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The Misconstrued Concept of Hijrat and the Position of Indian Ulema

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam


 10 October 2018


No Indian Islamic cleric denies the significance of Hijrat (migration) in the early period of Islamic history. But to some clerics, Hijrat is mandatory (Wajib) even today for the Muslims living in the democratic countries. For liberal democracy is akin to Kufr in their view. Such toxic notions of the Hijrat are actually political tools which the extremist outfits use to further their political ends. Highlighting the Muslim marginalisation in countries like India, the extremist Islamist preachers indoctrinate the gullible Muslim youth mostly belonging to poor Muslim families who can be unconsciously trained to serve their political agendas.


Recently, I came across a written Friday sermon (Khutba-e-Juma') issued by the All India Imams Council on the occasion of the ongoing Islamic month of Muharram. This Islamic sermon seems to have been circulated to all mosques which come under this council across the country. Entitled as "Muharram and Hijrat", the Friday sermon begins with this verse from the Qura'n:


“Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]”. (9:36)


Then, the sermon details the rewards for migration (Hijrat) for a just Islamic cause but at the same time, it has subtly tried to link the migration and martyrdom in the path of Allah. Thus, the sermon shows how some clerics convince the gullible Muslim youth that martyrdom in the path of Allah is same as migration or Hijrat in Islam and so the rewards that are promised for martyrs are also promised for them. But in reality, they are violating the essential message of the Quran that clearly says:


“And do not confound the truth with vanity, and do not conceal the truth wittingly.” (Al Baqarah: 42)


In fact, the main point of Hijrat in Islam in the early Prophetic era was the fact that Muslims were not allowed to profess and practice their Religion in Makkah. But the Constitution of India guarantees the enjoyment of full freedom to profess and practice any religion and propagate it. Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India.


After the conquest of Makkah, in the 8th year after the Hijrah, most people in the Arabian Peninsula embraced Islam. It was around this time that Prophet (pbuh) said: “There is no more Hijrat (migration) after the conquest [of Makkah]”. (Sahih al-Bukhari: 2912). Today, this Hadith should be viewed as one of the Islamic exhortations of why Muslims in the democratic countries like India do not need Hijrat at all.


This Prophetic saying encouraged most Muslims, since then on, to stay where they were and worship the Almighty. Freedom to worship the Almighty and practice Islam was the main reason of Hijrat in the early period of Islam and when the necessity was met, migration was prohibited. It is for this reason that migration [Hijrat] from India to elsewhere is not legally binding for anyone, as India constitutionally ensures freedom to worship and practice Islam. The similar point can also be deduced in the explanation of the following verse of the Quran:


“And to Allah belongs the East and the West. So wherever you [might] turn, there is Allah’s Entity. Indeed, Allah is All-Encompassing and the All-Knowing.” (2:115)


In fact, the extremist theological justification for Hijrat emanates from the view that the non-Muslim majority countries like India are ‘Darul Kufr’ (land of disbelief), which is completely erroneous and untenable. Twisting the early Islamic terminologies which the medieval Ulema coined in the backdrop of political situations, the present-day extremists misperceive them and consider every country where the Islamic Shariah is not enforced as Darul Kufr or Darul Harb (land of war). Nearly all Islamist extremists believe that the people of these countries may be fought by an Islamic expedition (Ghazwa) in order to conquer their territories.

But this jihadist argument is rebutted by the theological classification of territories made by early Islamic jurists which was not intended to justify Hijrat against the non-Muslim lands. Rather, it served as a legal basis upon which certain jurisprudential (fiqhi) rulings were implemented on Muslims. 

The 6th century renowned Hanafi Islamic jurist Imam al-Kasani (r.a)—who authored one of the most authentic reference works on the Hanafi law “al-Bada’e al-Sana’e”—writes in this book which is taught as text book in most Indian Madrasas: “What is meant by designating the word “dar” (abode) with Islam and Kufr (disbelief) is not Islam and disbelief per se, but the state of security or insecurity. Moreover, the relative juristic rulings are not based on Islam itself or Kufr (in this case), but on the security or insecurity.”

This position is further reinforced by Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah revered as an important Imam in the Sunni Islamic tradition. He clearly endorsed the above traditional Islamic position in this statement: “This is the opinion held by the majority of scholars [Ulema]. It is crystal clear that Muslims jurists made their opinions according to Fiqh al-Ma’alat (the Islamic law which takes into consideration the outcomes of actions).” [Ibn Qayyem Al-Jawziyyah, Ahkam Ahl Al-Dhimmah 2/873].

Thus, the medieval Islamic terms--Dar ul-Islam, Dar ul-Kufr and Dar ul-Harb--are null and void today. They are abrogated by the new world order, constitution, international covenants, peace treaties and international relations. They might have been relevant during the third and fourth Islamic centuries, but not in the 21st century.

The origin of the term ‘Dar-ul-Harb’ is related to the situation when non-Muslim states on the border of Muslim-majority states interfered with the religious freedom of the Muslims, which gave them an excuse for migration (Hijrat) or intervention by the neighboring Muslim states to defend their rights or to support migration or rebellion by the Muslims. It was on these grounds that Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other Indian Ulema had declared the British India Dar ul Harab, arguing that the British rulers interfered with the religious freedom and security. Therefore, they had also provided justification for Hijrat. 

But the post-independence India is neither Darul Kufr nor ‘Dar-ul-Harb’ as it provides a strong Constitution and by and large a peaceful environment for all its citizens to exercise their religious rights freely. 

