Gibril Fouad Haddad

Abode in this article refers to two Qurʾānic terms: dār  and bayt. Dār occurs 47 times in the Qurʾān while its synonym bayt (“house”) is mentioned 57 times. Both of these terms can be rendered as home, dwelling, habitation, and residence. Dār is more general than bayt as it can mean a precinct—a bounded plot of land on which houses can be built, or an orchard with a well.

Definitions and Usage

Dār, plurals diyār and dūr among others, is the wall-encircled property—originating from dāra, a valley surrounded by mountains, from the verb dāra, to circle, aorist yadūru, infinitive nouns dawr and dawarān—that is home to individuals or collectives, and is sometimes defined as a location with both dwellings and open space (al-maḥall yajmaʿ al-bināʾ wal-ʿarṣa). It may metonymically mean the tribe itself as in the hadith, “The best of the dūr of the Anṣār is Banū al-Najjār, then Banū ʿAbd al-Ashhal, then Banū al-Ḥārith b. al-Khazraj, then Banū Sāʿida, and in all the dūr of the Anṣār there is goodness” (Bukhārī, Manāqib al-Anṣār, faḍl dūr al-Anṣār; Muslim, Faḍāʾil, fī muʿjizāt al-Nabī) and the saying, “No dār remained but a mosque was built therein” to mean that no Arab tribe has remained without a mosque having been built among them (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Rāghib, Mufradāt; Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs; and al-Ṭanāḥī, Min asrār al-lugha, all sub d-w-r and d-y-r). It is used in absolute terms (al-Dār) in the Qurʾān to mean only two things: Paradise and Madina (cf. Q 38:46 and 59:9, respectively; see Section VI below).

Bayt, plural buyūt, derives from bāta, to spend the night—aorists yabītu and yabātu, infinitive nouns baytbayātbaytūta, and mabīt—and came to refer to the physical structure taken for refuge, shelter, and dwelling. In its intensive form bayyata (both transitive and intransitive) the verb refers to any action done at night regardless of sleep—such as the unbelievers’ plotting (Q 4:81 and 108) or raids (Q 27:49), and including reflexion similarly to “sleeping on it” (bayyata raʾyah)—hence the synonymity of the infinitive noun bayāt with nighttime in the verse that states when His doom comes unto you as a raid by night (bayātan) or by day (Q 10:50). The intensive plural buyūtāt refers to the noblest of tribes (Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs; Rāghib, Mufradāt; Fayrūzābādī, Qāmūs; and al-Zamakhsharī, Asāssub b-y-t).

Dār as a Metonym for either Paradise and Madina, or Loss, Destruction, and Hellfire

The Qurʾān often uses dār in the singular as a metonym for the tangible consequences of good and evil in this world and the next (see Life of this World; Hereafter). In this context it variously signifies Paradise  and its true life, or this world and its loss and subsequent destruction, or the everlasting Fire (see Hell):

  • As a noun modified by the adjective “next” (al-dār al-ākhira) to signify Paradise:
  • If the next-worldly abode in the providence of Allah be indeed for you alone… (Q 2:94);
  • Better far is the next-worldly abode for those who guard themselves (Q 6:32, 7:169, cf. 28:83);
  • But seek the abode of the hereafter in that which Allah has given you (Q 28:77, cf. 33:29);
  • The home of the hereafter—truly that is Life (al-ḥayawān), if they but knew (Q 29:64). Ḥayawān is an intensive form for the noun ḥayāt (life) that signifies true life and real existence. In light of this verse, Ibn al-Qayyim (691-751/1292-1350) in his book on the description of Paradise lists Dār al-Ḥayawān among its names—although such a construct does not literally exist in the Qurʾān—alongside the literal proper names (documented below) of Dār al-Salām and Dār al-Muqāma. Ibn al-Qayyim omitted to mention Dār al-Qarār and other names listed here but included Dār al-Khuld (cf. Q 41:28) although it is a name for Hell (Ḥādī al-arwāḥ p. 76-82).
  • In annexing construct with the nouns salām (peace), ākhira (the hereafter), muttaqīn (those who guard themselves), muqāma (everlasting residence), qarār (settlement), all also as names for Paradise:
  • For them is the abode of peace (dār al-salām) with their Lord (Q 6:127);
  • And Allah summons to the abode of peace (dār al-salām) (Q 10:25);
  • And verily the abode of the hereafter (dār al-ākhira) is best for those who guard themselves (Q 12:109);
  • For those who do good in this world there is a good reward and the home of the hereafter (dār al-ākhira) will be better. Pleasant indeed will be the home of those who guard themselves (dār al-muttaqīn)! (Q 16:30);
  • Who, of His grace, has installed us in the mansion of everlasting residence (dār al-muqāma), where toil touches us not nor can weariness affect us (Q 35:35);
  • Truly this life of the world is but a passing comfort, and truly the hereafter, that is the abode of permanence (dār al-qarār) (Q 40:39).
  • The contrastive opposite with the noun khuld, “immortality,” as a name for Hell (dār al-khuld):
  • That is the reward of the enemies of Allah: the Fire. Therein is their immortal abode (Q 41:28).
  • In annexing construct with the noun fāsiqīn, “the wicked” (dār al-fāsiqīn), to point to the destructive consequence of unbelief:
  • I shall show you the abode of the depraved (Q 7:145). That is: you will see the consequence that awaits those who contravene My command and disobey Me, and how they are bound for death and destruction. Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310/923) said: “He only said I shall show you the abode of the depraved in the same way one says to someone else, ‘I shall show you tomorrow what happens to someone who disobeys me,’ in the sense of a threat and a dire promise for any that dare ignore or oppose his command.” According to Ibn Kathīr (701-774/1301-1373), “it has also been said that I shall show you the abode of the depraved refers to the people of Syro-Palestine and means, ‘and I shall give them over to you’; and it has also been said that it means Firʿawn’s residences in the land of Egypt. The first explanation is more apt, and Allah knows best” (al-Ṭanāḥī, Min asrār al-lugha, sub d-y-r).
  • In annexing construct with bawār, a noun signifying “loss” (kasād), used as a name for Hellfire (dār al-bawār):
  • Have you not seen those who gave the grace of Allah in exchange for thanklessness and led their people down to the Abode of Loss? (Q 14:28). In relation to this particular usage al-Bayhaqī (384-458/994-1066) narrates various memorable epithets for this-worldly and next-worldly life from some of the early Muslims, such as “this world is the abode of funeral meals,” “the world is the abode of travails and the hereafter is the abode of horrors until stability is found—in Paradise or Hell,” and “the world is the abode of deeds and the hereafter the abode of recompense, so whoever does not act here shall experience regret there” (al-Zuhd al-kabīr p. 103 §164, 221 §569, 282 §725).
  • In annexed construct with the synonyms ʿāqiba and ʿuqbā, nouns denoting “final outcome” in the sense of everlasting life in Paradise (ʿāqibat al-dār and ʿuqbā al-dār), and with dhikrā, remembrance and consciousness of Paradise:
  • And assuredly you will know who shall possess the ultimate abode (Q 6:135, cf. 28:37);
  • Theirs (i.e., of men of understanding) will be the final abode (Q 13:22);
  • The unbelievers shall assuredly know whose will be the ultimate abode (Q 13:42);
  • “Peace be upon you, for that you were steadfast.” Ah, how excellent is the ultimate abode! (Q 13:24);
  • Assuredly We purified them with a quality most pure: the remembrance of the Abode (Q 38:46). It is noteworthy that in this case (i) the expression al-dār takes on an absolute value, dispensing with the usual annexed specifier or modifier, and denotes Paradise as “The Abode” par excellence; and (ii) the only other such case is in reference to the city of the Prophet—upon him and his House blessings and peace—Madina the Radiant as “The Abode” par excellence in Q 59:9: Those who entered the Abode and the Faith before them love these who flee unto them for refuge. Ibn Shabba (173-262/ca.789-876) narrated that ʿAbd Allāh b. Jaʿfar b. Abī Ṭālib said “Allah Most High named al-Madina the Abode and the Faith” and hence it is listed in al-Samhūdī’s (d. 911/ca.1505) recension of Madina’s 97 names (Tārīkh al-Madīna 1:104 §482; Wafāʾ al-wafā 1:11 and 1:14).
  • In annexed construct with the noun sūʾ, “evil,” as a name for Hellfire (sūʾ al-dār):
  • And those who break the covenant of Allah after pledging it, and who sever what Allah has commanded to be joined, and who work corruption in the earth—on them shall be the curse, and theirs the evil abode (Q 13:25, cf. 40:52).

Dār as a Label for Islamic and Un-Islamic Societies

Dār has also been used in Arabic as a juridical term in construct with islām and kufr to respectively denote Muslim and non-Muslim territories, polities, and societies. Dār al-Islām has been defined as the lands that are in the power of the Muslim ruler(s) or where the laws of Islam prevail (entirely or mainly) even if most of the population be non-Muslim, Abū Manṣūr al-Baghdādī (d. 429/1038) adding the condition that innovators not hold sway over ahl al-Sunna therein. Dār al-Kufr has been defined as the contrary of the above and as the lands that are in the power of non-Muslim rulers or where the laws of unbelief prevail (entirely or mainly), even if the majority of the population be Muslim (ʿAbd al-Munʿim, Muʿjam al-muṣṭalaḥāt 2:73-74).

Dār as a Pre-Islamic Proper Name

According to Ibn Durayd (223-321/838-933), Dār was also a proper name in the pre-Islamic era (see Jāhiliyya) for (i) an idol, hence the function-related affiliation (nisba) of ʿAbd al-Dār (Slave of al-Dār), the eldest son of the Arab patriarch Quṣayy b. Kilāb; and (ii) a sub-tribe of Lakhm or Quḍāʿa to which belonged the Companion Tamīm al-Dārī—Allah be well-pleased with him (al-Ishtiqāq p. 155). Others stated that ʿAbd al-Dār was so named in relation to his father’s house (Ibn Saʿd, Ṭabaqāt) or because he was born at the time his father had built a wooden enclosure around the Kaʿba which was then being rebuilt (al-Zubayr b. Bakkār as cited by al-Fāsī, Shifāʾ al-gharām 2:88-89).

