’s values and principles.

Imam Al-Jurjani said:

“A person’s country is the place of his birth and where he resides.” [See At-Ta’rifat, page 327]

Imam Al-Asma’i said:

“I heard a Bedouin (an Arab man from the village) saying: ‘if you want to know a person, look to his affection and attachment to his country; his longing for his brothers and his weeping over the time which he has spent.” [See Al-Mujalasah by Ad-Dainuri, page 336]

Imam Ibn Najjar Al-Baghdadi said:

“I heard Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Dawud say, ‘whoever does not drink from the water of loneliness and does not place his head on the pillow of sadness, he has not known the right of his country and soil; and neither the right of the people of knowledge and elderly…” [See Zail Tarikh Baghdad, vol. 16, page 207]

Respected brothers and sisters, loving one’s country and affiliating to one’s nation is something which is a natural human instinct; it is the nature which Allah Almighty has created people upon. When a person is born in a particular land, grows up in it, drinks from its water, breaths its air and lives amongst its people, his natural human instinct connects him to that land; he loves it and is loyal towards it. It is sufficient as an insult to a person’s feelings that it is said that he has no country. In the noble Qur’an, loving one’s country has been linked to loving one’s self. Allah, the Majestic and Exalted, said:

“If We had decreed upon them, “Kill yourselves” or “Leave your homes,” they would not have done it, except for a few of them.” [Qur’an, 4:66]

In fact, Allah linked the love of one’s country to the religion, He said:

“Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” [Qur’an, 60:8]

In the following Qur’anic verse, had it not been for what a person’s country means to him, the disbelievers would not have threatened the Prophets and Messengers of Allah to exile them from their country. Allah the Most High said:

“And those who disbelieved said to their Messengers, “We will surely drive you out of our land, or you must return to our religion.” So their Lord inspired to them, “We will surely destroy the wrongdoers. And We will surely cause you to dwell in the land after them. That is for he who fears My position and fears My threat.” [Qur’an, 14: 13-14]

Also in the story of the people of Prophet Lut (AS). Allah the Almighty said:

“They said: “If you do not desist, O Lut, you will surely be of those evicted.” He said: “Indeed, I am, toward your deed, of those who detest [it]. My Lord, save me and my family from [the consequence of] what they do.” [Qur’an, 26:167-169]

Allah also connected between being exiled from one’s country and killing, He said:

“If We had decreed upon them, “Kill yourselves” or “Leave your homes,” they would not have done it, except for a few of them.” [Qur’an, 4:66]

Our Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was tested with both of these difficulties on both sides. In Makkah, the Quraish threatened him using their tongues and hands, as well as the hypocrites in Madinah who also threaten him. Allah, the Most High, said regarding the threat of the Quraish:

“And [remember, O Muhammad], when those who disbelieved plotted against you to restrain you or kill you or evict you [from Makkah]. But they plan, and Allah plans. And Allah is the best of planners.” [Qur’an, 8:30]

And he said regarding the threat of the hypocrites:

“They say, “If we return to Madinah, the more honoured [for power] will surely expel therefrom the more humble.” And to Allah belongs [all] honour, and to His Messenger, and to the believers, but the hypocrites do not know.” [Qur’an, 63:8]

Anas, May Allah be pleased with him, mentioned that:

“When the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) returned from a journey he would, upon seeing the high pathways of Madinah, make his she camel proceed faster; and if it were another animal, even then he used to make it proceed faster.” [Bukhari]

In another narration:

“When he returned from a journey, and saw the walls of Madinah, he would make his riding camel proceed faster, and if he was on another animal he would move it [faster] due to his love of it (Madinah).”

Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajr (rahimahullah) said:

“This Hadith proves the virtue of Madinah, as well as the legislation of loving one’s country and showing affection for it.” [Fath al-Bari, vol. 3, page 621]

The most beautiful love towards one’s country is when Allah also loves the country as well as the person himself loving the country. This is what Allah gave to His Prophet (Peace be upon him) when He loved Makkah, however he tested the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) by distancing him from it. Abdullahi Ibn Adiy Az-Zuhari, May Allah be pleased with him, narrated that he heard the Prophet (Peace be upon him) saying whilst standing in Al-Hawza in the market of Makkah:

“By Allah, you are the best land of Allah, you are the most beloved land of Allah to Allah, the Majestic and Exalted. Had it not been for me being exiled from you, I would have never left you.” [reported by Imams Ahmad, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah, with an authentic Isnad]

Imam Al-Aini, May Allah have mercy upon him, said:

“Allah tested His Prophet though him having to depart from his country.”

Imam As-Suhaili, May Allah have mercy upon him, said:

“In this is an evidence for loving one’s country, and the severity upon a person due to departing it.”

Imam Al-Hafiz Az-Zahabi, May Allah have mercy upon him, mentioned the things which were dear and beloved to the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), he said:

“He used to love his wife Aisha, her father Abu Bakr, Usamah Ibn Zaid, his two grandchildren Hasan and Husain, sweet food, honey; he used to love mount Uhud and he used to love his country.” [See Siyaru A’lam An-Nubala, vol. 15, page 394]

This is what our role model and example, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was like; in his pure heart he held a sincere love for his country. Today, as Nigerians, in our time, we have a great country which is precious in our hearts. However we need to purify our hearts, and hearts are not purified except with love, but this love will never be fulfilled unless it is according to what Allah has legislated for us.

Khalifah Ali Ibn Abi Talib – May Allah be pleased with him – said:

“When we came to Madinah we tasted some of its vegetation and became ill and tired…” [Ahmad]

Imam Ibn Abdul-Barr, May Allah be pleased with him, said:

“In this Hadith is an explanation of what is normal to people’s custom even today, that when a person moves to another land which he is not accustomed to its environment and has neither drank from its water, he finds difficulty and denial…it also shows the love and yearning that most people have for their country and the emotional longing and grief they have due to them leaving their country in which they were born and grew up.” [See Al-Istizkar, vol. 26, page 48]

Prophet’s Companion, Bilal Ibn Rabah, May Allah be pleased with him, said:

“O Allah curse Shaibah Ibn Rabi’ah, Utbah Ibn Rabi’ah and Umayyah Ibn Khalaf, because they exiled us from our lands to the land of illness…” [Bukhari]

Imam Ibn Al-Mulaqqin, May Allah have mercy upon him, said:

“As for Bilal, he yearned to return back to Makkah, his country in which he was accustomed to and remained healthy therein.” [See At-Tawdhih, vol. 12, page 579]

Imam Amir Ibn Abdullah said:

“I find myself regretting [leaving] Basrah for four matters: not being able to answer the call of its Mu’azzin, [the feeling of] its extreme thirst; because my brothers are there and because it is my country.” [See Az-Zuhd, by Imam Ahmad, page 227]

Imam Ibrahim Ibn Adhamah (died 162 AH) said:

“I have not severely sured for leaving anything than the suring of leaving my country.” [See Hilyatul Awliya’, vol. 7, page 370]

Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, May Allah have mercy upon him, said:

“Humans love their lands due to what it contains, a person is able to find comfort by remaining there, and if he is away from his land he finds himself yearning for it, he defends it if it is attacked and becomes angry if it is belittled.”

Dear servants of Allah, the great Islamic scholars authored independent books on the issue of loving one’s countries such as the book, ‘Yearning for one’s country’ by Imam Abu Hatim As-Sijistani; and the book, ‘Loving one’s country’ by Amr Ibn Bahr Al-Jahidh. In addition to this the innumerable verses of poetry that were authored regarding this. As-Subki mentioned in the biography of Imam Abu Muhammad Al-Muzani:

“That he authored a book regarding loving one’s country. He then became ill after authoring it by a week and then died. He became known as: ‘The one who was killed due to his love of his country!’” [See At-Tabaqaat, vol. 3, page 19]

Therefore it should be known that the Arabic word “al-Watan” is not repulsive nor is it evil as some people think. Rather it has been mentioned upon the tongues of many of the Imams of knowledge and religion – as has preceded.

