BY ABDULLAH TARIQ
Q. The extremely objectionable statement by Mr. Zakir Naik (Islamic Voice, June) needs to be vehemently contested. Mr. Naik, an Islamist, suggests the following: “If any non-Muslim finds the word Kafir i.e. non-Muslim as an abuse, the only thing he has to do is to accept Islam and then we will stop referring to him as, a Kafir i.e. a non Muslim.” This is outrageous!
C. Chatterjee ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ans. The line that offended Mr. Chatterji, may cause misunderstanding in the mind of any non-Muslim. Though Dr. Naik has explained the meaning of ‘Kafir’, the explanation is very short to be clear enough in today’s context. As it is, there are widespread misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims. Since the average mind is biased and the word Kafir has assumed an abusive connotation for some time, I feel that a more detailed analysis of the word Kafir is called for.
Kafir is a subject based on the verb Kufr. One who commits Kuf’r is Kafir. Kuf’r in Arabic dictionary bears three meanings.
- To conceal,
- To be ungrateful
- To deny or to reject.
This word has been used in all these three meanings in the holy Book.
Now let us deliberate over these three meaning of ‘Kufr’:
Concealment is associated with possession and endowment. One who possesses nothing precious has no need to hide. The Word of God, the Knowledge given by Him is a most valuable asset a man may possess. All along in the history of mankind, men of knowledge have been concealing from masses the Knowledge they possess so as to exploit them in the name of religion. Those who forbade the Knowledge of Vedas to the Shudras were indeed ‘Kafir’. Those who conceal from masses that Vedas forbid idol worship, have committed the crime of concealment. Not a single verse of the four Vedas speaks of the next life of a person in the mould of any animal or vegetation. Instead, they explain in detail the descriptions of eternal paradise and hell Hereafter. There are detailed prophecies of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) in Vedas. Those who conceal these facts from the people having faith in Vedas are Kafir (in Arabic). Jesus Christ never once in his gospel, claimed to be ‘The Only Begotten Son of God’. On the contrary, to emphasise his human origin he always referred to himself as ‘son of man’. Those who hide this truth are Kafir in the eyes of Qur’an, which is in Arabic. This is an undisputable fact that prior to Qur’an, all the previous scriptures revealed by God could not remain safe from human interpolation. Those who made changes in the Word of God were Kafir. It is also a verifiable truth that among all scriptures, claiming to be Word of God, only Qur’an is unaltered to the last word and letter. This is the biggest endowment of God to the mankind that Muslims claim to possess. This wealth was sent for the whole of mankind. If the possessors of this precious asset do not distribute it among mankind, for whom it was revealed, they would be Kafir. In the past, the men of knowledge stopped others from knowing the word of God, but at present, those who possess the most precious wealth, the way to ‘Mukti’ and salvation, are in general becoming the greatest criminals of concealment if they do not distribute the ‘Gyan’ (knowledge) of salvation. A large number of Muslims I dare say, are practically becoming the greatest Kafirs of today as far as this meaning of the word ‘Kuf’r’ goes. Mr. Chatterji can call them Kafirs who keep the knowledge of unadulterated Word of God to themselves.
Gratitude and ingratitude are also associated with prize, endowment and bestowment. Whoever has been bestowed by someone has an obligation to be grateful to his benefactor. If those calling themselves Muslims think that they have been bestowed with the safest and unaltered Word of God by their Lord, it is they who can be grateful or ungrateful. If their lives do not bear witness to the teachings of Islam and Qur’an, if they are becoming unwanted instead of blessing for the society and if their conduct is driving Non-Muslims to hate Islam and Qur’an then they are becoming ungrateful or Kafir in Arabic. In principle he cannot be called ungrateful who has not been gifted anything worth while.
Denial and Rejection
Denial or rejection is essentially linked to an order or request or an offer. You cannot deny or reject anything unless an offer has been made to you or you have been ordered or requested something. If I ask someone to bring me a glass of water and he rejects my request I can say that he has rejected my request or denied it. I have no right to claim he has denied if I did not ask or requested him in the first place. Whether the Non-Muslims are technically Kafir or not in the eyes of Islam, those who have not asked them to accept it after explaining and presenting it in a decent and convincing manner, have no moral right in letter and spirit to call them Kafir.
