Beware of labelling others as Kaafir
Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s commentary: Kufr, Kafara, Kafir (كافر), and derivative forms of the word, imply a deliberate rejection of Faith as opposed to a mistaken idea of Allah or faith, which is not consistent with an ernest desire to see the truth. Where there is such desire, the Grace and Mercy of Allah gives guidance. But that guidance is not efficacious when it is deliberately rejected, and the possibility of rejection follows from the grant of free will. The consequence of the rejection is that spiritual faculties become dead or impervious to better influence.
Al-Qaadi ‘Ayyaad said: We regard as a kaafir everyone who follows a religion other than the religion of the Muslims, or who agrees with them, or who has doubts, or who says that their way is correct, even if he appears to be a Muslim and believes in Islam and that every other way is false, he is a kaafir. (Al-Shifaa’ bi Ta’reef Huqooq al-Mustafaa, 2/1071)
Determining whether someone is a kaafir or a faasiq (فاسق) is not up to us, rather it is up to Allah, may He be exalted, and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This is one of the rulings of sharee’ah that is to be referred to the Qur’aan and Sunnah, so we should be very careful and base our judgement on clear proof. No one may be judged to be a kaafir or faasiq except the one whom the Qur’aan and Sunnah indicate is a kaafir or faasiq.
The basic principle is that the one who appears outwardly to be a Muslim of good character is regarded as still being a Muslim of good character, until it is proven that this is no longer the case by means of evidence that is acceptable in sharee’ah. It is not permissible to take lightly the matter of judging someone to be a kaafir or faasiq, because that involves two very serious matters:
1 – It implies fabricating lies against Allah with regard to this ruling, and fabricating lies against the one who is being judged.
2 – Falling into that which one accused one’s brother of, if he is free from that.
Be careful who you call Kafir because only Allah knows who is truly a rejector and who is merely a misguided person. It is not up to us to “sentence” a person to the Hellfire.
We must always maintain courtesy, diplomacy and a never-dying zeal to convey the message to others no matter how discouraging or useless it may seem – don’t give up on a non-muslim because most people are good people who simply need a break from the anti-Islamic propaganda around them.
The Fastest Way to Leave Islam
It is always safest to assume that a non-muslim has been misguided, misinformed and fed lies and misconceptions about Islam and Muslims – don’t jump to calling him a Kafir. Remove the name-calling from your articles and websites – wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry – name-calling, especially wrongly branding someone as ‘evil’, ‘kafr‘ and ‘manifestation of satan’ – Gheebat (backbiting) – could entail dire consequences for us on Judgement Day.
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do you know what is backbiting? They (the Companions) said: Allah and His Messenger know best. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like. It was said to him: What is your opinion about this that if I actually find (that failing) in my brother which I made a mention of? He said: If (that failing) is actually found (in him) what you assert, you in fact backbited him, and if that is not in him it is a slander. (Sahih Muslim :: Book 32 : Hadith 6265)
Also see : The Varying Forms of Wrongful Backbiting
Perhaps there is no faster way to leave Islam than by calling other Muslims “kafir” or “mushrik” without discrimination.
About calling other Muslims “kafir,” we read the following hadith:
روي ان رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال: إذا قال الرجل لصاحبه “يا كافر” فإنها تجب على أحدهما. فإن كان الذي قيل له كافر فهو كافر. وإلا رجع إليه ما قال.
It is narrated that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wassallam) said, “When a man says to his companion ‘O you Kaafir,‘1 then this would be necessarily binding upon one of the two. If the man who was called a kaafir is actually one,2 then he would be a kaafir; otherwise3 whatever the caller said would return upon him.”4
- That is, infidel or rejecter.
- That is, he is actually a rejecter or an infidel in the sight of God and is not a believer.
- That is, if the person has been falsely accused of rejection and infidelity.
- If a person falsely accuses or declares another person to be an infidel or a rejecter, then the accuser shall face the consequences of his false accusation. The consequence of such an accusation implied in the narrative is that the accuser would himself be deemed a rejecter or an infidel and would be treated as such. History bears witness that carelessly declaring others – persons and groups – to be kaafirs has sown the seed of discord, disharmony and hatred among the various Muslim groups. Every group considers itself to be the standard of righteousness and considers even the slightest differences – even in matters of interpretation and juristic Ijtihad – to be adequate grounds to charge another group with infidelity and rejection.
In the referred narrative, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wassallam) has warned the Muslims to refrain from such grave accusations against their brethren, as carelessness in this regard can easily render themselves infidels and rejecters in the sight of God.
Notes on the Text of the Narrative:
This narrative has been reported in Ahmad ibn Hanbal, narrative no. 5824. It has also been reported, with some variations,in Bukhari (narrative no. 5752,5753), Muslim (narrative no. 60,) Mu’atta (narrative no. 1777),Tirmidhi (narrative no. 2637), Ahmad ibn Hanbal (narrative no. 4687, 4745, 5035,5077,5259,5260,5914,5933,6280), Ibn Hibban (narrative no. 248, 249,250), Bayhaqi (narrative no. 20691), Abu Dawood (narrative no. 4687), Humaidi (narrative no. 698)
The referred text has been reported differently in various narratives. In some narratives, as in Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s narrative no.5035 the word “لصاحبه” (i.e., ‘to his companion’) has been replaced with the word “للرجل”(i.e., ‘to another person’).
In some narratives, as in Abu Dawood’s narrative no. 4687, the narrative has been reported as “أيما رجل مسلم أكفر رجلا مسلما فإن كان كافرا وإلا كان هو الكافر” (i.e., ‘when a Muslim man declares another Muslim man to be a kaafir, then if the person so declared is actually a kaafir [then it is alright], otherwise the person who makes such a declaration would be a kaafir.)
In some narratives, as in Muslim ‘s narrative no. 60 , it has been reported as “إذا كفر الرجل أخاه فقد باء بها أحدهما” (i.e., ‘when a man declares his brother to be a kaafir, then one of them definitely returns as a kaafir‘); inAhmad ibn Hanbal’s narrative no. 6280, it has been reported as “من كفر أخاه فقد باء بها أحدهما”(i.e., ‘whoever declares his brother to be a kaafir, then one of them is surely going to return as a kaafir‘); in Bukhariy’snarrative no. 5753, it has been reported as “أيما رجل قال لأخيه يا كافر فقد باء بها أحدهما” (i.e., ‘when a man calls his brother ‘o you kaafir‘, then one of them is bound to return as a kaafir‘); in some narratives, as in Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s narrative no. 4687 it has been reported as “إذا أحدكم قال لأخيه يا كافر فقد باء بها أحدهما” (i.e., ‘when one of you calls his brother ‘O you kaafir‘, then one of them surely returns as a kaafir‘); while in Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s narrative no. 5260, it has been reported as “أيما رجل كفر رجلا فأحدهما كافر” (i.e., ‘When a man declares another to be a kaafir, then one of them is indeed a kaafir‘).
In some narratives, as in Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s narrative no.5259 the word “رجل” (i.e., ‘a man’) has been replaced by its synonym “امرئ“.
In some narratives, as in Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s narrative no. 5035, the last part of the narrative has alternatively been reported as “إن كان كما قال وإلا رجعت على الآخر” (i.e., ‘If he [i.e., the person who has been called a kaafir] is actually as he has been called – i.e., a kaafir – then it is alright, otherwise the accusation would return on the other person’).
In Ibn Hibban’s narrative no. 248, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wassallam) is reported to have said:
ما أكفر رجل رجلا قط إلا باء أحدهما بها إن كان كافرا وإلا كفر بتكفيره.
Never does a man declare another to be a kaafir but one of the two would surely return as a kaafir. If the person so declared is actually a kaafir [then it is alright], otherwise the person making such a declaration shall be considered a kaafir.
Therefore, if you call other Muslims “kafir” or “mushrik” without discrimination, and you are not sure about it, or you don’t have any proofs regarding that, then you become one of the kuffar and hence you could find that you have left Islam, according to the words of the Prophet (s.a.w.), in less than a second.
Ibn Taymiyah’s (may Allah have mercy on him) view:
Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (23/349):
Imam Ahmad (may Allah be pleased with him) prayed for mercy for them (i.e., the caliphs who were influenced by the view of the Jahamis who claimed that the Qur’aan was created, and supported it) and prayed for forgiveness for them, because he knew that it was not clear to them that they were disbelieving the Messenger and denying what he had brought, rather they misinterpreted and erred, and followed those who said that to them. End quote.
And he (may Allah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (12/180):
With regard to takfeer (judging someone to be a kaafir), the correct view is that a member of the ummah of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who strives to reach the truth concerning a certain issue, but reaches the wrong conclusion, is not to be deemed a kaafir, rather he will be forgiven for his mistake. But the one who understands the message brought by the Messenger, but deliberately goes against the way of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) after true guidance has become clear to him, and follows a path other than that of the believers, is a kaafir. The one who follows his whims and desires and fails to seek the truth and speaks without knowledge is a disobedient sinner, and may be a faasiq, but he may have some good deeds that outweigh his bad deeds. End quote.
And he (may Allah have mercy on him) said: (3/229):
However, and those who sit with me know this about me, I am always one of those who most emphatically forbid describing a specific person as a kaafir, faasiq or sinner, unless it is known that shar’i proof has been established against him, and it has been proven whether he is a kaafir, a faasiq or a sinner. I affirm that Allah has forgiven this ummah for its mistakes, which includes mistakes in narrative and practical issues. The salaf continued to debate many of these issues but none of them testified that anyone else was a kaafir or a faasiq or a sinner.
He mentioned some examples, then he said:
I also state that what has been narrated from the salaf and the imams, stating that the one who says such and such is a kaafir, is also true, but it is essential to differentiate between general rules and specific cases.
… Takfeer is a kind of warning; even though the words may be a rejection of what the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, the man may be new in Islam, or he may have grown up in a remote region. Such a person cannot be ruled to be a kaafir, no matter what he denies, unless proof has been established against him. The man may not have heard of those texts, or he may have heard them but they were nit proven to him , or he may have some ideas that are contrary to what he heard, that med him to misinterpret the text.
I always remember the hadeeth in al-Saheehayn, which speaks of the man who said: “ ‘When I die, burn me and crush (my bones), then scatter me in the sea, for by Allah, if Allah grasps hold of me He will punish me as He has not punished anyone else in the world.’ They did that, and Allah said: ‘What made you do what you did?’ He said: ‘Fear of You.’ And He forgave him.”
This man doubted the power of Allah and doubted that He would restore him if his remains were scattered; rather he believed that he would not be resurrected, which is kufr according to the consensus of the Muslims. But he was ignorant and did not know about that; however, he was a believer who feared that Allah would punish him, so He forgave him because of that.
One who is qualified to engage in ijtihaad and who bases his incorrect notion on some misinterpretation of some text but is sincere in his keenness to follow the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is even more deserving of forgiveness than such a person. End quote.
Waste no time debating what a good Muslim should be. Be one!
Because the matter of takfeer is so serious, and mistakes therein are so grave, the seeker of knowledge, especially if he is a beginner, should refrain from indulging in that, and he should focus on acquiring beneficial knowledge that will set his own affairs straight in this world and the Hereafter.
Guiding a Non-Muslim to Islam only possible by the Grace of God. Our job is to help others understand Islam – that is our basic duty. And only then insha ‘allah, will non-muslims move in the direction of becoming one of us. We must remain positive, open-minded and generous in our efforts to convey the true message.
You cannot encourage a non-muslim to be understanding and open-minded if you yourself are hot-tempered and hurling accusations at him/her. No non-muslim is going to respect you and it will certainly reflect badly on Islam if a Muslim, a representative of Islam, is narrow-minded.
I pray to Allah that we develop patience and sincerity in our efforts to bring about more tolerance in this world. Remember….every human being, regardless of whether he/she is born to Muslim or Non-Muslim parents, is born innocent and pure…it is society that influences him/her to stray from Islam and just as a person can stray, he/she can revert back and YOU can help this process.
We have a very important and sensitive role to play. We are the trusted Ummah of the Rasool (sallallahu ‘alayhi wassallam), a servant of God…it has been made our duty and our obligation to pass on the pure, unadulterated truth – make honest and full use of this honourable task.
Allah Knows Best.