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2. `Aqīdah and Kufr - part 1

Aqeedah Series12 min read

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بِسْمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحْمٰنِ ٱلرَّحٖيْمِ ٱلكَرِيْم رَبُّ ٱلعَرْشِ ٱلعَظٖيمِ، وٱلصَّلَاةُ وٱلسَّلَامُ علَى رَسُوْلِ اللّٰهِ وآلِهِ وصَحْبِهِ وأمِّةِ


ٱلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ

Table of Contents

What does it mean to be Muslim

The root for both the words Islām and Muslim are س-ل-م.

From Lane's Lexicon we can see that there are various meanings behind that root, such as:

  • salim, salāmah, salām, salm, silm = He was, or became, safe, or secure; or he escaped; or he was, or became, free; minal-āfāti [from evils of any kind] or minal-balāi [from trial, or affliction].

  • as-salāmu `alaikum = The saluting, or greeting, one with a prayer for his safety, or security, or freedom, from evils of any kind in his religion and in his person; or the saluting, or greeting, one with a prayer for his life. Note: it can also be translated as "peace be upon you".

  • ṣallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam = May Allāh bless him and save him. (or "grant him peace").

  • sallama amrahu ilā allāh, or aslāmah = To commit one's case (or matters) to Allāh.

  • sallam ad-da`wā = To acknowledge the truth.

  • make peace, or become reconciled.

  • [The assenting, or] the giving [one's] approval unreservedly, to that which is ordained, or decreed, by Allāh; and the submitting to his commands; and the abstaining from offering opposition in the case in which it is not becoming [to do so].

From this we can see that Islām is a state of being, more than just a religion or belief system. It is a Dīn, a way of life, in which one submits themself to Allāh without restraints or restrictions in all matters, and commits their case to Him accepting all that He decrees. It covers every aspect of life including, but not limited to, personal hygiene, nutrition, social interactions, animal rights, matters of law and state, etc.

Through submission, we work to achieve a state of safety and security. We also hope to escape/become-free of the evils of this life, as well as the next life - i.e. the trials in the grave, upon ressurection, and Jahannam. One who submits themselves in this way is a Muslim.

Included in that submission, is to submit to the truth when it reaches us.

In this article we will discuss

  • what rejecting matters of `Aqīdah means (all or part of it),
  • what actions and words cause us to leave the fold of Islām,
  • how Muslims should behave with and towards the Kuffār,
  • and the condition of the Kuffār before Allāh.

What does Kāfir mean

Let's take a look at the concept of Kufr, and the term Kāfir . It's thrown around a lot but I feel that many of us, including myself, don't fully grasp its meaning.

Typically, Kufr is defined as "denial" or "disbelief", and Kāfir is a "denier" or "disbeliever".

The root word for both is ك-ف-ر. According to Lane's Lexicon it holds the following connotations:

  • To cover, hide, veil, or conceal a thing. Such as ignorance covering knowledge/truth.
  • To cover, conceal, deny, or disacknowledge the favor or benefit conferred upon one.
  • To be ungrateful, unthankful, or behave ungratefully or unthankfully.
  • Disbeliever, infidel.
  • A blasphemer.

A Kāfir is one who denies and conceals the truth with ignorance, as well as denies or is ungrateful for the favors conferred upon him or her by Allāh (تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَىٰ‎), the One who dispenses favors liberally.

This means that for a person to be a kāfir, the truth must first reach them and they deny it. If the truth never reached them, they can not be called a kāfir.

Now let's look at how Kufr links to disbelief.

Ruling on rejection of `Aqīdah

We can sum up this entire section in one single line:

Anyone who rejects all, or part of, the Islāmic `aqīdah is a kāfir.

There are no exceptions to this.

Disbelieving in minor issues that have been proven definitively in the Qur’ān or Sunnah is also counted as kufr. Such as denying one or multiple Messengers, Prophets, or the Angels.

  • Belief in Allāh entails believing in the angels, the Books, the Messengers, and the Last Day.
  • Belief in the books requires one to believe in every basic principle of faith (uṣūl al-īmān). We will cover these in future posts of this series.
  • Belief in the Messengers means one believes and accepts all that they brought.

A person that believes in one principle and denies another is considered a kāfir, as Allāh said in Sūrah an-Nisa, āyāt 150 - 151 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

Surely those who deny Allah and His messengers and wish to make a distinction between Allah and His messengers, saying, “We believe in some and disbelieve in others,” desiring to forge a compromise,

they are indeed the true disbelievers. And We have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment.

