Is it allowed for Muslims to take nationality of America or some other non-Muslim country?
Following is published for knowledge and guidance of people, who:
a. live in a non-Muslim country but criticize those who reside in a Muslim country
b. are planning to migrate to a non-Muslim country
Verily, Allah (swt) knows best.
The following are three fatawa from two contemporary scholars on the issue of residing in the land of the unbelievers.
The first one is taken from a response written by Muhammad Taqi al-Uthmani for the Majlis of Majma al-Fiqh al-Islami, held in Amman, Jordan from 8-13 Safr, 1407 A.H. corresponding to 11-16 October, 1986 in response to one of the 28 questions sent by the Islamic Center of Washington to the Majma on issues pertaining to Muslims residing in North America and Europe. It was published in “Buhuth fi-Qadayaa Fiqhiyya Mu’asara.” (p. 328-331)
The other two were two questions put to Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Salih al-Uthaimeen of Saudi Arabia and his response. It was taken from “al-Majmu al-Thameen min Fatawa fadilatis-sheikh Muhammad Ibn Salih al-Uthaimen.” Vol 1, p. 54-61
(Q1) Is it allowed to take the nationality of America or some European country? Some people who have already taken their nationality or are in the process argue that they are persecuted in their Muslim homelands, imprisoned unfairly, their wealth is seized, and all this forces them to adopt the nationality of non-Muslim countries. Some other Muslims say that when our own Muslim countries do not implement the Islamic punishments (hudud) or Islamic Sharia, then what difference is there between an Muslim and a non-Muslim country? Both are equal in not implementing Islamic laws. On the contrary, when we take the nationality of a non-Muslim country, it preserves our right to live, own wealth, and honor. Moreover, they are safer than Muslim countries. We do not fear imprisonment without a due cause, whereas in a Muslim country we always fear imprisonment.
(A) Taking permanent residence in a non-Muslim country, adopting their nationality, and making it one’s country of residence as its citizen is a matter whose ruling (hukm) differs with those who seek citizenship, their motivations, and intentions. For instance:
(1) If a Muslim is persecuted in his home country without any crime, imprisoned for no due reason, his wealth seized unjustly and he has no way of protecting himself from these injustices except taking residence in a non-Muslim country, then in this case it is permissible for him to take its citizenship without any dislike (kiraha) given he makes sure that he will be able to practice his deen in daily life and is able to guard against the promiscuity and evil widespread over there. The evidence for this is the following: the Companions migrated to Abyssinia after being persecuted by the people of Mecca. Abyssinia at the time was led by the unbelievers. And they stayed there, some Companions did not cease to reside after the migration of Allah’s Mesenger (saw) to Madina. Abu Musa al-Ashari did not return till the expedition of Khaibar, that is in the seventh year after the Hijra. Moreover, it is the right of one’s self (nafs) on a person that he protects it from all forms of injustice (dhulm). If a person can not find protection for himself except in the land of the unbelievers, then there is no obstacle in migrating to it as long as he safeguards his religious obligations and stays away from forbidden abominations.
(2) Similarly a person faced by financial hardships who can not find sufficient means of support without which he can not do and he does not find them except in such lands, then it is permissible for him with the conditions mentioned. This is because earning a livelihood is a duty (faridah) after other obligations which the Sharia has not restricted to any one place. Allah says:
“He it is, Who has made the earth subservient to you, so walk in the path thereof and eat of His provisions, and to Him will be the Resurrection.” 67:15
(3) Similarly, if a person becomes a citizen of a a country to invite its people to Islam or to teach the rulings of the Sharia to the Muslims living in it, then not only is it permissible, but he will be rewarded for it. Many Companions and Tabi’een took residence in the land of the unbelievers for this praiseworthy purpose, and this is counted among their merits.
(4) If a person has sufficient financial means at his disposal in his Muslim homeland such that he can spend his life according to the standard of life of other people in his town, but he migrates to the land of the unbelievers to raise his standard of living and to be able to live in luxury, then such is not devoid of dislike (kiraha). He has exposed himself to the evil spread over there without any wordily or religious need sactioning it. Experience testifies that the religious zeal of those who adopt citizenship for the sake of a luxurious life weakens and they melt in front of the glitter of unbelievers.
Abu Daud reports on the authority of Samura ibn Jundub that the Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever joins a Mushrik and lives with him is like him.” (Abu Daud, at-Tirmidhi) Jabir relates the Prophet (saw) said, “I am free of every Muslim who lives among the Musrikeen.” We asked, “Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Their fires should not be visible to one another.” (Abu Daud)
Imam al-Khattabi writes:
“Different scholars have interpreted this hadith in different ways. One is that they are not equal in their hukm (ruling; meaning they both have different rulings pertaining to them). Others say this hadith means Allah has differentiated between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Kufr, hence it is not allowed for a Muslim to live in the land of the unbelievers since when they will lit their fire, he will be seen to belong to them. It also an evidence that it is disliked (makruh) for a Muslim to goto Dar al-Harb for trade and to stay there for more than four days.” (Mu’alim us-Sunnan by al-Khattabi. Kitab al-Jihad)
Abu Daud reports in his Marasil from Makhool from the Prophet (saw), “Do not leave your children among the polythiests.”
This is why some jurists (fuqaha) have mentioned that Muslims living in Dar al-Kufr and increasing their numbers for the sake of making money takes away a person’s adala (uprightness). (Takmila Radd al-Mukhtar I:101)
(5) Taking citizenship of foreign lands to earn respect and honor, or to prefer their citizenship over that of Muslim countries, or to resemble them in daily life is absolutely haram. This does not even require any evidence!
(Q2) And he was asked: What is the ruling (hukm) of traveling (safr) to the land of the unbelievers? And what is the ruling concerning going there for tourism?
(A) He answered by stating: Traveling (safr) to the land of the unbelievers is impermissible (la yajooz) unless three conditions are met:
(a) That the person has knowledge (ilm) to repel doubts (shub-bahaat).
(b) That he has deen which will prevent him from falling into lustful desires (shah-a-waat).
(c) There is a need to travel.
If these conditions are not met he is not allowed to travel to the land of the unbelievers due to the fitna or fear of fitna that exists there and the wasting of wealth that usually accompanies such visits. As for some (genuine) need like medical treatment or acquiring knowledge that is not found in his land, and he has knowledge (ilm) and deen as we have described above, then there is no harm in it.
As for traveling for tourism to the land of the unbelievers, then there is no need for that, also, it is possible for him to go to the lands of the Muslims to safeguard the manifest symbols of Islam for his family. Our lands, and all praise is due to Allah, have become tourist attractions where one may possibly go.
(Q3) What is the ruling about residing (iqama) in the land of the unbelievers?
(A) The Sheikh answered: Residing in the land of the unbelievers is a dangerous matter for the deen of a Muslim as well as his manners and morals. We as well as others have witnessed lot of deviation in those who lived there and came back not being on what they left with. They returned back sinners (fussaq), some even apostated not only from their religion, but from the rest of them as well – refuge is sought with Allah – having become stubbornly resilient, making fun of the deen and its adherents, those who came before and those who came after!
Residence in the land of the unbelievers has two necessary conditions to it:
(a) The resident is secure about his deen in the sense that he has knowledge (ilm), faith (imaan), and a strong resolve such that he can be confident that he will remain firm on his deen, cautious against deviation and misguidance, and he will conceal enmity for the unbelievers and have animosity towards them, far from turning towards and showing affection as turning towards them and loving them goes against Imaan as Allah says:
“Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (for ever). Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve felicity.” al-Mujadilah 22 ” O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. Those in whose hearts is a disease – thou seest how eagerly they run about amongst them, saying: “We do fear lest a change of fortune bring us disaster.” Ah! perhaps Allah will give (thee) victory, or a decision according to His will. Then will they repent of the thoughts which they secretly harboured in their hearts.” 5: 51, 52
And it is confirmed in an authentic hadith that the Prophet said, “Whoever loves a people will be one of them, and a man will be with the one he loves.”
Loving the enemies of Allah is one of the greatest dangers for a Muslim since loving them necessitates conforming with and following them, or at least not stopping them, that is why the Prophet said, “A man will be with whom he loves.”
(b) That he is able to express his deen in the sense that he is able to establish the outward manifest symbols (Sha’air) of Islam without any hindrance so there is no obstacle in establishing the prayer; the Jumu’ah; the congregation (jama’ah) when there is someone with him to establish the congragation (jama’ah) and Jumu’ah; there is no obstacle in (administering) zakat, fasting, Hajj, and other symbols of Islam. If he is unable to do so, he is not allowed to reside and must migrate (hijra).
It is stated in al-Mughni (vol. 8, p. 457) under the discussion of the categories of people with respect to migration (hijra):
“One of those who must migrate is one who is unable to show his deen and is not able to establish the obligatory duties (wajibaat) of his deen due to his residence with the unbelievers. On such it is obligatory to migrate as Allah said:
“Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves, (the angels) will ask: In what were ye engaged? They will say: We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious that ye could have migrated therein? As for such, their habitation will be hell, an evil journey’s end.” 4:97
This is a severe threat which points towards obligation (wajub) because establishing an obligation of the deen is obligatory on one who is able to. Migration (hijra) is from the requirements of the obligation and its perfection and if an obligation can not be fulfilled except something, then that thing becomes obligatory as well.”
After completing these basic conditions, residence in Dar al-Kufr can be divided into the following types:
(1) That he resides to give da’wa to Islam and awaken (people) to it. This is a type of Jihad that is a communal obligation (fard kifaya) on the one capable with the condition that he will materialize the da’wa and there is no obstacle in (delivering) it or (others) responding to it. This is because da’wa to Islam is from the obligations of the deen and the way of the messengers. The Prophet has commanded to deliver the message on his behalf in every age and time as he said, “Relate from me even if a single verse.
(2) That he resides to study the state of the unbelievers and to know what they are upon of corruption (fasad) of creed (aqeeda), false worship, immorality, and confused behavior so he may warn people of the reality of their affairs. This type of residence is also a type of Jihad since it serves as giving a warning against disbelief and the unbelievers which implies inviting to Islam and its guidance. The corruption of disbelief is proof for the validity of Islam as they say, “things are known by their opposites.” But he must materialize his intent without incurring greater harm since if he does not materialize his intent by not spreading what they are upon and cautioning against it, then there is no benefit of his residence. If materializing his intent will result in a greater harm like reciprocating their abuse of Islam, the Messenger, and the scholars of Islam because of his action, then he must hold himself back as Allah has said,
“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.” al-An’am 108
This residence in the land of the unbelievers is like being the eyes of the Muslims so he may know how the Muslims should plan against their deceptions as the Prophet (saw) sent Hudaifa ibn Yamman to the polythiests to obtain information about them.
(3) That he resides for some need of a Muslim country and establishing (diplomatic) ties like an embassy staff. Their ruling is the same as for the ones for whom they are staying. Cultural attache may, for instance, stay in order to oversee the affairs of the students and to watch them and to encourage them to practise the deen of Islam and its morals and manners. By his residence great benefit might be achieved.
(4) That he resides for a specific, permissible need, for instance trade or medical treatment. In this case it is allowed for him to reside as long as may be needed. The scholars have stated the permissibility of entering the lands of the unbelievers based on some reports from the Companions.
(5) That he resides for education. This is similar to residing due to some need as mentioned above, but it is more dangerous and harder on the religion of the resident and his morals. This is because a student is conscious of his low level and the high level of his instructors. This leads to repect of and conviction in their beliefs and ideas. Hence, he may blindly follow them save for those whom Allah protects. Moreover, a student depends on his instructor which leads to affection and a desire to please him in the deviation and misguidance he is upon. Also a student might make friends among his peers, love them, turn towards them, and take from them. Due to the extreme danger of this of this type, we will add some more conditions to the ones already mentioned:
(a) The student must be at a very mature mental level which would enable him to distinguish between what is beneficial and what is harmful and be able to foresee distant future. Sending young and immature ones is very dangerous for their deen and morals. Moreover, they also pose a threat to their communities after they return and spew forth the poison they were made to drink from these unbelievers as we have seen and is testified by reality. Many of them return back but not as they left – they come back deviated in their morals and manners. They cause great harm to their societies in these matters as can be seen. Sending them is like putting a sheep infront of a raving predator!
(b) The student must have knowledge of the Sharia that would enable him to distinguish between truth and falsehood and fight falsehood with truth perchance he is duped by the falsehood they are upon, imagining it to be truth or is deceived,or is unable to defend it, otherwise he will be left confused following falsehood. A reported supplication states, “O Allah, show me the truth as the truth, and enable me to follow it. O Allah, show me show me falsehood as falsehood and enable me to stay away from it and do not let it confuse me, so I may be misguided.”
(c) The student has deen that will safeguard and protect him against disbelief and sinfulness. One weak in his deen will not be safe if he resides there, except for whom Allah wills otherwise. This is because onslaughts are strong and the defenses are feeble. Causes of disbelief and sinfulness are many and diverse so if he comes across an occasion with feeble defenses, he might fall into it.
(d) There is some need of the knowledge for which he is residing over there, for instance, there is some benefit for the Muslims in him acquiring it. Also, the same education is not available in institutions of his own land. If it is useless type of knowledge or if it is available in Islamic lands, he is not allowed to reside in the land of the unbelievers for it since residing with them poses a danger to the deen and the morals and a waste of wealth without benefit.
(6) He resides to live and settle. This case presents more danger than the ones before and leads to greater harm because it involves complete mixing with the unbelievers since they demand nationalistic allegiance and doing so increases the numbers of the unbelievers. His raising family with people of disbelief leads to adopting their morals and habits, maybe even blind imitation in belief (aqeeda) and worship. This is why a hadith mentions that the Prophet (saw) said, “Whoever joins a Mushrik and lives with him is like him.” Even though it has a weak isnad but it sets a perspective since settling leads to resemblance.
Qais ibn Abi Hazim reports on the authority of Jarir ibn Abd-Allah that the Prophet (saw) said, “”I am free of every Muslim who lives among the Musrikeen.” We asked, “Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Their fires should not be visible to one another.” Reported by Abu Daud and at-Tirmidhi. Most of the the reports are mursal from Qais ibn Abi Hazim from the Prophet (saw). At-Tirmidhi said he heard Muhammad – that is al-Bukhari – saying the correct opinion concerning the hadith of Qais is that it is mursal.
How can the soul of a believer feel good about settling in the land of the unbelievers where the symbols of unbelief are dominant, the rule belongs to other than Allah and His Messenger (saw), and he witnesses to that with his eyes and hears with his ears and is pleased with it! Rather he ascribes himself to those lands and settles in them with his family and children and feels content with that as if he was in the land of the Muslims! This is notwithstanding the great danger on him, his family and children regarding their deen and morals.
This is what we have reached as far as residing in the lands of the unbelievers is concerned. We ask Allah that He makes it conform to what is right and correct.
Translated by Kamil Mufti