According to Islam, affiliating to one’s country symbolises a form of unity to the Jama’ah (main body of Muslims); the teachings of Islam emphasise and reiterate the importance of this. This is as long as loving one’s country is according to the guidelines of Shari’ah and within the limits that should be considered. It is also worth mentioning that affiliating one’s self to a country is a means of security and safety; we are able to protect the minds of majority of our youth against destructive thoughts and ideas, deviant methods, oppressive onslaughts, terrorism, extremism and malicious rumours which are propagated by people of malice and spite in order to undermine this country, its capabilities and resources, and more so to undermine the people of authority in this country, as well as its trustworthy sincere scholars. With all the problems we have today, this country has religious, political, security, intellectual, cultural and economic distinctions which other countries do not have.

It is a mistake to think there is a contradiction between having a sense of patriotism – according to its natural meaning – and between Islam. In fact perceiving a contradiction between them is nothing except a deceptive avenue to insult Islam, and trying to manipulate and exploit people’s natural intrinsic love for their country. This paints a picture in the minds of people that the legislative laws of the Shari’ah somehow obstruct and cripple the interests of the country because Islam contradicts and negates a person’s patriotism and loving one’s country! One of the alien concepts that have been deliberately associated with this is by the Harakiyyun (dangerous political activists in the clothes of religion) who have a despised partisan narrative upon which they try to cultivate young people. This alien concept of theirs is that there is only one global Muslim state which does not have any countries nor borders.

Due to this concept, allegiance to the country is disputed, in fact completely absolved. Their anger and rage increases when this blessed country is mentioned, or one of its qualities and merits is praised; this blessed country in the shade of which its citizens live, in fact the whole world benefits from it. And the essence of patriotism towards it is: having the correct intention, a binding pledge of allegiance, fulfilling our responsibilities, supporting and obeying its leaders, not rebelling against the main body of Muslims and feeling a sense of belonging to it.

Dear brothers and sisters, in Islam, loving one’s country is shown by fulfilling our responsibility towards it and its people, and preserving its security. Loving one’s country is shown by defending and respecting it, its religion, sanctuaries and citizens. Loving one’s country is shown by remaining within its laws, and rectifying its people and not corrupting them in any way. Loving one’s country is shown by respecting the elderly, having concern for the youth, respecting the neighbour, having respect for its laws, keeping the towns and streets clean and pure, and not annoying the fellow citizens. Loving one’s country is shown by protecting its assets and resources, and by every sincere Muslim interacting with each other with the correct Islamic manners and etiquettes. Loving one’s country is not one day in a year only, neither is it displaying photos and flag only, rather loving it is fulfilling rights and responsibilities every day, in every situation.

Fellow Nigerians, love for one’s nation and country is natural. Consider the following Hadith:

“A woman named Fasilah narrates that she heard her father saying: I asked Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), “O Messenger of Allah, is love for one’s nation considered chauvinism?” He (Peace be upon him) replied, “No, chauvinism is partly to help one’s nation in perpetrating injustice.” [Ibn Majah]

However, the important point is how and where to channel the love you have for your nation. True love for one’s nation demands that one wants the best for his nation. He cannot bear seeing his nation unsuccessful. The true success is the success of the hereafter. In Surah Yasin, Allah speaks of Habib Najjar (The Carpenter). When his nation denied the message of the Messengers, his love and concern for his nation made him restless. He was aware of the grave consequences of denying the message of Allah.

