Who is a Muslim?
| Translators Note:
The most fundamental part of our evidence dealt with the question:
What does a person have to profess, practice, or do, according
to Islamic teachings, in order to be known as a Muslim?
It must be made clear that the point at issue here is not
what are the requirements for a person to be a full and true
Muslim in belief and deed. The issue relevant to the case is,
What is the criteria laid down by Islam for a person to be known
as, identified as and treated as a Muslim so far
as matters of civil law and his social relations with other
Muslims are concerned. The evidence on this point is divided
into six parts:
- From the Holy Quran, extracts showing
that belief in God and His Messenger makes a person a 'Muslim'.
- From the Hadith, incidents showing that
during the life-time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad people
embraced Islam by reciting the Kalima Shahada.
- Opinion of Muslim authorities, throughout
the history of Islam, again showing that to be known as
a Muslim and included in the Islamic community, a person
has only to profess the Kalima.
- Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, giving
certain outward signs of a Muslim, so that a person
showing those signs must be treated as a Muslim.
- The Quran, Hadith, and Muslim theologians,
on the prohibition of Takfir (calling a Muslim
as a kafir).
- Muslim theologians' view that a person cannot
be called kafir on the grounds that he differs with
a commonly-accepted interpretation of some religious point.
1.1: The Holy Quran
The religion of Islam is summarised in the two phrases: la ilaha
ill-Allah (there is no God but Allah) and Muhammad-ur rasul
Allah (Muhammad is the messenger of Allah). By affirming these
two precepts, a person enters the fellowship of Islam.
These two constituents do not occur together in the Holy Quran,
as they do in the Kalima, but each is a constant theme of
Know that there is no God but Allah. (47:19)
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. (48:29)
The Quran also says: Believe in Allah and His messengers.
As regards who is a Muslim, the Quran says:
These verses make it clear that the person who believes in the oneness
of God and the prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and believes
in his revelation, is a Muslim. Verse no. 5 goes so far as to say
that a person who offers the greeting assalamu alaikum to show
that he is a Muslim cannot be called kafir (unbeliever or non-Muslim).
- Say: It is revealed to me that your God is one God. Will
you then be Muslims? (21:108)
- Say: We believe in Allah and in that which has been revealed
to us, and in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ismael and
Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was given to
Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the Prophets from
their Lord. We do not make any distinction between any of them,
and we are Muslims. (2:136)
- And when I revealed to the disciples, saying, Believe
in Me and My messenger, they said: We believe, and bear witness
that we are Muslims. (5:111)
- The desert Arabs say, We have faith. Say
to them: You do not have faith, but rather say, we are Muslims
faith has not yet entered your hearts. (49:14)
- Do not say 'you are not a believer' to a person who says
assalamu alaikum to you. (4:94)
1.2: How the Holy Prophet converted
people to Islam
- Ibn Umar reported that the messenger of Allah, may peace
and the blessings of Allah be upon him, said: Islam is based on
five things testifying that there is no god but Allah and
that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, keeping up prayer, giving
in charity (Zakaat), the Pilgrimage (hajj), and
fasting in Ramadaan.
(Bukhari, Book of Faith; Book 2, ch. 1; p. 90 of edition
Note: In this hadith, the Kalima is counted as one
of the five fundamentals. The basic foundation is the Kalima,
the other fundamentals being based upon it.
- Ibn Abbas related that the Holy Prophet sent Muaz
to Yemen [as governor], and instructed him: Invite the people
to testify that there is no god but Allah, and that I am the messenger
of Allah; if they accept this, tell them that Allah has made obligatory
for them five prayers daily; if they accept that, tell them that
Allah has made obligatory upon them to give in charity, which
is taken from their rich and given to their poor.
(Bukhari, Book of Zakaat; Book 24, ch. 1)
- When the time of Abu Talibs death approached, the
messenger of Allah, may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon
him, came to him and found with him Abu Jahl Ibn Hisham and Abdullah
Ibn Abi al-Mughira. The messenger of Allah said to Abu Talib:
O uncle! say There is no god but Allah, I shall bear
witness for you to Allah about this.
Then Abu Jahl and Abdullah Ibn Abi Umayyah said: O Abu
Talib! will you turn away from the religion of Abdul Muttalib?
The messenger of Allah continued to put this Kalima to
him, and the other two kept on repeating what they had said,
until Abu Talib said his last words to them, that he followed
the religion of Abdul Muttalib, and he refused to say, There
is no god but Allah.
(Bukhari, Book of Funerals; Book 23, ch. 81; vol. i,
Abu Bakr said: O messenger of Allah, what is salvation?
The Holy Prophet said: He who accepts the Kalima which
I put before my uncle [Abu Talib], but which he rejected, that
is the means of salvation.
(Mishkat al-Masabih, Book of Faith, ch. 1, sec. 3)
- Anas reported that the Holy Prophet said: There is no
one who testifies truly from his heart that there is no God but
Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, but Allah prohibits
for him the fire of hell.
(Mishkat al-Masabih, Book of Faith, ch. 1, sec. 1)
- It is reported from Abu Huraira that the Prophet, may
peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him, sent riders towards
Najd. They brought a man of the Bani Hanifa, whose name was Sumama
Ibn Usal, and tied him to one of the pillars of the mosque. Then
the Holy Prophet came out to him and said: Untie Sumama. The man
went to a date-tree close to the mosque, had a bath, came back
into the mosque, and said: I testify that there is no god but
Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger.
(Bukhari, Book of Prayer; Book 8, ch. 75; vol. i, p. 243)
- Abu Zarr related: I said to him [Holy Prophet]: Present
Islam to me. So when he presented it, I became a Muslim there
and then. He said to me: Abu Zarr! Keep this matter a secret,
and return to your land. When you hear of our triumph, then come.
I said: By Him Who sent you with the truth, I shall shout
about this to them. So he [Abu Zarr] went to the mosque,
and the Quraish were there. He said: O people of Quraish! I testify
that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is
His servant and messenger.
