۱۳۸۹ فروردین ۷, شنبه

The Case of the Swiss Minarets

The Case of the Swiss Minarets (as Switzerland votes to ban minarets)


Switzerland. The very name evokes images of almost heavenly beauty – idyllic enclaves of pristinely pure lakes surrounded by magnificent lush snow-peaked mountains, dotted with honeymoon-enticing chalets nestled within forests of pine furs towering to the skies. Beautiful, scenic Switzerland – it deserves its status as being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, and its cities are regularly ranked as being amongst the highest in terms of quality of life, in the entire world.

Masjid in Switzerland

Masjid in Switzerland

Of course, Switzerland does have a darker side. It has also established its reputation as being one of the most notorious financial centers for money laundering, especially for international drug dealers and mafia lords. Its unique secrecy rules in the banking industry allow even nonresidents to conduct business through offshore entities and intermediaries, providing an almost complete blanket of anonymity. Apart from the notoriety of Swiss banks, the Swiss do have their own unique set of problems as well. A particularly troubling issue is the preponderance of alcoholics amongst Swiss youth. A survey conducted by a government agency revealed that almost 50 per cent of 13-year-olds in Switzerland had consumed alcohol in the month before the representative survey was made, and another survey revealed that 14 per cent of 13-year-olds get drunk at least once a month.[1] Switzerland also has one of the highest suicide rates per capita in the Western world (especially amongst young teenagers and the elderly), and a very serious drug problem. Not only is it a direct transit country for the export of cocaine, heroin, and other synthetics, it also has a healthy domestic cannabis cultivation, and one of the highest rates of drug offences in the world (a staggering 50 % of the population – contrast this with America, which has an average almost ten times less than that of Switzerland).[2]

Minaret from Mahmud Mosque in Switzerland

Minaret from Mahmud Mosque in Switzerland

It is, therefore, quite surprising that of all things bothering the Swiss, the last thing one would have imagined is the building of mosque minarets. Yet, earlier today, a referendum was passed that expressly forbids the building of minarets. The referendum passed with a 57 % majority vote, and 22 out of 26 cantons (Swiss provinces) voted in favor of it. Over 55 % of the population voted in this referendum (to put this figure in perspective, that’s around 4.3 million voters).

One would expect, with such a large number of people voting, that the skylines of Zurich were perhaps being threatened with ominous minarets poking up at every street corner. Maybe the beauty of the chalets nestled in the Swiss alps was being marred with the presence of mosques suddenly appearing on the back of Swiss postcards. After all, for 4.3 million people to be motivated for an election, surely some huge quantity of minarets would have to exist.

It is, therefore, almost surreal to discover that in the entire country of Switzerland, there are a grand total of four minarets. Each of these minarets is found in a separate province altogether. Thus, 99.9 % of cities and towns across the country don’t even have a single minaret, and only four cities can boast one minaret each. That works out to about one minaret per four thousand square miles of Swiss soil (Muslims themselves are less than 5 % of the entire population in Switzerland).

So then, why all the fuss?

Minaret in Wangen bei Olten (Switzerland)

Minaret in Wangen bei Olten (Switzerland)

The minaret-furor all began in 2005, when a small mosque in the almost unheard of municipality of Wangen bei Olten wished to construct a 6-meter minaret as part of the mosque structure. Local residents, quite clearly motivated by racist views, objected. Initially, the city council agreed, but over the course of the next few years, the mosque fought back through the legal system, eventually taking this issue up to the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, who sided with the mosque authorities and stated that building a minaret was within their legal rights. Therefore, in July of this year (2009), the mosque was finally built with the minaret in place.

However, in Switzerland, a ruling from the Supreme Court can still be challenged. Switzerland has a highly unusual form of democracy. It is characterized by an excessive degree of federalism and a gratuitous reliance on people referendums. The citizens themselves may directly appeal to revoke a federal or Supreme court law, and they may also directly petition the government to institute a law of their own. The Swiss system of direct democracy gives every member of the electorate the chance to wield influence. The federal constitutional initiative allows citizens to put a constitutional amendment to a national vote, provided that they can get 100,000 voters to sign the proposed amendment within eighteen months of its initial advertising.

Therefore, because of this minaret controversy, a number of right-wing conservative parties lobbied the people directly in order to achieve the hundred thousand signatories needed in order to institute this national referendum. One of the main advertising posters used to provoke the masses featured a silhouette of an ominous-looking woman in full niqab against a backdrop of seven black minarets shaped as missiles rising from a colorful Swiss-flag.

Advertisement used by Swiss Right-Wing Conservatives

Advertisement used by Swiss Right-Wing Conservatives

Unlike the ban on niqabs and hijbas in neighboring France, which at least attempts to portray the ban as being one on all religious symbols (hence Sikh turbans and Jewish yarmulkes are also technically included), the Swiss referendum was quite blatant in its selective targeting of Muslim mosques. The proposition, which will now be added into Article 72 (Section 3) of the Swiss Federal Constitution, reads: “The building of minarets is prohibited.” Notice, not ‘The building of overt religious public icons…,’ or even ‘The building of symbols of non-Christian public houses of worship…,’ but rather, quite bluntly, ‘ The building of minarets…’

What makes this bad situation even more worrisome is the fact that such an overtly xenophobic and racist attitude finds so much support in an otherwise neutral country. If this vote had occurred in, say, Denmark, one would not be surprised, after the Danish cartoon controversies and the reaction in the Muslim world, to find a majority of Danes voting for such a referendum. But, of all places, Switzerland? Muslims worriedly and rightly ask: If these negative attitudes are so popular in Switzerland, what does that augur for other European countries?

Already, right-wing parties across Europe are salivating at the news of this ‘victory’. The leader of the radical-right Austrian Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, hailed the passage of the Swiss referendum and expressed his delight at the result, and his eagerness to emulate the Swiss example in his own country. Marine Le Pen, vice-president of France’s National Front, congratulated the Swiss for having demonstrated their attachment to their “national identity, their countryside and their culture”, despite calls from the “elites” not to vote in favor of the ban. In Italy, Roberto Calderoli, Berlusconi’s Reform Minister, announced that a clear sign had come from Switzerland: “Yes to church towers, no to minarets” and said that Switzerland should be a model for Italy in this respect.

Perhaps this fear is exacerbated by Europe’s extremely low birth rate (in 2005, Switzerland ranked a miserable 177 out of 195 countries in the world, with an average of 9.6 births per 1000 people), coupled in recent decades with a rise of Muslim immigrants. Perhaps there is also an element of simple, old-fashioned racism against non-whites (however, in Switzerland, most Muslims immigrants are mainly from the former Yugoslavia and Turkey, and are thus white in skin color as well).

But these facts alone cannot explain such xenophobia. Ten years ago, it would have been impossible to even imagine such a referendum being given a shred of respectability, much less actually pass in a nation-wide vote. Rather, one must confront the stark reality that such extreme xenophobia, manifested in the alarmingly fast rise in popularity of all right-wing parties across Europe (and even America), occurs in the backdrop of 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’. Increasingly, Islam and Muslims are in the daily news, typically associated with acts of violence and terrorism. The average American and European, who has little interaction with Islam and Muslims, is feeling increasingly troubled by the presence of – as they perceive it – highly-volatile potential fifth-column ‘Islamists’ within their midst. In order to counteract whatever miniscule influence or presence these Muslims have (in most Western countries, Muslims do not even number 5 % of the population), Western nations are ever-eager to demolish the very civil liberties and freedoms that they themselves struggled for centuries to establish. As one right-wing pundit wrote in recent book, these liberties (according to him) were established by Christians to accommodate people from a similar religious and ethnic background – they were not meant to be applied to peoples from radically different ethnicities and religions than those that Europe has been accustomed to for the last five centuries.

In other words, these liberties are afforded only to the peoples of ‘civilized’ nations – those who have reached the pinnacle of humanity. Muslims, being somehow different and inherently inclined to terror, are simply inferior, uncivilized peoples, and hence do not warrant such liberties. ‘Giving them such liberties would mean the end of such liberties for us’ is the basic assumption. While few verbalize it so bluntly, it is in fact this sentiment that underlies such an attitude.

