The worst of all the evils is to deny (the existence of) Allâhu ta’âlâ, i.e. to be an atheist. It is kufr (disbelief) to deny the prophethood of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’. Angels, human beings and genies (jinnîs) are enjoined to have belief in the tenets of belief. Belief means to accept by heart all the commandments revealed to Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’ by Allâhu ta’âlâ and delivered by him to us, and to state this belief with the tongue. Place for the belief is the spiritual heart (qalb). The spiritual heart is a power which exists in the biological heart. Situations beyond one’s control, such as duress, illness, dumbness, and sudden death, whereas there is no time, absolve are from the compulsion of stating their belief with their tongue. Imitative belief, which one has developed without understanding, is acceptable. It is sinful not to understand, and not to think of, the existence of Allâhu ta’âlâ. To deny any one of the tenets of belief means to deny all of them. However, it is considered as îmân to express belief in them as an ensemble without knowing all the tenets individually. One of the indispensable components of îmân is to avoid things which Islam prescribes as signs of kufr. Some signs of kufr are: to flout any one of Islam’s principles, i.e. commands and prohibitions, and to make fun of the Qur’ân al- kerîm or any angel or prophet ‘alaihis-salâm’. To have doubts about things that are necessary to believe would also mean disbelief.

There are three types of disbelief: 1)disbelief out of ignorance (jahlî), 2) disbelief out of obstinacy (juhûdî), and 3) disbelief by judgement (hukmî).

1– Disbelief out of ignorance (kufr-i jahlî): This is the disbelief of those who have not heard (about a certain Islamic tenet) and do not think about it. “Jahl” means ignorance. There are two types of ignorance.

a) Simple ignorance. People with this ignorance know that they are ignorant. They do not have wrong belief. They are like animals because what differentiates humans from the animals is knowledge and understanding. These people are even lower than animals because every animal is advanced in the special field which it is created for and it senses what is useful for itself and has propensity to it. It also senses what is harmful for itself and keeps away from it. On the other hand, these ignorant people know that they do not know but they do not take any step away from their ignorance and towards knowledge.

[Imâm ar-Rabbânî ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’ says the following in the 259th letter of the first volume of his book Maktûbât: “As I understand it, people who were raised in the mountains and never heard of any religion and were idol worshippers will go neither to Hell nor to Paradise. After rising from death, they will be questioned about their deeds and after paying necessary retribution and punishment for their wrong doings, they will be annihilated along with other animals. They will not stay in any station forever. It is very hard for me to say that Allâhu ta’âlâ will punish those people in Hell fire eternally because they could not find the right path or the true religion with their minds or intellect while we witness daily that most people make mistakes even in their worldly affairs. Moreover, those children of disbelievers who die before reaching puberty will be annihilated likewise.

Another group who will go neither to Hell nor to Paradise are those people who lived in the places and times of no Divine Guidance. Such is the case when a long period passes after the life of a prophet and the religion brought by him is forgotten or changed by cruel people so that people can not know about prophets or true religions. Lastly, people who live in disbelievers’ countries and have not heard of Islam will not go to Hell or to Paradise; they will be annihilated.”]

It is farz [2] to learn the tenets of belief and, of those Islamic teachings which pertain to farâid (commandments) and harâms (prohibitions), the commonly known and necessary ones. It is harâm (forbidden) not to learn them. In fact, it is kufr to trifle with learning them after having heard about them. The antidote to ignorance is to study and learn.

b) The second type of ignorance is compound ignorance (jahl al-murakkab), which means to have a wrong and corrupt belief. The belief of ancient Greek philosophers and the people among the seventy-two heretical groups of Muslims who lose their îmân exemplify this type of ignorance. This type of ignorance is worse than the first type. It is a disease that has no remedy. Jesus (Îsâ ‘alaihis-salâm’) said, “I have cured deaf and dumb people and resuscitated dead bodies. Yet I have not found medicine for compound ignorance.” This group of people don’t consider themselves as ignorant. Instead, they hold themselves and their knowledge superior to others. They are not aware of their illness, so they do not seek remedy. Only those who are given Divine Assistance can come to their senses so to understand their illness and seek remedy for it.

