By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
4 April 2015
Was the Prophet (pbuh) fighting battles to end “disbelief” or to end “Religious Persecution”? Was he fighting the “Disbelievers” or the “Oppressors”? While the answers to these questions have been provided in previous 4 parts of the article, let us explore what Muslims believe the answers to these critical questions are.
Before that, let us keep in mind that the word “Kufr” and “Kafir” are like the words “Sin” and “Sinner” and acquire a precise meaning only from the context. If the sin of theft is being talked about, then the sinner is a thief and you will not mistake him for a murderer. Although this is obvious, it is not kept in mind when it comes to the meaning of “Kafir”, which most translators and scholars take as having the fixed meaning of “those who reject the truth of Islam”. This is untrue and more clearly brought out in my article in 4 parts “Who is a Kafir in the Quran” links to which are provided at the end of this article.
Focus on the verse 8:38 as translated by Mohsin Khan. The verses 8:36 and 8:37 are also translated by the same person.
8:36 Verily, those who disbelieve Kafaru) spend their wealth to hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, and so will they continue to spend it; but in the end it will become an anguish for them. Then they will be overcome. And those who disbelieve will be gathered unto Hell.
8:37 In order that Allah may distinguish the wicked (disbelievers, polytheists and doers of evil deeds) from the good (believers of Islamic Monotheism and doers of righteous deeds), and put the wicked (disbelievers, polytheists and doers of evil deeds) one on another, heap them together and cast them into Hell. Those! it is they who are the losers.
8:38 Say to those who have disbelieved (Kafaru), if they cease (from disbelief) their past will be forgiven. But if they return (thereto), then the examples of those (punished) before them have already preceded (as a warning).
The Arabic verse 8:38 only says, “if they cease/desist”. The question that arises is “desist from what?” Since the subject in 8:36 are the Kafaru who spend their wealth to hinder men from the path of Allah, the simple answer is “if they cease/desist from hindering men from the path of Allah”. This is radically different from saying “if they cease/desist from disbelief”. While the Quran is saying that the battle is against “Religious persecution”, Mohsin Khan is trying to tell us that it is against “disbelief”. It is easy to see that in 8:36 also, Kafaru does not mean “those who disbelieve” but “those who practice religious persecution”. In verse 8:37 also, “wicked” is being sought to include all polytheists and disbelievers whereas the Arabic word only means wicked and from the context the wickedness is religious persecution. For Mohsin Khan, the Arabic word signifying good also becomes all believers in Islamic monotheism! This is a rank communal rendering of the meaning of the Quranic verses!
How do the other translators fare?
Fifteen translators do not add anything in parenthesis to say what the kafaru should desist from. They are: Asad, Shakir, DrlalehBakhtiar, Wahiduddin Khan, TB irving, Abdul Haleem, Abdul MajidDaryabadi, Ahmed Ali, AshaBewley, Hamid S Aziz, Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali, Sahih International,
Talal A. Itani, Bilal Muhammad, The monotheist group
Three translators explain what desist from implies and this is not “unbelief”. They are, Pickthal(desist from persecution of believers) Muhammad Sarwar (desist from evil behavior), Shabbir Ahmed (desist from hostilities), Maududi (desist from evil)
For 12 translators, it is desist from “Unbelief” or its equivalent. They are: Yusuf Ali (from Unbelief), Al'-Muntakhab (renounce infidelity, desist from evil purpose and turn to Allah), Ali Unal: (to disbelieve themselves and prevent others from entering the fold of Islam), Muhammad TaqiUsmani (from infidelity), Syed Vickar Ahamed (from disbelief),Farook Malik (from unbelief), Dr Munir Munshey (their skepticism),Dr. M Tahir ul Qadri (from their blasphemous acts),Ali Quli Qarai [faithlessness], Dr Kamal Omar (from their blasphemous acts),Thanvi (Kufr), Raza Ahmad Khan Barelvi(Kufr Se Baaz Aye Aur Islam Laye). While I agree that becoming a believer would have been the ultimate proof of these people agreeing to desist from past behavior, is this being demanded in the verse?
For all 30 of the translators, Kafaru means an Unbeliever or its equivalent word or description. They therefore have a fixed meaning for “Kafir”. Now the simple question is why should all the “disbelievers” be addressed for the acts of some of them? Is this is not stereotyping? Unfortunately, because every translator takes a fixed meaning for kafir, he ends up stereotyping all “Unbelievers” who range from the peaceful rejecter to the violent rejecter. You can imagine the impact when this is done for all the verses where the term occurs!
A more correct translation would be simply to either stick to the Arabic word Kafaru or say:
8:38 Tell those religious persecutors/oppressors that if they desist, that which is past will be forgiven ….
What they should desist from and what past behavior will be forgiven is then obvious.
The addressees now are the offenders alone; there is no stereotyping and no scope for any misunderstanding. This also leads to a faith neutral rendering of the verse. If these verses have relevance beyond their immediate context of the times of the Prophet, then such a faith neutral rendering can be equally applied in today’s world, to the extremists among those who call themselves Muslim, but practice religious persecution. They can also expect the wrath of Allah to descend on them as indeed it descended twice on the “believing Jews” for similar arrogance and haughtiness.
