[Is it legal for Muslims to follow a non-Muslim government?

[]Daud Matthews[]

[TD]Question: As-salamu alaykum. Is it legal for Muslims to follow a non-Muslim government? Must Shariah be the law of every Muslim government? Can religion and politics be separated or are they the same thing? How do we know if a government legal and Islamic? Is religion more lawful than man's laws? Are democracy and Islam compatible? Is God the only source of a legal authority? I am a Muslim from Pakistan and living in Italy. I have some Italian friends and they are very interested in Islam and they’re also reading the Quran in Italian. They asked these questions and I can give them the answers, but my answers might not satisfy them. So, please answer them, if possible, in the light of the Quran. I will be greatly thankful to you. Haroon


Salam Haroon,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The very fact you ask these questions, which are political, show that Islam and politics cannot be separated. Islam as a total way of life covers politics as well as all other aspects of life.

Muslims submit themselves voluntarily to the commands of Allah following the Sunnah (example) of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Allah tells us in the Quran what means:
{… So take what the Messenger assigns to you…} (Al-Hashr 59:7)

{It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path.} (Al-Ahzab 33:36)

While we may argue this is for Muslims as individuals, we should remember Allah’s law is the highest law. If we live in a Muslim country, and the law is not Islamic, what are the Muslims doing to effect the necessary changes? If we live in non-Muslim countries, then the question is: How well do we practice Islam with respect to, for example, family law, civil law, human rights, and neighbors’ rights?

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) exemplified three qualities: honesty, trustworthiness, and keeping promises. He was known to have never told a lie even before his call to prophethood. When was the last time we lied?

He was trustworthy; the rich people in Makkah gave their valuables to him for safe-keeping. Even when they came to kill him, he requested `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) to sleep in his place and return the valuables to their rightful owners. How far can we be trusted?

He always kept his promises. Do we do what we say we will do?

Muslims have a long way to go to achieve these values. If we adhered to just these three principles Islam and Muslims would, insha’ Allah (God willing), become a powerful force.

Any given country has its own form of government. If one is a resident of a country (temporary or permanent), one is obliged to observe the law of that land. We are told by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to keep our agreements. Only when there is a law that contravenes Islam do Muslims encounter problems. There are relaxations for Muslims living in non-Muslim countries, but if they are unable to practice their religion, they should consider first and, if necessary, emigrate. Allah will ask us: “Was not My earth big enough?” meaning couldn’t you find a place where you could practice Islam?

A Muslim ruler or government is accountable to Allah. Therefore, the law of the Muslim country is also accountable to Allah. When you ask if something is legal, such as the government in a country, the answer is Yes, according to their law. If you ask if a particular government is Islamic, the answer may be a resounding No!

Allah tells us in the Qur’an what means:
{… surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition…} (Ar-Ra`d 13:11)

We gather from this, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “People get the rulers they deserve.” If the people are not practicing Islam—for example they do not perform salah (ritual Prayers) five times a day, they indulge in riba (interest), they lie and cheat, they don’t look after their parents, etc.—how can they expect their rulers to be good practicing Muslims?

Islam gives all people their rights and obligations, and in Islam—unlike the case with the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights—these rights are enforceable. For example: Parents’ rights are the children’s obligations and the children’s rights are the parents’ obligations. Husbands rights’ are the wives’ obligations and the wives’ rights are the husbands’ obligations. The rights of subjects or citizens to education, health, security, etc. are the state’s obligations, and the state’s rights to honest work with no cheating, lying, stealing, crime, etc. are the citizens’ obligations.

Man-made laws are subject to change and error. The laws of Allah are not.

Islam has decreed laws in various areas including: murder, adultery or fornication, theft, inheritance, and dietary requirements. These laws are from Allah and cannot be changed. Not every aspect of law is decreed in details in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Mankind has been given some freedom.

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.