The real threat that ‘Moozlem terrorists’ pose to the West, therefore, is not in the survival of its physical lands, but in the survival of its own values and freedoms that it has struggled so long to secure. In an attempt to stem an alleged ‘Islamization’ of Europe that would supposedly endanger European values and liberties, Europe appears ready to discard those very values and liberties. In the name of protecting freedom, Europe is prepared to lose it. Even as they create the imaginary monster of the ‘Islamist’, they fail to look in the mirror and see the monster that is themselves.

Fallen Minaret in Bosnia

Fallen Minaret in Bosnia

How cherished and universal Western freedoms and values really are is a question that the West itself will have to answer. What happens to these values and freedoms in the next few years will be critical in the formulation of a new Western identity: one that will either be universal and inclusive, or selective and exclusive. And while Western Muslims would welcome being included in that identity, being so minuscule in number, they can only do so much to help in that conversation.

The direct question arises for us is: what, then, are we to do as Western Muslims in the face of such bitter hatred. Various segments of Muslims inevitably react along their stereotypical party lines. A very rough (and definitely not exhaustive) sketch of those lines can be formulated as follows:

1) Quietist isolationists further withdraw into their imaginary bubbles. Typically, talk of the ever-utopic hijra to Muslim lands ensues, and Muslims of other inclinations are shown a condescending ‘I-told-you-so’ look, while ominous threats of ‘another Bosnia’ are whispered in private gatherings. The woes that befall us, we are reminded, are due to our own sins, hence the only solution to our problems is to better ourselves and become practicing Muslims again.

2) Militant confrontationalists add more fuel to their already fiery imagination as they resume beating their war-drums and thumping their chests. Fellow Muslims are once again reminded that the hatred of the kuffar knows no bounds, that this is just the beginning of much more to come, and that Muslims must prepare for the inevitable Grand Armageddon between the forces of good and the forces of evil. A recitation of a litany of Western evils against the Muslim world invariably ensues, starting with the woes of Palestine and including, but not limited to, Abu Ghuraib, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq and others. The list is indeed dismally long.

3) Politically active and media-savvy Muslims start writing articles and sending out press releases in order to increase public awareness about the issue. A hue and cry is raised about the travesty of human rights, the prejudice and double-standards shown to Muslims in a supposedly liberal and free society, and the woeful lot of law-abiding loyal Muslims around the Western world. Grandiose articles are written reminding us of the benefits medieval Muslims had gifted, from the ‘Middle Ages’ onwards, to their culturally backward neighbors of Europe. We are told, ad infinitum, that once upon a time, Arabic was the lingua franca of the intellectual world, that Muslims invented the astrolabe, formulated algebra, discovered zero, documented the flow of blood, navigated the globe, preserved the works of Plato and Aristotle, sparked the Renaissance, and otherwise saved Europe in many unbeknownst and unrecognized manners. Surely the least we can get in return is the right to build minarets?

Swiss Vote Poster

Swiss Vote Poster

4) Religiously conservative Muslims who don’t fit neatly into any of the previous categories increase in their bewilderment of what exactly to do. As they scratch their heads wondering what step to take next, many amongst them opt to join one of the three aforementioned categories, whereas others increase in their commitment to Islam, studying the religion and increasing their awareness of the tradition. Daily events around the globe only increase their commitment to the faith, even as it perplexes them with regards to real-life solution. They realize they should do something – they just don’t know what exactly to do.

5) Everyone else. Unclassifiable, uncommitted, non-practicing Muslims who go about their daily lives, completely oblivious to the changes happening around the world and unconcerned about transformations in the political and intellectual currents of the world. Sadly, this category forms the bulk of the Ummah.

I mean no offense to any of the above categories (with the possible exception of the last). A decade ago, I myself would have clearly identified with the first group. But the fact of the matter is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Perhaps there is an element of truth in more than one of the above categories. This problem is a global phenomenon, and it is beyond the scope of one individual or a few individuals to single-handedly change the tides. All too often, we seem to aggrandize our own version of the solution whilst belittling what others do. The more conservative Muslims typically mock the more secular-minded ones who are at the forefront of media battles and television interviews, while the more progressive Muslims feel frustrated that the bulk of conservative Muslims seem to make the situation worse by being so apolitical and religiously focused.

We need a sound basis of spirituality and true commitment to our faith, manifested in rituals and worship, in order to accomplish anything. But we also need a healthy dose of reality, of real-life, pragmatic steps to take to ensure our rights to live as Muslims in Western lands. Of course the Prophet salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam emphasized theology and spirituality, but he also took worldly steps in order to achieve his goals.

What happened today with the Swiss vote to ban minarets is indeed sad. If one wishes to moan and groan, there is plenty to moan and groan about. But at the same time, there is much to be optimistic about as well. The Swiss government as a whole has expressed deep concerns about this referendum. Many news agencies and political commentators are calling this exactly what it is: an alarming indication of the rise of Islamophobia across Europe. A few have remarked on the impossibility of any such law being passed against Jews or other minority religions, and just people of all faiths and backgrounds are realizing the need to work together in order to better the situation.

Farhad Afshar, president of the Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Switzerland, best summarized the effect this law would have amongst Muslims when he said: “The most painful thing for us is not the ban on minarets, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community.”

The West needs to ask itself: what will be the effect of disenfranchising a group of its own people by treating them differently than other groups? This is not the first time racism and bigotry has been allowed to grow. Surely there are enough examples and parallels that can be invoked here. Does the West wish to continue down this path once again?

And we, as Muslims residing in the West, will have to rise up to the challenge, doing what we can in order to ensure that our children after us can retain their faith and religious identity. One aspect of that struggle will have to be spiritual. Maintaining one’s faith in an ever-hostile world is not easy. Another aspect will have to be theological. Medieval, simplistic notions of dar al-Islam and dar al-harb will have to be modified and updated in light of current socio-political realities. Yet another will have to be practical. We must struggle to humanize ourselves to the larger society around us if we wish to continue living in their midst.

Every era of Muslims had their own struggles and issues that they had to deal with. Our era, and in particular our situation as Western Muslims, does indeed present a unique set of problems and an unusual set of circumstances that we are forced to deal with. But deal with it we must, and in order to deal with it effectively we need the collective talent and resources of diverse groups of people within our Ummah. Not just scholars and ulama. The entire Muslim Ummah. Lawyers, social activists, political activists, media representatives, community leaders, academics, and most importantly, each and every Muslim and Muslimah, who, by virtue of circumstance, becomes an immediate and direct ambassador of our faith to the larger world.

All that we can do is strive in whatever capacity we can for a better world, and the more we strive to make this world a better place, the better Allah will make this world and the next for us.

[1]http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/front/Drinking_among_youth_remains_a_big_problem.html?siteSect=105&sid=10572660&rss=true&ty=st (last accessed 11/29/09)

[2] http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_dru_off-crime-drug-offences (last accessed 11/29/09)

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135 Responses »

  1. I was really shocked to see the headlines on the news when I came home yesterday. I didn’t even know Switzerland had many Muslims. Why is it that I only learn that such-n-such a place has a significant Muslim population, after a reported incident of Islamophobia and/or terrorism? Not good.

    I really hate those campaign posters… Pure racism. More evidence that the human race is no more ‘enlightened’ than it was since first being established on the Earth. In fact, Adam ‘alayhis salam would wipe the floor with these guys, being rightly guided and a Prophet of Allah.

    Seriously, grow up Switzerland. You’re coming across as a bunch of babies right now… “Oooh minarets scare me! I want my mommy!”.


    Are minarets even required on a masjid? I doubt the Swiss Muslims are allowed to make the athaan publically in such places, so what practical purpose would they serve? Sometimes we choose the absolutely wrong battles to fight, not thinking long term. It is more important to build modest masjids FULL STOP than to fight to add a traditional architectural feature.

    It is even more important to be on good term with our neighbours. Considering that the entire Earth is a masallah, we are not short on places to pray. What we are short of is neighbourly love and cooperation.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t assert ourselves, but if the neighbours of the original mosque project were offended by something as benign as a minaret, that should signal alarm bells to the Muslim community, and lead to the decision: “let’s talk to our neighbours, and address their fears”. Not: “let’s fight this in the courts, and risk the problem going national”.

    Maybe they did, and maybe their efforts failed… but making friends takes time. Again, is fighting to build minarets the right way to go?

    The whole issue has become farcical. It has made a mockery of the Muslim community, the Swiss nation, and their system of rule. There are no winners in this fight.

