Resides in non-Muslim countries

Q: I am a young Saudi man who got a scholarship from an American college in a field of study which is already available at my university. It is worth mentioning that studying abroad involves unacceptable acts such as the prohibited mixing between the sexes and dealing with women wearing jeans, short skirts, perfume, the cross and make-up. We can see such women in the markets, roads and public places. My situation is not different from that of many other young men. We sit, talk, smile and (Part No. 26; Page No. 94) are soft in speech with the Christian and Jewish female students. Some brothers in Islam advised me not to travel because being abroad poses a great threat to one's religious commitment, morality, and family. They fear that we become accustomed to these sinful acts and to widespread immorality there. They recite the following Ayah, Verily! As for those whom the angels take (in death) citing Ibn Kathir (may Allah be merciful to him) ) who said, "Those who reside in non-Muslim countries are wronging themselves and commit a forbidden sin according to the text of this Ayah and Ijma` (consensus of scholars) unless they are able to practice their religion openly."They said that it is not enough for Muslims to perform Salah and Sawm to practice the religion openly, but rather that one should disavow any Kafir and their Kufr and openly free themselves from any blame. They should show open hostility to the Kaffirs and declare that their cause is unjust and our cause is just. They cited Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab (may Allah be merciful to him) who stated in his Sirah that one's faith of Islam is not perfect, even if one believes in Tawheed and abandons Shirk, unless one shows open hostility and hatred to the Kaffirs. They also cited the Prophet (peace be upon him) who stated: I disavow any Muslim who settles among the Mushriks (persons who associate others with Allah in His Divinity or worship) and Allah will not accept any deed from a mushrik after he becomes Muslim unless he leaves the mushriks and joins the Muslims. They explained that when Jarir (may Allah be pleased with him) went to give Bay`ah (pledge of allegiance) to the Messenger (peace be upon him), the Prophet stipulated that Jarir should leave the Mushriks to accept his Bay`ah. My question is: What is the ruling on studying abroad? In what way can the person practice religion openly so that travel is permissible, and how can I free myself from blame? Is my wife's family sinful if they permit her to travel with me, or must they prevent her from travel? Please answer me in detail, (Part No. 26; Page No. 95) as this is urgent for many Muslim young men.

A: If the reality is as you have mentioned that your field of study is available to you in your Muslim country and that studying abroad poses a great threat to one's religious commitment, morality and family, it is impermissible to travel. Your purpose for travel is not necessary and you can achieve it in your country. There are many reports authentically related from the Prophet (peace be upon him) which warn us of residing in non-Muslim countries without a Shar`y (Islamically lawful) necessity. For example, he (peace be upon him) stated: I disavow any Muslim who settles among the Mushriks. And many others. Furthermore, Muslims traveling to non-Muslim countries unnecessarily is regarded as carelessness with one's religion which is not permissible, and preferring this worldly life to the Hereafter. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) states: Nay, you prefer the life of this world, Although the Hereafter is better and more lasting. He also stated, Say: "Short is the enjoyment of this world. The Hereafter is (far) better for him who fears Allâh The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated: If anyone's intention is to seek the Hereafter, Allah will place his sufficiency in his heart and order his affairs, and the world will come to him submissively; but if anyone's intention is to seek worldly goods Allah will place poverty before him and disorder his affairs, and only so much of it as has been appointed for him will (Part No. 26; Page No. 96) come to him. May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings of Allah be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family and Companions!