  1. The Jews believed that the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) was a Messenger sent by Allāh, but they refused to accept him out of envy. They claimed he (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) was only sent for the Arabs.

    Allāh said in Sūrah al-Baqarah, āyah 101 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

    Now, when a messenger from Allah has come to them—confirming their own Scriptures—some of the People of the Book cast the Book of Allah behind their backs as if they did not know.

    From the Tafsīr by Ibn Kathīr, which you can see here:

    As-Suddi commented on, وَلَمَّا جَاءهُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ عِندِ اللّهِ مُصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَهُمْ (And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah (i.e. Muhammad) confirming what was with them),

    "When Muhammad came to them, they wanted to contradict and dispute with him using the Tawrah. However, the Tawrah and the Qur'an affirmed each other. So the Jews gave up on using the Torah, and took to the Book of Asaf, and the magic of Harut and Marut, which indeed did not conform to the Qur'an.

    Hence Allah's statement, كَأَنَّهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (As if they did not know!)."

    There are other āyah on the same/similar topic. See the tafsīr on 2:109 as an example.

  2. The Jews believe in part of their own scripture while disbelieving in other parts. On this, Allāh says in Sūrah al-Baqarah, āyah 85 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

    But here you are, killing each other and expelling some of your people from their homes, aiding one another in sin and aggression; and when those ˹expelled˺ come to you as captives, you still ransom them—though expelling them was unlawful for you. Do you believe in some of the Scripture and reject the rest? Is there any reward for those who do so among you other than disgrace in this worldly life and being subjected to the harshest punishment on the Day of Judgment? For Allah is never unaware of what you do.

    For more information on that, read the tafsīr for that āyah which can be found here.

  3. Once, some of the Polytheists asked the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) to change the Qur'ān. They wanted him (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) to include their other gods in it.

    About this, Allāh said in Sūrah Yunus, āyah 15 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

    When Our clear revelations are recited to them, those who do not expect to meet Us say ˹to the Prophet˺, “Bring us a different Quran or make some changes in it.” Say ˹to them˺, “It is not for me to change it on my own. I only follow what is revealed to me. I fear, if I were to disobey my Lord, the punishment of a tremendous Day.”

  4. The Jews once told the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) that Jibrīl (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ‎) was their enemy.

    Allāh replied in Sūrah al-Baqarah, āyāt 97 - 98 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

    Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “Whoever is an enemy of Gabriel should know that he revealed this ˹Quran˺ to your heart by Allah’s Will, confirming what came before it—a guide and good news for the believers.”

    Whoever is an enemy of Allah, His angels, His messengers, Gabriel, and Michael, then ˹let them know that˺ Allah is certainly the enemy of the disbelievers.

Actions and words which are counted as Kufr

Kufr can be "achieved":

  • through Actions in which one “worships others besides Allāh”, or
  • through Words, and this includes, but is not limited to, one uttering words which:
    • insult Allāh, The Creator (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ‎),
    • insult Islām,
    • insult the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ),
    • make fun of Islām,
    • give preference to misguided principles such as communism or Buddhism over Islām,
    • give preference to deviant religions such as Judaism or Christianity over Islām,
    • accuse Islām of being imperfect, backward, and reactionary.

We should use this information to protect ourselves from kufr and incurring Allāh's Wrath. We can not claim someone is a kāfir without sound evidence, and we should know this is not a light matter.

In Sahīh al-Bukharī, 6103, Abu Huraira (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ‎) narrated:

the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said:

"If a man says to his brother, O Kafir (disbeliever)!' Then surely one of them is such (i.e., a Kafir). "

If we see someone doing actions or speaking words which constitute kufr, we must warn them clearly leaving no room for doubt. It's possible that the truth had not reached them, in which case it is our duty as a Muslim to warn them about kufr.

Attitude towards kuffar

A Muslim should oppose the falsehood of kufr and its followers by:

  1. Speaking out against it in a clear way
  2. Calling them to Islām by
  • explaining their misguided state, and
  • showing them the truth by explaining it with clarity and confidence.

From my experience many Muslims (that I've met) know little to nothing about their Dīn. That lack of knowledge prevents us from carrying out our duties. It is very important for us to educate ourselves, and our children, on matters of Islām. That is what will decide our ultimate fate in Dunyā, and the 'Ākhirah.

