Hijrah! That’s the buzz word of the decade. Interestingly, the term is also associated with romanticism in some minds, while for others, it conjure up stories of shattered illusions. Why this disparity?
Steven R Covey, the author of ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ said: “We must look at the lens through which we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.” To a large extent this theory hits the bull’s eye in explaining the contrasting views regarding hijrah. We look at the examples of two families, who emigrated from the West to the U.A.E. & how, due to their own “lenses” they view their new adopted destination in very different light.
Mr. & Mrs. Ahmad (not their real name) reverted to Islam in the US & immediately decided to move to ‘dar-al-islam’. U.A.E. was their destination of choice, as it was in the Arabian Peninsula & close to the heart of Islam’s sacred places. What further tipped the scale was the tiny nation’s economic growth that generates vast job opportunities & many thumbs-up from well-meaning friends.
They landed in Dubai wearing rose-tinted glasses. This was their stumbling-block. To their surprise, the air was not saturated with piety & there were no sahabah-like people walking the streets. It didn’t take long for their bubble of idealism to burst & disappointment to set in. Everything from “the insincere people” to the “westernized environment” disillusioned them. Nothing came up to their expectations of how a Muslim country would (or should) be. Their zealousness in enjoining good & forbidding evil in public embittered & frustrated them. Mrs. Ahmed recounts her experience with a Muslim manager who played music at his store:
“I called the manager to raise that issue & he fought with me even though I told him that there is proof in the Quran & Sunnah that music is haraam. He said that he is a Muslim & he doesn’t believe in it. He said, people of different religions are coming here (i.e. the shop) and we should respect all beliefs… that faith is private and between him and Allah. Astaghfirullah! And such people are shouting loud that they are Muslims but have no fear of Allah and no practice! May Allah protect us from their fitnah and guide us.”
For the same reason, they would inadvertently pick fights with strangers.
“I saw a sister with hijab standing in the Islamic bookstore & speaking flirtatiously with the store-keeper. I took her aside & reminded her to fear Allah. She rudely told me to mind my own business!!”
They searched around & decided that there was no suitable scholar in the country who was upon the right manhaj to seek ilm from, and no Islamic centres were teaching the right Islam. They married their teenage only daughter to the first suitor that came their way & he turned out to be less than “righteous” – something that compounded their disappointment.
The tough government laws that apply to expatriates added to their anxiety. There was tension in finding a job environment that suited them. They reached a point where they were so overwhelmed by “all the fitnah every where” that they decided to socially isolate themselves. But, since man is a social creature, he can’t happily survive in isolation for too long. “We feel like strangers here. No one cares,” laments Mrs. Ahmad, summing up their hijrah experience.
Today, they are searching for greener pastures i.e. better Islamic countries to relocate to.
The opposite picture of hijrah is painted by Mr. Adam Shabber Mohammad (real name) & his family.
Born & raised in UK, he started practicing Islam during university. Marriage & a kid soon followed. It was not too long before he started studying & analyzing the social situation around him with the eyes of a Muslim father. Then, he made a conscious decision to do hijrah & moved with his young family to live in the U.A.E.
When he first arrived, he admits, that the glitz & glamour of Dubai got them side-tracked – for a while. Then, an umrah trip inspired them to refocus on their initial reason for hijrah – “to save themselves & their family from the fire.” They found a great scholar living in another part of the small country & decided to leave their posh villa & high life in Dubai to be closer to him & be in a (considerably) fitnah-free environment.
Allah tests all His servants to see if they waiver on His path. Mr. Shabber was tried with the difficulty of joblessness for two years. He & his wife used that time to start their own educational institute. He does not regret his decision of hijrah & loves his new life. He admits that there is a lot of fitnah in Dubai but he “would still prefer it to any non-muslim country.” Why? He gives a comprehensive answer:
“You have to go & search for the fitnah. You can live in areas where you’ll never see it. Yes, the work environment is like the west, but still there are more Muslims than non-Muslims. There are mosques everywhere.
Yes, there is alcohol and night clubs, but I have been in the UAE for 8 years and I still have to see someone drunk or a shop selling alcohol. If anyone is drunk in public or even gives a simple kiss, it’s off to the police station.
You can get involved in dawah activities in Arabic & English. You can drive to Makkah in 18hrs…”
His main aim behind hijrah is the seriousness of responsibility he feels towards his children.
“Now I have children who have rights over me. Yes I could bring them up in the west and instill Islam and goodness in them, but Allah is the one who guides and if it is written for any of my children not to be guided I can inshallah say, in front of Allah, that I made hijrah to a Muslim land to protect my children from the fitnah. Take a simple example: alhumdulilah my children do not see posters in the UAE advertising Wonder-bra! But when I went back to UK 2 years ago, this was in plain site on big bill-boards. Do we really think this has no effect on our children? Or us men?…
This [clean environment] is what I wanted for my children, which I know I can only attain in this part of the world. There are always exceptions but we do not base our decisions on the exceptions.”
Today Mr. Shabber lives a content life with his supportive wife & five children, and highly encourages hijrah for people living with young families in the west.
Thus, it seems that the Ahmad & the Shabber families used different lenses to view the same scene. Our attitude greatly affects how or what we search, see & perceive. Depending on the viewing lens, positives or negatives can appear magnified or shrunken.
To be honestly fair to the Ahmads, there is no denying the problems & negative aspects of this country. Every single complaint they have is valid to varying degrees. There is increasing social immorality, lessening of (apparent) Islamic spirit, rising materialism, government policies amounting to discrimination, endless red tape, economic inflation & lack of structured support system for new immigrants.
The Muslim world is not perfect. Period. But the positives more than balance them out: Muslims are a majority (even if all of them may not be practicing); you hear the azaan fives times a day; you can never miss a prayer for a lack of masjid; hijabis & ‘beardies’ are a norm & do not stick out as on the street; halal food in all eateries & markets; easy access & wide choice for children’s secular & Islamic education; tax-free incomes; Islamic financing; personal safety & security etc.
Therefore, perhaps, if the attitude is right our lens will magnify all that is good, & coupled with the determination & strength to face what may come, it could be a win-win situation, inshaAllah. That Islam extols hijrah is not unknown.
“Verily, those who have believed, and those who have emigrated (for Allah’s Religion) and have striven hard in the Way of Allah, all these hope for Allah’s Mercy. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful.”
Prophet Muhammad (Salulaahu alihi wasallum) is reported to have said:
“I have nothing to do with any Muslim who settles among the mushrikeen.” [Abu Dawood 2645; classed as saheeh by Al-Albaani in Saheeh Abi Dawood]
The scholars have explained it to mean that it applies to Muslims who are not able to practice their Islam openly. This evaluation & decision is subjective. It’s a difficult issue with no simple or single answer. The scholars divided people into three categories with regards to hijrah:
(a) Those who are obliged to migrate: they are those who are able to migrate and who cannot practice their religion openly in non-Muslim countries.
(b) Those who are not obliged to migrate: they are those who are unable to do so, either because of sickness or because they are forced to stay in the non-Muslim land, or those who are weak, such as woman and children.
(c) Those for whom migration is mustahabb but not obligatory: they include those who are able to migrate but are also able to practice their religion openly in non-Muslim lands. [Al-Mawsooah al-Fiqhiyyah (20/206)]
Major decisions are never easy. And taking a step like migration is one riddled heavily with fear & uncertainty. But taking certain steps will help ensure that you arrive at your decision & destination with peace of mind.
First, analyze thoroughly if & how hijrah is beneficial for your deen & the deen of your family. Consult people with knowledge & experience. Once you do arrive at the conclusion that this is what you need or want to do, then carry out meticulous research on the country you intend to migrate to. It is best to visit the country first to really ‘see’ what its like, to gauge the cost of living & see if your credentials will secure you a job decent enough for you to sponsor & support your family as an expatriate. Get in touch with people, who are already based there, to gain valuable info & friendly support upon arrival. Don’t imagine perfection & do expect hurdles on the way.
Things take time to settle & eventually they do smooth-out, inshaAllah. Last & certainly not the least, do Istikharah at every step. This will ensure that your intention is continuously rechecked, you will have the peace of mind that your move is good for your deen, dunyah & aakhirah & will also give you the strength & determination to face the obstacles on the way. InshaAllah.
Finally, Mr. Shabber’s parting advice sums it all,
“Be sincere. Base your decisions on saving yourself and your family. And if it means making hijrah, then plan and DO IT. Set it up as a goal to achieve and inshaAllah, Allah WILL give you a way.”
The author of the post, Bint Imam, is a UAE born & based expatriate. She resides in ‘muslim-friendly’ Sharjah (Dubai’s conservative neighbour) & happily admits to have never seen alcohol in her life.