By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
09 October 2017
(The following is from the paper presented at a seminar on
Islamic humanism, organized in September 2017, by Jamia Millia Islamia, New
Islam is Scriptures based religion and yet, it is the
theology that determines the beliefs and practices of its followers. When the
theology and the practice go awry, then the solution may be found by going back
to the Scriptures.
The relationship of a community with the rest of the world is
influenced by the concept of the “other” and the attitude to the other. In
Islamic theology, the other is the non-Muslim, and Kafir, an odious word, has
acquired the meaning of non-Muslim, which this paper, seeks to establish with
evidence from the Quran, as demonstrably incorrect. Kafir does not even mean
disbeliever, let alone non-Muslim.
The leading lights of all sects of Islam also mistranslate
and or misinterpret the verses of the Quran on fighting, and make it appear
incorrectly, that the Prophet of Islam was waging battles against the disbelievers
to end disbelief, when the Quran makes it clear, that the permission for
fighting is only to end persecution or oppression. This paper also establishes
that the Quran affirms that the freedom of conscience in Islam is absolute and
without any restraints. “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and “To the
peaceful disbeliever be his way and to me mine” are fundamental principles.
These principles were never compromised by the Prophet in his battles against
the religious persecutors.
The Twin Problems
of Growing Extremism and Islamophobia
The false ideology of the
traditionalists and the extremists
1. Kafir means non-Muslim/disbeliever
2. The Prophet was fighting battles against
the disbelievers to end disbelief. It is our duty therefore to wage holy war
until there is no more disbelief
Kafir is an odious word and
means a conceited person whose haughtiness makes him an ingrate rebel against
God, a rebel against his benefactors, one who is steeped in self-glory, and
self-gratification. These personal failings are reflected
in his behavior that makes him deny: the Hereafter, the prophets, scriptures
and the Signs of God. It makes him an enemy of: the prophets, the good people
and of God. A Kafir fights for evil causes, spreads mischief and disorder and
is a high handed oppressor. The Kafir is in war with the good people and the
good people are in war with the Kafir. The Prophet was therefore fighting the
Kafir who were the religious persecutors to end religious persecution. He was not fighting the disbelievers to end
The Quran does not describe the
disbelievers as Kafir in any verse of the Quran nor did the early Muslims have
such an understanding which is why the Muslims were tolerant of other religious
faiths. The false notion of “Kafir means the disbelievers”, developed only
later in Islamic theology but lay dormant for much of the history of Islam
which is why it did not become problematic earlier. It is in the post-colonial
period and most recently on account of political developments that required a
military response that the false ideas which lay dormant are surfacing and
providing ideological support to the extremists and for raising armies of
civilians to fight in several theaters of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.
The truth is that religious persecutors from among the disbelievers were the
Kafir, and the war was against them only and not against the peaceful people
who were never considered Kafir although they were disbelievers. Quran uses the
word “la Yuminun” for the disbelievers and never Kafir.
The corresponding ideology of
the Islamophobes and of those from among the extreme right and the
1. Terrorist means Muslim
2. Since the terrorists are out to get us,
we should get them before they get us.
The ideology of the
traditionalists/extremists among the Muslims
and that of the Islamophobes are logically equivalent and equally false.
Neither are all non-Muslims Kafir nor are all Muslims terrorists. Neither was
there ever a war by Muslims against all disbelievers/non-Muslims nor are all
non-Muslims at war with all Muslims.
It can be seen that the two
ideologies based on falsehood provide justification to each other, and unless
refuted and defeated, can get out of hand and result in extreme strife and
distrust, and over a period isolate the Muslims and pitch them against the rest
of the world. Islamophobia turns out to be not irrational phobia but rational
fear considering the ideology of the extremists/traditionalists which remained
suppressed for centuries, but in the current political climate is gaining
The true Islamic ideology that
we must proclaim to defeat the ideology of the extremists:
1. Kafir does not mean disbeliever although
there are some who are Kafir among the disbelievers.
2. The Prophet was fighting battles against
the religious persecutors and their allies and helpers to end religious
persecution and establish the Deen of Allah in which there is no oppression but
there is justice for all. The Prophet was not fighting against the disbelievers
for their disbelief.
There is a correspondence in the
stand of the liberal and peaceful Non-Muslims, who proclaim the following:
1. Terrorist does not mean Muslim although there are some who
are terrorists among the Muslims.
2. We are fighting against terror to end terrorism and not
against the Muslims to end Islam.
While there are numerous peaceful liberals among the
non-Muslims who support the Muslims in their fight against Islamophobia, there
are very few Muslims who are even aware of the authentic and true Islamic
ideology, let alone proclaim the same boldly and fight extremism and the false
ideology of the traditionalists. This paper seeks to fill the knowledge void
with the authentic and clear meaning from the scriptures on the subject.
rest of the paper covered what has been covered by me in several articles on
this forum. The links to those articles are provided below:
What Is Kufr And
Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Full and Revised Text of the New Age Islam Series
on the Subject)
The Story of the Prophetic
Mission of Muhammad (Pbuh) In the Qu’ran (Part 4): The Medinian Period
The Story of the Prophetic
Mission of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qu’ran (Concluding Part) Summary
The Much discussed and debated
Medinian Verses Relating to Fighting
The paper ended with the following conclusion:
Quran, even among its very last revealed verses, makes a distinction between
those who are Kafir among the Mushrikin and those who are not, although all the
Mushrikin are considered disbelievers. Not all the Mushrikin are kafir and some
among the Muslims and the People of the Book are also kafir. Logically
therefore, all that we can say is that Kafir does not mean disbeliever,
although there are some who are Kafir among the disbelievers.
is permitted against the oppressors to protect the weak and the oppressed and
not for any other cause. The faith of the Oppressor and the Oppressed is
immaterial. Those who fight to protect the weak and the oppressed, fight in the
cause of Allah and are the Mominin. The oppressors are Kafir. The faith professed
by those who fight in the cause of Allah, the Oppressor and the Oppressed are
Islam, the other is the Kafir, but they are not the non-Muslims but the unjust
and the oppressors who could be professing any faith including Islam. The cause
of Allah, identified from the Quran, is to end all injustice and oppression,
and all those who stand up for justice and fight against oppression are from
“the community of God” and the Muslims must form an “Ummat-e-Wahida” or a
united front with all such people to end injustice and oppression in the world.
of Islam is the God of all the people and is not the parochial God of only the
Muslims in our theology for Allah says:
submits His whole self to Allah (by whatever name) and is a doer of good,- He
will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they
Muslim of the Quran, is therefore simply anyone who submits to God (by whatever
name), and is a doer of good deeds. There are therefore only two kinds of
people - those who stand for justice and against oppression are the friends and
helpers of God and the oppressors are the enemies of humanity and of God.
finding of this paper needs to be leveraged to transform young minds to think
in terms of objective attributes of people, rather than in terms of the narrow
stereo types based on a person’s religious identity. Since our theology says
otherwise, we need to work to change it according to the clear message of the
Quran brought out in this paper to remove the ideological basis for extremism
among the Muslims and to promote greater co-operation with all good people of
The objective of a University is to provide thought
leadership to the world to address the problems that beset humanity. This paper
may have succeeded in finding a solution to the current malaise of growing
radicalism among the young of one community. Radicalization infects all people
to a greater or lesser degree and tackling it in one community reduces its
appeal in other communities as well.
to follow-up on our finding by organizing focused talks on the subject to take
the message to a wider audience within the University to start with, and then
based on our experience, to the whole world.
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 http://www.NewAgeIslam.com
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The Quran uses Kafirun, Zalimun and Mujrimun as synonyms. Zalimun translates as Tyrant/Oppressor/Unjust and Mujrimun as Sinner, and yet, our translators invariably translate kafir as disbeliever, even when such a translation renders the verse as false, and translating as Tyrant/Oppressor/Unjust/Sinner is correct!
Since there are verses that refer to the believers also as kafaru/kafirin, if kafir means disbeliever, it equally means believer which is nonsense because disbeliever is the opposite of believer. What it therefore means is that the word is faith neutral and describes a certain behaviour. It could mean denial of a right or denial of God.
