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 Muslims Living in Non-Muslim Lands

Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah visited the Bay Area in the last week of July 1999. He offered a week long course on Usool al-Fiqh in Fremont, California. He then gave a talk on July 31, 1999 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California. An edited transcription of that talk appears below. As Shaykh Abdullah spoke, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf translated. At times, Shaykh Hamza added some of his own comments and explanations. These appear in brackets in the text.

The Shaykh`s Insights on the Muslims` Condition and Responsibilities in America

[Bismillah irahman iraheem. The shaykh began his talk by praising Allah subhaana wa ta`aala and sending prayers on the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam.] I wanted to speak tonight about your conditions, your circumstances here. You are a group that is small in number and yet strong in faith, a group that has diverse ideas and understandings and whose individuals come from many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, a group that is few amongst a dominant group that is many. The dominant group is strong in many areas; in fact, they are controlling many areas of the world. I would like to speak tonight about what the priorities of such a group would be: What are the obligations of such a group? What are the responsibilities of such a group? I would like to present some ideas to you, and I hopes that Allah subhaana wa ta`aala helps me to present some ideas that relate to a methodology, to approaches, and to things that will be beneficial to this group if they implement them.

I want to speak about the responsibilities that you carry here. In contrast to Muslims living in the dominant Muslim world at large, you are, in many ways, strangers in a strange land. The Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said, "Tuba lil guraba." In other words, the conditions of the stranger are blessed conditions, and it also means, "lahum al-jannah: they have paradise" for bearing the burden of alienation. An Arab proverb is, "ya ghareeb kun adeeba: oh stranger in a strange land, be a man of courtesy and cultivation." There is also a hadith, "Islam began alienated and will return as it began, alienated. So, blessed are the alienated ones." This alienation should not mean that you distance yourselves from the rest of the people. That is not the meaning of this state of estrangement. It does not mean you should not work with others or that you should avoid the dominant society and distance yourselves completely from it even though your state is one of estrangement.

Since we know that Islam has legal injunctions and that Muslims have a code of law, a question that occurs immediately to us in looking at these conditions here is whether or not there are rules in our deen that apply to one land and do not apply to another land. As we know, the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, said that Allah subhaana wa ta`aala has made incumbent upon you to fulfill certain obligations, and Allah has also set boundaries for you, so do not transgress those boundaries. As we know, these rules in Islam relate to every Muslim. In terms of human beings, every one is equal in relation to these rules. You cannot say that one Muslim does not have to pray and another one does. All Muslims who are responsible adults have to pray. So, these rules of prayer and fasting, what are know as the arkan al-Islam-the pillars of Islam, the foundations of Islam-are things that are binding upon all Muslims, no matter where they are or what place they are in.(Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah)