Islam Q&A: Obeying the Law of the Land in the West
I know most of you here aren’t Muslims, and a good number are in fact atheists, but since Ben Carson has been making claims about what Muslims believe that are mired in ignorance based on misinformation (or perhaps disinformation) about Islam, I feel like I need to address them here, where there’s greater visibility.
This is NOT about apologetics for things non-Muslims may find distasteful about Islam, it’s about the facts of established Islamic jurisprudence. I’m Muslim, so if you disapprove of the tenets of Islam (which is your prerogative) that’s your problem not mine in this specific context—we’re discussing established jurisprudence as it applies to Muslims. IOW, this doesn’t require your approval in order for it to be a fact for Muslims.
Below is a response from an actual Islamic scholar of the Hanafi fiqh (school of jurisprudence), not some hateful Islamophobic bigot with an agenda masquerading as a scholar, or someone who picked up a book or two about Islam and now imagines that they have a profound understanding of how all the parts fit together and what it means to be Muslim.
One need not be Muslim or even believe in God to read & understand what is being explained here as it’s all laid out pretty clearly by Muslims for Muslims. If you find yourself confused by any of the terms you encounter, here’s a glossary you can refer to.
Some Muslim youth in the West do not believe it is important to avoid breaking the law in countries that are not the Khilafah [Caliphate, as in operating as one —CL].
Is there any evidence that Muslims must “obey the laws of the land” they live in — be that us living the West or those in Muslim countries (in the absence of Khilafah)?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
Muslims are generally obliged to abide by the laws of the land and the country they live in, whether it is a Islamic state (al-khilafa), Muslim countries, or non-Muslim countries such as those in the west, as long as they are not ordered to practice something that is against Shariah. If they are forced by the law to commit a sin, then in such a case, it will not just be unnecessary to abide by the law, rather impermissible.
Some Muslims are under the impression that it is permissible to violate the laws of countries that are not an Islamic state (al-Khilafa), which is totally incorrect. Muslims must adhere to the laws of any country they live in, whether in the west or the east, as long as the law is not in contradiction with one’s religion.
[Note: The paragraphs above are not a Kim Davis type defense. They’re saying that if a law ordered me to drink alcohol, eat pork, commit adultery, stop praying, etc. then as a Muslim I’d be obliged to break that law by refusing. No one is forcing Davis to enter into or perform a same sex marriage, and she has the option to resign if having her signature on the licenses bothers her conscience too much. —CL]
Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “It is necessary upon a Muslim to listen to and obey the ruler, as long as one is not ordered to carry out a sin. If he is commanded to commit a sin, then there is no adherence and obedience.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2796 & Sunan Tirmidhi)
The above Hadith is general, in that it does not distinguish between Muslim and non-Muslim lands, although the understanding of the scholars is that it generally applies to Muslim lands.
Furthermore, many scholars have divided non-Muslim lands (dar al-Harb/kufr) into two categories, Dar al-Khawf & Dar al-Aman. The former (dar al-khawf) refers to a land where Muslims are under a constant threat and fear with regards to their religion, life and wealth, whilst the latter (dar al-Aman) refers to a land where Muslims are relatively secure and safe. In Dar al-Aman (such as many non-Muslim countries in the west), many of the injunctions and rulings are very similar to Muslim lands (dar al-Islam), thus the command of following the laws of the land would also apply in these non-Muslim lands. (See: Radd al-Muhtar)
Those who are of the view that it is not necessary to obey the laws of the land unless it is ruled by a proper Islamic governance system, usually say that these laws are non-Islamic and man made, and one is only obliged to abide by the laws of Allah!
In reality, this is a very immature understanding of Islam, for even an Islamic Khilafa government would implement laws that are the creation of their own minds and Ijtihad. If an Islamic government sees the need to implement a certain law, then it has the full jurisdiction to do so, even if it is not found in the Qur’an and Sunnah.
All the scholars unanimously agree that, if an Islamic government decides to implement a law for the benefit of the country and its citizens, then there is nothing wrong in doing so, as long as it does not contradict Shariah, and this law will be binding upon every citizen of that country, even if it was not made obligatory by Shariah initially. Therefore, the laws which an Islamic Khilafa government will set down will also be “man made”, and binding upon all the citizens.
Then the case here is not between “Allah’s laws” and “man made laws” rather one must understand and deal with the issue more rationally and deeply.
When one lives in a particular country, one agrees verbally, in writing or effectively to adhere to the rules and regulations of that country. This, according to Shariah, is considered to be a covenant, agreement and trust. One is obliged to fulfil the trust regardless of whether it is contracted with a friend, enemy, Muslim, non-Muslim or a government. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and his Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) always stood by their word and did not breach any trust or agreement, as it is clear from the books of Sunnah and history. Thus, to break a promise or breach a trust of even a non-Muslim is absolutely unlawful and considered a sign of being a hypocrite (munafiq). […]
As you can see from the last paragraph above, it is the very same Shariah that Ben Carson claims is incompatible with our laws & Constitution that mandates Muslims adhere to the rules—i.e. to reject Shariah would mean to reject the need to follow U.S. laws (among other things). The man’s ignorance & bigotry is appalling.
I’d suggest reading the entire article. It’s kind of long and may be a bit of a chore to slog through because of the unfamiliar terms, but it supplies additional supporting proofs & analogy-based reasoning for how this answer was arrived at.