and the Limits of War
Transcending Classical Conception of Jihad
Louay M. Safi, Visiting Prof at George Washington University
International Institute of Islamic Thought, Herndon VA
This monograph is an expanded version of an article published in the American Journal of Islamic
Social Sciences (AJISS) in 1988, under the title War and Peace in Islam. The article attempted
then to clarify some of the misconceptions surrounding the notion of jihad. Thirteen years later,
the same misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding war and peace in Islam is widespread in
both the Muslim societies and the West.
The attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, by apparently a religiously inspired
group, brought to the fore the question of jihad and war, and led few misinformed and misguided
individuals to confuse the Islamic concept of jihad with the medireview concept of holy war. The
equation of the two is erroneous and misleading. Holy wars were fought in Medireview Europe in the
name of God against infidels, because the latter were perceived to stand against God. Jihad, on
the other hand, is fought to repel aggression and lift the oppression of a brutal force, and is
never directed at the other's faith. The fact that both are based on religious motivation does not
make them equal. Religious motives have historically inspired both the noblest and the most base
actions. I, therefore, do hope that this monograph would contribute to bringing more meaningful
discussion of the notion of jihad and the conception of war and peace in Islamic tradition. I also
hope to be able to illustrate that Islamic worldview and values stand at the side of world peace
and global justice, and against aggression and brutality.
I wish to thank two good friends who have encouraged me to refine the early article I wrote on the
peace and war into the current monograph, Jamal Barzinji and Sayyid M. Syeed. Their encouragement
and support are greatly appreciated.
Islam is a religion of peace. This fact is borne by both Islamic teachings and the very name of
"Islam." The term Islam essentially means to submit and surrender one's will to a higher truth and
a transcendental law, so that one can lead a meaningful life informed by the divine purpose of
creation - a life in which the dignity and freedom of all human beings can be equally protected.
Islamic teachings assert the basic freedom and equality of all peoples. They stress the importance
of mutual help and respect, and direct Muslims to extend friendship and goodwill to all,
regardless of their religious, ethnic, or racial background.
Islam, on the other hand, permits its followers to resort to armed struggle to repel military
aggression, and indeed urge them to fight oppression, brutality, and injustice. The Qur'anic term
for such a struggle is jihad. Yet for many in the West, jihad is nothing less than a holy war,
i.e., a war to enforce one's religious beliefs on others. Most Muslims would reject the equation
of jihad with holy war, and would insist that a better description that captures the essence of
the Islamic concept of jihad is a just war. There are still small and vocal groups of Muslims who
conceive jihad as a divine license to use violence to impose their will on anyone they could brand
as an infidel, including fellow Muslims who may not fit their self-proclaimed categorization of
right and wrong.
The confusion about the meaning of jihad, and the debate over whether jihad is a "holy war" or a
"just war" is of great importance for Muslims and non-Muslim alike, particularly at this juncture
of human history when the world has once again rejected narrow nationalist politics and is moving
rapidly to embrace the notion of global peace and the notion of a multi-cultural and
multireligious society. It is, hence, very crucial to expose the confusion of those who insist
that jihad is a holy war and who place doubts on Islam's ability to support global peace. The
advocates of jihad as a holy war constitute today a tiny minority of intellectuals in both Muslim
societies and the West. Western scholars, who accept jihad as a holy war, feed on the position of
radical Muslim ideologues, as well as on generalization from the particular and exceptional to the
Given the fact that radical interpretations of Islam have had a disproportionate influence on the
way Islam's position regarding peace and war is perceived and understood, I intend to focus my
discussion on rebutting the propositions of the classical doctrine of jihad, embraced by radical
Muslims, and to show that these propositions were predicated on a set of legal rulings (ahkam
shar`iyyah) pertaining to specific questions which arose under particular historical
circumstances, namely, the armed struggle between the Islamic state during the `Abbasid era, and
the various European dynasties. I hope I will be able to demonstrate in the ensuing discussion
that classical jurists did not intend to develop a holistic theory with universal claims:
I further aspire to introduce a more comprehensive conception of war and peace which takes into
account the Qur'anic and Prophetic statements in their totality. This new conception is then used
to establish the fundamental objectives of war as well as the basic conditions of peace.
Misunderstanding the position of Islam vis-a-vis war and peace alluded to earlier is essentially a
problem of textural explication. It is a problem of how a Qur'anic text is and ought to be
interpreted. What rules did classical scholars use in deriving concepts and doctrines from Islamic
sources, and what rules should Muslims use today. And because the analysis must engage the
classical methods, there is no escaping from employing the terminology of Islamic jurisprudence,
better known as usul al fiqh. The legalistic and textual analysis of Islamic texts is, however,
joined by a historical and analytical discussion, aimed at examining the socio-political
conditions surrounding the armed jihad between the early Islamic state and the various political
communities it fought.
Classical Views and Historical Conditions
The doctrine of jihad was developed in the first three centuries of Islam, and was influenced by
the political structure of the day.
We argue in this chapter that the ideas and doctrines advanced by early Muslim jurists were
shaped, on the one hand, by the political organization of the Islamic polity, which recognized the
moral autonomy of the various religious and ethnic communities that comprised it, and, on the
other hand, by the imperial politics of Byzantine.
The classical doctrine of jihad, and its corollary theory of the Two Territories, are the products
of their time, and should be understood as such.
Classical Doctrine of jihad
Although the rules and principles pertaining to relations between Islamic and non-Islamic states
date back to the early Madinan period, the Islamic classical doctrine of war and peace was
developed by Muslim jurists (fuqaha') during the `Abbasid era. The tenets of the doctrine can be
found either in general law corpora under headings such as jihad, peace treaties, amdn, or in
certain special studies such as al Kharaj (land tax), al Siyar (biography/ history), etc. The work
of the Muslim jurists consists mainly of rules and principles concerning the initiation and
prosecution of war, rules and principles that have been predicated on a specific perception of the
role and objectives of the Islamic state in respect to other states.
Classical Muslim scholars often equated the notion of jihad with that of war. The conception of
jihad failed to capture the full range of its rich meaning, thereby reducing in effect the act of
jihad into the act of war. While the Qur'an often uses the word jihad in reference to the act of
war, it gives the term broader meaning. The term jihad was first introduced in the Makkan Qur'an
-verses (29: 6, 69) and (25: 52) - long before the Muslims were permitted to fight. In the Makkan
period, the term jihad was used in reference to the peaceful struggle in the cause of God:
And those who make jihad in Our (cause), We will certainly guide them to Our paths (29: 69)
And whoever makes jihad he does so for his own soul ... (29: 6)
Therefore, listen not to the unbelievers, but make jihad against them with the utmost
strenuousness, with (the Qur'an). (25: 52)
These three verses direct the Muslims to patiently persevere in the face of Quraysh persecution
and oppression, and to engage in dialogue and persuasion with the aim to reach out and expand the
truth of Islam. It follows that fighting and using military tactics is only one of several avenues
through which the duty of jihad can be discharged. The methodology of jihad includes, among other
things, peaceful resistance and perseverance against oppression and tyranny, if the general
conditions of the moment indicate that this approach is the most effective way to achieve the
objectives of the Muslim community.
The classical doctrine of war and peace is founded on three essential propositions: 
1. The world is divided into two territories: dar al Islam (the territory of Islam), the area
subject to Islamic law, and ddr al H, arb (the territory of war), the area not yet brought under
Islamic rule. (al Shafi'i) adds a third territory, dar al `ahd or the territory of covenant. His
third category however is superfluous, for he stipulates that a non-Islamic state may enter into a
peace treaty with the Islamic state only if it renders an annual tribute jizyah; this stipulation
puts him therefore on the same footing with other classical writers).
2. The dar al Islam is under permanent jihad obligation until the dar al Harb is reduced to
nonexistence. Jihad is, thus, the instrument of the Islamic state to propagandize Islam and expand
the territory wherein Islamic law is enforced.
3. Peaceful coexistence between dar al Islam and dar al Harb is possible only when the latter
renders an annual tribute of jizyah (poll tax) to the former.
The classical doctrine of war and peace has persisted over the centuries with few minor and
sporadic alterations. The tenets of this doctrine have been handed down unchallenged, despite
several grave flaws in its development and despite its violation of some essential Islamic
principles.  As will be argued later, this may, in part, be attributed to the political
conditions existing at the time the doctrine was articulated and developed; conditions which
prevailed throughout much of Muslim history.
According to the classical Muslim jurists, a permanent state of war exists between dar al Islam
and dar al Harb. War, however, is divided into two types. First, war of domination against
polytheists who have two options from which to choose: To either accept Islam or fight. Second,
war of reconciliation against the People of the Book who have three possibilities to face: To
accept Islam and, thus, be left alone, to pay the jizyah, in which case they are entitled to
retain their religion and enjoy Muslim protection, or to fight the Muslim army.  It is clear
that war, according to the foregoing view, is the normal state of things, and that peaceful
relations between the Islamic and non-Islamic states is contingent on the acceptance of Islam by
the non-Islamic states or their payment of annual tributes to the Islamic state.
War of Domination
The classical position, in regards to the principles of war and peace, has been primarily
predicated on three Qur'anic verses and on one hadith:
And fight them on until there is no more Fitnah (oppression or persecution) and religion 
should be only for God. (2: 193)
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the polytheists wherever you find
them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war), but if
they repent, and establish saldh (regular prayer) and pay their due Zakah, then open the way to
them, for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (9: 5)
Fight those who believe neither in God nor the last day, nor forbid not what was forbidden by God
and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the
Book (earlier revelations, i.e., the Jews and the Christians) until they pay the jizyah with
willing submission and feel subdued. (9: 29)
I have been commanded to fight the people until they say: "There is no god but God." When they say
that, then their lives and property are inviolable to me, except (in the case when) the (law of)
Islam allows it (to take them). They will be answerable to God 
The first verse, revealed in Madinah, has been construed by some Muslim jurists and commentators
as obligating Muslims to fight non-Muslims until the latter embrace Islam in the case of the
polytheists, or pay jizyah, in the case of the "People of the Book": (hukm `am)  which must be
interpreted in association with the particular rules revealed in the verses (9: 5) and (9: 29).
The verse has been interpreted, in practical terms, to mean that non Muslims should be either
forced to accept Islam or be dominated by the Islamic state. Yet the immediate and direct
interpretation is that the Muslims should fight non-Muslims until the latter cease attacking or
persecuting them.  The second interpretation is not only more plausible and coherent, but also
the only possible explication (ta'wil) of the verse when read in its context.
Fight in the cause, of God those who fight you, but do not commit aggression, for God loves not
aggressors. (2: 190)
And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for
persecution. is worse than slaughter . . . (2: 191)
But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (2: 192)
And fight them on until there is no fitnah and the religion is only for God, but if they cease,
let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression. (2: 193)
The verses begin by commanding Muslims to fight those who initiate war against them, emphasizing
that Muslims should never be the aggressive party. The term `udwan, translated here as
"aggression," is used in the Qur'an to indicate the instigation of hostility.  Some jurists
claim that the verse, "fight in the cause hostility"  Some jurists claim that the verse, "fight
in the cause of God who fight you. . ." is abrogated (mansukh) by the verses of Sarah Bara'ah, a
claim rejected by other jurists and scholars, including Ibn 'Abbas, `Umar ibn `Abd al `Aziz,
Mujahid, and others, who assert that it is firm rule (muhkam).  Al Tabari, who also holds that
the verse is not abrogated, chooses the interpretation of `Umar ibn `Abd al `Aziz, who construed
the verse to mean: "Do not fight those who do not fight you, meaning women, children, and monks."'
Although `Umar limits the application of this verse only to women, children, and monks, the verse
itself provides a general rule which includes those who do not fight or show hostility against
Muslims. As it will be argued later, the particularization (takhsis) made by `Umar, had not been
induced by the statement" of the text (`ibarah al nass), but rather by historical and practical
The next verse (2: 191) posits the reason for which the Muslims had been instructed to declare war
against the Pagan Arabs, i.e., to avenge the wrong inflicted by the latter who had fought the
Muslims, driven them out of their homes, and persecuted them for professing Islam.
The final verse (2: 193), prescribes the objective of war as the neutralization of the oppressive
forces that prevent people from choosing their belief and religion. It is clear from this verse
that war should be carried out against the individuals and institutions that practice oppression
and persecute people; not to force and coerce people into Islam. The same verse, therefore,
instructs the Muslims to terminate the fighting as soon as this goal has been achieved. In other
words, the previous four verses prescribe fighting only against oppressors and tyrants who use
force to prevent people from freely professing or practicing their religion.
Let us now examine the verses of Surah Bara'ah, which some Muslim jurists consider to be the final
words of the Qur'an concerning the principles governing the initiation of war vis-a-vis
non-Muslims. Jurists are divided as to whether these verses abrogate other Qur'anic verses that
address the initiation of war. Those who claim that the verses abrogate other verses on the
subject base their judgement on the grounds that these verses embody general rules which cancel
any other preceding rules. The abrogation, thus, is not predicated on textual evidence (nass), but
rather on reasoning and speculation. It follows that the question of abrogation is a matter of
opinion arid, as such, is subject to discussion and refutation. "If there exists a dispute among
the Muslim scholars as to whether a specific rule is subject to abrogation," al Tabari explains,
"we cannot determine that the rule is abrogated unless evidence is presented."  Needless to
say, al Tabari means by evidence, a statement provided by the Qur'an or the Sunnah in support of
the claim of abrogation. Otherwise the evidence is but another scholar's opinion.
The verses of Surah Bara'ah explicitly declare that the Muslims are to fight the polytheists until
they embrace Islam:
. . . slay the mushrikin (polytheists) wherever you find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and
lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish Salah and pay
Zakah, then open the way for them... (9: 5)
The word mushrikin (sing. mushrik) in this context indicates specifically the Pagan Arabs  as
it can be inferred from the first verse, which reads:
A declaration of disavowal from God and His Messenger to those of the mushrikin with whom you
contracted a Mutual alliance. (9: 1)
The reason for this all-out war against the Pagan Arabs was their continuous fight and conspiracy
against the Muslims to turn them out of Madinah as they had been turned out of Makkah, and their
infidelity to and disregard for the covenant they had made with the Muslims:
Why you not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and attacked
you first . . . (9:13)
It could be said that what matters here is not the specific circumstances of the revelation, but
the general implication of the text, as it is generally accepted in the principles of Islamic
jurisprudence (Usul al fiqh). The response to this argument is that the particularity (takhfis) of
the previous verse is determined not by the circumstance of its revelation, but by its intent
(hikmah al nass), which is also generally acceptable for limiting the application of the text. "It
should be noticed," `Abd al Wahhab Khallaf wrote, "that the intent of the text is to be
distinguished from the circumstance of its revelation, for Muslim jurisprudents are on consensus
(ijma`) that the intent of the text may be used for limiting its application, with no dissention
by any of them, while the circumstance of its revelation is what they refer to when they say:
"What matters is the general implication of the text, not the circumstance of its revelation."
Therefore, the verses 1-14 of Sarah Bara'ah can be applied only to Pagan Arabs who lived at the
time of the Prophet. The reason they had to be coerced into Islam was that they were hostile to
Muslims and had disregarded their oaths and plotted against the Islamic state in Madinah. This
understanding is reinforced by the verse (9: 4) exempting those who were faithful to their
treaties with the Muslims:
(But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom you have entered into covenant
and who have not subsequently failed you in aught; nor aided anyone against you. So fulfill your
agreements with them to the end of their term: For God loves the righteous. (9: 4)
The previous argument can be also applied to the hadi-th: "I have been commanded to fight people
until they declare that there is no god but God." The word "people" here implies the Pagan Arabs
only. For if the word is interpreted to be all-inclusive, the rule embodied in this hadith should
be also applied to the Byzantine Christians and the Persian Zoroastrians (majus). But since this
is not the case, the word "people" has an exclusive meaning and implicates only the Pagan Arabs.
This explication is supported by another hadith reported by `Abddullah ibn `Umar ibn al Khattab,
who narrated that the Prophet said:
I have been commanded to fight people until they declare that there is no deity but God and that
Muhammad is the Messenger of God, establish the salah (prayers), and pay the zakah. If they did
that, their lives and property are inviolable to me, except (in case when) the (law of) Islam
allows it (to take them). They will be answerable to God. 
Clearly the word "people" here implies only the Pagan Arabs who, according to Sarah Bara'ah are to
be forced to accept Islam. For obviously the word cannot be considered to include all people,
since that contradicts the Qur'anic directions, as well as the practice of the Prophet, which
permit the "People of the Book" to maintain their religion. Regarding the word "people" to be
all-inclusive will, therefore, violate the provisions that have been given to the "People of- the
Book" by the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Abu Hanifah and his pupil AbuYusuf contend that only Pagan Arabs are to be coerced into Islam. In
his book Al-Kharaj, AbuYusuf relates that al Hasan ibn Muhammad said: "The Prophet, peace be on
him, consumated a peace treaty with the Zoroastrians of al Hajar on the terms that they pay
jizyah, but did not permit (Muslims) to take their women in marriage or to eat their slaughtered
animals."  He also stated that jizyah may be collected from all polytheists, such as
Zoroastrians (Mauas), Pagans, Fire and Stone Worshipers, Sabians (Sabiiyin), but not from
apostates or Pagan Arabs, for the latter group are to be coerced into Islam.  Al Shafi'i and
Malik also contend that jizyah can be taken from polytheists. 
War of Reconciliation
We have seen in the foregoing discussion that the war of domination in which people are to be
coerced into Islam involved a particular ruling (hukm khass) limited to the Pagan Arabs, for their
hostility and infidelity. Most leading jurists, including Abu Hanifah and his two renowned
students AbuYusuf and Muhammad ibn al Hasan, as well as al Shafi'i and Malik, advocate only the
war of reconciliation, in which the "People of the Book" and non-Arab polytheists can enter into
peaceful treaties with Muslims, provided they pay an annual tribute of jizyah to the Islamic
state. The war of reconciliation is therefore considered by these jurists as a general rule
applicable to all non-Muslims. Muslim jurists, thus, divide the world into two territories, dar al
Islam and dar al Harb, and declare that a permanent state of war exists between the two until dar
al Harb is annexed to dar al Islam. This understanding is founded on verse 29 of Surah Bara'ah.
Fight those who believe not in God nor the last day, nor forbid what God and His Messenger
forbade, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the "People of the Book,"
until they pay the jizyah with willing submission and feel themselves subdued. (9: 29)
The first outstanding remark about the verse is that it is not all inclusive, and, thus, does not
render a general rule. The verse posits four criteria for those who are to be fought among the
"People of the Book": Those who do not believe in God, do not believe in the last day, do not
uphold that which is forbidden by God and his Messenger, and do not acknowledge the religion of
truth. The verse, obviously, has not been phrased in away that would implicate the "People of the
Book" as a whole,  but in away that sets aside a particular group of the "People of the Book."
The general rule (hukm `am) was derived by the Muslim jurists by explication de texte (ta'wil al
nass). Al Mawardi, for example, implicates the "People of the Book" by arguing:
As to the saying of God the Almighty "those who believe not in God," (the statement is inclusive
of the "People of the Book") because, though acknowledging the Oneness of God, their belief (in
God) could be refuted by one of two , explications: First, (by saying that) they do not believe in
the Book of God, which is the Qur'an. Second, (by saying that they do not believe in the
prophethood of Muhammad, peace be on him, for acknowledging the Prophets is part of the belief in
God who commissioned them. 
It is clear that al Mawardi's reasoning stems from neither the letter of the text, nor from its
spirit. Rather, the argument presented by al Mawardi, as well as other classical jurists, has been
influenced by the factual circumstances and practical conditions, a question discussed in some
From the foregoing discussion we can conclude that the phraseology of the verse (9: 29) provides a
particular rule (hukm khass); i.e., war in this verse is prescribed against a particular group of
the "People of the Book" because of the four criteria cited above. We can also conclude that the
extension of the application of these criteria to the "People of the Book" as a whole is not based
on textual evidence (nass) but on reasoning and argumentations; and that the interpretation
provided by classical jurists is debatable. Nevertheless, I will not attempt here to reinterpret
the verse in consideration, nor will I go into a lengthy discussion as to whether the four
criteria may implicate the "People of the Book" in general, because it will be shown later that
the Prophet, as well as the first generations of Muslims, did not extend these criteria to the
"People of the Book" as a whole. Instead, I will elaborate on the condition, which obligates the
Muslims to terminate their offensive against the "People of the Book": "Until they pay jizyah with
willing submission and feel themselves subdued."
Jizyah has not been levied on the "People of the Book" for the purpose of increasing the income of
the Muslim state or promoting the wealth of the Muslim community. Nor is it levied to place
financial burden on non-Muslim individuals and force them to accept Islam; for the amount of
jizyah is very minimal and levied only on financially capable males, while exempting women,
children; monks, or poor non-Muslims.  Rather, jizyah attained historically a symbolic meaning
as it aimed at subduing hostile states and oppressive regimes so as to assure Muslims that they
can promote Islam in that community, and to assure non-Muslims that they can profess Islam without
being persecuted or harassed. "The purpose of jizyah," al Sarakhsi proclaims, "is not the money,
but rather the invitation for Islam in the best manner. Because by establishing a peace treaty
(with non Muslims) war ceases, and security is assured for the peaceful (non-Muslim), who,
consequently, has the opportunity to live among the Muslims, experience first-hand the beauty of
Islam, or receives admonition, which could lead him to embrace Islam." 
In other words, jizyah was intended to assure freedom of statement for Muslims to promote Islam
in non-Muslim territories, and freedom of belief to those who may choose to embrace Islam.
Because jizyah was aimed at turning hostile territories into friendly ones, the Muslims did not
collect jizyah from those who expressed a friendly attitude toward them, or entered a mutual
alliance with them, pledging thereby their military support. Al Tabari, for example, reported in
his treatise on history that Suayd ibn Muqrin entered into an agreement with a non-Muslim
community which read in part: "Whoever of you provides services to us will get his reward rather
than paying jizyah, and you are secured in your lives, property, and religion, and no one can
change the provisions of this agreement.  Suraqah ibn `Amr, likewise, signed a treaty with the
Armenians in 22 AH/642 AC, in which the latter, were exempted from paying jizyah for supporting
the Muslims militarily.' Habib ibn Muslimah al Fahri, the deputy of Abu-`Ubaydah, also signed a
treaty with the Antakians in which the latter were exempted from jizyah in return for services and
help rendered to the Muslims.' It was also reported in Futah al Buldan that, "Mu'awiyah ibn Abi
Sufyan signed a treaty with the Armenians in which the institution of religion, the political
order, and the judicial system of the latter were left in tact, and the Armenians were further
released from jizyah duties for three years; after that they could either pay an amount of jizyah
as they may choose, or, if they did not wish to pay jizyah, prepare fifteen thousand warriors to
help the Muslims and to protect the Armenian land. Mu'awiyah pledged to provide logistical
support, should they be attacked by the Byzantines". 
It is clear from the foregoing examples that the early Muslims regarded jizyah as a measure for
neutralizing hostile political communities and opening their territories to Muslims, and not a
measure for dominating them or placing financial burdens on them. The previous perception of the
real intent of jizyah is demonstratable, in a yet clearer fashion, in the friendly relations
between the Islamic state and Ethiopia during the early Islamic epochs.
Peaceful Coexistence: Abbyssinia and Islam
The relationship between Abbyssinia and the early Islamic state is an excellent case study for
rebutting the classical conception of the two territories (dar al Islam and dar al harb), which
calls for a permanent war against non-Muslim political communities until they accept Islam or pay
jizyah. Malik ibn Anas, the founder of the` Maliki school of law, advised that the Muslims should
not conquer Abbyssinia predicating his opinion on a, hadith of the Prophet: "Leave the
Abbyssinians in peace so long as they leave you in peace." He acknowledged that he was not sure of
the authenticity of the statement, but said: "People still avoid attacking them. " 
Abbyssinia had maintained its Christian identity long after Islam was established in Arabia and
North Africa. Few Muslim families could be found in the fourth Hijri century.  From the
beginning, Abbyssinians showed their good will to the early Muslims who, escaping the persecution
of Quraysh, had sought refuge in Abbyssinia. .The Muslim emigres were welcomed by the Abbyssinians
and were further protected from their persecutors who sent a delegation to bring the Muslim
escapees back home.
Good relations between Abbyssinia and the Islamic state continued, the former being the only
nation to acknowledge Islam at that time.  The peaceful relationship between Abbyssinia and
the Islamic state is very significant for rebutting the concept of the two territorial division of
the world, and its corollary conception of a permanent state of war which does not permit the
recognition of any non Muslim state as a sovereign entity and insists that the latter should
always pay a tribute to the Islamic state. For although Abbyssinia had never been a Muslim nation,
it was recognized by the early Islamic state as an independent state that could be let alone
without imposing any kind of tax on it or forcing it into the orbit of the Islamic state.
Obviously, Abbyssinia could not be considered apart of the territory of Islam (dar al Islam), for
Islamic rule had never been exacted therein;  nor would it be considered apart of the
territory of war (dar al Harb), since there had been no attempt to force it into the pale of Islam
or to declare a permanent war against it. The only satisfactory explanation of the peculiar
position of Abbyssinia is that the doctrine of the two territories was founded on a fragile
Some Muslim sources claim that al Najashi, the king of Abbyssinia during the time of the Prophet,
had embraced Islam after receiving the invitation of the Prophet.  Ibn al Athir, for instance,
wrote in this regard: "When al Najashi received the letter of the Prophet, he believed in him,
following his (instructions), and embraced Islam in the presence of Ja'far ibn Abu-Talib, then
sent sixty Abbyssinians to the Prophet headed by his son; the group had drowned however while
sailing (to Madimah)."  The story about al Najashi's accepting Islam did not affect the status
of Abbyssinia as a territory in which Islam did not rule, and, consequently, should be considered,
according to the definition of classical writers, a territory of war. 
 Muhammad Talaat al Ghunaimi, The Muslim conception of International Law and the Western
Approach (Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff/fhe Hague, 1399/1978). p. 156; and Ibn Rushd, 'Chapter on
Jihad;' in Bidayah al Mujtahid wa Nihayah al Muqtasid; trans. Rudolph Peters in Jihad in Mediareview
and Modern Islam (Belgium: E. J. Brill, 1398/1977), p. 24.
 The doctrine has been criticized by some contemporary Muslim writers, such as Muhammad Abu
Zahrah, Mahmud Shaltut, and Muhammad al Ghunaimi.
 Al Ghunaimi, pp. 138-39; and Ibn Rushd, pp. 24-25, and 61.
 Religion is the translation of the Arabic term al din which also connotes judgement,
liability, compliance, and indebtedness.
 Zakiyy al din al Mundhiri, ed., Mukhtasar Sahih Muslim, edited by Nasir al din al Albani, 2nd
ed (Al Maktab al Islami wa Dar al `Arabiyyah, 1392/ 1972), p. 8
 Ibn Rushd, p 24.
 Muhammad ibn Jarir al Tabari, Tafsir al Tabari (Cairo: Dar al Ma'arif, n.d.), Vol. 3, pp
572-74; and Fakhr al din al Razi, Al Tafsir at Kabir (Cairo: `Abd al Rahim Muhammad,. 1938), Vol
5, p 145.
 This meaning is demonstratable in verse (2:194): " . . whoever then commits aggression against
you, commit yet aggression against him accordingly . . ."
 Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Qurtubi, Jami` Ahkam al Qur'an (Cairo: Matba'ah Dar al Kutub al
Masriyyah, 1354/1935), Vol. 2, p. 348.
 According to Islamic jurisprudence, in the absence of other supportive evidence (qara'in),
the meaning rendered by the statement of the text (`ibarah al nas) prevails over any other meaning
extracted by indication (isharah), implication (dalalah), or inference (mugtada) of the text. The
previous explication is therefore obscure and open to question, for it unjustifiably suppresses
(tu'attil) the direct meaning of the verse. See `Abd al Wahhab Khallaf, 'Ilm Usul al Fiqh (Al Dar
al Kuwaytiyyah, 1388/1968), pp. 143-53; and `Abd al Malik ibn `Abdullah al Juwayni, AI Burhan fi
Usul al Fiqh. ed. `Abd al `Aziz al Dib (Cairo: Dar al Ansar, A.H. 1400/1979), Vol. I, p. 551.
 Al Tabari, Tafsir, vol 3, p. 285.
 Abu Hanifah, al Shafi'i, and Malik distinguish Arab Pagans from nonArab polytheists, and
consider that the verses of Surah Bara'ah are applicable only to the former. See `Ah ibn Muhammad
al Mawardii, Al Ahkam al Sultaniyyah (Cairo: . Dar al Fikr, 1404/1983), p. 124; Ibn Rushd, p. 24;
and Muhammad ibn Idris al Shafi'i, Al Risalah, ed Ahmad Shakir (n.p.,.AH 1309/1891), pp.430032.
 Khallaf, p. 191.
 Al Mundhin, p 9.
 AbuYusuf, Kitab al Kharaj (Cairo: al Tiba'ah al Muniriyyah, 1397 AH/I976 AC), p 9
 lbid., p 139.
 Ibn Rushd, pp 23-24.
 Such as: fight the "People of the Book" until they pay jizyah . . . , or any other statement
which is phrased in away that would include the "People of the Book" as a whole; i.e , the
structure of the sentence would be "fight those who. . . ; or "fight the "People of the Book" who.
. ." rather than "fight those who. . . of the "People of the Book" . . ." For the article min
which has been translated as "of' is usually employed, according to the usage of Arabic, for
particularization and separating one group of things or people from another; see al-Juwayni, Vol
1, p. 191.
 Al Mawardi, p. 124.
 Ibid pp. 125-6
 Kamil Salamah al Duqs, al 'Ilaqat al Dawliyyah fi al Islam (Jeddah: Dar al Shuruq,
 '' Ibid., p 302.
 Ibid. citing Tarikh al Tabari, vol. 3, p. 236.
 Al Daqs, p 303, citing Futuh al Buldan, p. 166.
 Al Daqs, p. 308.
 Ibn Rushd, p 11; Majid Khadduri, War and Peace in the Law of Islam (N.Y: AMS Press, 1400
AH/I979 AC), p. 256; and Fathi al Ghayth, Al Islam wal Habashah `Abra al Tarikh (Cairo: Maktabah
al Nahdah al Masnyyah, n.d.), p. 57, citing Al Sirah al Halabiyah; vol 3, p294.
 T W Arnold, The Preaching of Islam (London: Constable and Company, 1332 AH/1913 AC), p. 113.
 Ibid. , pp 113-4; Muhammad Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, trans Ismail al Faruqi (North
American Trust Publications, 1397 AH/I976 AC), pp. 97-101; and Ibn Hisham, Sirat Ibn Hisham, in
Mukhtasar Sirah ibn Hisham, ed.'Abdal Salam Harun (Beirut: al Majma` al `Imi al `Arabi al Islami,
nd.), pp 81-87.
 The classical definition of dar al Islam, which was formulated by early Muslim jurists, is
the territories in which the Islamic law is enforced. See al Daqs, pp 126-28, Khadduri, War and
Peace, p. 62; and al Ghunaimi pp. 155-8. Some jurists, such as al Shawkani, expand the definition
of the territory of Islam to include any area where Muslims can safely reside "even if the
territory is not under Muslim rule," quoted in al Ghunaimi, pp 157-58.
 Zahir Riyad, Al Islam fi Ethyubiya. (Cairo: Dar al Ma'rifah, 1384 AH/1964 AC), p. 46
 Ibn al Athir, Al Kamil fi al Tar'ikh (Cairo: al Tiba'ah al Munniyyah, 1349 AEV1930 AC), vol.
2, p 145.
 Majid Khadduri translated the text of a letter that al Najashi allegedly sent to the Prophet.
The letter reads: In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. To Muhammad, the Apostle
of God, peace be on you. May God shelter thee under His compassion, and give thee blessings in
abundance. There is no god but God, who has brought me to Islam. Thy letter I have read. What thou
hast said about Jesus is the right belief, for he hath said nothing more than that. I testify my
belief in the King of heaven and of earth. Thine advice I have pondered over deeply... I Testify
that thou art the Apostle of God, and I have sworn this in the presence of Ja'far, and have
acknowledged Islam before him. I attach myself to the worship of the Lord of the worlds, O
Prophet. I send my son as my envoy to the holiness of thy mission. I testify thy words are true.
(Quoted in Khadduri, War and Peace, pp. 205-206).
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