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Islam and Pluralism (14 Feb 2015 NewAgeIslam.Com)

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


By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

A Comment by Observer in New Age Islam


9 Feb 2015


In part 1 of the article, we have seen that Kafir is a term that the Quran does not associate with any faith or belief system but uses it only for people who indulge in acts of kufr. These acts of kufr have been detailed in the previous part.


Muslim – Kafir relationship

Muslims are asked not to befriend the kafirin.


(3:28) Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers kafirin rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. (4:139) Yea, to those who take for friends kafirin rather than believers: is it honour they seek among them? Nay,- all honour is with Allah. (4:144) O ye who believe! Take not for friends kafirin rather than believers: Do ye wish to offer Allah an open proof against yourselves?

(5:57) O ye who believe! take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport,- whether among those who received the Scripture before you, or among the kufaru; but fear ye Allah, if ye have faith (indeed).


Verse 5:51 asks Muslims not to take Christians and the Jews as protectors because they are more likely to be protectors to each other. This is a context specific warning since 5:82 says that Christians are more likely to be nearest in love to Muslims (presumably when not making common cause with the Jews). There is nothing similar against the Polytheists except a warning in (5:82) Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians":


There is however no prohibition on taking the polytheists as friends. The prohibition for taking of friends is from among the kafir or the open enemies.   


While friendship with the kafir is prohibited, verse 2:221 prohibits marriage with the mushrikin or the polytheists. Here it does not matter whether the mushrik is also a kafir or not.


The following is a clear verse enjoining treating the non-Kafir among the non-Muslims (Jews, Christians, Polytheists) with kindness and justice.


(60:8) Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly (taburruhum) and justly (tuqsitu) with them: for Allah loveth those who are just. (9) Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.


The call for justice and fairness in dealing with non-Muslims who are neither at war with nor hostile to Muslims is the recommended golden rule. The verse clearly states the normal state for a relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims should be based on the best morals and justice with those who declare peace and do not fight them.


The Quran uses the word, “Bir,” which is typically used to describe the highest relationship one could have with parents. The Quran also uses “Bir” to describe the type of relationship we should have with Non-Muslims. “Bir” includes all the good things that a relationship should have, and excludes all the bad aspects of a relationship. For that reason, Muslim scholars said that “Bir” is the foundation of the relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims.


Verses That Ask Muslims to Fight


Except for Surah 9 which will be discussed separately, none of the verses regarding fighting mention the enemy that the Muslims are called upon to fight by their faith but by what they do or by the term Kafir.


(2:190) Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.


(3:13) "There has already been for you a Sign in the two armies that met (in combat): One was fighting in the cause of Allah, the other resisting Allah; these saw with their own eyes Twice their number. But Allah doth support with His aid whom He pleaseth. In this is a warning for such as have eyes to see."

(8:38) Say to the kafaru (the people who fought the Muslims in the battle of Badr), if (now) they desist (from practicing oppression), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).(39) And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.


The Verses of Surah 9


Surah 9 was revealed after the conquest of Mecca. As can be seen, the war was mostly with the Meccans and their allies and the Meccans were all mushrikin. Notice when mushrik is used and when kafir is used in these verses.

Verses 9:1 and 9:2 declare amnesty of four months to all mushrikin but with a warning that the kafirun 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

2.       Those who seek asylum

If the command was to kill only the kafir, then the problem would have been how to identify them. The verse identifies the non kafir among the mushrikin through the exceptions listed above. The rest of the verses are by way of justification and evidence of the kufr practiced by those who are to be killed which covers all the mushrikin except those who never broke their treaty with the Muslims or never fought against them or those who seek asylum. Asylum seekers are not defiant and therefore not kafir.


(9:1) A (declaration) of immunity from Allah and His Messenger, to those of the Pagans (mushrikin) with whom ye have contracted mutual alliances:-

(2) 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 (kafirun) who reject Him.

(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 (mushrikin). 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 (kafaru) reject Faith.

(4) (But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans (mushrikin) with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for Allah loveth the righteous.

(5) But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans (mushrikin) wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

(6) If one amongst the Pagans (mushrikin) ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge.

(7) How can there be a league, before Allah and His Messenger, with the Pagans (mushrikin), except those with whom ye made a treaty near the sacred Mosque? As long as these stand true to you, stand ye true to them: for Allah doth love the righteous.

