The following is a useful article written by a brother from America some years ago.
Early Muslims did not have any difficulty in differentiating between a Muslim and Kafir. Such a debate never occurred during the generation of the Sahabah, the Tabi’een, or those Muslims who lived in the succeeding thirteen centuries. Even during the periods when the intellectual level was at an ebb, the distinction between a Muslim and a Kafir remained clear. Due to the deteriorated level of Islamic thought in the Ummah today, the subject has mushroomed into a major issue.
The question of “Who is a Kafir” is not something that the Muslims can afford to overlook because the very existence of such a question challenges the clear-cut distinction between Islam and Kufr that the Muslims understood without difficulty for most of their history. Islam is a unique Deen with its own unique ‘Aqeedah that clearly distinguishes it from any other belief, system or ideology. No “gray area” exists between Islam and Kufr, and the Qur’an openly rejects such a notion:
“There is nothing after the Truth (Islam) but falsehood.” [TMQ, Yunus 10:32]
“Say: The truth is from your Lord. Whoever wishes to believe, let him believe. And whoever wishes to disbelieve, let him disbelieve” [TMQ, Al-Kahf 18:29]
Because of Islam’s uniqueness, the Muslim Ummah possesses a unique ‘Aqeedah that distinguishes it from any other nation in the culture it adopts, the laws it submits to, the thoughts and ideas it carries, and its outlook upon life. Without a clear understanding of Islam as distinct from Kufr, the Muslim Ummah is stripped of its distinguished status, and the Islamic ‘Aqeedah is bereft of its uniqueness. In light of the current situation, ideas which posit that Islam , Christianity, and Judaism all share the same roots, or that no difference exists between a Muslim and Kafir, come as no surprise.
The purpose of this article is to define “Who is a Kafir” and clear up the confusion surrounding the word Kafir so that the Ummah can once again clearly differentiate between a Muslim and Kafir and worship Allah (swt) in the way He ordered us to worship Him, allowing us to attain His pleasure. This would, insha’Allah, result in the crystallization of Islamic concepts in the minds of Muslim Ummah and subsequently, proper and complete implementation of Islam as an ideology. When this happens, the Muslim Ummah can once again lead humanity and carry the message of Islam to the entire world in the manner in which Allah (swt) ordered us.
Additionally, this article briefly addresses some of the issues that relate to this subject matter directly, such as: Ahl ul Kitab, Abrahamic religions, celebrating Kufr holidays and deeds of the Kuffar.
Before attempting to define Islam and Kufr, the Muslims must understand who defines Islam and Kufr, who draws the boundaries, and who establishes the criterion for evaluating any idea or concept. To enter the circle of Islam, the first action an individual does is to declare the Shahadah in which he states, “I bear witness that there is no Ilah but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” The word “Ilah” has been frequently misinterpreted to mean “God.” People of all different religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, and even Hinduism, claim to believe in a God or supreme power. In the context of such a translation, Islam would seem no different than any other religion. In reality, the word “Ilah”, in Arabic, is defined as “that which is worshipped.” This definition has deep connotations. Regarding the Jews and Christians, the Qur’an mentions:
“They took their priests and rabbis to be their lords beside Allah.” [TMQ, At-Tauba 9:31]
When Muhammad (saaw) recited this verse, one of the Companions, who was formerly from among the People of the Book, told him, “We did not worship them, O Messenger of Allah.” Muhammad (saaw) then asked the person, “Didn’t they forbid what Allah allowed and allow what Allah had forbidden, and you followed them?” When the Companion answered, “Yes,” the Prophet (saaw) replied, “That was your worship.” Such an incident illustrates that Allah (swt) defines “Ilah” as the thing that dictates a person’s life. In Islam, the concept of worship carries a far deeper meaning than just performing Salat or going to Hajj. The worship of Allah (swt) implies full submission and obedience to Allah’s (swt) laws, as the Qur’an clearly states:
“O you who believe! Enter perfectly into Islam (by obeying all the rules and regulations of Islam) and follow not the footsteps of Satan. Verily! He is your open enemy!” [TMQ, Al-Baqarah 2:208]
By such a definition, the Muslims must resort to the Akham Shari’ah as the source of all of their concepts and ideas. For a Muslim, Allah (swt) defines Islam as well as Kufr or any other idea or concept, as He (swt) states:
“To Allah belongs the Ghayb of the Heavens and the Earth, and to Him return all affairs.”
