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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 8    Issue 12   01-15 November 2013

Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb: The Views of Shaykh Habib
al-Rahman al-Azami

Professor A. R. MOMIN
Former Professor and Head, Department of Sociology
University of Mumbai


In classical Islamic legal terminology, Dar al-Islam (Realm of Islam) refers to an Islamic state or territory which is under the control of a Muslim ruler and where the prescriptions of Islamic Shariah are in force. The term Dar al-Harb (Realm of War), on the other hand, is applied to a territory that is under the domination and control of a non-Muslim ruler, where the life, honour and religious freedom of Muslim inhabitants are not protected by the state. The term Dar al-Harb is also used to refer to territories that were once under the control of Muslims but were later conquered by non-Muslims.

There is some difference of opinion among Muslim scholars and jurists about the criteria that differentiate Dar al-Islam from Dar al-Harb. Imam Abu Hanifah (d. 150 AH/767 CE) was of the view that the decisive factor in determining a given territory as Dar al-Islam or Dar al-Harb was the security and protection and religious freedom available to Muslims living there. Hanafi scholars and jurists maintain that a territory that has been a part of Dar al-Islam but was later conquered by non-Muslims will remain Dar al-Islam as long as its Muslim inhabitants enjoy security and protection of life and honour and religious, legal and cultural freedoms. Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751AH/1350 CE), an eminent Hanbali scholar, says that the most important factor in ascertaining the status of a given territory is the prevalence of Islamic laws. He adds that even if a solitary rule or injunction of Shariah remains in force in a territory that has come under the control of non-Muslims, it will not become Dar al-Harb. 1 Most Muslim scholars and jurists of the later period considered two interrelated factors – Muslim sovereignty and the promulgation of Islamic Shariah – as the defining features of Dar al-Islam.

Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani (d. 189 AH/804 CE), a distinguished Hanafi scholar, Imam Shafi ‘i (d. 204 AH/820 CE), al-Sarakhsi (d. 483 AH/1090 CE) and al-Mawardi (d. 450 AH/1058 CE) posit, in addition to the typology of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, a third category called Dar al-Ahd or Dar al-Sulh (Realm of Treaty or Covenant or Realm of Peace). Dar al-Ahd broadly refers to a territory, largely inhabited by non-Muslims and ruled by them, which enters into a peace treaty with a Muslim state. The terms and conditions of the covenant may vary, and may include a provision to the effect that the non-Muslim state would remain in possession of a certain area in exchange for a certain amount of money or goods to be offered to the Muslim state and the assurance that the head of the Muslim state will protect the non-Muslim state in the event of an external aggression. The category of Dar al-Ahd or Dar al-Sulh were constructed in light of certain incidents during the lifetime of the Prophet and his Companions, such as the treaty of Hudaybiyah and the covenant with the Jewish tribes of Madinah and the Jews and Christians of Najran. Imam Abu Hanifah, who recognized only the two substantive categories of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, considered Dar al-Ahd as a part of Dar al-Islam. By and large, Hanafi scholars and jurists consider the non-Muslim inhabitants of Dar al-Ahd as Ahl al-Dhimmah or Dhimmis (protected citizens of the Islamic state).

The typology of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd does not represent just a theoretical abstraction or a hypothetical proposition. Rather, it was meant to provide pragmatic guidelines, derived essentially from the Quran, the Prophet’s Sunnah and the precedents of his Companions, to Muslim states to deal with issues such as relations with non-Muslim states, including treaties and covenants, ethics of war and peace, the protection of the rights of the Dhimmis in the Islamic state, and the response and obligation of a Muslim state towards the rights of Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim states. It is significant to note that Islamic law recognizes the existence of independent, sovereign non-Muslim states and accords legitimacy to the establishment of peaceful relations between Muslim and non-Muslim states.

In Islamic history, Muslim states and societies have often sought inspiration and guidance from the principles associated with the categories of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd or Dar al-Sulh. The foreign policy of the Ottoman Empire, for example, was significantly influenced by the principles associated with Dar al-Ahd. The peace treaties concluded by the Ottoman sultans with foreign countries stipulated that they would not be attacked by the Ottoman forces. 3 In Algeria, the Maliki ulama and jurists issued an edict to the effect that, following the French conquest and colonization, Algeria had turned into Dar al-Harb. In 19th century British India, some eminent Muslim scholars, such as Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlawi and Mawlana Fazle Haq Khayrabadi, declared that India had become Dar al-Harb.

