Migration to Non-Muslim Countries

General Rules

Based on these and other similar ahadith, and other religious proofs, the jurists (mujtahidin) have issued the following rulings:

  1. 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."1 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'qb."2 (See the question-answer section below.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.)

  5. 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.

  6. If the baligh3 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.)

  9. 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. (See the questions at the end of this section.) 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).

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

1. Al-Hurr al-'Amili, Tafsilu Wasa'ili 'sh-Shi'a, vol. 16, p. 188.

2. Ibid.

3. Translator's Note: Baligh means the legal age in Islamic laws which for boys starts at fifteen lunar years and for girls at nine lunar years. Growth of pubic hair or sexual discharge is also a sign of attaining the age of maturity.