Chapter 11: What is Islam by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry



  Next Chapter Previous Chapter

All Books

What is Islam

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry


International Relations

[Back to the start of this chapter]

Division of the world

Muslim political thinkers divide the world into three types of countries or lands: (1) Dar-ul-Islam (Muslim lands); (2) Dar-ul-Sulh (lands or countries having peace with Muslim lands) and (3) Dar-ul-Harb (countries at war with Muslim countries).

Dar-ul-Islam comprises Muslim country or countries where Muslims are brothers of each other and, therefore, friendly relations exit between them. Dar-ul-Sulh are generally those non-Muslim countries with which the Islamic state has got treaty relations and hence the relations with such countries are governed by the terms of the treaty. Dar-ul-Harb are those countries which have no treaty relations with the Islamic state. Relations with such countries would normally depend on their attitude towards their Muslim minorities and towards the Islamic state.

The concept of Islamic country, hostile country and allied country has been developed perhaps from verse 92 of chapter 4 of the Holy Qur’an which prescribes punishment for the offence of murder. It reads:

“It is not for a believer to kill a believer (it be) by mistake. He who hath killed a believer by mistake must set free a believing slave, and pay the blood-money to the family of the slain, unless they remit it as a charity. If he (the victim) be of a people hostile unto you, and he is a believer, then (the penance is) to set free a believing slave. And if he cometh of a folk between whom and you there is a covenant, then the blood-money must be paid unto his folk and also a believing slave must be set free………” (4:92)

Thus the above mentioned verse clearly refers to three types of regions or people. If the murdered believer has been killed by mistake by a believer, of course in Islamic region, then the murderer will free a believing slave and would pay blood-money to the family of the murdered. If the murdered hails from a hostile country or hostile nation, then the penalty would be to set free a believing slave. And if the murdered is from an  allied nation or country with which Islamic state has treaty relationship, then blood-money would be paid to that nation and a believing slave would be set free. This verse, in a way, approves the division of the world into above mentioned three categories which is made by the Islamic Jurists.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

Principles of foreign policy of Islamic state

Fundamental principles laid down by Islam for the guidance of the Islamic state in its foreign policy, as briefly stated, are: promotion of international peace and security; promotion of brotherhood and friendship; establishment of justice and equity in international dealings, and promotion of cooperation between nations.

We shall now discuss relations of the Islamic state with Muslim countries and its relations with non-Muslim countries along with some other relevant topics.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

Relations with Muslim countries

All Muslims, wherever they live, are one community and are brothers-in-faith. They form one brotherhood bound by the ties of common religion and so geographical boundaries or other artificial barriers cannot separate one brother from the other. Islam has established on very strong footing the solidarity and fraternity among all the Muslims and has abolished all the distinctions on the basis of race, colour, language, blood or nationality. The concept of Islamic brotherhood makes all the Muslims, men and women, to whatever nation, race, colour, rank or status they may belong, equal in rights and obligations.

The above-mentioned teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah are not only applicable to the Muslims at individual level but are also applicable to the Muslim countries at international level. A Muslim country, therefore, would regard other Muslims countries as brothers and would extend every sort of help to his brothers in every field of life such as defence, economic development, education, finance, social sector, etc. The Islamic state would live in peace with the other Islamic state or states and would resolve its differences peacefully with her Muslim sister through mutual negotiations or through arbitration. If there is war or any dispute between two brotherly Muslim countries, it is the bounden duty of the other Muslim countries to arrange reconciliation and peace between the two. But if the aggressor among the combatants is not ready to reconcile, the other Muslim countries would help the one wronged by the aggressor till the aggressor is forced to come to terms.

The verses of the Qur’an and traditions of Muhammad which establish Islamic brotherhood and teach the Muslims to remain united and solve their disputes mutually are:

  • And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger. As for these, Allah will have mercy on them. Lo! Allah is Mighty, wise. (At-Taubah 9:71)

  • And if two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them. And if one party of them doth wrong to the other, fight ye that which doth wrong till it return unto the ordinance of Allah; then, if it return, make peace between them justly, and act equitably. Lo! Allah loveth the equitable. The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren and observe your duty to Allah that haply ye may obtain mercy.  (Al-Hujurat 49:9-10)

  • Nu’man-b-Bashir reported that the Messenger of Allah said: you will see the believers in their mutual kindness, love and sympathy just like one body. When a limb complains, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.  (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Abu Zarr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Whose departs from the united body even a hand’s breadth has indeed shaken off the rope of Islam from his neck.  (Ahmad, Abu Daud)

[Back to the start of this chapter]

Relations with non-Muslim Countries

Relations between the Islamic state and a non-Muslim allied state (Mu’ahid) would be governed strictly in accordance with the terms of treaty or alliance or pact executed between them. Terms of the agreement would be fulfilled in all circumstances and at all cost by the Islamic state and all the rights and obligations flowing from the treaty relationship would be duly honoured.

