The term citizenship is both a formal status – belonging of someone to a state on the basis of a set of rights and duties – and, more importantly, it is a state of mind. Citizenship is not only about attaining rights, but more about participation – in the political and civic process. To talk of citizenship then, is to discuss rights, duties, participation and identity.

The Prophet Muhammad established a city-state in Madina and enacted a charter that laid down the basic rights and duties of its citizens. This form of ‘social contract’ in Islam is very similar to the idea of social contract that appeared in later European thought. Indeed, to obey the law of the land is seen as a fulfilment of one’s ‘social contract’ with the State, and the Quran emphasises the obligation to fulfil contracts.

Some Muslims have debated whether one can vote in a non-Muslim society, or take up elected positions in a non-Islamic country. These are old debates, that have been addressed and resolved by credible Muslim scholars, and are largely irrelevant today, especially to Muslim citizens who now feel a strong sense of belonging to their country.

Islam is not a religion of isolation and its basic purpose is to promote justice and peace between people. A good Muslim (indeed a good human being) should be of service to all the people around, as Muhammad taught:

“The best of people is the one who is most useful to them,” and

“Whoever sees wrong, he should change it by his hands; if he could not do so, then he should change it by his tongue; if he could not do so, then he should do that by his heart, and that is the weakest of faith.” (Muhammad).