The Kinds of Kufur
By Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-'ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.
The reality of kufur and its kinds is a wide subject, yet it is extremely important to know what is kufur the forms it may take. The Qur’ān and Sunnah precisely indicated that the faith would be invalid unless two conditions are met by the testimony that “There is no God except Allāh and Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is the Messenger of Allāh.”
These two conditions are the submission to Allāh Almighty Alone, which is the Islamic Tawhid, which entails denouncing and shunning all kinds of kufur and syirik.
One could not denounce or shun anything, until and unless one knows what it is Tawhid to act accordingly and attain it; and knowing what constitutes kufur and syirik.
Definition of Kufur.
Kufur, derives from the Arabic root word which means hiding and concealing something. In terms of Islamic doctrine it means “…not believing in Allāh Almighty and His Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), whether that is accompanied by denial or it is not accompanied by denial but rather doubt, or turning away from faith out of jealousy or arrogance, or because one is following whims and desires that prevent one from following the message. Kufur is the attribute of everyone who rejects something that Allāh Almighty has commanded us to believe in, after news of that has reached him, whether he rejects it in his heart without uttering it, or he speaks those words of rejection without believing it in his heart, or he does both; or he does an action which is described in the texts as putting one beyond the pale of faith.” [Majmu’ al-Fatawa, 12/335; Al-Ihkam fi Usul al-Ahkam by Ibn Hazam, 1/45.]
Ibn Hazm (rahimahullāh) said in his book 'Al-Fasal': “Rejecting something for which there is sound proof that there can be no faith without believing in it is kufur, and uttering words for which there is proof that uttering them is kufur is kufur. Doing any action for which there is proof that it is kufur is also kufur.”
Kinds of Major Kufur that Put One beyond the Pale of Islam
The scholars divided Kufur into a number of categories, under which they listed many forms and kinds of syirik. These are as follows:
1. The Kufur of Denial and Rejection.
This kufur may sometimes take the form of disbelief in the heart – which occurs among the kuffar, as Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullāh) said – and sometimes it takes the form of outward or apparent rejection, which means concealing the truth and not submitting to it outwardly, whilst recognizing it and knowing it inwardly, such as the Jews’ rejection of Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).
Allāh Almighty Says of them:
“Then when there came to them that which they had recognised, they disbelieved in it”
[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:89]
Allāh Almighty also Says:
“Then when there came to them that which they had recognised, they disbelieved in it”
[Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:146]
That is because rejection only happens which a person knows the truth and refuses it. Hence, Allāh stated that the kuffar’s disbelief in the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘layhi wa sallam) was not disbelief in the true sense of the word, because their disbelief was only outward and verbal, and inwardly they recognized the truth.
Allāh Almighty Says:
“It is not you that they deny, but it is the Verses (the Qur’Ān) of Allāh that the Dzalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers) deny”
[Surah Al-An’am, 6:33]
“And they belied them (those Ayat) wrongfully and arrogantly, though their ownselves were convinced thereof”
[Surah Al-Naml, 27:14]
Similar to this is the kufr of permitting that, which is forbidden. Whoever regards as permissible something, which he knows that Islam has forbidden has disbelieved in the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and in that which he brought. The same applies to one who forbids something, which he knows that Islām has permitted.
2. The Kufur of Turning Away In Arrogance, Such As the Kufur of Iblis of Whom.
Allāh Almighty Says:
“… except Iblis (Satan), he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers (disobedient to Allāh)”
[Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:34]
In addition, Allāh Almighty Says:
“They (hypocrites) say: ‘We have believed in Allāh and in the Messenger (Muhammad), and we obey,’ then a party of them turns away thereafter, such are not believers”.
[Surah Al-Nur, 24:47]
Therefore, Allāh has stated that those who do not act in accordance with faith are not believers, even if they utter the words of faith. The kufur of turning away means that one ignores the truth and does not learn it or act in accordance with it, whether it is the matter of words, actions, or beliefs. Allāh says:
“But those who disbelieve turn away from that whereof they are warned”
[Surah Al-Ahqaf, 46:3]
Whoever turns away verbally from that which the Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has brought is like one who says “I will not follow him.” The one who turns away by his actions is like one who runs away from hearing the truth, which he brought, or puts his fingers in his ears so as not to hear, or who hears it but turns away in his heart and refuses to believe, and who refuses to act upon it. He has disbelieved in the sense of the kufr of turning away.
3. The Kufur of Hypocrisy.
This takes the form of not believing in the heart and not acting, whilst submitting outwardly in order to show off to people. This is like the kufur of Ibn Salul and the other munafiqin (hypocrites) of whom Allāh Almighty said:
“And of mankind, there are some (hypocrites) who say: ‘We believe in Allāh and the Last Day,’ while in fact they believe not.
They (think to) deceive Allāh and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!
In their hearts is a disease (of doubt and hypocrisy) and Allāh has increased their disease. A painful torment is theirs because they used to tell lies.
In addition, when it is said to them: ‘Make not mischief on the earth,’ they say: ‘We are only peacemakers.’
