What is the fine line between integration and dissolving in non Muslim countries?
To what extent Muslims are allowed to integrate in Western countries? What are the types of customs and traditions which Muslims can tolerate in non Muslim countries such as hijab for women and circumcision for men?
The original state of the relationship between Muslims and non Muslims is based on integration and coexistence. God says in the Quran, “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” 49:13
Therefore the reason for making people different is to get to know one another so this differentiation and variety which are divinely ordained is a tight universal system to bring and bond people together without hardship.
God says in the Quran, “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion - [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” 60:8-9
Therefore God pointed out in the Quran that both justice and righteousness are the essential bases for dealing with those who did not fight against us and did not force us out of our houses. The Arabic linguistic meaning of “Bir” or righteousness encompasses all kinds of goodness. The Islamic Shari’ah also taught us how to deal with the people of the book on the basis of having a common principle, God says in the Quran, “Say, "O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah ." But if they turn away, then say, "Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]." 3:64
In a direct application of the previous verse, God says in another verse, “This day [all] good foods have been made lawful, and the food of those who were given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them. And [lawful in marriage are] chaste women from among the believers and chaste women from among those who were given the Scripture before you, when you have given them their due compensation, desiring chastity, not unlawful sexual intercourse or taking [secret] lovers. And whoever denies the faith - his work has become worthless, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.” 5:5
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the last sermon which he gave during performing his farewell pilgrimage which was narrated by Jaber ibn ‘Abdullah, the Prophet said, “O people your lord is one and your father is one, there is no virtue of an Arab over a non Arab or vice versa and there is no virtue of a black man over a red one or vice versa except by piety” (al Baihaqi). It was reported through al Tirmidhi that Abu Hurairah narrated that Prophet Muhammad said, “God has casted away the arrogance and conceit of the pre Islamic period….you are from Adam and Adam is from dust”. Therefore Muslims are required to be the embodiment of mercy, fine manners and coexistence with those he lives with Muslims and non Muslims alike. For example with non Muslims, the Muslim is asked to exchange gifts with them and greet them with welcome and respect and with a warm smile. This good behavior is called good advocacy to Islam which God asked Prophet Muhammad to do. God says in the Quran, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has strayed from His way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly] guided.” 16:125
It is worthy to be noted that this kind of integration should not undermine the preservation of the Islamic identity through abandoning what God has ordained obligatory or permitting what God has deemed prohibited under the guise of integration. This kind of act is not integration but rather assimilation and dissolving. If a Muslim found it necessary under compelling reasons to abandon an obligation or commit a prohibited act, in this regard we have to differentiate between two spheres. The first sphere has to do with definitive rulings and the second one has to do with speculative rulings. Definitive rulings have to do with issues which reached Muslims’ consensus; a fact which leaves no room for ijtiahd or independent legal reasoning such as the obligation of praying five times a day, paying zakat, fasting the month of Ramadan, the prohibition of fornication, usury, injustice and major sins. These rulings are constant and are not subjected to any kind of change or alteration and therefore a person should not contradict these rulings by doing its opposite unless in times and cases of urgencies and needs.
The second sphere has to do with the rulings that its evidence is speculative in terms of its chain of narration or its meaning and indication is not definitive and the examples are numerous on the speculative rulings. These rulings form the realm in which juristic scholars differ and therefore whoever encounters an issue which has a speculative ruling, he should imitate the scholars which permitted the act to facilitate his life and it is totally permissible for him to do so.
As for the issue of hijab, it is obligatory on adult Muslim women and the woman is not permitted to take off her hijab unless she fears harm on herself or her family. As for circumcision, the father is permitted to circumcise his male children. Muslim jurists have two opinions regarding male circumcision. The first opinion which is adopted by the Shafi’is and Hanbalis deem it obligatory and the second opinion which is adopted by the Hanafis and Malikis deem it an approved act and the one who abandons it is not blameworthy.
As for female circumcision, the current issued fatwa deems it impermissible due to its harm which was proven through scientific researches and medical conferences. One of the major legal maxims in Shari’ah is that no harm should be inflicted or caused. Also it was not reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had circumcised his daughters but as for his two grand sons, Al Hassan and al Husayn, it was reported that they both were circumcised.