2– Disbelief out of obstinacy (kufr-i-juhûdî): People who are in this group choose disbelief knowingly either because they are fond of worldly ranks or they are haughty or they are afraid that people may despise them when they convert to a new religion. For example, Pharaoh and his companions had this type of disbelief. Although they witnessed the miracles of Moses (Mûsâ ‘alaihis-salâm’) they preferred to stay in disbelief and said that they would not believe in someone who was a man like themselves. They did not accept that a man like themselves could be a prophet. They supposed that a prophet should be from among angels. Paradoxically, however, they worshiped Pharaoh, who was a man like themselves. Also, the Byzantine emperor Heracles preferred to stay in disbelief knowingly because he loved his throne very much and thought that if he would change his religion, he would lose his throne. Byzantine kings were called Emperor or Caesar. Persian kings were called Chosroes. Ethiopian kings were called Negus. Turkish kings were called Khan. Coptic or Gypsy kings were called Pharaoh. Egyptian kings were called “Azîz.” Himyarite kings were called Tubba. One of the companions of our Prophet, Dihya ‘radiy- allâhu ta’âlâ ’anh’ delivered a letter from Prophet Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ to the Byzantine emperor Heracles in Damascus. He was invited to Islam with that letter. A business caravan of Meccan unbelievers had arrived in Damascus the previous evening. Heracles invited their leader, Abû Sufyân to his mansion and asked him: I have heard that someone in Medina claims to be a Prophet. Is he one of the nobles or one of a lower class? Has anyone before him also claimed to be a Prophet? Was any of his ancestors an Amir or Malik? {Titles given to a ruling person.} Do the people who join his ranks belong to wealthy families or are they poor and incompetent people? Is his call to the new religion making progress? Do any of those who join his religion later renounce it? Has he ever been seen to tell a lie or break his promise? Is he winning or losing his wars? When Abû Sufyân answered all these questions, Heracles said that all these answers showed that he was a true Prophet. Biassed and jealous, Abû Sufyân contravened: “He told some lies, though. For instance, he said that he had travelled from Mekka to al-Aqsâ in Jerusalem overnight.” Upon hearing this, one of the people in the presence of Heracles joined the conversation and said that he had been at al-Aqsâ in Jerusalem that night and told them everything that he had witnessed that night. The following day, Heracles received the Sahâbî Dihya ‘radiy-Allâhu ’anh’, had the letter read for him, professed his belief in (the facts written in) the letter, and told Dihya that he believed that Muhammed ‘alaihis-salâm’ was the Prophet. However, he was afraid to let his people know about his conversion to Islam. He told Dihya to take that letter to a certain priest and said that he was a very knowledgeable person and that he thought that he also would believe what was in the letter. As soon as the priest read the letter he accepted the message and the invitation of the new faith, and also invited people around him to this new faith. Yet the people killed him instead. Dihya went back to Heracles and reported what had happened. Heracles answered that he had known that that would happen and that was why he had not told anyone about his acceptance of the new faith. He wrote a letter to Rasûlullah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal- lam’ and reported his belief. Later, he went to the Capital city Hamus and, where he received a letter from one of his servants informing the prophethood of Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ and his accomplishments. He gathered the leading personalities of his community and had the letter read for them, and then he told them that he believed in his prophethood. All the people who gathered around him severely opposed and objected to that news. Upon seeing the severity of the situation he understood that they would not believe, so, he apologized to them and told them that he was testing the strength of their attachment to their religion. People who were opposing him calmed down with his answers and prostrated themselves before him and expressed their attachment to him. Thus he preferred kufr to îmân lest he should lose his throne. Later, he sent an army to the place known as Muta to fight with the Muslims. At that war many Muslims were martyred. As a matter of fact, when Heracles’s letter of affirmation arrived and was read for the Messenger of Allah ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’, he said, “He is lying. He has not changed his faith of Christianity.” A copy of the prophetic letter which was sent to Heracles exists in the book of hadîth-i-sherîfs entitled Sahîh al-Bukhârî, as well as in the books Mawâhib and Berîqa.

