Dar Al-Islam And Dar Al-Harb : Its Def­i­n­i­tion and Significance

Ahmed Khalil

In his book, The Clash of Civ­i­liza­tions and the Remak­ing of World Order, Samuel Hunt­ing­ton says :

Peo­ple are always tempt­ed to divide peo­ple into us and them, the in-group and the oth­er, our civ­i­liza­tion and those bar­bar­ians. Schol­ars have ana­lyzed the world in terms of the Ori­ent and the Occi­dent, North and South, cen­ter and periph­ery. Mus­lims have tra­di­tion­al­ly divid­ed the world into Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, the abode of peace and the abode of war.[1]

Hunt­ing­ton iden­ti­fied this con­cept as Mus­lim tra­di­tion. Oth­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ar­ies and polemics, how­ev­er, have iden­ti­fied this con­cept as the­o­log­i­cal. An unin­formed West­ern­er views this clas­si­fi­ca­tion as a form of dis­crim­i­na­tion against those that have dif­fer­ent beliefs. Even among com­mon Mus­lims, sev­er­al con­tro­ver­sial opin­ions arise due to dif­fer­ent under­stand­ings of what the terms Dar Al-Islam and Dar Al-Harb mean.

Sur­pris­ing­ly, Islam­ic ter­mi­nol­o­gy is full of many oth­er clas­si­fi­ca­tions : Dar Al-?Ahd (Abode of Covenant), Dar Al-Sulh (Abode of Truce), Dar Al-Maslubah (Abode of Pil­laged Land), Dar Al-Bid?ah (Abode of Heresy), Dar Al-Baghy (Abode of Usurpa­tion), Dar Al-?Adl (Abode of Jus­tice), Dar al-Kufr (Abode of Unbe­lief), et. al. Yet, West­ern atten­tion pre­fer to rather focus on the term Dar Al-Harb (Abode of War).


Accord­ing to Prof. Muham­mad Ishaq Zahid, founder of the Sabr Foun­da­tion, and the cre­ator of Islam101​.Com, in The Glos­sary of Islam­ic Terms, we have :

Dar al-Harb
Dar al-Harb (Domain of War) refers to the ter­ri­to­ry under the hege­mo­ny of unbe­liev­ers, which is on terms of active or poten­tial bel­ligeren­cy with the Domain of Islam, and pre­sum­ably hos­tile to the Mus­lims liv­ing in its domain.[2]

To under­stand the clas­si­fi­ca­tion, it is nec­es­sary to under­stand the sources of the con­cept. To do this, we need to touch upon the sources of Islam.

Under­stand­ing The Sources 

In his book, Fun­da­men­tals of Islam, Sayyid Abul A’la Al-Maw­du­di clas­si­fies Islam as Din (faith) and Shari?ah (Islam­ic law). The sources of Shari?ah are the Holy Quran and the Hadith.[2] Al-Maw­du­di then describes these sources, say­ing that :

The Qur’?n is a divine rev­e­la­tion — each and every word of it is from All?h. The Hadith is a col­lec­tion of the instruc­tions issued or the mem­oirs of the last Prophet’s con­duct and behav­iour, as pre­served by those who were present in his com­pa­ny or those to whom these were hand­ed down by the first wit­ness­es. These were lat­er sift­ed and col­lect­ed by divines and com­piled in the form of books among which the col­lec­tions made by Malik, Bukhari, Mus­lim, Tir­mid­hi, Abu Dawud, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah are con­sid­ered to be the most authentic.[3]

Derived from the Shari?ah is Fiqh (Islam­ic jurispru­dence), defined by Al-Maw­du­di as

Detailed law derived from the Qur’?n and the Hadith cov­er­ing the myr­i­ad of prob­lems that arise in the course of man’s life…[3]

Through­out time, sev­er­al reli­gious schol­ars and leg­is­la­tors have devot­ed their lives to the sci­ence of Fiqh, but four Mad­ha­heb (schools of thought) per­sist till today :

  • ?Fiqh Hanafi : This is the Fiqh com­piled by Abu Han­i­fa Nu’­man bin Thabit with the assis­tance and coöper­a­tion of Abu Yusuf Maham­mad, Zufar and oth­ers, all of whom had high reli­gious attain­ments to their cred­it. This is known as the Hanafi School of Fiqh. 
  • Fiqh Mali­ki : This Fiqh was derived by Malik bin Anas Asbahi. 
  • Fiqh Shafi’i : Found­ed by Muham­mad bin Idris al-Shafi’i. 
  • Fiqh Han­bali : Found­ed by Ahmad bin Hanbal.???[3]
  • Accord­ing to Shaikh (schol­ar) Abdul-Aziz Bin Baz, for­mer Grand Mufti and Chief Cler­ic of Sau­di Ara­bia, the Mali­ki and Hanafi Mad­ha­heb were intro­duced and wide­ly spread in the 2nd Cen­tu­ry Hijri (Islam­ic lunar cal­en­dar, start­ed 622 AD). The Shafi?i and Han­bali Mad­ha­heb were intro­duced and spread in the 3rd Cen­tu­ry Hijri.[4]

