New Age Islam
Thu Aug 11 2022, 09:42 AM

Islam and Pluralism ( 18 Apr 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Kafir and Mushrik in the Light of the Quran


By Ziaur Rahman, New Age Islam

19 April 2015


[Author’s note: This article has been written as a response to Mr Naseer Ahmad’s four part article titled ‘Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr. In this article Mr Naseer Ahmad made some statements or inferences that have created confusion about the definition of the word Kafir and also about the term Mushrik. This article aims to clarify the notion about the definition of Kafir and Kufr in the light of the verses of the Quran.


This article has not been written to prove Mr Naseer Ahmad wrong but because he has produced a thesis that is not grounded in the Quran. He has tried to prove, that too from the Quran, that Kufr is something even God does not bother about. The truth is that all this Leela of the universe began with the Kufr of Satan. He committed Kufr which enraged God.


He has also said that Makkans were not sent any messengers. God does not send any foreigners as prophets to a community. God just makes one person of a community more rational and gives him more insight and after he assumes a certain age, He officially anoints him as a prophet. This happened with almost all the prophets. He gives the example of the tribe under Dhul Qarnain who according to him 'did not need any prophetic message.' If it was so it might be because of the same reason that God might have raised some rational thinkers among them and given them the understanding of the divine message. The case of Hadhrat Owais Qarni should be in sight who got the spirit of Islam though he never met Hadhrat Muhammad (pbuh).

He has also said somewhere in his article that there are more Kafirs among Muslims than among the non-believers. 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.]


The word Kufr means to reject faith in God, God’s signs, the prophets, the Holy Scriptures and the Day of Judgment.  One who does not have faith in the unity of God and does not have faith also in other sacred signs of God is a Kafir, according to the Quran. One who rejects faith in God or does not have faith in God is called a Kafir. A Kafir may also be an idolater who worships gods and goddesses. According to the Quran, they are those who have gone astray. There are about 350 verses about Kufr and Kafir. In majority of the verses, Kufr is non-belief in one God and prophets of God and in Holy Scriptures. Kufr is also worship of idols and gods and goddesses other than God. In some of the verses the word Kufr and its variations are used to mean ingratitude for the favours of God. It is natural that if someone does not recognize God or does not have faith in God, he will also not acknowledge God’s favours but will attribute the favours to his gods and goddesses. Therefore, ingratitude is also a constituent of Kufr. King Solomon who was a believer expressed his gratitude to God when one of his ministers brought Queen of Sheba’s throne to his place with his knowledge. But Quran did not have faith in God so he did not express gratitude to God for all this wealth and would arrogantly say that he had earned all his wealth through his knowledge and skills. So he was punished. 

In some of the verses the word Kufr and its variations have been used in its literal meaning; to reject. For example, on the Day of Judgment, the idols will reject the claim of the idol worshipper that it was real god and will actually curse the idolater for worshipping it. In this sentence, the word Kufr is used for the denial by the idol. Similarly, in some sentences, the word is used by God for removing sins of believers as a reward for having faith in Him. In one of the verses, even Pharaoh calls Moses Kafir meaning ungrateful as he reminds Moses that he was brought up under his patronage but was revolting against him.

But in majority of the cases, the word Kufr and Kafirun and Kafirin and its other variations are used for non-belief in God, Holy Scriptures, messengers and the Day of Judgment. We will deal with all the aspects of Kufr in the light of the Quran in the following pages and will also quote Mr Naseer Ahmad’s views to clear the confusion.

First we quote only some of the 350 verses dealing with Kufr so that the readers themselves can form an opinion about the idea of Kufr.

Verses about Kufr

3: 90: But those who reject Faith (Kafaru) after they accepted it, and then go on adding to their defiance (Kufran) of Faith,- never will their repentance be accepted; for they are those who have (of set purpose) gone astray.

3:91: As to those who reject Faith (Kafaru), and die rejecting (Kuffar),- never would be accepted from any such as much gold as the earth contains,

3:97:  but if any deny faith (Kafara), Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures.

