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Dynamics of Islamic Jihad

By Dr. Muhammad Sharif Chaudhry

CHAPTER 11

ISLAM'S CONCEPT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

  1. Basic Principles

    1. Promotion of Peace and Security

    2. Promotion of Brotherhood and Fraternity

    3. Establishment of Justice and Equity

    4. Promotion of International Cooperation

  2. Relations of Islamic State with Foreign Countries

    1. Relations With Muslim Countries

    2. Relations With Non-Muslim Allied Countries

    3.  Relations With Non-Muslim Countries Without Treaty

Deeply connected with Jihad is the concept of international relations as the questions of war and peace, aggression and defence, enmity and friendship all are dependent on policy and perception which an Islamic state follows in its relations with other nations. In this chapter, therefore, we propose to discuss Islam’s concept of international relations and the foreign policy followed by the Islamic state.

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I- Basic Principles

Basic principles of Islam’s concept of international relations as laid down by the jurists or in other words the fundamental principles of policy which guide the relations of an Islamic state with other countries are :

1.       Promotion of Peace and Security: As the very word implies, Islam means ‘peace’ and ‘security’. It also means ‘submission’ to Allah and hence salvation. Islam is thus, a religion of peace and, no wonder the basic principle of the Islamic state in its relations with foreign countries is ‘peace with all and war against none’ or, in other words, ‘friendship towards all and malice towards none’. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, does not allow an aggressive war, it allows to take up arms only as a last resort in self-defence. The Qur’an enjoins upon its followers: “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors”. (2:190). History of Islam is witness to the fact that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions resorted to fight only when they had been wronged, persecuted and even expelled from their homes by the enemies of Islam. The Qur’an mentions this fact when it says: “Sanction is given unto those who fight because they have been wronged; and Allah is indeed Able to give them victory” (22:39). Although Islam, like any other religion or ideology, wants its propagation with the view to bring to its fold as many adherents as possible, but this is achieved through peaceful preaching and not through aggressive means. Thus, the religion of peace does not allow war for its preaching as well. The Qur’an says: “There is no compulsion in religion”……(2:256). At another place, it exhorts the Prophet of Islam to say to disbelievers”……Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion”. (109:6).

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2.       Promotion of Brotherhood and Fraternity: Islam believes in the brotherhood of human beings and al-Qur’an emphasises common ancestry of man. There is no denial of the fact that all human beings belong to the common stock as they come of the same parents Adam and Eve. The Qur’an brings into focus this fact of common parentage and hence brotherhood in its following verses:

(i)   O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women……” –––(4:1)

(ii)   And He it is Who hath produced you from a single being, and (hath given you) a habitation and a repository…… –––(6:98)

Since human beings belong to the same human stock and have common ancestry, all of them are like brothers and sisters. Like children of the same parents, they are equal having equal rights and duties to each other. Thus, Islam promotes universal brotherhood and fraternity not only among the individual human beings but also among the peoples and nations. Hence the second fundamental principle of the foreign policy of the Islamic state is to promote brotherhood and fraternity among the nations of the world.

Akin to the principle of brotherhood is the principle of equality as the fact of common parentage of all the human beings leads to establish that human beings are not only brothers of each other but also are equal to each other.

The Prophet of Islam, in his famous address delivered before a large gathering on the occasion of his farewell pilgrimage, had declared that all human beings are sons of Adam and Adam was created out of clay. No white one has superiority over a black one nor an Arab over a non-Arab. All are equal and in the sight of Allah he is best one who is most excellent in conduct.

This principle of equality of all nations and no discrimination between them on any prejudice is strictly followed by the Islamic state in its foreign policy.

