Hijra in Reverse: The Duty to Emigrate

Our guest essayist VaeVictis wrote a historical account of Las Navas de Tolosa in this space last July. He returns with an examination of the Koranic obligation imposed on Muslims which requires them to emigrate to Dar al-Islam if they find themselves ruled by infidels, living in a “position of inferiority”.

Why is it, then, that so many devout Muslims have chosen to live in the lands of the infidel West, and do not return to the Islamic world as soon as they have the opportunity?

VaeVictis presents us with a surprising answer: Muslims in the West do not in fact live in a position of inferiority.

Hijra in Reverse: The Duty to Emigrate
by VaeVictis

Modern day Muslim immigration to Western nations is a well-known and easily-observed phenomenon. However, most Westerners are ignorant of one of Islam’s oldest tenets, known as “the obligation to emigrate”, which mandates quite the opposite behavior. Stated plainly, the obligation to emigrate is simply an extension of the prohibition against living under infidel rule. If Muslims find themselves living under such circumstances it is their duty to emigrate to Muslim lands as soon as they are physically and fiscally capable of doing so.

Obviously there appears to be a blatant contradiction in the behavior of millions of Muslims regarding this injunction. Are we to believe that all Muslims today residing in non-Muslim countries have simply forsaken an important aspect of Islamic law for personal convenience or economic gain? If so, where is the condemnation? Are there fatwas, or even the hint of debate one would expect from Muslim scholars and the rest of the Muslim world?

To answer these questions requires a closer examination of the practice within Islamic jurisprudence. The concept’s origins are rooted in the belief that Islam, as the one true religion, must never be subject to another religion or put in a position of inferiority.[1] At the same time it is considered not only lawful, but theologically proper for Islam to assume a position of dominance over other faiths.

The Quranic prohibitions against living under non-Muslim rule are remarkably strongly worded and unambiguous. Because these ayat (verses) are essential to this discussion, they are listed here.[2]

Sura 4:97-100:

As for those whose souls are taken by the angels (at death) while in a state of unbelief, they will be asked by the angels: “What (state) were you in?” They will answer: “We were oppressed in the land.” And the angels will say: “Was not God’s earth large enough for you to migrate?” Their abode will be Hell, and what an evil destination!(97) But those who are helpless, men, women and children, who can neither contrive a plan nor do they know the way, (98) May well hope for the mercy of God; and God is full of mercy and grace. (99) Whosoever leaves his country in duty to God will find many places of refuge, and abundance on the earth. And he who leaves his home and becomes an emigre in the way of God and His Messenger, and death overtake him, is sure to receive his reward from God; for God is forgiving and kind. (100)

Sura 8:72b:

You are not responsible for protecting those who embraced the faith but did not leave their homes, until they do so. In case they ask for your help in the name of faith, you are duty bound to help them, except against a people with whom you have a treaty; for God sees all that you do. (72)

Sura 16:110:

But (to) those who were victimized and left their homes and then fought and endured patiently, your Lord will surely be forgiving and kind.(110)

Sura 29:56:

O My creatures who believe, surely My earth has plenty of scope and so worship only Me. (56)

Notably the only exception permitted was the inability to emigrate, as stated in Sura 4:98 above. Accordingly most fatwas permitting living in infidel lands only for exceptional reasons such as: physical incapacity such as age or disability, fiscal inability to acquire the means necessary to leave and an immediate danger in travelling. Some fatwas condemned even Muslim merchants from entering the non-Muslim world in the course of trade or commerce.[3]

The most important precedent of all is Muhammad’s Hijra from Mecca to Medina.

When faced with the superior strength of the non believers he retired to Medina until he was strong enough to return and subdue Mecca.

Following the example of the Prophet, emigration during times of war is acceptable so long as it is viewed as a temporary setback to be regained later under more favorable conditions.

The year of this event assumes no less important role than the first year of the Islamic calendar, referred to as A.H. or anno hegirae, the year of the Hijra.

In the face of such a clearly defined prohibition within both the Quran and the Sunnah (the Prophet’s behavior), one must wonder how modern-day immigration is so acceptable and widespread among Muslims?

The underlying reason for the apparent chasm between Quranic injunction and Muslim action lies in the remarkable successes of Islam’s early conquests.

It is a typical human flaw to assume current conditions will prevail into the future, and in this regard the formulation of the Quran and Islamic law were no exception. The duty to emigrate stems from the naïve optimism of Muslims which extrapolated indefinitely into the future Islam’s stunning early victories.

The relocation of Muhammad and his small band of followers from Mecca to Medina was a relatively simple task.

However, strict observance of this precedent would have required relocating half the Muslim world after the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, and large sections of the Near East after the First Crusade — clearly an absurd notion.

It is interesting to note that this glaring deficiency in the Quran and the Sunnah to anticipate a normal existence for Muslims, experiencing both large-scale military success and failure, does not seem to have at all detracted from belief in their divine revelation.

Although Muhammad’s Hijra may have served as a suitable example during the centuries of Islam’s rapid expansion when the loss of territory was an almost unknown experience, the events of the 11th century hit Islamic jurisprudence like a freight train.

Massive territorial losses in Spain, the conquest of Sicily by the Normans and the formation of Crusader kingdoms in the Near East created a hitherto unknown experience in Islamic history — large numbers of the faithful involuntarily brought under non-Muslim rule.

Islamic tradition had always been well-equipped to resolve questions of rule over conquered non-Muslims, but was caught completely unprepared for the role-reversal of the 11th century.

Up until this time the majority of Muslim jurists strictly condemned living under infidel rule.[4] Faced with this new situation Islamic jurists scrambled to formulate guidance.

Generally, as the situation was understood to be a long-term rather than a temporary setback, Islamic law became more amenable to the reality of Muslims living as minorities.

In 1085 the Sunni scholar al-Juwayni completed his book The Saviors in which he expounded theory for Muslims to self-govern in the absence of Islamic rule.

Portentously, the date his publication was presented to the Abbasid Sultan coincided with the loss of Toledo in Spain to Alfonso VI.

Al-Juwayni presented a solution known as the rule of scholars — wilayat al-ulama.

Basically in the absence of Islamic central authority power should be put in the hands of the ulama — Muslim scholars — to govern instead.

From this perspective we can observe that the original rules stated in the Quran were based on the unsustainable good fortune of Islam’s early conquests. This doctrine proved entirely inadequate to cope with the unforeseeable resurgence of European powers and the Mongol invasions. This in turn necessitated Islamic jurisprudence to bend the rules, gradually becoming more and more accepting of Muslim minorities under foreign rule.

Fast-forward a millennium to today and we find that of the worlds 1.5 billion Muslims, one third, or approximately 500 million, live as religious minorities (some 133 million in China and India alone).[5]

While we may explain the existence of minorities in Medieval Europe as the result of involuntary events, this still does not adequately account for modern immigration, which is undertaken voluntarily with the full knowledge that life under a non-Muslim government is not only the end result, but in fact the objective!

Clearly events such the loss of Sicily and Spain forced a less stringent interpretation upon Islamic jurists, a factor which opened the door to the current widespread acceptance of the mass migration we witness today. However, this is not entirely sufficient to explain the phenomenon.

The additional reason, specific to our modern world, is that being an ethnic minority in a Western nation is no longer a position of lesser power.

Remember that the underlying basis for the prohibition against living under infidel rule is because Islam must never be put in a place of inferiority or subservience to another religion.

The ability of Muslim minorities to wield power and consume resources disproportionate to their numbers points to greater strength, not less.

In Medieval Europe, Muslim communities would often be granted a large degree of autonomy and their own representatives. Yet no matter how benevolent Christian rule may have been, life in Medieval Europe differed in a number of important ways.

Muslims in Medieval Christian societies could generally expect even under optimal conditions:

  • Payment of extra taxes specific only to Muslims
  • Enslavement to Christians for debts, and more commonly serfdom to Christians landholders
  • The possibility of communal violence
  • Appropriation of mosques and other property at the whim of the government
  • Confiscation of estates and monies by government fiscal authorities in contravention of Islamic inheritance laws.

Many of these practices were not discriminatory against Muslims; a Christian serf would have lived under similar conditions. However, equality under the law has never been the issue.

