Romanticizing Hijra – Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire?

Romanticizing Hijra – Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire?

Zviad Jughashvili poses some critical questions regarding hijra in the current era.

Today most pressure points against Islam and challenges to Muslims are practical. Fortunately, Islamic scholarship of the past three decades produced phenomenal philosophical and intellectual responses to modernist and post-modernist attacks on Islam. It is the practical side of things which challenges Muslims the most today.

Overall, the practical challenge to Islam and Muslims boils down to the following old question: If Islam is so amazing, where is a functioning Islamic polity with empirical results similar to… insert any developed nation (Scandinavian countries?)

When one responds to the question above via books or academic papers, the simplistic nature of the question is easy to expose. However, it is still a very real and legitimate question.

Muslims today want a practical response to the challenge presented by the above question. Why? The mechanics behind the question at stake are practical and produce practical challenges to Muslims of today, primarily to those Muslims who live as a minorities in non-Muslim societies and especially in Western countries. Resorting to Kalam, Fiqh or Philosophy does not fully respond to the posed question.

Therefore, facing the practical pressure of the above question, Muslims who live in non-Muslim countries resort to Hijra (migration) as a practical response.

More and more Muslims facing various anti-Islamic bans and racist attitudes in non-Muslim countries are leaving their established homes for a life in a Muslim ruled country.

One of the common locales which Muslims choose to abandon and has been quite a focus of various media outlets is France. A widely read article on the London based Middle East Eye website titled ‘I love France, but I left’: The Muslims who decide to emigrate” summarises well the broader sentiment of many Muslims living as minorities in a hostile environment which regularly demonizes their religion.

Prior to delving deeper into this question, the author of this piece wants to make it very clear, that it is not trying to argue for or against Hijra, but it is an attempt of an average Muslim to broaden the discussion on this issue and eliminate some serious blind spots.

Also, before moving further into discussing this topic, it is crucial to note that the central question posed above is rooted in politics, thus, a brief political response to the question must be given prior to moving further in discussing the romanticization of Hijra as an Islamic concept by many Muslims today.

People who pose the central practical question to Muslims highlighted above are often unaware, purposefully or not, that every time in the past 50 years Islamic parties won elections, they were sabotaged or overthrown by radical forces backed by NATO member nations. The so-called “free world”.

In Algeria, Egypt or Iran, the temporal success of  Islamic governance in recent times was never allowed to evolve organically and master governorship. Any fair-minded person who conducts objective research on this issue, will be able to see this phenomenon quite quickly. In all three cases, foreign interference destabilized internal conditions on economic, political, and social levels.

Returning to the growing Muslim response to the central question posed above –  migration to countries ruled by Muslims – it highlights a deep misunderstanding of Islam among many Muslims.

This is partly natural, as for the past 100 years, Islam has been marginalized in the Muslim world, as there has been an ideological remodification of Islam along the lines of an external geopolitical agenda. Muslim societies were forcefully pushed towards a social and political framework that was not suited to Muslim societies. This is not some conspiracy theory, but a very real external agenda. As pointed out in Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation, by Saba Mahmood (pages 330-331), the White House National Security Council since 2003, spent $1.3 billion on advancing its agenda in the Muslim world via soft-power projects (contrast this with when Russians manipulate social media and Washington screams interference).

By now, many readers are probably asking themselves what is wrong with going and living in Muslim countries? Nothing is wrong with living there, but this is in no way the Hijra which Islamic tradition advocates, unless one is migrating to safeguard the credal practices of Islam, and these are very rare and are to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Let’s be fair, as the Quran says – “O believers! Stand firm for justice as witnesses for Allah even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or close relatives. Be they rich or poor, Allah is best to ensure their interests. So do not let your desires cause you to deviate ˹from justice˺. If you distort the testimony or refuse to give it, then ˹know that˺ Allah is certainly All-Aware of what you do.” {S4:135}

Even in most Islamophobic Western societies, fundamental credal practices can be practiced, in some cases far better than in many so-called Muslim countries. If you have a hard time believing this, ask Muslim men who have had their beards forcefully shaven by the police in Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan. Talk to women in Muslim countries who cannot wear hijab to work or to schools. Speak to Islamic scholars who languish in Saudi jails simply for presenting alternative Islamic theological perspectives.