The decree or Fatwa is passed on apparent admission but Allah knows all that is apparent and hidden as well. On two counts above it is for every Muslims to introspect whether he is being a Kafir or not. Only the third meaning of the word may brand a non-Muslim as Kafir but only after he has been offered Islam in a convincing and acceptable manner.
Kafir in itself is not an abuse. It has been used in Qur’an for faithful and devout Muslims also. “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily the right path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever becomes Kafir of the false deities and believes in Allah, has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break...” (2:256)
From the above verse it must be clear that the word Kafir itself is not abusive. Kafir is a subject that needs an object. The rejecter of - what? Muslims are the Kafirs of Hinduism (in its present form). Hindus are the Kafirs of Islam (provided they have rejected it after understanding it). In Islamic terminology the word, if spoken without an object, is used for those who reject the Islamic Faith. That is what Dr. Zakir Naik wrote in brief but I agree that his subsequent comment that offended Mr. Chatterji was uncalled for.
Q. I am a Hindu woman. I believe in only one God. Does it mean that I believe in Islam? Does Islam itself mean to be a Muslim? I do not believe in casteism strictly. Does Islam follow or approve of a particular caste? Some points in Islam explained to me are scientifically proven. Des it mean that Islam is based on science or is it that science is based on Islam? I agree on most of the points explained to me by a follower of Islam, I do not think him to be a Muslim but only a follower of Islam. Kindly throw some light.
Ans. Belief in One God with no partners in His Godhead is one of the foremost but not the only principle of Islam. In short there are two more main beliefs besides the above, which are essentially the parts of Islamic Monotheism.
(i) Belief in the Life Hereafter:
That all human beings shall be raised to their Lord on an appointed day to give account of their life in this world. They shall be rewarded or punished in their eternal life thereafter. No living is born again in this world as here is their first and last chance to prove that they are fit for the purpose of their creation.
(ii) Belief in the Prophets of God:
That God revealed to the mankind His word through His chosen ones from among human beings from time to time. The prophets came to all nations and all races to guide the human kind to lead life according to their Lord’s Will. All the prophets of God preached essentially the same religion which is called Islam in Arabic. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was the last Prophet of God through whom His Word, the Qur’an was revealed. Our salvation in the next life Hereafter which is eternal, lies now in following Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and Qur’an. Though all the scriptures are God were true but Qur’an is the only Word of God, which remained safe from human interpolation and shall remain unaltered till the last day on earth.
In brief the belief in above principles of faiths along with the deeds according to the Qur’an and the Last Prophet (Pbuh) is the total requirement of being a Muslim. Islam is the name of religion and way of life taught by the Prophet (Pbuh) and one who accepts it in principle and practises is a Muslim. Islam is not a caste and one cannot be a born Muslim. It does not matter in which caste or family one is born, whoever accepts Islam becomes a Muslim. God, who knows all that is in our hearts and all that we do, shall alone decide on the Day of Judgment who among those are Muslims who claim to be Muslims in this world. The holy Qur’an declared: “Verily those who (claim to) believe (in Islam) and those who are Jews and Christians and Sabians (include those professing non-semetic religions), whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62)
As for the relationship between Qur’an and Science, the source of both is one. Science is the knowledge of the universe, we discover. The universe is created by God. If Qur’an is the Word of God and universe, the Work of God, there can never be any contradiction between the two. This can be one of the biggest basis of judging the claim of Qur’an to be the Word of God. There are many good books on the subject, if you are really interested in truth. I recommend that you go through ‘The Bible, Qur’an and Science’ written by a French convert, Dr. Maurice Bucaille, available on all leading book stores of Islamic literature.
Q. I have some questions, for which my very limited knowledge of Islam has no answers. Could some are throw light on these queries on the basis of the Holy Qur’an, with relevant excerpts from it?
- Who is a Kafir?
- How has Allah asked the faithful to treat the Kafirs?
The second question was posed by a Non-Muslim colleague of mine. This question assumes significance in today’s world, where we have Islamic movements all over trying to rejuvenate Islam and spread it all across. Are all such movements justified according to Allah? Can Taliban & the Pakistani Mujahideen movement be considered to be part of such movements?
Ans: Who is a Kafir? This subject has been dealt with in detail in answer to the previous question.