Islam is a religion of peace and it preaches brotherhood and fraternity. So the relations of an Islamic state with non-Muslim countries would be based on general principle of ‘friendship towards all and malice towards none’ and ‘peace with all and war against none’. Those non-Muslim countries which are not allied with Islamic state through any treaty or covenant need not feel uneasy about the foreign policy of the Islamic state as the policy of such state is not based on any aggressive designs. Rather the foreign policy of an Islamic state is based on friendship and cooperation in all matters of common interest. It would cooperate with those countries which are promoting the cause of peace, justice and human welfare. The Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, enjoins upon its followers: “…..Help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression……” (5:2). Acting upon this principle, the Islamic state would extend its cooperation to all the like-minded states who are working in the domain of international peace and security and are also working  to achieve human betterment through cooperation in the field of economic development, education, science and technology and social sectors.

Islam enjoins justice and fairness in human dealings. The Islamic state would base its foreign relations with aligned and non-aligned non-Muslim countries on the values of justice and equity.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

Fulfilment of Treaties

Treaties are made between the states or nations sometimes to bring war or hostilities to an end and sometimes to settle terms of peace after the termination of a war. Treaties are even made to resolve certain disputes peacefully and to avoid possible wars. Between friendly or like-minded states, treaties are made to form alliances against a common enemy or to keep peace and security in a certain region. These days treaties of mutual cooperation in economic field, trade and commerce, education, science and technology, political and diplomatic relations, etc. are also being made. In this section however, we shall be dealing only with the treaties relating to war and peace.

Islam means ‘peace’ and it stands for peace. Its followers are always ready to incline towards peace as the Holy Qur’an enjoins upon them: “And if they incline to peace, incline thou also to it, and trust in Allah. Lo! He is the Hearer, the Knower.” (8:61).

Islam attaches as much importance to treaties, pacts and alliances in international relations as is the importance attached by it to the promises, covenants and pledges in individual and personal human relationships. The Qur’an enjoins upon its followers to fulfil their promises and pledges. According to the Qur’an, the fulfillment of a covenant is a great human virtue and so it showers its admiration very liberally upon those who honour their given word at all costs. Similarly, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in his words and deeds, has enjoined upon the believers to fulfil their promises and agreements in individual as well as collective dealings.

The Islamic state, like individuals, is duty-bound to fulfil its treaties, alliances and words of honour given by it to foreign countries. It is one of the fundamental principles of the foreign policy pursued by an Islamic state to abide by its international commitments in all circumstances and at every cost. To comply with the terms and obligations of a treaty amounts to keeping duty to Allah. The Holy Qur’an enjoins the Islamic state to honour its pledges even with its enemy states and not to be the first one in breaking a pledge as it is great sin. The Islamic state can break a treaty or pledge only when the other party to the treaty or pledge has been the first to break it.

Islam gives so much importance to the sanctity of treaties that sometimes even the obligations of Muslim brotherhood can be overridden to honour the given words. We read in the Qur’an “…… And those who believed but did not leave their homes, ye have no duty to protect them till they leave their homes, but if they seek help from you in the matter of religion then it is your duty to help (them) except against a folk between whom and you there is a treaty. Allah is Seer of what ye do”. (8:72). According to this verse, it is the bounden duty of the Islamic state to help its Muslim brothers living in another state who are being oppressed and who ask for such help. However, help cannot be given to them if they are citizens of a state with which the Islamic state has made a treaty. Thus observance of international obligations in such a situation would be more imperative for the Islamic state than honouring its religious ties with the oppressed Muslim minority.    

About the nature and terms of treaties and about the procedure and effects of such treaties, no detailed rules have been made in the Holy Qur’an obviously for the reasons that the same are to be made according to the demands of the occasion. In the practice of the Holy Prophet, however, we find a lot of guidance about peace treaties as he himself concluded many treaties with the tribes and nations around him.

Traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which enjoin the Muslims to fulfil their promises, covenants, pledges and treaties are:

  • Anas reported: Hardly did the Messenger of Allah address us without saying: There is no faith in him who has got no trust, and no religion for him who has got no promise. (Baihaqi)

  • Bara’a-b-A’jeb reported that the Messenger of Allah made treaty with the Quraish on the Day of Hudaibiyyah over three things: On conditions that whoso of the polytheists would come to him, he would return him to them, but whoever of the Muslims comes to them, they would not return him; and on condition that he would come to Makkah next year and would stay there for three days, and would not enter there except by sheathing lances, swords and bows and like that. Then Abu Jandal came to him while he was bound in fetters. So he returned him to them. (Bukhari, Muslim)

  • Solaim-b-A’mer reported that there was a treaty between Muawiyah and the Byzantines and he was going towards their lands till when the covenant came to an end, he attacked them. A man came riding on a horse (or a pack horse) and said: Allah is greatest, Allah is greatest, fidelity and no treachery. They reconnoitered when lo! he was Amr-b-Abasah. Muawiyah asked him about that. He said: I heard the Messenger of Allah say: Whoso has got a treaty between him and a people must not loosen the treaty, nor make it tight till its term expires or he is thrown to them on an equal footing. He said: Then Muawiyah returned with the people. (Tirmizi, Abu Daud) 