What is needed therefore is a more faithful translation of the meaning of the Quran and the major issue I think is mistranslation of the keywords used in the Quran such as “kafir”, which for some inexplicable reason, is given a fixed meaning by every translator, when it could mean even those who call themselves Muslim, but indulge in religious persecution. The other issue is of some translators putting in their interpretation in parenthesis what is untenable, and simply a product of their own mind, or that of their predecessors.
Carefully consider the 12 translators who apparently think that the Prophet was fighting against “disbelief”. It includes scholars of every sect and some of them are major influencers such as Thanvi, Tahir ul Qadri and Raza Khan Barelvi. If according to them the Prophet was fighting against “disbelief”, then how can they or their followers refute the ideology of the “Jihadists”? And how do they reconcile 2:256 “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and 109:6 “To you (peaceful Kafir) be your way and to me mine” with what they think the Prophet was fighting against? The fact is that the Prophet and Quran are far above what these people attribute to the Quran and the Prophet (pbuh). It is time the Muslims rose above such narrow minded communal interpretations of the Quran and reject the theology based on such interpretation. Unless they do this, I do not think that they can defeat the ideology of the extremists.
URL to Previous Parts:
URL of Part 1: http://newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/observer-for-new-age-islam/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-from-the-qu’ran-(part-1)-the-early-opposition/d/102107
URL of Part 2: http://newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/observer-for-new-age-islam/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-from-the-qu’ran-(part-2)--the-clear-warning-to-the-meccan-pagans/d/102121
URL of Part 3: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-in-the-qu’ran-(part-3)--important-pointers-from-the-stories-of-the-prophets/d/102138
URL of Part 4: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/the-story-of-the-prophetic-mission-of-muhammad-(pbuh)-in-the-qu’ran-(part-4)--the-medinian-period/d/102155
Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 2): Muslim– Non-Muslim Relationship
Who Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 3): Why Kufr Is A Relative Concept While Shirk, Idol Worship Etc. Have Fixed Meanings
Who is a Kafir in the Quran? (Part 4) Defining Kufr
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.
Thank you Hamid Sb for
your listing of the types of Kufr. Another listing that may be useful is as
They are kafir who:
1. despair of the mercy of Allah
2. are tight fisted
3. consume usury
4. who practice oppression and religious persecution
5. drive people out from their place of worship
6. sow discord and make mischief on the earth
7. deliberately spread falsehood
8. lie and slander against virtuous persons and indulge in calumny
9. reject the Truth after the Truth has been made clear to them.
10. are perennially engaged in extinguishing the Light of Allah.
11. are open enemy to Allah, His Messengers and His Scriptures. Allah is an
enemy to such Kafirin
12. Reject belief in God without associating partners with God
13. Reject belief in the hereafter.
14. Reject belief in the Scriptures as the Word of God.
15. Reject one, several or all the Messengers of God
Items 12 to 15 have to
do with affirmation of the faith and the rest are faith neutral. Only those who
reject are kafir. Mere non-acceptance for lack of knowledge or understanding is
Likewise for the
attitudes or dispositions of the Kafir. They are kafir who:
1. Are steeped in self-glory and separatism (including
2. Are Perverse
3. Are Delusional.
4. Have their own theories of the meaning of life and of creation which they
hold above the revelations or in other words reject revealed knowledge.
5. Detest the mention of God, reading/discussion of the Quran and hinder people
from all such activities
6. Reject on account of envy
These attitudes are
found among people of all faiths and have nothing to do with the faith a person
professes. He could call himself a Muslim and yet display the attitudes or
dispositions of a Kafir.
As far as behavioral
characteristics are concerned. They are kafir who
1. Resort to ridicule
2. Oppose, obstruct, create confusion and disorder
4. Argue obstinately instead of focusing on what is being said, they ask
disruptive questions such as "Why is not a sign sent down to him from his
5. Indulging in all kinds of vain arguments
6. Doubt perennially.
7. Indulge in Personal attacks.
The behavioral Characteristics are also faith
neutral and are found among people of all faiths.
are several types of Al-Kufr al-Akbar:
Disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the Truth and
admits to knowing the Truth, and knowing it with his tongue, but refuses to
accept it and refrains from making a declaration. Allah says: “Throw into Hell
every stubborn disbeliever”
Disbelief out of denial. This applies to someone who denies with both heart and
tongue. Allah says: “They recognize the favors of Allah, yet they deny them. Most
of them are disbelievers”
Disbelief out of arrogance and pride. An example of this type of Kufr is the
disbelief by the devils (Iblees).
