Answered by Dr. ‘Abdullah bin Bayyah | Translated by Suhaib Webb
The following question was put to the erudite scholar, Shaykh `Abdullah bin Bayyah:
“I’m interested in leaving my homeland and migrating to the lands of Islam. I’ve heard that it is an obligation to do so and wanted your guidance on this issue.”
“The questioner’s desire to live in a Muslim country is commendable. However, I would like to remind him of the following verse of the Qur’an, “Allah does not burden a soul more than it can bear.” (Qur’an, 2:286) If he is able to observe the rites of Islam and worship Allah in his homeland, then it is not obligatory upon him to migrate from there based on the hadith of the Companion Fudayk (God’s pleasure be upon him). This hadith was related by Ibn Hibbān (4861) and its narrators are trustworthy (Thiqāt). In it the Prophet ﷺ said,
‘O Fudayk! Establish the five daily prayers, abandon evil, and live amongst your people wherever you wish to live.’ The narrator of this hadith speculated that the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘(and) you will be considered as one who migrated (Muhajir).’
Fudyak’s tribe, with whom he resided, was non-Muslim and he was asking the Prophet ﷺ about migrating. Based on this, three major schools of Islamic law, the Hanafis, Shafi’s and Hanbalis, contended that if a person was able to practice his faith, then leaving his country was not an obligation and migration was not compulsory upon him. Other scholars, such as Imam Mālik, God’s mercy be upon him, and the Literalist (Zāhiri) school, viewed it as an obligation. There were some scholars such as al-Mawardī and some of the Shāfi’is who contended that if one was able to perform his religious rites, then it was not allowed for him to migrate in the first place; nay, it is obligatory for him to stay in his country because if he migrated, there would be no Muslims left there.
This issue is one of great flexibility and ease and we beseech Allah for His guidance.”