بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
A polytheistic land is a country in which polytheism is manifest and predominant. This definition is what sheikh Muhammad ibn Ibrahim mentioned when questioned about a disbelieving country and what it is. He said a land of disbelief is that which disbelief is apparent and prominent. In light of this, whenever polytheism becomes distinct in a country and its distinction is predominant (it becomes widespread, visible, clearly evident, and prominent) this country is (deemed and) dubbed to be a polytheistic land (or country). This relates to what (normally) transpires therein which is polytheism.
As it relates to the people of the country, this topic is disputed among the people of knowledge. Is consideration in naming a country to be an Islamic country or a country of disbelief (directed to) its people? Ibn Taimiyyah was asked about a country in which rulings of disbelief and Islamic legislation are both visible therein, so he said that this type of country is not deemed (judged) to be neither a land of disbelief nor an Islamic land. On the contrary the Muslim conducts himself therein in accordance with Islam, whereas the disbeliever conducts himself according to disbelief.
Some scholars stated a country in which the call to prayer is evident and heard during the times of prayer is an Islamic country because the Prophet -sallahu alayhi wa salaam- would say to whoever was with him, while out on a war expedition before invading a town in the morning hours, wait! If the summons to prayer was made he would not attack, and if it was not heard they would attack. This is debatable because the Arabs whenever they called to prayer this meant they affirmed and bore witness to the testimony of truth because they knew its intent. They fulfilled the rights of tawheed that comprises the call to prayer. So if they bore witness that there is no deity in truth except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and established the call to prayer, this indicated that they had abandoned and distanced themselves from polytheism.
فإن تابوا و أقاموا الصلاة وءاتَوُا الزكاة فإخوانكم في الدين
“If they repent, perform the prayer, and pay the annual charity, then they are consequently your brothers in faith.” [At-Taubah: 11]
“If they repent” from polytheism “perform the prayer, and pay the annual charity, then they are consequently your brothers in faith.” This is on account that the Arabs knew the meaning of tawheed, thus if they entered into Islam and bore witness to the two testimonies, this implied that they acted in accordance with it. As for in this day and time there are an abundant of Muslims that say there is no deity in truth except Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, however they do not truly know its intent, nor act in accordance to it. On the contrary you find polytheism being commonly practiced among them.
For this reason we say that this definition -a Muslim land or country is that wherein the adhan is manifest- in this day and time is not correct, and the evidence is its original affair, that being that the Arab would abandon and distance themselves from polytheism and its people. They would (willingly) uphold and implement monotheism, in contradiction to the people of this time period.
Therefore, the first definition concerning the titling of a country is more correct. It does not necessitate, regardless if it’s dubbed a polytheistic or Islamic country, that the ruling is based on the individuals residing therein. In contrast, we say that the ruling is based on what is predominate, and or by the manifestation of polytheism and disbelief, and whoever is therein is interacted with accordingly, especially in this era. This is due to the fact that the appearance of polytheism and disbelief in many countries does not occur by choice of the people of that land. Perhaps it is due to being overwhelmed, either by way of the Sufi paths or by way of the government, just as is well known and witnessed.
Hence we say that dubbing a country is restricted to what I clarified previously, as for its citizens then there conditions may differ.
Translated by Abu Abdil Waahid Najeeb Ibn Yusuf Al Anjelesi.
Source: شرح ثلاثة الأصول