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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Many people today read an expression labelled in books of Islamic law as kufr, and when they realize that some Muslim they know or have heard of has an idea like it, they jump to the conclusion that he is a kafir. Charging fellow Muslims with unbelief takfir is an enormity in the eyes of Allah.

A careful answer to the question must look at what kufr means, both in respect to oneself and others, before drawing general oman on what legally establishes or acquits a person of the charge of unbelief. Oneself Life is a gamble, whose stakes are paradise or hell. Allah has explained to us that whoever dies in a state of unbelief without excuse shall be punished in hell forever, just as whoever avoids unbelief shall attain to felicity, even if he should be punished first. This is our test, and the judge is a King, who is not up for reelection.

If our ignorance of how He shall judge us in the next world is far greater than our knowledge, we do have enough to go on, and the immense value in His eyes of our amd and actions is certainly plain from the magnitude of the stakes. Those who knew more than anyone about it were more afraid than anyone; namely, the prophets.

And the only ones not afraid are those who do not understand. The hellfire, in its turn, is really a mercy to believers, a fire that Allah has built it in front of the wrong road so that we will not go in the direction leading away imab endless happiness.

Ijan moreover has made the key to paradise a simple matter, oufr acknowledge that there is no god but God, and that Muhammad is His slave and messenger, which entails accepting everything conveyed to us by Allah as He intended it, and everything conveyed to us by the Prophet Allah bless him and give him peace as he intended it. From the very simplicity of entering Islam, many Muslims assume that the criterion for takvir it, for kufr, must be equally simple. Things That Everyone Knows To deny anything of the first category above constitutes plain and open unbelief.

It includes such things as denying the oneness of Allah, the attributes of prophethood, that prophetic messengerhood has ended with Muhammad Allah bless him and give him peace ; the resurrection of the dead; the Final Judgement; the recompense; the everlastingness of paradise and hell; the obligatoriness of the prayer, zakat, fasting Ramadan, or the pilgrimage; the unlawfulness of wine or adultery; or anything else that is unanimously concurred upon and necessarily known by Muslims, since there is no excuse not to know these things in the lands of Takcir though for someone new to the religion, or raised in a wilderness, outside of the lands of Islam, or some other place where ignorance of the religion is rife and unavoidable, their ruling becomes that of the second category.

Lman Imam Nawawi explains: Any Muslim who denies something that is necessarily known to be of the religion of Islam is adjudged a renegade and an unbeliever kafir unless he is a recent convert or was born and raised in the wilderness or for some similar reason has been unable to learn his religion properly. Muslims in such a condition should be informed about the truth, and if they then continue as before, they are adjudged non-Muslims, as is also the case with any Muslim who believes it permissible to commit adultery, drink wine, kill without right, or do other acts that are necessarily known to be unlawful Sharh Sahih Muslim, 1.

Things Not Everyone Knows To deny something of the second category above, tenets of faith that not everyone knows, and that an ordinary Muslim might not know unless it were pointed out kuvr him, is only unbelief kufr if he persists in denying it after he understands that it has come to us from Allah or His messenger Allah bless him and give him peacesince before this, it is not within his power to believe or follow it.

In matters of belief, the line traditionally drawn between this type of knowledge and the preceding is their accessibility. A Muslim is responsible to believe everything from Allah or His messenger Allah bless him and give him peace that should be obvious to all Muslims, and that every Muslim may reasonably be expected to know. As for what is beyond that, he is only responsible kugr believe what he has learned of. Now, the point of asking scholars is to accept their answer, and few things are more incompatible with divine justice than that the consequence of doing so should be perpetual damnation, as it would if one side of an issue were unbelief.

Unfortunately, there are some Muslims today who seem to believe this, the reply to whom we shall see in our discussion of sects below.

To summarize, our Creator is well aware that a great many of the things we know are learned from other people, and has made allowance for this in even the most imperative of commands, that of iman.

The Testification of Faith by which we become Muslim means accepting everything conveyed to us by Allah and His messenger Allah bless him and give him peace. But because the details are only known through others, txkfir responsibility for believing in them varies among the three categories we have mentioned: The first we must know and believe in, the second we must believe in as soon as we know, and the third, even if one position is stronger than others, cannot be a criterion for kufr or iman.