One may argue that the typology of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd was constructed in a specific historical, political, geographical and social context in medieval times and that it lost much of its relevance in the aftermath of the demise of Muslim empires, European colonization, the political fragmentation and decline of the Muslim ummah and the emergence of nation states in the Muslim world in the 20th century, the new international order, and globalization processes. The argument has some justification. At the same time, however, it will be unwise to throw away the entire legal discourse relating to the typology. One should remember that the typology of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd is embedded in a legal culture, which was essentially informed and guided by Islamic values and principles. Therefore, a distinction needs to be drawn between the typology of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd, which was embedded in a specific historical, geopolitical and social context, and the overarching legal principles, that were derived from the Quran, the Prophet’s Sunnah and the precedents of his Companions, which provided the theoretical edifice of the typology. While the typology may be said to have become irrelevant or obsolete in the radically modified global scenario, the legal principles and issues underlying it continue to remain relevant and significant even today. These principles and issues include the political, diplomatic, commercial and cultural relations between Muslim and non-Muslim states and societies, the sanctity of treaties and covenants between Muslim and non-Muslim states, the ethics of war and peace, treatment of prisoners of war and refugees, protection of the social, legal and political rights of the non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state, and the response and obligation of Muslim states towards the status and rights of Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim societies.

In pre-Islamic Arabia as well as in many ancient civilizations, prisoners of war were generally enslaved and treated like chattel. The Bible says that in the event of victory in a war, male prisoners of war are to be killed (Deuteronomy 21:10). Islam made a radical departure from earlier practices by emphasising that prisoners of war should be treated in a humane and compassionate manner and encouraging its followers to set them free. According to the Quran, war prisoners are to be liberated gratuitously or on payment of ransom (47:4). According to Islamic law, a prisoner of war qua prisoner should not be killed. However, this does not preclude his trial and punishment for crimes beyond rights of belligerency. According to Islamic law, prisoners are to be well treated and given food and clothes and the costs for their food and clothing are to be borne by the Muslim state. Among prisoners, a mother is not to be separated from her child nor any other near relatives from each other.

In Islamic law, armed combat is regulated by wide-ranging conditions and stipulations, including the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, avoidance of wanton destruction and barbarities, compliance with treaties with the enemy, and the protection of women, children and old persons as well as places of worship (of other faiths) and the flora and fauna in the war zone. The Islamic ethic of war is clearly reflected in the instructions issued by Caliph Abu Bakr to Muslim troops who were to embark on a military expedition: “O people! I charge you with these rules; learn them well. Do not commit treachery nor deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate the dead bodies of soldiers. Do not kill a child or a woman or an aged man. Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruit trees. Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food. You will meet people (in enemy territories) who have set themselves apart in monasteries. Leave them to accomplish the purpose for which they have done this”.

A significant component of international law deals with the status and treatment of refugees, displaced persons and asylum seekers. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) sponsored a comparative study of Islamic influences on international refugee law in 2009. The study noted that the Islamic tradition of providing protection and generosity towards people fleeing persecution has had a far greater influence on international refugee law than any other historical source.

What is needed is to engage in a critical rethinking, reinterpretation and selective reappropriation of the Islamic legal discourse relating to the typology of Dar al-Islam, Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Ahd in the context of present times. This would entail an exercise in collective, institutionalised ijtihad (to which Imam Abu Hanifah made an original and pioneering contribution), involving close interaction and exchange of views between Muslim scholars and jurists on the one hand, and experts in international and comparative law, international relations, political science and human rights, historians and sociologists, on the other.


Shaykh Habib al-Rahman al-Azami (1901-1992) was among the world’s most distinguished scholars of Hadith and India’s greatest muhaddith in the 20th century.

