Takfeer phenomena and Muslim theology
This topic has divided Muslims into many camps but unfortunately the majority supports it and they often rely on misinterpreted traditions of the prophet of Islam. Recently I was informed by a friend of mine that there is an article posted on Blogistan, which deals with the takfeer issue. I have written a comment in protest of its content then followed by a refutation reply by the owner of the blog; Br Mathew. Unfortunately I had written a second comment but was denied publication for reasons which I will leave to readers to ponder about because I do not wish to speculate on other peoples intentions.
So due to the importance of this issue I have decided to publish both letters along with some replies for the benefits of others. I truly believe that the takfeer dilemma in Muslim theology represent clear symptoms of our Muslim negative teachings which have tarnished the beautiful image of Islam. Muslims have been victimized by these terrible teachings which are to being taken as sacred texts. Takfeer phenomena is not an isolated concept which deals with a certain political or religious crises, rather it is the sum result of our misinterpretation of our sacred texts and the teachings of the Holy Quran.
My intention here in writing to Br Mathew/Yusif; owner of Blogistan, and others, was to raise a concern about the terrible consequences of such philosophy and its terrible psychological effects on the psyche of many Muslims and particularly our Muslim converts who take the teaching of our Muslim Shari’a at heart and with great deal of passion and they are led to believe that our Muslim teachings and interpretations of our sacred texts are infallible.
Now I leave you with these letters for you to ponder about. And you can read the entire article of takfeer on the following link; Who is a Muslim and who is not
Letter #1 (this one was published on Blogistan)
Assalamualaikum Br Mathew/Yusif
You do not know me and I do not know you but I am able to know something about you through your writings of your site. What really made me writing these words to you is your sanctioning of the takfeer phenomenon among Muslims. I find it obligatory upon myself to address this issue with those who are sincere about their faith but somehow are entangled with this serious issue of takfeer. And you come across someone sincere about his religion. My admiration to you is for converting to Islam despite all the negative propaganda against Muslims and Islam in our world. Second I salute you for honoring your parents by living with them at this stage of your life, may God Bless you for that.
Now you stated that, “In fact, distinguishing who is a Muslim from who isn’t is part of Islamic scholarship;” You know that Man’s knowledge is limited, hence is subjective and absolutely inconclusive unlike the knowledge of the prophets of God. Man makes his or her best to make judgment to manage his affairs either with good intentions or bad intentions and the consequences are determined accordingly. This follows that passing judgment on who is Muslim or not may not necessarily reflect the absolute reality of the true judgment which is rendered by scholar. Scholars may issue judgment in regard to various issues which may not result to profoundly affect Man’s integrity and fate. In addition, takfeer is often taken as a license to kill, by the Muslim extremists, which may make you complicit indirectly in the consequences of takfeer, the blood of those who were victimized by this takfeer may fall on the shoulder on all of those who support it.
Declaring someone kafir is in essence we are predetermining his or her final abode. Because the final destiny of a kafir is Hell fire, according to the Quran. In other words Man has predetermined the fate of another Man. In other words Man has bypassed the due process of Man which is to unfold on the Day of Judgment under the authority of God. This follows that Man is overriding God’s role as the Supreme Judge of Mankind. This act alone and that is to transgress God’s limit and authority may merit the status of kufr or unbelief which is clearly highlighted in the Quran. Furthermore, declaring a Muslim to be Kafir by another mortal person; scholar or Muslim authority is clear contradiction to Man’s own status of salvation. The one who wishes to condemn someone else as kafir or “into Hell fire” must guaranty first his own salvation on the Day of Judgment. How could any mortal Man who is not certain of his own final abode whether is going to be in Hellfire or in Heaven, has the gutts to determine the fate of others. None of these Muslim scholars, whom you support and you think they have the authority of determining the fate of others, are able to tell their own fate on the Day of Judgment. Therefore no mortal Man should meddle in these affairs which deals with the final destiny of Man, for they are belong to and to be determined by the Supreme Judge of the universe. Muslim scholars aught to abandon the business of takfeer once and for all and instead focus on the real reasons and factors which have devastated our Muslim people throughout the world, and not become an instrument to further denigrate the progress and well being of Muslims, which the takfeer philosophy do just that. Any one who declare the shahada; the unity of God and the messenger hood of Muhammad, enter the fold of the Muslim community. As for others we deal with them as our counter part of humanity and their final fate rests with Allah alone, for he is the supreme Judge.
Please accept my sincere apology if I have offended you. These words are a reminder for me and you.
O Allah you are my Witness that I have conveyed what I think is right.
Replies to my letter#1
Reply #1 (given by Br Shahid; he is not the writer of the post but seems to be a friend of indigo bog/ Mathew)
“Any one who declare the shahada; the unity of God and the messenger hood of Muhammad, enter the fold of the Muslim community.”
And thus you allow Qadianis into Islam. Was that your intention?
Reply #2 by indigo /Mathew or Yusif ( Here Mathew; writer of indigo blog is engaging with his friend Shahid regarding my letter#1)
I suspect that this was his intention; either them or the Khalifites, I wasn’t sure which, but it was full of the specious reasoning we are familiar with from defenders of these two sects. I approved it intending to refute it, which I will do later insha Allah.
Reply #3 by indigo ( this is the reply to letter #1)
As-Salaam ‘ala man ittaba al-huda, (1)
I am not sure what sect you are from, but you sound, as brother Shahid said, like a Qadiani (or perhaps a Khalifite). Your posting is full of the specious reasoning which defenders of those two sects use all the time.
“Declaring someone kafir is in essence we are predetermining his or her final abode. Because the final destiny of a kafir is Hell fire, according to the Quran. In other words Man has predetermined the fate of another Man. In other words Man has bypassed the due process of Man which is to unfold on the Day of Judgment under the authority of God.”
Not true, because a person can be a kaafir (unbeliever) one moment and a Muslim the next, or the other way round. If a someone declares someone to be an unbeliever, he is only saying that the person is at that moment an unbeliever, not that he will always be one.
In addition, takfeer is often taken as a license to kill, by the Muslim extremists, which may make you complicit indirectly in the consequences of takfeer, the blood of those who were victimised by this takfeer may fall on the shoulder on all of those who support it.
They do this, in my observation, only in the case of takfeer pronounced on rulers who don’t rule by the Shari’ah, and on those who support them. This is why they kill Iraqis who sign up to join the police force rather than join their movement. I dealt with that in my original post, but it is totally different from takfeer against those who deny things known to be of Islam, such as the prohibition on alcohol and homosexuality.
There is no sin on someone who rightfully declares someone to be an unbeliever if another person goes and kills that person. Where did you get that impression? People are responsible for the deeds of others only if they encouraged them. By pronouncing takfeer alone, if it is correct to do so, one does not acquire guilt for anything someone does without one’s encouragement. (The case of people like Abdullah Faisal, who encouraged his followers to shout “kill him” regarding an American Muslim preacher who said it was not permitted to kill people in the Egyptian army, is different, not only because his grounds for takfeer were dubious to say the least, but also because he actually said it was permitted to kill them, if only theoretically.)
Any one who declare the shahada; the unity of God and the messenger hood of Muhammad, enter the fold of the Muslim community.
And anyone who denies something necessarily known of the religion and which is agreed on by the consensus of the Ummah leaves the fold of Islam, such as by denying that we obey the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) according to what we have received through the hadeeth, or the finality of Prophethood with Muhammad (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam).
Letter #2 ( this letter was not published by Mathew owner of blogistan)
Assalamu Alaikum Br Mathew
So I am writing to you in the spirit of humanity which connect us both and in the spirit of our prophet Muhammad (alahi afdhal assaltu wassalm), and the great companions, Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman (radiya Allah ‘anhum), Ali (karrama Allah wajhu). And in the spirit of Muslim unity.
First I would like to thank you for your reply of refutation, as you stated to Br. Shahid; “I approved it intending to refute it,” Know that I engaged in discussion with you not for the purpose of refuting your beliefs, for I respect everyone’s freedom of choice of any sets of beliefs and I do not have the desire of knowing what you believe in. Whether you approve my comment or not is really irrelevant to me as long as it reaches you as a reminder for both of us. And I only wanted to raise real concerns regarding the takfeer issue because it affects the lives of many innocent people and including you in the sight of Allah; that is truly my concern. And because this issue of takfeer is produced in the name of Islam then I found myself obliged to express my concerns.
As you know Br Mathew that according to Islam, there is no coincidence and everything operates in accordance to the Will of the creator and with purpose. Our discussion is made possible by the Will of God for a good purpose.
As expected, you presumed that I am not a Muslim and need to be guided as implied from your greeting to me when you said “As-Salaam ‘ala man ittaba al-huda (1)” Also you and your friend Br Shahid were not sure of my denomination of sects, when you said “I suspect that this was his intention; either them (Qadiani) or the Khalifites, I wasn’t sure which,”. Well this is a clear indication of what I have alluded to in my reply to you when I said “You know that Man’s knowledge is limited” and both of you just demonstrated this real fact, for I am not a member of neither one “Qadiani or khalifite” ( if I was then there is nothing to fear in saying it), nor do I subscribe to any Muslim sect, I am a Muslim haneef, and know that I have no reservation to be called Sunni, Shiite or any group who utter the Shahada.
Once again I would like to reiterate that uttering of the Shahada is a sacred line for me which I cannot cross, even though you and your friend consider me a non Muslim but I do consider you both Muslims, for I do not want to earn a sin and it is not a game for me to return any hostility rather it is a principle. And frankly speaking, it is irrelevant what you consider me because it has no bearings on God’s judgment on the final Day.
Since you are a Muslim convert I truly respect your passion for your faith in the Muslim teachings which is the main reason drove me to discuss with you and through my experience of knowing many Muslim converts I find them very sincere and passionate about their new faith and often times I see them fall prey to the jaws of the fundamentalists and often many Muslim converts follow the mind set of those who brought them to Islam. Unfortunately many of the new converts I have come across and hear about they become victims of some of the inherited bad Muslim teachings which have devastated our Muslim people for centuries and still doing that. So frankly I am not surprised of your response to me which is very typical of the majority of Muslims who are exposed to the same negative teachings, as I had been. So I thought that you deserve better than that and I found it obligatory upon myself to raise this issue and particularly the issue of takfeer which is the most despicable disease of our Muslim teachings. Takfeer has become like a bubble Gum chewed by the majority of Muslims without the regards to its devastating effects on people.
Allow me to elaborate on some of your statements and not necessarily in refutation because you are relaying your understanding of such teachings.
“a person can be a kaafir (unbeliever) one moment and a Muslim the next, or the other way round. If someone declares someone to be an unbeliever, he is only saying that the person is at that moment an unbeliever, not that he will always be one.”
Yes you are right and this is in respect to jurisprudent matters which is to do to the moral system of an individual in the sight of God, which have no repercussion in the immediate life. But this kind of scenario is not what you and Mr. Qadhi is referring to. If you really think that is what Qadhi is saying then what moment of the day the Shiites are to be taken as kafir; is it in the morning or at night. This takfeer is meant to be as status attached to all or some Shiite as you stated in defense of Qadhi. But know that it is not about numbers rather it is about a principle; declaring one Muslim to be Kafir is too many, because it leads to terrible consequences as you know by now of what is going on in the Muslim world. We Muslim ought to honor the value of human life because it is very sacred in the sight of God. Takfeer potentially attacks the integrity and safety of human life, as history demonstrates.
“They do this, in my observation, only in the case of takfeer pronounced on rulers who don’t rule by the Shari’ah, and on those who support them.”
Where can you draw the line of takfeer. When you say that a ruler can be killed if he does not rule by the shari’a; how many Muslim rulers do you know that rules by the shari’a today? Imagine how many Muslims could be killed according to this definition. However, If there is one Muslim ruler that you think rules by the Shari’a then what Shari’a you are referring to; is the bin ladin shari’a, or the Wahabi shari’a, or the salafi shari’a, or Hanbali, or …. Every group wishes to enforce their version of shari’a. Know that Shari’a consist of two types of sets of principles; one deals with fundamentals of Islam which cannot be altered nor interpreted, such as tawhid, prophet hood and the rest. And the second aspect is to deal with the ever changing reality of our world. This aspect ought to be rejuvenated and very fluid and compatible to changes of society needs and challenges. This aspect is unfortunately been stagnant for many centuries and been politically manipulated to satisfy Man’s corporeal desires.
Sooner or later Muslim scholars would deem the human life as sacred entity which is the only way to move forward and bring back the Glory of Islam. There are many Muslim scholars today without any religious universal guide lines who have no reservations whatsoever to issue takfeer against anyone or group arbitrarily without abiding by any rules or answering to any global Muslim authority. There is no global Muslim legal body to control these kinds of crucial rulings which profoundly affect people’s lives. Recently I have heard the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mosque Tan’tawi, denouncing all forms of sectarian takfeer fatwas in Iraq. In his declaration which was aired live on Iraqi TV and Arab media, that the Shahada was the determining factor of takfeer. And he specifically mentioned the Shiites by name and declared them to be Muslims. Certainly he is aware of Shiite practices including ta’qiya, their objectionable opinion towards the Sahabah; but he did not go into other subjective details as Mr al-Qadhi did, such as lying or doing taqiya or things of that nature. Historically al Azhar has been not consistent in dealing with the issue of Takfeer, particularly towards the Shiite Muslims. Some of al Azhar Sheikhs considers Shiites as Muslims, others keep silent and others are not in favour. This kind of inconsistent behaviour in respect to Shiite school of thought in the past signify that no one is able to see this issue of who is to be a Kafir or Muslim as clear cut case rather it seems to be subjective and greatly influenced by political motives and power struggle. However interestingly enough nowadays al Azhar establishment offers the curriculum for Shiite school of thoughts and it considers it to be a legitimate sect to embrace. The problem is that not all Muslims adhere or abide by the rulings of Al-Azhar religious establishment, which would substantiate my concern and that is there is no global Muslim authority for Muslims to refer to in major issues as takfeer. Nowadays a part time sheikh or a speaker is able to issue takfeer or label a group as kafirs based on his subjective reasoning and limited knowledge. Now is Mr. Yasir al Qadhi aware of al Azahr stand from the Shiite Muslims; if he is then why doesn’t he honour al-Azhar establishment rules; if he doesn’t then where does he get his religious guidelines; from al Qaeda, or Hamas, or the Muslim brotherly movement, or ICNA or Hezbollah, or Najaf. The point I am trying to make is that there is no Muslim global Shura counsel which include all Muslims under its leadership.
“This is why they kill Iraqis who sign up to join the police force rather than join their movement. I dealt with that in my original post, but it is totally different from takfeer against those who deny things known to be of Islam, such as the prohibition on alcohol and homosexuality.”
And the takfeer was issued in Iraq against those who join the Iraqi police, as you alluded to; is this type of shari’a you are referring to. In case you do not know, those people you are referring to who acted on the takfeer fatwa and caused the killings of nearly 500 thousands innocents Iraqis, they have switched sides and they are now called the “awakening counsels” and joined the American forces against al-Qaeda- who issued such takfeer fatwas, and all of these Muslim heroes!!!!!, who were executing such takfeer fatwas against Iraqi police and civilians, were on the pay role of the occupying forces for more than two years until recently they have been put on the pay of the elected Iraqi government whom were considered by these Muslim heroes!!!!! as traitors and hence their blood is lawful to shed. Now who is responsible for the blood of those victims caused by takfeer which you seem to sanction? Once we become indifferent to human life then there is nothing left in our religion, just the name.
“There is no sin on someone who rightfully declares someone to be an unbeliever if another person goes and kills that person.”
No Man has the moral authority to take any Muslim out of the fold of Islam after having uttered the Shahada except the person himself renounce his faith. Any other rulings are only deductions by Muslim jurists many years after the prophet who were politically influenced to issue such dubious verdicts. And taking the life of an individual is based on speculations or difference of opinion regarding non fundamental matters, is grave sin. No Muslim or non Muslim authority or any Man has the authority to take the life of any human being unless it is imposed based on the principle of “life for life” or “‘qasas” and only then life could be taken.
Here I would like to narrate to you the following Hadith from Sahih Muslim:
“Book 001, the book of faith, kitab al-iman, Number 0052: It is narrated on the authority of ‘Itban b. Malik that he came to Medina and said: Something had gone wrong with my eyesight. I, therefore, sent (a message to the Holy Prophet): Verily it is my ardent desire that you should kindly grace my house with your presence and observe prayer there so, that I should make that corner a place of worship. He said: The Prophet (May peace be upon him) came there, and those amongst the Companions whom Allah willed also accompanied him. He entered (my place) and offered prayer at my residence and his Companions began to talk amongst themselves (and this conversation centered round hypocrites), and then the conspicuous one, Malik b. Dukhshum was made the target and they wished that he (the Holy Prophet) should curse him and he should die or he should meet some calamity. In the meanwhile the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) completed his prayer and said: Does Malik b. Dukhshum not testify the fact that there is no god but Allah and verily I am the messenger of Allah. They replied: He makes a profession of it (no doubt) but does not do it out of (sincere) heart. He (the Holy Prophet) said: He who testifies that there is no god but Allah and I am the messenger of Allah would not enter Hell or its (flames) would not consume him. Anas said: This hadith impressed me very much and I told my son to write it down.”