حَقِّى ذ He denied, or disacknowledged, to me my right, or just claim. (A, Mgh, K.) Hence the saying of 'Ámir, إِِذَا أَقَرَّ عِنْدَ القَاضِى بِشَىْءٍ ثُمَّ كَافَرَ [When he confesses a thing in the presence of the Kádee, then denies, or disacknowledges: كَافَرَ being thus used in the sense of كَفَرَ]. But as to the saying of Mohammad [the lawyer], رجُلٌ لَهُ عَلَى آخَرَ دَيْنٌ فَكَافَرَهُ بِهِ سِنِينَ [A man who owed to another a debt, and denied to him, in the case of it, for years], he seems to have made it imply the meaning of المُمَاطَلَة, and therefore to have made it trans. in the same manner as المماطلة is trans. (Mgh.)
An Arabic-English Lexicon. London. Williams and Norgate. 1863.
See below: The dictionary merely says that Kafir to mean disbeliever has become more common in the present day. This is based purely on how people are using the word in the present day.
اكفرهُ ذ , (S, A, Mgh, K,) and ↓ كفّرهُ , (A, Mgh, Msb,) [the latter of which is the more common in the present day,] He called him a كَافِر [i. e. a disbeliever, an unbeliever,or an infidel]: (S, Mgh, K:) he attributed, or imputed to him, charged him with, or accused him of, disbelief, or infidelity: (S, A, Msb:) or he said to him كَفَرْتَ [Thou hast become an unbeliever, or infidel, or Thou hast blasphemed: in this last sense, “ he said to him Thou hast blasphemed,
Since Kafir can be used for someone who denies the rights of another human being, it can be certainly used for those who deny the favours or benefits conferred by God including active rejection of belief from knowledge but not from ignorance.
The classical Islamic scholars judge the “shirk” of the Mushrikin as denial of God and His favours and betray their bigotry when the Quran does not judge them so. It only judges the active deniers of God as Kafir such as those who actively oppose/hinder men from the path of Allah. To call the disbelievers Kafir is a judgement, and not the meaning.
Chronologically, Surah was Al-Kafirun was the 18th Surah and there are 86 Surahs that were revealed during the Meccan period, which makes Al-Kafirun an early Meccan Surah revealed some 8 years before Hijra. If Kafirun is taken to mean all the Mushrikun and if it says “neither do you (kafirun) nor will you worship what I (Muhammad) worships” and if after this, even one of those Mushrikin accept Islam, the surah is rendered false. The fact is that the majority of the Mushrikin accepted Islam. The Mushrikin in general, are therefore not the Kafirun, and the Surah addresses only the active opponents of Islam as Kafirun.
Also, Al-Kafirun ends with “To you be your religion and to be mine”. And if this is said to all the Mushrikin, then to do further dawa to them makes the Prophet a person who says what he does not practice. The kind of people who do that, are described in another Meccan Surah.
(26:221) Shall I inform you, (O people!), on whom it is that the evil ones descend?
(222) They descend on every lying, wicked person,
(223) (Into whose ears) they pour hearsay vanities, and most of them are liars.
(224) And the Poets,- It is those straying in Evil, who follow them:
(225) Seest thou not that they wander distracted in every valley?-
(226) And that they say what they practise not?-
It is an evil thing that the “Classical Islamic Scholars” accuse the Prophet (pbuh) of by implication. You cannot have one yardstick to judge other people and another for Allah and His Messenger. The problem with the “Classical Islamic Scholars” is their lack of integrity and discipline coupled with their bigotry which makes them insensitive even to the clear meaning of the Quran. Their good sense is covered by their bigotry and we know what that means. It means they are kafir.
The “Classical Islamic Scholarship” heaps blatant falsehood on the Quran from its bigotry. It is ironical that in this day, we must fight against the kufr of the “classical Islamic scholars” but fight we must to rid the Quran, Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) from their calumny.
Naseer I have come across an exhaustive study of the word “Kafir” by a Kafir. I give a gist of it. Hope this may be of some interest to you. This is a copy-paste.
“Disbeliever” is, linguistically a mistranslation of “Kafir” since in strict (British) English grammar. A “disbeliever” would be “one who has ceased to believe” – ie an spostate. The Koran generally refers to apostates as “hypocrites” and groups them with those who do not fully hold to Islamic teaching – ie “heretics”. The phrase “those who reject faith” is little better than “disbeliever” due to its ambiguity: I can “reject faith” both by leaving a faith or by refusing to accept it in the first place.
Thus the Koran uses “kaffir” words mostly about non-believers about 450 times in 6236 verses. That means that about 7% of all verses in the Koran contain the “kfr” words as applied to non-believers. The total number of verses related to kaffirs is much greater, some sources placing it as high as 64% of the entire text.
If the use of these words (disbeliever / rejector) is intended to limit the meaning of “kaffir” to “apostate” this is not supported by the Koran text. An apostate, a “murtadd” is indeed a kaffir, but not all kaffirs are apostates – at least unless we take the Koran’s claim that everybody is born a Muslim (K7:172) literally and deny that people are incapable of preventing themselves being “led astray” by their parents. Such an interpretation of kaffir would be truly vicious since the penalty for apostasy is death this would mean that all non-Muslims, even the new-born, deserve to be killed out of hand.
I should also point out that many translators are not consistent in how they translate “kaffir” words.
Note: In K76:5, “kafooran” is rendered as follows: “the righteous shall drink of a cup whereof the mixture is of Kafur” (Shakir decides this is camphor!). This exact same word is rendered as “ungrateful” in 76:3. I can understand why no translator wants to suggest that the “cup of paradise” is mixed with ingratitude and/or non-belief, but this is surely taking a liberty with the text.
“Kaffartum” is found in 3:106, 9:66, 14:7, 17:69, 40:12, 41:52, 46:10, 73:17. It is usually rendered as “ungrateful” or similar in 14:7 and by some translators in 17:69. In all other verses the usual rendering is “disbelieved” or “rejected” or denied”.
34:17 shows a similar uncertainty about whether to use “ingrates” or un/dis-believers.
Thus, it is clear that within the meaning of “kaffir” is the idea the Kaffirs are ungrateful and thankless to Allah/Mohammed because they have not seen the “light” of Islam and converted and/or they have no gratitude to Allah for the bounty of nature.
The word “Kaffir” is best understood as meaning “those who do not believe” or, more succinctly, non-Muslims.
“Kfr” words occur in some 7% of the Koran verses. Passages dealing with kaffirs account for a much higher percentage of the Koran.
The term “al-kaffiroon” (the non-believers) is an umbrella term for all types and classes of non-believer.
A “kaffir” is someone who has rejected Islam, generally in the sense of refusing to convert, though an apostate (“Murtadd”) is also a “Kaffir” since they are literally “disbelievers”. This rejection should be understood as an act of will, the person has chosen non-belief. Thus a Kaffir is a practitioner of “khufr” – the act of non-belief.
As well as the concept of non-belief, the word carries within its meaning several other ideas:
◦That the “kaffir” has somehow “buried”, “concealed” or “hidden” his/her true understanding of the “beauty and truth” of Islam – thus it implies lying or deceit, since the implication is that the Kaffir “really knows” that Islam is right. (See also K.45:7-9)◦That the kaffir has “removed” him/herself from the influence of and obedience to Islam, a sort of quasi-apostasy,◦That the kaffir is an ingrate – s/he does not show to Allah the respect and worship due for his “beneficence” (if they did they would become Muslim – obviously) and thus impious also.◦That the Kaffir is in rebellion and opposition to Allah and Mohammed, thus they are “enemies of Islam/Allah/Mohammed”.◦That all of the above is linked to the kaffir’s proud, haughty nature.Thus to put it in a sentence: “Islam says that “the Kaffir” are haughty, lying, deceitful, ungrateful, impious, quasi-apostate, non-believing rebels against Allah and Mohammed, too proud to admit the truth of Islam.”
