Aug 7, 2009 - islam op-eds    6 Comments

Go back home to your country!

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Go Back Home to Your Country!


This past week an interesting thing happened that brought up a subject I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time. That is the exodus of Muslims from the US back to their countries (or to other Muslim countries). The reason it came up is because a visiting shaykh to the area was asked a question about it and he encouraged all Muslims living in the US to go back to their home countries! He even went so far as to say that the only reasons Muslims were here in the West was for Dunya and ‘to make piles of money’ and that they would be asked about it on the Day of J!!! Now this was said in the richest suburban Masjid in our area where the people are all doctors or professionals and the cars are all BMWs and Mercedes (and I even saw some old uncle driving a really hot convertible to Jumah!) You can imagine the shock and the pin drop silence of everyone there. And then people started arguing saying that they are better Muslims here and that the world is a global village and that it’s not how it used to be with Islamic lands and non-Islamic lands, but he was adamant.

So what do we think about this? :) On the one hand I can see where the shaykh is coming from. I’m sure he gets tons of people that come up to him lamenting about their kids, how messed up they have become and how many have become non-Muslims. No doubt there are a lot of Muslims in the US that have no Islamicity whatsoever after their parents generation. Many even renounce Islam and marry non-Muslims and the children end up becoming non-Muslims. I read an article 10 years ago by Yahiyah Emerick that talked about how we were continuously losing our fist generation and the only reason Islam was surviving in the US was because of fresh immigrants that would ‘refill our stock’. I think if we all thought about it, for every Muslim we know that goes to a Mosque and really tries to raise their kids Islamically we know many more that have become non-practicing and will be completely lost after the next generation. How painful is it for us to learn about all these waves of Muslim immigrants who came to this country even in the 1920s or 1960s and there is barely a trace of them today except for a sign that might say Madina, Ohio. We only have to look to our youth today to see the extremely deterimental state we are in. Do we want the same thing to happen to us and our future generation?

So I always ask myself if these kids and their families would be better if they lived in a Muslim country? There are no doubt the same evils existing there as here and sometimes there is an even higher level of ‘dunya coveting’ and corruption, but the society as a whole tends to protect people from certain things and even if you have a bad apple or two in your children, your entire lineage is not lost because their children have a fairly good chance of being raised as Muslims by the societal culture. To find a girl converting to Christianity and marrying a non-Muslim is rare, but in the US it is sadly becoming common. Wearing hijab, praying 5 times a day, fasting every day in Ramadan is it rare or is it common in the West? And don’t forget statistics say the Mosque-going Muslims are 10% of the actual Muslim population in the US.

But does moving back make sense? What about those people who have no ties to any Muslim country, like white or African-American converts? What country are they supposed to go to? And speaking of which, what country are Muslims going to move to? Saudi has an extremely strict immigration policy as do Syria and most other Muslim countries. In fact there are groups of Muslims who try to ‘make Hijrah’ all the time and are living illegally in these countries. Even if you are legally there you do not have the same access to health care or education as the real Arab citizens do. You can’t even own property. Even if you somehow obtain a work visa and live in these countries, once your working life is over you will be sent back to your ‘original country’. There is no way single women or single mothers would be able to move overseas because the societies are just not built to accommodate them. This is coming from someone who lived overseas for a time on a temporary student basis and that was difficult in itself. And what about all of us who came from minority Muslim countries? (like India or Cambodia or wherever) Why would we just move back to another Muslim minority country? What’s the benefit there? So what should we do?

Some people argue that you can only be a true Muslim if you live in a Muslim country because only there can you practice all of your Deen. Oh really? Muslims in the West can pray, they can fast, they can pay zakat, they can go to Hajj. No doubt there are some discrimination issues there but it is possible. Is there such a thing as Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb anymore? No country in the world practices Islamic Shari’ah 100%. And every Arab country I know of is under a dictatorship. What can’t people practice here if they have the drive or effort in the West?

I think, for myself, having the experience of living in a Muslim country for awhile I can’t see myself moving overseas. I can’t see the Islamic argument for it and I wouldn’t be able to justify it for myself. That’s why when I see these great Muslim families moving overseas it just makes me really sad. They are like so valuable here for so many reasons but over there they could just be anyone. It’s just a big loss for the Muslim community here even if they feel it’s a better decision for themselves and their kids.

I know the New York Times and some other papers (Chicago?) did some articles on this, post 9/11 like in 2002 or something that talked about how there was mass migration back to home countries by Muslims and the affect it was having in certain Muslim type areas like Devon St. /Jackson Heights. But it wasn’t until about 2005 until now that I’ve been noticing a number of very well established good families moving back home. Many families who are here to study and work temporarily are going back home instead of staying like their counterprarts did in the 80s and 90s. If everyone goes back what will be left? If they stayed we could really build a strong identity, culture, foundation and institutions to allow us to be a viable thriving minority in this country.

Is the shaykh right and it’s every family for themselves. Save your family and forget about the rest? Going back to me just feels like the easy way out. When you go back what else do you have to do? Nothing. You raise your family like everyone else. You send them to school and you really don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to be active in the community. You don’t have to teach or do Dawah or anything. (In some of those Muslim countries doing Dawah can get you in a ton of trouble even!) The irony is that many families have gone overseas for the ‘economic benefit’ in these troubled times. (It’s easier for a US professional to find a job over there than here!) So what does this say about the Shaykhs argument about “dunya-lovers” ?!?

Anyway the whole thing is very complex if you ask me. I just thought I’d bring it up as a discussion topic to think about as it’s something I think about every time someone leaves or there’s a new shaykh in town that drops a hugely controversial opinion like this on ppl!! ;)


  • Wow Sis Jannah – heavy topic and as you said, very complicated. To be honest, I wasn’t aware that many families were going back to their country of origin in a significant number. The one thing I saw soon after 9/11 was Arab students from our public university here in Portland leaving, as there were large of them, to go back home. It’s true what you said about being able to practice here vs. the home country, especially in Muslim minority countries (of course, same issue as you have, going back to India – heck no! Love my family there, but no way – being somewhat second-class citizens, that’s why my Amma and Abba left). Yes, while there are discrimation issues here, I feel we are pretty free to move around and as long as we abide by the law, which is Islamically required of us, no matter in which land we live, life in the US isn’t too bad, by Allah’s Grace. Afterall, in times of difficulty, He is the one that Provides and unless the situation here really takes a dive in terms being able to live as Muslims, then yeah, my family as a whole would probably consider it; but for now, seems like things are ok and the bigger problem, as you alluded to, is making sure our youth stick to the Deen.
    When I go to my Islamic Instituion gatherings here when I get a chance, I am very proud of the youth. They are so enthusiastic about their Islam – and it shows in the little things, which I think really reflects, insha’allah, how they will carry their Islam into the future. For example, making sure they give their salams and making sure that others respond accordinly. At one such gathering, the young daughter of the founder of the organization gave salams to the crowd and when we didn’t do a good job of returning her wishes, she said “This is an Islamic gathering people, louder Salams!!” and we promptly fulfilled that and gave the proper reply. There was even some cheering if I recall.
    This may be a small thing, and a bit of wishful thinking on my part, but I do hope that this is a sign that at least American Muslims, if not my generation, the ones coming up behind us will be great torch bearers of Islam as we move forward in this 21st century or shall I say, 15th century of our existence. :-)
    I surely hope it doesn’t come to the point where we would have to have some sort of mass and final exit from the US/America anytime soon; and that our children will be able to live in a time where they won’t have to face the difficulties our community is facing now; it seems as though they will be part of the solution if things take time, but I pray that for the majority of their lives, they won’t have to worry about such things. In other words, that those of us in our prime now and as well as the younger ones I mentioned, will help make the situation here livable and that with Allah’s (swt) Help, we will come out having survived any obstacles that may present themselves in the coming years.
    Anyways, looking forward to seeing what others have to say.

    -Br. Anees
    PS. Not sure if this fits the topic, but I was reminded of the following ayah, though this clearly applies to our overall condition in the world today:

    “Truly, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” [13:11]

  • As salaamu alekum,
    as always sr. jannah very controversial yet necessary topic to think about and discuss, as im sure all muslim activists in america are thinking about. I personally see a great potential in this american community for Muslim. Our youth.. if we are to take them anywhere.. we need to establish institutes which will teach them and raise them in a Muslim environment aka Islamic School. I know there are stereotypes about these schools but subhanAllah seeing the kids that come out of that school, they akhlaaq is amazingly beautiful and their fullforce drive to move forward in dawah and islamic education and their vision of their future in islamic studies is so beautiful. I think thats where we have to focus, thats where we have to put our energy before anything. We could spend 10 years setting up other community services….but then in those 10 years our 10 year olds will be 20 and out to college and deep within the american culture by then… we need Islamic schools .. high quality top notch well paying Islamic Schools delevering beautiful education up to the level of teaching the children Quranic Arabic to point of comprehension insha Allah… taht should be our basic goal insha Allah. Allaho alim.. im not a cirriculum planner.. they know better

    but thats my idea.. we dont need to go “home” my home is here.. i was raised here, i cant associate with other countries… i tried.. it doesnt fit.
    Jazakillah kehyrun

  • asalaam o alaikum,
    The only reason for hijra is if one is prevented from practicing the religion.
    People who live to make money will do that anywhere they live and vice versa.
    The so called muslim countries are now worse in other sins like lying cheating, adultery, fornication, rape, honor killings etc. It is a nightmare. So I would say go with the first guideline and pray a LOT! for your children, after all our parents did!

  • Asalaamu Alaikum

    A lot to ponder on here and ultimately I do not think there is a universal right or wrong answer!

    (Yes, that was me firmly sitting on the fence) ;-)

    But a few things in particular do spring to mind:

    The first is our longing and desire for wealth; indeed this was something our Prophet [saw] warned us about and it is clear in this day age that it is a danger that exists in both Muslim and non Muslim lands.

    There is also the famous hadith in respect of actions being based on intentions and the fact that each of us is rewarded according to our intentions. Obviously you can make an Islamic case for both staying and going using this hadith.

    Moreover, in another famous hadith, a man who killed 100 men was told to go to another town where hopefully he could repent.

    If we want to better ourselves, there is both an external as well as an internal transformation that needs to take place in order for us to keep moving forward. External actions such as quitting the nightclub or the local bar, for example, are just as important as inward actions like making sincere dua and repentance. The two go hand in hand.

    The real question then, is the extent one goes to in *both* aspects if one really wants to change?

    For some, a new life can only be attained by going abroad but if there is no inward transformation complementing this external, they’ll find themselves in a new country but still facing the same old issues (yes unfortunately there are many nightclubs and bars in Muslim countries)

    Conversely when an internal transformation occurs but there is no external component, a person could find himself struggling and, possibly, falling back into error because the negative environment surrounding him has not changed and draws him back in.

    Both need to be addressed *at the same time* for things to get better.

    The real question then becomes whether you need to fly half way across the world to do this?

    My own personal view is that some people need that journey whilst others can change and improve perfectly happily where they are.

    The *success* of any journey, however, will ultimately depend on the *balance* between the internal and external and not the *actual* internals and externals themselves.

    As ever Allah knows best

  • Masahallah we are discussing this topic. All of reading should be happy that we care our dean so much to discuss this. May Allah be pleased with our efforts and forgive all of my spelling mistakes.
    Now let’s consider what we are?
    Pakistani American
    Indian Americans
    Arab American
    We are non of those above. We are simply American Muslim. If we focus more on the Muslim part,we shouldn’t have some of the problems.instead of making our kids feel like a foreign idea, we need to make feel orinal form here. With this train of though us Muslim might not change our name to chad’s & Mo ‘s & oskars and so on. We need our kids to realize that ahmed, hamza , aishaa are completly normal names.
    As for ur Muslim counties and the hospital care for outsiders. When I lived is Saudi, outsiders counted do anything.from travel to medical care. The damn kafil has to do everything..there moral standings are inhumane and completly in Islamic. Fornication is spread widely. Alcohol is available when. Guys are ignorant of the way we need to adress outsiders/immigrant There is no Islam in Pakistan either. Shias and Sunni problems and racism againt the people with in it’s own borders.
    Now I have two kids alhamdillah. They are Muslim born in America. Simple. Not Pakistani born in America. That silly to think we can ever grow up like that and expect to be succesfull here. Now I really do belive that Muslim are becoming non practising with each passing day but show a weakness in our imans and our characteristics. It has nothing to do with where live. This is a great country with some super nice people living in it. We need to bring them the message of Islam, peace universal brotherhood and wisdom that Allah has shared in his book and his prophets.(as)
    But we can only do that once we the Muslim comunity is united and is proud of our common identity of being Muslim. India used be ruled by hindi and Spain by it’s inhabitant. But Islam was able to win over there hearts by the wisdows it brings and the rule equality. We can practise that here more and inshallah one day we will become the majority here may be. Even if we are not the majority we can teach them from the wisdom our prophet has passed on to us…ohh did I say Dow too many times…I think I was trying to say it too many times.
    Ohh not forget the prayer ohh Allah grant me hasanah on earth and Hasanh in the here after. So there should be nothing wrong with going where we will have better conditions for ourselves… It gives us a chance to better practice our religion. As long as we remember those who don’t have the same conditions as us.

  • Assalamualaikum Warahmatullah

    This issue about whether its acceptable for Muslims to live in non-Muslim countries is one that the scholars have a difference of opinion about, so there are two sides to the story. Make sure you just choose the route that helps you get closer to Allah swt and makes it easier for you to practice your religion.

    Here is a video series you might find helpful: