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Are the terms of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb still applicable? 

Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan replies:
These terms were coined by Muslim fuqaha (jurists) after many years of the advent of Islam with respect to the situation which prevailed in their contemporary world. Moreover, fuqaha coined different terms for different regions according to the situations prevailing therein like Dar al-amn (territory of security), dar al-silm (territory of peace) and dar al-muwada’ah (territory of mutual peace) etc.

As is obvious from these terms, they were applied to various regions according to the practical or legal conditions prevailing therein vis-a-vis the Muslim state and its citizens. The basic concept behind this was that law and shari’ah prevail only in Dar al-Islam (territory of Islam) while dar al-harb (enemy territory) territories were lawless where rulers and dominant people forced their whims on residents and therefore one’s life or property was not safe there. This is why Muslims were discouraged from living in such areas. In other words, the basic difference between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb was the rule of law in the former and the lawlessness in the latter. So it is a dar al-Islam wherever Muslims’ lives and properties are legally safe and they are legally allowed to follow their religion. A place is not a dar al-Islam where Muslims’ lives, property and faith are not safe although its ruler may be a Muslim.

It is evident today that in many ‘Muslim’ countries Muslims’ lives, honour and right to follow Islam are not safe while there are ‘non-Muslim’ countries, like our own country, where Muslims’ lives and properties are safe legally. Moreover, we enjoy legal rights to follow our religion and preach it. Therefore, it is a mistake to apply the old concept of dar al-Islam and dar al-harb on the contemporary world. It is an indication of one’s ignorance of the wisdom of his religion. No new category is needed today. It is sufficient to understand that it is a dar Islam wherever Muslims enjoy religious freedom and wherever Muslims do not enjoy such freedom is a dar kufr although its ruler or majority may be ‘Muslim.’ 
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