A Muslim should regard the kuffār as enemies and hate them because of their kufr, just as he hates their kufr itself.

Allāh says in Sūrah al-Ahzab, āyah 21 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often.

The Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) would never become angry at a person over worldly matters.

In Riyad as-Salihīn 644, it is reported by Anas (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ‎):

I was walking with the Messenger of Allah (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) who was wearing a Najrani cloak with a very thick border when a bedouin happened to meet him. He took hold of the side of his cloak and drew it violently. I noticed that the violence of the jerk had bruised the neck of Messenger of Allah (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ). The bedouin said: "O Muhammad! Give me out of Allah's wealth that you possess." Messenger of Allah (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) turned to him and smiled and directed that he should be given something.

There is another incident involving Zayd ibn Sana (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ‎) before becoming a Muslim. He was a Jewish Scholar. The story can be found online easily by searching "story of zayd bin sana" or something similar.

The main point, required for our purposes, is that Zayd ibn Sana (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ‎) claimed one sign of prophethood was:

his forbearance would precede his rashness, and that his forbearance would increase upon encountering excessive rashness.

Forbearance is patient self-control, restraint and tolerance. It is controlling one's self when you are in a position to harm the one who wronged you. Rashness means to be careless or unwise, to act without thinking. When encountering excessive rashness from others, the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) displayed increasing forbearance.

Furthermore, the Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) would become angry when it came to matters of the Dīn. This includes people insulting Allāh, or speaking about Allāh or Islām without knowledge such as in these cases:

Someone once told me the following:

Anger is a sign of Imān. Controlling ones-self in that anger is acting upon Imān.

We must remember that if we are on the right path, it is because of Allāh’s Mercy. If we are saved from the Fire, it is because Allāh (تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَىٰ‎) chose to save us. So if we have certain faith in the 'Ākhira, why would we want anyone to enter the Fire? That is why we must call the non-Muslims to the light of Islām, and warn others about kufr. Whether they accept or not is up to Allāh (عَزَّ وَجَلَّ). He said in Sūrah al-Qasas, āyah 56 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

You surely cannot guide whoever you like ˹O Prophet˺, but it is Allah Who guides whoever He wills, and He knows best who are ˹fit to be˺ guided.

We are not allowed to harm the kuffār without reason, and the way we oppose them is with our words and our actions.

There are also rulings (fatāwa) about the kuffār explained in the books of Islāmic Jurisprudence. Some of them are:

  1. Not letting the kuffār marry Muslim women, and consequently, not letting Muslim women marry the kuffār
  2. We do not marry any of their women except from the people of the book, with certain requirements of course. Dr. Zakir Naik explains this in more detail in one video - Is it Permissible for a Muslim Man to Marry a Christian Women even if she Believes Jesus (p) is God?
  3. We do not wash their dead
  4. We do not make du’ā to Allāh for their forgiveness after they have died

The Kāfir before Allāh

From my understanding, we can divide the non-Muslims into two categories:

  1. Those who rejected Islām after hearing about it
  2. Those who did not hear of Islām for whatever reason
Those who rejected Islām after hearing about it

Any person that hears of Islām and knowingly rejects it is a kāfir who will abide in Jahannam forever. They will not have any excuse on the Day of Judgement.

Allāh says in Sūrah al-Mulk, āyah 6 - 9 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

Those who disbelieve in their Lord will suffer the punishment of Hell. What an evil destination!

When they are tossed into it, they will hear its roaring as it boils over,

almost bursting in fury. Every time a group is cast into it, its keepers will ask them, “Did a warner not come to you?”

They will reply, “Yes, a warner did come to us, but we denied and said, ‘Allah has revealed nothing. You are extremely astray.’”

There are people who received a corrupted version of Islām, given to them by liars, such that it turned them away from it. By corrupted version, and later "corrupt information", I'm referring to what is incorrect. Something based entirely on opinion without any actual knowledge. Or, in some cases, lies made by one regardless of whether they know or do not know about Islām. My opinion on it, after giving it some thought, is:

  • For some, what they heard caused them to research Islām seeking the truth.
    • Some would have found correct and sound information. Of them, there are those who become Muslim, and others who did not. I believe those that do not accept Islām from these fall under the first category.
    • Some may have kept finding corrupt information that turned them away from Islām, no matter where they looked. I believe they will be included in the second category.
  • Others may believe what they heard blindly without research. It could be they never even tried - due to their arrogance or whatever other reason. I believe this is their own fault. They, most likely, will answer for their ignorance and unwillingness to seek the truth. We can apply to them what Allāh says in Sūrah al-Anfāl, āyah 22 [Dr. Mustafa Khattab]:

    Indeed, the worst of all beings in the sight of Allah are the ˹wilfully˺ deaf and dumb, who do not understand.

Allāh knows best.

Those who did not hear of Islām for whatever reason

For this group, Dr. Umar al-Ashqar says:

(they) will not be punished on the Day of Resurrection until they have been tried and tested, because the proof did not reach them. Allāh the Almighty, says:

Whoever chooses to be guided, it is only for their own good. And whoever chooses to stray, it is only to their own loss. No soul burdened with sin will bear the burden of another. And We would never punish ˹a people˺ until We have sent a messenger ˹to warn them˺.

The āyah provided is from Sūrah al-Isrā, āyah 15. I quoted the interpretation of the meaning by Dr. Mustafa Khattab.

Further, Dr. Umar al-Ashqar provides the evidence that they will be tested in the akhira from Musnad Aḥmad 15866

Al-Aswad ibn Sari’ reported: The Prophet (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) said, “There are four kinds of people on the Day of Resurrection: a deaf man who cannot hear anything, a mad man, a senile man, and a man who died in the period before Islam. The deaf man will say: O Lord, Islam came and I could not hear anything. The mad man will say: O Lord, Islam came and the children threw filth at me. The senile man will say: O Lord, Islam came and I could not understand anything. The man who died before Islam will say: O Lord, there was no messenger from you who came to me. Allah will make them promise to obey Him. Then, he will command them to enter the fire. By the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, if they enter the fire, it will become cool and peaceful.”

You can read more on that hadīth on Islamqa.


Muslims must submit to the truth when it reaches them. Failure to do so would be disbelief after believing. Also, we can not call a person a kāfir until the evidence has been brought to them and the matter has been made clear.

Imām Muḥammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhāb (رَحْمَةُ الله عليه), once said:

My opponents claim that I declare people to be disbelievers on grounds of mere suspicion, that I declare to be disbelievers all who oppose me, and that I declare the ignoramus upon whom the evidence has not been established a disbeliever. These are all odious lies by which they mean to make people averse to the religion of Allāh and His Messenger. [Ibn `Abdul-Wahhāb, Mu'allafāt, vol. 5, pg. 25]

As we saw earlier, a kāfir is one who denies and conceals the truth with ignorance. So how can a person who has never heard the truth be a kāfir? Subḥanallāh, it took me such a long time to learn and understand this point.

It is Sunnah to do da'wah, and we can not spread Islām if we do not know about it. Even so, we Muslims must learn about our Deen so we can perfect our worship. In this way we work to better every action we take in our lives, thus maximizing our rewards in the 'Ākhirah. As knowledge reaches us, we must submit to it for that is what it means to be Muslim.

We must be careful in our words and the actions we take in order to avoid the pitfalls of ash-Shaytān ir-rajīm (the accursed). We must seek refuge with, and the forgiveness of, Allāh (عَزَّ وَجَلَّ) from carrying out acts of kufr and shirk knowingly and unknowingly.

We must be firm with the kuffār and hate them as much as we hate their kufr. There are those who work relentlessly to ease this hatred of Muslims towards kuffār and kufr. The consequence of this, if the Muslims allow it to overtake them, is we lose the anger for kufr in our hearts and, consequently, lose our 'Imān.

If we are not careful, and ignorantly take these matters lightly, then we will find ourselves standing helplessly before Allāh (عَزَّ وَجَلَّ), on a Day in which no one can help us or intercede on our behalf except whom Allāh (تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَىٰ‎) allows.

In part 2 of `Aqīdah and Kufr we will cover:

  • Neglecting obligatory duties,
  • Committing prohibited actions,
  • How the salaf dealt with those who commit major sins
  • The Khawārij who call people kāfir because of their sins and the details of it

It is my hope that Allāh (تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَىٰ‎) increases my understanding of His Deen, and that the information provided above helps my Muslim brothers and sisters to maximize their rewards in the next life, and that this work be accepted by Allāh (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ‎) as `ibādah, such that I seek the reward from Him and Him alone.

Anything good that I have said is from Allāh (عَزَّ وَجَلَّ), and any mistakes that I have made are from me and I hope that Allāh will forgive me for them.


This is part of a series, see the other posts here

Read the next post here