3– Disbelief by judgement (kufr-i-hukmî). A person who says or does something which Islam dictates as a sign of disbelief will become a disbeliever even though he really believes by heart and professes to be a Muslim. It is kufr to mock, to insult or to despise anything which Islam holds valuable or precious. Anyone who says something which is not worthy of Allâhu ta’âlâ becomes a disbeliever. Examples of deeds which cause kufr are: To say, for instance, “Allâhu ta’âlâ is observing us from the Arsh or from heaven,” or “Allâhu ta’âlâ is wronging you as you have wronged me,” or to name a certain Muslim and say, “He seems like a Jew to me,” or to tell a lie and then add, “Allah knows that it is true,” or to say something derogatory to the Qur’ân al-kerîm or even to one of its letters, or to make a snide comment on angels, or to deny even one of the letters of the Qur’ân al-kerîm, or to read the Qur’ân al-kerîm in the company of musical instruments, or to deny or denigrate the original versions of the Bible and the Torah, or to read the Qur’ân al-kerîm with letters called shâz[3] and claim to have read the real Qur’ân, or to make derogatory comments about prophets, or to deny any one of the twenty-five prophets ‘alaihim-us-salawât-u-wa-t-taslîmât’ whose names are mentioned in the Qur’ân al-kerîm, or to despise one of the commonly known sunnats, or to say, for instance, “He is better than a prophet,” about a person known for his charitable deeds. It is an act of kufr to say that prophets ‘alaihim-us-salawât-u-wa- t-taslîmât’ were needy people, for prophets’ poverty was their own choice. If a person claims to be a prophet, he and those who believe him will become disbelievers. If a person hears the hadîth-i-sherîf, “Between my grave and my minbar is one of the Gardens of Paradise,” and says, “I do not see anything but a grave, a mat, and a minbar,” he becomes a disbeliever. It is kufr to make fun of the events that will take place in the Hereafter. It is an act of kufr to deny the torment that will be inflicted in the grave or in the Hereafter, [or to say that it is not reasonable,] to deny that Believers will see Allâhu ta’âlâ in Paradise or to say, for instance, “I don’t want Paradise. I want to see Allah.” Words that are symptomatic of denying Islam are: To say, for instance, Scientific knowledge is better than Islamic knowledge,” or to say, “It makes no difference whether I perform (the daily prayers termed) namâz,” or to say, “I will not pay (Islam’s obligatory alms called) zakât,” or to say, “I wish ribâ (interest) were halâl,” or to say, “Zulm (cruelty) should be halâl.” It is an act of disbelief to expect thawâb (reward in the Hereafter) from an act of almsgiving realized from property which has been earned through ways which Islam prohibits and calls harâm, or for the poor person to ask a blessing on the almsgiver although the alms he has been given comes from property earned through such an illegal way and he knows it, or to claim that the qiyas performed by Imâm a’zam Abû Hanîfa ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’ is not valid. The fifty-seventh âyat-i-kerîma of Sûra A’râf purports: “It is He (Allâhu ta’âlâ) Who sendeth the Winds like heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy: when they have carried the heavy-laden clouds, We drive them to a land that is dead, make rain to descend thereon, and produce every kind of harvest therewith: thus shall We raise up the dead: perchance ye may remember.” (7–57) This âyat-i-kerîma proves that qiyâs is valid (haqq). In this âyat-i-kerîma a controversial subject is compared with a subject which is unanimously known. Since everyone knows that Allâhu ta’âlâ makes the rain and raises the grass from the soil, this âyat-i-kerîma proves by way of analogy that resurrection of dead bodies resembles the raising of green grass out of dead soil.

It is kufr-i-juhûdî (disbelief out of obstinacy) to deny Islam’s teachings or to despise these teachings or Islamic scholars.

