Working Class Muslim Families Series Part 4: “Hijrah”

Those indigenous Muslims from isolated areas not satisfied with moving to the east coast always have the option of hijrah. As a matter of fact hijrah is an option for all Muslims in America and you see indigenous Muslims from all areas, East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Down South, making “hijrah”.

Different people make hijrah for different reasons; but before I talk about those reasons and the pros and cons I first want to briefly deal with the concept of hijrah. There are some American-Muslims who have very sane and rational views about why they should make hijrah and how they should go about doing so and how this will benefit their children.

If your plan to make hijrah consist of getting as tourist visa, overstaying your visa and living off of the meager savings you have from America then you need to rethink your plans. If you are a grown man with children and you plan to go overseas, not work and study Arabic or deen full-time this may not be considered hijrah and instead may just be considered becoming an international deadbeat. If you plan on moving somewhere full time, have no prospects for employment there and have to come back to America for three, four, or six months out of the year leaving your family you may also want to rethink the soundness of your plans.

Technically, all of the things stated above are not hijrah at all. Most of these things involved becoming an illegal immigrant in a Muslim Land. You are not a citizen, your children there will not become citizens and you may not have the lawful right to even work or own property. You may be living full-time or part-time in a Muslim land but your children have no permanent legal status there, will never be considered a local or native and your status there is iffy at best.

As I write this I know of bitter Muslim young adults who grew up in Saudi Arabia and never knew America. They were never considered Saudis, but they were sheltered from all things American; now since they have no legal status in the KSA they are back in America feeling lonely and isolated in a non-Muslim land they did not grow up in and are resentful towards their parents. There parents may have done a lot of things; but they definitely did not make hijrah.

Just like there is a revolving door of Midwestern and Southern Muslims moving back and forth to the East Coast there is also a revolving door of families moving back and forth from overseas. When they are in America they work hard, save up a little money and then go overseas until their money runs out. Any benefits their children receive from living in a Muslim land are negated by the chaos in their lives. The children will more than likely grow bitter and their constantly having to move will mean their education will more than likely be lacking because they miss days of school.

It should be noted that there are ulama that encourage all Muslims in America to make hijrah and there are many Muslims, especially Salafis, who follow that opinion. For them hijrah is the goal at all times and they may or may not have a good plan. Their children could come back to America married to Muslims and fully grounded in the deen and they could come back unable to speak English in complete sentences.

To be quite honest the majority of those American-Muslims who I have known to make hijrah have came back to America in utter failure. Some of them come back with horror stories. Others come back with stories I dare not repeat.

Does this mean I am anti-hijrah? Of course I am not. As a mater of fact, if done properly hijrah is the best option. Instead of struggling to move from one city in a non-Muslim land like St. Louis to another like Philly you could move to a land where there is almost nothing but Muslims. There are many factors that exist though that makes this option very difficult even for the most thoughtful Muslims.

It is sad but true that the majority of the ummah live in poverty. Migrating to a dirt-poor developing nation when you are already poor is not a realistic option. Other places in the ummah are not that poor but are ruled by tyrants who are hostile to practicing Muslims. Such places are also not an option. Other places are mired in civil-conflict and terrorism. These places are not good, not only because you may be putting your life and the lives of your family at risk; but you also may be accused of being a terrorist when coming home to America, be harassed for the rest of your life and have your passport taken.

What does that leave us?  That leaves us with a handful of Muslim countries to work with. Many, if not most, indigenous brothers and sisters are not college-educated. Now, the figure for those who are college-educated is growing masha’Allah, but I will just deal with how it is now. Without a high-level of education this means that brothers who want to provide for their families will have to live in relatively prosperous societies that can afford to pay decent wages for jobs that are not high-skilled. Or live in places with a big need for English teachers for example. This leaves Muslims with the choice of the rich Gulf Arab States (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain), Indonesia, and Malaysia. Thee are also other countries that if well-connected one can make it on a modest wage such as Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan.

If one is not wealthy and looking to move there you must put employment ahead of ideology and conviction. Because, no matter how much you may want to live in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, if you cannot get a job then it is just a dream. If you manage to get over there and do not have a job then in all actuality your family will be suffering and it is a long way from home to be broke.

If a Muslim is not only able to get a good job; but also able to get along well with those of other cultures and have a gift for language, hijrah can be a great option if done with balance, realistic expectations and care. The entire family can enjoy the benefit of living in a Muslim land and can grow together. The key is to grow as Muslims and enjoy your time in a Muslim land without totally detaching yourself from the American-Muslim community and remaining aware of the fact that while your intention may be hijrah you are a visitor and you do not want to put yourself in a  situation where returning to America will be a hardship.

If brothers in Muslim countries only knew how badly many American-Muslims just wanted to live in a Muslim land where they would not be given strange looks, where their wives could cover freely and be given their rights, where the kids could be inculcated into the culture of Islam, where if you die you will get a proper Muslim burial, where you don’t have to worry about food being haram, and where you hear the adhan 5 times a day, if brothers in Muslim countries only knew how badly your heart yearend for Dar al Islam then you would think they would be helping working-class Muslims resettle in Muslim lands for the sake of their children.

Yet, with very limited exceptions, there are normally not wide open arms at the other end welcoming the American brothers and sisters. Instead, we face bureaucratic and visa nightmares fro “Muslim” governments and hostility from Muslims in Muslim lands and often return home and are harassed by the fed’s because we are seeking to grow closer to Allah. As we go closer to Allah American law-enforcement will try to stand in between us and the One who created both of us; but as the old Christian saying goes “you demons get behind me”.

These are prospects for hope involving hijrah, and there are reasons for concern, but no matter where we will go we will always have the swagger and speech of an American, because that is what we are, and believe me wherever you go in this world people will not let you forget that. No matter what circumstances we were born into, no matter how horrific the kufr of our childhoods was, and no matter how much we often carry our Americanness like an albatross around our necks, a greater hope may be available for our children if hijrah is done right, and if it is done wrong our children may see and bear horrors we have not even imagined.

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