(Bukhari, Kitab al-Manaqib; Book 61, ch. 9; vol. ii, p.
- In the well-known story of the conversion of Umar to Islam,
given in Shiblis famous biography of the Holy Prophet Seerat
an-nabi, it is related that when Umar became convinced of
the truth of the Quran, he declared his conversion to Islam by
crying out: I testify that there is no god but Allah, and
I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
(Seerat an-Nabi, vol. i, pp. 225-226)
- When Abdullah Ibn Salam heard of the arrival of the Holy Prophet
in Madina, he went to see him and said: I want to ask you
three things which only prophets know about. The Holy Prophet
answered his questions. The account then runs:
He [Abdullah] said: I testify that you are the messenger
of Allah. He then said: O messenger of Allah! the Jews are a
people who slander; if they find out about my becoming a Muslim
before you ask them about me, they will slander me. So when
the Jews came, Abdullah went inside the house. The messenger
of Allah, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said:
What sort of a man is your Abdullah Ibn Salam? They said: He
is our most learned scholar, son of the most learned one, and
he is the best of us, son of the best one. The Holy Prophet
said: What if you see that he has become a Muslim? They said:
May God save him from this! Then Abdullah came to them and said:
I testify that there is no god but Allah, and I testify that
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. They said: He is the worst
one of us, son of the worst one. And they began to deprecate
(Bukhari, Book of Prophets; Book 60, ch. 1; vol. ii,
- It is related from Abu Salama that his mother had expressed
a dying wish that a Muslim slave-girl should be freed on
her behalf. So he asked the Holy Prophet about it and wondered
if he should set free a black slave-girl from the city of Nobiyya
whom he owned. The Holy Prophet said: Bring her here. When she
came, he said to her: Who is your Lord? She said: Allah. He said:
Who am I? She said: The messenger of Allah. He said: Go and free
her, she is a believer.
(Tarjuman al-Sunna, vol. ii, p. 128)
- Abu Huraira related that he asked the Holy Prophet to pray
for the guidance of his mother. He prayed: O Allah! grant guidance
to Abu Hurairas mother. Abu Huraira then relates:
I then left, being pleased because of the prayer of
the messenger of Allah, may peace and the blessings of Allah
be upon him. When I approached the door of my house, it was
closed. My mother, hearing the sound of my footsteps, called
out: Stay where you are, Abu Huraira. I could hear the sound
of splashing water. She had a bath, put on her upper garment,
and hurried with the head-covering. Then she opened the door
and said: O Abu Huraira! I testify that there is no god but
Allah, and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. I rushed
back to the messenger of Allah, shedding tears of joy. He praised
Allah, and spoke well of her.
(Muslim, Book of Virtues, vol. vi, pp. 163-164)
- Baraida Ibn al-Hasib related that one day they were sitting
with the Holy Prophet when he said to his companions: Let us go
and visit our sick Jewish neighbour. So when the Holy Prophet
went in to see him, he found him near to death. He asked him how
he was, and then said to him: Testify that there is no god but
Allah, and that I am the messenger of Allah. The Jew looked at
his father, who did not speak. [The Holy Prophet then repeated
his question]. The father said: Testify to it. So the boy said:
I testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is
the messenger of Allah. The Holy Prophet said: Praise be to Allah
Who, through me, saved this man from the fire of hell.
(Bukhari, Book of Funerals. See also Mishkat, kitab-ul-fitn,
ch. Names of the Holy Prophet, Sec. 3, see v. 3, pp. 134-135)
- While the Holy Prophet was asleep under a tree, a desert Arab
came upon him with a sword. The account continues:
He [the bedouin] said: Who can save you from me now?
The Holy Prophet said: Allah. The sword fell from his hand.
The Holy Prophet picked it up and said: Who can save you from
me now? The man said: Be a better wielder of the sword [the
meaning is: Forgive me]. The Holy Prophet said: Do you testify
that there is no god but Allah and that I am the messenger of
Allah? He said: No, but I promise that I shall not fight you
nor side with those who fight you. So the Holy Prophet let him
(Mishkat al-Masabih, ch. Reliance on God and Patience,
- A man came to the Holy Prophet while a battle was going on.
He said: Shall I first fight the unbelievers and then become a
Muslim, or first become a Muslim and then fight? The Holy Prophet
said: Become a Muslim first, then fight. The man said: I testify
that there is no god but Allah, and that you are His servant and
messenger. He then went and fought until he was killed.
(Tuhfat al-Akhyar, p. 394)
- Adi Ibn Hatim, a Companion of the Holy Prophet, related: The
Holy Prophet, seeing me, said: Adi, why do you run from la
ilaha ill-Allah [There is no god but Allah]? Is there anyone
other than Allah worthy of being worshipped? Why do you refrain
from saying Allahu Akbur? Is there anyone greater than
Allah? These words made such an impression upon me that I immediately
recited the Kalima and became a Muslim.
(Tafsir Ibn Kasir, Urdu, under verse 1:5)
1.3: Muslim authorities on Who
is a Muslim
1. Abu Bakr
When Abu Bakr became the first Caliph, he wrote a letter to certain
apostate tribes, explaining how he became a Muslim:
I praise the true God, besides whom there is none
to be worshipped. I declare that Allah is One, without partner,
and Muhammad is His servant and messenger. We affirm the message
of Allah which he brought us. He who denies it, is a kafir.
(Tarikh Tabari, Urdu translation, vol. i, part iv, p. 38)
2. How apostate tribe became Muslim
When the tribe of Abdul Qais became apostate upon the death of
the Holy Prophet, one member of this tribe gathered them and brought
them back to Islam. He announced:
Muhammad has died, as did the previous prophets
die. I declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad
is His servant and messenger.
His tribe said:
We too testify that there is no god but Allah,
and certainly Muhammad is His servant and messenger.
Thus did they stay firm in Islam.