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3.       Establishment of Justice and Equity: Islam emphasises justice and equity among the human beings. Dispensation and establishment of justice in human dealings is its fundamental objective. The Qur’an exhorts its followers: “Lo! Allah enjoineth justice and kindness…..”(16:90). Fair play and justice is to be administered among all human beings without any fear or favour. The Qur’an stresses this principle when it lays down: O ye who believe! Be ye staunch in justice, witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or your parents or your kindred, whether (the case be of) a rich man or a poor man, for Allah is nearer unto both……” (4:135). This rule of justice and fair dealings would not only govern the relations of one individual with the other but would also govern the relations of one state with the other. Thus, one of the most important principles of the foreign policy of the Islamic state would be to promote the cause of justice in international affairs and establish justice in its relations with the foreign states. The Qur’an, clearly hints at this principle when it states: "“ ye who believe! Be steadfast witness for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that ye deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty.…..” (5:8). Therefore, justice in foreign relations is to be followed, and even hatred or enmity with another state or people can not be a valid cause for an Islamic state to deal unjustly with that state or people.

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4.       Promotion of International Co-operation: The last, but not the least important, fundamental principle of the Islamic state is to cooperate for good, for righteousness, for peace, for justice and fair play; but not to cooperate for sin, for evil and for transgression’. The Holy Qur’an ordains: “……help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is severe in punishment"” (5:2). This Qur'’nic principle applies not only in individual dealings but also in international human relationships. Acting upon this guideline of Islam, the Islamic state would extend its cooperation to all those countries who are working for international peace and security; who are fighting evil, ignorance, poverty and disease, and who are promoting the well-being and betterment of humanity. However, no cooperation would be extended to tyrants, aggressors, and disturbers of peace and security, persecutors of minorities and violators of human rights.

Comparing the Islamic concept of international relations with that of other medieval civilizations a prominent Muslim scholar Dr. Hamidullah writes:

“The basic principle of the system of international relations in Islam, in the words of jurists, is that “the Muslims and non-Muslims are equal (Sawa’) in respect of the sufferings of this world”. In ancient times, the Greeks, for instance, had the conception that there was an international law which regulated the relations amongst only the Greek city-states; as for the Barbarians, i.e., non-Greeks, nature had intended them, as was said by Aristotle, to be the slaves of the Greeks. Therefore, it was an arbitrary conduct, and no law, which was the rule with the notion of untouchability rendered the fate of the defeated still more precarious. The Romans recognized a few rights in respect of foreign friends; yet for the rest of the world there was nothing but discretion and arbitrary rule, changing with the whims and fancies of individual commanders and ages. The Jewish law asserted (cf. Numbers, 31/8-9, 17-18). Deuteronomy 20/16, I Samuel 15/3) that God had ordained the extermination of the Amalecites (‘Amaliqah, Arab inhabitants of Palestine); and that the rest of the world might be allowed to live on payment of tribute to and as servants of the Jews. Until 1856, the Westerners reserved the application of international law to Christian peoples; and since then they have made a distinction between the civilized and non-civilized peoples, the latter having still no rights. In the history of international law, Muslims have been the first and so far also the only to admit the right of foreigners without any discrimination or reserve both during war and peace”.

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II- Relations of Islamic State With Foreign Countries

Muslims 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 exist 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 Muslim state.

The concept of Islamic country, hostile country and allied country vividly appears from the 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 unless (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 the hostile country or hostile nation, then the penalty would be to set free a believing slave. And if the murdered comes 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 made by the Islamic Jurists.

The Islamic state normally classifies its relations with the foreign countries into following three categories:

1.       Relations with Muslim countries.

2.       Relations with non-Muslim countries allied by treaties.

3.       Relations with non-Muslim countries not allied by any treaty.

Let us discuss now in detail the relations of the Islamic state with foreign countries of each of the above category.

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1.       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 no geographical boundaries or an other artificial barriers can 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.

Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, in many of its verses, has directly or indirectly preached the concept of brotherhood and fraternity among the believers. In one of its Verses the Qur’an says: “The believers are naught else than brothers…..” (49 : 10). In another verse, the Holy Book of Islam calls the believers as protecting friends of each other (8 : 72). Unity and solidarity among the Muslims has been stressed by the Holy Qur’an in these words: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and don’t separate….” (3 : 103). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has also emphasised, in many of his Ahadith and on various occasions, the fact of Muslim brotherhood and unity. In his famous sermon delivered on the occasion of Farewell Pilgrimage in 10th A.H., the Prophet (PBUH) announced: “You must know that a Muslim is the brother of the Muslim and they form one brotherhood. Nothing of his brother is lawful for a Muslim except what he himself allows willingly. So, you should not oppress one another…..” In a Hadith reported in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abu Hurairah, the Messenger of Allah said: “A Muslim is brother to a Muslim. He does neither wrong him, nor puts him to disgrace, nor he hates him…. . Every Muslim’s blood, property and hounor are sacred to another Muslim.”

