On Emigration To Non-Muslim Country


Contemporary Fatawa, Fiqh / Saturday, September 25th, 2010

What is the ruling regarding adoption of the nationality of a non-Muslim country?
Many people who adopt the nationalities of these countries, or wish to do so, insist that they do so only because they are persecuted in their own countries, through imprisonment, threats and intimidation or confiscation of their property etc. Others see no difference between their own countries, which though Muslim, have no Shari‘ah, and those of the West. They contend that whilst both are equal in having no Islamic laws, their personal rights, property and honour are safer in their adopted country, and they will not be imprisoned or persecuted without reason.

A. The issue of emigration to a non-Muslim country and permanent settlement there, is one on which the ruling would differ according to the situation, and the reasons for the emigration.

a) If a Muslim is forced by his circumstances to emigrate, e.g. he is persecuted in his country or imprisoned, or his property is confiscated etc., without his having committed any crime, and he sees no way out for himself other than to emigrate to a foreign country, then he would be permitted to do so in such a case without any Karahat (abho- rrence) whatsoever, as long as he resolves to protect his faith, and keep himself away from the widespread evil found there.

b) Similarly, if a Muslim is forced to emigrate due to his financial situation, i.e. he cannot find the necessary means of subsistence despite extensive effort and he sees no alternative other than emigration to a non-Muslim country, then he is permitted to emigrate subject to the above conditions. Earning a livelihood through permissible means is also a duty for a Muslim, after his other Fardh duties, and the Shari‘ah has not specified a certain place for it. Allah Ta’ala says:

“He is the one who has made the earth manageable for you. So traverse ye through its tracts, and enjoy of the sustenance which He furnishes; And unto Him is the resurrection.” (Surah Al-Mulk, v. 15)

c) If a Muslim adopts the nationality of a Non-Muslim country for the purpose of calling its people towards Islam, or to convey Islamic laws to the Muslims residing there, and to encourage them to stay firm on their faith, then this is not only permissible, but also a source of reward. Many of the Sahabah and Tabi’een settled in distant Kuffar lands for this very purpose, and this action of theirs is counted amongst their virtues and points of merit.

d). If a person has enough means of livelihood available to him in his native country for him to be able to live according to the (average) standard of his people, but he emigrates in order to raise his standard of living and live a life of luxury and comfort, then emigration for such a purpose has at least some degree of Karahat in it, because such a person is throwing himself into a storm of evil, and endangering his faith and moral character without there being any necessity for it. Experience shows that the people who settle in non-Muslim countries for luxury and comfort find their religious restraint diminishing in the face of the many temptations of evil.

Therefore, it is reported in the ahadith that one should not live with disbelievers unnecessarily.
Abu Dawood narrates from Samrah bin Jundub that the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihi Wassallam)said: “He who mingles with a disbeliever and dwells with him is like him.” Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi also report that the Holy Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihi Wassallam)said: “I am free (i.e. I disavow myself) from every Muslim who lives with disbelievers.” The Sahabah asked “Why, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied “The fires of the two cannot co-exist.” Khattabi says in his commentary on this hadith that it has several meanings. One is that the two (a Muslim and a Kafir) are not equal in Hukm (ruling) they both have different rules.

Some scholars take this view. Others explain the meaning as being that Allah has differentiated between the lands of Islam and Kufr and consequently it is not allowed for a Muslim to live amongst disbelievers in their lands, because when the Kuffar light their fires he will be seen as one of them. The scholars also derive from this the ruling that one should not stay in the lands of the Kuffar when visiting for trade etc. (Khattabi, Ma’alim-As-Sunan, K. Jihad, 473 : iii).
Abu Dawood relates from Makhool in his ‘Maraseel’ that the Prophet ? said: “Do not leave your children amongst enemies (i.e. Kuffar). (Tahzeeb As-Sunan, Ibnul-Qayyim, 437 : iii)
For this reason, some scholars say that living in Kafir countries, and increasing their numbers solely for material wealth, is an action which damages ones ‘Adala (integrity). (Takmila Raddul-Mukhtar, p. 101, v. I).

Finally, if a person adopts a non-Muslim nationality solely for the purpose of increasing his standing in society, and as a matter of pride, or in preference to a Muslim nationality, or in imitation of the Kuffar, then all such actions are Haram without exception, and there is no need to cite evidence for this.

Q 2. For the Muslims living in the West, bringing up their children in such an environment has its drawbacks and disadvantages, and it also has its benefits. There is a strong possibility of these children picking up habits from Christian and Jewish children with whom they play and mix. This is especially so in those cases where the parents neglect their children’s upbringing due to their work etc., or where one or both of the parents have passed away.

What would be the effect of this presumed harm be on the ruling regarding emigration to a non-Muslim country? At the same time, many Muslims who live there contend that in the non-Muslim countries their children run the risk of being led away from Islam through mixing with atheist and communist groups etc., especially when in some non-Muslim countries these groups are supported by the authorities, their beliefs and doctrines are included in the educational syllabuses, the minds of common people are poisoned with them, and those who oppose them are tortured and imprisoned. In such circumstances, living in that country is more dangerous for our children’s’ faith and their beliefs.

A. Bringing up children in a non-Muslim country is a serious issue, and is a matter that is fraught with danger, and therefore, should be abstained from as far as possible in those cases where emigration to and residence in a non-Muslim country has been termed Makrooh or Haram. However, in those cases where adopting a foreign nationality and living there is allowed without Karahat (abhorrence), since a valid reason exists, the same ruling would apply to bringing up ones children in that country. Such a person should then attend to the upbringing of his children with special attention, and the Muslims living there should create an environment in which newly arriving Muslims can properly protect and preserve their beliefs, actions and moral character.

Q 3. What is the ruling regarding the marriage of a Muslim woman to non-Muslim man? Would it be allowed if the woman had hope of her husband accepting Islam after their marriage? Some Muslim women claim that they cannot find a suitable Muslim husband, and that their financial circumstances force them towards deviation from their faith. Would there be any possibility of permission in such a case?

Q 4. What is the ruling regarding the continuation of marital relations between a woman who has accepted Islam and her still-non-Muslim husband? The woman has hoped that her husband may accept Islam if she stays with him, and she also has children from him who may digress and stray from Islam if she leaves him. Is it permissible for her to continue to live with him as his wife in such circumstances? What would the ruling be if she did not have any hope of his accepting Islam, but he was a good husband other, and she feared that if she left him she may not find a Muslim husband?

A. Questions 3 & 4. A Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim man in any circumstances. Allah Ta’ala says:


“And do not marry (your women) to unbelievers until they believe: and a slave man is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you.” (Surah Al-Baqarah, v. 221) and : “They are not lawful for the unbelievers, nor are they (the unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them.” (Surah Al-Mumtahanah, v.10)

Just the hope of someone accepting Islam does not make it permissible for a Muslim woman to marry him, nor can such imagined hopes change a Haram into a Halal. Similarly, if a woman accepts Islam and her husband remains a non-Muslim, the majority of the scholars hold the view that their marriage is invalidated with her mere acceptance of Islam. Imam Abu Hanifah is of the view that the husband should be asked to accept Islam, and if he refuses, the marriage becomes invalid. If the husband then accepts Islam while the wife is in her Iddah (waiting period), their original marriage becomes valid once again. If he accepts Islam after the Iddah has expired, they must renew their marriage if they wish to live as husband and wife. This matter is agreed upon amongst all the scholars, old and new, and mere hope of someone accepting Islam cannot change the rule of the Shari‘ah.

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