(Tarikh Tabari, vol. i, pp. 94-95. Chapter on the apostates
3. Imam Ghazali (d. 1111 C.E.)
Ghazali, one of Islams greatest philosophers, wrote:
- He who says, There is no god but Allah,
and Muhammad is His messenger, with the tongue but does
not confirm it in his heart, there is no doubt that in the Hereafter
he shall be included among the unbelievers, and shall enter hell.
But there is also no doubt that, so far as affairs of this world
are concerned, the religious and secular authorities shall include
him among the Muslims because it is not known what is in his heart,
and we are obliged to accept what is on his tongue.
(Ihya al-Ulum, p. 97)
- In his biography of Ghazali, Maulana Shibi writes:
What were Islamic doctrines according to Ghazali? The
principle of Islam is only two sentences: There is no god but
Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. However, in explaining
the details of these, differences arose and many sects sprang
(Al-Ghazali by Shibli, p. 102)
4. Imam Ibn Taimiyya (d. 1327 C.E.)
The Imam, an eminent theologian, considered as the mujaddid
of his time, writes:
The proof of someones Islam should be based
upon something which can be known to all alike. If this had been
determined by the knowledge possessed by the messenger of God, then
all the hypocrites would have been included in the disbelievers.
If they had been killed on this basis, they would have got an opportunity
to discredit Islam by saying that the Holy Prophet killed his own
friends. Hence, the mere confession of the Kalima by tongue
was made the criterion of embracing Islam, and the commencement
and the end of war against disbelievers was made dependent on just
(Kitab-ul-Iman, p. 172 as referred to in Tarjuman al-Sunna,
footnote, vol. i, p. 471, Delhi, 1948)
5. Shah Wali-ullah of Delhi (d. 1763 C.E.)
Shah Wali-ullah, a world-renowned Indian Muslim scholar, theologian
and philosopher, acknowledged by all Muslims of India and Pakistan
When the commandments were formalised by the Shariah,
the word iman (faith) came to be applied to the two
testimonies, and the word kufr (unbelief) to the denial
of these two. Bearing this terminology in mind, we can say that
iman is to acknowledge with the tongue, and kufr is
to deny these two with the tongue.
By the two testimonies is meant the Kalima shahada.
(Al-Khair al-Kasir, p. 440, published in Karachi)
6. Another view from Shah Wali-ullah
The Holy Prophet has described faith as being of
two kinds. One is that upon which depend the commands relating to
this world, such as the sanctity of life and property, and which
is to do with matters of outward obedience. The Holy Prophet Muhammad
has said: I am commanded to fight people till they testify
that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger, say
prayers and give in charity; and when they do this, they have security
of life and property from me. And as to inward disbelief,
Allah will call them to account for that. The Holy Prophet said:
He who prays our prayer, takes our qibla for his qibla,
and eats our slaughtered meat, he is a Muslim for whom is the covenant
[of protection] of Allah and His messenger; so do not violate the
covenant of Allah. And the Holy Prophet said: Three
things are the basis of our faith: he who says the Kalima
with his tongue, do not call him kafir, for any sin, nor
expel him from Islam for any misconduct.
(Hujjat-ullah al-Baligha, vol. i, ch. The second type
of belief, p. 322)
7. Imam Raghibs Mufradat
In the standard dictionary of the Holy Quran, the Mufradat
of Imam Raghib, Islam is defined as follows:
According to the Shariah, there are two grades
of [a persons commitment to] Islam. One [extent of professing]
Islam is below the level of faith, and that is confession with the
tongue and reciting the Kalima. That assures protection of
life. In this case, the question of the correctness of belief does
not arise. The Quranic verse pointing to this grade of Islam is:
The desert Arabs say, We have faith. Tell them, You do
not have faith, you should just say we are Muslims.
The other grade of Islam is that which is above the level
of faith, and that is that, besides professing the Kalima
with the tongue, there should be faith in the heart and the person
should show fidelity in practice and submit to the decrees of
God. This grade of Islam is referred to in the following mention
of Abraham: When his Lord said to him, submit, he said,
I submit to the Lord of the worlds. And it is referred
to in the following: Surely the religion with God is
(Mufradat of Raghib)
8. Lisan al-Hukam
The author of the classical Lisan al-Hukam wrote:
It is written that if an atheist, or an idol worshipper,
or one who believes in gods besides the One God, were to merely
say, There is no god but Allah, he enters Islam. Or if he
were to say, I believe Muhammad to be the messenger of God,
he enters Islam. This is because the deniers of Islam refrain from
saying these two formulae. Hence if he were to declare even one
of these two commandments, he would be taken out of the category
called non-Muslim, and would be considered as a Muslim.
(Lisan al-Hukam, p. 204)
9. Imam Shafii
Shafii, founder of one of the four schools of jurisprudence
in Sunni Islam, related the following:
It was reported to Umar, the second Caliph, regarding
a certain man that he was not a believer at heart, but merely a
Muslim in the outward sense. Umar asked him: Is it not true
that you are only outwardly a Muslim, and not really a Muslim, and
your only reason for embracing Islam is to gain Islamic rights?
He asked Umar: Sir, does Islam deprive those people of their
rights who follow Islam only in the outward sense, and does it leave
no way for them? Umar said: Islam has left a way for
them, and then said nothing further.
(Kitab al-Um, vol. vi, p. 154)
10. Sharh Fiqh Akbar
In this authoritative work of Islamic law, Imam Abu Mansur writes:
He who wishes to be from among the community of
the Holy Prophet Muhammad, must say with his tongue, There is
no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and
affirm its meaning in his heart. He is then a Muslim, even though
he may not know about the duties and prohibitions.
