بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
وصلى الله على نبينا محمد
وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين
The virus of takfir has ailed the contemporary Muslims due to widespread ignorance, hastiness and general lack of fear of Allah Most High. Arrogance and carelessness has made otherwise ignorant and foolish ordinary Muslims casually brand other groups of and individual Muslims as disbelievers, often over minor disagreements. Both sayyidina Abi Huraira and sayyidina Ibn Umar رضى الله عنهم have narrated that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said:
إِذَا قَالَ الرَّجُلُ لأَخِيهِ يَا كَافِرُ فَقَدْ بَاءَ بِهِ أَحَدُهُمَا
When a man says to his brother: “O disbeliever!” then surely one of the two is such.
Meaning if a Muslim declares another Muslim to be a disbeliever, either he is correct in stating that his brother has become an apostate disbeliever, or if he is engaging in slander, then it is more fit for the slanderer himself to be described as a disbeliever. The purpose of the Hadith is to illustrate the enormity of declaring a Muslim to have become a disbeliever, i.e., it is not a light matter and should be taken quite seriously. For this reason, the Ulama of Islam have emphasized extreme caution before declaring someone who professes Islam to be a disbeliever. The orthodox position of Ahl us-Sunna wal-Jama’a is that a Muslim cannot be excommunicated from Islam and pronounced a disbeliever on account of committing major sins, until and unless he makes istihlal of things which Allah has categorically prohibited in His Book such as murder, adultery, theft, usury, intoxication, pork, etc., or categorically denies one of the fundamental articles of Faith, such as belief in Allah, His Angels, His Scriptures, His Apostles, resurrection of the dead, Judgment Day, Heaven and Hell. Essentially, a person enters Islam by professing the creed:
لا اله الا الله
محمد رسول الله
There is none worthy of worship except Allah
Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah
As long as a person continues to profess this creed, extreme caution should be observed in the matter of making takfir of him. In a rare and bizarre scenario in which a person professes belief in the oneness of Allah and the prophethood of sayyidina Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم but outright rejects belief in the Angels or belief in resurrection, then yes, such an individual is a disbeliever ejected from the circle of Islam. Yet as I have stated, this is something bizarre, as it is known by necessity that among the most basic teachings that constituted the prophethood of sayyidina Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم is the belief in Angels and the belief in the resurrection. Therefore, disbelief in Angel Gabriel, the Qur’an, or the resurrection is essentially disbelief in the the second of the two professions: “Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah”. The fundamentals Articles of Faith are set out in both the holy Qur’an and the Hadith of Gabriel:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا آمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ عَلَىٰ رَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ مِن قَبْلُ ۚ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِاللَّـهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا
O you who believe! Believe in Allah, His Apostle and the Book which He sent down upon His Apostle and the Book which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Apostles and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.
الإِيمَانُ أَنْ تُؤْمِنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلاَئِكَتِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلِقَائِهِ وَتُؤْمِنَ بِالْبَعْثِ الآخِرِ
“Al-Iman (Faith) is to believe in Allah, His Angels, His Apostles, His meeting, and to believe in the resurrection.”
These are the fundamental Articles of Faith in Islam, categorical rejection of any of them constituting disbelief and rejection of Islam. As for certain misguided groups and individuals who profess Islam but deny matters like the punishment of the grave, the coming out of the Dajjal, the descent of the Messiah, and the major intercession of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم on Judgment Day for the major sinners of his Umma, they are certainly misguided but cannot be declared as disbelievers outside of Islam on account of rejection of these matters. Such groups and individuals have turned away from the Sunna by denying metaphysical doctrines which are clearly established by it and are thus expelled from the Jama’a of Ahl us-Sunna. Nevertheless, if they profess Islam we have no choice but to accept them as our brothers in Islam who are wayward. Regarding the basic description of a Muslim, the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said:
مَنْ صَلَّى صَلاَتَنَا، وَاسْتَقْبَلَ قِبْلَتَنَا، وَأَكَلَ ذَبِيحَتَنَا، فَذَلِكَ الْمُسْلِمُ
“Whoever prays our Salat, faces our Qibla and eats our slaughtered meat, then that is a Muslim.”
According to sayyidina Hudhaifa رضى الله عنه when the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم wanted to conduct a census of the Muslims, he gave the following instructions to his companions:
اكْتُبُوا لِي مَنْ تَلَفَّظَ بِالإِسْلاَمِ مِنَ النَّاسِ
“Write for me (the names) of everyone who professes Islam among the people.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari #3060)
In other words, mere profession of Islam is sufficient for the Islamic state to consider an individual Muslim for the purpose of law and constitution. Only if one who professes Islam is open and explicit in rejecting one of the fundamental Articles of Faith should he be declared a disbeliever and expelled from the Umma. As for a person who is ignorant of something from the Articles of Faith, even he ought to be excused as long as he professes the Shahadatayn (belief in Tawhid and Risala). Again, sayyidina Hudhaifa as well as sayyidina Abi Huraira رضى الله عنهما narrate that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم said:
كَانَ رَجُلٌ مِمَّنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ يُسِيءُ الظَّنَّ بِعَمَلِهِ، فَقَالَ لأَهْلِهِ إِذَا أَنَا مُتُّ فَخُذُونِي فَذَرُّونِي، فِي الْبَحْرِ فِي يَوْمٍ صَائِفٍ، فَفَعَلُوا بِهِ، فَجَمَعَهُ اللَّهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ مَا حَمَلَكَ عَلَى الَّذِي صَنَعْتَ قَالَ مَا حَمَلَنِي إِلاَّ مَخَافَتُكَ. فَغَفَرَ لَهُ
There was a man from among those who came before you who suspected his deeds. So he told his family: “When I die, take me and burn me (my corpse) and dispense with my ashes into the sea on a windy day.” So they did that, but Allah gathered (his particles) together (resurrected him) then said: “What made you do what you did?” He said: “Nothing made me do it except I was afraid of You.” So (Allah) forgave him.
Now it is apparent from this Prophetic Hadith that Allah forgave a man and granted him salvation from Hell on the basis of his excessive fear of Allah. Although this man generally believed in the resurrection and the Day of Reckoning, he was ignorant and thought he could escape that if his corpse was cremated rather than buried. On the surface, such an idea is outright kufr. Believers are obligated to believe that Allah Most High shall resurrect every human and that He has power over all things. This is part and parcel of our belief in the resurrection. Yet Allah excused a man who was ignorant of this. Therefore, it is not correct to make takfir of individuals or groups that profess Islam yet apparently disbelieve in an aspect of one of the Articles of Faith. For example, there are wayward sects which believe that a real prophet may appear or has appeared after Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, but this does not contravene the fundamental doctrine fo Finality of Prophethood because such a prophet or prophets are within the Umma and are under the Shari’a of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم, i.e., they are non-law bearing prophets. Likewise, there may be groups or individual Muslims who profess Islam but believe that the Messiah عليه السلام had a biological father, rejecting the virgin birth, or they believe in human evolution - that Allah did not literally create and mould Adam with His Hands but that Adam had a father and mother. Although these are examples of incorrect and devious ideas, they are based on ta’wil (interpretation) and therefore we cannot make takfir of them.
Today, we have to deal with the Takfiri fitna, a tendency among certain groups and individuals to declare entire societies of Muslims as disbelievers, even going to the extent of considering the sacred lands of Mecca and Medina as an abode of disbelief!
These Takfiris are modern-day Khawarij who carry a poisonous ideology that has resulted in much violence and bloodshed in our time. The ongoing conflicts and civil wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Yemen have been exasperated thanks to the involvement of Takfiri forces. Sectarian violence is also due to rival sects declaring each other disbelievers and heretics. For example Sunni and Shi’i extremists anathemize each other and declare each other’s blood as permissible to shed. This has been the root cause for the violence and terrorism that afflicted Iraq shortly after the American invasion in 2003, and from there spread to other lands like Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 1974, Pakistan’s National Assembly amended that country’s constitution by declaring the Ahmadiyya sect as “non-Muslim for the purpose of law and constitution”. This was a bad precedent which opened a Pandora’s box of takfir in which various other sects, i.e., the Shi’a, Isma’ilis, Sufis, Barelwis, Wahhabis, etc., have all been anathemized and excommunicated from Islam by one group of extremists or another.