    • I’m not sure what kind of Muslim that makes me… I just think there are more important things for Muslims to fight for, like social justice, and the right to pray at all. If this was a legal battle to build mosques, or wear hijab – i.e., matters fundamental to our deen – my response would be very different. Right now, I just think the minaret case is a waste of the court’s time.

      The only good this whole incident has served is to highlight how easy it is for a seemingly ‘neutral’ nation to turn on its own inhabitants in such a short space of time. It should be a wake up call for everyone. But I’m sure it’ll soon be forgotten with the next ‘big story’.

      • It’s not the minarets in and of themselves, it’s the clear message which this sends.

        “The most painful thing for us is not the ban on minarets, but the symbol sent by this vote. Muslims do not feel accepted as a religious community”

        Saying, “at least we can still pray, fast, etc.” is accepting being a second class citizen in a county which purports to give equal rights to all.

        • I didn’t say that. I said: pick your battles wisely. It’s an age old proverb that the Prophet Muhammad, sallalau ‘alayhi wa salam, lived by, both during the Makkan and Medinian period. E.g., he had the power to fight and expel the hypocrites in Medina, but he chose not to, because he knew the wider negative impact of such a campaign. He could have restored the kab’a to its original foundations, but he knew the new Muslims of Makkah would not be able to handle it.

          Give up the minarets, and spend your time and money establishing meaningful change for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. That includes civil rights for all.

          And why does the argument over civil rights have to be about “take, take, take” anyway? Muslims cannot afford to be so focussed on themselves alone. That’s not what we’re about.

          Sacrifice for the greater good is part of what makes a people noble. And traditionally, Muslims have been the noblest in that regard. We’re proud of that aspect of our history.

          We can let the minarets fall, but we should never let that beautiful tradition crumble.

          • iMuslim,

            i agree with what you are saying in principle: the battles need to be fought wisely. And as signficant as the “battles” is the need for Muslims to educate their non-Muslim neighbors about the Deen. One other point: you need to be careful with phrases like, “civil rights for all,” because that can mean all kinds of things (especially, in utterly secularized Western Europe), such as, two guys having the alleged “right” to get “married,” the legalization of marijuana (and other drugs), etc.

          • Exactly, my point is that this is an important issue, even though it seems trivial. The minarets are a symbol that Muslims have the same rights as everyone else. Once that is constitutionally\ demolished, it’s just downhill with one right after another being stripped away. This isn’t a trivial issue at all, and choosing a battle wisely means protesting against this with all of our effort.

      • Ameen!!!

    • I believe Muslim world is overreating to the issue without looking at what kind of laws exist in Islamic countries generally . Below are some examples :

      a) Saudi Arabia – No person can practice any religion other than Islam (forget building of Temples or Christanity.) Even if you make a temple within your house and police comes to know about it – it would be rmeoved.
      b) Maldives – No person other than a muslim can be a citizen of the country!!! (and this change was made in constitution in 2008!)
      c) Libya – Again curb on religious freedon – No person is allowed to convert a muslim however a non muslim needs to convert to Islam if he needs to marry a Muslim girl!!
      d) Afghanistan – Again if a Hindu or Christian wants to spread his religion – it is illegal to convert a Muslim.

      The list is long. Practically restrictions exist in many other Islamic countries like Pakistan/Indonesia/Iran etc..

      Should not Islamic world first address these laws before crying foul for a similiar law by Switzerland.

      • Its about the Europeans holding to their standards for secularism they have professed- Muslims have made no real promise to any secularism in the countries you mentioned, so its a mute subject.

        • These are the standards of secularism, and it is kind of like shifting sand.

          You think you know the standard and then bump, you find out over 50% of the ‘human/civil rights’ oriented westerners have a new standard just for you!

          So we Muslims in the west have to learn how to dance the western dance.
          A pity since many have studied their standards just to see them tossed out, like garbage.

          That is why it is better to stand up for principles, because they can be a better basis for dealing with others. Do not support states, nations, tribes etc. Support Justice, fairness, decency, what is moral, and what is right. It is then easier to pin point the trouble makers.
          In regards to the minaret issue, it is perplexing and seems like another red herring issue.
          My solution is to calmly ask for fairness in the political backrooms and then change the issue of the protest to a worthier cause such as the death of 400 children in Gaza not even a year ago, mainly from white phosphorous or to any such atrocity.
          In essence draw the media attention to a worthier cause.

        • Oh, so only those who profess to uphold secularism should be expected to allow the right to freely practice and express one’s religion? Very interesting.

  2. Excellent article. I take this situation as a wakeup call for myself within my own community and spheres of influence that if my neighbors, friends, coworkers, classmates, and others are afraid of me or afraid of Islam that I have not lived the life of a Muslim to convey the message. Even though we will never be able to please everyone but if half on those concerned enough to vote feel comfortable passing measures like this or other ones, we haven’t done our job effectively.

  3. assalamu alaykum imuslim i dont think its a waste of time. it starts with minarets, then it will building of mosques, then hijab then right to pray, to be muslim.

    • Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah

      My point is, if Muslims stopped thinking so much about their own rights and freedoms, following the path of the individualistic societies that we inhabit, then maybe our neighbours would be helping us to build the mosques, with minarets that would put the Blue Mosque to shame.

      This issue points just as much towards the growing selfishness of our own community, as to the growing resentment of European society towards us.

      The case of the minaret ban has clearly become an important issue now it has reached the national stage. But it need not have reached this stage at all, if the initial problem had been resolved locally. In fact, bridges may have been built across communities, ensuring a more harmonious society.

      Please don’t think I don’t care for our masajid. Rather, I just want us to think past the issue of our own ‘rights’.

      Minarets are not fundamental to the deen; I’m not even sure they’re a part of it in a legalistic sense, i.e., a building could still be considered a masjid without one (please someone educate me if I’m wrong here).

      In that sense, we’re not fighting for Islam, but rather, fighting for the sake of attaining the illusionary status of equality in citizenship. We’re losing sight of the goal, IMO.

      There is so much more to say, but I feel that I am taking over this thread, so I’ll end with “Allah knows best”. I know that I certainly don’t. :)

  4. “And the disbelievers planned, but Allah planned. And Allah is the best of planners” (3:54).

  5. i agree with fa, good point

  6. i’m swiss, i’m christian, and i’m gutted, disgusted, ashamed and very sorry. it’s not a day to be proud to be swiss. i don’t understand how so many people can be so stupid, intolerant and overanxious, and why they follow those ridiculous, false, fear-inducing arguments.

    • Dear Cass:

      Thank you for your heartfelt response. As an American and a Muslim, adults and children in our schools of all ages still study and reflect on parts of our painful American history of slavery and abuse to various populations throughout our history – native americans, and various European immigrant groups – such as with my own family’s ethnic origin, Irish, who were prevented jobs because of their Catholic faith, Chinese/Asian immigrants in the building of the west, Japanese Americans in WW II, and on to today.

      Perhaps you can help others to learn and reflect about the positive aspects of Islam such the five main pillars and the basic beliefs of Islam, and see the common prophetic history we share. Surely, the Muslims that strove with their time and money to build the mosques of Switzerland, intended this act for the pure worship of one God and to come together as a community to improve that worship and their society.

      The prescence of the Muslim community which values a healthy lifestyle for the body (no alcohol and drugs, modesty, relationships inside of marrige only and protection of the family unit) as well as a spiritual emphasis is an overlooked asset in Switzerland for which you and other like minded Christians can ally with to address societal issues that affect us all.

      Again thank you for your effort to speak up!

    • Cass,

      Thanks for your response.

      We should remember that this vote does not represent the Swiss people. Even if a majority of those who showed up voted FOR it, a large percentage of the population did not participate in this vote (45 % of the population). And we can assume that only those strongly motivated for such an issue would participate. Therefore, if the population of the entire country were to have voted, it is highly probable that the ban would not have passed.


      • JazakAllah khair Shaykh for the article and comments.

        For most of the muslims it is hard to talk to the other “group” of Muslims let alone participate with them on a unified platform. Its just hard to imagine aligning with someone who has a fundamental difference with you especially when that difference is theological. Maybe its the way we are raised. Maybe its the way we have learned the deen. My point is how does one overcome such negativity as one may call it. Living in the West with all these issues and bigotry popping up radically, how does one go about his/her daily life without saying to oneself, I must leave because I am not welcome here or should I just put up with it silently? If I don’t put up with silently and speak out I could get in more trouble and further escalate the situation then it already is. We are living the reality everyday in our lives.