3:98: Say: "O People of the Book! Why reject (Takfuruna) ye the Signs of Allah, when Allah is Himself witness to all ye do?"

3:116: Those who reject Faith (Kafaru),- neither their possessions nor their (numerous) progeny will avail them aught against Allah:

4: 76: Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject (Kafaru) Faith Fight in the cause of Evil:

4:136: Any who denieth (Yakfur) Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Day of Judgment, hath gone far, far astray.

59: (The reply will be :) 'Nay, but there came to thee my Signs, and thou didst reject them: thou wast Haughty, and became one of those who reject faith (Kafirin)!'

63: To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth: and those who reject the Signs of Allah (Kafaru),- it is they who will be in loss.

From the verses quoted above, it becomes clear that Kufr only means denying the existence of God, his messengers, scriptures and Day of Judgments. It does not imply taking usury, murder, adultery etc. as these are sins and not part of Kufr.

Since Kufr is antithesis of Iman (faith), God is highly displeased with the person committing Kufr. If Kufr were faith neutral, God would not have expressed his deep displeasure and disdain of it. God says that those who deny His superiority and worship other Gods commit a grave sin which will never be forgiven and the Kafirs will be subjected to severest torment in the Hereafter. There are many verses that warn the non-believers of the fire of Hell for the rejecting faith:

Companions of Fire

 2:217: They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: "Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him (Kufr), to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members." Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief (Kafir), their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.

2:131: Fear the Fire, which is repaired for those who reject Faith (Kafirin):

4:56: Those who reject (Kafaru) our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire

5:86: But those who reject Faith (Kafaru) and belie our Signs, - they shall be companions of Hell-fire.

3:4: Then those who reject Faith (Kafaru) in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty,

9:3:  And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger, to the people (assembled) on the day of the Great Pilgrimage,- that Allah and His Messenger dissolve (treaty) obligations with the Pagans(Mushrikeen). If then, ye repent, it were best for you; but if ye turn away, know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah. And proclaim a grievous penalty to those who reject Faith (Kafaru). (Mushrik and Kafir treated as same),

8:38: Say to the Unbelievers (Kafaru), if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).

8:52: (Deeds) after the manner of the people of Pharaoh and of those before them: They rejected (Kafaru) the Signs of Allah, and Allah punished them for their crimes:

9:55: Let not their wealth nor their (following in) sons dazzle thee: in reality Allah's plan is to punish them with these things in this life, and that their souls may perish in their (very) denial of Allah (Kafirun).

10:4: but those who reject Him (Kafaru) will have draughts of boiling fluids, and a penalty grievous, because they did reject Him (Yakfurun).

 10:70: A little enjoyment in this world! - and then, to Us will be their return, then shall We make them taste the severest penalty for their blasphemies (aykfurun).

Respite and Then Punishment to Kafirs

13:32: Mocked were (many) messengers before thee: but I granted respite to the unbelievers (Kafaru), and finally I punished them:

30:16: And those who have rejected Faith (Kafaru) and falsely denied our Signs and the meeting of the Hereafter, - such shall be brought forth to Punishment.

29:23: Those who reject the Signs of Allah (Kafaru) and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter), - it is they who shall despair of My Mercy: it is they who will (suffer) a most grievous Penalty.

14: 2: But alas for the Unbelievers (Kafirin) for a terrible penalty (their Unfaith will bring them)!-

14:7: But if ye show ingratitude (Kafartum), truly My punishment is terrible indeed."

41:27: But We will certainly give the Unbelievers (Kafaru) a taste of a severe Penalty, and We will requite them for the worst of their deeds.

30:16: And those who have rejected Faith (Kafaru) and falsely denied our Signs and the meeting of the Hereafter,- such shall be brought forth to Punishment.

67: 6: For those who reject (Kafaru) their Lord (and Cherisher) is the Penalty of Hell: and evil is (such), Destination.

67: 28: Say: "See ye? - If Allah were to destroy me, and those with me, or if He bestows His Mercy on us,- yet who can deliver the Unbelievers (Kafirin) from a grievous Penalty?"