So, what are some of the issues with doing “Hijra” to Muslim ruled countries? How many of us ask ourselves about the immense negative spiritual and Fiqhi ramifications of praying Juma prayers behind the state appointed “imams” in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan or Egypt? Have we ever thought what damage, legitimizing the so-called “Islamic” façade of Egyptian or Saudi regimes does to Islam and the spiritual state of our hearts? At least in non-Muslim countries, most congregations of the mosques are free to elect their own Imams, based on certain merits, not for being mouthpieces of despots. Do we ponder about the intellectual and spiritual damage, when we talk about how great it is to hear Adhan in Jordan, but have minimal to no concern about how the royal family of Jordan persecutes its opponents and uses the state treasury as a private bank account?

Many of us, are rightfully fixated on practicing our obligatory acts in the age of YOLO ideology, but how many of us think about what it does to the spiritual state of Muslims when they see their scholars kiss the hands of corrupt tyrants and when mosques are turned into dens of informants and manipulation in favor of despots. These sins, which are often not seen as sins by many, also have immense negative spiritual and mental impact.

If reading the above paragraphs, a reader is thinking, these are some secondary matters, let’s look at the Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) life even prior to his announcement of his Prophethood. There is an episode in the Prophet Muhammad’s life when prior to the announcement of the Islamic message, the last Messenger of God formed the Hilf al-Fudul with other non-Muslims, a part of his life, which after his public announcement of Prophethood, he used to remember with very positive memories. Hilf al-Fudul was not an institution busying itself with ritualistic aspects of Makkan life but restoring the rights of the oppressed. There is a lesson in the fact that the last Messenger of God was pioneering this phenomenon prior to addressing the theological and intellectual deviance of the Hijaz.

Reading the above should make it clear that by migrating to a Muslim ruled country today, presents a set of other Islamic challenges. Sure, it is easier to find halal food and pray at the mosques, but is this the ethos of Islam? Muslims need to ask some self-critical questions and provide an honest response to them. If we do not, others will ask them and frame responses outside of the Islamic paradigm and impose those upon Muslim societies as it has been done with other crucial issues. Take feminism as an example. The dogma of feminism infiltrated some Muslim societies because for far too long Muslims were ignoring the oppression of women in Muslim societies based on non-Islamic customs and attitudes.

The author of this piece, who lived in several Muslim and non-Muslim countries, is yet to hear from the broad spectrum of Muslims what they are going to do when they migrate to the UAE or Turkey when faced with anti-Islamic challenges there. We all have great responses about maintaining our ritualistic Islamic obligations in non-Muslim societies, but do we have a plan what to do when we move to the Las Vegas on steroids called Dubai or Sisi’s Egypt? As a community, we belittle these issues, as it is easier to remind a colleague to perform daily prayers than explain to your manager that paying a Pakistani employee a non-living salary simply based on his or her passport is outright sinful and criminal.

To briefly touch a theological point, it should be remembered that spiritually speaking, no place on earth is as spiritually blessed as Makkah. Primary Islamic traditional sources highlight Makkah’s special position. Yet, after its liberation, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) never moved back to Makkah. The fourth Khalif of the Muslims, Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA) moved his government’s capital away from Makkah. Why is this being mentioned? The ritual aspect of things is at times put on a back seat when strategic issues are at stake. Overall, Islam does not assign a preferred place of presence, unless a specific case requires such resolution.

Let not colonized minds read this piece and entertain the assumption that we had it right all these years, the West is more moral than Muslim countries. The matter is far more complex to give this simplistic answer. Just ask over a million dead as a result of the so-called War on Terror launched in 2001 by the US and its surrogates. The despots ruling Muslim countries are often sustained in power by the very free world granting political asylum to Muslims fleeing those countries, often for brain drain purposes.

The intent of this essay is not to praise the West or criticize the East. It is to get Muslims to begin thinking collectively that immigration to Muslim countries is often a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It is not always the solution people assume it to be.

Hopefully, this essay broadened the horizons of readers, and we can understand that until the Muslim world is set in order, we will have a hard time answering the central question posed in the beginning, even if at times we have positive results to show in scientific or other areas as is the case with Iran, Turkey or Malaysia. Naturally, some will ask a simplistic question, well, why don’t you all move to Iran then? Taking the economic conditions of Islamic Iran into consideration, if Muslims were to mass migrate to Iran, they would create problems for Iran which Western sanctions have not achieved. A similar case would apply to most other Muslim countries. Of course, this is just part of the answer, the in-depth answer would require a separate essay.

Thus, what choice do those have who chose to immigrate to Muslim countries? Have a solid practical plan on how to improve the society you are moving to, don’t just look forward to halal food and tarawih prayers. The same applies to Muslims moving West as well.


Zviad Jughashvili has been writing about issues about Muslim geopolitics mainly covering the former Soviet Union, for over eight years.  He has studied International Relations and taught Business Studies at college level.




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