        Time is of the essence. Never before have I witnessed such racism and hate mongering attitude towards Muslims then now. It is not only difficult living in Western lands but in some Muslim lands as well. One cannot live in a utopia as you mentioned. But with reality how does one cope. Paradoxically, how can we be committed to our religion without compromising our religion? How can we be socially relevant to our societies and communities while not going beyond what is required of us as a Muslim?

        In the last comment you mentioned that progressives and conservatives join hands. If by progressives you mean people like Dr. Amina Wadud then I don’t think many muslims will be up for it. Even though we share a common problem that we are solving but it will cause more arguments then solve the situation. If by progressives you mean people who want to engage in say media relations and having sound knowledge of the deen then how would we prepare such youth. The institutions to incubate such people are non-existent and then must be formed very aggressively. But will this be of help? Only time will tell. One thing is for certain we are no longer welcome in Europe as the foundations for anti-Islamic style of governance have been solidified and are now raising their ugly heads. And Allah Knows Best how they will culminate.

        All we can do is strive in this climate. Wallah u musta3an

    • As an American Christian I was shocked to hear about this result. I want to insist that one should be careful about extrapolating from one off-year direct democracy vote in a small nation to some fatal incoherence in western civilization. Please don’t assume the worst about people’s views and intentions. I realize this is easy for me to say.

      Also, it honestly is true that this kind of ban could never happen these days in the USA.

  7. Mashallah great post ya Sheikh. May Allah bless you with more and more knowledge about all aspects of the deen – be it theological, practical, mobilizing people to do good etc. We all need to be positive in our approach in dealing with issues like these and to make sure we don’t spawn hatred amongst ourselves or amongst our non-believing neighbors.

    May Allah guide us to follow the Right Path. Aameen

  8. Nice juxtaposition of the church steeple and minaret in the photo.

    Hijabs, beards, prayers all make us a very visible people: I think we just need to do better outreach, like the Muslim women who reached out to the Herouxville community in Quebec :


  9. Btw, before I leave, I think this is another good article on the subject, that is worth reading…


    • Assalam aleikum,

      after reading your comments above, and then skimming through Tariq Ramadan’s article, it seems that this is more to this than just minarets, allahualim.

      There are only four minarets in Switzerland, so why is it that it is there that this initiative has been launched? My country, like many in Europe, is facing a national reaction to the new visibility of European Muslims. The minarets are but a pretext – the UDC wanted first to launch a campaign against the traditional Islamic methods of slaughtering animals but were afraid of testing the sensitivity of Swiss Jews, and instead turned their sights on the minaret as a suitable symbol.

      UDC is the Union Démocratique du Centre, which urged people to vote yes to the referendum, according to Tariq Ramadan’s article.

  10. Thank you for your comment Cass.

    While I am skeptical of political and media activism, as we all know in these countries there are many people of good will who oppose such racist and anti-Muslim hatemongering. We should reach out to such people to form alliances for good and resist any reactionary temptation to label all Swiss or all Europeans or all Americans or all Christians with this or that attitude. It is not just and it is not true.

  11. Jazzak Allaahu Khayr for this post Shaykh.

    Of course the high degree of federalism present in the Swiss system is largely the result of a history of warfare between Catholics and Protestants. As we talk about ideas like “western freedoms” and “western ideals of freedom of religion” it is sometimes easy for us to lose sight of the real history of religion and politics in Europe or the “West.” Many of us as Muslims are not really aware of the complexity of that history and of its effects on today, and we resort to shorthand summaries that may not be accurate. This will undoubtedly be part of that general effort of the ummah to respond to contemporary challenges. Let us commit ourselves to doing that.

    Actually, a certain part of the skepticism I expressed above for political and media activism is what I often see as a process whereby aspects of complexity in the issues we face and of the societies in which we live are put through the grinder of activism and what comes out on the other end are often self-justifying cliches more than real well thought out solutions.

    I look forward to a good discussion on this piece inshAllaah. It is specifically the challenges that you raise in the conclusion of the post that I hope Muslim Matters can be a part of addressing. (To do so, I think we need to move more towards intellectual and academic understanding while resisting the urge to jump into activism..but I definitely agree that there may be truths and strengths in all the above approaches and we should keep the discussion going.)

  12. Sh. Yasir, jazakallahu khair for this article. You hit on many good points, but I am sorry to say that I find it to be lacking in substantive answers. I would consider myself to be in category #4 and the reason that this group of Muslims exists points to the failure of our leadership. I don’t mean you specifically by that, though i will illustrate using your comments.

    Many of us, being “religiously conservative” ALREADY know that “We need a sound basis of spirituality and true commitment to our faith…”. On the one hand you are saying that the old way is “simplistic” but on the other you give no clear alternative.

    “Medieval, simplistic notions of dar al-Islam and dar al-harb will have to be modified and updated in light of current socio-political realities”

    OK, but by whom? WHO is going to modify centuries of scholarship? Who is to decide what gets thrown out? How is it going to be decided? Many modernists have been calling for the above for years and call for outright secularism. Where do we draw the line? Who is going to draw the line? Are we moving toward a time where our religion is simply personal and restricted to the walls of the masjid?

    From someone such as yourself, who has significantly more Islamic training than many of the readers of this blog, I think we need a bit more detailed and direct solution. Instead we are hearing platitudes. You wrote:

    “we also need a healthy dose of reality, of real-life, pragmatic steps to take to ensure our rights to live as Muslims in Western lands.”

    Great! But WHAT are those pragmatic steps? As someone in the leadership, can you spell it out for us?

    “Our era, and in particular our situation as Western Muslims, does indeed present a unique set of problems and an unusual set of circumstances that we are forced to deal with”

    Again, you ask the obvious questions that everyone knows, but provide no answers?

    Rather than speak in platitudes, the scholars and religious leaders must lead and provide clarity. Isn’t that the reason they studied the Islamic sciences?

    And finally, you write:

    “All that we can do is strive in whatever capacity we can for a better world, and the more we strive to make this world a better place, the better Allah will make this world and the next for us.”

    As you know Shaykh, in order for a deed to be accepted by our Lord, we must not only have pure intentions, but it must be upon the Sunnah of the Messenger sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. It is not good enough for us to just “make the world a better place”. What are we calling a “better place”. And in this “better place”, what sets Islam apart from all other religions? Is it feel good stuff like food drives which everyone agrees is good yet at the same time is accompanied by an abandonment of our principles? Please be clear Shaykh.

    • Salaam Alaikum

      You’re absolutely correct Kashif.

      And I’m afraid that no one scholar can or even should decide this for us. The classification of lands (into two, three, four or more), and many of the fiqh rulings that are applicable to each, is something that is not explicitly mentioned in the Sacred Texts. Rather, it was a classification that medieval scholars derived based upon their circumstances. One of the theological premises that militant groups use to justify their actions is their direct importation of quotes and rulings from these medieval textbooks in order to apply in our times. But the world has radically changed, and it is no longer feasible or even realistic to call a Western land ‘dar al-harb’.

      Also, answers to your questions will be very specific to the one asking them. What *you* can do might be very different than what other Muslims of your masjid can do.

      Lastly, one of the points that I mentioned in the article was that its about time Muslims realize that scholars, duaats, and preachers are not the sole source of guidance in such matters. For sure, it is such authorities who will provide general guidelines of what is allowed and what isn’t. But we also need help from experts in other fields. Scholars of the Islamic tradition are simply not the most knowledgeable authorities when it comes to, say, media relations.

      What needs to happen is a discussion amongst many different types of Muslims. For this battle, ‘conservatives’ and ‘progressives’ do need to join hands and see what each has to offer. Perhaps one of the positives of such racism and bigotry will be a little more cooperation amongst different groups of Muslims, because in the end of the day, we’re all in this together.


      • My sentiments exactly, Shaykh! I believe that this, like any other crisis in our community anywhere around the world, is a test from Allah (swt). A test of our capacity to come together as one Ummah, united in belief.

        Allah (swt) knows best.

