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(Part 1)

Protection of Refugees in Shariah and International Law

Who Are the Refugees in Islam?

The word “refugee”, according to the dictionary, originally comes from the French word “refugie” which means “to take shelter”. The term  was first applied to French Huguenots who migrated after the revocation of the Edicts of Nantes in 1685.  So the word “refugee” describes a person seeking asylum or protection.

Various words are used in Arabic such as istijara (meaning a plea for protection) or the word laja’a which means, according to a famous Arabic lexicographer, Ibn Manzhur, to “resort or recourse to…either to something or to a place”. He specifically stated that the Arabic word luju‘ refers to seeking refuge or setting out to seek protection. (Ibn Manzur, Lisanul Arab, Page 1152)

So, in Arabic, the word Laaje’ is the equivalent to the English word “refugee”. Also it refers to a person seeking asylum, sheltering and protection.

But basically, the legal term that forms a basis for protecting refugee in Islam is “Aman“. This term means safety and implies protection for whoever seeks asylum.  That is why the asylum-seeker is known in Islam as “musta’men” (derived from the word “aman“).

There are specific principles and regulations in Islamic Shariah that guide the notion of seeking asylum.

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Actually, the protection which “musta’men” (asylum-seeker) enjoys in Islam is premised on the basic principle of “offering shelter” to whoever seeks it, whether the person is Muslim or non-Muslim.

The Quran specifically mentions the ruling of offering “asylum or sheltering “to a non-Muslim refugee in the following verse:

{And if anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the Word of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an), then escort him to a place where he can be secure.} (At-Tawbah 9:6)

To be continued

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