88: 23-24: But if any turn away and reject Allah,- Allah will punish him with a mighty Punishment,

41: 50: But We will show the Unbelievers (Kafaru) the truth of all that they did, and We shall give them the taste of a severe Penalty.

58: 4: For those who reject (Him) (Kafirin), there is a grievous Penalty.

58:5: And the Unbelievers (Kafirin) (will have) a humiliating Penalty,-

The Quran also details the actions and beliefs of Kafirs in many verses. Some are as follows:

What Kafirs Do or Did

Kafirs Slay the Messengers

2:61: They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah. This because they went on rejecting (Yakfuruna) the Signs of Allah and slaying His Messengers without just cause.

They say Christ is God or son of God

5: 17: In blasphemy (Kafar) indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary.

5:  72: They do blaspheme (Kafara) who say: "Allah is Christ the son of Mary."

5: 73: They do blaspheme (Kafara) who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity:

They Are Not Righteous

2:254; Those who reject Faith (Kafirun) they are the wrong-doers.

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;

16: 88: Those who reject Allah (Kafaru) and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah

Kafirs Try To Blow Out the Light Of God

9: 32: Fain would they extinguish Allah's light with their mouths, but Allah will not allow but that His light should be perfected, even though the Unbelievers (Kafirun) may detest (it).

Kafirs Drove the Prophet Out

9: 40: If ye help not (your leader), (it is no matter): for Allah did indeed help him, when the Unbelievers (Kafaru) drove him out: he had no more than one companion; they two were in the cave, and he said to his companion,

14: 13: And the Unbelievers (Kafaru) said to their messengers: "Be sure we shall drive you out of our land, or ye shall return to our religion."

Kafirs Do Not Have Understanding or Wisdom or Courage

8:65: O Prophet! rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers (Kafaru): for these are a people without understanding.

Kafirs Deny the Favours of Allah

16: 83: They recognise the favours of Allah; then they deny them; and most of them are (creatures) ungrateful (Kafirun).

Kafirs Give Vain Arguments against God, Prophets and the Word of God

18: 56: We only send the messengers to give Glad Tidings and to give warnings: But the unbelievers (Kafaru) dispute with vain argument,

Kafirs Deny the Mission of the Prophets

14:9: To them came messengers with Clear (Signs); but they put their hands up to their mouths, and said: "We do deny (kafarna) (the mission) on which ye have been sent,

Kafir denies the Hereafter

12:37: I have (I assure you) abandoned the ways of a people that believe not in Allah and that (even) deny the Hereafter (Kafirun).

34: 3: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) say, "Never to us will come the Hour":

41: 7: Those who practise not regular Charity, and who even deny the Hereafter (Kafirun).

18: 105: They are those who deny (Kafaru) the Signs of their Lord and the fact of their having to meet Him (in the Hereafter):

23: 33: And the chiefs of his people, who disbelieved (Kafaru) and denied the Meeting in the Hereafter, and on whom We had bestowed the good things of this life, said: "He is no more than a man like yourselves: he eats of that of which ye eat, and drinks of what ye drink.

Kafirs Despair of God’s Mercy

12:87: truly no one despairs of Allah's Soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith. (Qaumil Kafirun)

Kafir persists in doubt till the end

22:55: Those who reject Faith (Kafaru) will not cease to be in doubt concerning (Revelation) until the Hour (of Judgment) comes suddenly upon them.

Kafirs Rejected Moses

22:44: and Moses was rejected (in the same way). But I granted respite to the Unbelievers (Kafirin),

Kafirs Reject Signs of God

29:47: And thus (it is) that We have sent down the Book to thee. So the People of the Book believe therein, as also do some of these (pagan Arabs): and none but Unbelievers (Kafirun) reject our signs.

32: 10: And they say: "What! when we lie, hidden and lost, in the earth, shall we indeed be in a Creation renewed? Nay, they deny the Meeting with their Lord (Kafirun).

Kafir Ridicules the Prophet

34:7: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) say (in ridicule): "Shall we point out to you a man that will tell you, when ye are all scattered to pieces in disintegration, that ye shall (then be raised) in a New Creation?