[Back to the start of this chapter]

Help to oppressed Muslims living in non-Muslim Countries

We have already studied the aims and objectives of Jihad and have also analyzed the reasons for which the Muslims are permitted to wage Jihad. Thus we know that one of the noble causes for which Jihad is waged is the help to oppressed and persecuted Muslims living in non-Muslim lands. In other words one of the aims of Jihad is that the persecuted Muslims living in Dar-ul-Harb be helped and be liberated from the oppression of the non-Muslims. The Qur’an inspires its followers to help such Muslims when it enjoins: how should ye not fight for the cause of Allah and of the feeble among men and of the women and the children who are crying: Our Lord! Bring us forth from out this town of which the people are oppressor! Oh, give us from Thy presence some protecting friend! Oh, give us from Thy presence some defender! (4:75).

However, help can be given only to those persecuted Muslims who are living in such countries with whom the Islamic state has no alliance or treaty of peace and friendship. But if a treaty exits between the Islamic state and a non-Muslim country which is oppressing its Muslim minority, then the Islamic state is not permitted to help the oppressed Muslims. The Qur’an has issued very clear directions on this point in its verses 72 and 73 of chapter 9. The question arises that in such case what should be done? The answer is that the Islamic countries should use their good offices because of their treaty relations in persuading the concerned non-Muslim country to spare its Muslim minority. The non-Muslim country should be pressurized to treat its Muslim citizens kindly, grant them fundamental human rights and civil liberties, and accept their genuine demands. But if the non-Muslim country does not give up its oppression, the Islamic countries can break their treaties after a due ultimatum and can directly intervene in favour of their oppressed brothers to help them out of the miserable plight.

In the present world many Muslim communities living in non-Muslim countries are being persecuted. Muslims are being oppressed in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Philippine, Sinkiang, Bosnia, Kosovo, Arakan, Eritrea. But the Islamic countries cannot intervene directly in their favour and wage Jihad against their persecutors because the Islamic countries have diplomatic relations with oppressor non-Muslim countries. In many cases they have also direct or indirect treaty relations with such countries. Thus they are not in a position to help the oppressed Muslims by physical force until and unless they break their treaties and severe their ties with the concerned non-Muslim states which is not desirable in the present situation of the world. So what they should do is that they should unitedly exercise their pressure in persuading countries like Israel, India, Russia, Serbia, Burma and Ethiopia to cease their oppressive policies and grant their Muslim citizens fundamental rights and accept their genuine demands. Good offices of the leading states of the world, United Nations and international forums can also be utilized to help the persecuted Muslims. The moral and political support and economic assistance can be extended to the oppressed Muslim communities. Hospitality should be shown to the Muslim immigrants from such places.

[Back to the start of this chapter]


One way of helping the oppressed Muslims living in non-Muslim countries is, as we have seen, to wage Jihad for liberating them from the yoke of their oppressors, while the other way is to welcome them in one’s land if they are expelled or if they opt themselves to migrate. Islam teaches those Muslims who are being persecuted in non-Muslim lands to migrate in the path of Allah and seek asylum in safer places where they could live in peace and practice their faith freely. There are many rewards from Allah, the Almighty, for those who migrate in His way and for those who offer hospitality to the immigrants.

The first ever migration of the oppressed Muslims that took place was that of the Makkan Muslims who migrated to Abyssinia, a Christian country around the year 616 or 617 A.D. To escape from the persecution by the pagan Quraish, the Muslims migrated to the said country, with the permission of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The ruler of Abyssinia not only accorded them a kind treatment but also refused the request made by a high-powered delegation of the Quraish to extradite the Muslim refugees. The Prophet was so much pleased by the hospitality shown by the Abyssinian ruler (Negus) to his followers that he offered funeral prayer of the Negus in absentia when the latter died.

Second migration of the oppressed followers of Islam, and this time in the company of the Prophet himself, was from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622 A.D. This is very important event in the history of Islam and also that of the world as Muslim Calendar of Higerah commenced from this event. The Muslims of Madinah welcomed their brothers from Makkah and showed them the most excellent hospitality which has become a model to emulate for the later generations. The Qur’an praises their hospitality and Allah showered His blessings upon the Helpers (Ansar) of Madinah and the immigrants (Muhajirin) of Makkah.

[Back to the start of this chapter]

  Next Chapter Previous Chapter

All Books


The pages of this website are optimized to be viewed by Java script enabled Microsoft Internet Explorer® version 6 or later (only), with screen resolution of 800 by 600 pixels.

Copyright ©2003 by the author, Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry

Rights of the book are reserved with the Author. However, you are allowed to reproduce, translate, print or publish this book with prior permission of the author and without any royalty or fee. The book must be published without any change in its matter or authorship. It will be highly kind of you if you post some copies of the publication to the author for record. For more details please click here.

This page updated on October 19, 2003. Created with Microsoft FrontPage® 2003.