      • In regards to the discussion on dar al-harb/dar al-Islam. I can understand how this model is not applicable to our reality today. But being perfectly consistent, I think you would also have to acknowledge that Muslim-majority lands cannot be considered dar al-Islam just as you maintain Western lands cannot aptly be described as dar al-harb. The bigger question, which is usually overlooked, is whether that original model was the result of scholarship not simply ascertaining the medieval reality they lived in, but rather was grounded in the normative traditions and sources. I think it’s absurd to argue that Mawardi, Shaybani, Ghazzali, Juwayni, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayim were simply using that term to describe the reality around them, rather they constructed the model based on what they could ascertain as God’s command and law from the sources of sharia and then descriptively applied it to the condition in which they lived which was in consonnance with their normative views (at least in terms of this general dichotomy), so it had real meaning. The question for us is whether self-determination as implied in that model is a necessary condition for us to live Islam and express Islam on our terms. For those who keep insisting on replacing this model with something else (a call originally promulgated by orientalists), for the 100+ years this call has been made, we have yet to see an alternative model, even in a basic form. It seems to me this is an exercise in futility.

      • Respected Shaikh:
        Thanks for the article. While experts are needed in technological and scientific fields, isnt this issue directly related to the issues of the deen? Aren’t the scholars who are more in tune with current affairs (and laws of that country) responsible to advise the Muslims in such cases… I mean the prophet let the companions choose the affairs of their agriculture, but how about in other instances relating to the religion and living in other lands? From my limited knowledge, I recall that once he taught the leaders of a certain tribe or people, they would go back and serve as leaders of their respective communities and would make decesions based on their knowledge and they would seek the prophet’s counsel otherwise…?? Please correct me if I am wrong…do you think what would be applicable in these circumstances?

        Second, I would definetly agree that discussions have to take place with other Muslim groups, I would even extend that to the “objective” non-Muslim groups. Here, wouldnt it be prudent for orgs such as CAIR, ISNA to take the lead since they are essentially leading in this field with knowledge in both spheres. I don’t know what benefit would come out of calling out to the “progressives” since their agenda is in a totally opposite direction..I think events such as the Doha debates suffices the outreach to those groups..(smile)…??

        Allah ta`ala knows best…

  13. It is good to see that the Catholic Church has reaffirmed its opposition to this ban.

    The largest religious group in Switzerland (42 percent according to wikipedia) is Roman Catholic.

  14. Just a general point regarding semantics:

    Being anti-Islam/anti-Muslim is not RACIST. It is an example of religious BIGOTRY. The article itself says that the majority of the Muslims in Switzerland are themselves EUROPEAN (and “white”). Islam is, afterall, not a race based doctrine. Believing in the Creator properly and believing in ALL the Prophets is not a matter related to ethnicity, race, or national origin, per se. Posing this as a “racial” issue is only going to all the more put (some) xenophobic Europeans on the defensive. However, explaining to non-Muslim Europeans that Islam is ANTI-RACIST/ANTI-ETHNOSUPREMACIST (unlike, Judaism, for instance) may actually be a useful point to make in da`wah (although, it would probably be prudent to leave the Jewish part out–or else you might find yourself in jail for commiting an alleged hate crime).

  15. May be the politicians got a fatwa blessing from Al Azhar before starting such a malefic campaign.

    I wonder what if anything will the new EU president say on this matter.

  16. aselamu alikum all
    leaving in switzerland i felt so sad about this , any way machalahu kan, it is not only about minrat it is about the post i mean the advertise every morninig going to work or school looking this picture made me sick while whearing hijjab and passing by that post was hard. and inchalla tomorrow we will have Demonstration at 17 ocloc. and the hole story is not about mesjed they are scar because of muslim population in swiss the fastest growing religun in swiss lots of suiss became converted in daily bases i can see them at mosqe and the government afraid of that and provoc muslim so that they want us to be afraid but no matter how long is night day will come and who can imagen there will be black presdent in whit house so and for future belive it there will be mulsim poleticain and everything will change by allha power. it is dunya any way. may allha make muslims happy hear after. this life is our exam pain and suffering .
    Suite au résultat de la votation contre la construction des minarets, le MLCR vous invite à la qui débutera à l’esplanade de la Cathédrale de Lausanne et qui se terminera devant la Mosquée. Cette manifestation aura lieu:

    allhau aelem

    Mardi 1er décembre 2009 à 17 heures 30

    • walaikum-assalaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu…

      may Allah make it easier for us all to practise our deen and keep us steadfast. May Allah Ta’Ala give strength and hope to all our Swiss muslim brothers and sisters and guide everyone to the straight path.

  17. Swarth Moor,

    Anti-Islamic or anti-Muslim prejudice can be a form of racism if it arises out of or coincides with an association in the minds of the prejudiced people of Islam with a different “race” or with foreignness or otherness of some kind.

    The whole concept of race is a socal construct anyways which will change over time and from place to place.

    Of course Islam is not a race based worldview and it is good to point this out if people are somehow misinformed about this.

    • Abu Noor,

      I am not trying to nitpick but the article said that most of the Muslims in Switzerland are themselves [white] Europeans. Hence, there is no justification to call it “racial” discrimination, unless Eastern Europeans belong to another “race.” I’m with you on the fluidity of race/identity, but i think it is important to flesh these issues out for non-Muslims. You had, for instance, in the Balkans, what the media called “ethnic cleansing” against the Muslims there. But again, Islam is not like Judaism–it is not a religion based upon ethnic/racial identity. A Serb can be a Muslim as readily as a Somali or a Moroccan. Likewise, the media portrays the carnage in Sudan as “Arab” versus “black African.” You have many ignorant Americans thinking that folks who look like Saddam Hussein and Abdullah II (of Jordan) are invading and attacking helpless black folks in Africa. The reality is that EVERYONE (practically speaking) in Sudan is “black”–by Western standards–afterall, that’s the meaning of the nation’s name.

      I think it is important that Muslims attack European notions of race–and show how frivolous they often are. It can be very important for da`wah (shoot, we still have to explain to these Fox watching citizens of the idiocracy that Islam is not an “Arab” religion–or for some a “black” religion). And it can also be cathartic for Muslims, for many of us are carrying around all sorts of racist/tribalist junk in our hearts.

      With Allah is the success.

  18. assalamu-alaikum Sheikh Yasir… JazakAllahu khair for the wonderful article.

    Everyone who’s scared of ‘izlamists/mozlems’ uses whatever means they have to suppress/repress any and all activities, symbols associated with Islam. Ofcourse this partly stems from their ignorance of what Islam is all about. Ofcourse it is our duty to increase our Da’wah work, but do you think it can be justified in such cases to boycott them economically? Do you think it would be a means to show our solidarity and send across the message that we’re not going to take everything lying down? Do you think it could perhaps be a non-violent means of protest from our side, maybe something like Gandhi’s Dandi Salt March? Or would it serve to further alienate our muslim brothers and sisters already at the receiving end of this bigotry? I know you’re not going to call for a boycott/such, but can we have a discussion about the ways in which it would be fruitful to respond in such cases?

    I agree with iMuslim that maybe this shouldn’t be our biggest concern and take heart in the fact that it was ONLY 52% of the people that actually voted, but then it could just be the first domino.

  19. They allow similar structures to be built for churches and synagogues I assume, correct?

  20. Does this ruling apply to those too (prob. not I assume)?

  21. ps: I love the Islamic Relief banner on top, with the two minarets, LOL, I’m actually wearing an Islamic Relief shirt right now, randomly.

  22. I was astonished when I heard this on the news. Today I have been reading about it on many different websites and what astonishes me even more is the hatred and bigotry directed towards Muslims from all the people commenting on the story. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, the western media has done an admirable job of poisoning people’s minds against Islam.
    I am ashamed to say I may even have felt the same way if something hadn’t happened to me two years ago. I met an actual Muslim. Since then I have made many Muslim friends. I may not agree with all aspects of Islam, but all the Muslims I have met are kind, decent, hardworking people.
    This new law is an affront to any Western country that preaches freedom of religion.
    People are pointing out that Saudia Arabia doesnt allow churches as an excuse for this law. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think Saudia Arabia is a democracy. Do Western countries want to be like Saudia Arabia?
    I was recently in Turkey. There are many churches and temples there. And for the most part Christians and Muslims live peaceably side by side.
    The Swiss have lost my respect. I hope the good people there wake up and take care of this injustice.

