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 is kufr.

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 and Muslim)

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 Dawud)

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 kaafiroun”
“And whoso does not rule by what Allah has sent down, those are disbelievers.” 

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 Guidance.

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 beginning with

“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 His Guidance.

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 a kafir.

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 end.”(9:73)

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 believers.”(5:57)


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 victors.”

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.

“A believer”,

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 of evil).

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 an oppressor?

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 is ours.

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 His will.

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 them:
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 for it.

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 

The Muslim
March – April 1971