I thank you for your quick reply to my question.
First of all, I would like to say that I really appreciate your website (and with no disrespect to the authors) – your articles in particular. I especially found your article in response to Jochen Katz “Grammatical Errors in the Qur’an”1 a very complete and satisfactory response.
Your response to my question however leaves me uneasy. In Pakistan today so many people are calling others non-Muslims (the Sipah Sahaba2 labelling of the Shia as Kafir for instance). Personally, I feel that this is wrong, and I was asking you for an objective criterion from the Qur’an and Sunnah in this regard. If there is no objective criterion in the Qur’an and Sunnah on who is a Muslim/non-Muslim then who am I to criticize anybody declaring somebody as a Kafir. To say (and I appreciate you have not said this) it is wrong to declare a person Kafir until an ijma` develops on the matter is begging the question as an ijma` does not develop overnight but is an historical process (even the Qadianis were not declared non-Muslims by the Pakistan Govt. until 1972)
I am sorry if the above is disjointed, but I am not trying to enter into a debate but just express my feelings and pain of the Ummah being rented by declarations of Kufr. There do seem to be Qur’anic verses and Hadith on this subject. I do feel this is a matter of importance, and therefore I request that as an enlightened scholar, you would address this issue with the thoroughness it deserves.
I look forward some day to seeing an article on your website on this subject.
I am extremely sorry for the extra-ordinary delay in my response. Please accept my apologies.
I would also like to offer my apologies, as it seems that I could not fully understand your question. My answer was actually influenced by the prevalent situation of the Muslim community, where the various groups/sects and even individuals impulsively declare those who differ with them, even on minor issues, to be non-Muslims and infidels. That was the reason why I stressed the point that in my opinion, the matter of declaring an individual or a group to be non-Muslim does not rest with individuals or groups but with the collectivity of the Muslims. A person or a group can only be declared to be non-Muslim by the Islamic State, not by any other individual or body of individuals.
As far as the criterion for judging Muslims from non-Muslims is concerned the Qur’an has mentioned it in Surah Taubah. The context of the verse is that after the conquest of Mecca, the Muslims were directed – according to the law relating to the Messengers (Rasul) of God – to execute those from amongst the Banu Ishmael who were still persistent in their rejection of faith. While giving this directive, the Qur’an has also clearly mentioned the criteria by which the Muslims are to distinguish between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Qur’an, in Al-Taubah 9: 5 says:
فَإِذَا انسَلَخَ الْأَشْهُرُ الْحُرُمُ فَاقْتُلُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ حَيْثُ وَجَدتُّمُوهُمْ وَخُذُوهُمْ وَاحْصُرُوهُمْ وَاقْعُدُوا لَهُمْ كُلَّ مَرْصَدٍ ۚ فَإِن تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَخَلُّوا سَبِيلَهُمْ ۚ
Thus, when the sacred months are over, slay these polytheists wherever you find them, arrest them, besiege them and wait for them in every ambush. Then if they repent [from their wrong beliefs], establish prayer and pay Zaka’h, then leave their way.
Then again, a few verses later, in Taubah 9: 11, the Qur’an says:
فَإِن تَابُوا وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَوُا الزَّكَاةَ فَإِخْوَانُكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ ۗ وَنُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ
Then if they repent [from their wrong beliefs], establish prayer and pay Zaka’h, then they are your brethren in religion.
A close look shall show that the two verses are quite similar in their subject matter. According to the first verse, if a person:
Repents from wrong belief and accepts the elements of faith made essential by the Qur’an;
Establishes regular prayer; and
Pays Zaka’h to the treasury of the Islamic state
no further obligation can legally be imposed on him to get the rights of a Muslim citizen in an Islamic state. While the second verse, stresses the same point positively and states that if a person fulfills these three conditions, he should – positively – be given all the rights of a Muslim citizen in an Islamic state.
I would once again like to stress here that the addressee of this verse is the collectivity of the Muslims. The directive of this verse, whenever it is implemented can only be applied and implemented by the Islamic state. Individuals or groups of individuals, without the legal and moral authority of the state have no right to implement the directives addressed to the state.
27th April 1999