Response to ‘Kafir and Mushrik in the Light of the Quran’
By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
20 April, 2015
Let me briefly summarise what I have said in my article “
Kufr has been discussed separately in:
1. The Spiritual dimension which concerns with belief in “One and only God”, Messengers of Allah, Scriptures, the hereafter etc. This is about relationship with God.
2. The temporal dimension which concerns with relationship with people
Rejection of belief is Kufr in the spiritual dimension and a person who rejects belief and dies rejecting, dies a Kafir and what awaits such a person in the hereafter is hell. Rejection is not the same as non-acceptance.
Man cannot punish another man for Kufr in the spiritual dimension nor coerce him to “believe”. God grants absolute freedom of religion and conscience to man free from any kind of coercion.
As far as the temporal dimension is concerned, Kufr is denial of the rights of others (Huqooq ul Ibaad), sins that attract Hudood punishments etc., but most important of all, all kinds of oppression including religious persecution
The definition of Kufr and Kafir is faith neutral in the temporal dimension. A Muslim practicing oppression and/or religious persecution is a Kafir in the temporal dimension
The definition of Kufr and Kafir is faith relative in the spiritual dimension. In the spiritual dimension a person who violates what he believes to be “the truth” commits Kufr. A Jew violating the Sabbath which is one of the Ten Commandments would be guilty of Kufr but there is no Sabbath for a Muslim. Any person (Muslim, Jew, Christian, and Polytheist) who denies/rejects any of the Messengers of God, Scriptures, belief in the hereafter commits Kufr. Non-Acceptance or an agnostic position is not Kufr. A Jew is free to follow his religion and scriptures while either accepting or at least not denying Muhammad (pbuh) as messenger of God. Such a Jew remains a believer. One whoever denies Muhammad (pbuh) as Messenger of God is however a Kafir and if dies denying, he dies a Kafir.
The following is a response to Ziaur Rahman’s article “Kafir and Mushrik in the Light of the Quran, which purports to refute the conclusions in my article cited above. To avoid confusion, what Zia says is in red.
Ziaur Rahman says in his [Author’s note]:
"He has tried to prove, that too from the Quran, that Kufr is something even God does not bother about"
Not True as can be seen from my summary above
“Unconsciously, he has developed Kharijite ideology which believes that even Muslims can be declared Kafir because of some practical tenets. When a Muslim declares faith in God and messenger, he is a Muslim and cannot be called a Kafir in any circumstances. By trying to neutralise the word Kufr he has put even Muslims in danger of being killed in the name of Islam."
Yes, the Muslims who practice oppression and religious persecution have been put in danger unless they reform. Right now, religious persecution is practiced as State Policy by Pakistan. It is a Takfiri State having declared the Ahmediyas as a non Muslim minority. Their blasphemy laws are an instrument to persecute the religious minorities.
The Quran prescribes fighting in the cause of Allah as a duty. The only cause of Allah for which fighting has been permitted is against oppression of any kind against any group of people. This fighting can be undertaken only by a legitimate ruler of a legitimate country. Fighting by individuals or groups of person is “Fasad” or mischief. A Ruler is therefore duty bound to put down or fight against any kind of oppression practiced by any group of persons against any other group of persons as long as doing so is within his powers, control and legitimate authority. The faith practiced by the oppressors and the oppressed is irrelevant.
I also make a very categorical statement that no non-Muslim is a Kafir in the temporal dimension unless he is an open enemy of Islam and the Muslims. In the Spiritual dimension only God can judge and as a Muslim, we can only invite them to “belief”.
Verses about Kufr
Yes, these define Kufr in the Spiritual dimension. The conclusion that Ziaur Rahman draws regarding Kufr in the temporal dimension by focusing exclusively on verses that discuss Kufr in the spiritual dimension is shocking! To understand what constitutes Kufr in the temporal dimension, we need to look at verses that deal with the temporal dimension.
Companions of Fire
Yes, those who reject faith and die rejecting are the companions of fire. I agree with all the verses except the following:
For correct interpretation of verses 9:1 to 9:6
However, the verses of Surah Taubah from 9:1 to 9:15 pronounce judgment on the vanquished Meccans after Mecca was conquered by the Muslims and are only a historical record of what that judgment was. These are not verses relating to fighting but of judgment. These could be used as a guide for pronouncing similar judgment after vanquishing the oppressors.
Verses 9:1 and 9:2 declare amnesty of four months to all Mushrikin but with a warning that the Kafirun (not Mushrikin) among them will be covered with shame at the end of the period.
9:3 and 9:4 announces dissolution of all treaties with the Mushrikin except with those who never broke their treaty and warns the Kafirun (not Mushrikin) of a grievous penalty.
