Muslims Living In Non-Muslim Lands

Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah

From The Islamic Tradition

Excepts15 from The Shaykh's Insights on the Muslims' Condition and Responsibilities in America, part 21

Edited by Omar K Neusser2

  1. Relationship Between Muslims & Non-Muslims
  2. The Right To Teach Islam
  3. Non-aggression and honesty
  4. Moderation: Avoiding Extremes
  5. Footnotes

1. Relationship b. Muslims & Non-Muslims

[In face of a growing antipathy(fn4) to Muslims in some places on the one hand, and of strange, unsubstantiated policies and methods by the uninformed youth on the other hand, has the issue of the relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims become a priority to be dealt with. We have published quite a few texts to improve this situation3 and to help rectify (isláh ) those issues which are of utmost concerns to the Muslim Ummah.

What follows is an edited except from a speech, held by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, on his visit to the US in 1999. So this was before 9/11 2001 and its latest ensuing wars on Muslim lands4. His advice to the Muslims is today even more important than it was then. And the dín is nasíha].5

1.1 In The Abode oF Treaty ( A Convenant )

Most people think that the world is divided into two abodes, the abode of peace and the abode of war. The abode of peace is the land of the Muslims, dár al-Islam, and the abode of war is everywhere else … [This is wrong] There are three abodes: there is the abode of peace, the abode of war, and then there is the abode of treaty where there is a contractual agreement between two abodes…

We have to understand that the relationship between the Muslims living in this land and the dominant authorities in this land is a relationship of peace and contractual agreement-of a treaty. This is a relationship of dialogue and a relationship of giving and taking.”6

[Furthermore in a situation where one part or country of the Ummah is at war with an enemy, this does not mean all parts or countries are at war with this enemy, as is seen from Islamic law and history.7

1.2 A State oF Peace

Secondly and generally, the Muslims are in a state of peace with their neighbours, as expressed by the erudite Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti who said:

“In sum, we are not in a perpetual state of war with non-Muslims. On the contrary, the original legal status (al-asl ) is a state of peace, and making a decision to change this status belongs only to a Muslim authority who will in the Next World answer for their ijtihâd and decision.”8]

2. The Right To Teach Islam

In this country [- in the US and most other countries on the planet], the ruling people [the government, the authorities] are allowing you to call people to Islam, and this is exactly what the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, was asking that they allow him to do in Makkah. …

2.1 Prove Moral Excellence

This idea here should be understood, and the verse from the Quran that we should take as the overriding verse in our relationship with this people is where Allah subhaana wa ta'aala says concerning those who neither fight you because of your religion nor remove you from your homes that He does not prohibit you from showing them birr9: righteousness. "Birr" in the Arabic language is the highest degree of ihsán10-it is the 'aala daraja of ihsán. Allah does not prevent you from showing them excellence-moral excellence-in your transactions with them nor from sharing with them a portion of your wealth. (ch2.2)


[And let neither their hatred towards you (from earlier occasions), nor your differenciating between them and yourself (because of you being distinct in ways of you dín) hinder you from dealing with them justly and without hostility. Instead { help you one another in virtue (or righteousness, piety)!} until the rest of the áya (verse) of Sura Al-Má'idah].11

{ and let not hatred of a people … incite you to exceed the limits (to transgress), and help one another in goodness (birr ) and piety (taqwa ), and do not help one another in sin and aggression; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil).} From Sura Al-Má'idah 5-2 { and let not hatred of a people … incite you to exceed the limits, and help one another in goodness and piety…}

2.2 Give Gifts (Even) To Non-Believers

Qadi Abu-Bakr, Ibn 'Atiyah, and others have also said that this is what "antuqsitu 'ilayhim" means. You give non-Muslims qistan: a portion of your wealth. In the early period of Islam, this is ta'lif al-qulúb: one of the things that they used to do in order to bring people close. They would give monetary gifts to people whom they saw had inclinations towards Islam in order to draw the hearts. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said,

"Give gifts to each other and love one another." 

So, the act of giving something naturally inclines the one who is receiving the gift to have feelings of love towards the person who is giving them. The reason for doing these things-for treating these people with respect, showing this good character, and having this good courtesy-is that you will get from amongst them those who respond and will actually enter into Islam. This really is how we should see our relationship. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, not only gave gifts to some of the mushrikeen in Makkah, he also received gifts from them because his goal was that they become Muslim. He did not want to fight them-that was the last resort. The goal was that they [get a substantial understanding of the religion, so that - by the will of God - they may] become Muslim, that they enter into Islam.

3. Non-aggression and honesty

3.1 Respect For The People

Also, it is necessary for us to show respect for these people. Islam prohibits us from showing aggression towards people who do not show aggression towards us. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said,

"Do not enter the houses of the Christians nor eat anything of their fruits except with their permission." 

Islam prohibits theft; it prohibits fraud; it prohibits cheating; and it prohibits these things in relation to the Muslims and in relation to the non-Muslims. The things that you cannot do to a Muslim, you also cannot do to a non-Muslim. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, also said,

 لا يـؤمـن احـدكـم حـتي يـحـب لأخـيـه مــا يـحـبـه لـنـفـسـه  

 "None of you truly believes until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself." 

