Tariq Ramadan on meaning of Dar al Islam, Dar al Harb, etc.
Posted Jan 10, 2003

Important interview with Tariq Ramadan on Salon.com in which he discusses the meaning of Dar al Islam, Dar al Harb, Ummah, etc. I would highly recommend reading the entire article by Paul Donnely at http://dir.salon.com/story/people/feature/2002/02/15/ramadan/index.html

“You wrote in “To Be a European Muslim” that Muslims need to get past the us vs. them worldview, the old concept of Dar al-Islam, the Islamic world, opposed to the non-Muslim world (the Dar al-Harb, the House of War), and propose the new concept of a House of Testimony, a Space of Witness, available to Muslims anywhere.

That is exactly what I was saying about the way we are reading the text. Some Muslims are saying, “We are more Muslim when we are against the West or the Western values”—as if our parameter to assess our behavior is our distance from or opposition to the West. They are promoting this kind of binary vision of the world that comes from a very long time back in the Muslim psyche. We have to get rid of this kind of understanding and evaluate if an act or a situation is Islamic or not, on the scale of the Islamic ethics and values per se, not against any other civilization

Our values are not based on “otherness.” Our values are universal. We have to come to the understanding that it’s not “us against them,” it’s us on the scale of our own values. This defines the place I live in. That is to say, my role in this world is to understand that I am a witness to the Islamic message before mankind. We need an intellectual revolution within the Muslim world. We are Muslims according to our spirituality and these universal values, and not against the West, not against the Jews, not against the Christians, not against secular people. The way I’m trying to re-read our texts is based on the awareness that this message is universal: that is why, for instance, the definition of our Muslim identity could by no means be a closed one against the others. This definition will help, God willing, in the way we deal with others.

The concept of Dar al-Islam is a hindrance today within the Muslim world. Even when we speak of Dar al-‘ahd the House of Treaty, which stipulates that Muslims living as a minority among unbelievers should live peacefully but without truly joining these societies , it means peaceful coexistence but it also promotes this kind of binary vision, “us and them.” It does not allow us to feel that we are part of the Western societies, that we are sharing with others our values and belonging.

It’s always, “OK, I’m with you but ...” It’s not enough for me. It’s still a very old understanding of our belonging to Islam. When I’m speaking of Dar-ash-Shahada, the abode, the space of testimony, I’m saying we have to get past these tendencies.

In the modern context, what does Dar al-Islam, the House of Submission, mean?

It means the space where the Muslims are in the majority. People will say it is where the rules of Islam are implemented, which is not the reality for the majority of the people who are speaking about Dar al-Islam. We have other definitions: the Hanafi school of thought, for instance, says that Dar al-Islam is the space where we are at peace, where we are safe.

Which of the two definitions is for me the most accurate, today? Am I not in a safer place, in the West, than in the majority of the so-called Islamic countries experiencing dictatorship?

It’s very difficult for Muslims, we don’t have a safe place to call Dar al-Islam . So even this word, for me, is relatively outdated. It’s not because we are in the majority that we are faithful to our principles. It’s not because we are in the majority that we are in a safe place. That is why, in my perception, we have to say that all these concepts are outdated, and come to new concepts.”