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Takfir (Declaring a Person as an Infidel) (Part 1)

(This post is an adaptation from Seminar Paper 2 presented in Convention of Ulama organised by PERGAS on 13 – 14 September 2003 which was written and presented by me. Details analysis of the topic can also be referred to Dr. Abdul Rahman b. Mu`alla Al-Luwaihiq, Religious Extremism In the Life Of Contemporary Muslims, translated by Jamaal Al-Din M. Zarabozo, Al-Basheer, 2001, pg 251-345.)

Takfir means to term a person as an infidel, or a practice as an act of infidelity. Islam views takfir as a serious allegation Takfir is an act that has a serious consequence even to the accuser. If his accusation is false, the allegation will rebound on him instead. Prophet Muhammad has said:

“If a man says to his brother ‘O, kafir (infidel)’, then surely one of them is kafir.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

“And whoever kills a life he will be tormented in Hell. And to curse a Muslim, is the same as killing him. And whoever calls another Muslim kafir, it is the same as killing him.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Ahmad)

“Whoever calls a man ‘kafir’ or said ‘O, enemy of Allah’, when he is not one, (the accusation) will rebound to him.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim)

“A man does not call another as fasiq (corrupt) or kafir, except that he will be the apostate if the other is actually not.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari)

As takfir is a serious issue in Islam, the ulama (Muslim scholars) always warn of the danger and the gravity of doing it, and are always careful on this subject.

In the book Syarh Al-`Aqidah At-Tahawiyah it was stated that;

“Let it be known that the topic committing takfir or not to do it, is a big topic full of trouble and trials. Much disunity has been caused by it. In it, is a maze of views and nafs (ego) that are mutually conflicting.” (Ibn Abi Al-`Iz, Syarh Al-`Aqidah At-Tahawiyah, Al-Maktab Al-Islami, Beirut, 1984, pg 313.)

It is not permissible for a Muslim to engage in takfir unless it is based on clear and indisputable evidence.

Carelessness & Extremism

Despite takfir being a serious and dangerous issue, certain parties have taken liberties with it by;

a. Declaring others as kafir due to sins they committed.

b. Declaring a ruler who does not rule with syariah as kafir without exception.

c. Declaring the followers of those rulers who do not rule with syariah as kafir.

d. Declaring those outside of the jemaah (group) to be kafir.

e. Declaring those who live in the unIslamic society and do not emigrate as kafir.

f. Declaring as kafir the one who does not consider the other kafir – according to their claims – as kafir.

g. Declaring that the contemporary Muslim society is jahiliyah (Islamically corrupt).

h. Declaring Muslims residing in Darul Harbi as kafir.

Examples of the above are as follow;

a. In an open letter to King Fahd, Usamah b. Laden wrote;

“The answer, as we have indicated on previous occasions, is so evident that it is comparable to the sun at high noon, admitting no hesitancy, nor stammering, or dodging, or evasiveness, or appeasement. It is clear that Kufr (disbelief) is taking you out of the fold of Islam according to the Noble Book, and the Sunnah and the consensus of the Ummah.” (Dated August 1995)

b. In an interview with Al-Jazeera in October 2001, Usama b. Laden said;

“I swear that every one who follows Bush in his scheme has given up Islam and the word of the prophet. This is very clear. The prophet has said, “Believers don’t follow Jews or Christians.” Our wise people have said that those who follow the unfaithful have become unfaithful themselves. Those who follow Bush in his crusade against Muslims have denounced God. [Bin Laden recites verses from the Quran on same subject.] Those who support Bush, even with one word, have fallen.”

c. A member of extremist was quoted;

“But they refused to make pledge to the jamaah (group). We are the jamaah (group) of truth. All other than us are not Muslims. It is not permissible for there to be a number of Muslim jamaahs (groups).” (Cited by Abdul Rahman b. Mu`alla Al-Luwaihiq, Religious Extremism In the Life Of Contemporary Muslims, pg 323-4.)

d. Sulaiman Abu-Al-Ghaits, spokesperson for Al-Qaeda, made the following statement;

“In this regard, we support the religious rulings issued by senior clerics in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, led by His Eminence Shaykh Humud Bin-Uqlah al-Shu’aybi, who said that it is impermissible to co-operate with Jews and Christians and that he who co-operates with them and gives them his opinion or take actions in supporting them becomes apostate and revokes his faith in God and his Prophet, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him.” (BBC Online, 14 October 2001)

e. Mahir Bakri wrote;

“… that the one who dwells among the polytheist while he has the ability to leave them, but then he refrains from leaving them while knowing the prohibition of living among them, he is a disbeliever. Allah will not accept any deed from him.” Cited by Abdul Rahman b. Mu`alla Al-Luwaihiq, Religious Extremism In the Life Of Contemporary Muslims, pg 333.)

Understanding Kufr (Infidelity) Before Takfir

There are different types and grades of kufr (infidelity) in Islam, just as there are different types and grades of iman (faith). Hence, these different gradations cannot all be simply consigned one single blanket ruling such as; fall out of Islam, or be condemned to Hell.

The word kufr (infidelity) even has different connotations in syara’, at times, meaning to fall out of the religion, whilst other times not. Among evidences on the latter from the Quran are:

“We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (kufr) (rests on his will).” (The Quran, 76:3)

“And if any is grateful (kufr), truly his gratitude is (a gain) for his own soul, but if any is kufr, truly my Lord is Free of all needs, Supreme in Honour!” (The Quran 27:40)

In both above verses, the Quran defines kufr (infidelity) as against gratefulness. In Islam, just being ungrateful to God, does not throw one out of the religion.

From the hadith (Prophet’s tradition), we can find the followings:

The Prophet said, “You should not despise your father. Anyone who despises his father, then he has committed kufr.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim). Here the Prophet used the word kufr (infidelity) to denote ungratefulness, which does not throw one out of the religion, but is only considered a wrongdoing.

The Prophet said, “Not from us anyone who knowingly associates himself (as the son) to someone who is not his father, unless he has committed kufr.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim). Here kufr (infidelity) involves being ungrateful for what God bestowed. It does not throw one out of Islam, if done out of weakness. It only causes one to fall out of Islam, if one does it knowingly, willingly and consider it halal (permissible) even though it has been prohibited by God.

The Prophet said, “To revile another Muslim is fisq (sinful) and to kill him is kufr.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & At-Turmuzi). Kufr here does not mean fall out of the religion because the Quran says, “And if two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make peace and reconciliation between the two (contending) parties;” (The Quran, 49:9)

This verse still considers the two groups that are fighting with one another as mukmin (believer). Hence, kufr in that hadith does not mean out of the religion but denotes sin.

Similarly for the hadith which says, “If two Muslims meet with their swords, the one who kills and the one killed will be in Hell.” (Narrated by Al-Bukhari & Muslim). The Prophet still described them as Muslims, even though they will end up in Hell, for going to fight each other.

………………… to be continued

About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


One thought on “Takfir (Declaring a Person as an Infidel) (Part 1)

  1. jazakumullahu khyr. I really appreciate this site i pray may Almighty Allah continue to guide and bless you. Am learning a lot from this site and it makes me understand my Deen more and more once again jazakumullahu khyr. Please keep on updating me on my Email if there is any new write up. jazakumullahu khyr

    Posted by KAMAL | January 27, 2018, 2:23 am

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