US Muslims: Balance Between Faith and Citizenship

12 December, 2018
Q I am not a Muslim. I have to be honest that I deeply disagree with some of the teachings of your religion. I'm sure that as a Catholic, you share the same misgivings of my religion. However, I respect the right of free expression of religion, no matter where that might be and I would fight for the right of all Muslims to live in peace in the U.S. In the United States, we have a tradition of justice and law that is based on ethics totally apart from religion and the two (usually) do not cross. In the Muslim world, politics and religion seem to be one and the brotherhood of Islam appears to be far more important than any national ties. Could you please speak on this subject? Specifically, whether or not Muslims are able to apply their duty as citizens at the expense of their loyalty to their religion. Thank you very much and God bless you.


In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. 

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

In this fatwa:

1- Citizenship must be understood as a concept where an individual is recognized by a State as being one of its members. This bond of citizenship grants individuals certain rights and they are required to perform certain duties.

2- Along with this are demands of faith, i.e., religious obligations, according to the precepts and dictates of each religion. Balance needs to be stricken as to avoid conflict between this and that.

3- In Islam, being a true believer does not run in contrast to being to a faithful citizen. In fact, both complement each other. Muslims are urged to be proactive citizens in their society; they should cooperate with others in enhancing the betterment of that society.

This point is further clarified by Dr.Muhammad M. Abu-Laylah, Professor of the Islamic Studies & Comparative Religions at Al-Azhar University, as he states:

Dear Robert, we are really pleased to receive this question as it gives us a chance to dust off the misunderstanding that has lasted for consecutive years about Islam and Muslims.

Really, brothers in humanity like you give us a chance to express the true image of Islam and allows for a space for us all to shed light on common grounds bonding us in humanity.

Muslims don’t see any contradiction between ethics and religious values. Ethics go back to religion, and they are two faces of the same coin.

By ethics, I mean the moral values and, of course, I exclude what is termed in modern time as ‘new morality’, which allows free sex and openness in relations between opposite sexes, homosexuality, lesbianism, etc.

If ethics mean justice, equality, peace, and order, then it is totally in agreement not only with Islam, but with all religions as well.

Islam preaches that all human races go back to one origin that is Adam and Eve. Both were created by Allah and were sent to this world to inhibit and develop, and not to live apart from God.

God provided the first man and woman with a guide to conduct their life according to Allah’s Will.

In the Qur’an, Allah addresses all humanity at large, saying:

O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul.”  (An-Nisa’ 4:1)

He Almighty also says,

“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made `you nations and tribes that you may know one another.”  (Al-Hujurat 39:13)

Superiority in Islam is not based on race or advanced technology. Rather, it is based on man’s deeds and good intention. That is why Islam was accepted by almost all nations and it gained a suitable climate for itself in every corner of this world both in past and present.

Islam, as you noticed, does not acknowledge any separation between politics and the state since man is a whole entity that cannot be divided into two parts: materialistic and spiritual. This division known in the West is the cause of all problems facing nations and individuals.

Concerning the way a Muslim could adapt himself to the society where he lives, let’s say America or whatever for instance, we see no contradiction between maintaining one’s religious duties and being a good citizen in the state where he lives.

Muslims are commanded by God to be good citizens in terms of manners and co-operation with others, regardless of differences of race, sex, faith, cultures, etc. A Muslim should be honest, sincere, and trustworthy. He must never betray.

We hope that in America the law will pave way for individuals to exercise their own private rights, rather than compelling people to comply with specific and cynical code of ethics, which as you mentioned, might contravene their religious obligations.

We, as Muslims, believe that difference can help us more to develop our life and cement our human relationship.

Almighty Allah knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.