This principle is attested to by the hadith of Usama ibn Zayd Allah be well pleased with him: The Messenger of Allah Allah bless him and give him peace sent us on an foray, and we made a surprise attack at dawn on al-Huruqat in the lands of Juwayna. The Enormity of Charging a Muslim with Unbelief Judging anyone who regards himself a Muslim to be an unbeliever is a matter not taken lightly by anyone who understands its consequences. The Prophet Allah bless him and give him peace has said: It is difficult to think of a direr warning, and its purpose is clearly to dissuade Muslims of religion and good sense from judging anyone who professes Islam to be an unbeliever unless there is irrefutable proof.

Then why would anyone do so?

In Muslim society, such a judgement is the business of the qadi or Islamic judge alone, and only because he has to. The motives today behind careless accusations of unbelief made by Takfor are many, of which few have anything to do with religion.

Some of ukfr more obvious are: Besides the first, of course, there is nothing for Allah in any of these. All the rest are simply bad, whether found individually, or when confused with imman first. The True Measure of Unbelief It is axiomatic in Sacred Law that a state whose existence one is certain about does not cease through a state whose existence one is uncertain about.

So in matters of faith, a Muslim is always presumed to be a Muslim until there is publicly observable and decisive proof that he has ceased to be one.

Ghazali adduces the same hadith to show that regarding [entering] Islam, the jurist faqih but speaks of what makes it legally valid takgir invalid, not even xnd anything besides the tongue. As for the heart, it is not within his jurisdiction, since the Messenger of Allah Allah bless him and give him peace has put it beyond the reach of those of swords and authority, by saying to the killer of the man who had said the Testification of Islam: Turn aside prescribed penalties from Muslims as much as you can.

It there is any excuse, let the defendant off, for it is better for kuvr ruler to make a mistake in an amnesty than to make a mistake in a punishment Tirmidhi, 4. It is obligatory for a student to give a positive interpretation snd every utterance of his brothers that seems to be wrong until he has exhausted seventy excuses.

Given these conclusions, and the obligatory character of averting harm from Muslims, the final part of our answer shall focus upon two broad categories among the least known today of extenuating circumstances that acquit Muslims of kufr, the first relating to the criteria for such judgements, and the second relating to the accused himself.

Iman, Kufr and Takfir

No one can thereafter be considered a kafir mufr an equal certainty, since the Prophet condemned Usama for doing so.

The Imams of fiqh have specified just how much certainty is needed in texts like the following, which, though taken from the Hanafi school, is typical of the caution observed by the ulema of all schools, and shows how far the loose accusations of kufr echoing back and forth on the Islamic scene today are from the standards of Islamic law. annd

The most grievous of offences and heinous of enormities is associating others with Allah Most High shirkor disbelief in Him, or in that which has been conveyed by our liegelord Muhammad the Messenger of Allah Allah Most High bless him and give him peaceor sarcasm about anything thereof, may Allah be our refuge from that.

These legal criteria, with the foregoing parts of this essay, reveal a number of fallacies in the reckless charges of unbelief bandied about in our times, providing even stronger reason for Muslims to avoid them and the groups enamored with them. Let us now look more closely at three examples of fallacies of takfir all too common in the present day: Those familiar with testimony in court know how frequently even well- intentioned eyewitnesses contradict each other and, upon cross-examination, themselves.

In the world in which we live, not everyone is well-intentioned, especially towards those who are envied for their accomplishments or possessions.

Love and hate still sell news. Daily printing deadlines by their very nature often prevent a thorough checking of facts. If we think about it, much of our everyday knowledge is acquired with considerably less than the verification demanded by Islam.

When we hear something, or read it from a single source, we tend to accept such knowledge because it usually works. It does not work forjudging a Muslim. Sacred Law stipulates that adn establish that someone has left Islam, rakfir must be at least two male witnesses who testify that they have heard him make a statement of unbelief Radd al-muhtar, 4. Though the ruling cited is from the Hanafi school, the other schools of jurisprudence similarly stipulate testimony from witnesses.

Moreover, if the individual then denies that he has made such a statement, he is legally considered as having repented of it Mukhtasar al-Tahawi, As previously noted, such judgements are only given by the qadi in view of this-worldly rulings and consequences, which are immaterial to those now remanded by death to a higher court. This is legally quite a different thing from judging the author himself. Because whoever surveys something of the vast corpus of Islamic manuscripts extant realizes how many works, even some of more important, are without rigorous authentication from their authors.


