Fiqh rulings on "land of war" or "dar-ul-harb"

Q222 :Some people are happy to resort to certain action which are clearly against the law of the land, justifying what they do by claiming that they live in the "land of war" or "dar-ul-harb." This is particularly worrying in a place like India, where the Muslims constitute a large minority. Those who indulge in such activities point to discrimination against Muslims in employment, social boycott of Muslims, etc. The problem is that some of their actions make those Muslims criminals in the legal sense. Please comment.

A222 : Some people refer to the books of fiqh written several hundred years ago in order to extract rulings which they try to apply to present-day conditions. They forget that the authors of those books arrived at their conclusions after making a thorough study of the Qur'an and statements by the Prophet, taking into account the prevailing conditions in their own times. They have pointed out that rulings on matters which relate to social conditions may vary from one place to another and from one generation to another. The rulings on the "land of war" are one such clear example. When the founders and many of the scholars of the four major schools of thought made their rulings, the Muslim state was in its full power, extending over all Muslim areas. The fact that two Muslim states were in existence did not change this fact because what applied to the status of the individual in one Muslim state applied to the other. The world outside was hostile to Islam. Even in a period of peace, the hostility to Islam in such areas was evident. A Muslim who traveled deep into these countries was vulnerable to attack. The precariousness of his position was enhanced by the fact that modes of travel were very slow, compared with what we have today. Hence you have rulings discouraging Muslims traveling into the land of war which was defined as the land where the majority of the population were non-Muslims. Anyone who suggests that we can take these rulings and apply them to our relations with non-Muslim countries nowadays betrays an attitude of hastiness that is unbecoming of a Muslim scholar. To suggest today that any country where the majority of the people are non-Muslims is a land of war is to do Islam a great disservice. Muslims have good relations with many non-Muslim countries. We have mutual support pacts with a large number of non-Muslim countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe. Moreover, we can travel into these countries without fearing any adverse consequences, as long as we abide by their laws. No authority in these countries demands that we do what our religion forbids or refrain from doing our religious duties. We enjoy with them peace and security. How, then, can we classify them as "land of war"? On the other hand, some Muslim countries have suffered under dictatorial regimes which were very hostile to Islam. Although these countries have a population of an overwhelming Muslim majority, these dictators were extremely hostile to Islam and its advocates. I know by personal experience that in some Muslim countries, some government employees feel compelled to pretend that they do not pray or fast in Ramadhan for fear of losing their jobs. Some of these have large armies where lunch is served in Ramadhan to all soldiers and officers at the same time as the rest of the year. Are we justified in considering such countries as the "land of Islam," when a Muslim feels himself at risk for no reason other than practicing his religion? The point I am trying to drive home to people is that the concept of the land of war as understood by scholars who lived under the Islamic state throughout its different periods and up to the end of World War I, does not apply to present-day conditions. Hence, contemporary scholars are called upon to redefine this concept in the light of the prevailing system of international relations. When you come to a place like India, where the Muslims form a sizable minority and their number exceed the number of Muslims in the largest Muslim country, we find that the concept of the land of war does not apply at all. The law of India does not differentiate between Indian citizens on the basis of their faith. Muslims are selected to fill ministerial posts. It may be true that some of those Muslim ministers may not consider serving Islam as their top priority, but they are nevertheless Muslims. On the other hand, India has been the scene of sectarian riots which flare up every now and then. Some times, the government is accused of turning a blind eye toward those who stir up the riots. Even then, we cannot issue a ruling which classifies India as a land of war at all times. Such a ruling will require extensive study of present-day conditions in India on the one hand and throughout the Muslim world on the other. Moreover, the study should include the effects of any ruling on the status of Muslims in India. Such a study cannot be undertaken by a single scholar, certainly not one who lives abroad and whose knowledge of what happens in that country is derived from press reports and personal accounts of expatriates. There is an exceedingly important point which must be made here. The reader refers to some Muslims feeling at liberty to violate the law of the land on account of India being a land of war. I want to emphasize that I do not consider it as such. However, even if an authoritative body of scholars rules that a particular place is a land of war, Muslims are not allowed to behave there in any way other than what Islam permits. For example, taking the money or property of another person in an unfair manner is forbidden in Islam. If that person or his property is in the land of war, a Muslim still cannot take it unfairly. It can only come into his possession either as a gift or through a commercial deal of buying and selling. A Muslim who lives in the land of war cannot fiddle with the electricity meter so that his electricity bill is lower than what it should be. Nor can he travel on buses without paying the fare. Allah has deplored the attitude of the Jews for taking advantage of other nations and taking possession of their property unfairly. This is stated clearly in the Qur'an so that Muslims may not do likewise. I would like to emphasize that it is forbidden for a Muslim to resort to any such actions on the basis that he lives in a land of war. Muslims remain fair to everyone. Allah tells us: "Do not allow your hatred of other people to prompt you to act unfairly. Be fair (to all)."

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )