Declaring a Muslim Brother a Kafir

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by


As-salamu ‘alaykum wa-rahmatullahi wa-barakatuh, some Muslims declares other Muslims to be kafirs, what is the hukm for the takfir? jazak Allah khayran.

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Wa alaykum salam wa rahmatuLlahi wa barakatuHu,

Imam Bukhari related in his Sahih v. 4, p. 124 #6103, 6104 on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar and Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet Muhammad (sallaAllahu alayhie wa sallam) said, “If a man says to his brother, ‘O kafir,’ then it returns to one of them.” Likewise, Imam Muslim narrated similar hadiths in his Sahih v. 2, p. 237-38 on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar and Abu Dharr.

In Rawdah v. 10, p. 65, Imam Nawawi cited from Mutawalli, “And if one says to a Muslim, ‘O kafir,’ in without interpretation, it is kufr; because, it is calling Islam kufr.” In Irshad al-Sari v. 9, p. 65, Qastalani said,

لأنه إن كان القائل صادقا في نفس الأمر فالمرمي كافر وإن كان كاذبا فقد جعل الرامي الإيمان كفرا ومن جعل الإيمان كفرا فقد كفر كذا حمله البخاري على تحقق الكفر على أحدهما بمقتضى الترجمة ولذا ترجم عليه مقيدا بغير تأويل وحمله بعضهم على الزجر والتغليظ فيكون ظاهره غير مراد

“Because if the one issuing the statement is right regarding the matter, then the one upon whom the statement is given is a kafir; while if mistaken, then the accuser has made iman into kufr, and one who does this is a kafir. Like this Imam Bukhari has applied the hadith to be a fact that the kufr is found with one of them, pursuant to the chapter heading. Thus, he has entitled the chapter specifying that the statement be uninterpretable. Others have carried the hadith on zajr and taghliz, accordingly the zahir of the hadith is not intended [according to their understanding].”

In Sharh Sahih Muslim v. 2, p. 238, Imam Nawawi has mentioned that some ulama understood that the zahir of the hadith is not what is intended. Different interpretations have been offered. For instance, some have said that the hadith applies to one who considers it lawful to declare a Muslim as a kafir. This view is stated by Shaykh al-Islam in Sharh al-Rawd v. 4, p. 118. Also, some said that the ma’siyah [horrible sin] of making takfir of a Muslim is what is comes back to one giving the statement. He has committed a major wrong; and this could also well a door to him falling into complete kufr, similar to other major sins like leaving the prayer, fornication, etc.

In Bughyat al-Mustarshidin p. 308, it is cited from Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kurdi that Imams Nawawi and Rafi’i (as they stated in Rawdah and its asl) held that one who called his Muslim brother a kafir in an uninterpretable statement has committed kufr. And understood from some of the As-hab al-Wujuh, like Imam Ghazzali, Abu Ishaq, Ibn Daqiq al-Eid and others, is no differentiation between one who would call his Muslim brother a kafir in an interpretable statement or otherwise, there being no difference, thus according to them it is kufr either way.

Some, like Shaykh al-Islam have inclined towards Imam Nawawi’s view in Sharh Sahih Muslim. Others, like Zayn al-Din al-Malibari, Abu Bakr Shata al-Dimyati, Muhammad b. Sulayman al-Kurdi, Taqi al-Din al-Husni, and others to the view mentioned in Rawdah.

And Allah knows best. Fatwa Dept.

This answer was collected from which was a repository of Islamic answers as per the Shafi’i madhhab. The website no longer functions. At its peak, many ‘ulama were involved with the site including Shaykh Mawlana Taha Karaan, Shaykh Abdul-Fattah ibn Abdullah, and Shaykh AbdurRagman Khan.

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