If a Muslim is able to maintain his/her religion as well as to preserve and protect himself/herself from injustice and oppression, then it is lawful for him/her to find such a safe refuge in a non-Muslim country. However, a Muslim must never live in a non-Muslim country while compromising or even discarding his/her Islamic identity, unless that individual is overpowered and has no other option.
The European Council for Fatwa and Research issued the following Fatwa: The issue of a Muslim’s permanent residence in a non-Muslim country is one that has been discussed and debated at length. We have heard extremely strict views which call for all Muslims to leave these countries immediately, based upon a hadith that decrees the disownment of all Muslims who live among non-Muslims (mushriks), the meaning and degree of authenticity of which will be discussed later. However, it remains that these views have caused great difficulty and inconvenience for many Muslims.
Our opinion is that a Muslim must never live among non-Muslims while compromising or even discarding his or her Islamic identity, unless that individual is entirely overpowered and has no other option. The reason for this is based upon the issue of whether or not the Muslim individual is able to protect himself, his dependents, and their religion.
Therefore, if the environment in which the Muslim finds himself is one which threatens his and his family’s life or religion, it is incumbent on him to migrate to a land that does not pose such a threat, as it is unlawful for him to remain in an environment that threatens his life and religion.
Almighty Allah states in the Holy Qur’an: (When angels take the souls of those who die in sin against their souls, they say: In what plight were you? They replied: Weak and oppressed were we in the earth. They say: Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to move yourselves away from evil? Such men will find their abode in Hell; what an evil refuge! Except those who are really weak and oppressed – men, women and children, who have no means in their power, nor a guide-post to direct their way. For these, there is hope that God will forgive: For God does blot out sins and forgive again and again. He who forsakes his home in the cause of God, finds in the earth many a refuge; wide and spacious: should he die as a refugee from home for God and His apostle, his reward becomes due and sure with God: and God is oft-forgiving, Most merciful.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 97-100)
This verse clearly states that it is an injustice for one to accept living under conditions of humiliation while being able to move to another land that offers freedom, security and the means of a dignified life. The only people excused from this judgment are those who possess no such power nor means of deciding such matters. Thus, a migration is correct, in fact compulsory, if the destination allows the Muslim more means of practicing his religion than the land of origin. The migration of the weaker Muslims of Makkah to Abyssinia (Al-Habashah) with the permission of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is a worthy example. Those Muslims were told to migrate from an environment of infidelity and injustice to another non-Muslim land, but one which offered those who lived in it justice and security. The Muslims lived among Christians who treated them well and therefore managed to preserve their religion and to save their lives, until the day came when Allah supported his Prophet and bestowed upon the Muslims victory over the enemies of Islam. Only then did they migrate to Madinah, and when they did so, they did it by virtue of their own will and not by any command or order of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).
Therefore, the issue here is the ability to maintain one’s religion as well as to preserve and protect lives from death, injustice and oppression. It is lawful for one to find such a safe refuge in non-Muslim countries, as did the earlier Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia (Al-Habashah).
As for the Hadith used by those who adopt strict views in this regard, it is the one narrated by Jarir ibn `Abdullah Al-Bujali, who stated: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) sent a battalion to the tribe of Khuth`um. Some members of the tribe sought salvation in performing prostration (sujud). However, the battalion rapidly killed them. When the Messenger of Allah heard of the news, he ordered their families to be paid half the amount of blood money (diyyah) and said: “I disown all Muslims who live among mushriks.” His companions asked, “Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied: “You could not distinguish the Muslim from the non-Muslim.”
This is a false hadith. However, even if it was actually proved to have been stated by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), its context explains the judgment given by the Prophet, i.e. that people who had declared Islam chose to remain among their non-Muslim tribe rather than migrate to the land of Islam.
When battle broke out between the Muslims and their tribe, the battalion could not tell the Muslims from the non-Muslims. Therefore, the disownment declared by the Prophet of these people comes due to the fact that if they were killed, it was simply because they couldn’t be distinguished from the non-Muslims, and that the battalion did nothing wrong. This issue does not exist in our time and, therefore, applying this hadith is entirely inappropriate. It is also a grave distortion of proper
understanding to use a segment of the hadith rather than mention the entire hadith and appreciate its full meaning and implications. We ask Allah Almighty to guide us to the truth and perfection.
Elaborating on the issue of whether Muslims living in western countries should return to their countries of origin or remain in the West, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: I would not advise Muslims in the West to move to their original Muslim countries. The whole world belongs to Allah, and Allah tells us in the Qur’an to move freely in the land.
however, if a Muslim were to fear that he or she will lose his/her faith by living in the West, then he or she must go back and settle down where he or she can protect his or her religion.
As for others, while living in the West, they should have a sense of mission to share the message of mercy inherent in Islam with the people around them. By doing so, we are fulfilling the prophecy of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) who said, “This mission of Islam is going to reach every nook and corner of the world.”
May Allah Almighty make us the instruments of guidance.