Verily, they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive not.
In addition, when it is said to them (hypocrites): ‘Believe as the people (followers of Muhammad, Al-Ansar, and Al-Muhajirun) have believed,’ they say: ‘Shall we believe as the fools have believed?’ Verily, they are the fools, but they know not.
In addition, when they meet those who believe, they say: ‘We believe,’ but when they are alone with their Shayatin (devils — polytheists, hypocrites), they say: ‘Truly, we are with you; verily, we were but mocking.’
Allāh mocks at them and gives them increase in their wrongdoing to wander blindly.
These they have purchased error for guidance, so their commerce was profitless. In addition, they were not guided.
Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindled a fire; then, when it lighted all around him, Allāh took away their light and left them in darkness. (So) they could not see.
They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they return not (to the Right Path).
Alternatively, like a rainstorm from the sky, wherein is darkness, thunder, and lightning. They thrust their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunderclap for fear of death. However, Allāh ever encompasses the disbelievers (i.e. Allāh will gather them all together).
The lightning almost snatches away their sight, whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein, and when darkness covers them, they stand still. In addition, if Allāh willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Certainly, Allāh has power over all things”
[Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:8-20]
4. The Kufur of Doubt.
It means hesitating with regard to following the truth and being uncertain as to whether it is true, because what is required is certainty of faith (yaqin) that what the Messenger brought is truth with no hint of doubt in it. Whoever thinks that what he brought may not be true has disbelieved, in the sense of kufr of doubt, as Allāh Subhānahu wa ta’ala says:
“And he went into his garden while in a state (of pride and disbelief), unjust to himself. He said: ‘I think not that this will ever perish.
And I think not the Hour will ever come, and if indeed I am brought back to my Lord, (on the Day of Resurrection), I surely, shall find better than this when I return to Him.’
His companion said to him during the talk with him: ‘Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you out of dust (i.e. your father Adam), then out of Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female discharge), then fashioned you into a man?
But as for my part, (I believe) that He is Allāh, my Lord, and none shall I associate as partner with my Lord.’”
[Surah Al-Kahf, 18:35-38]
Kufur is the opposite of iman or faith, which may take the form of feelings in the heart, such as hating Allāh or His signs, or His Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam); this contradicts love and faith, which support the actions of the heart. Kufur may also take the form of spoken words, such as insulting Allāh, or it may be an outward action, such as prostrating to idols, or offering sacrifices to someone other than Allāh. Just as faith takes the form of actions of the heart, words on the tongue and outward physical actions, so too kufur may take the form of actions of the heart, words on the tongue and outward physical actions. We ask Allāh to keep us safe from kufur and its branches, and to increase us in faith and make us guided and cause us to guide others.
Allāh, the Almighty, says: “Verily, the Abrar (pious and righteous) will be in Delight (Jannah). And verily, the Fujjar (the wicked, disbelievers, sinners and evildoers) will be in the blazing Fire (Hell).” [Al-Infitar ,82:13,14]
It was narrated that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said to a man (one of the Sahabah): “What do you say when you prayer (Du’a after the Tashahhud)?” He said: “I recite the Tashahhud, then I say: “Allāhumma inni as alukal-Jannah wa a‘udzu bika Minan-nār” (O Allāh, I ask You for Paradise and seek refuge in You from the Fire).I cannot murmur like you and like Mu‘adz.” Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “It is about them that we were murmuring.” [Narrated by Abu Dawud, 792: sahih].
‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Umar (radiyallāhu’anhu) said: We counted Messenger's saying a hundred times during one single sitting: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya innaka antat-tawwābul-raheem’ (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Accepter of Repentance, Most Merciful). According to another report: ‘Rabb ighfir li wa tubb ‘alayya Innaka antat-tawābul-ghafūr” (O Allāh, forgive me and accept my repentance, for You are the Acceptor of Repentance, Oft-Forgiving). [This is recorded by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidzi].
This Hadith tells us about the etiquette of praying to Allāh. We should use the Names of Allāh befitting our prayers, i.e., the Names of Allāh signifying those Attributes of Allāh which have a special concern with the subject of our particular prayer, i.e., while seeking forgiveness, His Names concerning His Attributes of forgiveness and kindness should be used. On the other hand, while praying for worldly matters, we should mention His Qualities of charity and bestowing gifts etc.
