Do Muslims have to obey the "law of the land"?

Islam Asked by The Z on August 28, 2020

A common statement that is heard is that "Muslims have to obey the law of the land," and usually the "law of the land" refers to non-Muslim countries which neither base their laws on Islam nor respect the laws of Islam.

What exactly is the evidence, then, that it is a religious requirement for Muslims to obey those laws even if they do not directly contradict with Islam?

There is plenty of evidence that Muslims must obey the Muslim ruler, but my question is specifically about non-Muslim countries.

One argument made to obey the law is that it is a pledge or contract which we have to fulfill. But, what about a person who was born in a non-Muslim country? He never made either a pledge or contract willingly.

Note that I am not trying to advocate that people break laws but I am simply trying to determine if it is a religious requirement to follow them. Atheists as well do not believe in a religious requirement to follow the laws. That does not mean they are law-breakers.

One Answer

There isn't any such religious requirement other than that. It follows only from the rule that when a Muslim is given aman by the disbelievers they are bound by a pact, and breaking of the contract or showing treachery is haram.

وأوفوا بالعهد إن العهد كان مسئولا

And fulfil (every) covenant. Verily! the covenant, will be questioned about

Quran 17:34

المسلمون على شروطهم

Muslims are bound by their conditions

Jami at-Tirmidhi

The following is an extract from jurisprudence regarding a Muslim entering Dar al-Harb, a land at war with the Muslims:

وإذا دخل المسلم دار الحرب تاجرا فلا يحل له أن يتعرض لشيء من أموالهم ولا من دمائهم لأنه ضمن أن لا يتعرض لهم بالاستئمان فالتعرض بعد ذلك يكون غدرا والغدر حرام

If a Muslim enters the dar al-harb as a trader, it is not lawful for him to transgress against any of their wealth or their persons. The reason is that by seeking aman he undertook not to be aggressive against them. Transgression after this amounts to treachery, and treachery is prohibited.


بخلاف الأسير لأنه غير مستأمن فيباح له التعرض وإن أطلقوه طوعا

This is distinguished from the case of the prisoner for he is not on safe-conduct, therefore transgression is permitted for him, even if they voluntarily let him move around freely.

الهداية في شرح بداية [English Translation]

The case stated above of a prisoner without aman is proof that jurists do not consider there to be a religious obligation to obey the 'law of the land' just by virtue of being in it. Rather it is subject to there being a treaty.

Answered by UmH on August 28, 2020

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