Verse 9:5 is a command to kill all Mushrikin at the end of the four month period with the exception of:
1. Those who never broke their treaty or never fought the Muslims (9:4)
2. Those who accept Islam offer prayers and pay Zakat (9:5)
3. Those who seek asylum (9:6)
If the command was to kill only the Kafirin, then the problem would have been how to identify them since there was no longer an enemy standing in battle. The verse identifies the non Kafir among the Mushrikin through the exceptions listed above. Verse 9:5 read together with 9:4 and 9:6 then becomes a command to kill only the Kafirin among the Mushrikin.
Zia strangely thinks that the terms Mushrikin and Kafaru that appear in 9:3 mean the same thing. The Quran’s style is elliptical. It never uses any word unnecessarily. If it meant the same, there was no need to use Kafaru at all. Also, a point for him to ponder is why does the Quran avoid mentioning any punishment by using the term Mushrik but instead uses Kafaru or Kafirin whenever it speaks about punishment?
For correct understanding of 8:38 read:
Respite and Then Punishment to Kafirs
Yes, I agree.
What Kafirs Do or Did
Yes, these are acts of Kufr. Some people will be judged by Allah as Kafir for these acts but not necessarily all. Kufr is relative to what a person knows and believes to be “the truth” without denying or rejecting “the truth” when “the truth” becomes plain to a person.
Kafirs Spend Their Wealth to Hinder Men from Path of Allah
8:36: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) spend their wealth to hinder (man) from the path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend;
Agree. Hindering men from the path of Allah is Kufr in the temporal dimension as it is religious persecution.
For a more correct and precise understanding of 8:36 read:
Kafirs Try To Blow Out the Light of God
Kafirs Drove the Prophet Out
Agree. Driving the Prophet out was Kufr in the temporal dimension as it was both oppression and religious persecution
Kafirs Do Not Have Understanding or Wisdom or Courage
Agree. Oppressors and Persecutors are in a morally weak position and will show cowardly behaviour. It is lack of Wisdom and Understanding that makes them oppressors in the first place.
Kafirs Deny the Favours of Allah
Kafirs Deny the Mission of the Prophets
Kafir denies the Hereafter
Kafirs Despair of God’s Mercy
12:87: truly no one despairs of Allah's Soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith. (Qaum il Kafirun)
Agree. But this is Prophet Yaqub telling his sons who are also believers. So a Muslim who depair’s of Allah’s mercy is being told that this is an act of kufr and that he should never despair.
Kafir Persists In Doubt till the End
Kafirs Rejected Moses
Kafirs Reject Signs of God
Kafir Ridicules the Prophet
Kafirs Seek Signs
Kafirs Deny the Prophet
Kafir Does Not Believe In Scriptures of God
Kafirs Dispute about the Signs of God
Kafirs Detest the Name of God
Kafir Hinders the Reading of the Quran
Kafirs Hinder Men from the Path of God and Resist the Messenger
Kafir Is One Who Believes That the Universe Is a Fantasy, a Whim
Kafirs Are Steeped In Self Glory and Separatism
Kafirs Are Perverse
Kafirs Are Under Delusion
Kafirs Hindered Men from Sacred Mosque and Detained Sacrificial Animals
Kafirs Are Perennially In Fight with God
God Declares Kafir to Be His Enemy
2:98: Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith (Kafirin).
If we rewrite the above verse retaining the Arabic Kafirin and dropping the translation of Kafirin then it becomes:
(2:98) Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those Kafirin.
The verse describes the Kufr of the Kafirin for which Allah becomes their enemy. It is not any kind of Kufr but very specific kind of Kufr. The word Kafirin in this verse then has a very specific meaning of those who are an enemy to Allah and his angels and Messengers. Here the Kafirin is not the Moses who was so called by Pharaoh for being ungrateful nor the sons of Yaqub (AS) for despairing of the mercy of Allah.
Shirk is also Kufr
Yes, Shirk is Kufr. Despairing of the mercy of Allah is also Kufr. Being tight fisted or niggardly is also Kufr. Engaging in deliberate and persistent Kufr makes a person Kafir. Inadvertent acts of Kufr do not make a person a Kafir.
Ziaur Rahman has listed verses where Kufr has a good meaning or where its meaning is connected only with the temporal dimension. I congratulate him for these:
Kufr Means Rejecting
2:256: whoever rejects (Yakfur) evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks.
29: 7: Those who believe and work righteous deeds,- from them shall We blot out all evil (lanukaffiranna)(that may be) in them, and We shall reward them according to the best of their deeds.(meaning remove)
(Meaning remove sins)
2:271: If ye disclose (acts of) charity, even so it is well, but if ye conceal them, and make them reach those (really) in need, that is best for you: It will remove (Yukaffir) from you some of your (stains of) evil. And Allah is well acquainted with what ye do.)
Kufr means removing (sins)
3:195: Those who have left their homes, or been driven out there from, or suffered harm in My Cause, or fought or been slain,- verily, I will blot out (ukaffiranna), from them their iniquities
64: 9: The Day that He assembles you (all) for a Day of Assembly,- that will be a Day of mutual loss and gain (among you), and those who believe in Allah and work righteousness,- He will remove (Yukaffir) from them their ills,
30:13: No intercessor wills they have among their "Partners" and they will (themselves) reject their "Partners"(Kafirin).
Pharaoh call Moses Nashukra
26: 19: And thou didst a deed of thine which (thou knowest) thou didst, and thou art an ungrateful (Kafir)(wretch)!
66: 8: O ye who believe! Turn to Allah with sincere repentance: In the hope that your Lord will remove (Yukaffir) from you your ills and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, - (meaning remove sins),
Kaffara Means Remove (Sins)
47:2: But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad - for it is the Truth from their Lord,- He will remove (Kaffara) from them their ills and improve their condition.
Idols will deny (yakfuruna)
Satan Will Deny Shirk Of Kafir
Zia says: “The Kafirs are not faith neutral human beings. They are the worst enemies of God. God hates them the most because they deny his favours and deny his signs and do wrong deeds and make mischief on earth. Here are some of the verses in the Quran that describe the Kafirs:”
There are all kinds of Kafirs including those who are merely guilty of the kufr of despairing of the mercy of Allah or of niggardliness. There are also those who are the worst enemies of God. There are those who will never be forgiven. There are those like Abu Lahab who are told 10 years before they die that he will be in hell. Why is Zia putting all of them into one bucket? Has he learned nothing from listing the various forms and shades of the meaning of Kufr?
Shirk is the most heinous sin indeed
4:48-Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.
A deliberate act of Shirk is certainly covered by the verse above but not inadvertent shirk or before knowledge of the implications of shirk comes to a person. Verse 4:48 and a similar verse 4:116 are not stand alone verses universally applicable in which case these would have begun with (Yaaiyohannas) or “O you mankind!”The context in one are the Jews and in the other Muslims. For people of these monotheistic faiths shirk is certainly beyond forgiveness.
What is more pertinent to the Mushrikin is (3:91) “As to those who reject Faith, and die rejecting,- never would be accepted from any such as much gold as the earth contains, though they should offer it for ransom. For such is (in store) a penalty grievous, and they will find no helpers”.
Avoid Kafirs When They Ridicule Faith But Do Not Be Violent
Agree. Ridicule amounts to denial.
Fight against Kafirs When They Fight You
Believers should argue with Kafirs with the help of Quran
25:52: Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers (Kafirina), but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the (Qur'an).
Disagree. Striving against them does not mean argument. How can you argue without listening? You can only do Dawa to the Mushrik and not Kafir. To the Kafir it is 109:6 “To you be your way and to me mine” This is another proof that Kafir and Mushrik are not the same.
Fight Kafirs If They Fight You
Kafirs Are a Group
Zia says: In most of the verses, Quran treats non-believers as individuals but in some of the verses it also addresses the non-believers as a Qaum because they have a belief system and dogma. Here are some of the verses:
71: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) will be led to Hell in crowd: until, when they arrive, there, its gates will be opened. And its keepers will say, "Did not messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing to you the Signs of your Lord, and warning you of the Meeting of This Day of yours?" The answer will be: "True: but the Decree of Punishment has been proved true against the Unbelievers (Kafirin)!"
Disagree. The people who fought battles against the Prophet are certainly a group. The verse above has nothing to do with the groups or Qaum on this earth. The people of the right hand are also a group which includes people from the beginning to the end of time.
Zia Says: The Surah Al Kafirun is about the Kafirs. It describes them as worshippers of false gods. It addresses the non-believers as a Qaum and all the six verses speak of their worship of false gods. These Kafirun are the polytheists of Makkah who had belief in one God but also had belief in gods and goddesses. Thus they were also Mushriks.
109: 1-6: Say: O ye that reject Faith! I worship not that which ye worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, Nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your Way, and to me mine.
Disagree. The Kafirun addressed are also Mushriks of Mecca but the Surah is addressed only to the Kafirun among the Mushrikin. This verse is number 18 in chronological order and must have been revealed 8 to 9 years before Hijra. Change it to Surah Al Mushrikin and you can see that then there is nothing more for the Prophet to do except take care of those who have already accepted Islam. The Meccans would have then just used this Surah as an argument against the Prophet to stop his further Dawa work or called the Quran a book of falsehood. This Surah is proof that not all the Mushrikin are treated as Kafirin but only those who rejected “The Message” and showed their rejection in their hostile behavior.
