Takfir or takfeer (Arabic: تكفير takfīr) is a controversial
Islamist discourse, denoting excommunication, as one
Muslim declaring another
Muslim as a non-believer (kafir). The act
which precipitates takfir is termed mukaffir. Contemporary formulation
and usage of the term have its roots in the 20th-century Islamist
theorist Sayyid Qutb's advocacy of takfirism (doctrine of
excommunication) against the state or society which deemed as
jahiliyah (state of ignorance and disbelief). According to Qutb,
violence is required to be sanctioned against corrupt state leaders,
on the premise that quietism is not the Islamic prescriptions against
one who deemed as apostates. This position is widely held and applied
by jihadist organizations to varying degrees. At the same time, the
concept is opposed by religious establishment as an ostensible reason
for violence. They hold that excommunication against those who
profess their Islamic faith is not sanctioned by Islam, or an
ill-founded takfir accusation is a major forbidden act (haram).
1 Authority and conditions
2.1 After 1950
2.1.1 In Pakistan
2.1.2 Salman Rushdie
2.1.3 GIA in Algeria
2.1.5 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
3 See also
5 External links
Authority and conditions
Further information: Apostasy in Islam
Legitimate authority and conditions that permit the issuance of takfir
are major points of contention among
Muslim scholars. In general, the
official clergy considers that
Islam does not sanction excommunication
of Muslims who profess their Islamic faith and perform the ritual
pillars of Islam. This is due to takfir having major consequences
of killing, confiscation of their property and denial of Islamic
burial. Ulamas often raise objections by asking rhetorical questions
of who holds the right to excommunicate others, on what religious
criteria it should be based, and what level of specialized knowledge
in Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) is required for the qualification of
Some Muslims consider takfir to be a prerogative of either the Prophet
— who does that through Divine revelation — or the state which
represents the collectivity of the
Ummah (the whole Muslim
community). The declaration of takfir may be made if the alleged
Muslim declares himself a kafir, but more typically applies to a
judgement that an action or statement by the alleged
his knowing abandonment of Islam. In many cases an Islamic court or a
religious leader, an alim must pronounce a fatwa (legal judgement) of
takfir against an individual or group.
There are disputes among different schools of religious thought as to
what constitutes sufficient justification for declaring takfir:
Sunni position is that sins generally do not prove that
someone is not a Muslim, but denials of fundamental religious
principles do. Thus a murderer, for instance, may still be a Muslim,
but someone who denies that murder is a sin is a kafir if he is aware
that murder is considered a sin in Islam.
Murji'ah emerged as a theological school that was opposed to the
Kharijites on questions related to early controversies regarding sin
and definitions of what is a true Muslim. As opposed to the
Kharijites, Murjites advocated the idea of deferred judgement of
peoples' belief. The word Murjiah itself means "one who postpones" in
Arabic. Murjite doctrine held that only God has the authority to
judge who is a true
Muslim and who is not, and that Muslims should
consider all other Muslims as part of the community. This theology
promoted tolerance of Umayyads and converts to
Islam who appeared
half-hearted in their obedience.
The Mu'tazilites (followed by the Zaidiyyahs) advocated what they saw
as a middle way, whereby grave sinners were categorized neither as
believers nor as kafirs.
Some of the early medieval Kharijites concluded that any
sinned ceased to be a Muslim, while others concluded that only major
sin could cause that.
Some Muslims (such as
Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, founder of
Wahhabism) believe that one of the earliest examples of takfir was
alleged to have been practiced by the first Caliph, Abu Bakr. In
response to the refusal of certain Arab tribes to pay the alms-tax
(zakat), he is reported to have said: "By God, I will fight anyone who
differentiates between the prayer and the zakat. ... Revelation has
been discontinued, the Shari'ah has been completed: will the religion
be curtailed while I am alive. ... I will fight these tribes even if
they refuse to give a halter. Poor-due (zakat) is a levy on wealth
and, by God, I will fight him who differentiates between the prayer
and poor-due."
Abu Bakr did not use the word kafir
Status of Jihad (English translation). A letter from Abu Mus'ab to Abu
Mohammed relating a meeting with Abu Musab Zarqawi. The author and
Zaraqawi agree that the Muslims fighting in Bosnia, Tajikistan,
Kashmir are polytheists and supporters of secular
democracy, and that the
Taliban are a front for Pakistan. Zarqawi
tells Abu Mus’ab that he is accused of
Takfir because of his views
about the Muslims in Bosnia, Tajikistan, Chechnya, and Kashmir.
In the wars between the Umayyad
Caliphate and the Khawarijs, the
latter's practice of takfir became the justification for their
indiscriminate attacks on civilian Muslims; the more moderate Sunni
view of takfir developed partly in response to this conflict.
Ibn Taymiyyah, the 14th century scholar followed by many modern
Salafi, ruled that though Mongol invaders professed to be Muslims
their enforcement of the Yasa law in place of Islamic Shariah
"reversed their conversion, rendering the Mongols apostate." 18th
Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab cited
Ibn Taymiyyah in
his preaching that many mainstream
Muslim traditions (such as Sufism)
as bid'a (innovation of the religion) caused self-professed Muslims to
be unbelievers and his followers slew many Muslims for allegedly kufr
Takfir has become "a central ideology of militant groups" such as
those in Egypt, "which reflect the ideas" of Sayyid Qutb, Abul A'la
Maududi and others, according to the Oxford Islamic Studies Online
website. It is rejected by Islamic scholars and leaders such as
Hasan al-Hudaybi (d. 1977) and
Yusuf al-Qaradawi and by mainstream
Takfir has been used[by whom?] against the Ahmadiyya, who describe
themselves as Muslims but who many Muslims and Islamic scholars
believe reject the doctrine of Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e. the belief
Muhammad was the last and final Prophet and Messenger of God,
after whom there can be no other Prophet or Messenger. In 1974
Pakistan amended its constitution to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
In 1984, General
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the then military ruler of
Pakistan, issued Ordinance XX, forbidding Ahmadis to call
themselves Muslim. As a result, they are not allowed to profess the
Islamic creed publicly or to call their places of worship mosques,
to worship in non-Ahmadi mosques or public prayer-rooms, to perform
Muslim call to prayer, to use the traditional Islamic greeting in
public, to publicly quote from the Quran, to preach in public, to seek
converts, or to produce, publish, and disseminate their religious
Local ulama (Islamic scholars) have declared takfir on another group
in Pakistan, the Zikri of Makran in Balochistan. The Zikri believe
Muhammad Jaunpuri (born in 1443) was the
Mahdi (redeemer) of
Islam. In 1978 the ulama founded a movement (Tehrik Khatm-e-Nabuat) to
Pakistan state declare the Zikris as non-Muslims, like the
The Satanic Verses
The Satanic Verses controversy
The case of
Salman Rushdie provides an example of takfir that featured
prominently in Western media. Rushdie went into hiding after Ayatollah
Khomeini issued a fatwa in 1989, officially declaring him a kafir who
should be executed for his book The Satanic Verses, which is
perceived[by whom?] to contain passages that draw into question the
basis of Islam. Similar cases have occurred in Egypt: for example,
Nasr Abu Zayd was accused[by whom?] of apostasy following his work on
Islamic sources, describing the Qur'an as a historical document.
GIA in Algeria
Algerian Civil War
Algerian Civil War of 1991-2002 the
group the GIA (Armed Islamic Group of Algeria) under amir Antar
Zouabri issued a manifesto in 1996 entitled The Sharp Sword,
presenting Algerian society as resistant to jihad and lamented that
the majority of Algerians had "forsaken religion and renounced the
battle against its enemies". Zouabri at first took care to deny that
the GIA had ever declared takfir on Algerian society itself. But
during the month of Ramadan (January–February 1997) hundreds of
civilians were killed in massacres, some with their throats cut.
The massacres continued for months and culminated in August and
September when hundreds of men women and children were killed in the
villages of Rais, Bentalha and Beni Messous. Pregnant women were
sliced open, children were hacked to pieces or dashed against walls,
men's limbs were hacked off one by one, and, as the attackers
retreated, they would kidnap young women to keep as sex slaves.
The GIA issued a communiqué signed by Zouabri claiming responsibility
for the massacres and justifying them—in contradiction to his
manifesto—by declaring impious (takfir) all those Algerians who had
not joined its ranks. While the GIA had been the "undisputed
Islamist force" in Algeria two years earlier, the
slaughters drained it of popular support and led to the end of
"organized jihad" in Algeria. (The issue became complicated by
evidence that security forces cooperated with the killers in
preventing civilians from escaping, and may even have controlled the
The constitution of Tunisia (passed after the
Tunisian Revolution of
2011), criminalized takfir by placing a ban on fatwas that promote
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The Islamic State (aka Daesh) has been heavily criticized[by whom?]
for applying takfir to Muslims who oppose its rule. According to
journalist Graeme Wood in mid-2015,
Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to
purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of
objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the
slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest
that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass
executions every few weeks.
The tendency of the group to target Shia Muslims with suicide bombings
has been credited[by whom?] to the fact that the group considers them
^ a b c d e Karawan, Ibrahim A. (1995). "Takfīr". In John L.
Esposito. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Oxford:
Oxford University Press.
^ Brown, Michael (2010). Contending with Terrorism. p. 89.
^ Asif Iftikhar (March–April 1997). "Murder, Manslaughter and
Terrorism -- All in the Name of Allah". 7 (s. 3-4). Al-Mawrid:
^ Ibn Taymīyah, Abī al-ʻAbbās Taqī al-Dīn Aḥmad ibn ʻAbd
al-Ḥalīm. "al-Fatāwá". , 5: 555-556; 7: 195-205; 7: 223
^ Nigosian, Solomon Alexander (2004). Islam: Its History, Teaching,
and Practices. Indiana University Press. p. 59.
^ Isutzu, Concept of Belief, p. 55-56.
^ Isutzu, Concept of Belief, p. 55.
^ Abou El Fadl, Khaled (2005). The Great Theft: Wrestling
the Extremists. Harper San Francisco. pp. 54–5. `Abd al-Wahhab
was also fond of citing a precedent in which
Abu Bakr reportedly
burned so-called hypocrites to death ... most scholars in the Islamic
tradition who studied the purported
Abu Bakr precedent concluded that
the claim that
Abu Bakr accused people of hypocrisy who upheld the
five pillars and fought them is without support or foundation.
^ a b Stanley,, Trevor. "Definition: Kufr - Kaffir -
Takfiri". Perspectives on World History and Current Events. Retrieved
16 June 2016.
^ a b Compare: "Takfir". Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved
2016-08-09. Takfir[:] Pronouncement that someone is an unbeliever
(kafir) and no longer Muslim.
Takfir is used in the modern era for
sanctioning violence against leaders of Islamic states who are deemed
insufficiently religious. It has become a central ideology of militant
groups such as those in Egypt, which reflect the ideas of Sayyid Qutb,
Mawdudi, Ibn Taymiyyah, and Ibn Kathir. Mainstream Muslims and
Islamist groups reject the concept as a doctrinal deviation.
Leaders such as
Hasan al-Hudaybi (d. 1977) and Yusuf al-Qaradawi
reject takfir as un-Islamic and marked by bigotry and zealotry.
^ The presentation before the parliament: Khan, Naveeda. Mahzaharnama
Islam International Publications.
^ Khan, Naveeda. "Trespasses of the State: Ministering to Theological
Dilemmas through the Copyright/Trademark" (PDF). Sarai Reader
2005: Bare Acts. p. 178.
^ Heiner Bielefeldt: "
Muslim Voices in the Human Rights Debate", Human
rights quarterly, 1995 vol. 17 no. 4 p. 587.
^ Talbot, Ian (1998). Pakistan, a Modern History. NY: St.Martin's
Press. p. 252. The Zikris, who form a large proportion of the
population of Makran, are the followers of Syed
Muhammad (b.1443) who
they consider to be a Mahdi. ... In their drive to implement Shariat
law the 'ulama founded the Tehrik Khatm-e-Nabuat ... in
1978. Their intention was to demand that the state should declare the
Zikris to be non-Muslims, like the Ahmadis earlier.
^ Susanne Olsson, "Apostasy in Egypt: contemporary cases of hisbah" i
Muslim World, Volym 98:1, 2008.
^ Al seif al battar, p.39-40
^ "Hundreds murdered in widespread Algeria attacks". cnn. January 6,
1998. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
^ "World Report 1999. Human Rights Developments". Human Rights Watch.
Archived from the original on 13 November 2008. Retrieved 11 June
^ a b c Kepel, Jihad, 2002: p.272-3
^ Kepel, Jihad, 2002: p.265
^ Al-Haddad, Mohammad. "Tunisia's New Constitution Criminalizes
Takfir". Al-Monitor. Al-Monitor. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
^ BARRETT, RICHARD (November 2014). THE ISLAMIC STATE (PDF). THE
SOUFAN GROUP. p. 5. Retrieved 16 June 2016. The Islamic State
claims religious legitimacy for its actions. This is based on an
extreme salafist/takfiri interpretation of
Islam that essentially
means that anyone who opposes its rule is by definition either an
apostate (murtad) or an infidel (kafir). Although much of the Muslim
Middle East is salafist, takfirism is widely considered a step too
far, and the absolutism of The Islamic State has already attracted
criticism, even from ideologues who support al Qaeda.
^ WOOD, GRAEME. "What ISIS Really Wants". The Atlantic (March 2015).
Retrieved 16 June 2016.
^ Compare: "Iraq violence: Islamic State attacks kill dozens". BBC
News. 9 June 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2016. The
Sunni jihadist group
has frequently attacked security targets and Shia Muslims, whom it
Kepel, Gilles (2002). Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam. Harvard
The Amman Message (Declaration forbidding takfir (declarations of
apostasy) between Muslims unanimously agreed upon by 200 of the
world's leading Islamic scholars '
Ulama from 50 countries.)
Religious denunciations and Takfir: Isn't there enough to go around?
(by Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq)
Maudoodi's article on takfir (by Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi)
Be Careful who you call non-Muslim
Islamic theology and
Takfir Article exploring the classical view of