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Takfeer, Wala Wal Bara’a, Darul Islam vs. Darul Harb—Three Major Catalysts of the Jihadist Radicalization: Rebuttals from the Classical Islamic Sources


By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

13 January 2018

Jihadist radicalization is still robust with the eight major concepts which appear consistently in the jihadist narratives. There is no way out without assessing and dismantling the attraction of these narratives that lure the gullible recruits.

There are many twisted Islamic concepts that have been used to indoctrinate the naive young Muslims, many of them still catching the imagination of the violent ideas. Only a better critical appreciation and rebuttal of these underlying radical narratives can enhance the counter-extremism efforts on both national and global levels. These are the eight exclusivist terms that the radical jihadist ideologues use oftentimes in their discourses to recruit the gullible and naive Muslims: Takfeer, Al-Wala Wal Bara’a, Darul Islam vs. Darul Harb, Ummah, Istishhad or Shahadat, Bayah and Hijrah.

All these terms have been catalysts of the jihadist radicalization across the world. But the first three doctrines— Takfeer, Al-Wala Wal Bara’a and Darul Islam vs. Darul Harb— have been the most obvious jihadist underpinnings. However, they have two diametrically different interpretations: (1) traditional and classical interpretations and (2) hate-driven extremist jihadist narratives. Now, let’s discern between how the terms are used by the Jihadist outfits like ISIS and al-Qaeda and how they are viewed by the authoritative classical Islamic scholars.

ISIS/al-Qaeda's View of Takfeer

Takfeer literally means accusing others of being ‘Kafir’, ‘infidels’ or ‘non-believers’ or excluded from the bounds of Islam. Islamic history is replete with the instances of how the extremist Islamist factions declared fellow Muslims of being apostate (Murtad), impure, hypocrite (Munafiq) or unbeliever (Kafir). But ISIS, al-Qaeda and the ilk have regularly employed the term in an attempt to disparage other Muslims who oppose them. Therefore, moderate Muslims have now turned into their first targets.

Takfeerist groups form sub-branches of al-Salafiya al-jihadiyah (Jihadist-Salafism) which promulgates strictly narrowed and skewed interpretations of Islamic texts. Takfeeris don’t suffice to only declaring non-Muslims as ‘Kafir’, but also excommunicate fellow Muslims. Found in every age in the Islamic history, they have recently spearheaded in the most violent fashion in Egypt by the name of ‘Jama’at al-Takfeer wal-Hijrah’. Egyptian authorities claimed that the Takfeeris perpetrated the horrific terrorist attack on the Sufi mosque al-Radwa in Sinai last year, which killed 305 people. Takfeeris particularly target secular governments and the Muslim-majority countries that do not rule according to their version of the Sharia law. The Takfeeri mindset has also guided the ISIS attacks on the syncretic (Sunni-Shia, Muslim-Christian) heritage of Iraq, Syria and other Muslim countries.

Classical Islamic View of Takfeer  

In the classical Islamic theology, Muslims are forbidden to declare others ‘Kafir’. That is decidedly and explicitly agreed upon by the consensus (Ijm’a) of the imams of all Islamic jurisprudence schools (Mazahib-E-Fiqh). This canonical principle is based on an authenticated prophetic saying or Hadith in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) warned against Takfeerism: “Do not revert to Takfeer after me by cutting one another's necks” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

The legal prohibition and denunciation of issuing decrees of Kufr branding anyone as a ‘Kafir’, disbeliever or infidel is part of the Hanafi, Shafe’i, Maliki and Hanbali schools. In most cases, a word or action of a common Muslim is not really disbelief but a difference of opinion and understanding or of secondary or interpretational nature. But branding anyone a ‘Kafir’ on the basis of his/her word or action is not in spirit with the objectives of the four Islamic schools of law (Maqasid al-Shariah).

