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Is the west Darul-Harb for Muslims?

There is a perception amongst some Muslims that the countries other than the ones with Muslim majority populations, especially those whose rulers are non-Muslims, are Darul Harb — countries at war with Muslims — and Muslims should therefore consider themselves in a state of belligerence with them.

The idea has come from the understanding of Fiqh (the formal legal understanding expressed by the earlier jurists) which basis its opinion on the perception that Islamic faith has come to dominate the entire globe. That understanding is based on a peculiar interpretation of a few Qur’anic verses and the attitude of the first-generation Muslims who went ahead to present the message of Islam by asking the rulers of non-Muslim populations to accept Islam, forfeit their right to rule in favour of the conquering army, or face them in the battlefield. Those who are promoting the idea are perfectly convinced that their faith requires them to continue to seek to invade the non-Muslim territories, in case they have the requisite military strength.

The world we are living in can never be a peaceful place so long as this ideology continues to influence a good number of devoted believers who are convinced that peace cannot come to this world until the entire world comes under the political rule of a Muslim Khalifa. So long as that ideal is not achieved, they believe, this world should be in a constant state of war, with Muslims fighting against non-Muslims.

One of the verses often referred to ‘prove’ this ideology runs like this: “It is He Who has sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth so that He dominates it over all other religions, even though the polytheists may dislike it” (Qur’an; 61:9) If seen in the context of the entire Qur’anic message, this verse is mentioning the fact that God sent His message to prophet Muhammad (PBUH), just as He sent it to the earlier messengers so that His message dominated over all rival religious ideologies of the territory of Arabian Peninsula. In truth the message of the verse is not directing Muslims to ensure that God’s message should forcibly dominate all regions of the world; instead it is informing the reader that such a transformation is going to come about by God’s will. In other words, the verse is not giving a directive which was binding to be followed by Muslims of all times to come. Instead, it was prophesying an event that was to happen and was actualised not long after the verse was revealed.

The message of Islam thus dominated the Arabian Peninsula during the last part of the prophet’s life. The companions of the messenger, God’s mercy be on him, went ahead to implement God’s will on the neighbouring territories after his demise, the way it was done by him during his lifetime in the immediate territory. The nations living in the areas surrounding the Peninsula knew that the awaited messenger had already arrived and that the accompanying revolution promised in the earlier scriptures had been actualised. Muslim armies went to all the territories whose rulers were sent messages by the Prophet himself.

In other words, their act of taking over the political reigns of the surrounding territories was an extension of the prophet’s mission assigned to him by the Almighty. That strategy was not meant to be replicated by Muslims of the later times. If that process was to continue until every part of the globe came under the Muslim rule, then Islam, the message of peace, would practically be the message of war and bloodshed, which would contradict the very claim of it being the mercy for the entire mankind.

There is only one logical explanation for the verses talking about the political domination of the message of Islam: The verses are mentioning God’s policy of ensuring that His messengers would dominate their adversaries: “Allah has made it binding on Himself that He will dominate: He and His messengers; indeed Allah is strong, dominating.” Such verses were, by the style of their mention and the context of their placement in the text, specific in their application to the era of the messenger.

For all other times, non-Muslim countries are not Darul Harb (countries at war) but Darul Dawah (countries whose inhabitants need to be invited to the message of Islam). Muslims living as minority citizens are expected to be law-abiding, discharging diligently their obligations to the countries of their residence. Instead of considering the fellow citizens of their country of residence their enemies, they should see them as their friends who need to be positively influenced by their good behaviour so that the way is paved for some of them to come close to the message of Islam.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 10th, 2011.