The strength of Christianity lies in its conception of the “Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom is seen as made up of all believers, headed by Jesus Christ. Although many Christians claim that their nations are Christian nations, they don’t believe that it’s necessary to live under a Christian-based political system to be in God’s Kingdom.
In contrast, Muslims have the concepts of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. Dar al-Islam, which literally means “Abode of Islam,” refers to any lands ruled by Muslims and governed by Islamic laws. Everything else is known as Dar al-Harb, or “Abode of War.”
The problem is that Muslim extremists take these concepts literally and believe it is a Muslim’s duty to fight until any geographic area or political entity that is Dar al-Harb is transformed into Dar al-Islam. This is the main reason that non-Muslims have trouble seeing Islam as a religion of peace.
This isn’t to say that Christians have not also fought to extend Christianity into non-Christian lands. They have. But the difference is, Christians are encouraged to live as if they are living in a kingdom that is under God’s control, no matter where they may be. Muslims tend to think that true justice and peace is only possible under Muslim rule.
We Muslims need to make a distinction between the political, physical world and the spiritual world. It’s self-defeating for us to think that God only has power to change people’s lives if they live in Muslim lands. That contradicts what the Qur’an says. God is All-Powerful and He is not limited by time or space—or politics.
I would like to propose that we (Muslims) concentrate more on the inner jihad (“holy war”) and on making ourselves “abodes of Islam.” I realize that this isn’t the traditional (or extremist) view of Dar al-Islam, but I think it is absolutely necessary for us to see ourselves as agents of change in the world around us.
I don’t believe that Muslims have to live under Muslim rule to have a positive impact. We have the potential within ourselves to transform society by allowing ourselves to be spiritually transformed by God. However, unlike Christians, who believe that spiritual transformation comes about as the result of faith in the divinity and lordship of Jesus Christ, Muslims achieve spiritual transformation by the continual process of inner jihad: submission, effort, repentance, forgiveness, renewal.
It’s a cop-out to say that “if only we lived under Islamic law, the world would become a better place.” It’s not the law that makes mankind kinder or more just; the law only has the power to force outward conformity. The world will become a better place when individuals become better, and that can only happen when we achieve Islam in our hearts.