Anyone who desires to become a disbeliever will become one as soon as he intends to become a disbeliever. Anyone who wishes others to become disbelievers will himself become a disbeliever if he wants them to become disbelievers because he himself likes disbelief. He will not become a disbeliever if he wants them to become disbelievers because they are evil, oppressive people and he wants them to be punished in Hell fire because of their oppressive behavior. A person will become a disbeliever if he says the words that cause disbelief intentionally and willfully. If he says these words by mistake, e.g., because he does not know that saying these words will cause disbelief he will still become a disbeliever. If a person utters a word which causes disbelief, by mistake, although he did not mean to do so, he will not become a disbeliever.

A deliberate practice of any deed which is known to be a cause of kufr, results in kufr. There are many scholars who say that it will also cause disbelief even when one does not know that doing that deed will cause disbelief. To wear a rope-like belt (zunnâr) round waist or to wear anything which is a sign of disbelief will cause one to become a disbeliever.[4] So is the case with using or wearing other signs of disbelief. It is not disbelief (kufr), however, to use or wear such things in warfare as tricks to dupe the enemy or in peace-time for the purpose of disguise to protect yourself against the possible harms of an oppressive administration. But, if a businessman uses these to disguise himself in the disbelievers’ country, he will become a disbeliever. Using these things to make jokes or to make others laugh will cause one to become a disbeliever, even though one might have correct belief. When disbelievers are celebrating their holy days, doing religious things that are practiced by them for that special day will cause disbelief. Also, giving those things, which are special for the religious holy day, to them as gifts will cause disbelief. {For example, during the Easter holy day of Christians, painting eggs and giving them as gifts to Christian children will cause disbelief.} It is not a requirement for the nafs to believe in order to become a Muslim. A Muslim may experience in his heart certain feelings like things that cause disbelief. These things come to his heart from his nafs. If he does not say those things through his tongue, it will show the strength of his belief. We should not call those who use things that cause disbelief ‘disbelievers’. If something done or said by a certain Muslim bears ninety-nine symptoms of kufr (disbelief) and only one symptom of îmân (belief), this person cannot be called a disbeliever. We are enjoined to have a good opinion (husn-i-zân) about other Muslims.

Statements which are made to show that one is a man of literature or a knowledgeable and wise person, or only to amaze others or to make others laugh or to please others, may cause disbelief by judgement (kufr al-hukmî). Saying certain things while one is in a fury may also cause disbelief by judgement. For this reason, Every Muslim should think of the consequences before he opens his mouth or before he does some action. In anything he does, his faith should take priority over other considerations. He should never take any sin lightly. For example, upon committing a venial sin, if he is reminded by others that he should repent for that venial sin and if he replies that he did not do anything which would require repentance, or if he says, for instance, “Why should I repent?” or makes other similar retorts, his response will cause disbelief. If a girl, who was married (by her parents) to a Muslim with (the Islamic marriage contract termed) nikâh[5] as she was a child, does not know Islam and its credential tenets, or cannot answer questions asked on them, after reaching the age of discretion and puberty, her nikâh (marriage bond as recognized by Islam) becomes null and void. For, validity and maintenance of nikâh require holding a belief as prescribed by Islam, (which in turn entails knowing Islam’s tenets of belief [îmân, i’tiqâd]). A Muslim child is theoretically a Muslim, for its faith depends on its parents’ faith. Once it reaches puberty, its credential status will no longer depend on its parents’. The same rule applies to a male child as well. When a person murders a Muslim or someone orders another to kill a Muslim, if a person witnesses this and utters words of approval, such as, “Well done!” he becomes a disbeliever. Saying that so and so should be killed would cause disbelief if according to Islam’s penal code that person should not be killed. If a person beats or kills another unjustly, it is kufr (disbelief) to approve of his cruel act by saying, for instance, “You ’ve done a very good job. He deserved it!” To lie in the name of Allah by saying, for instance, “As Allah knows, I love you more than I do my own children,” is kufr. If a person occupying a high rank sneezes and someone in his presence says to him, “Yarhamukallah,” it is kufr to remonstrate with that person by saying, for instance, “You shouldn’t talk to a dignitary like that!”[6] It is kufr also not to take Islam’s commandments seriously. For instance, not to pray, not to perform the obligatory almsgiving (zakât) because one does not consider them important things causes disbelief. To become hopeless of the mercy of Allâhu ta’âlâ also causes disbelief.