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman was born in a small town in the province of Uttar Pradesh in India. His father, Mawlana Muhammad Sabir (d.1365 A.H.), was a man of great learning and piety. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman acquired his early education in his hometown and showed signs of precosity from an early age. Mawlana Sabir took special interest in the education of his gifted child and put him under the care of a renowned local scholar, Mawlana 'Abd al-Ghaffar (d.1341 A.H.), who was a pupil of the eminent scholar, Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (d.1323 A.H.). Young Habib al-Rahman spent a few years under his tutelage and thereafter took admission in the famed Dar al-Ulum at Deoband, where he had the good fortune of learning from stalwarts like Anwar Shah Kashmiri (d. 1352 A.H.), Shabbir Ahmad 'Uthmani (d. 1396 A.H.) and Mawlana Asghar Husain (d.1364A.H.). In the meantime, the Dar al -Ulum got caught up in the flurry of the nationalist movement and Mawlana Habib al-Rahman had to leave without formally completing his education. He completed the remainder of the course in Mau in 1922 and took up a teaching assignment there. In 1343 A.H. he was invited to head Madrasah Mazhar al-Ulum at Banaras. In 1347 A.H. he returned to Mau as Shaykh al-Hadith and head of Madrasah Miftah al-Ulum. After two decades of distinguished and dedicated service he resigned of his own accord in 1369 A.H. and devoted himself full time to study and research in Hadith.

Though Mawlana Habib al-Rahman was well-versed in all branches of Islamic learning, including Quranic exegesis, Islamic jurisprudence and historiography, he evinced a keen and special interest in Hadith literature. His interest in Hadith was initially kindled by his teacher Mawlana 'Abd al Ghaffar. He learnt and narrated Hadith from him, whose narration is traceable, through two successive generations, to Shah Muhammad Ishaq Dihlavi. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman's inclination towards Hadith literature received a further fillip under the affectionate guidance of Mawlana Anwar Shah Kashmiri. His remarkable proficiency in Arabic language and literature, his phenomenal memory and his single-minded devotion to scholarly pursuits stood him in good stead in mastering Hadith and related disciplines and in making an enduring contribution to Hadith and fiqh.

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman had a deep interest in rare manuscripts, especially those relating to collections of Hadith. During his extensive travels he would make it a point to visit libraries, institutes and museums in search of manuscripts. Perhaps his most important contribution during the formative phase of his scholarly career came in the form of critical comments and rejoinders on the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. The Musnad was printed for the first time in 1313 A.H. However, this edition was replete with printing and other errors. A renowned Egyptian scholar, Shaykh Ahmad Muhammad Shakir, took up a project to bring out a corrected and critical edition of the Musnad. He compared and collated the available manuscripts, identified and corrected the errors, numbered the AHadith, prepared a glossary of difficult words as well as biographical notices on the narrators, and provided a classified index. The first volume of this edition was published in 1365 A.H. and the remaining 14 volumes were brought out in subsequent years. This critical edition of the Musnad received universal acclaim and admiration from Muslim scholars from around the world.

Being a sincere and selfless devotee of learning and scholarship, Shaykh Ahmad invited suggestions and comments from scholars and professional colleagues. However, he did not receive any rejoinders or suggestions from academic circles for almost a decade. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman chanced upon the volumes several years after their publication. He avidly went through the volumes, identified the errors of omission and commission and sent his detailed comments to the editor. Shaykh Ahmad was amazed at the erudition and critical discernment reflected in the rejoinders of Mawlana Habib al-Rahman. He made an open and grateful acknowledgement of his submissions and published them in the 15th volume of the Musnad. He wrote:

    All your rejoinders and critical comments are excellent and of high quality. I am sincerely grateful to you for this kindness. I hope you will continue to favour me with your suggestions, motivated as they are by the sentiment of service to Hadith. The impression that I have gathered from your present writing is that you are one of the greatest scholars of Hadith in the present age.

The most productive and fruitful phase of Mawlana Habib al-Rahman's scholarly career commenced after the age of 60 when he was faced with failing health and multiple ailments. During this phase, which spanned three decades, he brought out critical editions of over half a dozen rare manuscripts of Hadith. What is remarkable is that this formidable output, comprising 30 volumes and over 10,000 printed pages, was accomplished almost single-handedly and with extremely meagre resources at his disposal. It will be no exaggeration to say that Mawlana Habib al-Rahman individually accomplished what an institute or academy could have done with abundant resources. This remarkable feat bears testimony to his scholarship as well as to his devotion to the cherished memory of the Prophet.

