If the situation gets so unbearable that it is causing our spiritual defeat, Islam permits us to emigrate to friendlier shores or to seek a better environment.
For example, Rasulullah SAW started his da'wah in Makkah. In the first few years, only a handful embraced Islam, and the hostility of the surroundings kept increasing year after year for him and the early believers. They had to face wave after wave of violence, torture, economic boycotts and social rejection. Eventually, the persecution reached such a point that the early Muslims were forced to flee Makkah and migrate to Madinah.
They migrated in order to preserve the message of Islam as well as their ability to spread it. In doing so, they had to leave behind their beloved homes, loved ones, capital, source of income, security and most of their belongings.
With the arrival of the Muslims, Madinah (known until then as Yathrib) then became the first official hub of Islam, and from this town, the message of Islam spread far and wide. The Muslims increased in numbers, influence and economic might. However, this was not an easy journey. The early believers made monumental sacrifices of their personal desires to achieve this status.
The situation for the early believers was extremely difficult, but we can’t we say that they were defeated. If seen through the eyes of Islam, they were victorious, because even through their darkest hours, when the believers were tortured, killed, persecuted and boycotted, they had Allah on their side, together with His promise of victory.
They did not migrate to Madinah for personal gain, but had the higher goal of safeguarding and propagating the message of Islam. Today, the majority of us emigrate for economic opportunities. The primary reason for emigrating is money and not to spread the faith.
For years, there has been mass emigration by Muslims to affluent countries such as the United States and Europe. More recently, there has been an influx of blue and white collar workers to the Gulf countries, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other oil rich Muslim countries. However, many people find themselves losing grip on their faiths once they arrive. We have met people who have worked in these lands for 15-20 years, without making a single salat, due to their tight schedules and other reasons, even when in close proximity to the Ka'bah!
For such persons, the original intention behind the migration was corrupted by economic ambition. Such people accumulate the money, but lose their faith in the process, giving priority to their demanding jobs at the expense of their deen. This shows that living in the right environment is crucial, but it is not the only factor that counts in the journey of iman. It is having the right intention. A famous hadith states:
Reported by 'Umar bin Al-Khattab (RA): Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "The deeds are considered by the intentions, and a person will get the reward according to his intention. So whoever emigrated for Allah and His Messenger, his emigration will be for Allah and His Messenger; and whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration would be for what he emigrated for".". [Bukhari & Muslim]
Ibn Qayyim explains that we cannot emigrate outside until we emigrate inside. This reinforces the principle we are trying to promote, which is to conquer ourselves internally first, by migrating away from our bad habits, material obsessions and diseases of the heart. However, if the intention and sincerity are not firmly rooted, then the migration will occur in a state of defeat. From this state, they will migrate into a deeper state of defeat.
Migration can also be a migration from situations which are contrary to Islam. Migration from a haram job is an example. Another is a situation where the husband is a big sinner, abusive or living in haram. What is the main obstacle preventing the wives from leaving? We have seen live examples: it is the status, emotion, pride, poverty of the heart, fear of the unknown, fear of the future, worry about losing the comforts of life. Countless people are already defeated within because they are selling their dignity and faith for a man, woman and style of life. I know of a woman who is engaged to be married to an extremely wealthy man, and she tolerates him cheating on her because of all the expensive cars and diamonds he gives her as compensation. She may be dripping in jewelry and designer clothes, but she is already defeated because she sacrificed her integrity in relation for a few dollars. Imagine what a nightmare her marriage will be.
Again, the trust in Allah is lacking and the obedience to the circumstances takes precedence.
A mu'min is different. He believes in Allah and relies on Allah to unite the heart, give him qualities and help him gain the manner. The journey of Rasulullah from Makah to Madinah is not a defeat, but it was a difficult one. From this, Allah converted all this hardship and developed beautiful people. When they achieved internal victory, Allah in His own time gave them victory outside, and opened Makah, in the time Allah wanted, and at the time that they deserved it. All outside victory will not be gained unless you deserve it. It all comes from Allah.