This topic is typically related to the controversial issue of drawing a line separating Muslim lands from non-Muslim ones or classifying regions according to the creed of the inhabitants. The significance of this is of wide dimension, as it will appear in the fatwa issued by Sheikh `Atiya Saqr, former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, which reads as follows:
“In the book Bayan Lin-Nas [A Declaration for People], issued by Al Azhar, it’s clearly stated that the concept of categorizing countries as Dar Kufr and Dar Islam is a matter of ijtihad (independent judgment) made by learned scholars. There is no mention of this concept in either the Qur’an or the Sunnah.
Muslim scholars maintain that the labeling of a country or place as being an Islamic country or a non-Islamic one Dar al-Harb revolves around the question of religious security. This means that if a Muslim practices Islam freely in his place of abode despite that the place happens to be secular or un-Islamic, then he will be considered as living in a Dar Islam, meaning that he is not obliged to immigrate from that place.
The late Sheikh Muhammad Abu Zahrah (may Allah bless his soul) mentioned two main scholarly opinions concerning this matter. He then chose the Imam Abu Hanifah’s opinion that the question revolves around the matter of security. That is if a Muslim is safe and secure in the place he lives, then the place is Dar Islam, and if not, then it is Dar al-Harb . He also said that this opinion conforms well to the Islamic principles of war, described as a defense strategy.
Concerning the application of Shari`ah in a Dar al-Harb, especially the criminal codes, some scholars, including Abu Hanifah maintain that: if a Muslim leader is on a military mission in Dar al-Harb, he should not apply such codes on any of his soldiers. This rule does not apply to the leaders of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and similar countries. The reason for this, according to the proponents of this view, is the fear that applying such criminal codes on a Muslim in that situation may make him join the non-Muslims.
Among the scholars who support this opinion are Imam Ahmad, and Is-haq Ibn Rahawayh and Al-Awza`i. This opinion is also supported by the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). For example, in the Battle of Qadisiyyah, Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqass, who was the commander of the army at that time, ordered Abu Mihjan to be imprisoned for drinking alcohol. Later, Sa`d asked his wife to set him free so that he could participate in the battle, on the condition that he would return to prison afterwards. When Sa`d was told of what happened to Abu Mihjan in the battle, he forgave him and Abu Mihjan quitted drinking.
Other scholars, including Malik and Al-Layth ibn Sa`d claim that there should be no difference between the implementation of Sahri`ah criminal codes in Dar al-Islam or otherwise.
However, this issue is a traditional one dealt with at a time when the Muslims had the upper hand, and were spreading Islam everywhere, going from one victorious conquest to another. The more important point now is to take into consideration the present conditions of Muslims; is it possible for them to have the same context? This leads to the question of Muslims living in non-Muslim countries and Islamic communities.
In a hadith narrated by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “I have nothing to do with any Muslim living with the polytheists.” This hadith is supported by the Qur’anic verses which has call for the Hijrah from Makkah to Madinah, and warns those who are able to immigrate and do not; one of these verses is the following: “Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves, (the angels) will ask: In what were ye engaged? They will say: We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious that ye could have migrated therein? As for such, their habitation will be hell, an evil journey’s end.” (An-Nisa’: 97)
The injunction of making Hijrah from Dar al-Kufr to Dar al-Islam is still pending and will remain so up to the Day of Judgment. However, is it an obligation or is it just a recommended act?
Scholars say: if a Muslim is afraid for his religion and ethics, or for his property, then it is a duty for him to immigrate, otherwise the immigration is merely a Sunnah for him. Yet scholars also point out that if a Muslim finds that by remaining in Dar al-Kufr he will be a source of help for Muslims in Dar al-Islam or will be helping the Muslims in Dar al-Kufr, by teaching them religion or propagating Islam itself by spreading its principles and answering questions about it, and correcting people’s misconceptions about it, then it is better for him to stay in that society, rather than leave it.
However, this requires the Muslim to have strong faith, a strong personality, and the means that will enable him to carry out this mission. In the dawn of Islam, preachers and traders played a major role in spreading Islam in non-Muslim countries.”