    • Thanks for your post Jeff, I too am disgusted by this vote and you are right about the contribution of the media to this atmosphere of anti-Muslim bigotry. I looked at many blogs and was surprised to see so many people cheering the decision. It is regretable that the era of religious freedom and tolerance in the West is apparently coming to an end. Those responsible for spreading the bigotry will soon regret the unintented consequence when they themselves will become a target of the monstor they have created.

  23. Assalamu Alaikum,

    Many good points made by Sh. Yasir. However, I will disagree with his premise, unsupported by evidence, that there is no dar al-islam or dar al-harb today. The hatred that disbelievers have for Islam is mentioned repeatedly in the Quran, as Sh Yasir is well-aware of. Hence, to call these issues medieval and simplistic notions is downright misleading, if not intellectual dishonesty.

    • Salam

      Muhammad, are you aware of the fiqh rulings pertaining to Dar al-Harb? I think you are mixing apples and oranges.

      Dar al-harb is not defined by the hatred of a people to Islam. Yes, that hatred exists. Yes, the Quran mentions that groups of non-Muslims will always hate Islam.

      However, I am stating that many of the rulings that we find in medieval text-books pertaining to ‘dar al-harb’ cannot be applied in Switzerland, America and England. If you studied some of those rulings, I’m sure you would concur.

      Insha Allah I plan to write an article regarding the types of lands from an Islamic perspective. Many modern scholars are calling for a re-evaluation of the classical and medieval categorization.

      This is not a call to reevaluate everything. If you listen to my talks, you’ll know that I have critiqued ‘progressive Islam’ many times. Some things need reevaluation, others don’t. Anything clearly found in the Quran and Sunnah is obviously sacred. Human interpretation, especially an interpretation based upon geopolitical realities, is not.


  24. Salam,

    1. What is the criteria for judging a certain geographical area to be a ‘Land of Islam’, in the Islamic traditional/classic sense?
    2. Based on these criteria, how can we assess a certain country (the UK, U.S as examples here) to being close to a ‘Land of Islam’?

    Classic Definitions

    I carried out a survey on the concept of the ‘Land of Islam’ (dar al-islam) in a large number of classic and contemporary sources of the Islamic law known to us today, which includes various Sunni, Shia, and Ibadi Schools of Law. The results of the survey reveal some interesting facts and popular misconceptions.

    First of all, the two current popular criteria that define whether or not a country is ‘Islamic’ or part of the ‘Land of Islam’ are not supported by any school of Islamic law!

    The first criteria is ‘having a 50% +1 majority of Muslims’, regardless of whether the constitution states that it is a ‘secular country’, such as Turkey and Malaysia, whether the head of state is non-Muslim, such as Lebanon, or whether the Islamic rituals and acts of worship are not generally practiced, such as a number of former Soviet Union States. In fact, classic judicial sources clearly state that the issue of Muslims being a majority or a minority in a certain country is irrelevant to a land being a ‘Land of Islam’, and some other criteria are suggested instead.[1]

    The other popular criteria, which was recently applied to a rural region of tribal Pakistan in an attempt to get it out of the ‘Land of War’ zone (!), is the application of the ‘Islamic’ criminal law (or hudud). However, I also did not find any explicit mention in any school of law that relates the ‘Islamicity of a state’ or the concept of the ‘Land of Islam’ specifically to the hudud.

    The question now is: What are the classic criteria for a ‘Land of Islam’?

    The results of the survey could be summarised in the following five criteria.

    1. A land where Islamic rules (ahkam al-islam) apply.[2]
    2. A land where a Muslim ruler has control (isteela’) over its affairs.[3]
    3. A land of security (al-amn).[4]
    4. A land where the practicing of public acts of worship (sha`a’ir al-islam) is allowed.[5]
    5. A ‘Land of Justice’ (dar al-`adl).[6]

    The following is a brief analysis of each of these concepts and their implications.

    The ‘Land of Islamic Rulings’

    A popular definition of the Land of Islam in classic sources is, ‘the land where the Islamic rulings apply’.[7] The question is: What are these ‘Islamic rulings’?

    I have detailed elsewhere[8] that a statute could be labelled ‘Islamic’ if it has two conditions:

    1. The legal philosophy and purpose is to achieve the purpose and higher objectives of the Islamic Law (maqasid al-shari`ah) such as justice, freedom of choice, orderliness, and the preservation of faith/religion, soul/life, lineage/family, mind/intellect, dignity/honour, and wealth/ property.[9]

    2. Statutes shall not go against any fixed Islamic ruling. Defining what is ‘fixed’ and what is ‘variable’ is a complex question that I also attempted to answer elsewhere.[10]

    But in any case, given that the concept of law, in the qanun (legal statutes) sense, was not known in the Muslim-majority countries until late nineteenth century,[11] it is safe to assume that the ‘application of the Shariah in the legal system’, or ‘Shariah-compliant laws’, were definitely not part of the ‘Land of Islam’ classic interpretation. These concepts have a ‘post-colonial’ context, the analysis of which is beyond the scope of this article.

    Thus, the ‘Islamic ruling’ (ahkam al-islam) were explained in several other senses, which the rest of this article will attempt to explain.

    The ‘Land of a Muslim Ruler’

    To have a Muslim ruler in ‘control’ (isteela’) over the affairs of a certain land is a criterion that some classic and contemporary scholars used for judging that a certain land is indeed a ‘Land of Islam’.[12] Al-Mawardi, for example, explicitly mentions that ‘when Muslims reside in and control a certain land, it becomes a Land of Islam’.[13]

    However, this criterion is subject to a number of conditions to be valid, prime of which is the ability of Muslims to practice their religious obligations, a public feeling of security, and the application of justice. A Muslim ruler who fails to observe or work towards these obligations jeopardises the status of ‘Land of Islam’ of his jurisdiction. Sheikh Rashid Reda summarizes related opinions as follows:

    Indeed, many countries that are governed by Muslim leaders are countries where one is forced against practicing his/her religion and cannot reveal everything he/she believes in or fulfils his/her practical Islamic obligations, especially enjoying good, forbidden evil, and the ability to criticise rulings that go against the Law. This land, according to some scholars, is a ‘Land of War’.

    Thus, the existence of enough security and freedom to allow Muslims to practice religion is, juridically speaking, more essential than the religion of the ruler.

    The ‘Land of Security’

    In fact, a number of Imams stated that security is the purpose (maqsud) of the Land of Islam versus Land of War classification, to start with, and not ‘Islam’ versus ‘non-Islam’ per se.

    For example, Imam Abu Hanifa states:

    The purpose (maqsud) of calling a certain land a ‘Land of Islam’ or a ‘land of disbelief (kufr)’ is not Islam versus kufr. It is security versus insecurity.[14]

    Mecca itself – according to Imam al-Bayhaqi for example – became a ‘Land of Islam’ after its ‘conquest’ only because of its newly found sense of security. He writes:

    Mecca became a ‘Land of Islam’ and ‘land of security’ after its conquest because no one there was forced against his/her religion. Any other land is likewise if it acquires the same kind of security.[15]

    It is clear from the classic definitions too that security itself is means to the end of freedom to practice the Islamic ‘public acts of worship’ (Arabic: sha`a’ir al-islam). Several scholars mentioned that a Muslims who have enough security and freedom to practice sha`a’ir al-islam actually live in a ‘Land of Islam’, even if they were minority. Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi explains:

    Muslims, even a minority, are prevailing over non-Muslims, even if they were a majority, if they are not prevented from practicing the public Islamic acts of worship (sha`a’ir al-islam).[16]

    The next section elaborates on the Islamic public acts of worship, which appear to form a more basic criterion for judging a land to be a ‘Land of Islam’.