(8) How (can there be such a league), seeing that if they get an advantage over you, they respect not in you the ties either of kinship or of covenant? With (fair words from) their mouths they entice you, but their hearts are averse from you; and most of them are rebellious and wicked.

(9) The Signs of Allah have they sold for a miserable price, and (many) have they hindered from His way: evil indeed are the deeds they have done.

(10) In a Believer they respect not the ties either of kinship or of covenant! It is they who have transgressed all bounds.

(11) But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practise regular charity,- they are your brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand.

(12) But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of (al-kufr) Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.

(13) Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe!

(14) Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers,


Very clearly, even under the most trying conditions of war spread over 9 years meant to annihilate Islam, the Quran makes a clear distinction between the `kafir’ among the non-Muslims and others. There is not a single verse in the entire Quran that directs the Muslims to treat people of other faiths with anything other than kindness and justice. The war is only against the kafir among them for the exclusive kufr of:

a)      Those who fight the Muslims for their faith and drive them out of their homes.

b)      Those who break their treaties and fight or aid other enemies of the Muslims


There is no verse in the Quran that asks the Muslims to fight with the kafir for any other form of kufr such as: Blasphemy, ridicule, rejecting faith etc.


By Observer - 2/9/2015 9:27:19 AM


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. The author initially used a pseudonym "Observer" for this article.


URL of Part 1: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/by-observer-in-new-age-islam/who-is-a-kafir-in-the-quran?-(part-1)---kafir,---mushrik--and--idolater--are-not-synonyms/d/101509


URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/who-is-a-kafir-in-the-quran?-(part-2)--muslim–-non-muslim-relationship/d/101525




  • Mr SL,

    I have sent across part 3 of the article which was not planned earlier, taking into account the article of Mr Zia and the fact that he said he found my article confusing. This article should clear the doubts of all thinking persons. 

    Am I reinterpreting or even interpreting? When it comes to the Quran, I am a die-hard literalist and a fundamentalist. You are sure to get only one meaning when you take into account every verse on the subject and are able to make sense of all the verses without the tiniest contradiction. You should also have the discipline to keep out all the noise from all prior knowledge of the subject.

    This I guess is by no means easy. I follow a methodology as I have always followed a methodology in all my work which leaves nothing to chance to address any issue.

    By Observer - 2/20/2015 3:41:50 AM

  • Well, 24 hours have passed and no confirmation yet on the correctness of this version of "Kafir" from other Muslim scholars. I suppose my doubts were justified.

    Mr Observer, though I do appreciate your efforts to redefine the word "Kafir", I believe it is only a first step towards removing the "Islam vs Others" conflict that plagues the world. It still does not go all the way towards acceptance of other faiths, beliefs, disbeliefs and ways of life. Because it only narrows the definition of Kafir to a smaller set. I do not think even the smaller set is deserving of the disparagement meted out to them in the Quran.

    Then there are a thousand other things that provoke disagreement - the immutability of the religious laws governing human life, the Sharia, for example. 

    But it is a start, the wish to reinterpret the Quran to mean something else than what is currently the more mainstream belief. Since I believe religion must evolve, it is a good evolution.

    By secularlogic - 2/20/2015 1:08:48 AM

  • The importance of the article comes through from the comment of Secular Logic:

    "I have not noticed any Muslim scholar - except, maybe, Mr Muhammad Yunus - validating your understanding of the term Kafir. Though let me tell you, the whole non-Muslim world will heave a collective sigh of relief if your advocated reading becomes mainstream."

    I must thank both Rational and Secular Logic for taking this article seriously and carrying on the conversation in a responsible manner. I also thank Aftab and Yunus saheban for their support.

    Clearly, while Rational and Secular Logic appreciate what is brought out in the article, they are uncertain about how many people believe in the same.

    I would once again urge the Sufi scholars who are on the staff of NAI to give their comments. Their support is needed to evangelize the true message of the Quran to a broader audience.

    By Observer - 2/19/2015 1:36:58 AM


    Since we seem to be back in into the cycle of debate about theological rather than functional or practical aspects of religion (Islam), I would like to draw the attention to my following referenced article on who all are described as a muslim in the Qur'an:

     The broader notion of din al-Islam is inclusive of all monotheistic faiths.

    An abridged version of the article is also posted in the following website that aims at expounding the fundamental principles and tenets of Islam:



    Universal Notion of Islam in the Quran is Self-Surrender to God

    By muhammad yunus - 2/19/2015 12:45:20 AM

  • Secular Logic,

    If I have quoted verses in isolation, then you can be sure that Rational would have pointed it out.

