Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kaafir? Mushrik? Atheist? Polytheist?

Disclaimer: I am not a scholar or a student of knowledge. I am only expressing my thoughts about a topic that has been bothering me for quite some time!

I just hate it when I hear Muslims use the word "kaafir".

Why? Because I think that most Muslims who use the word do not actually know what it really means.

Most Muslims I know use the word to describe a non-Muslim, specifically a Christian or Jewish person. In the prison where I work, I hear this from Muslims all the time: "that kaafir who is my cellie" or "that kaafir guard" etc.

But I ran across something interesting while surfing the Muslim websites recently. It is posted over at Abdur-Rahman's site. It appears to be a question that was answered by Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan. The question is: "What is the difference between al-Kaafireen and al-Mushrikeen (i.e., between a Musrik and a Kaafir)." You can read the question/answer in its entirety, but I perked up at the following statement the shaykh made:

" for the Kaafir, then he rejects the existence of Allaah the Mighty and Exalted and does not acknowledge Allaah the Mighty and Majestic, and nor does he acknowledge a religion from amongst the religions. This is the rejecting Kaafir."

Hmm ... I am not a scholar or a student of knowledge, but this appears pretty clear to me: the kaafir is an atheist! He does not believe in Allah. Period.

The kaafir, it appears, knowingly rejects the truth. If he has doubts about the truth and the doubts are removed and he still rejects the truth, it appears that he is a kaafir. No doubt about it. He may even tell you so himself!

Do we Muslims KNOW what other people believe or what is in their hearts? Unless they have declared unbelief out of their own mouths, do we have the right to label or call someone a kaafir without having intimate knowledge of this person, how he/she thinks, what he/she believes, what is in their hearts? I would think that only Allah (swt) can judge this person - or any of us for that matter! Especially on the Day of Judgment.

How do we attract people to Allah's (swt) beautiful and perfect religion if we show contempt for them? For the same people who may be our Muslim brother or sister in the future?

Would Allah (swt) permit a Muslim man to marry a kaafir? Astaghfirallah!

"Oh, but Safiyyah," you might say, "it says in the Qur'an that the Jews and Christians are kaafirs." We know, however, that those particular Jews and Christians WERE kaafir because of the very fact that Allah (swt) has told us so in the Qur'an! He has told us! BUT! He has not told us anything about the people of today. He has not let us in on the scoop! Only HE knows. We are not privy. Allahu Alim! The knowledge is with Him. Not us!


Anonymous said...

salaamo alaikom!
first I agree with you, only Allah can judge people.
Reading only the excerpt that you used in your post it sounds very clear, but after what i read here: about the term, it appears to be a matter of moderate or non moderate interpretation that people decide to follow just like any other ruling, perhaps you can ask them what they think kafir means and why they use this word to label someone with a different religion?

by the way, according to the whole answer given on the link that you posted it says every mushrik is a kafir (that's not my interpretation, i don't have
enough knowledge to judge either)
, in the quran it does say that christians are mushrikeen (I think, one could also argue
what mushrik means)
by this definition, according to the answer, it makes them kafir.

in conclusion i don't think it's ok to call someone of "the people of book" kafir, for one thing, it sounds more like a label given to atheists, for another, it's intolerant.

Avi said...

Interesting post.

One of the problems with Islam is that it is very 'us and then', Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb. This belief leads to hatred and murder. As the Sages teach, the righteous of ALL nations have a share in the World to Come.

Hanieh said...

Salaam Alaykum!

I am new to reading your blog... and I don't mean to sound stalker-ish, but are you from central/northeast PA?

I have family in Bloomsburg and I live in State College! I used to work at Geisinger....

I wonder if we know each other?


About the topic, I completely agree with what you've written. The kaffir is one who has not removed any of the veils from his/her heart, and can never understand the sweetness of submission. People of faith, regardless of faith, are struggling on a similar path as us, and are humble.

May Allah, the Most High, guide everyone to nearness to Him... and may we be humble enough to love the station of servitude. Ameen.


Antarmelog said...

The word 'kaafir' or 'kaafirun' is a term actually refers to people who are being ignorant or maybe under some circumstances choose not to follows the teaching of the Holy Quran & the As Sunnah as a way of life.We have been told repeatedly in the Quran & As Sunnah to be obidient & being a faithful muslims in order for us to achieve success not only in this world but in the Hereafter.If we purposedly being ignorant & continuously rejects - either directly or indirectly - all what have been told to us by the Prophets Muhammad (PBUH) & Allah the Most Knowing & the Most Merciful through Quran & As Sunnah, definitely we become a 'kaafir' or better known as a 'munafiqun'.Those who do not believe into the existence of Allah & His religion is called as infidels or as you already know as the unbeliever.We dont call them 'kaafir' although previously it do refers to the Jews & the Christians.

Yes, we actually dont know what is in their hearts & who are we to judge them indiscriminately when it comes to this matter.And yes, only Allah the Almighty has all the power & rights to judge.But, Allah also sets the guideline & what to be & what not to be, and from there we can really knows what type of person or people did eventually Allah prefers & accept.Of course we are prohibited to say such words to other people be it a non believer or even to our brothers & sisters eventhough a lot of them nowdays has gone astray or seems lost.
But it is our duty to educate ourselves & our brothers & sisters in order to not to be or becoming like one of 'kaafirun',a 'munafiqun' or 'an atheist'.NAUZUBILLAH.May Allah guides & protects us from such a sin.In short, we have to be able to distinguish whos 'kaafirun' whos 'munafiqun' whos 'an atheist' by solely refers to the Quran & the As Sunnah uncompromisingly.Of course the teachings in Quran & As Sunnah forbids us the muslims on being prejudice or racists, and what i said here is just to clarify the characteristics between the 'kaafirun' & the 'infidels'.I am not a professor let alone a scholar.What i have expressed here is merely based on the knowledge tought to me by local ustaz & scholar.

In the end it is Allah who knows best.I am a person who is still struggling trying to be a sincere, faithful & dedicated muslims and hoping that such effort receive the blessings from ALLAH swt.Any inaccurate facts is greatly regretted.

p.s Dear sister..can i link this blog ?

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Dear Noona:

Insha Allah you and yours are OK and you are doing well in school! Is the link you provided broken? Or is something wrong with my computer.

Shaalom BK:

I think the "us and them" mentality you refer to can be blamed on culture. All Muslims are supposed to be brothers and sisters to each other, and we are never supposed to treat other people badly for no reason. As you accurately wrote, issues of culture, tribe, clan, nationalism, etc., leads to violence and divisions among the people. This post was actually inspired by YOUR recent post "Chutzpah and Heaven" and specifically what you wrote about the "7 mitzvot for non'Jews." Actually, Islam has a concept similar to this which perhaps will be my next post.

Salaams Hanieh:

Yes, I live very near to the areas you described. Email me privately at Jihadlevine at yahoo dot com and we can talk!!!

Salaams Ratna:

Welcome to my blog; of course, you may link!

Ratna, Jazaka Allahu Khayr for the detailed comment. I have written to some students of knowledge and have specifically have asked "who is the kaafir?" Insha Allah I will post their response to this blog.

When I hear people use the word kaafir, it is like nails scratching a chalkboard for me.

Anonymous said...

walaikom assalaam dear Safiyyah,
thanks I hope you are doing well too inshallah :)

sorry, the link had an additional slash at the end, this is it:

according to the link, apart from it being an interpretation of a religious issue it has cultural implications too, as pointed out here "In cultural terms, it is seen as a derogatory term[1] used to describe an unbeliever, non-Muslims, apostate from Islam and even between Muslims of different sects", and it's cited from islamonline
(you need to search for the word "derogatory" to get directly to the answer, as there are other questions there too.)

judging by your post, it seems to stir your feelings probably because you look at it purely from a religious point of view and you think "how can someone judge other people's faiths".
of course that still doesn't mean that using the term is justifiable.

Jules UmmEmJoey said...

Asalaam Alaikum Sis,

Perhaps my response won't be as long as some of the others. But it is simple. I don't like anyone using the word kafir. It really bothers me, like you said, Allah alone knows what is in someone's heart. It is like using the word "hate" to me. It is one of those words I just can't bring myself to use except in extreme cases, like Hitler or Stalin. Perhaps it isn't very scholarly but it is what I feel in my heart.


Anonymous said...

bisim Allah alRahmaan alRaheem
alSalaam alaykom

Muslims learn the words of Quran to gain knowledge, kafir is fine when used properly, but it is not to be used at all for people with enough Taqwa unless they use it properly.

The important words are many, but best start with the 99 names. AlRahmaan means one who loves everyone, deeply - and it describes the ultimate in mercy. Calling someone alRahman loves "kafir" shows no respect to His mercy or the All that He loves.

Calling someone "kafir" is more dangerous than being just rude or just an insult - it is indeed a sin as it rejects the meaning of "alRahmman", either one uses it properly or they are "Kafir" themselves. it also requires learning all the 99 names, and even then one has to be carefull.

I do not have a translation of the Hadeeth about not to call anyone Kafir else you be Kafir, but please link to it if anyone knows it?

I also think that the word "kafir" has gained lots of wrong English conotations, it means "cover", to cover a candle or a light, and if you belive somethng and do it then you have to cover that light that tells you no to. It is a personal word, Taqwa is fearing that you are a kafir, Taqwa means you try to make that that internal light brighter so that you avoide doing or saying the things you should not.

Imams answer with a preconception that their word uses are understood, and to most Arabic speakers they are - I read in horror some translations but can not offer corrections becuase English needs more (Bayan and Balagha) "elequence"? - I am not refering to al-Fawzaan only but many others.

It's simple in English, just pick up the important words - look at them used properly (the Quran especialy) - kafir is a big subject but the Quran explains it best, read it's definition and the situations that it calls people kafir and use it to gain more Taqwa, that is how best to use the word kafir from my point of view.

See, when I say "Salaam"? If I do not mean it I am a kafir, if I pretend to mean it I am a hypocryt - and if I mean it I am Muslim (accept), and if I work at it harder I am Mo'min (beliver) - i.e levels of Taqwa.

The Quran calls my people the worst of all Kafir, it means that exactly, but is not offensive to us becuase the word is used very properly - and when Jews and Christians are mentioned in the Quran you will always find the word "alRahmaan" and Rahm" and Rahma" close by just to make sure that Muslims do not use those verses in hate or anger - Taqwa is always right, to fear to offend non-Muslims is to fear Allah ie Taqwa.

Sorry for the rusty English.


Hijabee said...

Jazakallah Khayran for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Salaam S.E, I have just 'discovered' your blog and am very impressed by it. A very important point that many Muslims forget alas, is that the emphasis and stress in human relations is mercy and kindness. There are many ayat that tell us that even enemies may turn into brothers when treated with compassion. We shouldn't be quick to accuse others of being 'Kafir', although too many Muslims are too ready to do this, sadly enough.

Anonymous said...


I so Agree with you sis.

Saaleha said...

Assalaamu alaikum sis

I think the jew are referred to as Yahud and the Christians as Nasaara in the Quraan. I don't think that they are ever called kuffar. I could be wrong though. But an incident in the time of the Prophet PBUH makes one think. About a battle and a compannion who has one of the disbelievers cornered. The man recites the kalimah. ANd the companion kills him still. The Prophet PBUH was extremely upset by this. The companion defended his case by saying that the man recited the kalima in order to save himself. The Prophet PBUH asks him, " Did you open his heart and see the truth?"

coco jumbo said...

nice observation. Especially the problem is with the takfiri groups among Muslims. These takfiri groups are more appropriately called "khwaarij," "Ikhwaan ul muslimeen" and "ibaadis." Kufr really means to hide something. When a person commits kufr, he is hiding the truth, either intentionally or unintentionally. Allah exists, that is the truth, we might know it or not. That does not mean that rejecting it would not be hiding it. Hence Allah calls disbelief in His existence Kufr.