[TMQ, Hud 11:123]
“Blessed be He Who sent down the criterion to His slave that he may be a warner to the ‘Al Amin.” [TMQ, Al-Furqan 25:1]
Any belief that exists outside the boundaries set forth by Allah (swt) falls under the category of Kufr, or disbelief. The words Kufr and Kafir are derived from the root “Kafar”, which linguistically means “to cover”. Even the farmer is considered a Kafir in the linguistic sense because he is covering the seeds with soil. When it comes to application, the Shari’ah meaning supersedes the linguistic connotations. For example, Jihad linguistically means struggle, but the Shari’ah meaning defines Jihad as the physical fighting (qitaal) conducted by the Khilafah’s Army to remove physical obstacles that try to suppress the propagation of Islam. Also, Hajj means “to go” linguistically. If Muslims resorted to the linguistic meanings, then going to the shopping mall would be considered Hajj and the woman who covers her body with the Hijab would be considered a Kafir! As such, the Shari’ah, or the juristic meaning, defines the rule and the concepts in Islam.
The same principles apply for the words Kafir and Kufr. In Shari’ah terminology, there exists some general extracts from the classical and respected mujtahideen (scholars). First and foremost, Kufr is the rejection of the belief in Allah AND the Messengership of Muhammad (saaw), because Allah (swt) states:
“Verily, those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers and wish to make a distinction between Allah and His Messengers (by believing in Allah and disbelieving in His Messengers) saying, ‘We believe in some, but reject others,’ and wish to adopt a way in between, they are in truth disbelievers. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating torment.” [TMQ, An-Nisa’ 4:150-151]
Kufr is further divided into some categories:
1. Kufr al takdheeb, or denying Islam, because Allah (swt) says:
“Then who does more wrong than the one who utters a lie against Allah and denies the truth (this Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad, the Islamic Faith, the Resurrection, and the reward and punishment) when it comes to him. Is there not in Hell an abode for the disbelievers?” [TMQ, Az-Zumar 39:32]
“The only Deen in the sight of Allah is Islam” [TMQ, Al-Imran 3:19]
“And whoever seeks a Deen other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.” [TMQ, Al-Imran 3:85]
2. Kufr al iba’ wat takabbur ma’at tasdeeq, implying refusal to submit to Allah and His Commandments out of arrogance after acknowledging Allah, because Allah (swt) says:
“And when We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam.’ And they prostrated except Iblis, he refused and was arrogant and was one of the disbelievers.” [TMQ, Al-Baqarah 2:34]
3. Kufr as shakk wa al thann, which means doubting or rejecting any of the six articles of Iman, as Allah (swt) states:
“And he went into his garden while in a state (of pride and disbelief) unjust to himself. He said: ‘I think not that this will ever perish. And I think not the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord (on the Day of Resurrection) I surely shall find better than this when I return to Him.’ His companion said to him during the talk with him: ‘Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you out of dust (i.e. your father Adam) then out of Nutfah (semen from the male mixed with female discharge), then fashioned you into a man? But as for my part (I believe) that He is Allah, my Lord, and none shall I associate as partner with my Lord.'” [TMQ, Al-Kahf18:35-38]
4. Kufr al i’raad, describing the action of willingly turning away from the Haqq, to which Allah (swt) states:
“We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them except with Haqq and for an appointed term. But those who disbelieve and turn away from that whereof, they are warned.” [TMQ, Al-Ahqaf 46:3]
5. Kufr an nifaaq, implying hypocritical disbelief, because Allah (swt) states:
“They have made their oaths a screen (for their hypocrisy). Thus they hinder (men) from the Path of Allah. Verily, evil is what they used to do. That is because they believed, then disbelieved, therefore their hearts are sealed, so they understand not.” [TMQ, Al-Munafiqoon 63: 2-3]
A person who commits any one or more of the major acts of disbelief is considered a Kafir. No gray zone exists in Islam in which a person can be called a “Believer, but not a Muslim.” Islam defines the human being as either a Muslim or a Kafir – a Muslim as one who believes in the ‘Aqeedah of Islam and the tenets of Iman, and who accepts Islam as his/her Deen; and a Kafir as one who follows any belief or creed other than Islam, or rejects any one of the fundamental pillars of the Islamic faith. To claim to believe in Allah (swt) while denying Muhammad (saaw) as a Messenger, or believing that Allah (swt) can have a son or can exist as multiple entities, excludes such an individual from the circle of Islam.
