By Habib Ali Al Jifri
February 26, 2014
Takfir, the act of accusing a Muslim of
apostasy, has become an ideology embraced by extremist movements to justify the
killing of anyone who does not fulfil their criteria of “true” belief.
There are two main reasons for the
cancerous spread of Takfirist ideology in parts of the Muslim world.
The first one is the rejection of the
diversity of opinions. This diversity is often a result of the application of
scholars’ independent legal judgement (Ijtihad) to religious textual evidence
that is non-definitive in its meaning. This leads to two things: an increased
inability for the representatives of religion to embrace changes in the world
from one perspective, and an expansion of the spheres of war in the Muslim
world from another.
The second reason is the association of
“non-belief” with killing and deviancy. Such tendency fails to recognise the
Sharia’s legal distinction between a combatant disbeliever and a civilian
A combatant disbeliever can be legitimately
fought by the state, while the civilian cannot be prevented from his or her
rights despite their non-belief, as is declared in the Quranic verses: “For you
your religion and for me mine” and “Whomsoever wills may choose faith, and
whomsoever wills may choose non-faith”.
Throughout history, people have suffered
from the bloodshed and oppression that ensued from religious zealotry emanating
from political battle grounds.
A number of religious scholars have
expended efforts in creating initiatives that deal with the threat of Takfirism.
Among them is Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah, a renowned jurist and scholar from
He convened the Mardin Conference in 2010
in Turkey, which had two primary purposes: to carefully examine and review
Islamic law’s traditional classification of the world into “domains” (Diyar)
and how this pertains to the concepts of jihad, loyalty and enmity (Al-Wala
Wa Al-Bara), citizenship and emigration.
The second purpose of the conference was to
discuss the “Mardin Fatwa” of the 13th century scholar Ibn Taymiyya, in which
he deduced a new ruling based on the Islamic jurisprudential classification of
the world into domains of “non-belief”, “Islam”, and “covenant”. Ibn Taymiyya
considered the city of Mardin to belong to both a domain of non-belief and domain
of Islam at the same time – non-belief due to its being ruled by the non-Muslim
Tartars, and Islam due to its residents being Muslim.
During the conference Sheikh Bin Bayyah
proposed a re-evaluation of this classification. International relations of that
time were primarily determined by warfare and conflict with cordial relations
being the exception.
Today, however, with peace being the norm
and war and conflict the exception, the classification no longer applies.
He also brought attention to methodological
flaws in how sacred texts are meant to be understood and interpreted and how
the various independent legal judgements of jurists are meant to be adopted.
For example, he mentioned how Takfirists used the Mardin Fatwa to justify their
When printed editions of this edict were
compared with its only available manuscript, a printing mistake was discovered
which changed a word from “shall be treated” (Yu’amal) to “shall be
fought” (Yuqatal). The text in question as found in the printed editions
of the fatwa reads: “(Mardin is of a third category) in which the Muslim shall
be treated as he merits, and in which the one who departs from the sacred law
(Sharia) shall be fought as he merits.”
Whereas the text in the manuscript read:
“(Mardin is of a third category) in which the Muslim shall be treated as he
merits, and in which the one who departs from the sacred law (Sharia) shall be
treated as he merits.”
This distortion has been printed for over
100 years and been the cause for much unlawful bloodshed.
Despite these efforts and others,
institutions and organisations – faith-based or not – as well as Sharia bodies
and councils and the media are completely oblivious to them and their valuable
The most pressing question today is whether
there is a serious desire to confront Takfirist ideology.
Habib Ali al-Jifri is the founder of
Tabah Foundation, an Islamic research institution in Abu Dhabi that offers
faith-based perspectives on contemporary Muslim and global issues
“Momin” means believer
“la Yuminun” means disbeliever
A person may be “la Yuminun” because he is “la yalamun”
(ignorant) and such a person is not kafir since his lack of belief is from
ignorance and not from wilful defiance of Allah
A momin could be a Muslim (one who submits to Allah) or a
kafir (rebel) or a Muslim in some respects and a kafir in other respects.
(3:130) O ye who
believe! Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear Allah; that ye may
(really) prosper.(131) Fear the Fire, which is prepared for the Kafirin:
It is the believers who devour usury
who are asked to fear the fire and such believers who devour usury are the
Kafirin. This is a clear verse addressed to the Mominin who are informed that
those who devour usury are kafir and will be consigned to Hell.
A Muslim is one who submits to Allah in his practice and
deeds. One could be a Muslim without yet being a Momin if he performs his
ritual prayers and pays zakat which is the minimum requirement to be considered
a Muslim. A non-practicing Muslim is an oxymoron.
(14) The desert Arabs say, "We believe."
Say, "Ye have no faith; but ye (only)say, ´We have submitted our wills to
Allah,´ For not yet has Faith entered your hearts. But if ye obey Allah and His
Messenger, He will not belittle aught of your deeds: for Allah is
Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
Form the above verse it is clear that one can be a Muslim
and not yet a Momin and will be rewarded for his good deeds.
Who is a Muslim?
(2:112) Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to
Allah and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such
shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
The journey as a Muslim begins with willing submission to
the religion of Islam. Belief in Allah and the Hereafter develops over a period
as a Muslim becomes acquainted with the attributes of Allah, His mercy, His Divine
plan etc. and is a continuous process.
What is the religion of Islam? It is submission to Allah (by
whatever name) and doing righteous deeds.
A practicing Christian, Jew, Buddhist and all those who
satisfy the requirements in verse 2:112 cited above are included in the Quran’s
definition of a Muslim. By practice, what is meant is following the moral code
of their religion.
We can always tell who is a kafir by the person’s deeds. The
one who oppresses is a kafir even if he prays 5 times a day and recites the
A just person can never be a kafir no matter what his
beliefs are. As explained earlier, a person could be a disbeliever from
ignorance and rendering justice at all times is evidence of obedience to Allah or obeisance to something much higher than self.
The meanings of words given above, are consistent with the way in which the Quran uses these words.
The Momineen and the Kafirin