Bayt to Denote the Kaʿba

The Qurʾān mentions al-Bayt to denote the Kaʿba in the following ways:

  1. in absolute terms, as in the verse And when We made the House a resort for mankind and a sanctuary (Q 2:125, cf. 2:127, 158; 3:97; 8:35; 22:26, 32; 106:3). The greatest pre-Islamic poet according to Muʿāwiya—Allah be well-pleased with him—Zuhayr b. Abī Sulmā (d. ca.5/627) (Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh Dimashq 59:427), said in his famous Muʿallaqa:

I do swear by the House around which circle / men who have built it, of Quraysh and of Jurhum! (Muntakhabāt p. 288);

  1. in construct with the ordinal awwal in the verse Verily the first House appointed for mankind was that at Bakka, a blessed place, a guidance to the worlds (Q 3:96);
  2. modified by the adjective “sacred” (ḥarām) in Violate not the sanctity of the symbols of Allah… nor of the people resorting to the Sacred House (Q 5:2, cf. 5:97) and by both the possessive adjective “Your” and the adjective “hallowed” (muḥarram) in the supplication of the Prophet Ibrāhīm, upon him be peace: I have settled some of my posterity in an uncultivable valley near unto Your Hallowed House (Q 14:37);
  3. modified by the adjective “much-frequented” (maʿmūr) in Sūrat al-Ṭūr (Q 52:4). “al-Bayt al-Maʿmūr signifies the Kaʿba and its being frequented by pilgrims and foreign residents; or the heavenly House (ḍurāḥ) which is in the fourth heaven and of which the frequentation is the abundance of the angels that descend upon it; or the believer’s heart, whose frequentation is gnosis and sincerity” (Bayḍāwī, Tafsīr);
  4. modified by the adjective ʿatīq (Q 22:29 and 33), translatable either as “ancient” because it is the first house built on earth (Q 3:96), or as “freed” because it was protected against flood, tyrants, and the Ethiopian invaders, or because it is free and not owned by anybody (Fayruzābādī, Qāmūs, sub ʿ-t-q; Ṭabarī, Tafsīr, sub Q 22:29).

The construct "Bayt Allah" is also used in dozens of hadiths (cf. Bukhārī, Ḥajj, man nadhara al-mashyi ilā Kaʿba; Muslim, Nadhr, man nadhara al-mashyi ilā al-Kaʿba). The Arabs used to swear the oath wal-ladhī wajhī zamama baytih: “By Him Whose House I am facing!” (al-Zamakhsharī, Asāssub z-m-m), and Abū Ṭālib declaimed at the time of the Makkans’ boycott of the Muslims:

You lie—by Allah’s House!—[never] shall we give up Muḥammad (Ibn Hishām, Sīra 1:372).

Bayt as House, Country, Dowry, Household, and Tribe

Bayt also denotes the following lexical senses:

  • one’s dwelling: until you have a house of gold (17:93); My Lord, forgive me and my parents and whoever enters my house believing (Q 71:28); or both one’s home and original country, similar to dār as a worldly home for individuals: and whoso forsakes his home, a fugitive unto Allah and His Messenger (Q 4:100); as your Lord brought you out of your home with the truth (Q 8:5); but also in Paradise, as in the supplication of Firʿawn’s wife (see Mūsā, upon him peace; Mother of Mūsā), My Lord! Build for me a home with You in Paradise (Q 66:11).
  • dowry in the form of domestic possessions such as wardrobe and furniture, as in the hadith of ʿĀʾisha—Allah be well-pleased with her: “The Messenger of Allah married me for a house (or trousseau: ʿalā bayt) worth fifty dirhams” (Ibn Saʿd, Ṭabaqāt 8:50).
  • a marker of familial identity, grouping, and authority: The mercy and blessing of Allah be upon you, O people of the house! (Q 11:73, cf. 33:33); And she in whose house he was asked of him an evil act (Q 12:23); Shall I show you a household who will rear him for you and take care of him? (Q 28:12); But we did not find therein except one house of Muslims (Q 51:36). The Prophet’s uncle, al-ʿAbbās b. ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib, used the word in the sense of tribe in his panegyric verses in celebration of the Prophet’s birth (mawlid):

Until your noble House, proclaiming [your merit],

took hold of the highest summit of the line of Khindif,

And then, when you were born, the sun rose over the earth/

and the horizon was illuminated with your light.

Ḥākim, Mustadrak 3:327; Abu Nuʿaym, Ḥilya 1:364; Khindif is an Arab ancestor: see Bukhārī, Manāqib, qiṣṣat Khuzāʿa

Bayt as an Archetype of False Security

Allah Most High coined a simile between those who rely on other than Him and a spider living in a web: The likeness of those who choose patrons other than Allah is as the likeness of the spider when it takes unto itself a house; and truly the frailest of all houses is the spider’s house, if they but knew (Q 29:41). Al-Bayḍāwī (d. 685/1286) comments, “No dwelling is flimsier or less protective against hot and cold than that, and their religion is flimsier yet” (Tafsīr).


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See also

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