21:36: When the Unbelievers (Kafaru) see thee, they treat thee not except with ridicule. "Is this," (they say), "the one who talks of your gods?" and they blaspheme (Kafirun) at the mention of (Allah) Most Gracious!

Kafirs seek signs

13:27: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) say: "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?"

Kafirs deny the prophet

13: 43: Unbelievers (Kafaru) say: "No messenger art thou."

Kafir does not believe in scriptures of God

34:31: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) say: "We shall neither believe in this scripture nor in (any) that (came) before it."

10:2: (But) say the Unbelievers (Kafirun): "This is indeed an evident sorcerer!"

64: 7: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) think that they will not be raised up (for Judgment).

Kafirs dispute about the signs of God

40: 4: None can dispute about the Signs of Allah but the Unbelievers (Kafaru). Let not, then, their strutting about through the land deceive thee!

Kafirs detest the name of God

40:14: Call ye, then, upon Allah with sincere devotion to Him, even though the Unbelievers (Kafirun) may detest it.

Kafir Hinders the Reading of the Quran

41:26: The Unbelievers (Kafaru) say: "Listen not to this Qur'an, but talk at random in the midst of its (reading), that ye may gain the upper hand!"

Kafirs Hinder Men from the Path of God and Resist the Messenger

47: 32: Those who reject Allah (Kafaru), hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, and resist the Messenger, after Guidance has been clearly shown to them, will not injure Allah in the least, but He will make their deeds of no effect.

Kafir Is One Who Believes That the Universe Is a Fantasy, A Whim

38:27: Not without purpose did We create heaven and earth and all between! That was the thought of Unbelievers (Kafaru)! but woe to the Unbelievers (Kafaru) because of the Fire (of Hell)!

Kafirs Are Steeped In Self Glory and Separatism

38: 2: But the Unbelievers (Kafaru) (are steeped) in self-glory and Separatism.

Kafirs Are Perverse

2: 99: We have sent down to thee Manifest Signs (Ayat); and none reject (Yakfuru) them but those who are perverse.

Kafirs Are Under Delusion

 67: 20: In nothing but delusion are the Unbelievers (Kafirun).

Kafirs Hindered Men from Sacred Mosque and Detained Sacrificial Animals

25: They are the ones who denied Revelation (Kafaru) and hindered you from the Sacred Mosque and the sacrificial animals, detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. Had there not been believing men and believing women whom ye did not know that ye were trampling down and on whose account a crime would have accrued to you without (your) knowledge, (Allah would have allowed you to force your way, but He held back your hands) that He may admit to His Mercy whom He will. If they had been apart, We should certainly have punished the Unbelievers (Kafaru) among them with a grievous Punishment.

Kafirs Are Perennially In Fight With God

61: 8: Their intention is to extinguish Allah's Light (by blowing) with their mouths: But Allah will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the Unbelievers (Kafirun) may detest (it).

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).

When someone rejects faith in God, he rejects faith in all that constitutes the faith in God – belief in messengers, scriptures, Hereafter, the truth of the universe and other signs of God. He also sees the faith in God as a threat to his belief and remains in perennial fight against God hindering believers from the path of God and most of the time persecuting the messengers and the believers.

In his article, Mr Naseer Ahmad says:

“The confusion arises because unfortunately, most Muslims as well as non-Muslims including the Maulanas and the exegetes and the muffasirin treat Kafir, Mushrik and idol worshipper as synonyms when the Quran makes clear distinctions between these terms and does not use the inappropriate term, even in a single  verse.

 The Quran makes a very clear distinction between Kafir, Mushrik and idolater. These are not synonyms. Unfortunately however, most translators have been careless and treat these as synonyms. Even Yusuf Ali who is otherwise one of the better translators, is guilty of mistranslating on many occasions.

Very clearly not all Polytheists, Jews or Christian or non-Muslims are Kafir in the Quran which is why the verses specifically refer to only the Kafir among these people.”