The relationship of Muslims with the Kafirs (of Islam) is a human relationship based on human brotherhood as mankind has descended from one man and woman. Islam in general asks its followers to be compassionate to all creatures. Muslims are expected to talk and behave in a most decent and exemplary manner to every human being. The Prophet (Pbuh) carried the heavy market sack of an old non-Muslim woman on his head and delivered it to her house. He went to ask for welfare of a non-Muslim old lady when she fell ill though she used to throw garbage over him every day from her rooftop. He used to lodge his non-Muslim visitors in his mosque and personally looked after them. Once a guest relieved himself on the floor of the mosque intentionally to tease him but he washed it with his own hands refusing the help of his Companions, mentioning that he was his guest.
The responsibilities are manifold if the non-Muslim is a neighbour. He is not a Muslim in the eyes of the Prophet (Pbuh) who has the means of eating to his full appetite while his neighbour starves. The Prophet does not recognise him as a Muslim from whose nuisance his neigbour is not safe. There are numerous verses in Qur’an and the Prophet’s Hadiths supporting the above that are not being quoted here for brevity’s sake.
The misunderstanding in non-Muslim minds have been created by the hate mongers by citing out of context, those verses of Qur’an which specifically deal with a state of war, a war which is imposed upon the Muslims by the enemies of Islam. The Qur’an says: Allah does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on your religion nor driven you from your homes. Allah loves the equitable.” (60:8)
The most important right of a non-Muslim upon a Muslim is to show him the path of salvation for which the Qur’an was revealed. It ordains them: “Call men to the path of your Lord with wisdom and mild exhortation. Reason with them in the most courteous manner.” (16:125)
In reply to a misbehaviour, a Muslim is advised to exhibit patience and kindness: “And who is better in speech than he who calls others to the service of Allah, does righteous deeds and says: I am one of those who surrendered to Allah. Good and evil deeds are not alike. Requite evil with good, then verily he, between whom and you is enmity, will become your dearest friend. But none will attain this save those who endure with fortitude and are truly fortunate.” (41:33-35). There has to be absolutely no compulsion in Dawah: “There is no compulsion in religion...” (2:256) If they do not accept despite their best efforts then, the Muslims’ attitude towards them should be: “Let your religion be to you and to me mine”. (109:6)
Another major cause of misunderstanding today is the role of political activists and terrorists in the garb of Mujahideen. The renaissance or spread of Islam can be through Dawah. There are true Dawah groups in the world and their efforts are bearing fruits everywhere. These movements are not only justified but they are truly fulfilling the real duty of Islamic Ummah, which was spelt as: “You are the best Ummah that has ever been raised up for mankind (for) you enjoin justice and forbid evil. You believe in Allah.” (3:110)
The Pakistani terrorists and Taliban not only form no part of such movements but through their acts of terrorism and extremism, they have become the biggest hurdle in the way of non-Muslims seeing the real picture and face of Islam. To call these terrorists ‘Mujahideen’ is to desecrate the holy name and spirit of Jihad. Pakistan could never become an Islamic state though it was (in an un-Islamic manner) created in the name of Islam. Pakistan has no right to wage a Jihad unless it is an Islamic state. The first job of true Mujahideen in Pakistan is to wage a Jihad in Pakistan to make it a true Islamic state, which exists nowhere in the world. When it becomes an Islamic state it may wage a Jihad against such aggressing non-Muslim nations who do not permit Muslims to practise their religion and expel them from their homes for calling Allah their only Lord. Those were the conditions when Qur’an gave permission to Muslims to fight: “Permission (to take up arms) is hereby given to those who are attacked, because they have been wronged. Allah has power to grant them victory: those who have been unjustly driven from their homes, only because they said: Our Lord is Allah.” (22:39)
As it is, Muslims in India are safer than they are in Pakistan today. Yes, there are discriminators and fascist elements in India too but the sensible majority prevails over them and it will not be an exaggeration to say that Dawah groups have more liberty to preach their religion in India than in any Muslim majority country in the world. There is another dimension to Pakistan-sponsored Jihad. The children and youth belonging to all top families and leaders of Islamic groups in Pakistan are safely studying in Europe and America while the poor unemployed and frustrated youth are being exploited and misguided for Jihad against India where the Muslims are permitted to act and preach their religion. If it is a Jihad the leaders and at least the leaders of so-called Islamic movements must first send their own children to attain shahadat (martyrdom).
