Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and the most honorable prayer and peace be upon the master of the first and the last, our master, Muhammad, the chosen, the trustworthy, and upon his pious and pure family, his faithful companions, and those who followed them in goodness until the Day of Judgment, may Allah Almighty be pleased with them all.
Some people think that the issue of living in a non-Muslim country was raised in the modern world and they believe that only modern Muslim scholars can respond to such issues, as they have the latest view pertaining to states and international affairs. That might be true in the second part, but in the first part they are not. Traditional scholars talked about living in a non-Muslim state many centuries ago and they put certain conditions for that. Some Muslims allege that it is not permissible for a Muslim to reside in a non-Muslim country and they justify this allegation by a hadith, in which the Prophet peace be upon him said: “I am not responsible for any Muslim who stays among polytheists” (Sunan Abi Dawud 2645). Deriving this meaning however, is a false allegation, as many scholars explained this hadith. One of the prominent scholars is Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, the author of Fath al-Bari, which is the best explanation of Sahih al-Bukhari. He said: “This hadith is specific for those who cannot safely practice his religion” (6/39). In his book Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, Ibn Hajar al-Haitami, another prominent scholar from the Shafi’i school, said: If he could practice his religion freely and was not in danger because of that then hijrah, i.e. migration, is not compulsory from that country for he is able to practice his religion” (9/268). Some other scholars even said that the hadith is not authentic. Even assuming its authenticity, the hadith was said in a specific incident which is a good way to explain that in that time period when some people entered Islam and stayed with their own people, who were fighting with the Muslims, and battles occurred, some of these Muslims living there were killed. As a result, the Prophet peace be upon him announced that he is not responsible for their blood and the Muslim fighters did not commit a sin for:
- They were fighting a public war, and both sides know that.
- The Muslims in that country did not separate themselves from the non-believers, and they did not tell the Muslims that they were there.
- Hijra from non-Muslim countries to Medina was compulsory at that time, i.e. before the conquering of Mecca, so the Muslims fighters had the default status that they were fighting non-Muslims. However, after Mecca was conquered hijra to Medina was no longer compulsory.
If we understand the hadith in this context, we will definitely see that it cannot contain any evidence for the allegation that residing in a non-Muslim country is haram. As I mentioned in a previous article, mainly “the riddah”, we have to take into consideration the common tradition and environment within which the text was said or revealed.
To say that it is not permissible for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim country is an absurd opinion in this age, as so many Muslims are subject to oppression and injustices in their own countries. Indeed, when we see Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries we will find that Muslims in these countries have been suffering under the hammer of wars and internal conflicts. While no Muslim country opened their doors for these families, the U.S and Europe did. They were respected and treated much better there than by their own governments. In this point Allah said in the Qur’an: “And the angels who take those who wronged themselves will say: ‘In what condition were you? ‘ They will reply ‘We were oppressed in the land. ‘ They (the angels) will say: ‘Was not the earth of Allah wide enough for you in order that you migrate in it? ‘ Those, their shelter will be Gehennam (Hell), an evil arrival” (Surah 4, Ayah 97). So, we can clearly see that it is obligatory to migrate from the land of oppression and injustice to another land in which you can find dignity and respect. It is haram to live under oppression.
Some extremist groups such as ISIS and Al-Shabaab argue that it is compulsory for Muslims to migrate from the non-Muslim countries to their self-proclaimed Islamic States. They refer to the hadith I mentioned earlier, cutting it out of its context to use it as a pretext to draw Muslims from all over the world. Their obvious reason was to use those Muslims as cannon fodder in their war and quest for power and not to support the cause of Islam. It is a consensus among the scholars of Islam that emigration after the conquest of Mecca is not compulsory, as the Prophet peace be upon him said: “There is no emigration (from Mecca to Medina) after the conquest of Mecca, but only Jihad (in the Cause of Allah) and a good intention” (Bukhari and Muslim). We will leave this last phrase to another discussion of when and for what is jihad justified while being clear that hijra is not required in modern times.
Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds.