Discussing ISIL's Takfir Doctrine

By Shari'ah Staff
Monday, 23 February 2015 00:00
Source: OnIslam.net

Editor's Note: One of the major and most serious errors that mark the thinking and behavior of the so called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is their rushing to declare other Muslims (especially their opponents) as non-Muslims. This leads to grave consequences such as dealing lightly with such important issues like violating sanctity of people's lives; innocent Muslims are killed as a result without any proper proceedings or valid justification.

The following refutation of ISIL's ideology in this regard is part of a lengthy and detailed letter signed by over 100 of scholars, intellectuals and preachers to the leader of ISIL, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, discussing and responding to ISIL's misconceptions and wrong deeds.

Declaring People Non-Muslim (takfir):


Some misunderstandings about takfir are a result of the exaggeration of some Salafi scholars in

matters of takfir (declaring people non-Muslim), and in their exceeding of what Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim have said in many important aspects. In brief, takfir can be summarised correctly as follows:

a. Quintessentially in Islam, anyone who says: 'There is no god but God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God' is a Muslim and cannot be declared a non-Muslim. God says:

{O you who believe, when you are going forth in the way of God, be discriminating and do not say to him who offers you peace: 'You are not a believer, desiring the transient goods of the life of this world. With God are plenteous spoils. So you were formerly, but God has been gracious to you. So be discriminating. Surely God is ever Aware of what you do.} (An-Nisa', 4: 94).

The meaning of 'be discriminating' in the above verse is to ask them: 'Are you Muslims?' The answer is to be taken at face-value without questioning or testing their faith. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad said:

"Woe to you! Look! After I die, do no return to being non-believers, striking each other's necks."[1]

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said:

"... so whoever says: 'There is no god but God' saves himself and his wealth except as permitted by law, and his reckoning is with God."[2]

Ibn Omar and the Lady Aisha also said: "Declaring the people of the Qiblah as non-Muslim is not permissible."[3]

b. This issue is of the utmost importance because it is used to justify the spilling of Muslim blood, violating their sanctity, and usurping their wealth and rights. God Almighty says:

{And whoever slays a believer deliberately, his requital is Hell, abiding therein, and God is wroth with him and has cursed him, and has prepared for him a mighty chastisement.} (Al-Nisa', 4: 93).

Moreover, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Whoever says to his brother “O disbeliever", it will certainly be true of one of them."[4]

God Almighty has warned, in the strongest terms, against killing anyone who verbally declares his Islam:

{... And so if they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, then God does not allow you any way against them.} (Al-Nisa', 4: 90).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) warned against accusing people of polytheism and of taking up the sword against them; he said:

"The person I fear for you the most is the man who has read the Qur'an ... cast it off and thrown it behind him, and taken up the sword against his neighbour and accused him of polytheism"[5].

It is not permissible to kill any Muslim, (nor indeed any human being), who is unarmed and a non-combatant. Usamah Ibn Zayd narrated that, after he killed a man who had said: 'There is no god but God', 'the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked: "He said: 'There is no god but God' and you killed him?!" I replied: "O Messenger of God, he only said it out of fear of [our] arms." He said: "Did you see inside his heart to know whether or not he meant it?"[6] '

Recently, Shaker Wahib-who was affiliated with what was known at the time as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)-appeared in a YouTube video where he stopped unarmed civilians who said they were Muslims. He then proceeded to ask them the number of prostrations (rak`ahs) in specific prayers. When they answered incorrectly, he killed them.[7] This is absolutely forbidden under Islamic Law and is a heinous crime.

c. Peoples' deeds are tied to the intent behind those deeds. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Actions are but by intention, and every person will have what they intended..."[8]

Furthermore, God Almighty says:

{When the hypocrites come to you they say: 'We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of God'. And God knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and God bears witness that the hypocrites truly are liars.} (Al-Munafiqun, 63: 1).

God Almighty thus describes the words of the hypocrites regarding the Prophet's message-an indisputable fact-as lies, because their intention when saying it was to lie even though it is true in itself. It is a lie because they uttered with their tongues a truth that God Almighty knows their hearts reject. This means that disbelief requires the intention of disbelief, and not just absentminded words or deeds. It is not permissible to accuse anyone of disbelief without proof of the intention of disbelief. Nor is it permissible to accuse anyone of being a non-Muslim without ascertaining that intention. It is, after all, possible that the person was coerced, ignorant, insane or did not mean it. It is also possible that he misunderstood a particular issue. God Almighty says:

{Whoever disbelieves in God after [having affirmed] his faith-except for him who is compelled, while his heart is at rest in faith-but he who opens up his breast to unbelief, upon such shall be wrath from God, and there is a great chastisement for them.} (Al-Nahl, 16: 106).

It is forbidden to interpret the implications of a person's deeds; only the person himself or herself may interpret their own deeds-particularly when there is a difference of opinion among Muslims regarding that particular deed. It is also forbidden to declare others non-Muslim (takfir) based on any matter in which there is a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars.

It is forbidden to declare an entire group of people non-Muslim. Disbelief applies only to individuals depending on their deeds and intentions. God Almighty says: {No laden soul will bear another's load.} (Az-Zumar, 39: 7).

Finally, it is forbidden to declare people who do not doubt the disbelief of others, or refuse to declare them non-Muslim, as non-Muslim.

The reason this point has been discussed in such detail is because you distributed the books of Muhammad bin Abdel-Wahhab as soon as you reached Mosul and Aleppo. In any case, scholars-including Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah-distinguish between the actions of a disbeliever (kafir) and declaring people non-Muslim (takfir). Even if a person performs a deed that has elements of disbelief, this does not necessitate that that person be judged as a disbeliever for the reasons presented earlier. Al-Dhahabi[9] related that his teacher, Ibn Taymiyyah, used to say near the end of his life:

"I do not declare any member of the ummah non-Muslim ... The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: 'Anyone who maintains his ablution is a believer', so whoever observes the prescribed prayers with ablution is a Muslim."

This is a crucial point; the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Subtle shirk [i.e. associating partners with God] is when a man stands to pray and embellishes his prayer for an onlooker."[10]

He thereby described ostentation in prayer as 'subtle shirk', which is minor shirk. This minor shirk, which some worshippers fall into, is not considered major shirk and cannot lead to takfir or to being cast out of the fold of Islam. For other than prophets and messengers, everyone else worships God Almighty according to their capacity, and not as God Almighty deserves. God Almighty says: {They measured not God with His true measure ...} (Al-An`am 6: 91); and:

{And they will question you concerning the Spirit. Say: “The Spirit is of the command of my Lord. And of knowledge you have not been given except a little".} (Al-Isra' 17: 85).

Nevertheless, God Almighty accepts such worship. And people are not able to conceive of God Almighty, because: {...There is nothing like Him ...} (Ash-Shura 42: 11); and: {Vision cannot attain Him, but He attains [all] vision ...} (Al-An`am 6:103). Nothing is known of Him Almighty except for what He has revealed through revelation (al-wahy) or He imparted to the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): {... He casts the Spirit of His command upon whomever He will of His servants ...} (Ghafir, 40: 15). So how can anyone take up a sword against others just because he or she believes that they do not worship God Almighty as He deserves? No one worships God as He deserves except by His Almighty permission. More fundamentally, the issue of shirk among the Arabs is moot, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"The Devil has lost hope that those who pray in the Arabian Peninsula will worship him, but [aims] to sow discord among them."[11] 

[1] Narrated by Al-Bukhari in Kitab al-Maghazi, no. 4403, and by Muslim in Kitab al-Iman, no. 66.

[2] Narrated by Al-Bukhari in Kitab al-Jihad, no. 2946.

[3] As related in Al-Hafiz Al-Haythami's Majma' Al-Zawa'id, (Vol. 1, p. 106).

[4] Narrated by Al-Bukhari in Kitab al-Adab, no. 6104.

[5] Narrated by Ibn Habban in his Sahih, (Vol. 1, p. 282).

[6] Narrated by Muslim in Kitab al-Iman, no. 96. Another narration reads: '"Did you kill him after he said: 'There is no god but God". I said: "He was trying to save himself". [The Prophet] kept repeating his words ...'. Narrated by Al-Bukhari in Kitab al-Maghazi, no. 4369.

YouTube video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yrVPE_-f9I , June, 2014.

[8] Narrated by Al-Bukhari in Kitab Bad' al-Wahy, no. 1; also narrated by Muslim in Kitab al-Imarah, no. 1907.

[9] Al-Dhahabi's Siyar A'lam Al-Nubala', (Vol. 11, p. 393).

[10] Narrated by Ibn Majah, Kitab al-Zuhd, no. 4204.

[11] Narrated by Muslim in Kitab Sifat al-Qiyamah wal-Jannah wal-Nar, no. 2812.


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