Disbelief out of rejection.This applies to someone who acknowledges the truth
in his heart, but rejects it with his tongue. This type of kufr is applicable
to those who calls themselves Muslims but who reject any necessary and accepted
norms of Islam such as Salaat and Zakat. Allah says: “They denied them (OUR
SIGNS) even though their hearts believed in them, out of spite and arrogance”
Disbelief out of hypocrisy.This applies to someone who pretends to be a
believer but conceals his disbelief. Such a person is called a munafiq or
hypocrite. Allah says: “Verily the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of
Hell. You will find no one to help them”
Disbelief out of trying to make haraam into halal. This applies to someone who
accepts as lawful Halal that which Allah has made unlawful Haram like alcohol
or adultery. Only Allah has the prerogative to make things Halal and Haram and
those who seek to interfere with His right are like rivals to Him and therefore
fall outside the boundaries of faith.
Disbelief out of detesting any of Allah's commands. Allah says: “Perdition
(destruction) has been consigned to those who disbelieve and He will render
their actions void. This is because they are averse to that which Allah has
revealed so He has made their actions fruitless”
Disbelief due to mockery and derision. Allah says: “Say: Was it at Allah, His
signs and His apostles that you were mocking? Make no excuses. You have
disbelieved after you have believed.”
Disbelief due to avoidance. This applies to those who turn away and avoid the
truth. Allah says: “And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of his
Lord's signs but then turns away from them. Then he forgets what he has sent
forward (for the Day of Judgement)”
Disbelief because of trying to substitute Allah's Laws. This could take the
of Allah's law, Shari'ah without denying it
of Allah's law and therefore rejecting it, or
Allah's laws with man-made laws. Allah says: “Or have they partners with Allah
who have instituted for them a religion that Allah has not allowed”. Allah
says: “Say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely (that) is
lawful and this is forbidden so as to invent a lie against Allah. Verily, those
who invent a lie against Allah will never prosper”
Maududi died in 1979. Had he been alive today, he would have realized how wrong he was.
"There is a Hadith collected in the Two Sahihs that testifies to this explanation. The Messenger of Allah said,
(I was commanded to fight against the people until they proclaim, `There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.' If and when they say it, they will preserve their blood and wealth from me, except for its right (Islamic penal code), and their reckoning is with Allah, the Exalted and Most Honored.)"
Interestingly Hazrat Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) held a different view.
The man said, "Allah, the Exalted, said,
(And fight them until there is no more Fitnah...).'' Ibn `Umar said, "We did that during the time of the Messenger of Allah, when Islam was weak and the man would be tried in religion, either tormented to death or being imprisoned. When Islam became stronger and widespread, there was no more Fitnah.'' When the man realized that Ibn `Umar would not agree to what he is saying, he asked him, "What do you say about `Ali and `Uthman'' Ibn `Umar replied, "What do I say about `Ali and `Uthman! As for `Uthman, Allah has forgiven him, but you hate that Allah forgives him. As for `Ali, he is the cousin of the Messenger of Allah and his son-in-law,'' and he pointed with his hand saying, "And this is his house over there.'' Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "Ibn `Umar came to us and was asked, "What do you say about fighting during Fitnah'' Ibn `Umar said, "Do you know what Fitnah refers to Muhammad was fighting against the idolators, and at that time, attending (or residing with) the idolators was a Fitnah (trial in religion). It is nothing like what you are doing, fighting to gain leadership!'' All these narrations were collected by Al-Bukhari, may Allah the Exalted grant him His mercy.
Hazrat Umar was right in interpreting Fitnah as religious persecution and also right in concluding that when Islam gained political domination, this fitnah ended and there was no more reason to fight and those who continued fighting were doing so for self aggrandizement.
Those who however interpret fitnah to mean "shirk" continue to fight "shirk" and have in turn become the persecutors.
If what the Quran meant was to fight "shirk" why would it not use "shirk" but "fitnah"?
The interpretationists are the problem and not the literalists.
The hadith attributed to the Prophet could never have been said by the Prophet since it contradicts many verses of the Quran such as 109:6, 2:256 and even all the verses related to fighting which explicitly mention the cause of fighting. Not a single of these verses mention disbelief as the cause of fighting.
Will the gentlemen who swear by the ahadith speak up or be counted among those who believe that it is jihad to fight against disbelief?
Is A Kafir In The Quran? (Part 1): 'Kafir,' 'Mushrik' and 'Idolater' are not
This part provides the evidence that `Kufr' and
Kafir are faith neutral terms in the Quran and 'kufr' is used for
specific behaviour/deeds of Muslims, Jews, Christians, polytheists etc
and even Moses is referred to as Kafir by Pharaoh!
Going by the Quran, a faith neutral rendering is appropriate since kafaru as a matter of fact is a faith neutral term unless the context implies that it specifically means "those who deny the truth of Islam". This is not the case in 8:36 to 8:38 where it simply means the 'religious persecutors '. The verses can therefore be understood in their historical context as the battle between the Muslims lead by the Prophet (pbuh) and the Meccan persecutors of the Prophet and his followers who incidentally were polytheists.
As a verse with a universal message, it can be read as a message to all religious persecutors and those who fight against such persecution that Allah will aid those who fight against religious persecution and humiliate the persecutors no matter whether the persecutor calls himself Muslim and the persecuted declares himself as a polytheist.