3.2 A Broader Brotherhood Of Man Since Adam (pbuh)

Imam Shabrakhiti ibn Rajul al-Hambali and others mentioned that "brother" here (in the hadith above) not only means your brother Muslim because this is a close brotherhood of Islam that others are not in, but it refers to the greater and broader brotherhood of our Adamic nature.12 It is a brotherhood in the sense that we are all from Adam, that Adam is the father of all us. Understanding this should cause us to realize that we have distant relations with all of these people out there, and all of them are potential Muslims. We should see them as potential Muslims.

Allah, subhaana wa ta'aala, for that reason says,

{ Call to your Lord with wisdom and with a beautiful admonition, and dispute them in the most excellent of ways. } Sura …

In other words, debate and dialogue with them in the most beautiful of ways. Don't be argumentative; don't be cruel; don't be mean; don't humiliate them. Do it ways in which they can listen to the truth, respect the truth, and come to the truth. For this reason, we have to be du'ahtis salaam: people who are callers to peace.

3.3 Be Excellent Citizens, Be Engaged!

We also have to be good citizens because an excellent Muslim is also an excellent citizen in the society that he lives in. This does not mean that we lose our distinction,13 that we become completely immersed in the dominant society to where we no longer have our own identity-that is not what I'm calling to.

We have to maintain those things that are particular to us as a community, but we also have to recognize that there are other things that are not particular to us but rather general to the human condition that we can partake in; and these things are not things that we should be ignorant and neglectful of, but things that we should be engaged in. We have to maintain our roots. We have deep roots in our faith, but at the same time we have to be open to allow others to come into that deep-rootedness.

3.4 Divinine Wisdom oF Differenciation

In addition, we have to recognize that creation itself is a creation of diversity. It is a creation in which you see variation of colors [and forms]. Allah did not make all the trees one, and He did not make all the animals one. He diversified the creation. He diversified even our colors and our languages; and He did all this for a wisdom. Not only that, Allah subhaana wa ta'aala made us on different religions and different paths, and He did that intentionally because He said in the Quran,

{ They continue to be in differences except those whom your Lord has shown His mercy to, and for that reason He created them. } Sura 11-118/9

So, Allah subhaana wa ta'aala is saying that He actually created us in order that we differ-that there is a …divine wisdom in the differences that we have. He created us to show mercy to us as well. So, we have to rise up to this challenge. This is a high challenge, and we as Muslims have to rise up to this challenge.

4. Moderation: Avoiding Extremes

Another thing that is very important for us to remember is the moderation of Islam. This is a deen of wasatiyyah: it is a deen of moderation. We are a moderate community. We are between the two extremes of excess and deficiency. We are in the middle. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said,

"Those people who go into matters too deeply will be destroyed."

(The shaykh is an expert in the Arabic language, and he said, "those people" are people involved in "tatarruf" or extremism. That is what "tanata`u'" is.)14 The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, also said,

"The extremists are destroyed," and he said, "Beware of extremism in the deen." 

[This proves that the Holy] Prophet, sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam, warned against extremism, and he did not like it. Notice that one of the things that extremism does is that it causes you to lose your rational component so that you are not able to weigh things rationally. Once you have gone to an extreme, you can no longer see things in any balanced way. You have lost that balance of the middle way. This makes you think that what you are doing is right even though it is clearly wrong to others.

More on the topic of extremism, see footnote 3.

2017-08-26 vs.2.2; from 2013-12-28
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  1. Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, 1999. This text - which is from the 2nd. part of his speech - has only been slightly edited, including some sub-titles. Due to its importance for the Muslims it was left almost as it was. For the 1st. part go to, where he speeks about fiqh al-khiláf (jurisprudence of disagreeing), the relationship between the Muslims as brotherhood and their responsabilities in the new lands.

  2. Square brackets are interpolations by the editor, and Allah knows best and most.

  3. For example: “Notes On Islamic Awakening Between Rejection and Extremism;” Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Although we don’t agree on everything from the Shaykh, this text is a good introduction into the means of how to reject extremism from the point of view of traditional Islam.)

  4. We Muslims strongly urge the neo-imperialist powers in this world to stop interfering in Muslim countries by open or by covert means, to pull out their military thus ending occupation of Muslim lands, and most of all to leave the Muslim and other people live in peace according to their way of life and religion! If democracy (the right to vote for one’s representantives) and human rights have any meaning, they have to be applied universally!

  5. Religion Is Sincerity, Nasiha Is Giving Good Cousel And Advice: The Messenger of Allah ( sallAllahu `aleihi wa sallam ) said, “Religion (dîn) is sincerity (nasiha) (corrective advice, good counsel and sincere conduct). The dîn is nasiha. The dîn is nasiha.”

  6. dito

  7. Fatwa Against The Targeting Of Civilians, Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti, This paragraph and the last (until the word “decision”) are from the cited source, Fatwa Against…

  8. Fatwa Against The Targeting Of Civilians, Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti,

  9. Allah (swt) says: 5_2b

  10. ihsán: spiritual excellence; to worship Allah as if you see Him, and although you don’t see Him, He sees you!

  11. Allah (swt) says: 5_2c

  12. Although there are those who restrict this hadith to only the Muslim brother.

  13. This distinction is not mainly through outward appearances, not even principally through our words and calling, but through our (akhláq & adáb ), that is how we are as Muslims in character.

  14. This was probably added by the transcriber of the speech, Sh Hamza Yusuf.

  15. The whole text is also here: