by Abdullah Jibrit Oyekan
Praise be to Allah, the All-Seeing, the All-Knowing, and may His
bounties and bliss be on His Messenger, the Imam of the Prophets,
the Leader of Mankind, Muhammad. We extol the praise of Allah, and
seek His protection from error.
The eminent Muslim scholar Professor Abu-l Hasan 'Ali Nadwi has
recently drawn attention to the dangers of accommodating apostasy
(riddah) in his pamphlet 'The New Menace and its Answer'*. Many
renegades, disbelievers, and hypocrites are nowadays finding sanctuary
in the readiness of many Muslims to accommodate them. This willingness
is usually based on a naive, or even gullible, Acceptance of their
false claims to the shahadah i.e. the testimony to believe in Allah
as the only One worthy of worship and Muhammad, on whom be peace
and the blessings of Allah, as His servant and Messenger), despite
the fact that their conduct and their actions make a travesty of
it. Here I seek to examine the reasons that underlie this unmindfullness,
expose their falsity and danger, and show that the toleration of-or
connivance in-kufr (disbelief, or conscious denial) is itself kufr.
Let me say at the outset, to avoid any misunderstanding, that
the words that follow are not relevant to those who are merely ignorant
of Islam or aspects of the Shari'ah (the Qur'an and Sunnah). I speak
here of those who have knowledge and have affirmed their faith in
Islam at a particular time, and whose later actions flout, indeed
condemn, Islamic beliefs and laws.
The Nature of Kufr
Kufr is a state of being that is definite; but it may be defined
only by Allah and His Messenger, Muhammad (on whom be peace and
His bounties). whom He inspired. There are, in fact, numerous reverences
in the Qur'an and Ahaadiith (the statements of the Messenger, peace
and blessings be upon him) to what constitutes Kufr.
Kufr, in general, refers to a standpoint vis-a-vis Islam: that
which is in anyway different from the complete acceptance and compliance
with all that was affirmed and made obligatory through the Qur'an
and the Prophet of Allah (bounties and peace be upon him). Hence
to deny, reject, add to, subtract from or modify in any way at all,
or live differently from all or part of these affirmations and obligations
It is the antithesis of Islam, which is a condition of unqualified
submission to the will of Allah. As a result of this definition
of kufr, any act of disobedience to Allah takes the one guilty of
it out of the fold of Islam into that of kufr for the duration of
its commission. This is borne out by a saying (hadith) of the Messenger
of Allah (bounties and peace be upon him).
"When one commits fornication, he is not a believer; when one
steals, he is not a believer; when one drinks wine, he is not a
believer; when one takes plunder on account of which men raise their
eyes at him, he is not a believer. So beware ! Beware!" (Bukhari
Another hadith clarifies the issue further:
"When a servant of Allah commits fornication, faith departs
from him and there is something like an awning over his head; but
when he quits the act, faith returns to him." (Tirmidhi and Abu
These statements derive logically from the definition of Islam
as absolute submission to the Command of Allah, Most High. The sinner
while he commits a sin is defying some order of Allah, and thereby
failing to conform to this definition of Islam; he therefore lapses
into kufr. The same applies to one who deliberately omits to perform
a salah (prayer) at its proper time. To do that was described by
the Prophet of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) as to "abandon
the protection of Allah".
Depending whether the guilty person repents and amends his conduct
or persists in his sins, kufr can be temporary or confirmed. Acts
of disobedience resulting from the weaknesses of the soul would
constitute only temporary kufr. Whoever is guilty of them cannot
be labelled a kafir (disbeliever) by reason of them alone. The Messenger
of Allah, on whom be peace and the bounties of Allah, stipulated
this when he said.
"Three matters pertain to the root of faith; no molestation
of one who maintains that there is no god but Allah, neither declaring
him an infidel because of a sin, nor excommunicating him from Islam
because of an action; jihad continues from the time Allah sent me
till the last of this people fights with the dajjal, being annulled
neither by the tyranny of a despotic ruler nor the justice of a
just one; and belief in Allah's decrees". (Abu Dawud)
The habitual sinner, who persistently flouts the injunctions of
Allah, and shows no contrition about his actions can only have undergone
a fundamental change of attitude as regards the Divinity of Allah.
His conduct betrays a rejection or denial of Allah's Divinity, and
he is a confirmed kafir.
The Kufr of condoning Kufr
Let us by way of example consider two conditions pertaining to
kufr, one in the Qur'an and the other from the Ahaadith. Allah Most
High says in Suratu-l Ma'idah
"Wa man lam yahkum bimaa anzala Alluha fa'ulaa'ika humu-l
"And whoso does not rule by what Allah has sent down, those are
Now suppose there exists a ruler who permits interest, legalises
prostitution, runs a State brewery, forbids polygamy, restricts
people in performing hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and does not ensure
that the wealth of the State is fairly distributed among his subjects.
Very clearly such an individual, by each one of these actions is
not ruling in accordance with what Allah has sent down. Indeed,
he is ruling in direct opposition to Allah's commands and bidding.
Therefore, according to the above ayah (verse) he is a kafir, no
matter how loudly he proclaims his loyalty to Islam, or how widely
publicised are his visits to mosques. If anyone fails to denounce
such a ruler as a kafir, it follows that such a person himself does
not accept the truth of the above Qur'anic statement. He also therefore,
becomes a kafir for failing to affirm the truth of the Qur'an.
By reason of this Qur'anic verse, all the heads of state of all
the countries of the world today (1971), including the Muslim countries,
are Kufar (disbelievers). They, as well as all others who freely
associate with them, aiding and abetting them in ruling contrary
to what Allah has directed, and those who fail to denounce them
as such (i.e. kufar) are all "disbelievers" "oppressors" (dzaalimoon),
and "debauched" (fasiqoon). Because, as Allah says,
man yashfa' shafaa'atan hasanatan yakun lahu nasiibun minhaa,
wa man yashfa' shafaa'alan saiyi'alan yakun lahu kiflun minhaa,
Wa kaanaliahu 'ala kulli sha'in'muqiita. "who ever pleads a good
intercession, has a dividend from it, and whoever pleads a bad intercession,
has a liability from it. And Allah nourishes everything."(4:85)
The above verses of the Qur'an do not concern those in positions
of public authority alone. They refer to all men in all categories
of life. Anyone who gives a decision or opinion, on any issue, which
is not in accord with what Allah has sent down, joins the ranks
of the kufar, Certainly, the man who submits humbly to His Lord,
gladly accepts servitude to Him, and regards His as
"the only Guidance"2:120
will not venture to tackle any problem without reference to this
Hence it was, that once the noble Companions of the Prophet of
Allah (may Allah be pleased with them all) accepted Islam, they
were constantly questioning their pre- Islamic practices to ensure
their conformity with the will of Allah, and were always seeking
His direction through His wise Messenger, peace and blessings be
upon him. This fact is attested to by the many verses of the Qur'an
"They ask you concerning.....".
And whenever the instructions came from Allah Most High, they
complied with them without the slightest reservation or hesitation.
And so He blessed them with an achievement such that no other community
has ever attained; and in the Hereafter they will be among the foremost
of the triumphant. Thus does Allah reward those who sincerely follow
The Prophet of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said
"What lies between us and them is salah. So if anyone abandons
it, he has become a kafir." (Tirmidhi and Ahmad).
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, has indeed
spoken true. Salah brings a believer into communication with his
Lord. Anyone who abandons it is no longer on 'speaking terms' with
this Creator: can such person still claim to be His faithful servant?
Yet there are many souls who have given up facing the qiblah (direction
of Mecca) in prostration (sujud), who still claim to be Muslims
and are given every welcome by Muslims!.
The failure to brand these renegades as Kufar is itself kufr.
The Noble Messenger, on whom be peace and bounties of Allah, proclaimed
a clear criterion in the above statement. Whoever fails to employ
this criterion fails to affirm his prophethood and himself becomes
Why Kufr is condoned
There exists among some Muslims a certain fear to brand anyone
who clairns belief in Islam a kafir, no matter how contrary to Islam
is the way he lives. This fear is based on these words of the Prophet
of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him:
"If anyone calls his brother an infidel, one of them is guilty
of infidelity."(Bukhari and Muslim)
The meaning of this hadith is that if the accusation is true,
the accused is indeed a kafir; but if false, the accuser himself
is the kafir. Thus, these Muslims for fear of making a wrong judgement
refuse to denounce the worst evil-liver a kafir, because of his
hypocritical attestation of shahaadah. Such an attitude is erroneous
and very dangerous, for two reasons.
Firstly, the fact that Allah has established some criteria on
the question of kufr, means that He wants these to be applied. Anyone
who fails to apply them fails to judge by what Allah has revealed
and becomes a kafir.
