In Quranic Arabic, sulh is used as a term signifying an agreement or settlement over a property dispute and retains this sense in later Islamic legal usage. In Bedouin customary law, it can signify a settlement of a tribal feud and in modern Arabic usage, it is applied to treaties, such as the sulh Versailles (Treaty of Versailles). In general, it reflects a sense of resolution of conflict through negotiation. The two parties select respected individuals to mediate the conflict, a truce (hudna) is declared, a settlement is reached that maintains the honor and status of both parties, and a public ritual takes place. Particularly important is the fact that the practice affirms bonds between groups and not just individuals. It averts a cycle of revenge.
Sulh, in its sense of conflict mediation, is still common in rural areas where governmental systems of justice have little force.
In Muslim political thought
In the early days of the Islamic Empire, sulh, in the sense of "treaty" or "armistice," typically meant that a region had "surrendered on terms" or similarly during the Ottoman retreat it preceded a region's independence. Typically, it signified an area that was ruled and administered by its local political structure but acknowledged itself as a subject through the payment of tribute.
In the Muslim world view on divisions of the world the region called the Dar al-'Ahd (Arabic: دار العهد "house of truce") or Dar al-Sulh ("house of treaty") or Dar al Hudna (Arabic: "house of calm") was seen as an intermediate to Dar al-Islam (Arabic: دار الإسلام, literally house/abode of Islam; or Dar as-Salam, house/abode of Peace) and Dar al-Harb (Arabic: دار الحرب "house of war").
Dar al-Sulh, was then seen as non-Muslim territory that had concluded an armistice with Muslims, and had agreed to protect Muslims and their clients and interests within its borders. Often this implied a tributary situation, however modern writings also include friendly countries in Dar al-Sulh. By no means, was this particular division however recognized by all Muslim jurists, and due to historical changes, these concepts have little significance today.
- Lewis, (1991), pg 78-80
- Irani, George Emile (2006). "Apologies and Reconciliation: Middle Eastern Rituals". Taking wrongs seriously: apologies and reconciliation. Stanford University Press.
- Gopin, Marc (2002). Holy war, holy peace: how religion can bring peace to the Middle East. Oxford University Press.
- Esposito, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-19-512559-2, pg 62-62