Calling Someone a Kafir


Question

The other day I was out with some of my friends and we started talking about different groups. One of them said that such and such person is a kafir (infidel). Upon hearing this I told him that was not right. In his defense he told me that he heard one of this person’s talks and what he said was nothing but kufar. What do I do?

Answer

Bismillah wa salatu wa salamu `ala sayydina rasulillah.

Sadly, this is the case of some in our community. Frank Luntz mentions in What American Think…Really that 90% of Americans think they are smarter than other Americans. Unfortunately, it seems that arrogance like this transcends faith and falls into our community as well.

Takfir (declaring apostasy) is not an easy affair. Just like any ruling it has certain conditions that, if not present, will prevent the ruling, in this case disbelief, from occurring.

Here are some of those conditions:

  1. Declaring apostasy cannot be based on probability, meaning if there is a chance that a person may not be a kafir. Imam Malik said, “If I have 99 reasons to believe a person is a kafir and one to believe he is not, I’ll prefer the latter.”
  2. Takfir is made regarding things that are known by default, like God being one and the finality of prophethood. The Malikis listed 33 issues that fall under the heading, malum min al-din bi al-Dururrah.
  3. Takfir cannot be based on following an opinion (ijtihad) of a scholar in fiqh (legal verdict). There is not a kafir in fiqh because fiqh implies knowledge of things beyond the average person’s scope. For that reason a person is not declared a kafir who makes tawassul (praying to Allah through an intermediary). Imam Ahmed said, “We do not declare such people as kuffar.”
  4. Takfir cannot be based on a sincere attempt to interpret or understand a text. Allah subhanahu wa ta`la (Exalted is He) mentions the followers of Christ saying, “Can God send a table from the heavens?” This is a statement of kufur but they were excused because it was a sincere question and an effort to understand.
  5. Takfir cannot be based on actions that are due to ignorance. In the Qur’an we find the followers of Musa alayhi assalam saying, “Make for us idols to worship like they (the people of Egypt) had.” Musa’s response was, “You are an ignorant people.” He did not say that you are a kuffar. This verse servers as the foundation for the axiom “Al-’Uthru bi Jahl” (Ignorance is excused).
  6. Takfir can only be made on an act of pure worship coupled with an intention that is clear kufur. Al-Dhahabi said, “If I saw a Muslim making sujud to a grave, I would not declare takfir until I talked to him.”
  7. Takfir cannot be made upon an action that was done under the threat of harm. Allah (swt) says, “Except for the one who was forced (to say kufur) and his heart was full of faith.”
  8. Takfir cannot be made upon an act that was an emotional burst. The Prophet  ﷺ (peace be upon him) said that the man who lost his camel in the desert and later found it, said, “God! You are my servant and I am your Lord.” The Prophet ﷺ did not say this man was a kafir even though the statement is kufur. Ibn Hajar notes that this man was overcome with joy, so his statement was an abbreviation.
  9. Just because someone’s group is not from Ahl-Sunna does not mean they are kafir. For that reason the companions prayed janazah (funeral prayer) for the khawarij. They did not collect the spoils of war from them, but gave it to the deceased’s family according to the Islamic rules on inheritance. Ibn Taymiyya says that this proves the companions considered them Muslims.
  10. Making takfir of others without knowledge is a major sin.
  11. There is no takfir for major sins (only in certain situations).
  12. Takfir is to be made, in most cases, by a Qadi and not a lay person or even a mufti as noted by Khalil. The reason for this is because, in the classical age, this implied a loss of rights. Secondly, a lay person accusing another of kufur falls under qathf, a major sin.

Allah (swt) knows best.

Suhaib

Print Friendly

38 Comments

  1. Ibrahim says:

    Jazak Allah khair Imam for sharing this. May Allah help us to have greater concern for others and the consequences of our own misjudgment.

  2. thinkthink says:

    Wonderful post. Also see al-Gahazali’s “faisal al-tafriqah bayn al-Islam wa al-zandaqah.”

  3. Nabila says:

    Salaam ustadz. I acknowledge some muslims say that not everything from prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is exemplary, based on some facts that he married Aisyah when she’s 9 years old, etc. Also they say that some verses in the Quraan was wrong, and they tried to correct it.
    Thus,,are they kafir? or we still can’t judge them as a kafir?

  4. Farooq says:

    Bismillah.

    This is very important and very contemporary. Thank you Imam Suhaib for this reminder.

    I always remember one hadith of Rasulullah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) concerning this:

    “The Muslims in their mutual love, kindness and compassion are just like one body. When one of its parts is in agony, the entire body feels the pain in sleeplessness and fever.”.

    Who are we, the laymen, to judge others when we ourselves are involved in minor shirk when we show off our good deeds and delay our prayers while giving priority to other things (which includes sleep too).