Zia writes: In Part 3 of this article, Mr Naseer Ahmad writes:
“The Meccan pagans we are told by the Quran were not a people to whom a messenger was sent before, nor did they have a Book of revelation like the Christians or the Jews. The Quran describes them as an Ummi nation and their state as of Jahiliya or ignorance. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse but there was no divine law for them at all. For these people therefore, shirk, idol worship, adultery was not Kufr.”
He did not quote the relevant verse or verses which say that no messengers were sent to Makka and that’s why they cannot be called Kafir. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born in Makkah, so people of Madina cannot say that since he was not from Medina, they should not be told to have belief in one God. They would believe in God only when a prophet is raised in their own town. The holy prophet (pbuh) even travelled to Taif to preach Islam and later sent emissaries to Africa and other countries. They did not put forth this logic that they will accept Islam only when a prophet is raised in their town. The population of Makka comprised polytheists, Jews, Christians and Hanifis. Hadhrat Khadija is believed to be a Hanifi. And all of them were the inhabitants of Makka. How can one say that no messenger came there to deliver the divine message? How come then the Jews and Christians who were the followers of the divine religions existed there? ……
(36:6) In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).
The above verse not only confirms that the Meccan Polytheists’ fathers had received no admonition but accepts that as a reason for their remaining heedless.
The rest of his argument is pointless. Where did I say or imply that a Prophet must come from each village, commune, tribe or family?! I have relied only on what the Quran says explicitly is the reason for the polytheists of Mecca remaining heedless of the “Signs of Allah”. There are many other verses that confirm the same.
Zia says: When people do not have faith in God, they also take usury; create mischief, commit theft, robbery, and adultery etc because when they do not have faith in or recognize God they do not fear him. Therefore, taking usury, committing adultery or theft are sins and not Kufr. God says that He may forgive sins of believers if he so wishes but he will never forgive the sins of the non-believers. On some occasions the Quran mentions sins while talking about Kufr or shirk. This creates the impression that those sins are also being included in Kufr.
Zia is confused. That is a good sign. He should resolve his confusion first and then only I can say whether I agree or disagree with his conclusion.
Ziaur Rahman say: Mr Naseer Ahmad also says:
“These are necessarily the people of the Prophet’s times and none of the verses in the Quran which refer to the Kafaru among the Christians, Jews or Polytheists apply to the people of today.”
Usury was taken by the Jews in the times of Moses and Jesus, so the usury taken today is not spoken about in the Quran. The wine (intoxicant) spoken in the Quran is the wine made in the olden days. Today’s wine is different and so the wine mentioned in the Quran is not the modern day wine. Same argument can be presented about adultery, corruption, bloodshed etc. Therefore, in the same way the polytheists, the idol worshipper and the Mushrik mentioned in the Quran are the Mushrik, Kafirs and idol worshippers of the prophet's times and do not refer to the Mushrik and Kafirs of today.
This argument is ridiculous. Whoever does not have faith in God is a Kafir whether he is in the 21st century or in the 25th century. Similarly, whoever sets up partner with God, whether in this century or in the coming century will be called a Mushrik according to the definition of the Quran. Usury, murder, adultery will be considered crimes according to the teachings of the Quran till the Day of Judgment. People committed idolatry, shirk and Kufr during the life of Hadhrat Noah, Hadhrat Shuaib, Hadhrat Solomon, Hadhrat Yunus, Hadhrat Abraham, Hadhrat Isaac, Hadhrat David, Hadhrat Moses and Hadhrat Christ. They continued to commit shirk and idolatry during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). People commit Kufr and idolatry even in this age of science and will probably continue to do so in future. The Quran cannot be confined to the age it was revealed in. The holy Quran is for all the humanity till the Day of Judgment and it has set the values and morals for the human society for all the ages to come.
Ziaur Rahman is being ridiculous. What I have simply said is that in verses that refer to the Kafaru among the Jews, Christians and Polytheists, it is referring to a specific group of people whose Kufr is also described in the verse. These are the people of the Prophet’s times displaying a specific behaviour in relation to the Prophet’s mission. The Prophet’s mission has ended. These verses are therefore giving out historical information about those people and their behaviour. The Kufr here is neither usury nor drinking. It is their attitude and behaviour towards the Prophet and the Muslims. Those verses are clearly stated.
As can be seen above, much of the evidence that Zia has provided by quoting verses only confirms what I have said since I do not disagree. He is therefore spraying all over without knowing what he is trying to achieve. Where I disagree, I have given the evidence and the arguments.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.