Major Works

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman’s most important contribution lies in the editing and publication of rare and valuable manuscripts of Hadith, which reflects the highest standards of scholarship. These include Kitab al-Zuhd wa'l-Raqa'iq of 'Abd-Allah ibn al-Mubarak (d.181 A.H.), the Sunan of Sa'id ibn Mansur (d. 227 A.H.), the Musnad of Imam Humaydi (d. 219 A.H.), the Musannaf of 'Abd al-Razzaq (d. 211 A.H.), the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah (d. 235 A.H.), al-Matalib al'Aliyah of Ibn Hajar Al-'Asqalani (d.752 A.H.) and Majma’ Bihar-al-Anwar of Tahir Patni (d. 986 A.H.). Mawlana Habib al-Rahman's method and style of editing is far more comprehensive and exhaustive than that of Western scholars.

Kitab al-Zuhd wa'l-Raqa'iq

'Abd-Allah ibn Mubarak was among the front-ranking traditionists of the second century of the Islamic era. The manuscripts of his book Kitab al-Zuhd wa'l-Raqa'iq are found in Cairo and Istanbul. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman published the text of the manuscripts with critical notes and annotations in 1966. The printed text reflects the editor's painstaking efforts. He has prepared an exhaustive list of the narrators, identified the Ahadith in the well-known sources, and provided a glossary of difficult words. In addition, he has pointed out the variants in the existing manuscripts.

Sunan of Sa'id ibn Mansur

The term Sunan refers to a collection of Hadith which relates to legal matters and leaves out historical and biographical details. The well-known collections of Sunan include the works of Abu Dawud, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Daraqutni and Bayhaqi. One of the earliest works of Sunan was compiled by Abu 'Uthman Sa'id ibn Mansur (d. 227 A.H.). He was a pupil of Imam Malik, Hammad and Abu 'Awanah. His students include such well-known traditionists as Muslim, Abu Dawud and Ahmad ibn Hanbal. An old manuscript of the Sunan of Sa'id ibn Mansur was discovered by Professor Muhamamd Hamidullah in the famous Koprulu library in Istanbul. The text of the manuscript, with critical notes and annotations, was published by Mawlana Habib al-Rahman in 1967.

Musnad of Imam Humaydi

The term Musnad refers to a collection of Hadith in which the traditions are narrated by an uninterrupted chain of narrators (isnad), going back to the Companions of the Prophet. The well-known Musnad works include the compilations of Abu Dawud Tayalisi (d. 204 A.H.) and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 233 A.H.). One of the oldest Musnad works is that of Imam Abu Bakr 'Abd-Allah ibn Zubayr al-Humaydi (d. 219 A.H.). He was a pupil of Sufyan ibn 'Uyaynah and one of the teachers of Imam Bukhari. Four manuscripts of this work are found in Damascus, Hyderabad and Deoband. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman published the text in 1963. One of the main features of the edited text is the thematic arrangement of Hadith.

Musannaf of 'Abd al-Razzaq

The term Musannaf is applied to a collection of Hadith in which Ahadith are arranged according to a thematic order in chapters or books. One of the earliest Musannaf works is the compilation of 'Abd al-Razzaq ibn Hammam al-Himyari (d. 211 A.H.). 'Abd al-Razzaq was a pupil of Ma'mar ibn Rashid (d. 153 A.H.) and Ibn Jurayj (d. 149 A.H.). Some of the celebrated traditionists such as Yahya ibn Ma'in and Ahmad ibn Hanbal sat at his feet and learnt Hadith from him. The Musannaf of 'Abd al-Razzaq contains 21,000 Ahadith. Manuscripts of this monumental work are preserved in Edirne, Istanbul, Madinah, Rabat, San'a, Tonk and Hyderabad. The text of the manuscript was published by Mawlana Habib al-Rahman in 11 volumes from Beirut in 1970. This work can be regarded as the magnum opus of Mawlana Habib al-Rahman and the crowning achievement of his scholarly career. In addition to identifying the Hadith contained in the Musannaf, the editor has added explanatory notes on difficult words. He has also provided an exhaustive index of names and places.

Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah

The Musannaf of Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn 'Abd-Allah ibn Abi Shaybah (d. 235 A.H) is among the earliest collections of Hadith. The manuscripts of the book are found in Egypt and Istanbul. Five volumes of the Musannaf were published by 'Abd al-Khaliq Afghani from Hyderabad. A reproduction of the published volumes together with the remaining six volumes were brought out from Bombay and Karachi. However, these contained scores of errors of omission and commission.

The ruler of Qatar sent a microfilm of the manuscript of the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shaybah to Mawlana Habib al-Rahman. He spent a few years in editing the text of the manuscript. Five volumes of the edited text have been published from Makkah and the rest, which have been duly edited, have yet to see the light of day. The editor has taken considerable pains to identify 18 books which belong to the genre of Musannaf, provided a comprehensive introduction, and identified the Ahadith in the six canonical sources (al-Sihah al-Sittah). He has also appended an exhaustive index of narrators.

Al-Matalib al-'Aliyah of Ibn Hajar

Al-Matalib al-'Aliyah by the celebrated scholar Ibn Hajar al'Asqalani (d. 752 AH/1351 CE) is a collection of zawa'id in the eight Musnad works of Abu Dawud Tayalisi, Humaydi, Ibn 'Umar, Musaddad, Ibn Mani, Ibn Abi Shaybah, Ibn Hamid and Ibn Abi Usamah. The term zawa'id refers to those AHadith which are not found in the six canonical collections of Hadith (al-Sihah al-Sittah). Ibn Hajar has arranged the zawa'id in a thematic order. The manuscripts of this important work are found in Madinah, Istanbul and Hyderabad. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman edited the manuscript and published it in four volumes from Kuwait.

In addition to the above-mentioned works, Mawlana Habib al-Rahman edited and published a shorter and compact version of al-Targhib wat-Tarhib by Mundhiri (d. 656 A.H.). The original work was voluminous and the compiler had not been very careful about ascertaining the authenticity of Hadith. Ibn Hajar made a summary of this work and rectified its weaknesses. The manuscripts of Ibn Hajar's work are found in Lucknow, Deoband and Bahraich. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman compared and collated the MSS and edited the text with critical notes and comments. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman also edited Nur al-Din Haythami's Kashf al-Astar 'an Zawa'id Musnad al-Bazzar, which was published in four volumes from Damascus in 1399. Two works of Tahir Patni, Majma' Bihar al-Anwar, which is a monumental glossary of Hadith, and Khawatim Jami'al-Usul, which is a biographical inventory, also deserve mention. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman edited and published them in 1395 A.H. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman also edited al-Hawi li Rijal al-Tahawi, which contains biographical notices and researches on the narrators mentioned in Sharh Ma'ani al-Athar and Mushkilal-Athar of Imam abu Ja'far al-Tahawi (d. 321 AH/933 CE). This book was published posthumously.

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman devoted over three decades to teaching. His students, who have spread far and wide, remember him with affection, reverence and gratitude. Scores of scholars, many of them eminent in their own fields, took pride in sitting at his feet and learnt and related Hadith from him. Mention may be made of Mawlana Manzur Nu'mani, Dr. Muhammad Mustafa al-A'zami, Mufti Zafir al-Din Miftahi and several others. A large number of scholars from the Arab world as well as from Africa, Afghanistan and Europe considered him as their teacher and related Hadith from him. These include the late Shaykh 'Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah of Syria, Shaykh Isma'il al-Ansari of Riyad, Shaykh Hammad al-Ansari of Madinah, Shaykh Subhi Samarrai of Baghdad, Dr. 'Abd al-Sattar Abu Ghuddah of Kuwait, Dr. Bashshar 'Awd Ma'ruf of Baghdad, Shaykh 'Abd al-Halim Mahmud (former Rector of Azhar University in Cairo), Shaykh Bahjah al-Baytar, Shaykh 'Abd al-'Aziz ibn Baz, Muhammad Amin al-Kutubi, Shaykh Amin al-Husayni of Palestine, Shaykh Sa'di Hashimi of Madinah, 'Abd al-'Aziz Abu 'Uyun of Hims, Shaykh Zahir al-Shadish of Beirut, Shaykh 'Abd al-Rahman of Yaman, Khayr al-Din Zarkali, Sa'id Afghani, Shaykh Muhammad Harkan and Shaykh Hasan Khalid, the Mufti of Lebanon.