    I am not surprised that you consider the extremists to be the true representatives of Islam.

    You do have a point though. Apart from Rational, Muhammad Yunus and Aftab Ahmed no one else has commented. It may also perhaps not be a coincidence that all four of us are not Sufis. 

    The Sufis, have remained silent as they usually do for such articles. So this is an open invitation to Ghulam Ghaus, Ghulam Rasool, misbahul Huda etc to comment. If they disagree with the article on "Quranic grounds" then as witnesses to the Quranic truth, they are bound to comment. If they agree with the article, then they need to say so, so that Secular Logic and Rational do not think that I have achieved a feat through my ability to split hairs and through sophistry.

    By Observer - 2/18/2015 11:02:32 PM

  • To: All Muslim Readers @ New Age Islam


    Subject: The Recycling Of Same Old Beaten Up Debates


    Once again the “Recycling, of same old beaten up debates will go on, and on, and on, and on, and on.


    Look out for the words, “Nakedness,” “Adultery,” and many more surprises to come forth from the one and only “Ex-Tablighi.” In short, watch how this debate thread will end up with.


    Another wasteful exercise of minds, which Sultan Shahin Saheb believes, so many of the readers are learning from. What a wishful thinking?


    Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia  



    By Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia - 2/18/2015 10:39:40 PM

  • Rational, thanks. I expected you would agree :)

    Observer, I find your arguments to be exercises in sophistry and hair splitting, both of which you have turned into a fine art. The verses that you quote in isolation seem incongruous with other overtly anatagonistic verses ( antagonistic towards non-Muslims, that is) 

    You have changed the criteria to be called a muslim to include only people who lead moral lives, automatically putting immoral muslims outside the pale of Islam. I doubt that this kind of definition is acceptable to many Muslims. When these so called 'criminals' are themselves shouting from the rooftops that they are the keepers of the pure religion, it becomes all the more confusing for onlookers to decide what is the official Islam. I have not noticed any Muslim scholar - except, maybe, Mr Muhammad Yunus - validating your understanding of the term Kafir. Though let me tell you, the whole non-Muslim world will heave a collective sigh of relief if your advocated reading becomes mainstream. Then, only those people who neither believe in God, nor in Monotheism, nor in Allah as messenger, and people who 'after believing, disbelieve", ie, the unfortunate apostates, need to fear the wrath of Allah - and his many minions on earth. 

    By secularlogic - 2/18/2015 10:05:48 PM

  • The Believers range from those who merely claim to believers or the munafiq who are among the kafir to those at the fringe of belief described in 49:14 and the sincere ones described in 49:15.

    For a person who is not a munafiq but only on the fringe of belief  the Quran says that such a person has  no faith but only says with his mouth ´We have submitted our wills to Allah´  

    A criminal is one given to crime and not a person who commits a sin/crime of passion followed by immediate regret, repentance and making of amends.
    So when we talk of the believer who is a criminal, we are speaking about a munafiq or one who merely claims to be a believer.

    (49:14) 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."

    (15) Only those are Believers who have believed in Allah and His Messenger, and have never since doubted, but have striven with their belongings and their persons in the Cause of Allah: Such are the sincere ones.

    By Observer - 2/18/2015 11:13:51 AM

  • Observer
    If the Quran can say some believers are kafir and mushrik, why believers can't be immoral and criminals.
    Why the Quran says Allah is forgiver if believers can't be immoral and criminals.
    What is the meaning of tauba then? 
    Can adultery makes a Muslim unbeliever? Or a believer can't commit adultery or he can't be a thief.
    Believes are not innocents. Sin or crime doesn't make a believer unbeliever.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 2/18/2015 10:30:59 AM

  • Rational says: "So many believers in One God are just immorals and criminals".

    I agree with the above statement with a slight modification. Replace "believers" with "those who claim to believe"

    By Observer - 2/18/2015 9:53:57 AM

  • Secularlogic
    You have presented your questions well. Being moral is not the monopoly of monotheists. So many believers in One God are just immorals and criminals. I fully share your views on this topic.