(p. 34 of the edition published by Dairat al-Muarif
11. Sayyid Muhammad Ismail Shaheed (d. 1831 C.E.)
This famous Muslim religious and military leader of North-West
India converted two Sikhs to Islam as follows. The account is taken
from his biography by the well-known modern writer Abul Hasan Ali
During his stay in Panjtar, two Sikh spies came
to meet Shah Ismail Shaheed. He asked them the reason for their
coming. They said that they had come only to meet him. He said:
You are our guests, stay as long as you like. After
about ten days, they said one day: Sir, we have stayed with
you for so many days, listened to what you say, and we find you
to exceed what we had heard from people regarding your praiseworthy
qualities and likeable morals. We much admire your way and religion
and we would like you to instruct us in it. The Sayyid was
very pleased, and immediately got them to recite the Kalima
and become Muslims.
(Jab Iman ki Bahar Aee, Lucknow, India, 1974, pp. 139-140)
12. The Preaching of Islam
This is a renowned history book giving an accurate account of
the spread of Islam, written in the late nineteenth century by the
eminent orientalist Sir Thomas Arnold. It is much popular in the
Muslim world, and is available in Urdu as Dawat-i Islam.
The author quotes a reply written by the Shaikh al-Islam of Constantinople
in 1888 to an enquirer who wanted to become a Muslim. The reply
In reality, the basis of Islam is that one should
believe God to be one, and believe in the apostleship of the Holy
Prophet Muhammad. That is, one should believe this in the heart,
and profess it in words such as those of the Kalima: There
is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger. Any person professing
this Kalima becomes a Muslim, without having to obtain anyones
approval. If, as you have written in your letter, you accept the
Kalima, i.e. you confess that there is only one God, and
Muhammad is His messenger, you are a Muslim, and you do not need
(Dawat-i Islam, edition published in Karachi, 1979,
Appendix iv, p. 350)
13. Roman Princes embrace Islam
In Dawat-i Islam, under the above heading it is recorded:
To embrace Islam, all that was required was to
confess the Kalima: There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is
the messenger of Allah.
(ibid., pp. 143-144; see also The Preaching of Islam, English
edition, reprinted by Renaissance Publishing House, Delhi, 1984,
14. Simplicity of embracing Islam
In the same work it is written:
The most important of all the reasons for the success
of the propagation of Islam is the simplicity of the Kalima
of Islam: There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of
Allah. These are the only two points which a convert to Islam must
profess. It is not found anywhere in the history of the theology
of Islam that the Ulama of Islam devised some complicated and intricate
formulation, in place of this clear Kalima, for the guidance
of the masses.
(ibid., p. 319; see also The Preaching of Islam, op. cit.,
15. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (d. 1943)
This famous theologian, a leading Deoband scholar of early this
I once went to Jaunpur at the request of a butcher,
and stayed as his guest. There I received a letter containing a
poem, saying four things about me. ... The third one was: You
are a kafir. ... I need not say anything about this third
point because I do not have to discuss the past state as to whether
I was a kafir or a Muslim. At this time I recite the Kalima
in front of everyone: I testify that there is no god but Allah,
and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. So now I am a Muslim.
(Majalis Hakim al-Ummat, compiled by Maulavi Mufti Muhammad
Shafi, one-time Head Mufti of Pakistan, published by Darul Ishaat,
Karachi, 1974, pp. 196, 197)
16. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (d. 1958)
He was a Muslim theologian, scholar and author of this century
in India, who also held high political and ministerial posts in
the republic of India. In his well-known Urdu commentary of the
Quran, he writes:
Here we draw attention to just one thing. What
Islam has made as the basic expression of its teaching is known
to everyone Ashhadu an la ilaha ill Allah, wa ashhadu
anna Muhammad-an abdu-hu wa rasulu-hu. That is, I confess that
there is none to be worshipped besides God and I confess that Muhammad
is the servant of God and His messenger.
(Tarjuman al-Quran, Delhi, 1931, vol. i, p. 119)
17. Maulana Shibli (d. 1914)
Shibli, a renowned Indian Muslim scholar, writer and historian
of Islam, wrote in his book on theology and philosophy:
The principles that form the basis of Islam are
Tauheed [belief in the Unity of God] and Nubuwwah
[belief in the prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad]. Whoever
said La ilaha ill-Allah, he entered the garden [of Islam].
This is Islam simple, clear and short. This simplicity is
Islams mark of distinction as compared to other religions,
and a European scholar has expressed his opinion about this simplicity
in the following words: If a Christian thinker will cast a look
at the lengthy and complicated beliefs of his religion, he will
exclaim, Why could not my religion be so clear and simple that
I could be a believer by declaring [something as simple as] belief
in one God and His messenger Muhammad. In fact, these were the
only two statements by reciting which, and by expressing belief
in which, a kafir became a Muslim, a wicked became a righteous,
a vicious one became auspicious, and a reprobate became a chosen
(Ilm-ul-kalam aur Al-kalam, Karachi, 1976, p. 273)
18. Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani
This modern theologian writes:
The word Muslim means only that one included
in it claims to belong to Islam, and reads the holy Kalima:
There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
(Khutbat Sadarat, p. 15)
19. Qari Muhammad Tayyib
The head of the Jamia Qasimiyya, Darul Ulum,
Deoband, India, wrote:
Hence, in introducing a convert into Islam, he
can be required to recite the Kalima Tayyiba or the Kalima
Shahada. In either case, he shall enter Islam.
(Kalima Tayyiba, Deoband, 1369 A.H., p. 66)
20. Maulavi Muhammad Yusuf Banori
The Shaikh al-hadith (chief scholar of Hadith) at the Jamia
Islamiyya in Dabhail, writes:
It is regrettable to know that today a new trouble
is rearing its head in an astonishing manner. That is, the Kalima
of Islam, There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger,
which is the basic tenet of the Islamic religion and the line of
demarcation between unbelief and Islam, is now the subject of debate.
(ibid., pp. 2-3)
21. Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938 C.E.)
This great poet-philosopher of Muslim India, and a national hero
of Pakistan, writes:
Once, under the influence of some spiritual urge,
the Holy Prophet Muhammad told one of his companions: Go and
tell people that whoever in his life even once says with his tongue,
there is no god but Allah, he should know that he shall enter paradise.
