Naturalization in a non-Muslim Country
There are different views on the subject of a Muslim obtaining the nationality of a non-Muslim country. The first view forbids it, as he will be subject to all country laws. The other says that it is permissible.
Naturalization in a non-Muslim Country
Holding the nationality of a non-Muslim country;
A Muslim who resides in a non-Muslim country but was not born a citizen may seek to obtain its nationality so that he may have the full rights of citizenship. As such he will have to abide by the commitments of such nationality. He may do so because it is difficult or unsafe for him to return to his home country and he wishes to settle in his country of residence.
Contemporary scholars differ in their rulings on the question of acquiring the nationality of a non-Muslim country.
The first view considers the acquisition of the nationality of a non-Muslim country to be forbidden. This is agreed by many contemporary scholars including Muhammad Rasheed Rida and Abd al-Hameed ben Badis.
The advocates of this view cite in evidence
the Qur’anic verses:
‘Whoever of you allies himself with them is indeed one of them. God does not bestow His guidance on the wrongdoers.’
‘Believers, do not take your fathers and brothers for allies if they choose unbelief in preference to faith. Those of you who take them for allies are indeed wrongdoers.’
They say that whoever acquires the nationality of a non-Muslim country will be required to change his affiliation from a Muslim country to a non-Muslim one, which is one of the most important marks of alliance.
The Prophet says:
‘I disown any Muslim who lives among the idolaters.’
(Related by al-Tirmidhi, hadith No. 1,654)
He also says:
‘Do not live in the same quarters as the idolaters, and do not socialize with them. Whoever lives with them is like them.’
(Related by al-Tirmidhi, hadith No. 1,655)
These hadiths show that living with the unbelievers is forbidden and it is obligatory that one should leave them.
The scholars argue that naturalization requires the one adopting the nationality of a non-Muslim country to be subject to all of the laws and regulations of that country with regard to how he conducts his life. However, most of these laws and regulations are based on unbelief and are in direct opposition to Islamic law, such as permitting adultery, usury and apostasy in the name of freedom and human rights.
Furthermore, when a person acquires the nationality of a country he is obliged to defend that country and to join its army when she is at war with another country, even though the other country may be Muslim. It is well known that it is not permissible to place one’s trust in unbelievers and those committing injustice, and it is also forbidden to aid those who commit evil and aggression. Most importantly it is a grave sin to help unbelievers who are fighting Muslims.
The second view allows a Muslim to acquire the nationality of a non-Muslim country in several cases, such as fleeing persecution and injustice, having no alternative that allows him to live in a Muslim country or to earn a decent living, which may be very hard in the home country. It is also permissible if it serves the interests of Islam and Muslims by being able to advocate Islam freely, practise it without pressure and maintain one’s Islamic identity and loyalty to the Muslim community. On the other hand, if naturalization causes harm rather than bringing benefit, as in the case of one who admires unbelievers and identifies himself with them, then it becomes forbidden. Several contemporary scholars endorse this view, such as Shaikh Muhammad ibn Uthaimeen and Shaikh Abdullah ibn Jibreen.
In support of this view, scholars cite
the Qur’anic verse:
‘As for anyone who denies God after having accepted the faith – and this certainly does not apply to one who does it under duress while his heart remains true to his faith, but applies to him who willingly opens his heart to unbelief – upon all such falls God’s wrath, and theirs will be a tremendous suffering.’
The verse makes clear that under compulsion a Muslim may say that he rejects Islam while his heart remains true to his faith, so in cases of duress he may obtain the nationality of a non-Muslim country to protect himself, his faith, his property or his family. Islam always considers the greater benefit and thus allows choosing the lesser evil in order to ensure the greater good. So to be naturalized in a non-Muslim country involves some harm but it brings much greater benefits. Indeed, what is better or more important than being able to advocate Islam freely?
When a person acquires the nationality of the country he lives in he also acquires strength and a better position in society. He is better able to demand his full rights, his affairs are set on a proper course and he is able to enjoy his basic rights, something which people in Muslim countries are often denied. To reside in a non-Muslim country is perfectly permissible if one is able to practise his faith and maintain his Islamic identity. It ensures security for oneself and one’s family and honour. Naturalization adds little more than becoming a subject of the country.
Advocates of this second view respond to the first view by saying that naturalization does not mean taking unbelievers as allies. A naturalized person formally belongs to the country that has granted him nationality, but his heart and allegiance remains Muslim and he will continue to abide by the laws of Islam. The hadiths that prohibit living among unbelievers are understood to apply when a Muslim is unable to practise his faith or fears persecution on account of his faith. In such cases, he must not reside among unbelievers.
As for being subject to laws that are contrary to Islamic law, such laws are now commonplace in many Muslim countries and a naturalized person commits himself not to refer to these laws for judgement except in a situation of absolute necessity.
With regard to serving in a non-Muslim army, most countries do not enforce conscription and even in the case when a naturalized Muslim is forced to fight against Muslims he may abstain from doing so, even if he endangers his own life as a result.
Mut’ib al-Qahtani (ed.), Is'af al-Mughtaribin bi Fatawa al-'Ulama’ al-Rabbaniyyin.
Fatawa al-Aqaliyyat al-Muslimah, by a group of scholars.
Abdullah ibn Jibreen, Al-Mufid fi Taqrib Ahkam al-Musafir.
Sulaiman Muhammad Topoliyak, Al-Ahkam al-Siyasiyyah lil Aqaliyyat al-Muslimah fi al-Fiqh al-Islami.
Imad ibn Amir, Al-Hijrah ila Bilad Ghayr al-Muslimin.
Khalid Abd al-Qadir, Fiqh al-Aqaliyyat al-Muslimah.
Muhammad al-Subayyil, ‘Hukm al-Tajannus bi Jinsiyyat Dawlah Ghayr Islamiyyah’.
- Imad ibn Amir, Al-Hijrah ila Bilad Ghayr al-Muslimin, p. 278; M. al-Subayyil, ‘Hukm al-Tajannus bi Jinsiyyat Dawlah Ghayr Islamiyyah’, p. 35; Al-Ahkam al-Siyasiyyah lil Aqaliyyat al-Muslimah fi al-Fiqh al-Islami, p. 79.
- Ibn Uthaimeen, Fatawa al-Aqaliyyat al-Muslimah, p. 112; Ibn Jibreen, Al-Mufid fi Taqrib Ahkam al-Musafir, p. 138; K. Abd al-Qadir, Fiqh al-Aqaliyyat al-Muslimah, pp. 207–8; A. Bin Bayyah, Sina'at al-Fatwa, p. 285.