Since the security and peace treaty are fully guaranteed in the Constitution of India, the rulings of Darul Islam or Darul Kufr are no longer of any theological application here. The authentic Islamic jurisprudential position is that if Muslims peacefully coexist with other people enjoying safety of life and security of the religious freedom anywhere in the world, any such territory cannot be termed as Darul Harb. Therefore, the independent India is declared as Darul Mua’ahda (abode of peace treaty) or Darul Sulah (abode of reconciliation) in the Islamic jurisprudential (Fiqhi) terms.

Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, an established Islamic cleric who popularized the concept of Darul Mua’ahda for India, motivated Muslims towards the territorial nationalism rather than creating a nation based on religious considerations. In 1937, Maulana addressed a political meeting in Delhi and made this clear statement: “Today a nation is made on the basis of the country. If there are different religions in the country, the nation does not become different”.

Similarly, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, an erstwhile Indian Islamic scholar, premised that nations across the world including Arabs and Turks were struggling against the colonialism and thus he called for the Hindu-Muslim unity for an integrated and independent India. He collaborated with his contemporaries among the Hindu Bengali freedom fighters in upholding this nationalistic cause.

Maulana Azad referred to this non-violent cooperation against the British in conjunction with the Hindu co-nationalists as Jihad (struggle) in his Islamic epistemology, as Ayesha Jalal, an acclaimed Islamic historian, has candidly explained this in her paper titled, “Striking A Just Balance: Maulana Azad As A Theorist Of Trans-National Jihad”. Jalal traced the link between anti-colonial nationalist thought and a theory of jihad in early twentieth-century India. “It was in the context of the aggressive expansion of European power and the ensuing erosion of Muslim sovereignty that the classical doctrine of jihad was refashioned to legitimize modern anti-colonial struggles”, she writes. Focused on the thought and politics of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, as a major theoretician of Islamic law and ethics, this essay recalls him as a “secular nationalist” while at the same time as the most celebrated theorist of a “trans-national jihad”.

It was around this time that some Indian Islamic clerics issued a fatwa declaring the British India as Dar-ul-Harb (land of war) and thus calling Muslims for Hijrat to a country which could be seen as Dar-ul-Salam (land of peace). The call for Hijrat was also given by the Ali Brothers who initiated the Khialfat Conference on December 1919. This call was supported by several Muslim clerics. But the main idea was to get Afghan help to fight off the British in India. Consequently in August 1920, thousands of Muslim families migrated to Afghanistan.  Reportedly, the Afghan king had asked Indians (both Hindus and Muslim) to migrate to Afghanistan to free India from the colonial clutches of the British.

But even then, the well-established Indian Ulema did not declare Hijrat mandatory (Farz) or obligatory (Wajib). Neither the Ulema of Deoband nor the Barelwis categorically issued any fatwa for Hijrat. Nationalist Muslim leaders like Maulana Azad were more focused on heralding the Non-cooperation movement rather than the Hijrat calls. Here again, the idea was that there was no option left for Indian Muslims except to engage in an anti-British Jihad (struggle for freedom) or migrate to a safer place.

After 71 years of the independence, the doctrine of Hijrat is discussed among the many old graves which are being dug up now. One of the considered questions that the extremist elements often raise to draw out the Indian Muslim community is whether it is obligatory for Muslims to migrate from India, as it does not remain Darul Amn (land of peace) or Darul Mua’ahda and turns into Darul Harb again. Basically, their argument is that no longer does India guarantee religious freedom and security. What happens when most Muslims start feeling insecure on grounds of religion?, they ask.

Thus, the radical narrative of Hijrat is largely based on promoting the victimhood mentality. An aggressive social media campaign is underfoot to promote a mindset of victimhood among Muslim youths. This sometimes influences the gullible and immature minds of even the educated youth with little religious literacy.

These social media campaigns not only show the current regime of India as ‘unjust’ and ‘tyrant’ but also term it as system of manifest error (Fisq o Fujur), prevailing oppression (Zulm) and dominating disbelief (Kufr al-Ashad)—prerequisites for the legitimacy of the Hijrat in Islam. But an antidote to this victimhood narrative is completely missing from our discourses today. However, the theological consensus (Ijma’a) of the Indian Ulema is that Hijrat is not binding for Indian Muslims even if the situation is believed to be so. Their premise is that Hijrat is now abrogated in the Independent India by International Law and Constitution supported by the consensus of the majority of authoritative Islamic scholars.

Several years ago, a noted Muslim politician and thinker in India, Syed Shahabuddin had articulated it in his article for Mainstream Weekly. I reproduce some excerpts:

"The Indian state is governed by a Constitution which grants religious freedom not only to profess a religion but also practice and propagate it. There may be local or occasional interference here and there but the state is fully committed to religious freedom in every sense of the term. Such a state simply cannot be ‘Dar-ul-Harb’."

"Moreover, today international relationships are bound by international law. All states are bound by the UN Charter. Differences among states have to be resolved through prescribed procedure and not by force. Neither can any state act unilaterally. Therefore, no foreign state, which claims to be Muslim or defender of Islam, can intervene in the internal affairs of another state on the plea that religious freedom of Muslims is being curbed. You've the option to raise the matter within UN."

"Muslim Indians enjoy equal political and legal rights. They have the freedom to place their grievances before the legislature and the executive or take recourse to the judiciary. So far from being ‘Dar-ul-Harb’, India is a ‘Dar-ul-Aman’ (land of peace) and a ‘Dar-ul-Muwahida’ (land of compact)." 



  Regular Columnist with, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur'anic sciences and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi




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