Emigration To a Non-Muslim Country

By Mufti Taqi Usmani

Q.) 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 Shariah, and those of the West. They contend that whilst both are equal in having no Islamic laws, their personal rights, property and honor 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.

1. 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 (abhorrence) whatsoever as long as he resolves to protect his faith, and keep himself away from the widespread evil found there.
2. 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 fard duties, and the Shariah 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 you through its tracts, and enjoy of the sustenance that He furnishes; and unto Him is the resurrection. [Al-Mulk 67:15]
3. If a Muslim adopts the nationality of an 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.
4. 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 many temptations of evil.

5. 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. There is no need to cite evidence for this.