“A man (Habib Najjar) from the far end of the city came running. He said, “O my nation! Follow the messengers! Accept the message of those who do not ask for any remuneration and they are guided.” [Yasin: 20-21]

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, I advise you to channel your love in the right avenue. Work towards bringing your nation/community towards those practices that will bring them goodness in the hereafter.

My beloved people, as Nigerian citizens, we should feel grateful for our country and make every effort to protect and preserve it.

Loving one’s country is an instinct inherent in man, and it is deeply seated in heart. We grow to love our country and bear always affection and admiration for it. This beautiful feeling we have towards our own country is a motivation for us to serve it well and be keen to attend to its interests. People, therefore, should work and pray towards the well-being of their nations. As the Prophet Ibrahim was quoted in the Qur’an saying:

“My Lord, make this a secure city and provide its people with fruits.”

Devotion to one’s country is widely highlighted by many scholars. They associated it with one’s honesty and stated that it is an obligation. Nigeria enjoys a stable society, wise leadership and plentiful resources. It is our duty, therefore, to be grateful to the Almighty for such wholesome blessings. Indeed, showing gratitude is a protection to the existing gifts from Allah and a cause to bring in more. As Qur’anic verse says:

“And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favour].”

To thank our Lord further for the blessings He grants us in this country, it is our obligation to defend it and safeguard its integrity. When the nation summons its sons and daughters, they shall answer the call of duty with determination. A Hadith by the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) says:

“There are two eyes that shall not be touched by the Fire: an eye that wept from the fear of Allah, and an eye that spent the night standing on guard in the cause of Allah.”

Respected servants of Allah, patriotism is a great virtue. Loving own country and its people is a good trait of the Muslims. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was reported to have said:

“Love of your country (patriotism) is a part of your faith.”

So Islam does not forbid a Muslim to love his motherland/homeland or his own country in which he lives or grows up. A true believer loves his own country dearly. He works for securing the interest of his country. On the contrary, those who do not love their own country are ungrateful. They are guilty of treason and base character and such persons can never be truly pious and a sincere believer.

Love for and attraction of the motherland is called patriotism. Love for the native country or motherland is inherent in men. Because, they born here, breathe in its air and light, and their body gets nourishment from its fruits and crops, foods and drinks. The contribution of the native land to a person is undeniable.

So, some peculiar type of love and inclination develops and the attraction and love for motherland grow at heart and they feel it throughout their lives. Even in case one goes abroad for business purpose or study, this feeling of patriotism does not diminish. Rather, this feeling of love and respect for his native country pervades his imagination. This feeling of togetherness and attraction is what is called patriotism.

Patriotism and service to one’s motherland is similar to Ibadah (worship). Allah, the Most High, shall grant huge reward to the protectors of the homeland. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said in a Hadith:

“To keep awake in the border to protect the homeland in Allah’s way is better than all the treasures between the heavens and the earth.” [At-Tirmidhi]

Patriotism is evinced by working in the interest of motherland. Motherland can be loved by defending its independence, contributing to its development, not helping anyone in subversive activities, by the maintenance of national resources, self-sacrifice in the interest of the country etc. The best form of patriotism is to sacrifice one’s life for the welfare of motherland.

We shall love our country. We shall build ourselves as impressive and competent citizens through education, training, learning and other virtues. We shall work united for the development of our country. We shall not allow any anti-state activities to happen. We shall properly utilise our national resources. We shall not waste, misuse and destroy these resources. We shall not hesitate to sacrifice our lives when it is needed for the defence of our motherhood.

In the end, I ask Allah to help and protect our country, guide and guard its leaders and its people from every evil, calamity, tribulation and difficulty; May He Almighty bring about safety, peace and security to our country. May Allah save us from divisions, disunity, differences, disobedience, corruption, terrorism and all kind evils.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true and sincere followers.


Murtadha Muhammad Gusau is the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and the late Alhaji Abdur-Rahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Safar 14, 1442 AH (October 02, 2020).

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