Definition & Kinds of Kufr

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted and adapted “From the Gardens of Tafsir” of Shaykh al Islam, Shaykh Ibrahim Niyas (q.s.).

“Kufr linguistically means concealment and covering.  In the terminology of the shariʿah of Islam, it means, to deny that which has been confirmed through the coming of Prophet (s.a.w.) and the knowledge of which is obvious.  The kafir in the Qur'an is of four types:

The first type of kafir is the one opposed to the believers:

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Those who reject Allah and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah ― their deeds will Allah Render astray (from their mark). (Surah Muhammad:1)

The second type of kafir is the one who denies:

In it are signs manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah ― those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith; Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:97)

The meaning referring to the one who denies the obligatory status of hajj.

The third type of kafir is the one who is ungrateful:

Then do ye remember Me; I will Remember you.  Be grateful to Me and reject not faith. (Surah al-Baqarah:152)

The fourth type of kafir signifies the one who dissociates himself.

And he said, “For you, ye have taken (for worship) idols besides Allah, out of mutual love and regard between yourselves in this life; but on the Day of Judgement ye shall disown each other and curse each other: and your abode will be the Fire, and ye shall have none to help.” (Surah al-‘Ankabut:25)

This meaning they will dissociate themselves with each other, while in the world they used to associate among themselves for certain qualities and attributes.

Kufr itself is of different types.  The first type of kufr is of the one who nevertheless recognises.  This is the one who recognises the Existence of Allah (s.w.t.) but disbelieves in Him through his tongue, such as Iblis and as the kufr of the Jews:

And when there comes to them a Book from Allah, confirming what is with them. ― although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without faith ― when there comes to them that which they (should) have recognised, they refuse to believe in it; but the Curse of Allah is on those without faith. (Surah al-Baqarah:89)

The second type of kufr is the one who completely negates Allah (s.w.t.) as al-Bari, the Creator of Order.  This is the one who does not recognise His Existence; this is the case for most of the disbelievers.

The third type of kufr is of the individual who knows the Truthful One but does not utter that recognition and does not adopt the truth as his religion.  According to some Muslims, this is what happened to Abu Thalib (r.a.), the uncle of the Prophet (s.a.w.) who said, “I have indeed known that Muhammad’s religion is a religion from among the best of people’s religions.”  He mentioned this with his tongue and believed it with his heart. It is debated, however, whether he did or did not adopt Islam as a religion.

The fourth type of kufr is that of hypocrisy, nifaq.  This is the one who testifies with his tongue but denies with his heart.

Kufr, as we have previously mentioned, is to deny that which has been confirmed as being brought by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and the knowledge of which is obvious; that is, the Oneness, Tawhid, of Allah (s.w.t.), the establishment of the prayers, the fasting of Ramadhan, the obligation of zakat on wealth, hajj, and resurrection.  This includes everything that the arrival of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) has confirmed in an obvious manner; to then deny such a thing amounts to disbelief.  One who denies matters about which it cannot be easily known that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) came with them without pondering and thoroughness, is not guilty of disbelief.


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