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Divisions of the world in Islam

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In classical Islamic law, there are three major divisions of the world which are dar al-Islam (lit. territory of Islam), denoting regions where Islamic law prevails,[1] dar al-sulh (lit. territory of treaty) denoting non-Islamic lands which have concluded an armistice with a Muslim government,[2] and dar al-harb (lit. territory of war), denoting non-Islamic lands where Islamic law does not prevail.[3] Islam is a universal religion and is believed to be the rightful law for all humankind, therefore "recognizes no boundaries for its kingdom."[4] Accordingly, the world in whole should be governed by Islam, seen in Islamic theology as the only rightful religion. Muslims are imposed to spread the rightful law and sovereignty through jihad, by initiating war and thereso transfering the regions of dar al-harb into dar al-Islam. Within these jihadic wars, Muslims are imposed to convert, subject, or eliminate the non-Muslim, whatever needed in order to establish islamic sovereignty.[5]

The Arabic singular form dar (دار), translated literally, may mean "house", "abode", "structure", "place", "land", or "country". In Islamic jurisprudence it often refers to a part of the world. The notions of "houses" or "divisions" of the world in Islam such as dar al-Islam and dar al-harb does not appear in the Quran or the hadith.[6] According to Abou El Fadl, the only dars the Qur'an speaks of are "the abode of the Hereafter and the abode of the earthly life, with the former described as clearly superior to the latter".[7]

Early Islamic jurists devised these terms to denote legal rulings for ongoing Muslim conquests almost a century after Muhammad. The first use of the terms was in Iraq by Abu Hanifa and his disciples Abu Yusuf and Al-Shaybani. Among those in the Levant, Al-Awza'i was leading in this discipline and later Al-Shafi'i.

The concept of dar al-harb has been affected by historical changes such as the political fragmentation of the Muslim world.[3] The theoretical distinction between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb is widely considered inapplicable, and many contemporary Islamic jurists regard the Western world as part of the former, since Muslims can freely practise and proselytize their faith in Western countries.[8]

Early Islamic religious divisions[edit]

The lands and cities of the Dar al-Islam in the 10th century, according to the geographer al-Muqaddasi

Early Islamic legal theory divided the world into two divisions: "abode of Islam" and "abode of war". The first, called dar al-Islam, sometimes Pax Islamica, consisted of Muslims and non-Muslims living under Islamic sovereignty.[9] The second was dar al-harb, ruled by non-Muslims and specifically infidels. Another secondary division of Dar al-'Ahd was assigned for territories ruled by non-Muslims that have a treaty of non-aggression or peace with Muslims, effectively an intermediate status between the two major divisions.

Dar al-Islam[edit]

Dar al-Islam (Arabic: دار الإسلام literally house/abode of Islam or dar al-Tawhid, house/abode of monotheism) was a term used by Muslim scholars to refer to those countries under Muslim sovereignty, sometimes considered "the home of Islam"[10] or Pax Islamica.[9] Dar al-Islam meaning "house/abode of Islam" is also referred to as dar al-salam or "house/abode of peace". In the Qur'an (10.25 and 6.127) this term refers to Paradise in Heaven.[11]

Dar al-Islam consisted of Muslims and non-Muslims, with the latter living as dhimmis (protected persons). The non-Muslims had the right to their own law and religion in exchange for paying the jizya.[9] While Muslims enjoyed full civil rights, non-Muslims were given partial civil rights. However, both Muslims and non-Muslims were equal in their claim to security and being protected from attack.[9] For example, if an enemy seized dar al-Islam's citizens, the state was obliged to free them, whether they were Muslim or non-Muslim.[12]

Likewise, in foreign affairs, the Muslim government represented both its Muslim and non-Muslim citizens.[9] Relations between Muslims and non-Muslims were regulated by "constitutional charters" (special agreements issued by the authorities), and these agreements recognized the personal law of each non-Muslim community (the Jewish community, Christian community etc).[13] Non-Muslims could access Islamic courts if they wished.[14]

According to Abu Hanifa, considered to be the originator of the concept, the requirements for a country to be part of dar al-Islam are:[15][16]

  1. Muslims must be able to enjoy peace and security with and within this country.
  2. The country should be ruled by a Muslim government.[17]
  3. It has common frontiers with some Muslim countries.