Shirk is also Kufr

The Quran equally condemns Shirk, (joining partners with God) as it challenges the sovereignty of God. God does not like setting up partners with him. He says that he will forgive every sin other than shirk. In some of the verses, God treats shirk and Kufr to be the same. Here are some of the verses;

3:80: Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and patrons. What! would he bid you to unbelief (Kufr) after ye have bowed your will (To Allah in Islam)?

In this verse, taking angels and prophets as Lords and patrons which is associating partners with God is brought under Kufr.

5: 17: In blasphemy (kafar) indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary.

9:1-2  (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the Pagans (Mushrikin) with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances:-Go ye, then, for four months, backwards and forwards, (as ye will), throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate Allah (by your falsehood) but that Allah will cover with shame those who reject Him (Kafirin).

In this verse also no distinction has been made between Mushrikin and Kafirin.

24:55: 'They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me (yushrikuna). 'If any do reject Faith (Kafara) after this, they are rebellious and wicked.

This verse also talks of the Mushrikin and Kafirin in the same vein.

6:1: Praise be Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and made the darkness and the light. Yet those who reject Faith (Kafaru) hold (others) as equal, with their Guardian-Lord.

This verse also says that those who reject faith or are Kafirs hold their gods and goddesses equal to the Supreme Lord. In this verse, the word shirk has not been mentioned but shirk is implied.

9:30: The Jews call 'Uzair a son of Allah and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers (Kafaru) of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!

Calling Uzair and Christ the sons of God are the ways of the unbelievers (Kafirs) of the old days.

Kafirs Reject the Partners on Qayamat

40:84: But when they saw Our Punishment, they said: "We believe in Allah,- the one Allah - and we reject the partners (kafarna) we used to join with Him."

In this verse, Kafirs are those who were associating partners with God. They were Mushriks.

43: 15: Yet they attribute to some of His servants a share with Him (in his godhead)! truly is man a blasphemous ingrate avowed! (kafur).

They are kafur because they committed shirk. Clear?

Thus, to God Kufr is a broad term which covers shirk. God says that shirk is a greater sin than Kufr. He does not approve of treating his creatures equal to Him.

In the beginning we have said that the Quran uses the word Kufr and its variations in its literal meaning, that is rejecting or removing. This study is also interesting.

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

Remove sins

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)!

Idols will deny (yakfuruna)

35:14.If ye invoke them (idols), they will not listen to your call, and if they were to listen, they cannot answer your (prayer). On the Day of Judgment they will reject (yakfuruna) your "Partnership".(beshirkekum)

4:60:  Hast thou not turned Thy vision to those who declare that they believe in the revelations that have come to thee and to those before thee? Their (real) wish is to resort together for judgment (in their disputes) to the Evil One, though they were ordered to reject (Yakfuru) him. But Satan's wish is to lead them astray far away (from the right).

Satan will deny shirk of Kafirs

 14:22: And Satan will say when the matter is decided: "It was Allah Who gave you a promise of Truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no authority over you except to call you but ye listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls. I cannot listen to your cries, nor can ye listen to mine. I reject (Kafarto) your former act in associating me with Allah. For wrong-doers there must be a grievous penalty."

46:6: And when mankind are gathered together (at the Resurrection), they (idols) will be hostile to them and reject their worship (altogether)! (Kafirin).

Kufr Meaning Denying One Another

29:25: And he said: "For you, ye have taken (for worship) idols besides Allah, out of mutual love and regard between yourselves in this life; but on the Day of Judgment ye shall disown each other (Yakfuru) and curse each other: and your abode will be the Fire, and ye shall have none to help."

This verse shows that those committing shirk, those who took for worship idols will meet the same fate as the Kafirs, non-believers.

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.

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:

God hates them and describes them as beast

8:55, For the worst of beasts in the sight of Allah are those who reject Him (Kafaru): They will not believe.

Kafirs Are Like Cattles without Any Purpose

47:12: while those who reject Allah (Kafaru) will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat; and the Fire will be their abode.

Kafirs are the worst of creatures

6:Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.

Devoid of wisdom

2:171: The parable of those who reject Faith (Kafaru) is as if one were to shout Like a goat-herd, to things that listen to nothing but calls and cries: Deaf, dumb, and blind, they are void of wisdom.