Even if a person has said a word of alleged or probable disbelief, the basic principle set by the four schools of Islamic law is that the least probability of belief has to be given priority over the most probability of disbelief. It can be explained in these popular texts of the Islamic jurisprudence: “One cannot declare those who use things that apparently cause disbelief, as disbelievers. If someone's deeds or sayings could be interpreted 99 percent of the time as cause of disbelief and only 1 percent of the time as cause of belief, the latter should be preferred”. Thus, the Muslim individuals or groups who utter something, or have adopted an ideology, which is apparently indicative of ‘disbelief’ in theological and jurisprudential domain of Islam, even then they could not be branded as ‘Kafir’.

Moreover, there is a robust theological refutation of the misguiding ideas of Takfeer, Khurooj and Baghawat (rebellion against the state) in the vast literature by the classical Islamic jurists and scholars of the Hanafi school of thought in particular. Similarly, those subscribing to the Shafi, Hanbali and even Ja’fari (Shia) school, should realize that their imams have strictly prohibited Takfeer, Khurooj, Baghawat antagonism and bloodshed. Thus, these acts cannot be legitimized in any circumstances under the false grab of Islamic state.

One of the Prophet’s companions killed a non-Muslim who was pretending to be a Muslim during a war. When the Prophet (pbuh) came to know this, he asked the companion: “Did you see his heart by tearing it apart?” This Hadith clearly implies there should be no religious justification for declaring others ‘Kafir’ and then spilling their blood.

Explaining the issue of Takfeer, the noted imam and authoritative Sunni Hanafi scholar Allama Tahawi, known as "the most knowledgeable of fiqh among the Hanafis in Egypt” points out that, “theological differences are natural and unavoidable, but we cannot approve of declaring others ‘Kafir’ or infidel or killing them on the grounds of religious differences”. He profusely quoted from Quran, Sunnah and eminent Islamic scholars in monumental work, Aqidah al-Tahawiyya which represents the viewpoint of Ahl-us-Sunnah wa-al-Jama'a (the mainstream Sunni Muslims across the world). This book has been one of the most widely acclaimed and indispensable textbooks on the Islamic beliefs (Aqa’aid) being taught to the students of Fiqh and Ilmul Kalam (Islamic philosophy). The authoritative Islamic jurists including Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Muhammad, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi'i and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal developed an opinion that the doctrines and beliefs enumerated in this book are shared by all the Muslims because they owe their origin to the Holy Qur’an and are confirmed by the Ahadith.

In fact, Imam Tahavi’s findings on Takfeer grapple with the emerging theological questions of today as well. Modern Islamic scholars should critically read and review this book in order to find concrete solution to the rising tide of Takfeer, religious militancy and faith-based violence in different contexts. At least, it should be one of the essential readings in the madrasa curricula, as the saying goes on: “Aqidah al-Tahawiyya, though small in size, is a primary textbook for all times, listing what a Muslim must know and believe and inwardly comprehend”.

Imam Tahawi writes in his elaboration on the Sunni creed: “Faith consists of affirmation by the tongue and acceptance by the heart. A person does not leave faith except by disavowing what brought him into it”. Thus, he concludes that the practice of excommunicating Muslims (Takfeer) is among the worst crimes against Islam and the Muslim community.

ISIS/al-Qaeda's View of Al-Wala' Wal Bara’a'

Jihadist cults like the ISIS and al-Qaeda vitiate the global religious atmosphere by fostering the mentality of "us versus them" through the use of the term Al-Wala' Wal Bara’a. Al-Wala means "to practice loyalty with only Muslims" or simply, keeping them only as ‘friends’. Al-Bara’a refers to the doctrine of harboring and showing hatred against non-Muslims or simply, considering them all ‘enemies’. This concept has largely remained the most common tool for the jihadists to categorize people into friends and enemies. Going by this exclusivist belief, their enemies are not only non-Muslims but many Muslims who subscribe to the sects and schools of thoughts antithetical to the extremists. Thus, the doctrine of “loyalty and disavowal” (al-Wala wal Bara) encourages religious bigotry and hatred against all those who do not follow the extremist doctrines.

‘Al-Wala wal Bara’ has profusely been quoted in the vast literature of the jihadists. In fact, this doctrine underlies al-Qaeda's body of literature which continued to develop after its initial foundation in the late 1980s.