A Muslim is not someone who merely appreciates Islam while adhering to the teachings of the Bible or a person who possesses sound morals and decency of character. The notion of a Muslim who does not believe in Islam, or someone who is “Muslim and not Muslim simultaneously” contradicts the natural laws of Allah (swt). No one can imagine a Communist who does not believe in Communism, a Christian who does not believe in Christianity, or someone who is “Jewish and not Jewish at the same time.”
Also, Allah’s Messenger (saaw) said: “A disbeliever will be asked, ‘Suppose you had as much gold as could fill the earth. Would you offer it to ransom yourself (from the Hell-Fire)?’ He will reply, ‘Yes.’ Then it will be said to him, ‘You were asked something easier than that: To join none in worship with Allah (i.e. to accept Islam). But you refused.'” Worshipping Allah means believing that Allah (swt) is One with all His Attributes, believing in all of the pillars of Iman, and submitting to all of Allah’s (swt) rules. Anything else denotes Kufr, and such a person is considered a Kafir by definition.
Ahl ul Kitab, Mushrikeen, and Kafireen
Islam clearly defines the terms Ahl ul Kitab, Mushrikeen, and Kafireen. The term Ahl ul Kitab (People of the Book) specifically refers to the Jews and Christians. The Qur’an refers to them by this term because they received books such as the Torah and the Injeel. The term Mushrikeen (Polytheists) denotes people who associate other gods with Allah (swt). As mentioned previously, the term Kafir refers to anyone who disbelieves in any of the tenets of Iman, such as the belief in Allah with His attributes, the Messengers of Allah, all the Angels, all the Books, and the Day of Resurrection.
Allah (swt) gave no other reasons for using such a categorization. Unfortunately, the Ummah’s lack of focus has led many Muslims to debate and bicker over clear-cut issues. Questions such as why Allah (swt) did not refer to the Ahl ul Kitab as Mushrikeen because they also worship idols, or why Allah (swt) referred to the Disbelievers under three headings instead of one, are commonly asked. Nobody can fathom why Allah (swt) used these terms, and no one can offer his own reasons on Allah’s behalf. Such a process leads the person to question the Ghayb (Unseen) which lies beyond the limited scope of the human mind and senses, and only results in speculation that wastes the Ummah’s intellectual resources over questions that will never be resolved. The same persons who pose such questions might as well ask why Allah (swt) created the Jinn from fire and the human being from clay, or why Allah (swt) made the sun rise in the east and not in the west. The questions that concern the Ghayb are endless.
The role of the mind is to submit to Allah’s (swt) rules and not to pass judgment on them or to question Allah’s (swt) Knowledge. Allah (swt) called the Jews and the Christians as Ahl ul Kitab because they were given previous scriptures and for no other reason, and He (swt) addressed all other disbelievers as Mushrikeen. The Muslims are ordered to surrender to Islam and the Islamic text, as Allah (swt) states:
“The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, is, ‘We listen and we obey.'” [TMQ, An-Nur 24:51]
Islam clearly defined Ahl ul Kitab, Mushrikeen, and Kafireen, and these definitions are not the subject of debate. The Muslims must take these definitions as they are.
Are the Ahl ul Kitab Kuffar?
Because the Qur’an refers to the Ahl ul Kitab under a different name, many quickly conclude that Allah (swt) has given them a special status that is situated midway between Islam and Kufr. The abundance of evidence from the Qur’an and the Sunnah clearly establishes the Ahl ul Kitab as Kuffar. The early Muslims did not have any difficulty in understanding this issue, nor was the issue ever a subject of dispute among them. Referring to the Ahl ul Kitab as Kuffar does not denote negative treatment of them as many Muslims may think, but firmly establishes that the Muslims constitute one millah (grouping), and the Kuffar comprise another, ideologically and culturally distinct from the Muslim Ummah. Islam defines any person who rejects some or all of the fundamental tenets of Iman as a Kafir, and the Ahl ul Kitab are no exception. Many ayat in the Qur’an clearly establish this point without any ambiguity:
“Surely, in disbelief are they who say that Isa (Jesus) is the Messiah, son of Mary. Say, ‘Who then has the least power against Allah, if He were to destroy the Messiah, son of Mary, his mother, and all those who are on the earth together?’ And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them. He creates what He wills, and Allah is Able to do all things.” [TMQ, Al-Ma’idah 5:17]
“And the Jews say: ‘Uzayr is the son of Allah.’ And the Christians say: ‘The Messiah is the son of Allah.’ This is a saying from their mouths. They imitate the saying of the disbelievers of old. Allah’s curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth.” [TMQ, At-Taubah 9:30]
“They took their priests and rabbis to be their lords beside Allah. And they took their lord as the son of Mary. Yet, they were commanded to worship none but One Ilah, there is no Ilah but He. Praise and glory be to Him. Far is He from having partners they associate with Him.” [TMQ, At-Taubah 9:31]
Many persons use the following two ayat as a justification for claiming that the Ahl ul Kitab are Believers:
“Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews, Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [TMQ, Al-Baqarah 2:62]
“Surely, those who believe, those who are the Jews and the Sabians and the Christians – whosoever believed in Allah and the Last Day, and worked righteousness, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” [TMQ, Al-Ma’idah 5:69]
Such individuals misinterpret these ayat by neglecting other ayat and isolating them from the context of the Seerah. Ibn Katheer, one of the classical mufasireen (commentators of the Qur’an), states in his book, Tafseer Ibn Katheer, that these ayat refer to the Jews who existed from the time of Musa (as) until the time of Isa (as), not to be confused with the Jews and the Christians during the time of Muhammad (saaw) and who exist today. The ayat refer to the Christians as Nasireen, which linguistically means “helpers”. These Helpers were the Hawariyeen (Disciples) of ‘Isa (as) who followed his message until the time of Muhammad (saaw) and did not ascribe partners with Allah (swt). Based on these ayat, the term “Christians” does not accurately refer to these people, and Ibn Jawzi, who lived in the 12th century AD, says the same in his book Zad Al Maseer Fi ‘Ilm At Tafseer.
The ayat refer to those from among the previous groups who existed before Islam and adhered to their scriptures, but these ayat were later abrogated by the ayah which states:
“And whosoever desires a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be one of the losers.” [TMQ, Al-Imran 3:85]
After Muhammad (saaw), Allah has chosen Islam as the Deen for all of humanity, and no one on the Day of Judgment who was presented Islam and rejected it will have any excuse that will exempt him from the punishment of the Hell-Fire.
This is in regards to the thoughts and beliefs carried by Ahl ul Kitab. When it come to a particular person he cannot be considered a Kafir until Islam is presented in an effective way and s/he rejects it deliberately knowing that it is the Haqq. If Islam did not reach this person, then s/he cannot be considered as such.
“Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his ownself. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another’s burden. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning)” [TMQ, Al-Isra’ 17:15]
However, when it came to deal with this type of person in this life, such as a Kafir woman from the Ahl ul Kitab marrying a Muslim man, then it is permitted. This individual still takes the status of the Kafira in the legal aspect and holds her accountable in the Hereafter.
As a result of the confusion in understanding Islam and its uniqueness, many alien ideas have surfaced among the Muslims that are designed to obliterate the clear distinction between Islam and Kufr. The call to adopt the concept of “Abrahamic Religions” has risen to the forefront of ideas. Those who call for this absurdity claim that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share the same roots because they all emanate from the same source, the Prophet Ibrahim (as). As a result of such a call, “Trialogues” have emerged in which Muslims would sit together with the Christians and Jews to discuss their commonalties and establish a common linkage between them as offshoots of the same prototypic religion of Ibrahim (as).