8:65, O Prophet! rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers (Kafaru): for these are a people without understanding.

5: 103: It is blasphemers (Kafaru) who invent a lie against Allah; but most of them lack wisdom

Jesus and Mary curse the Kafirs

5: 78: Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected Faith (Kafaru), by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary

God Curses Them for Their Kufr

2:88: They say, "Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah's Word: we need no more)." Nay, Allah's curse is on them for their blasphemy (Kufr).

2:89: And when there comes to them a Book from Allah, confirming what is with them, -- although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without Faith (Kafaru), -- when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognised, they refuse to believe (Kafaru) in it but the curse of Allah is on those without Faith (Kafirin) (three times)

Angels Hate the Kafirs

8: 50, If thou couldst see, when the angels take the souls of the Unbelievers (Kafaru) (at death), (How) they smite their faces and their backs, (saying): "Taste the penalty of the blazing Fire-

God Will Not Forgive Kafirs Even If Someone Prays For Them Seventy Times

9:80: if thou ask seventy times for their forgiveness, Allah will not forgive them: because they have rejected Allah and His Messenger (Kafaru):

9:84: Nor do thou ever pray for any of them that dies, nor stand at his grave; for they rejected Allah (Kafaru) and His Messenger,

God will forgive the sins of believers not unbelievers

4:168: Those who reject Faith (Kafaru) and do wrong,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to anyway-

4:161-That they took usury, though they were forbidden; and that they devoured men's substance wrongfully; - we have prepared for those among them who reject faith a grievous punishment.

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.

Someone may deny the existence of God out of ignorance or lack of understanding or wisdom and become Kafir but someone who associates partners with God is aware of God’s existence and has belief in him but still worships other gods and deities. Which is why Shirk has been declared the most heinous sin.

However, despite all the hate and disdain for Kafirs, God does not prescribe any punishment for them in this world. He says that He will punish them suitably in the Hereafter. In the world, he asks believers to avoid violence against them and preach them peacefully and tactfully. There are some verses to this effect. God permits believers to fight them only when they show aggression and become an existential threat for the believers.

Avoid Kafirs When They Ridicule Faith But Do Not Be Violent

 4:140: Already has He sent you Word in the Book, that when ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance (Yakfaru) and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme.

Fight against Kafirs When They Fight You

8: 15: O ye who believe! when ye meet the Unbelievers (Kafaru) in hostile array, never turn your backs to them.

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).

Fight Kafirs If They Fight You

 47:4: Therefore, when ye meet the Unbelievers (Kafaru) (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them): thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom:

Kafirs are a group

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)!"

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.

Al Kafirun

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.

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?  God says in the Quran that He raised messengers and prophets from among every community on earth. That’s why he sent one Lakh twenty four thousand prophets and messengers. Even the Quran says that when they were asked who created the heaven and earth, they would reply that it was God who made them but still they would worship their gods and deities. They were not unaware or ignorant of the divine message. In India, Muslims are in minority and idol worshippers are in majority. That does not imply that no messengers came here. Prophets did not come from other places. They were mostly raised from their own community. Prophet Abraham was raised from the community of idol worshippers. He questioned the belief of his community first. Later he was anointed as a prophet.

He further writes:

“By the criterion of the Quran, there are more Kafirs among the Muslims than among the non-Muslims.”

Doesn’t this sound similar to the ideology of the Kharijites who declare even a section among the Muslims Kafir on the basis of some of their practices or beliefs? When a Muslim declares his faith in God, in messengers, the Scriptures, the Day of Judgment, he is a Muslim and cannot be declared Kafir under any circumstances.

When people do not have faith in God, they also take usury; create mischief, commit theft, robbery, 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.

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.

Related Articles:

Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 1): 'Kafir,' 'Mushrik' and 'Idolater' are not synonyms


Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 2): Muslim– Non-Muslim Relationship


Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 3): Why Kufr Is A Relative Concept While Shirk, Idol Worship Etc. Have Fixed Meanings


Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr


A New Age Islam columnist, Ziaur Rahman is an independent writer based in Calcutta.