In his essay released in December 2002, Ayman al-Zawahiri viewed that the world is divided into two warring camps: true Muslims and the rest of the world. “True Muslims must be in a constant state of Wala (being 'loyal' to one another in all cases). At the same time, true Muslims must also be in a state of Bara ('enmity') where they are either in a constant state of hatred or at least being distant from everyone else”, he wrote. (This essay is available online on a number of sites under the title “Al Wala Wal Bara” (Loyalty and Enmity). It is also available as a chapter in the book The Al Qaeda Reader).

Classical Islamic View of Al-Wala' Wal Bara’a'

There is no room for "us versus them" mentality in Islam. All human beings are creatures of God and we therefore must show respect to each other. This implies a multi-racial, multi-religious society. Islam came as a Rahmah (Blessing) to the Universe. Qur’an shows Allah’s love for man as infinite and all-embracing: “And My Mercy embraces all things” (Surah Al-A`raf 7:156).

Not a single creature is exempted from Allah’s bountiful grace and divine mercy. The beloved Prophet said, “When Allah created the creatures, He wrote in the Book, which is with Him over His Throne: “Verily, My Mercy prevailed over My Wrath.” (Al-Bukhari) He also said, “Allah has divided mercy into 100 parts, and He retained with Him 99 parts, and sent down to earth 1 part. Through this one part creatures deal with one another with compassion, so much so that an animal lifts its hoof over its young lest it should hurt it.” (Al-Bukhari)

Al-Wala’ wal-Bara’ doctrine originated from the tribal Arab social customs, in which division and fragmentation were and are still prevalent in Arab socio-political life. Unfortunately, the tribal identity is being passed on to the Muslims through this doctrine

ISIS/al-Qaeda's View of Dar-ul-Islam

The concept of Darul Islam or an 'Islamic state' is a constant theme within ISIS/al-Qaeda's propaganda. It holds that in order to establish the religion, it is first necessary to establish an Islamic state, which, in turn, will then lead to the re-establishment of the Caliphate (Khilafah Islamiyah). It is obligatory for all Muslims to contribute both financially and physically to this end.

Classical Islamic View of Dar-ul-Islam

Most classical Islamic scholars opine that the term ‘Darul Islam’ and ‘Darul Harb’ is a relative term. They do not have a universal application or even a precise meaning. There are no clear injunctions of establishing Darul Islam in the Qur’an and Hadith. Therefore, the justification of killing anyone or spilling blood to achieve this vague notion is considered ‘un-Islamic’.

In India, the authoritative Ulema have not endorsed the war-related concept of the 'Darul Harab' (land of war). They rather termed the undivided India as ‘land of peace’ (Dar al-Salaam) because it provided a peaceful environment for the Muslim citizens to freely exercise their religious rights. This fatwa was issued by a leading Islamic jurist and an ideologue of the mainstream Muslims (Ahle Sunnat) in India, Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan (also known as Aala Hazrat). He buttressed his point that ‘Hindustan is not the land of war (Darul Harb) but rather an abode of peace, in his book titled in Arabic, E’laam-ul-A’alam bi Anna Hindustan Dar-al-Islam (declaration of the Ulema that India is an ‘abode of peace'). In his book on the subject of Islamic caliphate (Khilafat), Dawam-ul-Aaish fi Aai’matil Quraish”, Maulana laid out rigorous conditions for an Islamic caliph to be appointed.


Later, the leading Indian seminary Darul Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa which categorically stated India as 'Dar-ul-Sulah' or ‘Dar-ul-Mu'ahdah’ (land of reconciliation and peace treaty). Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, founder of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind wrote a book in Urdu, Islam Aur Muttahida Qaumiyat (Islam and Composite Nationalism). He quoted profusely from Quran and Hadith to oppose the two-nation theory. Substantiating the point that Muslims and Hindus were one nation, he argued that the faith was universal and could not be contained within national boundaries but that nationality was a matter of geography, and Muslims were obliged to be loyal to the nation of their birth along with their non-Muslim brethren (Biradran-e-Watan).


Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of classical Islamic studies, cultural analyst, researcher in media and communication studies and regular columnist with


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