– – –
Kufr is a Relative Concept
(33:72) We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth
and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but
man undertook it;- He was indeed unjust and foolish;-
(73) (With the result) that Allah has to punish the Hypocrites,
men and women, and the Unbelievers, men and women, and Allah turns in Mercy to
the Believers, men and women: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Once God has sent His messengers and His revelations, it becomes
incumbent upon God then to punish/reward man by judging his deeds in the light
of the guidance provided through the revelations. Without the revelations,
there is no believer, unbeliever, or hypocrite or punishment for the sins of
kufr, shirk, nifaq etc.
It is easy to understand now, that kufr is relative to the message
received. For example, observing the Sabbath was prescribed to the followers of
Moses and not to other people. For Muslims, since there is no Sabbath, there
cannot be kufr through violation of the Sabbath and punishment for it. We know
from the Quran, that the Jews were punished in a very exemplary manner in this
world itself for violating their Sabbath.
What was Kufr for the Meccan pagans?
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 Jahaliya 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.
What was kufr for them was solely violating self-evident truths or
what was accepted by their own society as a serious crime. The only deeds for
which the Quran treats the Meccan pagans as kafir are for:
1. Persecuting the
Muslims for no other reason other than for their faith
2. Fighting the
Muslims for their faith and driving them out of their homes. Breaking peace
treaties and aiding the enemy.
The Meccan pagans are uniformly referred to as the Mushrikin
except those standing against the Muslims in battle, those that practiced
persecution, or those who broke their treaties with the Muslims. These
exceptions, who were the enemies of the new faith of Islam, are referred to as
the kafaru among the Mushrikin, clearly implying that not all the Mushrikin are
There are those who will not believe who are Kafir, and by the
very nature of a kafir, these will oppose a faith such as Islam and by their
deed get identified as kafir. The examples of such people are Pharaoh, Abu
jahal, Abu Lahab and his wife, Qarun etc. The peaceful disbelievers remain
disbeliever from either lack of knowledge, lack of capacity to understand, or
fear of persecution from the leaders of Unfaith. The majority belongs to the
"cattle class" and follow the trend. They also entered Islam in
armies when the tide turned in favour of Islam. These disbelievers, who were
not an enemy of Islam are not Kafir.
Is shirk a sin for
(4:47) O ye People of
the Book! believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already)
with you, before We change the face and fame of some (of you) beyond all
recognition, and turn them hindwards, or curse them as We cursed the
Sabbath-breakers, for the decision of Allah Must be carried out.
(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.
(4:115) If anyone contends with the Messenger even after
guidance has been plainly conveyed to him, and follows a path other than that
becoming to men of Faith, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and
land him in Hell,- what an evil refuge!
(116) Allah forgiveth not (The sin of) joining other gods
with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this: one who joins
other gods with Allah, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right).
In a single surah, there are the two almost identical verses
4:48 and 4:116 on the sin of polytheism. Why is there a repetition? Why not a
single verse addressed to all mankind if polytheism is an unforgivable sin for
all mankind? The addressees of 4:48 are the People of the Book and the addressees
of 4:116 are the Muslims or the hypocrites among the Muslims. Polytheism is a
grave unforgivable sin for the People of the Book and for the Muslims but not
for the Mushrikin or not for all mankind since this verse is not addressed to
all mankind. Usury is also kufr only for the Muslims (3:130,131) and the Jews (4:161)
since the verses directly address these people and not for the Mushrikin etc.
Consuming intoxicants, is similarly prohibited only to the Muslims. and kufr
for them if they consume it.
The Quran does not treat all the Mushrikin as Kafir even in
Surah Taubah as discussed by me in detail several times. Should we go by the
Quran or by the opinion of scholars who talk in the air and argue without
reference to the Quran taking the verses out of their context? These worthies you
quote, appear incapable of understanding the difference when a verse is
addressed to all mankind and when it is addressed to only the Jews or the People
of the Book or the Muslims!
If you consider closely, a peaceful, just and non-oppressive
Kafir is an oxymoron but there are many peaceful, just and non-oppressive among
those Islam may otherwise consider as “disbelievers”. The Quran maintains this
distinction between those who are simply “disbelievers” and those that are
Kafir, throughout the text. Those who will not believe are those who are
oppressors and will therefore never accept a faith that comes down heavily on
any form of oppression and injustice, and such people are bound to oppose such
a faith with all their might and set themselves up as an enemy. Even, believers
who are unjust oppressors or even simply niggardly or exploiters through usury,
or those who do not spend on the needy from the bounties Allah has provided
them, or spend only to show off, or insult the recipient of their charity, are categorized
as Kafir. The standard applied to the believer is much higher. Disbelievers who
consume usury or are niggardly, are not considered as Kafir only for these
failings, since such verses are addressed only to the believers.
As far as dawah is concerned, it is limited to “enjoining
what is good and forbidding what is evil”. The first level is through setting
an example. Conversion is not necessary, the definition of a Muslim being (2:112)
“Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to Allah (by any name and without
associating other gods) and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his
Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
to the original meaning of kufr which is to “cover up”. Are all the disbelievers
covering up the truth? Some are disbelievers because they are “la yalamun” or
people without knowledge according to verse 6 of Surah Taubah although these
people were the direct addressees of the Prophet and although the prophetic
mission of Muhammad (pbuh) was in its closing stage. Some are disbelievers out
of fear of persecution from the “leaders of Unfaith” (Immatul kufri) according
to verse 10:83.
read my definition of kufr/kafir in the temporal dimension and in the spiritual
dimension. In the spiritual dimension, rejection/denial of belief is kufr and
makes a person kafir but who this person is not known to other men. What is
important to note is that the Quran never considered all the Mushrikin as Kafir
even though it calls them disbelievers. Mere disbelief therefore does not make
a person kafir. In the temporal
dimension, an oppressor is a kafir because he goes against even the accepted
norms of civil society or against what have become self-evident moral principles.
The excuse of “la yalamun” does not apply to an oppressor. What an oppressor is
covering up with dirt is obviously an accepted moral principle which is what
makes him a kafir.
mean “those who will not believe”. The Quran describes the characteristics of
such people and the examples are: The Pharaoh, Abu Jahal (Surah 96 Al –Alaq), Walid ibn Mughiyrah (Surah 68 Al –Qalam), Abu Lahab and his wife (Surah 111, Al-Masad). The chronological order of revelation of the three surahs mentioned is
1,2 and 6 and the last four persons named, find a mention in their life-time
itself. They are identified only by their title or description. Those who will not believe are only a few and
different from those who may believe who form the majority. Most of the disbelievers
are therefore not kafir and only a few are.
as argument is used to bring the disbelievers to belief, it can be used only
with those who are not kafir because the kafir are those who will not believe. (2:6)
“As to the kafaru, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn
them; they will not believe.”
verse 98:1 and 98:6, these are the deliberate deniers of the truth after receiving
the clear evidence. They are described as the worst of creatures. Who are they?
They are a set of knowledgeable people from among the people of the Book and from
among the Mushrikin who believed in the coming of a prophet from prophecies in
the earlier scriptures or otherwise, but who rejected the prophet although they
knew it was fulfilment of the prophecy and for what reason? Read the rest of
the Surah and my article on the subject:
Who Are The Worst Of Creatures
In The Quran?
following is a comprehensive coverage of the verses that describe kufr/kafir
Personal traits of a Kafir
Kafir is an odious word and means a
conceited person whose haughtiness makes him an ingrate rebel against God
(2:34, 2:99, 16:83) and a rebel against his benefactors (26:18,19), steeped in
self-glory (38:2). These are not the personal traits of every non-Muslim or
even every disbeliever and includes some among the believers also.
What is being covered up here if one
wants to relate the meaning given by the Quran above to the meaning of the root
word? The intellect, the knowledge of right and wrong and the nature for
obedience is covered by an excess of conceit, haughtiness and selfishness. The
Quran did not define the meaning of the root word but used it to define the
Kafir in the context of the Quran. Neither the root meaning means a disbeliever
nor has the Quran defined it as such nor did the Pagan Arabs have any concept
The behavior of a Kafir
The Kafir being inclined to
self-glory, self-indulgence and injustice, deny the Hereafter or in justice
finding perfection in the Hereafter (12:37, 18:105, 23:33, 32:10, 34:3, 41:7).
The Kafir therefore deny the prophets, scriptures and all the Signs of God
(10:2, 13:27, 13:43, 34:31, 40:4, 40:14). The Kafir are opposed to any moral
system and are an enemy of the prophets, of good people, of humanity and of God
(8:36, 9:32, 9:40, 14:9, 14:13,15:39, 16:88, 18:56, 21:36, 29:47, 32:10, 34:7,
41:26, 47:32). A Kafir therefore fights in the cause of evil against those who
fight for a good cause (4:76). They spread mischief and disorder and are high
handed oppressors (2:11, 2:27, 2:205, 7:103, 8:73, 9:107, 10:40, 10:91, 13:25,
16:88, 26:183, 27:48, 28:4, 47:22, 89:12). They are also niggardly (4:37) and
These are not the behaviours that
describe every non-Muslim or every disbeliever. Niggardliness and
exploitative behaviour, as a matter of fact, covers only the believers since
such behaviour is from knowledge of God and shows ingratitude to God for his
are all the disbelievers kafir nor are the kafir amongst the disbelievers alone
and therefore kafir does not and cannot mean disbeliever. Just as terrorist
cannot mean Muslim, Kafir cannot mean disbeliever for the same reasons.
Correct translation in Urdu
[98:1] وہ لوگ جنہوں نے اہل کتاب اور مشرکین میں سے کفر کیا،
ہرگز باز آنے والے نہ تھے باوجود اس کے کہ اُن کے پاس کھلی کھلی دلیل آ چکی تھی۔
The translation that treats all the
Mushrikin as kafir
Kitabi kafir aur mushrik (kanzul
Iman, Raza Ahmad Khan, Barelvi)
The translation that treats all the People
of the Book as well as the Mushrikin as kafir
Woh log jinhone kufr kiya hai yani ahle-kitab aur
Mushrikin (dono hi) kabhi apnkufr se baaz rahne wale na the jab tak unke paas
wazeh dalil na aajaati.
1: جو لوگ کافر ہیں (یعنی) اہل کتاب اور
مشرک وہ (کفر سے) باز رہنے والے نہ تھے جب تک ان کے پاس کھلی دلیل (نہ) آتی
And why are all these scholars of Arabic unable to translate one verse correctly? It is not knowledge of a language that helps in the correct understanding of any text in that language but overall language skills and a methodical approach to the study.
Yunus sb's choice of analogy is interesting and
reveals why he erred in correctly understanding 98:1, 98:6. A robber is
dishonest by the very meaning of robber and there is no concept of an honest
robber. Scholars for whom Mushrikin are Kafirin by definition, will therefore
misinterpret as they have done.
The Quran read through such false beliefs acquired
from outside of the Quran, will therefore be misunderstood and explains why the
scholars err. The solution is to bring a rigorous methodology and
discipline to exegesis that rules out such errors and keeps out prejudice.
What is a standard translation? All the six
translators can be shown to be error prone if not with this single verse then
with other verses. Since all the translators have translated kafir as
disbeliever which is not the meaning of the word in the Quran, by what standard
can any of their translations be called a standard translation? We may cite the
translation that we agree with and if there are other translations with
significant variation in the meaning, explain why we agree with what we have cited.
The last thing that I would expect from an exegete is to cite six “standard
translations” to say that a Quranic verse can be interpreted in multiple ways!
If an exegete does not have a methodology to rule out the wrong translations,
and merely chooses what takes his fancy, then may God save us all from such
Yunus sb, says:
dishonest among the traders and the robbers were all punished
will say the adjective 'dishonest' applies to only the traders and some will
say it applies to the robbers as well and thus classify robber in two
categories - honest robbers - dishonest robbers.