According to this Hadith we see that all of the Muslims who were present with the messenger of Allah (saawws) were of one opinion against the person whom was prejudged by them as hypocrite, but the messenger of Allah has drawn the line for these Muslims that regardless of what we think of the intentions within the heart of someone, uttering the Shahada was sufficient to gain the status of a Muslim. Now certainly the messenger knows this person whether he is a hypocrite or a true believer, but he did not want this issue to be mishandled by Man’s subjective judgment; he drew a line no one can cross even against someone who is known to be hypocrite but yet testify the Shahada.
Hence anyone who support any religious edict which has no roots to the teachings of the messenger of God and it is designed to target a group of people based on their difference of opinion in matters beyond the principle of Shahada then the issuer and the supporter would be directly or indirectly responsible for any harmful consequences befalls the condemned group.
“And anyone who denies something necessarily known of the religion and which is agreed on by the consensus of the Ummah leaves the fold of Islam,”
It is clear from the Hadith above that the defining line is the Shahada, and as for denying other issues then this render the individual a “guilty Muslim” and his punishment is with Allah SW.
Read the following Hadith:
Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0034: It Is narrated on the authority of Abu Malik: I heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say: He who professed that there is no god but Allah and made a denial of everything which the people worship beside Allah, his property and blood became inviolable, and their affairs rest with Allah.”
Furthermore, the reason which makes me very cautious is that engaging or supporting takfeer against another person who utters the Shahada could potentially return the takfeer status back at us, because this assumption may not be true and we may falsely accuse the person. This possibility is very real because our knowledge is limited which have led us to issue such verdict. In simple words it is very possible that we could be wrong in labelling someone or group as kafirs because it is derived by man’s limited knowledge, then we may earn the status of kufur instead, as clearly stated in the following Hadith:
“Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0117: It is reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar that the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: Any person who called his brother: or unbeliever (has in fact done an act by which this unbelief) would return to one of them. If it were so, as he asserted (then the unbelief of man was confirmed but if it was not true), then it returned to him (to the man who labeled it on his brother Muslim).”
In addition as for the issue of consensus or “ijma'” know that this notion have become very relative in light of the many Muslim sects, such as, Wahabis, Salafis, Shafi’s, Hanbalis, Malikies, Shi’a, and much more Muslim sects. This follows that there is no more real meaning to the notion of “ijm’a” because every Muslim sect or group would use this argument then we end up with a real problem and that is many “ijm’a” and who are those “ijma'”. Perhaps, the bin Ladin group refer to the “ijma’ but we know the majority of Muslims are not in agreement to his vision and fatawas. And the same logic goes with the rest. Hence “ijma'” no longer have the real value of what it implies and that is the majority or consensus. No more majority in the Muslim community in the real sense rather our Muslim community today consist of multitudes of minorities. Hence ‘ijm’a” is impossible to achieve in these given circumstances. The true ijm’a is only possible only under one Muslim global authority similar to that of the great rightly guided khalifas whom were elected by the majority of Muslims and then and only then ijma’ is realized.
Please know that I am not trying to refute your arguments because I know you are very passionate and adhering to what you have been taught and I personally gone through it before you for the past 48 years of my life. There are a lot of negative teachings in our Muslim theology and I am confident that your honesty and sincerity will eventually walk you through the path of Allah in more enhanced vision and pure spirit which is the true spirit of Abu Bakr (rAa), Umar (rAa), and Ali (kAw). The spirit of the Prophet Muhammad (alaihi assalat wassalm) will eventually prevail in bringing back the true message of Islam; peace, forgiveness and tolerance.
After this lengthy comment I do not necessarily expect you to be convinced at this given time nor you feel obliged to “approve it to refute it” because my purpose is not to refute your view nor be hostile to you rather I am more passionate in defending the human dignity and life than defending a Man’s subjective opinions.
May Allah Bless you
footnotes: (1) “As-Salaam ‘ala man ittaba al-huda” the literal meaning of this statement is “peace be upon the one who followed guidance”; It is commonly understood among Muslim that it is employed when addressing a non Muslim, for its first usage was by the Prophet of God when he addressed the kings of the world inviting them to Islam at the early stage of his mission. However I do not believe in this common connotation of this statement rather it is very suitable to address all people of all faiths including Muslims-even though such meaning was not comprehended by the writer of the reply, above, to me, but I had to raise my concern over its usage towards me because I am aware, unfortunately, of its limited usage among Muslims and that is to be limited towards non Muslims.