Dar al-'Ahd[edit]

Dar al-'Ahd (Arabic: دار العهد "house of truce") or dar al-Sulh (Arabic: دار الصلح "house of conciliation/treaty") were terms used for territories that have a treaty of non-aggression or peace with Muslims.[18] Such a division was recognized by Shafi'i jurists.[19] But Hanafi jurists argued that if a territory concluded a peace treaty with dar al-Islam, dar al-Islam was obligated to protect this territory and its people, hence the territory effectively became dar al-Islam.[19] Thus, Hanafis did not recognize this division.[19]

This designation can be found in the Quran, where Muslims are directed on how they should act in war:

Excepting those who join a people between whom and you there is a treaty, or such as come to you with hearts reluctant to fight you, or to fight their own people. Had Allah wished, He would have imposed them upon you, and then they would have surely fought you. So if they keep out of your way and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then Allah does not allow you any course [of action] against them.

Dar al-harb[edit]

Dar al-harb (Arabic: دار الحرب "house of war") was a term classically referring to those countries which do not have a treaty of non-aggression or peace with Muslims (those that do are called dar al-'Ahd or dar al-Sulh).[18] The notions of divisions of the world, or dar al-harb, does not appear in the Quran or the Hadith.[6] According to some scholars, the term "abode of war" was simply a description of the harsh reality of the premodern world.[20][21]

According to Majid Khadduri, the fundamental distinction between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb was introduced after the defeat of the Umayyad Caliphate at the Battle of Tours in 732 which prevented the expansion of Islam to the north, while at the same time the expansion of the caliphate to the east had been halted.[22] Wahbah al-Zuhayli argues that the concept of dar al-harb is mostly historical: "The existence of Dār al-Islām and Dār al-Ḥarb in contemporary times is rare or extremely limited. This is because Islamic countries have joined the United Nations covenant that stipulates that the relationship between nations is peace and not war. Therefore non-Muslim countries are Dār al-‘Ahd ..."[23]

According to Abu Hanifa there are three conditions that need to be fulfilled for a land to be classified as dar al-harb:

  1. Implementation of the laws of the non-Muslims openly and that no rule of Islam is implemented any longer
  2. Bordering another dar al-harb
  3. No Muslim remains safe as he was before the non-Muslims took power.

The purpose behind differentiating between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb was to identify the land as either one of safety for the Muslims or of fear. So, if Muslims are generally safe in a land and not in fear, then it cannot be classified as dar al-harb.[24]

Under the classical doctrine, it was the duty of Muslim rulers to bring dar al-harb under Islamic sovereignty.[14] A state of war was presumed between dar al-harb and dar al-Islam, but this did not necessarily imply that hostilities must occur.[25] It was up to the ruler to decide when, where and against whom to wage war.[26] So in practice there was often peace between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb; formal armistices could last up to 10 years, while informal peace could last much longer than 10 years.[26]

During periods of a formal peace treaty with a territory in dar al-harb, it was immune from attack by Muslims, and its inhabitants (called harbi) could enter Muslim lands unmolested.[27] In the absence of a peace treaty, a harbi could also enter Muslim lands safely if that 'harbi first obtained an aman (assurance of protection). It was through such aman that trade and cultural exchange was conducted between dar al-harb and dar al-Islam.[27] Any adult Muslim resident of dar al-Islam (male or female, free or slave) could grant such aman to a harbi.[12] Al-Shaybani ruled that even non-Muslim residents (dhimmis) could grant aman,[28] while others sources say non-Muslim residents could not grant aman.[12]

Modern division application[edit]

There is a controversy among the Islamic view points regarding the application of the early territorial Islamic concepts to the modern world. While many Islamic scholars adhere the view point that the early Islamic divisions are no longer relevant to the modern world, other argue that it could still be applied for some specific situations and territories and radical viewpoints do stick to the fundamental interpretation.