I hope you understand basic Arabic to see
that the word 'min' (among) is used only once in the sentence and hence it can
be applied to only one or both category of people referred to in the verse
Some of the rules of grammar and clear communication
are common across all languages and I strongly disagree with what Yunus sb
says. There is no ambiguity at all. A person who wishes to say
that all the robbers were punished and only the dishonest among the traders, would
robbers and the dishonest among the traders were punished
us discuss 98:1
يَكُنِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ مُنفَكِّينَ
حَتَّىٰ تَأْتِيَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ
Al-Bayyina / The Evidence (98:1) The Kafaru, among the People of the
Book and among the Mushrikin, were not going to depart (from their ways) until
there should come to them Clear Evidence,- (Yusuf Ali)
above verse is speaking of the kafaru among the Pople of the Book and from
among the Polytheists from which it is clear that not all the People of the
Book and not all the Polytheists are kafir. However, those who argue that it is
impossible that the Mushrikin of Mecca among whom the Prophet lived and preached
could be considered not kafir, translate the above verse as “The Kafaru, among
the People of the Book and all the Mushrikin,………”
not dealing here with the loose speech of fallible men but of the infallible
speech of God in which not one word is out of its proper place. The least we
may expect is some consistency. Let us look at another verse with an identical
وَأَدْخِلْهُمْ جَنَّاتِ عَدْنٍ الَّتِي وَعَدتَّهُمْ وَمَن صَلَحَ مِنْ
آبَائِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجِهِمْ وَذُرِّيَّاتِهِمْ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ
Al-Ghaafir / The Forgiver (40:8) "And grant,
our Lord! that they enter the Gardens of Eternity, which Thou hast promised to
them, and to the righteous among their fathers, their wives, and their posterity!
For Thou art (He), the Exalted in Might, Full of Wisdom.
In this verse people have no problem accepting the meaning of the verse to
the righteous among their fathers
the righteous among their wives
the righteous among their posterity or children
although the Arabic 'min' is used only once and not three times.
they then have a problem accepting in another verse with identical grammatical
construction that it means:
kafaru among the people of the book
And the Kafaru among the polytheists?
answer is because they are predisposed to think otherwise based on the fact that
they have been brought up to believe that all the “disbelievers” are kafir. If
people do not overcome such predisposition and rely on reason, logic and
evidence, to accept the truth, it is a form of kufr.
Allah had intended to say what the scholars say the verse means, then there is
a simple and direct way to do that with complete clarity and without any
ambiguity. The verse would have been worded as follows:
لَمْ يَكُنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ مُنفَكِّينَ حَتَّى تَأْتِيَهُمُ الْبَيِّنَةُ
the Mushrikin and the Kafaru, among the People of the Book, were not going to
depart (from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence,-
correct meaning of verse 98:1 is that ‘kafaru’ refers to a sub group of the
Mushrikin and not to all the Mushrikin who are guilty of the kufr described in
the verse. Similar is the case with 98:6 and 2:105 which refer to the kafaru
among the Mushrikin.
I hope Yunus sb concurs with what I have said above, because he has run away from discussing 98:1 or a similar verse 98:6 several times in the past.
Dear Sultan Shahin Sahab,
Here are six standard translations of the
verse 98:1 copied from Internet:
Sahih International: Those who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the
polytheists were not to be parted [from misbelief] until there came to them
clear evidence -
Those who disbelieve among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters could
not have left off (erring) till the clear proof came unto them,
Yusuf Ali: Those who reject (Truth), among
the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, were not going to depart
(from their ways) until there should come to them Clear Evidence,-
Those who disbelieved from among the followers of the Book and the polytheists
could not have separated (from the faithful) until there had come to them the
Muhammad Sarwar: The disbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans
disbelieved (in Islam) only after receiving divine testimony:
Those who disbelieve from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and
Christians) and among Al-Mushrikun, were not going to leave (their disbelief)
until there came to them clear evidence.
unbelievers of the People of the Book and the idolaters would never leave off;
till the Clear Sign came to them,
The issue as is simple as that of the following
"The dishonest among the traders and
the robbers were all punished"
Some will say the adjective 'dishonest' applies
to only the traders and some will say it applies to the robbers as well and
thus classify robber in two categories - honest robbers - dishonest robbers.
I hope you understand basic Arabic to see
that the word 'min' (among) is used only once in the sentence and hence it can
be applied to only one or both category of people referred to in the verse 98:1.'