‘Abdullāh bin ‘Amr (radiyallāhu’anhu) narrated that Abu Bakar As-Siddiq (radiyallāhu‘anhu) reported: I requested the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) to teach me a supplication which I could recite in my Solāt. Thereupon he said, “Recite: ‘Allāhumma inni zalamtu nafsi zulman kathira, Wa la yaghfirudz-dzunuba illa Anta, Faghfir li maghfiratan min ‘indika, warhamni , Innaka Antal-Ghafūr-ur-Rahim (O Allāh! I have considerably wronged myself. There is none to forgive the sins but You. So grant me pardon and have mercy on me. You are the Most Forgiving, the Most Compassionate).” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
‘Abdullāh bin Mas‘ud (radiyallāhu‘anhu) reported: The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to supplicate: “Allāhumma inni as ‘alukal-Huda, Wat-Tuqa, Wal-‘Afafa, Wal-Ghina (O Allāh! I beseech You for Guidance, Piety, Chastity and Contentment).” [Muslim]. This du’a contains four words, the meanings and implications of which constitute its essence. These words are guidance, piety (fear of Allāh), chastity and sufficiency. Guidance here means guidance at every turn of life and steadfastness on the path of truth. Fear of Allāh is the greatest means of piety and strongest defense against sins. Chastity is the state of being free from what is unlawful. Self-sufficiency is the antonym of poverty and here it means the self-contentment. What it implies is that one should not care for what people possess. In view of all these qualities, the prayer of the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) mentioned in this Hadith is very comprehensive and valuable.
The "Ashab-i-Kahf" (the Companions of the Cave) who took refuge in the Cave due to prosecution made this du’a to Allah: Rabbana ātina mil ladunka Rahmatañ wahaiyi’ lana amrīna rasyada (Our Lord! Bestow on us Mercy from Yourself, and Facilitate for us our affair in the Right Way!) [Al-Kahfi, 18:10]
Abu Hurayrah (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: The Allāh’s Messenger (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, "When anyone of you has done his Tashahhud during Solāh, he should seek refuge in Allāh against four things and say: "Allāhumma inni a ‘udzu bika min ‘adzābi jahannam, wa min ‘adzābil-qabr, wa min fitnatil-mahya wal-mamāt, wa min syarri fitnatil-masihid-dajjal (O Allāh! I seek refuge in You from the torment of Hell, from the torment of the grave, from the trials of life and death, and from the mischief of Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal (Antichrist).'' In ‘Aishah’s narration it adds: Allāhumma inni a ‘udzu bika min [al-kasali wal harami] wal-ma’ tham wal-maghram O Allāh! Truly I seek refuge with You from [laziness, senility,] sin and burden)”. Someone said to him (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam): “How often you seek refuge from heavy debt!” He (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “When a man gets into debt, he speak and tells lies, and he makes a promise and breaks it.” [Recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Commentary: "Trials of life'' means ordeals which one has to face in life and which can harm his Faith and body. “The trials of death'' means the troubles which one has to face before death. "Masih'' means Mumsuh-ul-‘Ain, one who is squint. Ad-Dajjal (deceiver, impostor) refers to that man with a squint who will appear before the Day of Judgement. This is why he is called Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal. He will make claim of godhood and in order to test the Faith of people, Allāh will get some supernatural works done from him. The pious ones would, however, recognize him and will save themselves from his trap. This will be a great trial indeed and one must seek refuge with Allāh from it.
‘Abdullāh Ibn Mas’ud (radiyallāhu’anhu) reported: One of the supplications of the Messenger of Allāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was:"Allāhumma inni as ‘aluka mujibati rahmatik, wa ‘aza ‘ima maghfiratika, was-salāmata min kulli ithmin, wal-ghanimata min kulli birrin, wal-fawza bil-jannati, wannajata mina-nar (O Allāh! I beg You for that which incites Your Mercy and the means of Your forgiveness, safety from every sin, the benefit from every good deed, success in attaining Jannah and deliverance from Fire)."[Al-Hakim].
Anas Ibn Mālik (radiyallāhu’anhu) who said: “The supplication most often recited by Rasūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam): Rabbana-ātina-fid-dunya hasanah, Wa fil-ākhirati-hasanah, Wa-qina-‘ādzabānnār (O Lord! Bestow upon us in this world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and save us from the punishment of the Fire).’” (Al-Baqārah 2:201) [This is recorded by Al-Bukhāri, Muslim, and Tarmidzi]. Tarmidzi (rahimullāh) said: “Hasanah is very comprehensive and includes in all kinds of good and benefits of this world and of the Hereafter. Good health, wealth and satisfaction of the world and good status in Jannah, forgiveness from sins and Allāh’s bounties and favours in both worlds are included in this duā’” [ Jāmi’ At-Tarmidzi]
Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir recorded that Umm Salamah (radiyallāhu’anha), said that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to supplicate: ‘Ya Muqallibal-qulubi, thabbit qalbi ‘ala deenik (O Controller of the hearts make my heart steadfast in Your religion).” Rasulullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) then recited: “Rabbana la tuzia’qulubana ba’ daiz hadaitana wahab Lana min laduñ karahmah; Iñnaka an tal wahhāb. (Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after Thou have guided us, and grant us mercy from Thou. Truly, Thou are the Bestower.) (Ali-‘Imran, 3:8)” [This is recorded by Muslim and At-Tirmidzi]
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[Reference: A’lam al-Sunnah al-Manshurah, 177; Nawaqid al-Iman al-Qawliyah wal-‘Amaliyah by Shaikh ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Al ‘Abdul Latif, 36-46; Dawabit al-Takfir by Shaikh ‘AbdAllāh al-Qarani, 183, 196 ; Via Islam Q&A].