Even where a war is permitted there is a code of conduct for Islamic army. The Prophet (Pbuh) forbade killing children, old, women and labourers. What for the women and labourers are there in a battlefield? Islam does not permit to lift women from the civilian population of the enemy. Naturally if they are in the battleground, they are there to help the enemy army even if not fighting directly. But Islam orders not to kill a woman and a labourer though they are there to help the enemy soldiers. Can it then grant permission to plant a bomb in a public place killing indiscriminately the innocents? It is the duty of every Muslim to at least denounce the acts of terrorism in the name of Jihad.
Taliban are also a group of misguided militant extremists, if the news reaching us is even half the truth. Let us get this straight: Islam has no place for extremism. It always favours a middle path. Taliban are trying to implement their own brand of Islam by force in their country and worse, they are joining and helping other extremist and even terrorist groups claiming to wage Jihad, in other parts of the world. This has painted a very unkind and unreal picture of Islam and has distorted the most balanced and equitable Islamic philosophy of war and peace, in the eyes of others.
Q. Can a Muslim boy marry a Christian girl without the girl converting to Islam? If the girl converts for the sake of marrying the Muslim boy, then is it permitted in Islam? Can they marry without the consent of their parents? Is it compulsory for the girl after marriage to change her Christian name e.g. (Ophilia)? Please clarify in the light of holy Qur’an.
(Khan Rizwan ; Bangalore)
A. Qur’an has permitted Muslims to wed Christian girls. It says: “(All) good things have this day been made lawful to you. The food of those to whom the Book was given is lawful to you, and yours to them. Lawful to you are the free believing women and the free women from among those who were given the Book before you, provided that you give them their dowries (Mehar) and live in honour with them, neither committing fornication nor taking them as mistresses...” (5:5)
Please note that the above permission is not absolute. Food and women of the people who were given the Book, have been described to be lawful in the same verse. Both of them are unconditional, irrespective of other laws regarding food or women or other laws, stated in connection with either of the two. Some scholars are of the opinion that the food permission of the people of the Book is subjected to the conditions laid down in other verses describing food (Zabeeha) laws. They however, insist that the permission of marrying their women is absolute and unconditional. This is obviously illogical and against common sense. Compared to them, the opinion of those Ulema is more logical who say that both the food and women of people of the book are permitted unconditionally. Obviously this is also not judicious. It would mean that the food of the people of the Book will be permitted even if they do not pronounce the name of One God over it or even if they slaughter the animals in the name of gods other than Allah. If they slaughter with incorrect procedure or abruptly (with Jhatka), even then it would be permitted. Qur’an has clearly prohibited the meat of that animal on which the name of other than Allah is pronounced and that meat is also forbidden over which the name of Allah is not pronounced. This condition will surely apply to the above verse. Similarly the clearly defined principles of marriage will also apply to the above verse. Marriage in relations specified in the verses 4: 22-23 is unlawful. For example, marrying a real niece is not permitted irrespective of whether she is a Muslim or Christian. Similarly Qur’an says: “You shall not wed Mushrik women (idolatresses or those ascribing partners to Allah) till they believe (in One God alone)...” (2:221) This condition will also apply in case of marriage to a Christian. That is, marriage with a Christian girl is permitted only if she believes and proclaims that Jesus Christ was not the Son of Allah but His bondsman and a prophet.
The primary aim of any girl to embrace Islam may have been the love of a man. There is no harm in it, but the conversion should be sincere and not a farce, otherwise there is no need of conversion. An adult man and woman, whose marriage is otherwise lawful, can marry without the permission of the parents but it is not advisable. Adults should behave and think like mature adults. You must be aware of Christians marrying into other religions for missionary purpose. Thousands of unwary Muslims are being lured by Christian suitors in this manner. They even feign to become Muslims for the purpose of such marriages and in a short time convince their partners to leave Islam. A sincere Muslim who has the sense of enquiring about Islamic view cannot take such risks which may endanger his eternal life.
If the girl remains a Christian, the change of name is unnecessary. If she embraces Islam sincerely, though Islam does not bind her to change the name (if the meaning of the name is not Un-Islamic), she should not be averse to the suggestion. However if she is not deceiving or falsely posing to embrace Islam and she wants to keep her old name, there is no compulsion over her.