Dar al-Hizmet / Abode of Service in a Globalized World

Dar al-hizmet as an Islamic term does not have its basis in geopolitical calculations and considerations as was the case with the politically charged terms of dar al-harb and dar al-sulh.

It is clear that there are some Islamic concepts which have been abused to find ground for radical activities. For instance, the concepts of dar al-harb and dar al-Islam need to be scrutinised and re-interpreted in line with the new context of a socially and culturally globalised world.

Dar al-harb is a geopolitical term that divides the world into Muslim and non-Muslim and further regards the non-Muslim world as a political opponent, while simultaneously viewing the Muslim world as dar al-Islam, in which harming the “other” is forbidden. The terms dar al-harb and dar al-Islam were created by medieval Muslim scholars to answer the political challenges of their times, and they now stand as anachronistic terms that fail to describe our present time of international law and complex global relations. Some scholars also argue that this is not only because of the new global context, but also because the term dar al-harb goes against the Islamic moral code, particularly in an age of the weapons industry and nuclear arms.

To challenge the idea of dar al-harb, there is a need for new concepts. Indeed, there is an emerging concept that has the potential to challenge and offer a new understanding of Islamic principles within the new context of the world. This concept is dar al-hizmet – the abode of service to humanity.

Dar al-hizmet is a relatively new term used to describe a new Islamic worldview that does not divide the globe between Islamic and un-Islamic spheres but regards the whole world as the locus of serving humanity at large and through this service attaining the good pleasure of God. Thus, dar al-hizmet as an Islamic term does not have its basis in geopolitical calculations and considerations (as was the case with the politically charged terms of dar al-harb and dar al-sulh) but has its basis in the social and spiritual concepts of ihsan (God-consciouness), diğergamlık (altruism) and ultimately hizmet (service). Thus, dar al-hizmet has the potential to mobilise Muslims towards becoming more socially responsible in their communities and their host countries, regardless of the dominant faith or ideology, or the form of governance where they live.

It should also be stressed that the term dar al-harb is not specified in the Qur ‘an and Sunnah, two main sources in Islam. Therefore, Muslim scholars have been arguing for other terms such as dar al-ahd (‘abode of treaty’) and dar al-da ‘wah (‘abode of invitation ‘) that are less widely known and largely unknown in the West. These terms, along with dar al-hizmet, may provide solutions to the problem of radicalizing groups that cite (and often misinterpret) certain fatwas (legal judgments) that pertain to the medieval Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyya. These alternative arguments and alternative terms in place of dar al-harb need to be discussed by Muslim scholars in public conferences and symposia and introduced to the wider public in order to prevent the radicalisation of Muslim youth through extremist groups.

In addition, terms such as musbet hareket (‘positive action’) – as propounded by Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen – can also be instrumental in giving Muslim youth a constructive role in contributing to the wider society in their host countries. Musbet hareket in this sense requires being proactive in society with a positive outlook and being law-abiding citizens.

There is, on the other hand, a largely misinterpreted term, jihad, that is twisted both by the media and by extremist groups to mean violence and aggression. Along with such terms as dar al-harb, the word jihad is used widely by the media to refer to ‘Islamic extremism ‘. In addition, extremist groups abuse the concept of jihad and utilise it to legitimise their acts of terrorism. While jihad does not in any way convey the meaning of ‘holy war’ in Islam, it is often used interchangeably with this highly charged term. In reality, the term ‘holy war’ does not form part of Islamic terminology, in which peace (‘sulh’) is considered essential.

The relation between the terms ijtihad and jihad should not be overlooked, given the fact that both stem from the same root. While ijtihad refers to the individual effort to find solutions to traditional and contemporary questions, jihad has a more multifaceted meaning, from putting effort into taming the carnal self to making an effort to represent the values and true character of one’s faith in everything one does in life. In a recent press release from the Centre for Hizmet Studies, prominent Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen holds that there is no place for armed struggle in the way of service to God. As such, jihad should no longer be understood or applied to armed struggle. Jihad, in this context is a force for good and an effort towards constant improvement of one ‘s social conduct and good character in relation to one’s family, colleagues, community and the larger society.

Thus, challenging the existing and deeply established negative meanings is only possible through referring to new Islamic perspectives and by empowering some alternative and newly emerging terminology such as hizmet or ‘service’. The flourishing of such notions to challenge concepts that are destructive within the present globalised world is only possible through platforms making such interpretations, that is, by showing the beauty of serving humanity and challenging constructed images.

© 2017 Centre for Hizmet Studies