Praise be to Allaah.
Determining whether someone is a kaafir or a faasiq
(faasiq) is not up to us, rather it is up to
Allaah, may He be exalted, and His Messenger (peace and blessings of
Allaah be upon him). This is one of the rulings of sharee’ah that is to be
referred to the Qur’aan and Sunnah, so we should be very careful and base
our judgement on clear proof. No one may be judged to be a kaafir or faasiq
except the one whom the Qur’aan and Sunnah indicate is a kaafir or faasiq.
The basic principle is that the one who appears outwardly to
be a Muslim of good character is regarded as still being a Muslim of good
character, until it is proven that this is no longer the case by means of
evidence that is acceptable in sharee’ah. It is not permissible to take
lightly the matter of judging someone to be a kaafir or faasiq, because that
involves two very serious matters:
1 – It implies fabricating lies against Allaah with regard to
this ruling, and fabricating lies against the one who is being judged.
2 – Falling into that which one accused one’s brother of, if
he is free from that.
In Saheeh al-Bukhaari (6104) and Saheeh Muslim
(60) it is narrated from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with
him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“If a man declares his brother to be a kaafir, it will apply to one of
them.” According to another report: “Either it is as he said, otherwise it
will come back to him.”
Based on this, before ruling that a Muslim is a kaafir or a
faasiq, two things must be examined:
1 – The evidence of the Qur’aan or Sunnah that this word or
this action implies that a person is a kaafir or a faasiq.
2 – Applying this ruling to a specific person who says or
does that thing, such that the conditions of judging a person to be a kaafir
or faasiq will be met in his case, and there are no impediments.
Among the most important of these conditions are the
1 – That he should be aware of his transgression that renders
him a kaafir or faasiq, because Allaah says (interpretation of the
“And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger
(Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) after the
right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the
believers’ way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in
Hell — what an evil destination!”
“And Allaah will never lead a people astray after He has
guided them until He makes clear to them as to what they should avoid.
Verily, Allaah is the All-Knower of everything”
Hence the scholars said that a person who denies obligatory
duties should not be judged to be a kaafir if he is new in Islam, until that
has been explained to him.
2 – A reason why he cannot be ruled to be a kaafir or faasiq
is if he does something that incurs such a judgement involuntarily. This may
take several forms such as:
For example, he may be forced to do that, so he does that
because he is forced to, not because he accepts that. He is not a kaafir in
that case, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Whoever disbelieved in Allaah after his belief, except
him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with Faith; but such as
open their breasts to disbelief, on them is wrath from Allaah, and theirs
will be a great torment”
Another example is when he is not thinking straight, so he
does not know what he is saying because of extreme joy or sorrow or fear and
so on. The evidence for that is the report narrated in Saheeh Muslim
(2744) from Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The
Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said:
“Allaah rejoices more over the repentance of His slave when he repents to
Him than one of you who was on his mount in the wilderness, then he lost it,
and his food and drink are on it, and he despairs of finding it. He goes to
a tree and lies down in its shade, having lost hope of finding his mount,
and whilst he is like that, there it is standing in front of him, so he
takes hold of its reins and says, because of his intense joy, ‘O Allaah, You
are my slave and I am your lord,’ making this mistake because of his intense
3 – Misinterpetation. He may have some confusion and some
misinterpretation that he adheres to, thinking that it forms evidence for
his beliefs, or he may not be able to understand and comprehend shar’i
evidence and proof in the proper way. Therefore, judging someone to be a
kaafir is not valid except in the case of one who deliberately goes against
the shar’i evidence and who knows that he is wrong.
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And there is no sin on you concerning that in which you
made a mistake, except in regard to what your hearts deliberately intend.
And Allaah is Ever Oft‑Forgiving, Most Merciful”
Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (23/349):
Imam Ahmad (may Allaah be pleased with him) prayed for mercy
for them (i.e., the caliphs who were influenced by the view of the Jahamis
who claimed that the Qur’aan was created, and supported it) and prayed for
forgiveness for them, because he knew that it was not clear to them that
they were disbelieving the Messenger and denying what he had brought, rather
they misinterpreted and erred, and followed those who said that to them. End
And he (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in Majmoo’
With regard to takfeer (judging someone to be a kaafir), the
correct view is that a member of the ummah of Muhammad (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) who strives to reach the truth concerning a
certain issue, but reaches the wrong conclusion, is not to be deemed a
kaafir, rather he will be forgiven for his mistake. But the one who
understands the message brought by the Messenger, but deliberately goes
against the way of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon
him) after true guidance has become clear to him, and follows a path other
than that of the believers, is a kaafir. The one who follows his whims and
desires and fails to seek the truth and speaks without knowledge is a
disobedient sinner, and may be a faasiq, but he may have some good deeds
that outweigh his bad deeds. End quote.