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 Muslim 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 bothers 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 fighting two 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 Qur’an in very clear words pronounces on this issue: “If two parties of believers fall to them does wrong to the other, fight that which does wrong until it returns to the Law of Allah; then, if it returns, make peace between them justly and act equitably. Verily! Allah loves the just. The believers are but brothers. Therefore, make peace between brethren and fear Allah, that you may receive Mercy.”

–––(49 : 9-10)

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2.       Relations With Non-Muslim Allied 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. However, if the other party to the treaty is not fulfilling its terms or is openly violating the agreed conditions, the Islamic state would be at liberty to overthrow the treaty after issuing a warning to that party. Otherwise much emphasis has been laid by Islam on the sanctity of a pact as the violation of promise or pledge is a great sin liable for severe punishment. The Qur’an says: “How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His messenger for the idolaters save those with whom ye made a treaty at the inviolable place of Worship? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty.” (9 :7). At another place the Qur’an ordains: “And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief……..” –––(9 : 12)

On some occasions the treaty relationship with a non-Muslim state may even override the ties of Muslim brotherhood. For example, it is the duty of an Islamic state to help the Muslims who are living in another state and are being oppressed and persecuted there, provided they seek such support. However, such help cannot be rendered to those Muslims who are living in a state with which the Islamic state has treaty relations. The Qur’an is very explicit on this point. It says: “….. but if they (Muslims) 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 treaty….” (8 : 72). According to another verse of the Qur’an, blood-money has to be paid for the killing by mistake of a believer living in a non-Muslim country with which the Islamic state has a treaty. The Qur’an says on this point: “….. And if he (the murdered one) cometh of a folk between whom and you there is a covenant, then the blood money be paid unto his folk….”  –––(4 : 92)

The inhabitant of the non-Muslim allied country (Dar-ul-Sulh or Dar-ul-Aman) is a Mustamin and is eligible for Aman or asylum. The aman may be for ever or for a limited duration; but so long as it lasts, the mustamin’s treatment is regulated in strict accordance with terms of the treaty with his country. The mustamins were governed by their own laws, were exempt from taxation and enjoyed other privileges.[1]

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3.       Relations With Non-Muslim Countries Without Treaty: As stated earlier, 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 external policy of the Islamic state as the policy of such state is not bases 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 fields of economic development, education, science and technology, social services, etc.

Islam enjoins justice and fairness in human dealings. The Islamic state would base its foreign relations with non-aligned non-Muslim countries on the values of justice and equity. However, if such countries maintain attitude of hostility and belligerency, then the Islamic state has also right to pay back in the same coin. The Qur’an is very clear on this point: And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you……. –––2(194)

The citizen of such country is called Harbi and he is an alien, pure and simple. He cannot enter into an Islamic state without express permission. But once he receives the permission or guarantee of safety from even the poorest Muslim, he is perfectly secure from molestation for the space of one year. On the expiration of that period he is bound to depart.

Syed Ameer Ali, in his monumental work, ‘The spirit of Islam’ compares Islamic concept of division of world and relations with non-Muslim states with the Christian concept as follows:

“The Moslem casuists, like the Christian jurists and divines, have divided the world into two regions–the Dar-ul-Harb and Dar-ul-Islam, the counterparts of Heathendom and Christendom. An examination, however, of the principles upon which the relations of Moslem states with non-Moslem countries were based, shows a far greater degree of liberality than has been evinced by Christian writers on international law. It is only in recent times, and under stress of circumstances that non-Christian states have been admitted into the “comity of nations.” The Moslem jurists, on the other hand, differentiate between the condition of belligerency and that of peace. The expression, Dar-ul-Harb, thus includes countries with which the Moslems are at war; whilst the states with which they are at peace are the Dar-ul-Aman.”


[1]       Syed Ameer Ali: ‘The Spirit of Islam.’

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