    I seek refuge in Allah’s Bountiful Mercy.

    Note:
    Spelling mistake of apostasy in point 1. Also, in point 5, it should be Musa alaihi salam.

  5. Abdullah says:

    Asalamu Alaykum Imam Suhaib,

    What about repentance for a person who designates as kaafirs those who, for all we know and what is apparent, are Muslim? For example, someone who believes a leader of certain country is committing sins and/or is conspiring with non-Muslims to oppress and inflict tyranny on a population, and therefore calls such a leader known to be a Muslim, a kaafir.

    How can we advise such a person and how can such a person who has said such a thing repent?

    Jazakum’Allahu Khayr.

    Asalamu Alaykum

    Abdullah

  6. fhq says:

    salaam Imam Suhaib,

    I was always under the impression that there is no takfir for major sins (in ALL situations). I thought there is only takfir for denying the prohibition of these acts.

    From your wording, it seems like there are a few cases where simply committing the sin takes someone outside of Islam. If that’s the case, could you please provide an example?

    JAK

    • abu Abdullah says:

      I remember something to the effect that a believer seizes to be a believer while committing a kabirah. wallahu ‘alam.

  7. abu Abdullah says:

    Salamualaikum,
    I get it. Takfir making is bad. to deter observant muslims doing it on another as lay men without knowing consequences , knowing what thaqf is would help. Please elaborate on it a little bit and consequences of that action. Any kaffarah if its done? etc.
    jazak Allah khayr

  8. Brother says:

    جزاكم الله خيرا يا أستاذ

  9. Leo says:

    Assalamu alaikum. There is something I still get confused upon: does doing an act of kufr make that person a kafir? If no then which which acts of kufr puts a person out of the fold of Islam?

  10. Humble Muslim says:

    Salam

    In view of this post, could anyone comment on the recent case in Pakistan where the Governor of Punjab was proudly murdered by his own bodyguard for “blasphemy”?

    • Son of Adam says:

      Yeah, I’d really like a comment from Shaykh Suhaib on that too.

      • Qas says:

        Assalamualaikum,

        I would rather that Imam Suhaib Webb doesn’t comment on it. He doesn’t know Pakistani society and its histories and intricacies. May be a general comment on extrajudicial killing would be fine but anything specific has the potential to be misconstrued and might not be an apt description of (or a prescription to) the event.

        • Humble Muslim says:

          Well as I look at the list, I can’t help feeling that none of these criteria seemed to apply to the Governor. Yet it seems that most of the ulema in Pakistan don’t have a problem with his murder.

      • Young Sheikh Mujahid says:

        As matter of fact, I wonder if Taqi Usmani has made any comments about the situation in Pakistan.

  11. ahlam says:

    its natural for our apast scholars not rushing to apply takfir on indivduals…its something pleasant and a believer wishes that the world was submitting to its creator.

  12. Brother says:

    I think point 3 -

    Takfir cannot be based on following an opinion (ijtihad) of a scholar in fiqh (legal verdict). There is not a kafir in fiqh because fiqh implies knowledge of things beyond the average person’s scope. For that reason a person is not declared a kafir who makes tawassul (praying to Allah through an intermediary). Imam Ahmed said, “We do not declare such people as kuffar.”

    Is better understood after reading these two articles -

    http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/worship/dua/could-you-comment-on-the-recent-discussion-surrounding-istighatha/

    http://www.suhaibwebb.com/personaldvlpt/worship/dua/what-is-the-ruling-on-seeking-divine-ai-from-other-than-allah-even-if-it-were-a-prophet-answered-by-al-allamah%cc%84-sh-muhammad-al-hasan-walid-al-dido-al-shanqiti/

  13. I’ve always wondered why people feel the need to call others kafir – how does it improve your life if you do so? Besides making you feel better about your own inadequacies? What guarantee does the person accusing others of kufr have that they will die Muslim? In my opinion this is a personality and akhlaq issue.

    Great article, to the point and really informative.

    • Swarthmoor says:

      Abdel-Rahman,

      Not everyone who calls himself a Muslim is a Muslim. In the States, there is a black nationalist organization that claims Allah was born to a white(!) woman in 1877. The fact is that not enough Muslims stood up and exposed this group, and as a result, until today, there are pockets of people who think that this organization is “Islamic.”

      Identifying what is kufr and warning against those who spread kufr in the guise of Islam is part of ordering the good and forbidding the evil. If a person cannot distinguish the difference between Eemaan and kufr, then he wouldn’t be a Muslim. Also, it would seem evident to me that the human devils and enemies of Islam would propagate blasphemous ideas among the Muslims, and launch blasphemous organizations and support Hypocritcal personalities to attempt to undermine Islam. They’ve done so thru history and they are doing so right now in the West. When a person studies the subject of “Blasphemy and Apostasy” it becomes immediately evident what is going on, and that by having this knowledge, one can better protect himself and the Muslims at large.

      • TMI Hijabi says:

        as salaam alaikum,

        There is a huge difference between warning of acts of kufr and calling those who follow them kuffar. We are obligated as Muslims, if we have the required knowledge, to point out that worshiping graves is kufr. But it is better to say that the person who does this is misguided or has made a mistake or is in possible jeopardy than to say that he/she is a kafir.

  14. suhaibwebb says:

    As,

    Outside of the other posts, are people actually asking me to make takfir of anyone based on some internet comments? Come on, brothers and sisters, get a grip and realize that your din deserves much more than that? A teacher once told me, “How can people play with takfir? Do they not understand the number of rulings associated with it?”

    SDW

    • Humble Muslim says:

      WAS

      That’s exactly my point. It seems that NO bona fide scholar in Pakistan has spoken out against the killing of the governor. Those who have spoken have either blessed the action or made excuses for it. This would imply that the scholars, who are supposed to be the ones who the masses turn to for explaination of Islam, seem to have passed takfir on the murdered governor. And not only that, but given a green light for any individual to be judge, jury and executioner for takfir. I find this extremely disturbing. Does this mean that we can never trust Pakistani scholars? Or, if they are correct, what implications does that have?

      • Swarthmoor says:

        Humble,

        Two things need to clarified here. One: what did the governor allegedly say (or do) that caused some people to deem him a kaafir? Two: whatever he said does not justify vigilante acts, but it is important to know (that IF it is confirmed) that if a person has said or done such-and-such, then one should deem that person a kaafir (again, implementation of the punishment is another issue).

        There are two dangers here. One: the ignorant and indiscriminate making of takfeer (and the vigilante acts that often follow). The other issue is that we should not abandon the practice of making takfeer on those who commit blatant kufr (even though we cannot impose the punishment). We shouldn’t allow extremists to cause Muslims to become confused about disbelief and apostasy and distinguishing Islam from kufr—this can, in the end, be as dangerous than those who commit extremist acts in the name of Islam.

  15. Mohamed Ali says:

    Bismillah,

    it is said that if Takfir is made than one of those who dispute is a Kafir: The one who spoke it out or the one who received the Takfir.

    Now my real question: What if the one who spoke out the Takfir was insane? Would it be valid?

    wa salam

    • Swarthmoor says:

      The issue is deeming a person (i.e., a Muslim) a kaafir WITHOUT AN EXCUSE is kufr. The reason being is that the person is claiming that this person’s Islam is kufr (and to Islam kufr is kufr). Now some people out of ignorance may consider the one who commits enormities to be a kaafir (believing that is the verdict for such a person, when in reality it is not), this is not kufr on the part of the one who thought such. You teach them the proper judgment.

      One point needs to be clarified here: the one who commits blatant blasphemy must be deemed a kaafir. So, for instance, those who claim Allah is human, or an object, or that Allah is not the only Creator, or that there will be a new Prophet after Prophet Muhammad, or rejecting what is commonly known and immediately recognized as being part of the Religion (unless, for the latter case, one was, for instance a new Muslim, and he was not familiar with the judgment and did not intend to oppose the ruling) one must deem such people disbelievers. You don’t need a judge to tell you that such a belief is itself kufr. (This is different from the IMPLEMENTATION of the legal punishment for apostasy, which has to be done by the appropriate authorities.)

      Regarding the insane, the one who is in a state of absence of mind (e.g., the insane or the asleep), they are not accountable while in such a state. So if they said blasphemy, then they would not receive the punishment for apostasy.

      This is a VERY important chapter of the Islamic knowledge that Muslims need to familiarize themselves, for it would help suppress many of the heretical and blasphemous ideologies and groups that are attempting to propagate their fitnah.

  16. muslim first says:

    asalamu alaykum,

    In your second point, you wrote of how takfir can be made on people who deny the finality of prophethood. The Ahmadiyya religion believes in a prophet after rasul Illah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallem so does this mean that they’re kuffar straight up or is there still room to make excuses for them, especially for the laymen? I’m asking because my family and many of my childhood friends are Ahmadi. Is there any sin in treating them as or calling them Muslims? Because they act like Muslims, they just have a couple weird beliefs.

  17. hussain says:

    Assalamualaikum,

    Could you please reference the quotes of Imaam Ahmed and that of al Dhahabi’s. Shukran

  18. Safa says:

    I definitely find this an informative article. Calling someone a kafir or a munafiq (hypocrite) or any other thing is wrong as even the prophet SAW was forbidden to do so. However, one thing that should be noted that if we were to look up the root meaning of kufar (disbelief) it is very vast and the basic one being “to hide”. With that being said, kufr can be a muslim choosing not to follow the right thing.It definitely does not take him away from not being a muslim but kufr is not just limited to not being a muslim but also to not following the right thing. When a muslim enters into islam it is not partially or 1/3 or whatever, it is complete submission. In the times of the prophet SAW when an ayah of forbidden things were revealed, the muslims used to say “We hear and We believe” therefore thats how muslims should try to be.

    More info can be found here :)
    http://islamqa.info/en/ref/21249

    May Allah SWT give us strength to follow islam properly ameen.

    • Muhammad says:

      @Safa: Do not rely on that website ! – That website is banned in Saudi Arab, the Mufti there is not authorised to issue Fatwas ! – And many fatwas there are wrong !

      Even this, on this topic, he thinks that even a true Muslim should be called a kafir, if he doesn’t call the kafirs as kafirs !?! http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/6688

      Now tell me, how can someone who believes in Allah (SWT) and His Messengers (PBUT) and Quran, be considered as a Kafir? – This is just ignorance.

      The website is a Salafi website that promotes hatred among Muslim, and also making ALL non-Muslims as enemies of Muslims.

      • Safa says:

        Actually I dont only rely at that but like i usually try to get authentic ahadith and stuff. BUt yes sometimes even I found his fatwas a bit far fetched, jazakallah for that.

        Actually I dont think Kafir and Kufar are that related, I mean Kafir is someone who does disbelief by denying the existence of Allah SWT and the prophet SAW and the pillars of faith + doing acts of disbelief.

        What I meant was by quoting Ibn Kathir’s tafseer of the word kufr which does mean to do acts of disbelief. Certain acts would constitute to that. but it will not make him/her a kafir completely that is a complete different thing

        • TMI Hijabi says:

          as salaam alaikum, kafir, kuffar, and kufr are all related as they come from the same Arabic triliteral root k-f-r

        • Gibran says:

          Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

          Those 10 things Ibn Kathir mentioned do in fact expel one out of the fold of Islam. And there is the general principle no, whoever doesn’t make takfir of the kuffar is a kafir himself?

      • Gibran says:

        Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

        That website is an absolutely excellent website.

      • Gibran says:

        Muhammad you are absolutely wrong. That website is run by Sheikh Muhammad Salih al Munnajid and uses many scholars. Please do not mislead people.

      • Rahatul Khan says:

        The tyrannical regime of saud bans some ulama and you take it as good? lol that shows us if we should rely on your naseehah or not.

        “Now tell me, how can someone who believes in Allah (SWT) and His Messengers (PBUT) and Quran, be considered as a Kafir? – This is just ignorance.”

        In fact, this is a statement of ignorance. Why? because the one who claims to believe in Islam or to be a Muslim – what are his preconditions on being a muslim? what are the conditions of the shahada? From among them is to reject kufr. So believing those whom Allah described as kafirs NOT be be kafirs is a contradiction to the foundations of ones faith.

        Imam Nawawi notes:
        “Someone who does not believe that whoever follows another religion besides Islam is an unbeliever (like Christians), or doubts that such a person is an unbeliever, or considers their sect to be valid, is himself an unbeliever (kafir) even if he manifests Islam and believes in it” (Rawda al-talibin, 10.70).
        This is not only the position of the Shafi’i school of jurisprudence represented by Nawawi, but is also the recorded position of all three other Sunni schools: Hanafi (Ibn ‘Abidin: Radd al-muhtar 3.287), Maliki (al-Dardir: al-Sharh al-saghir, 4.435), and Hanbali (al-Bahuti: Kashshaf al-qina’, 6.170).

  19. Gibran says:

    Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    Imam Suhaib, I think the way you phrased “supplicating through an intermediary” is a bit confusing.

    What is clear to be is that this means “Oh Allah I ask you by the greatness of your Prophet..”

    NOT “Ya Ali Mada” or “Ya Muhammad”

    • Gibran says:

      There are many uses if the word tawassul nowadays. I will post what brother Abu Zubair has written and that should clear up some confusion.

      1) To call upon other than Allah for a need, such as rain, etc, while believing that the one being addressed will answer the call is Shirk by agreement. For example: O Prophet! Send us rain!

      2) To call upon other than Allah for a need, such as rain, etc, while believing that only Allah will answer the call is Shirk, by agreement. For example: O Prophet! Send us rain!

      3) To call upon other than Allah, asking them to intercede for us with Allah is also Shirk. For example: O Prophet! Intercede for us with Allah!

      4) To call upon the Prophet, asking him to make du’a for us is Shirk. For example: O Prophet! Ask Allah to grant us rain!

      5) To call upon Allah alone, asking Him by His Prophet is a valid difference of opinion in Fiqh where none is censured. For example: O Allah! I ask you alone by Your noble Prophet!

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

More in FAQs & Fatwas (22 of 94 articles)