Can We Call Non-Muslims Kafir?

Question

We know that we cannot call the present day non-Muslims as kafir since the truth of Islam is not presented to them the way it was done by prophet in the form of itmam e hujjat (conveying the truth conclusively). My question is how did the companions of the Prophet (sws) refer to the people when they conquered far and wide beyond Arabia. Since those people (common civilians) did not witness itmam e hujjat they could be called as kafir. Did the companions (sahaba) also call the kafir or non Muslim or something else? Is there any authentic record where we see the Companions (sahaba) making distinction between kafir and non Muslim? My friend says there is an ijmah on calling non-Muslims as kafir through out 14 centuries. Only in the last decade people started not using kafir for non Muslims.


Answer

We can call the present day non-Muslims as kafirs if we take into consideration the fact that the Qur'an has used the word kafir in two senses.

1. People who have denied the truth regardless of the fact that this denial is deliberate or because of some other reason (example of this usage can be seen in the opening verses of Surah Qaf).

2. People who have denied the truth deliberately and have thereby come worthy of God's punishment and condemnation (example of this usage can be seen in Surah Kafirun).

It is when used in the latter sense that the Qur'an gives many directives of punishment for them. When used in this sense the alif lam of 'had (alif lam of specification) appended to the word kafir points to this specific category of non-Muslims. It is such non-Muslims against whom Muslims were required to sever ties of friendship and not mutually receive inheritance or asked to wage war against. This category of non-Muslims comes into being in the time of the Messengers of God since only in their times their deliberate denial can be ascertained through God.

If today we call non-Muslims as kafirs then it has to be in the first sense since we can never know after the termination of the institution of wahi whether this denial is deliberate or due to some other reason. In other words, if use the word kafir for them today then we must realize that this does not refer to the condemned kafirs; it only means the kafirs who have rejected Islam for any reason.

As far as the kafirs of the time of the Companions were concerned against whom they waged war against, they belonged to the second category. True they did not witness the itmam ul hujjah of the Prophet; however, they witnessed the result of the itmam ul hujjah in Arabia. About whose initiation in Arabia they had been informed through the epistles of the Prophet. Coming about of itmam ul hujjah in itself becomes an itmam ul hujjah for the onlookers. When sun comes out you do not need to substantiate its appearance through reasoning. It is a witness on its own existence.

Thus when the sahabah attacked the adjacent territories, news of the beginning of itmam ul hujjah on Arabia had already been communicated to the rulers of the countries through letters of the prophet. As far as the masses were concerned they were to be spared the fate of being attacked if they had questions or wanted clarification as was the case of the polytheists (mushrikeen) in the time of the Prophet.

About the Author

Dr. Shehzad Saleem


 

 

EDUCATION

University of Wales, Lampeter, United Kingdom
  Ph.D. Title of dissertation: Collection of the Qur’ān: A Critical and Historical Study of al-Farāhī’s View (2010)
  Under the tutelage of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi for religious studies (1988-)

University of Engineering and Technology,  Lahore, Pakistan
  B.Sc Electrical Engineering (1990)

The Government College, Lahore, Pakistan
  Intermediate, Pre-Engineering (1983)

 

RESEARCH WORK

Special Area of Interest
  History of the Qur’ān and the Previous Scriptures

Projects
  Associate Fellow (1992-2008) / Fellow (2008 to present) at Al-Mawrid, A Foundation for Islamic Research and Education, Lahore,  Pakistan (www.al-mawrid.org)

•      Recently completed (2018) an eighteen year research project on the history of the Qur’ān that attempts to address the issue of multiple versions of the Qur’ān and some nagging questions regarding its collection.

•      Completed translation of a five volume Qur’ān commentary (Urdu to Eng) of Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī  titled Al-Bayān. (1998-2018).

•      Currently working on translating a nine volume Qur’ān commentary (Urdu to Eng) of Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī titled Tadabbur-i Qur’ān (2008 to present).

•      Currently working on a critical study of the corpus of Ḥadīth literature, including the “Hagar-Zamzam” narratives, “First Revelation”  narratives and “Return of Jesus” narratives.

 

EXPERIENCE

On Campus Work for Al-Mawrid
  •      Vice President (1995-1996/2013-2019). I assisted the president in organizing academic research work on Islam, its subsequent publication and various educational activities. Also oversaw administrative and financial spheres of the foundation.
  •      Secretary General (CEO)  (2012-2016). As a representative of the Board of Governors of Al-Mawrid,  was required to run the foundation comprising more than thirty staff members.
  •      Headed a graduate program of Islamic Studies (1999-2001) offered in affiliation with a private university (MA Jinnah University, Karachi). Work included organizing staff affairs and also supervising the syllabus and its effective instruction.
•      Instructor for Qur’ānic studies (1999-2001). Besides teaching,  responsibility involved developing the pedagogy and curriculum for teaching the Qur’ān to graduate students of the foundation.
•      President, Centre for Islamic Communications (1997). The objective of this centre was organization and marketing of various media of Al-Mawrid as journals, audio-video cassettes, lectures and seminars.
  •      Director General (1993-1995 / 1998-2003). Job responsibility as Director involved development of the institute and management of all its affairs.
  •      Director Admin (1992-1993). Job responsibility involved assisting the President in the administration of the institute.
  •      Editor of Renaissance Journal (1991-1995/ 1998 to present)
Oversaw the management of a monthly Islamic journal and all aspects of its publication.  Over the course of almost three decades, the journal has published several hundred articles on various aspects of Islam.

Online Work for Al-Mawrid
  •        Launched in 2014 http://www.abdus-sattar-ghauri.org, a website on the Biblical scholar Abdus Sattar Ghauri (1935-2014).
  •        Launched in 2012 http://www.tadabbur-i-quran.org, a website on the exegesis of Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī (1904-1997), a Qur’ānic scholar of the sub-continent.
  •        Launched in 2010 http://www.hamid-uddin-farahi.org, a website on life and works of the Qur’ānic scholar Ḥamīd al-Dīn Farāhī (1863-1930)
  •        Launched in 2004 http://www.amin-ahsan-islahi.org, a website on life and works of the Qur’ānic scholar Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī
  •        Launched in 2003 http://www.studying-islam.org, a website that offers online courses on Islam in English and in Urdu. Currently, there are over fifteen thousand registered students from around the globe and about 50 courses on Islam in English and Urdu.
  •        Launched in 1999 http://www.monthly-renaissance.com, the website of the monthly Islamic Journal Renaissance. Besides regular issues, special issues on Islam and Non-Muslims: A New Perspective, Islam and Women, Political Directives of Islam, Economic Directives of Islam, Understanding Islamic Punishments and Collection of the Qur’ān have been published.
  •        Launched in 1998 a comprehensive distance learning program for Al-Mawrid. It was well received in an era where online religious education was not that common.
•        Founded an Islamic Query Service (IQS) in 1997-2003), an email based service meant to answer questions on or about Islam. By 2003, more than 3000 questions had been answered by this service.

 

PUBLICATIONS

1. A New Economic Framework, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 1995.
  2. Common Misconceptions about Islam, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2008.
  3. Playing God: Misreading a Divine Practice, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2010.
  4. Islam and Women:  Misconceptions and Misperceptions, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2010.
  5. Essays on Character Building, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
  6. Qur’ān Workshops on Character Building,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2016.
  7. Lessons on Character Building, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2016.
  8. Selections from the Qur’ān, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
  9. Selections from the Bible, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
  10. Selections from the Ḥadīth, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2014.
  11. Introduction to the Qur’ān: Insights from Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, 1st ed., Lahore:
  Al-Mawrid, 2019
.
  12. A Treasury of Prayers from Qur’ān and Ḥadīth,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2017.
  13. The Good Human, 1st ed.,  US: Amazon, 2019.
  14. Modern Challenges to Parenting, 1st ed., US: Amazon, 2019.
  15. History of the Qur’ān: A Concise Study,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018.
  16. History of the Qur’ān: A Critical Study, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2019.
  17. From the Core of my Heart (poems), 1st ed., US: Amazon, 2019.

Translations (Urdu to Eng) (Published)
  1. Selections from the Tadabbur-i Qur’ān,  Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2004.
  2. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Mīzān (Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction), 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2010.
  3. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Al-Islam (Islam: A Concise Introduction), 1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2009.
  4. Selected Essays of Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī,  1st ed., Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015. (co-translator)
  5. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Al-Bayān, 1st ed., vol. 1, Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.
6. Jāved Aḥmad Ghāmidī, Al-Bayān, 1st ed., vol. 5, Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015.

Translations (Urdu to Eng) (Unpublished)
  1. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 6, (Al-Mawrid, 2016)
  2. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 7, (Al-Mawrid, 2015) 
  3. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 8, (Al-Mawrid, 2015)
  4. Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, “Tadabbur-i Qur’ān”  (Pondering on the Qur’ān), vol. 9, (Al-Mawrid, 2014)

Works in Print
  1. History of the Qur’ān: A Critical Study
  2. From the Core of my Heart (poems)

PRESENTATIONS

I have lectured in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Pakistan. Some important topics include:
  1. Critical History of the Qur’ān
  2. Misconceptions about Women in Islam 
  3. Interfaith dialogue
  4. Selected Biblical Verses
  5.  Question on the Qur’ān by Serious Students 
  6.  Misconceptions about Islam 
  7.  Muhammad (sws): The Misunderstood Prophet of Islam
  8.  Marriage and Married Life
  9.  Basic Morality
  10.  Islam and Islamic Welfare State 
  11.  Misconceptions about Divorce in Islam 
  12.  Misconceptions regarding Jihad of the Companions of the Prophet (sws) 
  13 Imbalanced Religious Attitudes
  14.  Intellectual Freedom and Critical Thinking
  15.  Parenting
  16.  Challenges faced by the Youth of Today
  17.  The Mind of a Muslim Militant

I have also conducted several activity-based workshops for adults and sessions on Character Building and Personality Development for teenagers. Topics include:
  1. Charity 
  2. Pride and Arrogance
  3. Remembering God   
  4. Civic Sense 
  5. Kindness to Parents
  6. Gratitude
  7. Forgiveness 
  8. Moral Courage 
  9.  Truthfulness  
  10. Showing Off 
  11. Humility
  12. Sympathy
  13. Sinful Speech
  14. Honesty
  15. Justice

Most lectures are available at:
  http://www.youtube.com/shehzadsaleem / www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=562019607

Have also recorded a 90 lecture series on the history of the Qur’ān that is available at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sNWx-SSvc8&list=PL7oYOZNO0kHwDzi9P4UmSremVOVKzku7s

PERSONAL
  An avid tennis player besides being a swimmer, cricketer,  golfer and a chess player.
  Hobbies include reading books on religion, philosophy,  literature and history and writing poetry.
  Born on 18th June, 1966. Married with one son.

Answered by this author