Essay – On the migration to non-Muslim countries

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SHAFAQNA - A Muslim who is born and raised in a Muslim country where he consciously and subconsciously absorbs the laws, values and teachings of Islam, grows up into a young person who is aware of the customs of his religion, following its path and is led by its guidance. On the other hand, a Muslim who is born, and brought up in a non-Muslim country demonstrates the influence of that environment very clearly in his thoughts, ideas, behaviour, values, and etiquette unless his Lord helps him. This un-Islamic influence is seen more in the second generation of those who have migrated to non-Muslim countries.
This was the reason for Islam’s view on at-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra as reflected in many ahadith. At-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra literally means “becoming shorn of one’s percepts of faith after migrating [to city],” and technically, it means leaving an environment where you could follow Islam and moving to a place where you maybe prone to not following Islam. Such a migration is counted as one of the major sins. Abu Basir says that he heard Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) saying: “The major sins are seven: killing a person intentionally; associating someone or something with the Almighty Allah (shirk); wrongfully accusing a married woman of adultery; Knowingly dealing in usury; running away from the battle-field in jihad; at-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra; causing distress to one’s parents [by encroaching on their rights]; and wrongfully acquiring the property of the orphan.” Then he said, “At-ta’arrub and shirk are one and the same [in severity].” 
Ibn Mahbûb narrates that some of our companions wrote through me a letter to Imam al-Hasan al-‘Askari (a.s.) asking him concerning the major sins. He (a.s.) wrote: “The major sins are the ones for which Allah has threatened with the Hell-Fire; the one who refrains from them, He will forgive his sins if he is a believer. Those seven which cause [one to burn in Hell Fire] are: killing an innocent person; causing distress to one’s parents [by not upholding their rights]; dabbling in usury; at-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra; wrongfully accusing a married woman of adultery; unlawfully confiscating the property of the orphan; and running away from the battle-field in jihad.” 
Muhammad bin Muslim narrates from Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.): “The major sins are seven; intentionally killing a believer; wrongfully accusing a married woman of adultery; running away from the battle-field in jihad; at-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra; unlawfully confiscating the property of the orphan; dabbling in usury; and every act for which [the punishment of] the Fire has been promised”? 
‘Ubaydullah bin Zurarah narrates that he asked Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) about the major sins. The Imam said, “In the book of [Imam] ‘Ali, they are seven: disbelieving in Allah; killing a person; causing distress to one’s parents; dabbling in usury; unlawfully confiscating the property of the orphan; running away from the battle-field in jihad; at-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra.” Then he asked, “So these are the most major of sins?” The Imam replied, “Yes.” 
Imam ar-Rida (a.s.) explained the prohibition of at-ta’arrub ba’d al-hijra as follows: “Since there is the danger that because of at-ta’arrub, he [the immigrant] might abandon [Islamic] knowledge, get involved with the ignorant people, and drift away” 
This, however, does not mean that entering non-Muslim countries is always forbidden. Other ahadith had described for us the reward of one who visits non-Muslim lands, the reward that every Muslim longs for. Hammad al-Sindi narrates that he asked Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.), “I visit the cities of polytheism [i.e., of the polytheists]; and there are some among us who say that ‘if you die over there, you will be raised [in the Hereafter] along with them.'” The Imam asked me, “O Hammad, when you are over there do you talk about our affair [i.e., our truth] and call [people] to it?” I replied, “Yes.” The Imam asked me, “When you are in these cities, the cities of Islam, do you talk about our affair and call [people] to it?” I replied, “No.” The Imam said, “If you die over there [in the land of the non-Muslims], you will be raised as an ummah by yourself, and there will be light in front of you!”

Based on these and other similar ahadith, and other religious proofs, the jurists (mujtahidin) have issued the following rulings:
It is recommended for a believer to travel to non-Muslim countries for the purpose of spreading the religion [of Islam] and its teaching, provided that he can safeguard himself and his young children against the dangers of loss of the faith. The Prophet said to Imam ‘Ali, “If Allah guides a person from among His servants through you, then that is better than everything between the east and the west on which the sun shines.”

When asked by a person for a counsel, he said, “I advise you not to associate anything with Allah…and to call the people to Islam. You should know that [the reward] for you for each person who answers [your call] is [equal to] emancipating a slave from the children of [Prophet] Ya’qûb.” (See the question-answer section below.) A believer is allowed to travel to non-Muslim countries provided that he is sure or has confidence that the journey would not have a negative impact on his faith and the faith of those who are related to him. Similarly, a believer is allowed to reside in non-Muslim countries provided that his residing there does not become a hurdle in the of fulfilling his religious obligations towards himself and his family presently as well as in future. (See the question-answer section below.) It is haram to travel to non-Muslim countries in the East or the West if that journey causes loss of the faith of a Muslim, no matter whether the purpose of that journey is tourism, business, education, or residence of a temporary or permanent nature, etc. (See the question-answer section below.) If the wife strongly feels or is sure that her travelling with the husband [to a non-Muslim country] will result in loss of faith, it is haram for her to travel with him.

If the baligh boys or girls strongly feel that their journey [to the non-Muslim country] with their father or mother or friends will cause loss of faith, it is haram for them to travel with the those people. What do the jurists mean when they speak of, “loss of faith”? It means either committing a forbidden act by indulging in minor or major sins like drinking intoxicant, adultery, eating forbidden meat, or drinking najis (impure) drinks, etc. It also means abandoning the fulfillment of a compulsory act like neglecting salat, fasting, hajj and other obligations. If circumstances force a Muslim to migrate to a non-Muslim country with the knowledge that the migration will cause loss of faith (e.g., a person seeks political asylum in a non-Muslim country in order to save his life), it is permissible for him to make that journey to the extent that it saves his life, and not more than that. (See the question-answer section below.) If an immigrant Muslim, residing in a non-Muslim country, knows that his stay in that country will lead to loss of faith or of that of his children, it is wajib on him to return to one of the Muslim countries.

As mentioned above, this loss of faith is realized by neglecting the obligatory acts or by committing sins.The obligation to return to a Muslim country applies only if it does not lead to death [for example, for a political opponent who has fled his own country], or to putting him in untenable situation or, to an emergency situation where religious obligations are suspended (e.g., the necessity of preserving life which allows a person to eat haram meat in order to prevent his own death from starvation).

If the journey is haram for a person, then his journey will be considered “a journey of sin;” and, in such cases, he loses the benefit of the concession of praying (qasr) in four -rak’at salat and also the benefit of not fasting during the month of Ramadhan. As long as his journey maintains the status of “sin,” he cannot benefit from such concessions provided by the shari’a for travellers.

A son is not allowed to disobey his parents when they forbid him from travelling, if their refusal to give permission is out of their concern for the son, or if his journey will cause distress to them because of his separation from them – provided that he does not suffer loss by not travelling. It is permissible to approach the competent authorities [like police and the justice system in a non-Muslim country] for various important issues -like prevention of harm befalling the person, the honour and the property of a Muslim- provided that it is the only way for exacting one’s right and preventing injustice.By Abdul Hadi as-Sayyid Muhammad Taqi al-Hakim

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