The Holy Prophet purposely omitted the second constituent of the
Kalima, i.e. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, without
professing which a person cannot be a Muslim, and he considered
just the confession of the Unity of God to be sufficient.
(Khilafat Islamia, Lahore, 1923, pp. 9-10)
22. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi (d. 1979 C.E.)
Maulana Maudoodi is the best known religious leader of Pakistan,
and founder of the powerful Jamaat-i Islami political
- In a compilation of his sermons, he wrote:
Brothers-in-Islam! You know that a man enters the pale
of Islam by reciting a certain sentence. And even that sentence
is not very long but a few words: There is no god but Allah,
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Expressing these words by
tongue, a person changes altogether. He was a kafir,
and is now a Muslim. He was impure and is now pure.
(Khutbut-i Maudoodi, Pathankot, India, 1940, p. 24)
- In these hadith, the Holy Prophet has explained
the constitutional law of Islam. And that is that when a person
professes the unity of God and the apostleship of the Holy Prophet,
he enters the fold of Islam and becomes a citizen of the Islamic
state. As to whether he is a true believer or not, only God can
judge that. We are not permitted to judge it because of the [Holy
Prophets] words: I have not been commanded to cut
open peoples hearts and search their inner selves.
Security of life and property is established by the mere confession
of unity and apostleship.
(Tafhimat, Pathankot, India, 1942, p. 164)
- Every person knows that the confession of the
oneness of God (tauhid) and the prophethood of the Holy
Prophet (risalat) is given the name faith (Iman).
If a person confesses this, the legal requirement to enter the
pale of Islam is fulfilled, and he deserves to be treated as one
of the Muslims.
(Tahrik Islam Ki Ikhlaqi Bunyaden, i.e. Moral basis of
the Islamic Movement, p. 39)
23. Ghulam Ahmad Pervez
This well-known present-day Pakistani Muslim thinker, author,
and founder of the institute Idara Tulu-i-Islam, writes
in his Urdu commentary of the Holy Quran:
It has been made essential that every person who
wishes to enter this order [Islam] should affirm two points. One
is la ilaha ill-Allah I testify that there is none
except Allah to bow to. Secondly, ash-hadu anna Muhammad-an abdu-hu
wa rasuluh Muhammad, who takes the central place in this
order, is the servant and messenger of Allah.
(Muarif al-Quran, vol. iv, p. 613)
24. Chaudhary Afzal Haque
The President of the Ahrar Muslim political movement in India
before partition writes:
Whatever degree of knowledge one has about Islam,
one should convey that to non-Muslims. One should not think that
one has only little knowledge. The knowledge of Islam is only a
few words, by understanding which a person enters Islam. Besides
Allah there is none worthy of worship no jinn, man, tomb
or cemetery and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. By just
this, the doors of righteousness open for man, the polluted became
pure, and the wicked became good.
(Khutbut Ahrar, Lahore, 1944, p. 61)
25. Daily Azad, organ of the Ahrar:
As long as a person strictly adheres to the two
basic principles of Islam, i.e. tauhid and risalat
[oneness of God, and prophethood of Muhammad], no cleric or priest
can expel him from the pale of Islam, regardless of how erroneous
and misguided that persons views about the interpretation
of the Quran and the Shariah may be.
(23 May 1952)
26. Sayyid Abu Zarr Bukhari
Son of the well-known Ata-Ullah Shah Bukhari, and head of the
committee of the Ahrar, said in an interview:
We believe it to be wrong to use our positions
of issuing religious verdicts in order to unlawfully expel a person
from the fold of Islam. No one has the right to call kafir
those people who are claiming with their own tongues to be Muslims.
(Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, 12 March 1969, front page)
27. Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi (a leader of the Jamaat
The basis of Islam is the Kalima: There
is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
(Haqiqat-i Shirk, preface, p. 5)
28. Dr Israr Ahmad
He is a well-known scholar of the Holy Quran in Pakistan who frequently
writes on Islam in the newspapers. He writes:
Only that person in this world will be called a
Muslim who professes with the tongue and expresses the Kalima
(Nabi Akram sey hamaray taluqaat ki bunyadain, Lahore, 1978,
29. Muhammad Rafiq, M.A., M.Ed., Cadet College, Kohat, Pakistan:
17 What is the Kalima Tayyiba?
Answer In the Kalima Tayyiba, a person professes
with his tongue, and affirms with his heart, the unity of God
and the apostleship of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and he joins
the brotherhood of Islam. The Kalima Tayyiba is: La
ilaha ill-Allah, Muhammad-ur Rasul Allah, i.e. he says that
there is none to be worshipped except Allah, and Muhammad is the
messenger of Allah.
(Iman-o-Amal, Lahore, 1968, pp. 19-20)
30. Mr Qadir-ud-Din, ex-chief Justice, West Pakistan High Court
He said in a newspaper interview:
It is fortunate that all sects are united upon
God, Muhammad, the Quran and worship. This is the basis of the faith.
Because of this, the definition of Muslim given from the very beginning
is that it is he who affirms with the tongue, and the heart and
soul, that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger
of Allah. In the time of the Holy Prophet himself, this was the
very sign of a Muslim, and by accepting this Kalima from
the heart, and affirming with the tongue, the greatest unbeliever
became a Muslim.
(Daily Jang, Karachi, 16 May 1976)
Muslim views in recent English books
1. Islam and Contemporary Society Islamic Council
This is a collection of papers by various present-day Muslim scholars,
published in 1982 by the Islamic Council of Europe (Longman Publishers,
London). The article Islam and the Pillars of its Faith by
Dr Ebrahim El-Khouly (pp. 47-61) begins as follows:
By this expression Islam is visualised as a building
borne on five pillars. The primary pillar is testification to the
unity of God, which is the foundation and source of Islamic principles,
values, provisions and systems that direct society and all affairs
in life. Other pillars surround this basic centre point: Prayer
... Community wealth tax (Zakah) ... fasting ... the pilgrimage
... All five pillars stand on the firm foundation of God being the
Lord of all creation, and men being His servants. (p. 47)
And at the end of his discussion on the First Pillar, he concludes:
The choice of the word Shahada (testification)
to express belief in God and the prophethood of Muhammad means that
the believer must declare his belief, just as a witness declares
his testimony. Concealing a testimony in worldly matters is sinful:
concealing the Shahada deprives a person of being regarded
as a Muslim until he declares it. (p. 49)
2. Islam, its meaning and message Khurshid Ahmad
This book is edited by Khurshid Ahmad, who was at the time of
publication Director-General of the Islamic Foundation, Leicester,
England. He has often spoken out against the Ahmadiyya Movement,
and was a witness against us in this court case. Writing in the
second chapter, Islam: Basic Principles and Characteristics,
Khurshid Ahmad says:
A man joins the faith of Islam by honestly believing
in and professing faith in the unity of God and the prophethood
of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Both these beliefs are epitomised
in the Kalima:
La ilaha ill-Allahu Muhammad-ur Rasul-ullah (There is
no god except Allah, Muhammad is His prophet).
The first part of this Kalima presents the concept
of Tawhid (unity of God) and its second part affirms the
prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
(Islam, its meaning and message, Islamic Foundation, Leicester,
England, 1975, page 29)
1.4: Holy Prophet on Practical
Signs of a Muslim
In the Holy Prophet Muhammads life-time, when Islam started
spreading fast, there was sometimes doubt as to whether a certain
convert was sincere in his profession of Islam or not. The Holy
Prophet, therefore, taught his followers that if they find some
particular characteristic in a persons behaviour (e.g. Muslim
manner of prayer, saying assalamu alaikum as greeting), they
should take him to be a Muslim. Below we quote hadith which show
Muslims how to tell a Muslim by his actions.
In all these hadith, it is taught that there is no need to investigate
deeply into the beliefs held by a person to determine whether he is
a Muslim. One need only look as some aspects of his apparent conduct.
If he is seen praying in the manner of the Muslim prayer, facing in
the direction in which Muslims face, or if he is heard proclaiming
the Kalima, for example, then he is a Muslim.
- Abu Huraira reported that a man came and questioned the Prophet.
He said: O Muhammad, inform me what is Islam? The
Prophet said: Islam is that you should worship Allah alone
and do not associate anyone with Him, keep up prayer, give in
charity (Zakaat), perform the Pilgrimage (Hajj)
to Makka and fast during Ramadaan.
He asked, If I do all this, will I become a Muslim?
The Prophet said: Yes.
(Sunan Nasai, vol. iii, p. 366 of edition used)
- Umar related that the Angel Gabriel came to the Holy Prophet
and said: O Muhammad, tell me what Islam is? The Holy
Islam is that you testify that there is no god but Allah,
and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, and keep up prayer,
give in charity (Zakaat), fast in Ramadaan, and perform
the Pilgrimage (Hajj) if you are able to.
(Muslim, Book of Faith, p. 76 of edition used)
- A man said to Ibn Umar: Why do you not do jihad? He said:
I heard the messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him, say, Islam is based on five things: Testifying that
there is no god but Allah, keeping up prayer, giving in charity,
the Pilgrimage, and fasting in Ramadaan.
(Muslim, Book of Faith, vol. i, p. 93)
- Anas related that a man came to the Holy Prophet and said:
Your emissary came to us, and said that you claim that Allah
has sent you. The Holy Prophet replied: He spoke the
truth. He said: The emissary asserted that five daily
prayers have been made obligatory for us. The Holy Prophet
replied: He spoke the truth. The man said: Has
Allah commanded you this? The Holy Prophet said Yes.
[The man then questioned the Holy Prophet about charity, fasting
and Pilgrimage, in the same way]. The man then turned to go, saying:
By Him Who sent you, I shall do no more or less than this.
The Holy Prophet said: If he spoke the truth, he shall enter
(Muslim, Book of Faith, vol. i, pp. 86-87)
- The Holy Prophet said: Whoever says prayers as we do,
and faces our Qibla, and eats the meat slaughtered by us,
he is a Muslim, for whom is the covenant of God and the covenant
of the messenger of God, so violate not the covenant of God.
(Bukhari, Book of Prayer; Book 8, ch. 28; vol. i, p. 222)
- The Holy Prophet said: Whoever testifies that there is
no god but Allah, and faces our Qibla, and prays as we
pray, and eats the meat slaughtered by us, he is a Muslim who
has the rights of a Muslim and the duties of a Muslim.
(Bukhari, Book of Prayer; ibid.)
- Not only in books of Hadith accepted by the Ahl Sunna, but
also in the collections accepted by the Shiahs a very similar
definition of a Muslim is given. Ali, the fourth Caliph, announced
during his rule:
He who faces our Qibla, and eats the meat slaughtered
by us, and believes in our Prophet, and testifies our testimony
[i.e. the Kalima], and enters our religion, we shall
apply to him the law of the Quran and the Islamic limitations,
and no such person shall be superior to another one [in rights].
(Faruh Kafi, vol. iii, Book of rejection, p. 166)
- A man spoke very impertinently to the Holy Prophet. The account
Khalid Ibn Walid said: O messenger of Allah, shall I
strike off his neck? The Holy Prophet said: No, maybe he says
his prayers [i.e. is a Muslim]. Khalid said: Many performers
of prayer there are who say with their tongues that which is
not in their hearts. The Holy Prophet said: I have not been
commanded to open out peoples hearts and cut open their
insides [to see what is their intention].
(Bukhari, Book of Expeditions; Book 64, ch. 63; vol.
ii, p. 657)
- Usama related: The Holy Prophet sent us on an expedition
against the Huraqa. We attacked them in the morning and defeated
them. I and a man from among the Ansar found one of their men.
When we surrounded him he said: There is no god but Allah. The
Ansari stopped at this, but I hit the man with my spear till I
killed him. When we returned and this news reached the Holy Prophet,
he said: Usama, you killed him after he said, There is no
god but Allah? I said: He was trying to save his life. But
the Holy Prophet kept on repeating this till I began to wish that
I had not become a Muslim before that day.
(Bukhari, Book of Expeditions, ch. The sending of Usama
to the Huraqa; Book 64, ch. 47)
This shows that a recital of the Kalima is sufficient
for a person to be regarded as a Muslim. The Holy Prophets
repetition of his reprimand, even after Usamas explanation,
shows that even if there is reason to suspect that a person
is insincere in his profession of the Kalima, he is still
to be regarded as a Muslim.
- Ibn Abbas related that a man of the Banu Sulaim tribe
passed by a party of the Companions of the Holy Prophet [on an
expedition], and he had his goats with him. He offered salaam
[assalamu alaikum] to them. ... They said, He has offered
salaam to save himself. So they stopped and killed him,
and took his goats. They brought these to the Holy Prophet, so
Allah revealed: O you who believe! When you go forth
[to fight] in the way of Allah, make investigations, and do not
say to anyone who offers you assalamu alaikum, You are
not a believer.
(Tirmizi, ch. Tafsir al-Quran under Sura 4; see
Arabic-Urdu edition of Maulana Badi-uz-Zaman, Muhammad Ali publisher,
Karachi, vol. ii, p. 416; see also Bukhari, Book of Commentary
on the Quran; Book 65, ch. 18 under Sura 4; vol. ii, p. 764)
1.5: The Prohibition of Takfir
Takfir or the condemnation of a Muslim by another Muslim
as a kafir is strictly prohibited in the Quran, the Hadith,
and the writings of many eminent Muslim authorities.
I. THE HOLY QURAN
According to the Quran, if a person says assalamu alaikum
to us to indicate that he is a Muslim, we cannot say to him you
are not a believer. (4:94)
The second thing we learn from this verse is that if, from among
a non-Muslim people, a person addresses us by assalamu alaikum,
that is sufficient proof that he is a Muslim. When such incidents
took place during the Holy Prophets life-time, sometimes it
was suspected by some Muslims that such a person was not sincere.
But the Holy Prophet would say to them: Did you tear open
his heart to see what was in it?
Thirdly, the verse cited above goes on to say: You yourselves
were like this before. That is, you too embraced Islam in
this way, so what was sufficient for you is sufficient for them.
II. THE HADITH
There are many other hadith prohibiting that the people of the
Qibla be dubbed as kafir. Such a great sin is it that
the Holy Prophet issued the warning:
- Ibn Umar related that the Holy Prophet said: If a Muslim
calls another kafir, then if he is a kafir let it
be so; otherwise, he [the caller] is himself a kafir.
(Abu Dawud, Book of Sunna, edition published by Quran Mahal,
Karachi, vol. iii, p. 484)
- Abu Zarr reported that the Holy Prophet said: No man
accuses another man of being a sinner, or of being a kafir,
but it reflects back on him if the other is not as he called him.
(Bukhari, Book of Ethics; Book 78, ch. 44)
The teaching contained in these hadith is meant to stop Muslims
from dubbing each other as sinners and kafirs.
- Withhold [your tongues] from those who say There
is no god but Allah do not call them kafir.
Whoever calls a reciter of There is no god but Allah
as a kafir, is nearer to being a kafir himself.
(Tabarani, reported from Ibn Umar)
- Call not the people of your Qibla [i.e. those
who face the Kaba in Makka for prayer] as kafir.
(Al-Nihaya of Ibn Athir, vol. iv, p. 187)
- Nothing expels a man from faith except the denial of
that by which he entered into it [i.e. the Kalima].
(Majma az-Zawaid, vol. i, p. 43)
- Three things are the basis of faith. [One is] to withhold
from one who says There is no god but Allah
do not call him kafir for any sin, nor expel him from Islam
for any misconduct.
(Abu Dawud, Book of Jihad, 15:33)
- Whoever attributes kufr [unbelief] to a believer,
he is like his murderer.
(Tirmizi, ch. Iman (Faith); see Arabic-Urdu edition
cited earlier, vol. ii, p. 213. See also Bukhari, Book
of Ethics; Book 78, ch. 44)
III. ISLAMIC JURISTS OF CLASSICAL TIMES
Takfir of Muslims is also prohibited in the standard, classical
works of Islamic law (fiqh) and creed (aqaid)
accepted by the Ahl as-Sunna.
- And among the doctrines of the Ahl as-Sunna is
that none of the people of the Qibla can be called kafir.
(Sharh Aqaid Nasfi, p. 121)
- Regarding Imam Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanafi system
of Islamic law, which has more followers than any other system
in Islam, it is written:
- He did not call as kafir anyone from
among the people of the Qibla.
(Sharh Mawaqif, fifth part)
- He said: Nothing expels a man from faith except
the denial of that which made him enter it.
(Rad al-Mukhtar, vol. iii, p. 310)
- It is extremely serious to expel a Muslim from the faith.
(Sharh Shifa, vol. ii, p. 500)
- A ruling of takfir against a Muslim should not
be given if it is possible to interpret his words in a favourable
(Rad al-Mukhtar, Book of Jihad, ch. on Apostasy)
- As for statements of takfir found in books of
rulings (fatwa), these are not proof if the authors are
unknown and the arguments are missing, because in matters of faith,
beliefs depend on conclusive proof, and the takfir of a
Muslim is attended with troubles of all sorts.
(Sharh Fiqh Akbar, by Mulla Ali Qari)
- Allama Sayyid Jalal-ud-Din wrote:
The takfir of people of the Qibla is itself
an act of unbelief.
- Ibn Abu Hamra, a saint, wrote:
It has already been stated that the rule of the Ahl
Sunna is that they do not call kafir, or consider
as going to hell eternally, anyone who is of the people of the
- The Imams have made it clear that if there is any ground
for not issuing takfir, a ruling of takfir should
not be made, even if that ground is weak.
(Raf al-ishtiba an ibarat al-ishtiba, p. 4,
published in Egypt)
- Some prejudiced persons from the Asharis call the Hanbalis
as kafir, and some Hanbalis call the Asharis as kafir.
But their calling each other kafir is not right because
the belief of the trustworthy Imams of the Hanafis, Shafiis,
Hanbalis, and the Asharis, is that none of the people of the Qibla
can be called a kafir.
(Miftah Dar as-Saada wa Misbak as-Sayyida, vol. i,
- The generality of the theologians and the jurists are
agreed that none of the people of the Qibla can be called
(Al-Mawaqif, printed in Cairo, p. 600)
- The famous eighteenth century saint of Delhi, Khawaja Mir Dard
(d. 1785 C.E.), wrote:
We do not call kafir anyone of the people of
the Qibla, even though he may be following falsehood
or novel beliefs in most matters, because the acceptance of
the oneness of God, and the affirmation of the prophethood of
Muhammad, and the turning to the Qibla, do not expel
them from faith as such. So he would be of those who follow
later inventions and falsehood from among the Muslims. The Holy
Prophet said: Withhold in the matter of the people of
the Qibla, that you do not call them kafir.
(Ilm al-Kitab, p. 75)
IV. EVEN 99 REASONS FOR KUFR OVERCOME BY 1 FOR
1. Mulla Ali Qari in Sharh Fiqh Akbar
They say regarding the issue of kufr that
if there are ninety-nine reasons for considering someone as kafir,
and only one reason against it, the mufti and the judge is bound
to act according to that one reason for negating the kufr.
2. Sayyid Muhammad Abidin
If there are many reasons in any matter for the
application of kufr [considering someone as kafir],
and one reason for its negation, the judge must incline towards
the reason which negates takfir, giving the Muslim the benefit
of the doubt.
(Sil al-Hisan al-Hindi, p. 45)
3. Husain Ahmad Madani
This well-known Deobandi theologian of this century has written
in his autobiography Naqsh-i Hayat:
All great scholars are unanimous in holding that
if, out of hundred ingredients of the belief of some Muslim, ninety-nine
are those of unbelief, and merely one of true Islamic faith, it
is not allowed to call him kafir, nor does his life or property
become violable. In fact, Hazrat Gangohi [a founder of Deoband religious
school] clearly states in his Anwar al-Qulub that the saying
of the jurists about ninety-nine grounds does not set a limit,
and that if 999 out of a thousand points in the belief of a Muslim
are unbelief (kufr) and only one is true belief, even then
he cannot be called kafir.
By the one reason out of a hundred, or a thousand, is
meant the affirmation of the Kalima by the person concerned,
while the vast majority of his beliefs may be tantamount to kufr.
(Naqsh-i Hayat, Bait-ut-Tauhid, Karachi, 1953, vol. i. p.
4. Sayyid Abul Ala Maudoodi (d. 1979)
He wrote in his well-known journal Tarjuman al-Quran:
The aim of these injunctions is that there should
be as much caution in calling a Muslim kafir as there is
in pronouncing a death sentence against someone. In fact, this matter
is even more serious because by killing a person there is no risk
of one becoming a kafir, but this risk does exist if one
calls a Muslim kafir if that man is not really a kafir.
Should there even be an iota of Islamic belief in that mans
heart, the slander of kufr shall reflect back upon the accuser.
Hence, he who has fear of God in his heart, and has some realisation
of the great danger of being involved in kufr, shall never
dare call a Muslim kafir until he has carried out a thorough
enquiry and fully ascertained that such a person was a kafir.
There is so much caution in this regard that if there is a man whose
conduct clearly shows insincerity, and whose condition is openly
showing that he is not a Muslim at heart, if even he recites the
Kalima with his tongue, it is not allowed to call him kafir
and treat him as a kafir.
(Tarjuman al-Quran, issue for month of Jumadi al-Awwal,
1355 A.H., circa 1936, vol. viii, p. 5)
1.6: A Muawwil cannot
be called Kafir
(A muawwil is a person who places an interpretation
on some words of the Quran, or on a religious injunction, which
is different from the commonly-accepted interpretation).
1. Imam Razi
This great classical commentator of the Quran writes in his renowned
Those who interpret differently cannot be called
(Tafsir Kabir, Part I, p. 172)
2. Imam Shafii (d. 820)
One of the four great founders of Islamic jurisprudence, he said:
I do not call kafir those who, by error,
interpret differently from the obvious meaning.
(Shawahid al-Haq by Shaikh Yusuf Ibn Ismail, p. 125)
3. Imam Shaukani
The ulama are agreed that he who denies the ordinary
meaning, and resorts to interpretation, cannot be called kafir,
or a sinner.
4. Allama Ibn Hajar
Commenting on the internecine warfare between two groups of the
Companions of the Holy Prophet during the reign of the fourth Caliph,
The Companions cannot be expelled from Islam due
to this fighting. Both groups are equal in this. There is no sin
or defect in either one of them because we have shown that each
of the two did an interpretation [of a Quranic command] such that
neither interpretation could definitely be called wrong.
(Al-Asaleeb al-Badia by Shaikh Yusuf ibn Ismail, p. 68)
5. Abdul Wahhab Shirani
He wrote as follows:
- Some ulama have dared call the muawwil
as kafir, but the majority are opposed to this ruling.
(Al-Yawaqit wal-Jawahir, Part II, p. 111)
- The argument of those who say that the muawwils
cannot be called kafir is that because they have recited
the Kalima, There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad
is the messenger of Allah, their honour, life and property
are protected, and we do not find any evidence that an error of
interpretation amounts to kufr. (ibid.)
- Abul Mahasin al-Rawayani and other ulama of Baghdad
say that no one belonging to the religion of Islam can be called
kafir because the Holy Prophet has said that he who says
prayers as we do, and faces our Qibla, and eats our slaughtered
meat, he has the same rights and obligations as we do. (ibid.,