The concept of Abrahamic Religions states that a commonality exists between Islam and Kufr, whereas no such concept exists. No one can claim that such a commonality among religions exists without directly contradicting the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Allah (swt) states in the Qur’an:
“Say (O Muhammad): “O People of the Book. Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords beside Allah. Then, if they turn away, say, ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims. O People of the Book! Why do you dispute about Abraham, while the Torah and the Injeel were not revealed until after him? Have you then no sense?” [TMQ, Al-Imran 3:64-65]
“Ibrahim was not a Jew nor a Christian. But he was a true Muslim Hanifan, and bowed his will to Allah, and he joined not gods with Allah. Without doubt, among men, the nearest of kin to Ibraham are those who follow him, AS ARE ALSO THIS MESSENGER and those who believe. And Allah is the Protector of those who have faith.” [TMQ Al-Imran 3:67-68]
Many people who call for Abrahamic Religions justify their claims by citing that they are following the Sunnah of the Prophet (saaw). Those individuals should draw their attention towards the following incident: ‘Umar ibn al Khattab narrates that he brought a copy of the Torah to Allah’s Messenger (saaw) and said, “Allah’s Messenger, this is a copy of the Torah.” When he began to read it, he noticed that the color of the face of Allah’s Messenger (saaw) underwent a change, whereupon Abu Bakr said, “Would that your mother mourn you, don’t you see the face of Allah’s Messenger?” ‘Umar saaw the face of Allah’s Messenger (saaw) and said, “I seek refuge with Allah from the Wrath of Allah and the wrath of Allah’s Messenger. We are well pleased with Allah as the Lord, with Islam as our Deen, and with Muhammad as the Prophet.” Allah’s Messenger then said, “By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, even if Musa were to appear before you and you were to follow him, leaving me aside, you would certainly stray into error, for if Musa were alive and he found me, he would have definitely followed me (Miskhat al Masabih).”
Such incidents clearly indicate that Muhammad (saaw), far from promoting a brotherly understanding of Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions or encouraging practices such as Abrahamic Faiths and Trialogues, was the first person to address the Ahl ul Kitab as Kuffar and did not hesitate to use the word Kafir.
Every Muslim acknowledges that Allah (swt) and His Messenger speak the truth. Allah (swt) and the Messenger (saaw) state that Truth and Falsehood will never join hands, that the Ahl ul Kitab are Kuffar and have no relationship to Ibrahim or to Islam, and that Islam will clash with other ideas. When voices emerge claiming that the Truth and Falsehood share the same roots and can coexist, and that the Ahl ul Kitab and Muslims are brothers in faith and the offspring of Ibrahim’s family tree, the Muslims must reject such calls as an open invitation to destruction in this life and in the Hereafter. The enemies of Islam have injected into the Ummah such calls as Abrahamic Religions to dilute the clear and distinct understanding of Islam in the Muslim Ummah and to busy the Muslims in trumpeting slogans that neither exist in Islam nor in reality.
Muslimeen and Kafireen
Many Muslims hesitate in referring to the non-Muslims as Kuffar because they believe that the word carries a derogatory meaning. Using such vocabulary, according to many, would contradict certain principles of Islam that emphasize fair conduct, decency in behavior, and kindness towards non-Muslims. The question emerges: How can a sincere believer, who adheres to such principles, simultaneously use terms like “Kafir, Kuffar, and Kufr”?
Answering this question requires the understanding that Allah (swt) ordered all Muslims to obey His orders and to submit to His Laws, which are found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Anything that Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saaw) have decreed, the Muslims must submit to willingly and without any hesitation, whether it sounds easy or difficult, practical or improbable, reasonable or unreasonable. When Allah (swt) obliges the Muslims to carry the Da’wah to the world, all Muslims are ordered to submit to this command by virtue of being Muslims. Similarly, when Allah (swt) orders the Muslims to be nice, possess good morals, maintain good relationships with others, and help other human beings, the Muslims must submit to these commands for no other reason than because Allah (swt) commanded them. Moreover, the Muslims are bound by the orders of Allah (swt) to perform their actions following the Sunnah of the Prophet (saaw):
“He who obeys the Messenger has indeed obeyed Allah…” [TMQ, An-Nisa’4:80]
“And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids for you, abstain.” [TMQ 59:7]
“Say (O Muhammad), ‘If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islam and follow the Qur’an and Sunnah). Allah will love you and forgive your sins.'” [TMQ, Al-Imran 3:31]
“Say (O Muhammad), ‘Obey Allah and the Messenger.’ But if they turn away, then Allah does not like the disbelievers.” [TMQ, Al-Imran 3:32]
“Say you (O Muhammad), ‘This is my way. I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me.'” [TMQ, Yusuf 12:108]
Based on these ayat, the Muslims are ordered to carry the Da’wah and work to establish the Islamic State according to the Seerah of the Prophet (saaw).