Secondly, the Qur'an has affirmed in very many places the existence
of those who claim belief in Allah but are in fact not believerS.7
In the classification of mankind in the early part of Suratu-l Baqarah,
most of the ayat concern such hypocrites. Even a Surah is entitled
"The Hypocrites" (al Munafiqoon). Elsewhere in the Qur'an, Allah
describes the hypocrite as a "mischief-makers". Is Allah likely
to leave a mischief maker alone to wreak havoc amidst His faithful
servants? That cannot be.
ya ayyuha-n nabiyu jaahidi-l kuffaara wa-l munaafiqiina wa-ghludz
'alayhim wa maa'waahum jahannamu wa bi'sa-l masir "0 Prophet, struggle
hard against the disbeliever 's and the hypocrites, and be harsh
with them, and their place of refuge is Hell (Jahannam) and a miserable
The Noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, complied fully
with this command and even had some hypocrites forcibly ejected
from his mosque at Medina.** Therefore it is well established in
the Qur'an and the Sunnah that men will exist who will proclaim
faith but in whose hearts is a "disease", i.e. kufr. They are to
be sought out and dealt with harshly. No saying of the Messenger
of Allah, peace be upon him, can be interpreted as implying a necessity
to keep dumb about hypocrisy and kufr.
Only the most violent misinterpretation of the last quoted hadith
could attribute such a meaning to it. The ayah of the Qur'an,
"And whoso does not rule by what Allah has sent down, those
are the disbelievers"
shows us the meaning of the hadith. If anyone, applying the criteria
of Allah and following His admonition to cautious judgement, It
concludes that a certain person is a kafir, then his conclusion
is right. If however, the conclusion is based on arbitrary criteria
and hasty judgement, he who draws the conclusion has not judged
by what Allah has sent down, and hence is a kafir himself.
The hadith indeed warns about the seriousness of an accusation
of kufr. It serves to impose restraint and caution before levelling
charges of kufr against anyone, for it is too grave an accusation
to be loosely bandied about. However, the Prophet (may Allah grant
him the abode of praise), never forbade the impeachment of people
on charges of kufr.
He would be a fool who saw a stranger enter his house and begin
to carry away his property and then said to himself: I have been
warned about the seriousness of wrongly accusing a man of theft,
so it is better to do nothing about him, and leave it to Allah to
deal with him. Caution is one thing; stupidity another.
What is even more disturbing is that the kafir is sometimes honoured
at the expense of the Muslim, by "Muslims"! An example here will
illustrate what I mean. It happened once that a group of us, supposed
to be all Muslims, were together in a room. It was sunset and while
some were making preparations for the Salaatu-l Maghrib, the rest
were engaged in conversation. These remainder-all men-were not going
to pray. The shock came when it was suggested by one of those wanting
to pray, that we should go to another room because the other "Muslims"
wanted to talk! Thus it was not the kufar who should clear out of
the room with their kufr, but the dutiful who had to follow their
desires and suffer the inconvenience of moving elsewhere, He who
starts to respect and honour kufr has started on the road out of
Islam: he has started setting fire to his house of Iman (faith).
Besides this, there are other occasions when the kafir is allowed
to get off with even making fun of the Islamic practices like, for
example, describing Hajj as "boosting Saudi Arabia's tourist industry".
Yet there are people who claim to be Muslims, who listen to these
accursed creatures, whose reaction is only a silly, inane grin!
How is kufr to be treated ?
The choice is very plain. One is either on good terms' with Allah
and His faithful servants, or on good terms with kufr and the jahiliyah
(the perverted ignorance of un-lslam). The division is clear-cut
and cannot be blurred or smudged: Islam and kufr, like light and
darkness, cannot co-exist in the same place or in the same heart.
They are alternatives to one another. It is impossible to love Allah
and at the same time honour kufr, and love the shayatin.
Ya ayuha-1 adhina aamanou! Laa tatakhidhou-l dhina-t takhidhou
diinakum huzwan wa la'iban mini-l adhiina outou-l kilaaba min qablikum
wa-1 kuffaara awliyaa'. Wa-ttaqu-llaaha in kuntum mou'miniin.
"0 those who believe! Do not take those who take your way-of-life
as an object of ridicule and a game-of those who received the Book
before you and the kuffar-as mentors. And fear Allah if you are
lnnama, waliyukunu-llaahu wa Rasouluhu wa-l adhiina aamanou-l
adhiina yuqiimouna-s salaata wa you'touna-z zakaata wa hum raaki'oun.
Wa man yatawalla-llaaha wa Rasoulahu wa-l adhiina aamanou, fa'inna
Hizba-llaahi humu-l ghaaliboun.
"On the contrary; your mentor is Allah, and His Messenger, and those
who believe: those who establish salah and give the purifying-due
(zakah) and bow them down. And whoever turns to Allah and His Messenger
and those who believe, because it is the party of Allah they are
The Qur'anic injunction is very clear about how the renegades
and disbelievers are to be treated:
Muhammadun Resoulu-llaahi, wa-ladhiina ma'ahu ashidda'u 'ala-l
kuffaari, ruhama'u baynahum.
"Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are severe
towards the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves"(48:29)
Ya aiyuha-l adhina aamanou l Man yariadda minkum'an Diinihi,
fasawfa yaali-llaahu biqawmin yuhibbuhum wa yuhibbounahu, adhillatin'ala-l
mou'minina, a'izzatin 'ala-1 kafirina, yujaahi- douna fi sabiii-llaahi,
wa laa yakhaafouna lawmata laa'imin .. .
"0 those who believe! Whoever of you deserts from his way-of-life,
Allah will bring a people He loves and who love Him, humble towards
the believers, disdainful towards the disbelievers, struggling hard
in the path of Allah, and not afraid of a reproach from an accuser.
This policy is very necessary because the kuffar are working relentlessly
always in all ages to undermine the faith of the Muslims.(2:109)(3:149)
The 'open arms' approach towards any claimant to the shahadah, without
reference to how well their conduct and practices conform with their
claims, betrays a lack of prudence and good sense. Islam has never
been without enemies.
Today, these enemies are more numerous, much better organised,
possess far greater resources than at any time in the history of
this faith. Social institutions exist, all over the world, of "Oriental
Studies", "Near and Middle Eastern Studies", and so on, where Orientalists
are toiling tirelessly to undermine Islam. Therefore anyone with
a modicum of wisdom will expect that attempts will be made by these
enemies of Allah to infiltrate our ranks either openly or through
stooges and brainwashed pupils. Indeed there are very recent experiences
which any but the totally senseless cannot fail to notice.
The advent of the Qadianis (Ahmaddiyah), the Baha'is, the 'pupil
Orientalists', Freemasons, Lions Clubs, Moral Rearmament, etc.,
should have shown us time and time again that our security demands
vigilance and prudence at all times.
said the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him),
"is not bitten from the same hole twice." (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Need of Mutual Correction
The softness towards disbelievers and the reluctance to arrest
kufr are, in part, the serious emanations of a deep-rooted malaise
that has assumed an epidemic scale amongst present- day Muslims.
The malaise is a disinclination to the correction of errors in one
another. This in turn leads to a toleration of these errors, and
the result is a general fall in standards, as these errors spread.
Once little errors are being tolerated, more serious ones like kufr
begin to find accommodation.
A few bad oranges not isolated and destroyed will cause the rotting
of millions of good ones. The excuses usually given are fear of
embarrassment and lack of familiarity. These, of course, are very
flimsy and are invalid. The Qur'an states that the believers are
the protectors of one another, that is, they protect one another
from slipping into error. The Prophet of Allah, peace and blessings
be upon him, also said,
"The believer is a mirror for his brother"
i.e. through whom he learns of his faults and defects).
A fact that every Muslim must accept is that he must take correction
with a good disposition; and that to mention a brother's fault to
him is a duty that every Muslim should fulfil in the most amiable
manner possible. Amiability is most necessary in discharging this
duty in order not to provoke the 'izzatu-l ithm (the powerful backlash
Without this exercise of mutual correction, standards slowly slide
down- wards with increasing acceleration, and soon the forces of
Shaytaan reign supreme in the community. It is this lowering of
standards that brings about the toleration of hypocrites and infidels
on the excuse of their mere claims to the shahadah. Tyrants now
rule over us for this reason. How can one who is too scared to mention
his brother's fault to him ever find the courage to stand up to
The Prophet of Allah, bounties and peace be upon him outlined for
us what our attitude towards evil deeds (munkar) should be. It is,
that if anyone sees evil being committed he should stop it by force.
If he cannot do that, then he should try to stop it by his tongue,
(that is, by words, soft or harsh). If he still cannot manage that,
then at least he should hate the thing in his heart, which is, said
the Prophet (peace be upon him), the least of faith.
What is happening today is that those who do not perform salaah
are not even disliked for it, those who have illicit relationships
with women are not blamed, and bad practices like shaking hands
with women have become conventional and trivialised! And yet people
wonder that all is not well with the Muslims.
Allah, Almighty, has spoken true; His Messenger, Muhammad (peace
and bounties be upon him), has also spoken true. If we do not testify
to these truths with our words and deeds, especially deeds, then
"all the voyage(s) of our lives are bound in shallows and in miseries."***
But if we patiently persevere in upholding the standards of Islam
in the face of all opposition, Allah will bless us with the reward
of this world and the grand reward of the Hereafter. The choice
In the end, it is to be hoped that it is now plain that failure
to denounce kufr constitutes kufr, and that the accommodation of
kufr dangerously exposes the community to enemy attacks from within
by a malignant fifth column. We should be extremely cautious, as
Allah commands, before denouncing anyone as a afir, and make sure
that our decision accords with the criterion delineated by Allah
Most High, and His Messenger (on whom be His peace and bounties):
our individual likes and dislikes or emotions should have no role
in the exercising of our judgement. Once our minds are thus made
up, the kafir or munafiq (hypocrite) must be denounced. His loss
cannot but bring good for the cause of Allah. We should take care
to see that evil is not allowed any room in our midst. Any wrong
seen in a fellow Muslim must be mentioned to him amicably with a
view towards correction and not denunciation.
Harshness should be reserved for the kufar, who must be exposed
with all vigour. Allah is not concerned with how numerous are those
who proclaim the shahadah, but with how well our lives accord with
A story about al-Sayfuilah (the Sword of Allah) Khalid bin al-Walid,
the well-known and most accomplished Muslim General, may Allah be
pleased with him, is most informative. His genius has always been
celebrated by Muslims after him, but the source of this genius is
revealed in this incident.
Once Khalid was commanding a Muslim force that was storming a fortified
enemy position. Experience told Khalid that it should be one or two
hours only before the enemy surrendered; but the engagement dragged
on for many hours without a decision- a fact which surprised Khalid.
Like the true believer he was, Khalid disengaged his troops and addressed
Brothers, there must be something wrong with us for which Allah is
denying us victory. So let us try to find out what it is-or words
to that effect.
An investigation was conducted, starting with the essential duties
of a Muslim. It was not long before it was discovered that a handful
of the troops had been negligent about the early morning worship,
Salaatu-l Fajr, that day. The Commander told them to withdraw from
the Combat Zone, and continued the battle with the remainder of the
troops. Allah granted them victory in no time.
Now, Khalid did not explain away the earlier difficult situation
by attributing the enemy's superiority to "waves of enemy planes
expected from the East coming from the West," or some sophisticated
weapon-systems that the enemy had acquired from some "big power".
He sought reasons for the Muslims' plight by examining if all was
well between them and their Lord. Thus, it is not quantity that
matters. What finds favour with Allah is our quality as His faithful
servants, and this it is that causes Him to grant us victory. Whatever
may be our deficiencies in numbers in facing our enemies, they will
be made up by thousands of angels, is if we are sincere and persevering.(3:124-5)
Perhaps this was why Khalid was such a successful campaigner.
The caravan of Islam must not be burdened with many useless creatures
who subscribe only hypocritically to our cause, and who serve as
a fifth-column through which Shaytaan enters the caravanserai to
the midst of the genuine travellers. These liabilities and impediments
must be jettisoned, so that the caravan can proceed speedily on
its course, and to whatever destination Allah, Almighty, has willed
Pray to Allah(swt) to keep kufr from us, and us from kufr. May
He illuminate the domain of our souls with the brightness of Iman,
and may He enable our bodies to persevere in His Path with the power
of His guidance. May He grant us victory over the disbelievers.
Praise be to Allah at the end as at the beginning.
Brother Jibril Oyekan left London to return home to Nigeria in
April, 1971, after being awarded the degree of Ph.D in Chemical
Engineering from the University of London. Brother Jibril had been
chairman of the Editorial board of THE MUSLIM since 1966.
* Published by Nadwatuil 'Ulama, Lucknow-7, India. Also an abridgement
of this In The Muslim Vol. 5 No. 2, November 1967, pp. 28-31
** ibn Hisham, Siratu-n Nabi, section 362.
*** Brutus in Julius Caesar
March - April 1971