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman's works were enthusiastically received and appreciated by scholars of Hadith from all over the Islamic world. He was invited to deliver lectures and participate in conferences in various parts of the world. About twenty years ago while Mawlana Habib al-Rahman was in Makkah to perform Hajj, he was visited by Dr. 'Abd al-Halim Mahmud, the then Rector of al-Azhar. Mawlana Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali Nadavi and Mawlana Manzur Nu'mani as well as several other scholars were present on the occasion. Dr. Mahmud addressed the gathering and remarked that in his considered opinion Mawlana Habib al-Rahman was the greatest living authority on Hadith.

Some years later, Mawlana Habib al-Rahman again happened to be in Makkah. This time he was accompanied by Mawlana As'ad Madani, who wished to meet the famous Saudi scholar Shaykh 'Abd-Allah ibn Baz. Everybody who would call on the Shaykh had to introduce himself since he was blind. When Mawlana Madani and Mawlana Habib al-Rahman called on him and the latter introduced himself according to custom, the Shaykh got up from his chair and apologised, saying that had he known about Mawlana Habib al-Rahman's arrival in Makkah, he would have personally visited him. He then gave his own seat to Mawlana Habib al-Rahman.

Like the savants and scholars of the classical period, Mawlana Habib al-Rahman led a simple and unostentatious life. He was free from conceit, jealousy and petty-mindedness, which are often the bane of scholars. He was unassuming to the core. This was largely due to his selflessness as well as the influence of the Sufi tradition. He never sought any pecuniary benefits from his works. Several institutes and academies invited him to head centres for the study of Hadith on attractive remuneration, but he refused these offers. Dar al-'Ulum Deoband invited him to serve as Chief Mufti. He declined the offer. In the 1950s he was invited to take charge as Rector of the newly-established Madinah University on a salary of 20,000 Saudi Riyals with accommodation and other facilities. He declined the offer without even consulting or informing his family members. As mentioned earlier, Mawlana Habib al-Rahman taught Hadith for one year at Nadwat al-'Ulama in Lucknow in 1952. He had agreed to teach Hadith on condition that he would not accept any remuneration. Shortly after his membership of the assembly came to an end, he was faced with financial difficulties. The managing board of Nadwat al-'Ulama came to know of it and decided to offer one year's salary to him. The draft was sent to Mawlana Habib al-Rahman, but he declined to accept it, saying that he could not go back on his commitment.

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman breathed his last at the age of 91 on March 17, 1992, in his hometown. His funeral, which was taken out in the blazing heat of Ramadan, stretched over a mile and was attended by two hundred thousand people. It can be said without any fear of contradiction that the funeral of no other scholar in India has been attended by such a large number of people in the 20th century.

Mawlana Habib al-Rahman on Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb

The following section is based on a translation of the substantive part of a treatise of Mawlana Habib al-Rahman al-Azami, written in Urdu, called “Darul Islam awr Darul Harb.” 4 It is hoped that this brief but scholarly exposition will clear many misconceptions and misrepresentations that surround the typology of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb.

The precursors of the terminology of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb can be traced to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAAW). Bukhari has reported a Hadith to the effect that when Abu Hurayrah migrated from his hometown (which was then not under the control of Muslims) to Madinah, he recited a couplet in which he complained of the arduousness of the long journey, which nevertheless set him free from the “land of infidelity” (balad al-kufr). In a Hadith reported by Bukhari, the Prophet forbade his Companions from carrying a copy of the Quran while travelling towards the “land of enemies”. Another Hadith, reported by Muslim and Tirmidhi, says that the Prophet gave certain instructions to some of his Companions who set out on a military expedition. One of the instructions was that if the people of those territories embraced Islam, they should be persuaded to migrate towards the “land of migration” (dar al-hijra). This suggests that (during the Prophet’s time) some territories (which were under the control of non-Muslims) were described as the “Abode of the Infidel” (dar al-kuffar), and those which were under the domination of Muslims as the “Abode of Migration” (dar al-hijra).