    In a pro­gram on Al-Jazeera Chan­nel, Al-Shari?ah Wal-Hayah (Islam­ic Law and Life), dat­ed Sun­day May 9th 1999, Shaikh (schol­ar) Yusuf Al-Qaradawi not­ed that the con­cept of Dar Al-Harb (Abode of War) was intro­duced in the Fiqh Hanafi. Al-Imam (the leg­is­la­tor and schol­ar) Abu Han­i­fa divid­ed the Mus­lim role into two cat­e­gories : Dar Al-Islam (Abode of Islam) and Dar Al-Harb (Abode of War). He would refer to any non-Mus­lim domain as Dar Al-Kufr (Abode of Unbe­lief) or Dar Al-Harb even if there is no cur­rent war between them and the Muslims.[5] Accord­ing to him a coun­try or a ter­ri­to­ry becomes a Dar Al-Islam if :

      (a) The Mus­lims must be able to enjoy peace and secu­ri­ty ; and
      (b) It has com­mon fron­tiers with some Mus­lim coun­tries (oth­er Dar Al-Islam)[6]

    How­ev­er, the con­cept of Dar Al-Harb and Dar Al-Islam are not explained in the Qur’?n or Sun­nah (tra­di­tion of the Holy Prophet (P)), says the major­i­ty of schol­ars. It is, in fact, a result of Ijti­had (reli­gious endeav­our), which is a ter­mi­nol­o­gy used to describe reli­gious endeav­our to exer­cise per­son­al judge­ment based on the Qur’?n and the Sunnah.[2]

    His­tor­i­cal Conditions

    It is indis­pens­able to view the his­tor­i­cal envi­ron­ment of the time, and of the cen­turies that fol­lowed the spread of this clas­si­fi­ca­tion con­cept. In an arti­cle, titled, ?Mus­lims as Co-Cit­i­zens of the West ? Rights, Duties & Prospects???, Murad Wild­fried Hof­mann says :

    Due to its struc­tur­al tol­er­ance vis-?-vis ?peo­ples of the book?, the Mus­lim world has always been mul­tire­li­gious. Islam expand­ed into for­mer­ly Chris­t­ian ter­ri­to­ries-the Near East, North Africa, Spain, Byzan­tium, the Balka­ns-with­out elim­i­nat­ing the Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties. Nowhere is this more evi­dent than in Cairo, Dam­as­cus, and Istan­bul, and in coun­tries like Greece and Ser­bia. This sit­u­a­tion was facil­i­tat­ed by the fact that the Qur’?n con­tains what may be called an ?Islam­ic Chris­tol­ogy?. Coex­is­tence with the large Jew­ish pop­u­la­tions with­in the Mus­lim empire-aside from the Near East in Mus­lim Spain, and sub­se­quent­ly in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire-was facil­i­tat­ed, in turn, by the extra­or­di­nary focus of the Qur’?n on Jew­ish prophets in gen­er­al and Moses in par­tic­u­lar. On this basis, Islam­ic jurispru­dence devel­oped the world’s first lib­er­al law called al-siyar for the sta­tus of reli­gious minori­ties (al-dhim­mi). In the West­ern world, devel­op­ments were entire­ly dif­fer­ent. Here, reli­gious intol­er­ance became endem­ic, even between Chris­t­ian church­es ; many sects were out­lawed (as dur­ing the first Ecu­meni­cal Coun­cil in Nicaea, in 325), mas­sa­cred (e.g., the Donatists in North Africa in the 5th cen­tu­ry and the Albi­gens­es and Cathari in the thir­teenth cen­tu­ry), sub­dued as vic­tims of a ?cru­sade ? (Con­stan­tino­ple in 1205), or desert­ed (like Ortho­dox East Rome dur­ing the siege by Sul­tan Fatih in 1453). In Ger­many, a war last­ing thir­ty years between Protes­tant and Catholic princes dec­i­mat­ed the pop­u­la­tion (16181648).