    By rational mohammed yunus - 2/18/2015 9:22:37 AM

  • Secular Logic,

    The subject matter of your concern about diversity in faiths  is covered in detail in my article:


    The Concept of Unity in the Quran While Celebrating Diversity


    By Observer - 2/18/2015 7:41:29 AM

  • Secular Logic,


    You may or may not agree with Kant but no matter who defines morality, any good definition will be close to Kant's or to the principle underlying


    1.      “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to youdo ye even so to them.” Or the parallel commandment: “Whatever is hurtful to youdo not do to any other person.”


     I am copying from my previous comment where I had covered precisely your scenario of `multiple' concepts of the monotheistic God and multiple ways of life.


    There are many Jews, Christians and Polytheists in our times and the Prophet's times who do not or did not deny the truth of Islam without adopting the faith. Do they become kafir if they acknowledge that Islam is one of the true paths without changing their religion? Such people obviously differ with the followers of Muhammad (pbuh) on some points but Allah says that Allah will inform us on the matters on which the people differed on judgment day.    (5:48) To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; 


    The early Muslims had no confusion about the meaning of kafir in the Quran or about the remarkable even handedness of the Quran, its inclusiveness, broad definition cutting across "sects" of Islam or the religion of Allah. The broad definition of Islam renders all other religions as sects of the religion of Allah. When, according to my understanding, the Quran includes Buddhism as one of the correct paths when Buddhism is silent about God, it includes all monotheistic faiths into the definition of the religion of Allah (by any name - the Quran itself says that you can call Allah by any name as long as it is a good name).


    By Observer - 2/18/2015 7:33:36 AM

  • All that is gobbledegook to me. 

    Kant has a view. It does not have to be THE view. Kant has been amply disputed. Maybe for him, morality is possible only for the sake of reward in afterlife. I know plenty of people who believe in "Nishkaam Karmayog" who live moral, nay, saintly lives with no expectation of any reward in this life,or the next, or any beyond that. 

    Even if one accepts for the sake of argument that God, fear of God and belief in after life are necessary to enforce a moral set, there is no reason why this "god" has to be the kind of entity defined by Islam. As a morality enforcer, multiple Gods or even a stone that man has imputed divinity upon can work just as well. This also does not solve the problem of several monotheistic faiths co-existing in a world that in effect then becomes polytheist.

    By secularlogic - 2/18/2015 7:09:03 AM

  • Secular Logic and Rational,


    Philosophy does a great job of defining morality:


    Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. (Immanuel Kant)


    The question then is how reasonable is such an expectation and why would any rational being go to great lengths to do the right thing sacrificing apparent self interest?

    Kant eventually clarified in response to this predicament, affirming a principle that, “with respect to choice and action, such practical use of our reason cannot require of us what is impossible. To the extent that we view these requirements of reason from the sensible perspective of spatio-temporal causality, they will seem impossible of fulfilment. When, however, we view them from the intelligible perspective within which we frame the exercise of freedom, their fulfilment can legitimately be “postulated” in terms of the immortality of the soul and of the existence of God. Thus, with respect to the requirement that we attain the complete moral perfection of a holy will, Kant holds that we are justified in affirming that we will have an unending and enduring existence after death, outside the framework of spatio-temporal causality, in which to continue the task of seeking moral perfection. He holds a similar view with respect to the requirement that the highest good be the object of our willing. Even though our moral actions do not seem to have the efficacy required in a spatio-temporal framework to produce the happiness proportioned to virtue that is a necessary component of the highest good, we are justified in affirming that there is a supreme cause of nature — i.e., God — that will bring this about, not merely for ourselves, but for all moral agents.”

    Immanuel Kant in his principle of supreme morality admits that without the concept of an immortal soul and a life in the hereafter, morality based on the categorical imperative (beyond consideration of utility or consequences or likes and dislikes or responding instinctively) may not be possible. Every other philosopher’s concept of morality is limited to the hypothetical imperative which Kant admits is without ‘moral worth’. Morality based on rational thinking cannot go beyond utilitarianism and consequentialism or beyond maximizing self interest in this World. While the philosophers have defined what morality is, they have singularly failed to generate moral and ethical precepts from these definitions and philosophers like Aquinas have fallen back on self evident first principles which derive from religion.


    Neither the definition of morality nor the aims of morality change over time.


    What you are talking about is the way of life or shariat. This is covered in my comment of the 16th Feb below.

    Rational, the Quran does talk about the changing shariat overtime and  I have on my own, talked about Lut and his daughters from the story in the Bible which is different from the same story in the Quran in a previous comment to you.

    By Observer - 2/18/2015 6:58:14 AM

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