On Hijrah and Khilāfah: Part 1 of 2: (Abdullah bin Hamid Ali)
Why aren’t more Muslim countries taking in Palestinians and other Muslim refugees? And why are Western countries expected to take in so many? Such questions are meant to suggest inherent Western moral superiority. For if Muslim countries were so much better, why don’t those who complain so much about Western imperial missions in Muslim lands migrate to Muslim countries?
This last question overlooks, of course, the fact that the obstacles to and reasons for migration are many. For if “going back to Africa” or “Muslim countries” was the easy way to solve this dilemma, it would be an equally valid question to ask if Israel is so much better than other places for Jews, why do far more Jews live in the US and other Western nations rather than Israel? The same question could also be asked of any people who have left their “original” homes in order to take up residence in new lands for whatever material or other incentives, like educational and financial opportunity, religious freedom, or asylum.
The 60’s ushered in new meritocratic norms in US immigration, opening doors to many Muslim and other nations largely barred entry prior to that period. Muslims around the globe traveled to the US to take advantage of educational and financial opportunities. The government, however, was selective seeking to attract the best minds from the Muslim world and elsewhere, making the West more conducive for Muslims to live rather than Muslim lands which lacked comparable workers’ rights, equal opportunity, and other employment perquisites. Europe was less scrupulous than the US, and accepted immigrants from Asia and Africa seeking greater economic opportunity but without the strictures imposed by the US, which eventually burdened the social system in Europe and led to widespread xenophobia.
Despite the financial and similar advantages of living in the West, there are also hazards which highlight the merit to the question of migration to Muslim lands. But why aren’t Muslims abandoning Western nations in mass? Aren’t Islamophobia and the moral hazards involved with remaining here sufficient justification to leave? Aren’t the physical and moral dangers posed by political parties enough to warrant migration to Muslim lands, to live in environments more conducive to our mores and in the shade of the Shariah?
Well, if only the answers and solutions were as simple as imagined by Western civilizational supremacists, the pro-caliphate and pro-democracy factions of Muslims alike. Where would Muslims go? How many of us could afford to go there? What would we do to make a living? And how would we ensure that we won’t become a burden on the host societies? Who would we give allegiance to? And would that allegiance be contingent upon the khalifah conforming to our wants as opposed to us subordinating what we fancy to the directives of the khalifah, as long as he does not invite us to commit sin?
The reality is that, under current norms, permanent residency status does not come easy in practically any Muslim country. Many Muslims admire Turkey. But Turkey is a “secular” nation despite having a majority Muslim population. Nor do most people have a store of tens of thousands of dollars to purchase Turkish citizenship. How about Qatar, UAE, or Saudi Arabia? How about Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, Brunei, Bahrain, or Oman? Every country has strict conditions for citizenship. And some make it difficult even for short visits.
I’ve heard calls for hijrah since I was a teenager. But very few Muslims I know have actually taken the leap. And even some blessed to find employment in the richer Muslim countries, generally, have not obtained citizenship status, often after decades of residency.
I don’t blame anyone who migrates to Muslim lands to protect his family from the corrosive elements of Western culture. I, actually, find it admirable. The US, unlike many places in Europe, is a union of states, each like its own independent country with a unique culture. This affords citizens plenty of opportunities to make hijrah within the US. And while many Muslims believe that a proper hijrah entails leaving one’s own country, they should be reminded that in the Prophet’s day—Allah’s blessing and peace on him—Medina was still located on the Arabian peninsula. The Sahabah weren’t migrating from one foreign “country” to another, especially not a “nation state” with uniform laws intended to be applied equally over a religiously and culturally pluralistic population. Medina was a new environment which accommodated Muslim cultural and religious preferences. Only an idealized vision of the modern nation state could prompt one to believe that hijrah demands relocation to a different country.
Then, what of those who believe that there are no ideal Muslim countries, that they are all ruled by tyrannical autocrats who must be opposed for their lack of commitment to Islam? Is a land still Muslim territory when governors are less democratic for one’s tastes? Or does a country lose its “Islamic” designation because the government refuses to implement scripturally ordained penalties (al-hudud)?
The truth is that Muslim jurists have adopted one of two primary views: 1) a territory is an abode of Islam if the majority of its inhabitants are Muslim and they are able to openly practice their religion. This is the view of the majority; or 2) the designation of the land is determined by who has ultimate dominion over it. Accordingly, if a non-Muslim ruler permits for the Muslim population to practice its religion, it is deemed an Abode of Unbelief. This is the view of the minority of scholars like Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri.
The farce of democracy has been utterly exposed today, and the so-called “freedom-loving” West along with it. Muslims ought to give up the façade of anachronistic projection into the past of an Islamic empire with similar democratic norms as those we find in Western countries today, especially since it would seem that the only freedoms unique to the West are the freedom to mock religion and people in power. Beyond those freedoms, there is not much evidence of the West’s moral or civilizational superiority.
But while the West is full of many contradictions, it is still the home of a great many Muslims who were born in these lands and have little to no desire to relocate to the Muslim world. And I have already spoken about the residential complexities and complications for those who envision a better life in the Muslim world. Thank God the Earth is so spacious and offers multiple locations around the globe suitable for human flourishing no matter how imperfect they may be. That includes lands ruled by the autocrats that so many pro-caliphate and pro-democracy Muslims find so disgusting.
Such places may not be ideal for freedom. But non-Muslims are finding them more attractive alternatives to what they see in the West. Anti-autocrats believe they have a vision for the Muslim world and could rule them better than their incumbents. Perhaps, that is true. What I do know, however, if their cultish intolerance and abrasiveness does anything, it certainly gives me little reason to ever hope to live under their rule. I would much rather remain in my country of birth in a state whose culture accommodates my moral sensibilities than to live under the “caliphate” of myopic intolerant abrasive sociopaths. More on khilāfah in Part 2, God willing.