Money, property or belongings that are not normally prohibited (harâm) but become prohibited later due to an external cause or reason are called “harâm li-gayrihi”, e.g., stolen things or things that are obtained by forbidden means. Calling them permissible (halâl) does not cause disbelief. Things such as carcass, pork, and wine, which are forbidden in essence are called “harâm li-’aynihi”. Calling them permissible causes disbelief. Calling any of the certainly known sins permissible causes disbelief. Belittling or making mockery of things that are held respectable by Islam, i.e., “azân”, mosque, fiqh-books, also causes disbelief. [The call to prayer (azân) which is heard from the radio or from the loud speaker is not the real “azân.” It is a facsimile of the real “azân.” A facsimile of something is different from the real one.] Performing prayers under the following conditions causes disbelief: while one knows that one does not have ablution (wudû) or one knows that the time of “salât” has not come yet or while one knows that one is praying in a direction other than the direction of Mecca (Qibla). Calling a Muslim a disbeliever to show his evil character will not cause disbelief. As is written above, it would cause disbelief if calling him so was intended to express one’s wish that that Muslim were a disbeliever. Committing a sin would not cause disbelief; yet it would cause disbelief to slight it or to be inattentive to whether it is a sin or not, causes disbelief. Not believing that worship is necessary or that abstaining from sins is necessary, causes disbelief. Believing that the tax collected from the people becomes property of the ruler (Sultan), causes disbelief. According to “Sadr ul-Islâm” it is permissible (jâiz) to say that Walî of Allâhu ta’âlâ can be seen on the same day and at the same hour at different places of the earth simultaneously. “Fiqh” books report that a man and a woman who live far apart, e.g., man lives in the West, (for example in Spain) and woman lives in the East (in India) may have children. According to the great scholar Umar Nasafî ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’, it is permissible {It can happen} that Allâhu ta’âlâ gives wonders (karâmat) to His beloved Awliyâ by suspending His law of causation, and this statement is true. Questions like “What is Islam” or “What is belief” should not be directed to ignorant people. Instead, answers to these questions should be explained first and then they should be asked if it is so. This procedure should be applied to a couple about to marry each other, before (the marriage contract termed) nikâh, in order to see if they have îmân (belief). When we see a person do or say something symptomatic of disbelief, we should not call him a disbeliever; we should not have sû-i-zân (a bad opinion) about him unless we are sure that he chooses disbelief and that he flouts the Sharî’at.

If a Muslim willingly does some action or says something which is unanimously reported to cause disbelief, he becomes a disbeliever, i.e., he becomes an apostate (murtad). All his previous worships, good deeds and earned rewards (thawâbs) perish. If he becomes a Muslim again, if he is rich, he has to renew the pilgrimage (hajj). But he does not have to re-perform his previous acts of worship such as namâz, fast, and zakât (if he performed them before his apostasy). However, those prayers which he omitted before apostasy will have to be performed. A person’s apostasy will not absolve him from the sins he committed before apostasy. Yet it will annul his nikâh. The children he has had during the time between his apostasy and his renewing his îmân and his nikâh, will be illegitimate. If he kills an animal (during the period of apostasy), the animal he has killed becomes a mere carcass and cannot be consumed. A person who becomes an apostate cannot become a Muslim again only by saying the (special expression termed) Kalima-i-shahâdat or by performing namâz, unless he repents and renounces the deed which caused his apostasy. His denial of the deed which caused his apostasy should be construed as repentance. If he dies before making repentance, he will be punished in Hell-fire forever. For all these reasons, we should be very much afraid of disbelief and therefore talk very little. It is reported in a hadîth-i-sherîf, “Always say useful things or else keep silent!” One should have a serious character and should not be a person who plays or jokes all the time. One should not do things that are not compatible with religion, reason or humanity. One should pray much and seek refuge in Allâhu ta’âlâ so that one may be protected from disbelief. It is stated as follows in a hadîth-i-sherîf: “Be mindful and avoid ‘shirk’. ‘Shirk’ is more sneaky than the sound produced by an ant walking.” “Shirk” in this hadîth-i-sherîf means disbelief. When they asked how one could avoid such a secret disbelief the Best of Mankind explained: “Read the following prayer: Allâhumma innâ na’ûzu bika an-nushrika-bika shay’an na’lamuhu wa nastaghfiruka lima lâ-na’lamuhu.” One should repeat this prayer often during the mornings and evenings. It is reported unanimously that disbelievers will never enter Paradise and will be punished in Hell-fire forever. If a disbeliever would live in the world forever, he would intend to live as a disbeliever forever. Therefore, he deserves punishment forever. Allâhu ta’âlâ is the Creator and Owner of everything. He has a right to do anything He wishes. No one has a right to question Him why He does this or that. The owner of something can use that thing anyway he wishes and the method of using that thing cannot be called oppression. Allâhu ta’âlâ declares in the Qur’ân al-kerîm that He is not an oppressor and He does not oppress any of His creatures.