And he (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: (3/229):
However, and those who sit with me know this about me, I am
always one of those who most emphatically forbid describing a specific
person as a kaafir, faasiq or sinner, unless it is known that shar’i proof
has been established against him, and it has been proven whether he is a
kaafir, a faasiq or a sinner. I affirm that Allaah has forgiven this ummah
for its mistakes, which includes mistakes in narrative and practical issues.
The salaf continued to debate many of these issues but none of them
testified that anyone else was a kaafir or a faasiq or a sinner.
He mentioned some examples, then he said:
I also state that what has been narrated from the salaf and
the imams, stating that the one who says such and such is a kaafir, is also
true, but it is essential to differentiate between general rules and
… Takfeer is a kind of warning; even though the words may be
a rejection of what the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) said, the man may be new in Islam, or he may have grown up in a
remote region. Such a person cannot be ruled to be a kaafir, no matter what
he denies, unless proof has been established against him. The man may not
have heard of those texts, or he may have heard them but they were nit
proven to him , or he may have some ideas that are contrary to what he
heard, that med him to misinterpret the text.
I always remember the hadeeth in al-Saheehayn, which
speaks of the man who said: “ ‘When I die, burn me and crush (my bones),
then scatter me in the sea, for by Allaah, if Allaah grasps hold of me He
will punish me as He has not punished anyone else in the world.’ They did
that, and Allaah said: ‘What made you do what you did?’ He said: ‘Fear of
You.’ And He forgave him.”
This man doubted the power of Allaah and doubted that He
would restore him if his remains were scattered; rather he believed that he
would not be resurrected, which is kufr according to the consensus of the
Muslims. But he was ignorant and did not know about that; however, he was a
believer who feared that Allaah would punish him, so He forgave him because
One who is qualified to engage in ijtihaad and who bases his
incorrect notion on some misinterpretation of some text but is sincere in
his keenness to follow the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be
upon him) is even more deserving of forgiveness than such a person. End
(Based on Khaatimah al-Qawaa’id al-Muthla by Shaykh
Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him).)
Because the matter of takfeer is so serious, and mistakes
therein are so grave, the seeker of knowledge, especially if he is a
beginner, should refrain from indulging in that, and he should focus on
acquiring beneficial knowledge that will set his own affairs straight in
this world and the Hereafter.
Before we suggest some books to you, we should advise you to
seek knowledge directly from scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah, because that is the
easiest and safest way; but that is subject to the condition that the one
from whom you learn is trustworthy in terms of his knowledge and religious
commitment and following of the Sunnah, and in avoidance of whims and
desires and innovations.
Muhammad ibn Sireen (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: This
knowledge is the (foundation of) religion, so watch from whom you learn your
religion. Narrated by Muslim in the Introduction to his Saheeh.
If it is not possible where you are to attend lessons given
by scholars, then you can make use of their tapes, as it has become easy to
obtain them on CDs and websites, praise be to Allaah. You can also benefit
from some seekers of knowledge who are keen to acquire shar’i knowledge and
follow the Sunnah; hardly any place is without such people, in sha Allaah.
Books which you should strive to acquire and study include
Tafseer: Tasfeer Ibn Sa’di; Tafseer Ibn Katheer.
Hadeeth: al-Arba’een al-Nawawiyyah (al-Nawawi’s 40),
with a commentary thereon; al-Ihtimaam bi Jaami’ al-‘Uloom wa’l-Hukam
by Ibn Rajab; Riyaadh al-Saaliheen – you may pay special attention to
this blessed book, and you can also learn from the commentary thereon by
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him).
‘Aqeedah: Study Kitaab al-Tawheed by Shaykh Muhammad
ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, with its commentary; al-‘Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah
by Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah; some other useful essays on this topic such
as Tahqeeq Kalimat al-Ikhlaas by Ibn Rajab and al-Tuhfah
al-‘Iraaqiyyah fi’l-A’maal al-Qalbiyyah by Ibn Taymiyah.
You can also benefit from Zaad al-Ma’aad by Ibn
al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) and many of his other books such as
al-Waabil al-Sayyib and al-Da’ wa’l-Dawa’.
This is a start. If you study these books, especially if
there is someone who can help you to read and understand them, then you can
move on to other books, in sha Allaah.
And Allaah knows best.