    Under these cir­cum­stances and fuelled by the Church dic­tum extra eccle­sia nul­lum salus (no sal­va­tion out­side the church), even min­i­mal tol­er­ance of Mus­lims could not be expect­ed. The expul­sion of both Mus­lims and Jews from Spain in the six­teenth cen­tu­ry-the first case of ?eth­nic cleans­ing ? in mod­ern his­to­ry-made Europe vir­tu­al­ly ?Mus­lim-free.? There was inter­ac­tion between the two camps-trade, sci­en­tif­ic pen­e­tra­tion, diplo­mat­ic mis­sions-but no liv­ing Mus­lim pres­ence in the Occi­dent until the twen­ti­eth century.[6]

    With this his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive in light, it was deemed vital that con­cepts of dis­tinc­tion between safe and unsafe, Islam­ic and non-Islam­ic be per­tained. Based on the uni­ver­sal­i­ty of the Islam­ic belief, that Muhammad(P) was sent to the whole World :

    ?We sent thee not, but as a Mer­cy for all crea­tures.??? — 21. Al?Anbiya?: 107 (Abdul­lah Yusuf Ali).

    Based on the firm belief of enjoy­ing the right to exer­cise one?s own reli­gion any­where, with­out compulsion :

    Let there be no com­pul­sion in reli­gion : Truth stands out clear from Error : who­ev­er rejects evil and believes in God hath grasped the most trust­wor­thy hand-hold, that nev­er breaks. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”

    2. Al-Baqarah : 256 (Abdul­lah Yusuf Ali).

    Hence, the vital­i­ty and neces­si­ty of hav­ing clear­ly defined labels that would ensure the pro­tec­tion and uplift­ing of the Mus­lim Ummah (nation). How­ev­er, per­tain­ing to Ijti­had (reli­gious endeav­our), there is no holi­ness or Divin­i­ty to the clas­si­fi­ca­tion. The social, eco­nom­ic, and envi­ron­men­tal cir­cum­stances of the time and loca­tion cre­ate cer­tain needs that arise and need be ful­filled. That is why the door to Ijti­had (reli­gious endeav­our) is always open in Islam. Speak­ing of the four Mad­ha­heb, Al-Maw­du­di says :

    All of these were giv­en their final form with­in two hun­dred years of the time of the Prophet. The dif­fer­ences that appear in the four schools are but the nat­ur­al out­come of the fact that truth is many-sided. When dif­fer­ent per­sons employ them­selves in inter­pret­ing a giv­en event, they come out with dif­fer­ent expla­na­tions accord­ing to their own lights. What gives these var­i­ous schools of thought the authen­tic­i­ty that is asso­ci­at­ed with them is the unim­peach­able integri­ty of their respec­tive founders and the authen­tic­i­ty of the method they adopted.[3]

    Times Have Changed 

    As a result of elapsed time, social, eco­nom­ic and envi­ron­men­tal cir­cum­stances have changed, espe­cial­ly in the last cen­tu­ry. With that in mind, Murad Wild­fried Hof­mann says :

    Under these con­di­tions, con­tem­po­rary Mus­lims may well pose them­selves the ques­tion already posed in Spain 500 years ago, i.e., Is it per­mis­si­ble for a Mus­lim to take up res­i­dence in what has been labelled Dar al-Harb or Dar al-Kufr ? This ques­tion was dis­cussed in con­sid­er­able depth when Span­ish Mus­lims, over­run by the Recon­quista, chose to stay, and even before this event, because the Prophet sent a group of Makkan Mus­lims to Chris­t­ian Ethiopia (615622). Some of the ula­ma [schol­ars], includ­ing Imam Abu Han­i­fa, dis­ap­proved of per­ma­nent Mus­lim res­i­dence in non-Mus­lim ter­ri­to­ry. Imam Shafi’i, on the oth­er hand, believed that Mus­lims could stay behind in for­mer Mus­lim lands, pro­vid­ed that they could prac­tice Islam and were not sub­ject to Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ary efforts. In con­trast to that, already in the eighth cen­tu­ry, Imam Jafar al-Sadiq under­lined that Mus­lims might serve Islam bet­ter when liv­ing among non-Mus­lims than when liv­ing only with Mus­lims. Al-Mawar­di con­curred with this opin­ion in the eleventh cen­tu­ry. Lat­er on the Han­i­fa mad­hhab became even more lib­er­al. It accept­ed the idea that there might be pock­ets of dar al-Islam inside non-Mus­lim ter­ri­to­ries ; in addi­tion, they were ready to exempt emi­grant Mus­lims from observ­ing cer­tain parts of the shar­i’ah if this seemed nec­es­sary because of ikrah (com­pul­sion), duru­ra (hard­ship), or masla­ha (benefit).[6]

    Today?s Clas­si­fi­ca­tion

    Today, major­i­ty of Islam­ic schol­ars agree upon a clas­si­fi­ca­tion into three. Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi says, on Al-Shari?ah Wal-Hayah (Islam­ic Law and Life), Al-Jazeera Chan­nel, dat­ed Tues­day Feb­ru­ary 6th 2001, these three cat­e­gories are :

    • Dar Al-Islam : The abode of Islam, the Mus­lim nation. 
    • Dar Al-Harb : The abode of war, those that have declared war against the Mus­lim nation. 
    • Dar Al-?Ahd : The abode of covenant, the coun­tries that have diplo­mat­ic agree­ments and covenants with the Mus­lim nation.[5]

    The con­cept of Dar Al-?Ahd (Abode of Covenant) is obtained from the judi­cial rul­ings of manslaugh­ter, as out­lined in the Quran :

    ?Nev­er should a believ­er kill a believ­er ; but (If it so hap­pens) by mis­take, (Com­pen­sa­tion is due): If one (so) kills a believ­er, it is ordained that he should free a believ­ing slave, and pay com­pen­sa­tion to the deceased’s fam­i­ly, unless they remit it freely. If the deceased belonged to a peo­ple at war with you, and he was a believ­er, the free­ing of a believ­ing slave (Is enough). If he belonged to a peo­ple with whom ye have treaty of Mutu­al alliance, com­pen­sa­tion should be paid to his fam­i­ly, and a believ­ing slave be freed. For those who find this beyond their means, (is pre­scribed) a fast for two months run­ning : by way of repen­tance to God : for God hath all knowl­edge and all wisdom.???

    3. Al-Nisa?: 92 (Abdul­lah Yusuf Ali).

    The indi­ca­tion is in the words “?a peo­ple with whom ye have treaty of Mutu­al alliance?” In fact, God com­mands us to ordain to the covenant that was agreed upon with the disbelievers :

    ?(But the treaties are) not dis­solved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not sub­se­quent­ly failed you in aught, nor aid­ed any one against you. So ful­fil your engage­ments with them to the end of their term : for God loveth the righteous.???

    9. Al-Taw­ba : 4 (Abdul­lah Yusuf Ali).

    ?? As long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them : for God doth love the righteous.???

    9. Al-Taw­ba : 7 (Abdul­lah Yusuf Ali).

    The con­cept of the Dar Al-Harb (Abode of War) gets its indi­ca­tions from the clear line that was drawn for just and kind treatment :

    ?[60:1] O ye who believe ! Take not my ene­mies and yours as friends (or pro­tec­tors),- offer­ing them (your) love, even though they have reject­ed the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the con­trary) dri­ven out the Prophet and your­selves (from your homes), (sim­ply) because ye believe in God your Lord ! ????

    ?[60:8] God for­bids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor dri­ve you out of your homes, from deal­ing kind­ly and just­ly with them : for God loveth those who are just.

    [60:9] God only for­bids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and dri­ve you out of your homes, and sup­port (oth­ers) in dri­ving you out, from turn­ing to them (for friend­ship and pro­tec­tion). It is such as turn to them (in these cir­cum­stances), that do wrong.???

    60. Al?Mumtahina : 8, 9 (Abdul­lah Yusuf Ali).


    In con­clu­sion, it is fair to say that the door of Ijti­had (reli­gious endeav­our) is always open. The Islam­ic decrees that are intro­duced through Fiqh (Islam­ic jurispru­dence) into the Shari?ah (Islam­ic law) are reflec­tive of the social, eco­nom­ic, and envi­ron­men­tal cir­cum­stances of the time. These cir­cum­stances change as time con­tin­u­ous­ly elaps­es. Cor­re­spond­ing to the change, the Shari?ah (Islam­ic law) is updat­ed as new decrees are intro­duced with the appear­ance of new­er issues. The key con­di­tion is com­pli­ance with the Qur’?n and Sun­nah (tra­di­tion of the Holy Prophet(P)). In this light, the for­mer con­cept of clas­si­fi­ca­tion is updat­ed to include Dar Al-?Ahd (Abode of covenant) to include the oth­er nations that hold covenants and diplo­mat­ic agree­ments with Dar Al-Islam (Abode of Islam).

    And only God knows best.


    [1] Samuel Hunt­ing­ton, The Clash of Civ­i­liza­tions and the Remak­ing of World Order, New York : Simon & Schus­ter, 1996.

    [2] Muham­mad Ishaq Zahid, ?Glos­sary of Islam­ic Terms???, [Online Doc­u­ment], 1998, [cit­ed 2002, Apr 27]

    [3] Sayyid Abul A’la Al-Maw­du­di, ?Fun­da­men­tals of Islam???, [Online Doc­u­ment], [cit­ed 2002, Apr 27]

    [4] http://​www​.ibn​baz​.org​.sa (Ara­bic Source)

    [5] http://​www​.qaradawi​.net (Ara­bic Source)

    [6] Murad Wil­fried Hof­mann, Mus­lims As Co-Cit­i­zens of the West…Rights, Duties, & Prospects” [Online Doc­u­ment], [cit­ed 2002, Apr 27]Endmark

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