[Allâhu ta’âlâ has Names (Asmâ al-husnâ), which are eternal like His Self. One of these ninety-nine Names is “Muntaqim” and another one is “Shadîd ul-iqâb” and due to these two Names He created the seven pits of Hell. He also has Names like “Rahmân”, “Rahîm”, “Gaffâr”, “Latîf”, and “Raûf”. He created the eight Gardens of Paradise due to these Names. He discriminated those things that will be causes to go to Paradise or Hell, in eternity. Owing to His infinite Mercy, He communicated these to His slaves. He repeatedly warned them by saying, “Do not commit actions which will take you to Hell! Its fire is very strong. You cannot bear that fire!” He invited people to do the actions which will cause them to live in peace and happiness in this world and in the next and lead them to the eternal fruits of Paradise. He gave wisdom, freedom of choice and will power to his human creatures so that they may use these to accept or reject His invitation. Allâhu ta’âlâ did not decree in the eternal past that anyone should go to Hell or that anyone should do such and such actions which would take them to Hell. But, He knew in eternity who in their earthly lives would choose a way of life which would take them into Paradise and who would take a path which would lead them to Hell. His destiny (“Qadâ” and “Qadar”) is eternal as well as His knowledge (’Ilm). In the Qur’ân al-kerîm, He communicates that Abû Lahab will go to Hell. This communication is not due to His Decree in the eternal past but it is because He knew in eternity that he would choose the path of Hell.]

Having belief is very easy. It is necessary (wâjib) for everyone to think, observe and ponder about the existing order, balance and harmony among the created things and beings. The order that exists in an atom or in the solar system or everything in between and their relationships to each other clearly shows that these things do not exist by chance. They were created by an all- knowing, all-wise and all-powerful Being. A person who possesses the ability to think clearly can see, when he studies the subjects like astronomy, science, biology and medicine taught in high schools and universities, that the created things have a creator. It is impossible for such a creator to have any kind of defect. Prophet Muhammad ‘sall-Allâhu ’alaihi wa sal-lam’ is His Messenger. Whatever he communicated was revealed to him by the Creator. This reasoning engenders belief in Him. When a person wise enough learns that disbelievers or people who die as disbelievers will stay in Hell forever and Believers will live among the blessings of Paradise forever, he becomes a Muslim willingly and lovingly. [Ibrâhîm Haqqi, ‘rahimahullâhu ta’âlâ’ of Erzurum/Turkey, (died 1195 A.D., 1781 Hijrî at Si’rid/Turkey) states the following in the ninth chapter of his book Ma’rifatnâma:

“Knowledge of science and astronomy and machinery and factories are based on experiments and intellectual activity. Therefore, by the passage of time new information proves that the old information was wrong. Old or new, wrong or right all scientific knowledge points out that the universe was created out of nothing and that it is a necessity to believe in a Creator who has infinite knowledge and power.” Anyone who reads the beautiful moral character and miracles of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm’ understands that he is the Prophet.]