Answered by Shaykh Abul ‘Ataa Ahmad Banaja (may Allah preserve him)
Can you please clarify what makes a land a Muslim country?
The thing that makes a land, land of Islaam is, شعائر الدين الظاهرة (apparent Signs of Deen). This means that, Islamic signs are openly apparent and the Muslims are the majority in it, and they are proud there practicing their religion and you can see the religion of Islaam on top of everyone, this indicates that a land is a Muslim land. If the land is how I described, for sure the ruler will be among the Muslims, or he will at least claim to be a Muslim, which means that he is among the Muslims in general.
The issue of the ruler is a part of determining whether or not if a land is a Muslim land, but that is not the main thing in determining about a land being Islamic or not.
To prove this, we have a lot of evidences from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah, from the logic and the correct understanding. And this the best explanation that you could find, in terms of the definition of a Muslim land, like Shaikh Al-Islam ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله and others mentioned.
وقال الشيخ ابن عثيمين -رحمه الله- … “دار الإسلام هي التي تعلن فيها شعائر الإسلام، كالأذان وصلاة الجماعة وصلاة الجمعة وما أشبه ذلك، ويكون أهلها ينتمون إلى الإسلام مطبقون لشرائعه”… [مجموع فتاوى ورسائل الشيخ محمد بن صالح العثيمين – ج ٢٥، ص ٣٩١]
Shaykh ibn Uthaymeen رحمه الله said: “Land of Islaam is where the apparent signs of Islam is visible, like Adhaan, congregational prayer, Friday prayer and similar things. And the people of it belongs to Islam and apply the rulings of Islam.”
[Majmoo’ah Fataawaa Ar-Rasaail of Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen – Vol. 25, page 391]
One of the evidence to this correct understanding is the following hadeeth:
قُلْنا: يا رَسولَ اللهِ، أفَلا نُنابِذُهُمْ عِنْدَ ذلكَ؟ قالَ: لا، ما أقامُوا فِيكُمُ الصَّلاةَ، لا، ما أقامُوا فِيكُمُ الصَّلاةَ
[ رواه مسلم عن عوف بن مالك ]
It was asked (by those who were present): “Should not we oppose them (i.e, bad rulers)?” He said, “No, as long as they establish Salat among you; No, as long as they establish Salat among you.”[Muslim].
Look how Prophet ﷺ connected, “going against the leader (if you are able to) with the removing of only this sign of Islaam which is the prayer”. If this great sign of Islaam (i.e., prayer) is removed, the place is no longer considered as a Muslim land. If Muslims are not able to perform signs like prayer and Adhaan, what about the rest of the signs? Like Ramadan, Eids, Hajj, Zakat and all?
And this is a great refutation against those who say, “our land is a Muslim land as long as we have Tawheed in our hearts and it doesn’t matter how the situation is”, and this could drop them into Irjaa. To the point that they allow themselves to live in land of the disbelievers by saying, we can practice our religion, so Hijra (migration) is not obligatory upon us. This is the opinion of many of the people who fell in love with the lifestyle of the disbelievers, without even knowing or feeling.
The opinion of some scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah, who said it’s not obligatory to make Hijrah from the land of the disbelievers if a person can practice his religion is totally wrong and it supports lot of people who has fallen into this dangerous lifestyle. We ask Allah for protection and well-being
At the same time, the previous (correct) explanation refutes the extreme Takfiri ideology, who believe that if the ruler, even for a single matter, ruled with something which is not revelation, he is then a disbeliever. And anyone who agrees with him is likewise a disbeliever. And they believe it’s obligated on them to do Hijrah from that land to a place where they probably cannot protect their family and wealth. Just like the wars they carried out in ‘Iraq and Shaam. Even Bakkah (Makkah) and Madinah for them is a disbelieving land. This is an opinion not accepted by Qur’aan, nor by the Sunnah, nor by the logic nor by the reality.
Both is Baatil (void), be it the ideology of the Murji’ah or the Khawaarij. The Haqq is in between these false ideologies, as I mentioned before. Ahlu-Sunnah is in between Murji’ah and the Khawaarij.