Similarly, the Prophet (saaw) showed the Muslim when to be nice and when to be rude, when to be angry and when to be merciful, as well as how and to whom. Thus, every situation, act, issue, or problem has an Islamic ruling, or a Hukm Shari’, and the Muslims must take all the rules and submit to them comprehensively, looking at each situation or issue as a distinct one with its own specific Hukm.
Addressing the non-Muslims and the terms that Islam refers to them by are one issue, distinct from carrying the Da’wah of Islam and the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. Whether carrying the Da’wah according to what Islam dictates results in resentment among the Kafireen or not, the Da’wah must continue to be conveyed in that manner. No human being has the right to say that the methodology of the Prophet (saaw) should be changed to suit the current situation as the Islamic method does not constitute “good behavior” towards the non-Muslims. If Allah (swt) and His Messenger (saaw) address the non-Muslims as Kafireen and address their beliefs and actions under the heading of Kufr, then this terminology is cemented until the Day of Judgment. Nobody has the right to change the terminology that Allah (swt) has used to describe the non-Muslims and their beliefs, in the same way that no one can claim that the Jinn are creatures created from clay or that Hell-fire is the reward from Allah and Jannah is Allah’s Punishment.
If the Muslims are ordered to carry the Da’wah, they must carry the Da’wah. If the Muslims are ordered to be nice to the non-Muslims, then they must be nice to them. If the Muslims are ordered to address the non-Muslims as Kafireen, then they must address them as Kafireen. If the Muslims are ordered to refer to anything outside of Islam or contradicting Islam, then they must label such a thing as Kufr. The Muslims must take Islam comprehensively and willingly. Islam defines how the Muslims should interact with the non-Muslims and how to address them, as well as how to carry the message of Islam and how to establish the Islamic system and implement the rules of Allah (swt).
If the Kuffar resent the Muslims for practicing Islam and submitting to Allah’s (swt) rules in their totality, such a scenario cannot be avoided because Allah (swt) states:
“Neither those who disbelieve among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) nor Al Mushrikun like that there should be sent down unto you any good from your Lord.” [TMQ, Al-Baqarah 2:105]
“Never will the Jews nor the Christians be pleased with you until you follow their religion.” [TMQ, Al-Baqarah 2:120]
Such a conflict does not excuse the Muslims to neglect some aspects of Islam or to make justifications in order to save their skin or to appease the Kuffar. Every Muslim has the choice: He can either please the Kuffar or please Allah (swt). Based on the above mentioned ayat, Allah’s (swt) Sunnah very clearly states in no equivocal language that the Muslims cannot have both.
The Deeds of the Kuffar
With the correct understanding of this issue, such an discussion should never arise among the Muslims, but the current state of affairs has made the issue of whether or not the Kuffar are going to enter Hell-Fire into a controversy. Some would look at the issue from a moral or a human perspective and conclude that the Kuffar, if they perform good deeds and abstain from all sorts of vices, will end up in Jannah, regardless of what their beliefs are. Others would claim that Allah (swt) never explicitly defined the criteria for determining who would enter Jannah and Hell-Fire. Still others would attempt to avoid the issue altogether by saying that no person has the right to even raise such an issue because the act of Judging belongs solely to Allah (swt), using such a premise as a justification to claim that the Kuffar may be admitted into Jannah even if they retain their beliefs.
Islam addresses the issue with such clarity that no lengthy discussion is necessary. In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) states:
“The parable of those who disbelieve in their Lord is that their works are as ashes, on which the wind blows furiously on a stormy day, and they shall not be able to reap what they have earned.” [TMQ, Ibrahim 14:18]
“Say: ‘Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of their deeds, those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they were acquiring good by their deeds? They are those who deny the Ayat of their Lord and the meeting with Him. So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall not give them any weight. That shall be their recompense. Hell, because they disbelieved and took My Ayat and My Messengers by way of jest and mockery.'” [TMQ, Al-Kahaf 18:103-106]
“As for those who disbelieve, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water, until he comes up to it, and he finds it to be nothing, but he finds Allah with him, Who will pay him his due. And Allah is Swift in taking account. Or is like the darkness in a vast deep sea, overwhelmed with a great wave topped by a great wave, topped by dark clouds, darkness, one above another. If a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it. And he for whom Allah has not appointed light, for him there is no light.” [TMQ, An-Nur 24: 39-40]
“But those who disbelieve, for them is destruction, and (Allah) will make their deeds vain. That is because they hate that which Allah has sent down (this Qur’an), so He has made their deeds fruitless.” [TMQ, Muhammad 47: 8-9]
The question which arises is, are the Kuffar destined for Hell-Fire? As mentioned earlier, Islam states that anyone who dies as a disbeliever, rejecting Islam after it was presented to him in an effective manner and cognizant that it is the Haqq, will be admitted into the Hell-Fire, no matter how many good deeds that person performed, no matter how revered or adorable that person was in the eyes of others, and no matter how pious or righteous that person was.
The Islamic verdict is clear: Islam is one thing, and Kufr is something else. The Muslims are those who believe in Islam, and anyone else is a Kafir. When the Prophet (saaw) first received revelation, the ayat in the Qur’an immediately confronted the Kufr that existed in Makkah. Since that time, the Muslims possessed the clear understanding of Islam, as opposed to Kufr, as well as what each side stood for. As a result of this clear understanding, the Muslims understood what was expected from them, which was to continue to carry the message of Islam through Da’wah and Jihad until the Deen of Allah (swt) was supreme. Allah (swt) stated this objective very clearly in the Qur’an:
“It is He Who has sent His Messenger with Guidance and the Deen of Haqq (Islam) to make it superior over all Deens (ways of life), even though the Mushrikun (disbelievers, polytheists) hate (it).” [TMQ, At-Taubah 9:33]
“He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with Guidance and the Deen of Haqq (Islam) to make it victorious over all other Deens, even though the Mushrikun hate (it).” [TMQ, As-Saff 61:9]
When the Qur’an and the Sunnah speak of the Kuffar as open enemies, the early Muslims understood this to mean not to be loyal to them or to follow their way of life. When the Qur’an and the Sunnah speak of Islam as the belief in Allah (swt) and His Messenger, the early Muslims understood this to mean that belief in anything else constitutes Kufr. When the Qur’an and the Sunnah state that Islam came to dominate the world, the Muslims understood this fact and continued to carry the Da’wah and struggle with other nations to achieve this objective. As a result of their clear understanding of Islam, the Muslims had a clear reference and agenda, which caused them to progress in all facets of life.
Today, the Muslim Ummah has no clear understanding of Islam, and as a result, it has no reference. Such a level of understanding has ultimately resulted in the Muslims debating over issues that Islam has a clear-cut answer for, issues that the Muslims never debated since the time of the Prophet (saaw). As long as Islam remains misunderstood, the discussion of such issues will persist, and the Muslim Ummah will remain distracted from its objectives and its purpose. The only way to restore the Ummah’s focus and to eliminate the confusion that exists is to understand the nature of Islam with clarity and certainty. Allah (swt) says:
“The revelation of the Book (this Qur’an) is from the Rabb il al Amin (mankind, jinn, and all that exists) in which there is no doubt!” [TMQ, Al-Sajdah 32:2]
Allah (swt) is stating in plain terms that Islam is clear, and there is no doubt in His Message. When issues that are clear, such as “Who is a Kafir,” is being discussed, it points up the sad fact that there is doubt regarding Islam amongst the Muslim Ummah. As long as the doubt remains, the Muslims will remain uncertain in their objectives and their purpose, and the enemies of Islam will continue to find it easy to manipulate the Muslim Ummah under false slogans as “Abrahamic Religions.” Thus, there is an urgent need in the Muslim Ummah to eliminate its doubt and return to Islam as its only source for its ‘Aqeedah, its culture, its laws and rules, its standards, and its solutions.