Shaykh Nuh’s Iman, Kufr and Takfir |

Aside from honest mistakes, there are intentional forgeries. Faction welcomes perfidy, and at the personal level, envy is fact of life: In an Islamic milieu where orthodoxy was highly valued, interpolations of heretical beliefs or immoral statements into hand-copied books easily lent themselves to the ends of malice.

Whereupon the ulema of the day met, and he produced his own copy of the book which had been signed by scholars [8] and proved to be free of the lies forged against him Radd al-muhtar, 3. The poetry ascribed to him has not reached me through any rigorously authenticated chain of transmission, and we do not declare the unbelief of anyone on the basis of something merely possible, especially when there is no benefit in judging him an unbeliever, for the sole benefit lies in making people shun the words themselves Maqalat al-Kawthari, He tells anyone who imagines that studying such arguments and refuting them is a necessary part of an Islamic education: I do not think you have reached the rank of Ibn Taymiya therein, or by Allah, even approach it, yet you saw what happened to him: They are judging words and positions, not the people who may or may not have said or held them.

We have not mentioned the comparatively recent phenomenon of printed books whose contents are established by copyrights as the work of a particular author in archives such as the Library of Congress or the British Library.

For such works, the thoroughness of documentation suggests that authors bear full legal responsibility for what is in them.

The Fallacy of Imputed Intentionality Words are judged by what the speaker intends, not necessarily what the hearer apprehends. If an utterance is unambiguous and its context plain, there is normally only one possible intention.

But according to the Hanafi school, if a statement may conceivably be intended in either of two ways, one valid, the other unbelief kufrit cannot be the basis for a fatwa of the kufr of the person who said it. In the words of Imam Haskafi in his al-Durr al-mukhtar, A fatwa may not be given of the unbelief of a Muslim whose words are interpretable as having a valid meaning, or about the unbelief of which there is a difference of scholarly opinion, even if weak Radd al-muhtar, 3.

Only when the intention entails kufr do such words take the speaker out of Islam. The need to contextualize words to establish their intent is even more imperative in possible utterances of kufr that insult Allah Most High or the Prophet Allah bless him and give him peace.

Something might be said that while outwardly offensive to Allah or His messenger Allah bless him and give him peacewas nevertheless intended by the speaker to make a valid point, not as an insult.

A painful torment awaits those who offend the Messenger of Allah. They swear to you by Allah, to please you, though Allah and His messenger are fitter for them to please, if they are believers. Do they not know that the fire of hell awaits whoever opposes Allah and His messenger, dwelling therein forever? One must be aware of this rule, giving due consideration to the intention behind the offense adha. For a person might do or say something which offends another that he did not have the slightest intention to offend him by, but rather intended something else, not thinking that it might give offense to the other, or understanding it would necessarily do so.

Anas ibn Malik Allah be well pleased with him said: Though the bedouin inflicted palpable physical pain on the Prophet Allah bless him and give him peaceit was without legal consequence because he apparently only meant to stop the Prophet to talk with him. When Allah gave His messenger Allah bless him and give him peace the spoils from Hawazin, and he began giving a hundred camels each to certain [noble] men of the Quraysh [so that others like them might desire to enter Islam].

He gives to Quraysh and neglects us, while our swords still drip with their blood. As for some men of us whose teeth are new [the young], they have said: He gives to Quraysh and neglects the Helpers, while our swords still drip with their blood. Are you not satisfied that others should get property, while you return to your saddles with the Messenger of Allah Allah bless him and give him peace?

By Allah, what you are getting is better than what they are. In this hadith, some of the Medinan Helpers spoke words as offensive to the Prophet Allah bless him and give him peace as any could be, entailing that he needed to be forgiven by Allah for wronging those who had fought in jihad by unjustly favoring his own people.

Yet, because they did not intend to thereby insult or demean him— for their words rather proceeded from natural human distress at being left out while others took the spoils— the Messenger of Allah Allah bless him and give him peace did not charge them with unbelief or even with sin, as would have been obligatory if it had been. He merely told them why he did what he did, and of the eternal reward they would receive.

The insult and offense offered thereby to the Prophet Allah bless him and give him peace was plain, but without legal consequences because it was unintentional.