The fact remains that Muslims were subordinate to a government and creed not their own in a manner that was highly visible and pervasive. Predictably, Muslim immigrants to such a place were few and far between.

All of these practices are of course illegal, and considered morally reprehensible within a modern Western society.

The end result is that Muslims in the West can in effect live under Muslim rule. Although they do not have 100% autonomy, they are able to achieve something close enough self-rule that they do not feel the compulsion to emigrate.

As seen in 21st century Britain, they are able to establish parallel societies and set up sharia courts.

The President of the Sharia Council of Britain:

In the absence of Islamic Court (Qadi) in any country where Muslims are in a minority and the state does not recognize Islamic Law, Muslims are required to form a board of Islamic jurists to judge in the personal matters relating to Sharia. This opinion is that of a well-respected Hana? scholar ibn Abideen Shami and agreed by other scholars up to our time. This board of scholars is in place of a Qadi and the decisions of such a board will be binding on all Muslims in the country where Muslims are living as a minority community.[6]

The application of wilayat al-ulama can be observed most recently in France after the publication of Muhammad cartoons by Charlie Hebdo. Previously there had been angry demonstrations against the film Innocence of Muslims, and when it appeared that the Charlie Hebdo publication would result in a new wave of protests the ‘leaders of the Muslim community in France appealed for calm.’ Not surprisingly there have been no outbursts of violence or even demonstrations.

It is important to dissect the mainstream media phrase ‘leaders of the Muslim community in France.’

The most prominent among these leaders are Dalil Boubakeur, the senior cleric of the grand mosque in Paris, Sheikh Dr. Tuhami Briz, the chairman of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in France, and Mohammed Moussaoui a mathematics teacher representing the Rassemblement des Musulmans de France.

Notably, all these men have high academic credentials and are not merely prominent members of the Muslim community; they are the scholars who form the wilayat al-ulama. They are the governing body of French Muslims.

As such their directives are binding on the Muslim community; hence the resounding silence following the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.


1.   Davis-Secord, Sarah. “Muslims in Norman Sicily: The Evidence of Imam al-Mazari’s Fatwas.” Mediterranean Studies 16 (April 2007): p. 54.
2.   Translations from Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation, trans. Ahmed Ali (Princeton, 1988).
3.   Davis-Secord, Sarah. “Muslims in Norman Sicily: The Evidence of Imam al-Mazari’s Fatwas.” Mediterranean Studies 16 (April 2007): 54.
4.   Khir, Bustami. “Who Applies Islamic Law in Non-Muslim Countries? A Study of the Sunni Principle of the Governance of the Scholars (wilayat Al-’ulama’).” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 27, no. 1 (April 2007): 79—91. P. 87
5.   Leavitt, Sandra Ruth. Persuasion, Coercion, and Neglect: Understanding State Policy and the Mobilization of Muslim Minorities in Asia. ProQuest, 2007. P. 6
6.   Khir, Bustami. “Who Applies Islamic Law in Non-Muslim Countries? A Study of the Sunni Principle of the Governance of the Scholars (wilayat Al-’ulama’).” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 27, no. 1 (April 2007): 79—91. P. 89-90

4 thoughts on “Hijra in Reverse: The Duty to Emigrate

  1. Bringing Muslims under dhimmi-like conditions has always been an objective of my ideology. When faced with a Leftist who cries “racism”, point out the “racist” Churchill defeated Nazism, and had harsh words about Islam.

  2. An excellent example of common-sense thinking Columnist. But if common-sense were in plentiful supply, there would be no Muslims living anywhere outside the Middle-east. And maybe not even there.

  3. I’ve asked Moslems the same question–“Why did you stay in this ‘infidel hell’ when you could return to the Islamic country from which you emigrated (or any other Moslem nation)?

    The reply is usually pure sophistry– Their Moslem homelands are not really Islamic, so they have decided to ‘tolerate’ Kuffar civilisation and all its benefits until the triumph of true Islam.

    Old man

  4. I thought plumbing, electric, metalled roads, and freedom to bend ignore laws while the indigenous population puts you on a pedestal beyond blame.

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