The terms Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb were in use during the time of the Followers (tabiu’n). These terms can be found in some of the earliest collections of Hadith, including the Musannaf of Abd al-Razzaq, the Musannaf of Ibn Abi Shayba, the Muwatta of Imam Malik and the Al-Jami’ al-Sahih of Imam Bukhari.

It is an incontrovertible fact (of Islamic history) that, while some lands or territories came under the control of Muslims (at some point of time), some territories, such as South Africa, never became a part of the Islamic state. On the other hand, some lands came under the control of Muslims (at a given point of time), but sooner or later ceased to be a part of the Islamic state. The first category of territories may be regarded as truly representing the Abode of Islam (Dar al-Islam), while the second category may be designated as the real Abode of War (Dar al-Harb). The third category may be considered as either Dar al-Islam or Dar al-Harb by a legal decree or mandate. Imam Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani, in his Kitab al-Ziyadat, says, “In Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinion, Dar al-Islam could become Dar al-Harb only under three conditions. The first condition is the public declaration and establishment of the rule of non-Muslims and the suspension of Islamic laws and stipulations. The second condition relates to the close location of the afore-mentioned territory to Dar al-Harb, away from any city that forms part of Dar al-Islam. The third condition is the abrogation of the protection available to Muslims (on account of their faith) and to non-Muslim subjects or Dhimmis, guaranteed to them under Islamic dispensation prior to the establishment of the rule of non-Muslims”. Many other Islamic legal texts report similar views that are attributed to Imam Abu Hanifah in this matter.

The upshot of what has been stated in the foregoing is that a land or territory that has remained Dar al-Islam for a certain period of time cannot become Dar al-Harb unless all the three afore-mentioned conditions are present. Many legal commentators say that even if some parts of Islamic laws prevail in a given territory that has come under the domination and control of non-Muslims (after remaining a part of Dar al-Islam over a period of time), it will still remain Dar al-Islam. The crucial point is that the criterion for the declaration or designation of a given territory as Dar al-Islam or Dar al-Harb is not that political domination and control should rest with Muslims, but the prevalence (to whatever extent) of Islamic rules and injunctions. If, in a given territory, political domination, administration, collection of taxes and the authority to prosecute thieves and robbers (and other criminals) are no longer under the control and authority of Muslims, but if Muslims nevertheless have the freedom to offer prayers on Fridays and on the feasts of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Duha and to impart Islamic instruction (to their children), and if Muslim legal scholars (continue to) have the freedom and authority to issue legal edicts (fatwa) relating to family laws, and if the lives of Muslims are generally governed by the provisions of Islamic Shariah (without let or hindrance), such a territory will continue to remain Dar al-Islam. A territory (which was previously under the domination of Muslims and subsequently came under the control of non-Muslims) will remain Dar al-Islam even if just one of the Islamic injunctions continues to be in force there. It is therefore incorrect to presume that Dar al-Islam is identifiable with only an Islamic state and that a non-Muslim state is inherently and ipso facto Dar al-Harb.

An important criterion (relating to the designation of a given territory as Dar al-Islam or Dar al-Harb) is the issue of security and protection – or its absence – available to Muslim residents. If the control of a given territory passes into the hands of non-Muslims, but if Muslims continue to enjoy security and protection, without having to ask for it (as in post-independence India), it will remain Dar al-Islam.


1. Ibn al-Qayyim: Ahkam ahl al-dhimmah. Damascus, 1961, Vol. 2, p. 517

2. Muhammad Hamidullah: Muslim Conduct of State. 7th ed. Lahore, 1996, p. 242

3. Rudolph Peters, ‘Dar al-Sulh’ in John L. Esposito (ed.): Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Modern Islamic World. Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 339

4. Mawlana Habib al-Rahman al-Azami: Darul Islam awr Darul Harb. Mau, 2002

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