    The ‘Land of Freedom to practice Islam’

    The majority of scholars and schools of Islamic law find this criterion to be the ‘true sign’ for a land to be a ‘Land of Islam’. Many of them refer to prophetic traditions that are interpreted to mean just that, such as related prophetic sayings about the importance of certain identifying acts, such as group prayers in the mosque, the call for prayer (azan), pilgrimage, the celebration of Eid,and so on. Al-Mawardi writes:

    The public acts of worship (sha`a’ir) of Islam such as group prayers in mosques and call for prayers are the criteria by which the Prophet, peace be upon him, differentiated between the Land of Islam and the Land of Disbelief. [17]

    Al-Razi writes:

    If the Islamic acts of worship are evident in streets and public places, this certainly entails that Islam is dominant.[18]

    Ibn Taymiyah writes:

    The public acts of worship (sh`a’ir) of Islam are the true signs that a certain land is a Land of Islam.[19]

    The ‘public acts of worship’ are defined to include a variety of Islamic rituals, such as the five prayers,[20] fasting in Ramadan,[21] giving zakah charity,[22] pilgrimage,[23] ablution,[24] Eid prayers,[25] reading the Quran,[26] sacrificing animals to feed the poor,[27] building mosques,[28] greeting people with ‘peace be upon you’,[29] and charitable endowments (awaqaf).[30]

    But if we – objectively – assess various countries around the world based on Muslims’ freedom to practice the above specific Islamic acts of worship, and create some sort of ‘index’ for them, we will quickly realise that many European countries – including the UK – would score perhaps much higher than many Muslim-majority countries in that index.

    The ‘Land of Justice’

    This criterion, the achievement of justice, is so central in the Islamic in the Islamic concept of ‘Land of Islam’ to the extent that the ‘land of justice’ term interchangeably with the ‘Land of Islam’ term in numerous sources. [31]

    Justice is the basis of all of the above criteria, according to Islamic jurists, and hence more fundamental in the Islamic principles and purposes. Thus, an ‘Islamic leadership’ that is not based on justice and is based on ‘ethnic solidarity’ (‘asabiyyah) does not constitute a valid condition for the ‘Land of Islam’. Rashid Reda, for example, writes:

    The land of justice, which is the Land of Islam, is a land that has a true leader who establishes justice. This is contrary to the ‘land of injustice and aggression’, in which governorship is based on some Muslims’ ‘ethnic solidarity’ (`asabiyyah), regardless of the establishment of the Islamic rulings.[32]

    Al-Mawardi also stresses the importance of ‘competence’ and a ‘good character’ of the leader in the ‘Land of Justice’. He writes:

    People who are qualified to make decisions in the Land of Justice should choose a leader who possesses a good character and competent.[33]

    Ibn Taymiyah holds the ‘achievement of justice’ in a state as most fundamental and deserving of God’s support, even for a ‘nation of disbelievers’. He writes:

    In this life, people’s situations uphold when justice prevails in their society even if they fall into various kinds of sins. However, people’s situations do not uphold when injustice and lack of rights prevail in their society. That is why the saying goes: God upholds a state established on justice, even if it were a nation of disbelievers, and would not uphold a state established on injustice, even if it were a nation of Muslims. The other saying goes: This world lives with justice and disbelief, and does not live with injustice and Islam. The Prophet, peace be upon him, had said: ‘No sin has a faster Divine punishment than the sin of injustice …’. Thus, people of injustice fail in this life, even if they were to be forgiven in the hereafter. This is because justice is the universal law of things.[34]


    The ‘Land of Islam’ versus the ‘Land of War/Disbelief’, ‘good ruler’ versus ‘evil ruler’, ‘security’ versus ‘insecurity’, ‘freedom in practicing Islam’ versus ‘no freedom in practicing Islam’, and ‘justice’ versus ‘injustice’, are all false dichotomies!

    All of the above black-and-white classifications of the world are almost never true, and a more realistic and ‘logical’ classification looks at not only the gray levels in between the black and white extremes, but various colours as well. In other words, the achievement of all the above criteria especially the three most fundamental, namely, security, freedom of practicing religion, and justice is relative, whether in Muslim-majority or Muslim-minority societies.

    Thus, and regardless of popular opinions, the country that is juridically worthy of being a ‘Land of Islam’, ‘Land of Security’, or ‘Land of Justice’ is the country that achieves a relatively high score on the criteria that are detailed above.

    The above judgement obviously requires a comprehensive and realistic survey of various countries in order to create a ‘ranking’ of some sort. However, being in the context of UK, a rough but very reasonable assessment of how the UK meets all of the above criteria gives it a relatively high score on the ‘Land of Islam’ scale!