According to Muhammad Haniff Hassan, it can be argued that most of the secular Muslim countries today are not Dar al-Islam and most of the non-Muslim countries (which are not at war with the Muslim world) are not Dar al-Harb.[29] Such nuances weigh against the idea of Muslims at perpetual war with the non-Muslims in the modern world, with the contemporary international system has evolved so much from the period when the classical Muslim scholars wrote on the classification that new thinking and perspectives are required. Further, according to Hassan, in today’s context, any Muslim-ruled state, which is a member of the United Nations, is by default in a peace agreement with all other members of the UN by way of the UN Charter.[29] When a Muslim state enters the agreement to be a member of the UN, it actually enters a contract. Islam requires Muslims to fulfill all contracts that have been agreed upon, regardless of whether the contract was signed with Muslims or non-Muslims, as defined in The Quran, 5:1, 2:177.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dar al-Islam The Oxford Dictionary of Islam
  2. ^ Dar al-Sulh The Oxford Dictionary of Islam
  3. ^ a b "Dar al-Harb", The Oxford Dictionary of Islam
  4. ^ Khadduri, Majid (1955). War and Peace in the Law of Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins press. p. 46.
  5. ^ Parvin, Manoucher; Sommer, Maurie (February 1980). "Dar al-Islam: The Evolution of Muslim Territoriality and Its Implications for Conflict Resolution in the Middle East". International Journal of Middle East Studies. 11 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1017/S0020743800000246. ISSN 1471-6380.
  6. ^ a b Abdel-Haleem, Muhammad (8 Sep 2010). Understanding the Qur'ān: Themes and Style. I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd. p. 68. ISBN 978-1845117894.
  7. ^ Abou El Fadl, Khaled (January 23, 2007). The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. HarperOne. p. 227. ISBN 978-0061189036.
  8. ^ Hendrickson, Jocelyn (2009). "Law. Minority Jurisprudence". In John L. Esposito (ed.). The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on March 26, 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e Khadduri 1966, p. 11.
  10. ^ "Dar al Islam". Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  11. ^ Arnold, T. W. (1927). "Gagauzes – Gakhar". The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 2. Leiden: Brill. p. 128.
  12. ^ a b c Fadel 2009, p. 534.
  13. ^ Khadduri 1966, p. 11–12.
  14. ^ a b Khadduri 1966, p. 12.
  15. ^ Saqr, Atiya (11 October 2012). "Concept of Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam". Islam Online. Archived from the original on 21 October 2006. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  16. ^ Khalil, Ahmed (27 May 2002). "Dar Al-Islam And Dar Al-Harb: Its Definition and Significance". English.islamway.com. Retrieved 13 March 2011.
  17. ^ Black, E. Ann; Esmaeili, Hossein; Hosen, Nadirsyah (1 January 2013). Modern Perspectives on Islamic Law. Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 42. ISBN 9780857934475.
  18. ^ a b "Dar al-Harb". oxfordislamicstudies.com. Archived from the original on May 28, 2012.
  19. ^ a b c Khadduri 1966, p. 12–13.
  20. ^ Mohammad Hassan Khalil. Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism. Cambridge University Press. p. 19.
  21. ^ Sherman Jackson. "Jihad and the Modern World". Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Archived from the original on January 19, 2019. Indeed, the 'Abode of Islam/Abode of War' dichotomy, cited ad nauseam by certain Western scholars as proof of Islam's inherent hostility towards the West, was far more a description of the Muslim peoples of the world in which they lived than it was a prescription of the Islamic religion per se.
  22. ^ Clinton Bennet (2005). Muslims and Modernity: Current Debates. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 158. ISBN 9781441100504.
  23. ^ Al-Zuhaylī, Al-Mu‘āmalāt al-Māliyyah, p. 255.
  24. ^ "Fatwas by Mufti Ebrahim Desai » Askimam". askimam.org. Retrieved 2021-09-09.
  25. ^ Khadduri 1966, p. 14.
  26. ^ a b James Turner Johnson. Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 63.
  27. ^ a b Khadduri 1966, p. 17-18.
  28. ^ Viorel Panaite (2019). Ottoman Law of War and Peace. Brill publishers. p. 166.
  29. ^ a b c Muhammad Haniff Hassan. CO07001 | Revisiting Dar Al-Islam (land of Islam) and Dar Al-Harb (land of War). RSIS Nanyang Technological University. 2007.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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