Dar al-Islam

views updated May 14 2018


The term dar al-islam, which literally means "the house or abode of Islam," came to signify Islamic territory in juridical discussions. For the majority, it is thus suggestive of a geopolitical unit, in which Islam is established as the religion of the state, in contrast to dar al-harb, territory not governed by Islam. The signs of legitimacy by which one could speak of a geopolitical unit as dar al-islam would include a ruler or ruling class whose self-identity is Islamic, some institutional mechanisms by which consultation between the political and religious elite is possible, and a commitment to engage in political and military struggle to extend the borders of the dar al-islam.

For others, the relationship between dar al-islam and existing political arrangements was not so easily negotiated. Thus, in one tradition the proto-Shi˓a leader Ja˓far al-Sadiq (d. 765) is presented as suggesting that the territory of Islam exists wherever people are free to practice Islam and to engage in calling others to faith—even if the leadership in such a place does not acknowledge or establish Islam as the state religion. Correlatively, a territory in which the ruler or ruling class identifies with Islam, but where the (true) interpretation of Islamic sources is suppressed, is not dar al-islam, but something else.

In the modern period, one of the most vexing questions for jurists, and indeed for Muslims generally, has to do with the ongoing power of the symbol of dar al-islam. The experience of colonialism, the demise of the historic caliphate, and the formation of modern states present serious challenges to those who would follow classical precedent and utilize this symbol. One line of thought, expressed most succinctly by Shah ˓Abd al-˓Aziz (d. 1824), held that the influx of British power meant that India was no longer dar al-islam. As such, the Muslim community was under an obligation to struggle and bring about the restoration of Islamic influence. Others, by contrast, understood the classical use of the term as connected with an outmoded and even non-Islamic emphasis on empire. For these, in ways analogous to the thinking of Ja˓far al-Sadiq, Islam "abides" wherever Muslims practice their religion and call others to faith.

See alsoDar al-Harb .


Kelsay, John. Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.

Shaybani, Muhammad ibn Hasan al-. The Islamic Law of Nations. Translated by Majid Khadduri. Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1966.

John Kelsay

Dar al-Islam

views updated May 29 2018


An abode, country, territory, or land where Islamic sovereignty prevails.

In Dar al-Islam, the citizenry abide by the ordinances, rules, edicts, and assembly of Islam. The Muslim state guarantees the safety of life, property, and religious status (only if the religion is not idol-atrous) of minorities (ahl al-dhimma) provided they have submitted to Muslim control.

Dar al-Harb (the abode of war) provides the contrast to Dar al-Islam. Shariʿa (Islamic) law divides the world into these two abodes. Dar al-Harb denotes territory that is not governed by the assembly of Islam, and is directly contiguous to the abode of Islam. Warfare (jihad) can be invoked in order to convert the abode of war into the abode of Islam, or to rescue the bordering abode. Theoretically, an abode of war can extend ad infinitum. Muslim states, in order to avoid conditions requiring constant jihad, yield to the decision of legal experts (ulama), who, based on certain criteria, accept or reject the notion that an area has converted from, or needs to be reconfigured into, Dar al-Islam. These are as follows: (1) the edicts of unbelievers have gained ascendancy; (2) unprotected Muslims and peoples of the book must be rescued; (3) territorial proximity to unbelievers has become repugnant.

Of the above conditions, the first is probably the most important since even if a single edict of Islam is observed, a territory cannot be deemed Dar al-Harb. Further, jihad can be invoked for the sole purpose of turning Dar al-Harb into Dar al-Islamin other words, to allow for the prevalence of Islamic edicts and the protection of Muslims.

cyrus moshaver

Dār al-Islām

views updated Jun 27 2018

Dār al-Islām (Arab., ‘abode of Islam’). Territories within the Muslim ʾumma's supremacy and in which Islamic law prevails. (Not to be confused with DARUL ISLAM.)