    [1] For example: Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi, Nizamuddin (d. 728 h). Tafsir Ghara’ib al-Qur’an, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 1996, vol.3, p.459, and Al-Bayhaqi, Ahmad Ibn Al-Hussein (d. 458 h). Sunan al-Bayhaqi al-Kubra, Dar al-Bazz, Mecca, 1994, vol.9, p.16.
    [2] For example: Ibn Al-Qayyim, Shamsuddin (d. 751 h). Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimmah, Ramady/Ibn Hazm, Beirut, 1997, vol.2, p.728, Reda, Rashid. Fatawa, Compiled by: Salahuddin Al-Munajjid and Yusuf Khouri, Dar al-Kitab-al-Jadeed, Beirut, 1390 h, Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi, Tafsir Ghara’ib al-Qur’an, vol.3, p.459, Al-Sarakhsi, Shamsuddin (d. 483 h). Dar Al-Marifa, Beirut, without date, vol.9, p. 182, and Al-Yunini, Qutbuddin (d. 726 h). Dhail Mir’at al-Zaman, Al-Turath, Amman, without date, vol.2, p.58.
    [3] For example: Al-Mawardi, Ali Ibn Mohammad (d. 450 h) Al-Hawi al-Kabeer fi Fiqh Madhab al-Imam al-Shafie, Dar al-Kutub, Beirut, 1999, vol.14, p.267, Reda, Fatawa, Reda, Rashid. Al-Khilafah, Al-Zahraa, Cairo, without date, p.50, Al-Mawardi, Ali Ibn Mohammad (d. 450 h). Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah wal-Wilayat al-Diniyah, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 1985, vol..1, p.22, Al-Mawsili, Abdullah (d. 683 h). Al-Ikhtiyan, Dar al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 2005, vol.4, p.178, and Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi, vol.3, p.459.
    [4] For example: Al-Bayhaqi, vol.9, p.16, Al-Kasani, Alauddin(d. 587 h). Bada’i` al-Sana’i` fi Tartib al-Shara’i`, Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, Beirut, 1982, vol.7, p.131, Al-Sarakhsi, vol.9, p. 182.
    [5] For example: Ibn Taymiyah, Ahmad (d. 728 h). Al-Nubuwat, Al-Matba`ah Al-Salafiyah, Cairo, 1386 h, vol.1, p.197, Al-Razi, Mohammad Ibn Omar (d. 606 h). Al-Mahsul, Jamiat Al-Imam, Riyad, 1400 h, vol.4. p.43, Al-Mawardi, Ali Ibn Mohammad (d. 450 h). Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah wal-Wilayat al-Diniyah, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 1985, vol..1, p.275, Al-Nasa’i, Ahmad, (d. 303 h). Al-Jum`ah, Al-Turath, Amman, without date, p.10, Al-Kalabadhi Al-Bukhari, Abu-Bakr (d. 384 h). Bahr al-Fawa’id, Dar Al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 1999, vol.1, p.130, Al-Mawardi, Ali Ibn Mohammad (d. 450 h) Al-Hawi al-Kabeer fi Fiqh Madhab al-Imam al-Shafie, Dar al-Kutub, Beirut, 1999, vol.2, p.48, Ibn Al-Arabi, Abu BAkr (d 543 h). Ahkam al-Quran, Dar al-Fikr, Lebanon, vol.1, p.368, Ibn Al-Arabi, Abu BAkr (d 543 h). Ahkam al-Quran, Dar al-Fikr, Lebanon, vol.1, p.530, Al-Kasani, Alauddin(d. 587 h). Bada’i` al-Sana’i` fi Tartib al-Shara’i`, Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, Beirut, 1982, vol.7, p.113, Al-Razi, Mohammad Ibn Omar (d. 604 h). Al-Tafsir Al-Kabeer, Dar Al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, vol.32, p.108, Al-Mawsili, Abdullah (d. 683 h). Al-Ikhtiyan, Dar al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 2005, vol.4, p.178, Al-Yunini, Qutbuddin (d. 726 h). Dhail Mir’at al-Zaman, Al-Turath, Amman, without date, vol.2, p.58, Ibn Taymiyah, Ahmad (d. 728 h). Kutub wa Rasa’il wa Fatawa, Maktabat Ibn Taymiyah, without date, vol.23, p.146, and Ibn Taymiyah, Kutub wa Rasa’il wa Fatawa, Maktabat Ibn Taymiyah, vol.28, p.408.
    [6] For example: Ibn Taymiyah, Ahmad (d. 728 h). Kutub wa Rasa’il wa Fatawa, Maktabat Ibn Taymiyah, without date, vol.28, p.146, Reda, Al-Khilafah, p.50, 62, Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah, vol.1, p.22, Al-Sarakhsi, Shamsuddin (d. 483 h). Al-Usul, Dar Al-Marifa, Beirut, without date, vol.9, p. 182, Al-Kasani, Alauddin(d. 587 h). Bada’i` al-Sana’i` fi Tartib al-Shara’i`, Dar al-Kitab al-`Arabi, Beirut, 1982, vol.7, p.80, Ibn Qudamah, Abdullah Al-Maqdisi (d. 620 h). Al-Mughni fi Fiqh al-Imam Ahmad, Dar Al-Fikr, Beirut, 1405 h, vol.9, p.14, Al-Nawawi, Muhammad (d. 676 h). Rawdat al-Talibin wa `Umdat al-Muftim, Al-Maktab Al-Islami, Beirut, 1405 h, vol.10, p.49, Al-Zar`i, Mohmmad Ibn Abu Bakr (d. 751h). Al-Jawab al-Kafi Liman Sa`al `an al-Dawa’ al-Shafi, Dar al-Kutub Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 1405 h, vol.1, p.101, Ibn Abidin, Mohammad (d. 1252 h). Hashiyat Raddul-Mukhtar, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut, 2000, vol.4, p.45, Al-Alusi, Shihabuddin (d 1270 h). Ruh al-Ma`ani fi Tafsir al-Quran al-`Adheem, Dar Ihyaa al-Turath al-`Arabi, Beirut, without date, vol.18, p.91, Nizam, al-Sheikh. Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyah, Dar al-Fikr, 1991, vol.2, p.179, Reda, Rashid. Al-Khilafah, Al-Zahraa, Cairo, without date, p.50.
    [7] For example: ref 1, 4, 5, 12, 32. Ibn Al-Qayyim, Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimmah, vol.2, p.728, Reda, Fatawa, Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi, vol.3, p.459, Al-Sarakhsi, vol.9, p. 182, and Al-Yunini, Dhail Mir’at al-Zaman, vol.2, p.58.
    [8] J. Auda, ‘What is a ‘Shariah-compliant’ law?’, The Islamic law and its Application Seminar, Doha Legal Forum, May 29-31, 2009, Qatar.
    [9] J. Auda, Maqasid al-Shariah as Philosophy of Islamic Law: A Systems Approach, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), London, 2008.
    [10] J. Auda, Fiqh al-Maqasid, International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Virginia, 2006.
    [11] Rashid Reda, ‘Mujmal Al-Ahwal Al-Siyasiyah,’ al-˒Urwah al-Wuthqa, Feb. 29th, 1898 CE.
    [12] For example: Al-Mawardi, Al-Hawi al-Kabeer, vol.14, p.267, Reda, Fatawa, Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi, vol.3, p.459, and Al-Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Bayhaqi, vol.9, p.16.
    [13] Al-Mawardi, Al-Hawi al-Kabeer, vol.14, p.267.
    [14] Al-Kasani, Bada’i` al-Sana’i`, vol.7, p.131.
    [15] Al-Bayhaqi, Sunan al-Bayhaqi, vol.9, p.16.
    [16] Al-Qummi Al-Naisaburi, Tafsir Ghara’ib al-Qur’an, vol.3, p.459.
    [17] Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah, vol.1, p.275.
    [18] Al-Razi, Al-Mahsul, vol.4, p.43.
    [19] Ibn Taymiyah, Al-Nubuwat, vol.1, p.197.
    [20] Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah, vol.1, p.275, Ibn Al-Arabi, Ahkam al-Quran, vol.1, p.368, 530, Al-Razi, Al-Tafsir, vol.32, p.108, and Ibn Taymiyah, Kutub wa Rasa’il, vol.28, p.408.
    [21] Ibn Al-Arabi, Ahkam al-Quran, vol.1, p.530.
    [22] Al-Razi, Al-Tafsir, vol.32, p.108.
    [23] Al-Kalabadhi Al-Bukhari, Bahr al-Fawa’id, vol.1, p.130.
    [24] Ibid.
    [25] Al-Mawardi, Al-Hawi al-Kabeer, vol.2, p.48.
    [26] Ibn Al-Arabi, Ahkam al-Quran, vol.1, p.368, and Ibn Taymiyah, Kutub wa Rasa’il, vol.28, p.408.
    [27] Ibid., vol.23, p.146.
    [28] Ibid., vol.28, p.408, and Al-Yunini, Dhail Mir’at al-Zaman, vol.2, p.58.
    [29] Al-Kasani, Bada’i` al-Sana’i`, vol.7, p.113.
    [30] Al-Yunini, Dhail Mir’at al-Zaman, vol.2, p.58.
    [31] For example: Ibn Taymiyah, Kutub wa Rasa’il, vol.28, p.146, Reda, Al-Khilafah, p.50, 62, Al-Mawardi, Al-Ahkam al-Sultaniyah, vol.1, p.22, Al-Sarakhsi, al-Usul, vol.9, p. 182, Al-Kasani, Bada’i` al-Sana’i`, vol.7, p.80, Ibn Qudamah, Al-Mughni, vol.9, p.14, Al-Nawawi, Rawdat al-Talibin, vol.10, p.49, Al-Zar`i, Al-Jawab al-Kafi, vol.1, p.101, Ibn Abidin, Hashiyat Raddul-Mukhtar, vol.4, p.45, Al-Alusi, Ruh al-Ma`ani, vol.18, p.91, Nizam, Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyah, vol.2, p.179, and Reda, Al-Khilafah, p.50.
    [32] Reda, Ibid.
    [33] Al-Mawardi, Ibid.
    [34] Ibn Taymiyah, Ibid.

  25. So I take it they’ll be tearing down those mosques soon? I wonder what the attendance rate at the mosques in Switzerland is…maybe we’ve lost those buildings because of our “empty mosque” phenomenon?

    Emir Abdul-Qadir al-Jazairi said: In tansurallah yansurukum- If you give victory to God, He’ll give victory to you.
    And he also stated the reverse applies- if you forsake God, He will manifest Himself as One who forsakes you (khadhil).

    Great piece Shaykh Yasir. I would like to see you push your fellow AlMaghrib instructors as well as the other teachers to dive into non-religious non-fiction books more. Many times, the teachers come off as clueless, illiterate and uneducated with how the world works. Encourage them to read works in sociology, political science, psychology- the humanities (not money-oriented stuff like NLP or Engineering etc). I’ve heard many times from Islamic speakers, “We need more lawyers, counselors, academics, activists, etc,” but if Shaykh Yasir isn’t talking about things like Labeling Theory or Relative Deprivation theory- why are his students going to go and read about that? So I strongly advise you push for more non-religious education among scholars and provide that integrative model of understanding the world and making Islam fit in and play a key roles, because it seems to me that is whats really lacking and to be honest its kind of embarrassing.

    Perhaps those sorts of moves will make Muslims better prepared for situations such as this one and help us move forward with courage, and not fear?

    Jazaka Allahu khayran.

    • Dawud,

      While it would be great if all students of knowledge/scholars could spout forth the latest advancements in the humanities, the fact of the matter is that it is enough of a specialization to study the ‘Islamic science’ (which itself is a term that encompasses dozens of specializations). Just as it is very rare to find a lawyer who’s a doctor, it will also be rare to find an alim who’s a political analyst.

      Still, “that which cannot be obtained in its entirety should not be abandoned in its entirety as we”, as the Arabs say. Therefore, it is necessary that scholars, especially those residing in the West, do try to learn some of the more important secular sciences, and in particular those that relate to their situation in the West.

      One thing that others can do to help people like us out is to recommend specific readings and works, or perhaps even summarize the more important works in the field. Some of you specialize in these things. Share the love! :)

  26. Salam,

    Jazakallah Sh Yasir for your explanation. However, saying that only the Quran and Sunnah are sacrosanct is erroneous, since they need to be interpreted according to the understanding of the first 3 blessed generations, the pious predecessors. There is a very fine line between calling for selective re-evalauation and the wholesome rejection of Islam as manifested by the neo-Mutazlia aka progressives. Also, as you yourself mentioned elsewhere, ijmaa of the Ummah is also sacrosanct.

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