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Muslim Americans Must Obey U.S. Laws: Nidal Hasan Disobeyed Islamic Doctrine

by Danios

The Islamophobic blogosphere has gone buck-wild.  Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and the rest of the goof troop are pretty ecstatic that Major Nidal Hasan, a Muslim American, killed thirteen U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood.  Nothing makes a neo-conservative happier than an attack on American soil; as the family of the victims mourn the dead, the anti-Muslim ideologues gleefully co-opt the situation to market their hate-filled beliefs.

The Islamophobes claim that Major Hasan was simply “being a devout Muslim” when he opened fire on his fellow soldiers.  According to them, this is a part of Jihad, an obligation in Islam.  As such, the enemy is not just extremists, radicals, or terrorists; but rather, it is Islam itself.  It is not then a gross perversion of a religion by zealots that result in such horrific attacks, but rather the exact opposite: it is a faithful understanding of the Islamic religion which results in terrorism.  That’s what they claim at least.

There is, according to these anti-Muslim bigots, a conspiracy by Muslim Americans to overtake the country from within.  The tactics to do so can be non-violent (”Stealth Jihad”) or overtly violent (such as 9/11 or the Fort Hood Massacre), but the goal is the same: to overthrow the U.S. government, rip the Constitution to shreds, and enact Sharia (Islamic law) in the West.  It is for this reason, you–the average American Joe–need to fear your Muslim neighbor.

The Covenant of Security

But experts of the Islamic legal tradition say differently.  The Islamic religion commands believers to obey the laws of the land they live in, even if it be one ruled by nonbelievers.  Muslim jurists consider citizenship (or visa) to be a covenant (aqd) held between the citizen (or visa holder) and the state, one which guarantees safe passage/security (amaan) in exchange for certain obligations (such as obeying the laws of the land); covenants are considered sacredly binding in Islam.  The Quran commands:

And fulfill every covenant.  Verily, you will be held accountable with regard to the covenants. (Qur’an, 17:34)

The Quran condemns those who break covenants as not being true believers:

It is not the case that every time they make a covenant, some party among them throws it aside. Nay! The truth is most of them believe not. (Qur’an, 2:100)

The Islamic prophet Muhammad described the religious hypocrite as follows:

When he enters into a covenant, he proves treacherous. (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Citizenship (and visa) is called in Islamic legal parlance as a “covenant of security” (aqd al-aman).  For over a thousand years, Muslim scholars have rigorously affirmed the binding nature of the covenant of security.  This covenant of security can be of two types: (1) a contractual agreement or (2) a customary understanding.

Naturalized citizens in the United States enter into a contractual agreement with the government when they declare the oath of allegiance, as follows:

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”

A Muslim is obliged to keep to his word, and thus this oath is religiously binding upon him.

Natural born citizens, on the other hand, do not utter any such oath, so they fall under the second category under Islamic law.  The covenant of security is considered for them a customary understanding, in the sense that even though they did not physically say an oath or sign a document of loyalty, it is understood that there exists between the citizen and the government a covenant of security; this, i.e. customary understanding, is considered by Islamic law to be just as binding as the contractual agreement.  There is no difference between the two.

Betraying the Covenant is Forbidden

What the 9/11 hijackers did was a violation of Islamic law for multiple reasons.  The most obvious of these is the prohibition of killing civilians, but it should also be pointed out that they violated the covenant of security between them and the United States, which granted them visas to enter the country.  Using Islamic lingo, the U.S. government granted safe passage (amaan) to the 19 hijackers, and thus they entered into a covenant (aqd), which they subsequently violated.

The United States government granted them visas with the understanding that they would come to the country to study, or seek medical treatment, or for sightseeing, etc., but not for waging war within their lands or killing their citizenry.  Even if a Muslim country is at war with a non-Muslim one, it would not be permissible for a Muslim fighter to enter into enemy territory by requesting safe passage (amaan) and then subsequently killing enemy troops once he crosses over.

The classical Islamic jurist, Muhammad al-Shaybani (died 805 A.D.) expounded:

If it happens that a company of Muslims pass through the enemy’s front lines by deceptively pretending to be messengers of the Muslim’s ruler carrying official documents–or if they were just allowed to pass through the enemy lines–they are not allowed to engage in any hostilities with the enemy troops. Neither are they entitled to seize any of their money or properties as long as they are in their area of authority.

Both the 9/11 hijackers and Major Nidal Hasan violated this sacred principle of Islam.  They gained the trust of those whom they considered their enemies, and then when those they consider enemies were caught unaware, they killed them.  In other words, these criminals took advantage of the fact that they had been trusted, and violated this trust.  Such a thing is considered unacceptable in Islam.

(It should be noted that Muslim Americans don’t see themselves as living in “enemy territory,” but the point is that even if Nidal Hasan saw the U.S. in that light, then he still wouldn’t be allowed under the Islamic belief system to do what he did.  Of course, the point applies even more to those Muslim Americans who see themselves as distinctly American and who love the country.)

A Muslim American Must Obey the Constitution and Never Rebel Against the U.S. Government

A Muslim must abide by his covenant, which includes obeying the laws of the land he lives in, no matter how he entered into the country, be it by birth, legal (or even illegal) immigration.  (Entering countries illegally with forged documents is considered forbidden in Islam, but if one commits this sin, he cannot commit the further sin of then using it as an excuse to violate the laws of the land.)  Salman al-Oudah, a senior religious cleric, says:

[Islamic] scholars have stated that those who enter non-Muslim countries have to adhere to their respective laws and regulations even if they entered those countries illegally, and they have no excuse for breaking those laws, since they were entrusted to abide by those laws upon entry into those countries…As long as [a Muslim] agrees to live in a non-Muslim country, he is never to rebel against the people living in his choice of residence, even it seems too hard for him to endure.

Originally published by LoonWatch and the rest of the article here

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  • Going postal in Texas…

    So, a Muslim army major has gone on the rampage with two automatic handguns on a US army base in Texas, and killed (so far) 13 people. Obviously, the usual suspects rush to blame Muslims generally and to cast aspersions on the loyalty of Muslims or th…

  • This article deserves more press than the Awlaki piece. It not only refutes the Islamophobes but the extremist viewpoint as well. As Muslims gain access to more scholarly perspectives we will be less prone to fall for the literalist rhetoric that is so obviously dangerous. Thanks for posting this.

  • Shaykh Suhaib, I got a question….

    When we take such a covenant is it allowable for us to abide by laws that directly oppose Islam? For example in Islam we are allowed to defend ourselves and our property, we are commanded to not kill innocent lifes. If a command issued by those who we took a covenant say that we must go kill innocent people are we allowed to obey them when this is against what Allah commands us?

    Now if we take the US military as unlawful invaders of a foreign land – killing innocent people, then what ‘covenant’ does he have with the US when it opposes the covenant he has with God in the Quran. He saw this as his chance to kill the oppressors who are going on a mission to improperly invade another country – he saw it as God’s work, so he yelled ‘Allahu Akbar’ when he pulled the trigger.

    Now for me, I think the US is implenting justice in the foreign lands of Iraq and Afghanistan. If you think the US Army is illegal in it’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq- and think they are killing innocent people- then for you what this man did was noble and he is a martyr, for me he was a criminal.

    Call the cards the way the are, and don’t call the jack of spades and ace of hearts. This man didn’t kill his neighbor, or the police force, or his governor, he killed soldiers, and not just any soldiers – those that were going overseas to fight in a war he thought was illegal based on the covenant he has with God’s word in the Quran, however for Muslims we should be supporting the US army not because we are in the minority in this country or have taken a “covenant” with the US government so we are law-abiding against our will, but because we believe in what the US gov. is doing overseas! And we Muslims should know very well the nature of our past corrupt rulers in the Taliban and Sadaam, and the fact that the US is sacrificing much in our lands for the betterment of the next generation of Iraqis and Afghanis should be recognized by respect for our US army. And aid and support of the US army not b/c of a covenant against our will, but a covenant we make conciously and willingly, a covenant we make before God to do good on this earth while we have life.

  • This question is more on a theoretical side, related to the above premise and not related to the topic of the killing spree at Fort Hood.

    Yes, I understand and agree and indeed apply the duty to obey US laws.

    My question is: according to scholars are there circumstances under which disobedience to laws is required?

    Under international law, it is established – most conspicuously in the Nuremberg trials – that obeying orders, or obeying the law, is not an excuse for committing – for example – “crimes against humanity”. It is in fact the law that one must obey one’s individual moral conscience in defiance of the law when that law is unjust (and that law may only be deemed unjust retroactively, after one has suffered the consequences for disobeying it).

    Would muslims in Nazi Germany or Nazi-occupied Europe have had to obey the 3rd Reich and not rebelled against it – e.g. by joining the French Resistance – because it was the ruling authority and legally established entity at that time, doing everything it did “legally”?

    More recently, and at home in the US – would muslims have been wrong or right in joining the civil rights movement tactics that disobeyed laws – like seating african americans at “whites only” lunch counters – which was against state law at the time.

    Laws in the West are man-made and make no claims to divine revelation, and democracies depend on the consent of the governed – so within its own legal framework it allows change and dissent, and even mandates it when men have created unjust laws. Do muslims in the West have a similar relationship to laws in the west or must they obey laws regardless?

    By the way, Anyone who thinks i’m trying to support Hasan’s actions by the above question is absolutely wrong and has misinterpreted my question.

    I’m trying to understand more about the moral obligations of the individual to conscience vs. to the state/legal entities according to the scholars.

  • Actually, I think I am over-stating the case in Nuremberg for the requirement of individual conscience to over-ride the rule of unjust law in the West – this is not the requirement of the ordinary individual. However, my main question is the same in terms of what Islam says about not following unjust laws and/or trying to change them. Thank you.

  • Before we jump, how about checking for water? Yanni, is Awlaki that stupid after spending two years on lock down for terrorism. If you read the newsweek blog report, you would think that he was still in VA. I just feel that this is just one more nail in the spin coffins that they are builing for Muslims. Allah knows what happened to Nidal, but the fact that he looks like an Arab and has gone mad, is a sad combination of facts. Still Muslims have to be harder thinking then simply to react, they have to be investigative and find out what is really happening.

  • Assalamu ‘alaikum Sh Webb,

    can you please address Um Hana & Afghani Muslim’s questions? They are really interesting perspectives and I find myself questioning similar things.

    jazakAllahu khairan.

  • Salaam,

    There is a video that is on Google Video that sums up some striking similarities between the modern day terrorists movements and the rise of neoconservatives. Although the video has errors and some views that we might take issue with as Muslims, it’s an interesting movie nonetheless. Maybe you’ve heard of it, “The Power of Nightmares”: