The declaration of disbelief (fatwa of Kufr), that is declaring certain groups outside the pale of Islam has been commonplace in the history of Islam after the decline of its glory. In fact, these declarations have contributed immensely to the decline of Islam because of the enmity and fight it created among the different groups declaring each other as kuffaar (disbelievers). The Gambia has not been immune to such declarations. Today on the face of the earth, there is not a single Muslim group that has not been declared kaafir by some other Muslim group. The logical conclusion that can be drawn if these declarations are authentic is that there is no Muslim on the face of the earth because of the declarations and counter-declarations of disbelief against each other. The questions that every sincere Muslim must ask is who owns Islam and has the authority to accept someone into it or expel him out of it? What counts someone inside the pale of Islam? Who is a Muslim according to the Authority of Islam (and Who is that Authority)?
Islam was brought by Muhammad Rasoolullaah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) over 1400 years ago.
Let it be noted that technically, all prophets were Muslims and came with Islam. But Islam as we know and practice on the basis prescribed in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah was brought by Muhammad Rasoolullaah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The primary source of the teachings of Islam is the Holy Quran, which was revealed by Allah the Almighty. All Islamic teachings and practices are embedded in the Holy Qur’an. The second most authentic source of Islamic teachings is the Sunnah of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh). In fact, his Sunnah is intertwined with the teachings of the Holy Qur’an. There is no teaching of the Holy Qur’an that cannot be found in his practice and he practiced nothing that cannot be found in the Holy Qur’an. That is why on answering the question about the behaviour, attitude and morality of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (saw), the Mother of the Faithful, Hadrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that his morality, behaviour and attitude was the Holy Qur’an.
If indeed Islam is embedded in the Holy Qur’an and practiced by Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh), then it could be concluded that the answers to the above questions must have been answered by the Holy Qur’an and Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh). In other words, the Authority to declare who belongs or not to Islam is the Holy Qur’an and Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh). Any declarations that contradict their declarations must be considered null and void and in fact an attack on their authority. If, apart from the Holy Qur’an and Muhammad Rasoolullaah (saw), any person has the authority to make such declarations, then Islam clearly has no right to claim that it is based on the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad Rasoolullah (pbuh); in that case Islam would be a man-made religion, with individuals, organisations, and institutions having the authority to declare what it is or not. As a believer of the pristine teachings of Islam, I consider any behaviour that portrays such identity of Islam, to be very unjust to it.
Now, if the Holy Qur’an and Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) are the fundamentals on which every decision regarding Islam should be based, what are the answers they provide to the above questions? The Holy Qur’an says:
O ye who believe, when you go forth in the cause of Allah, make proper investigation and do not say to anyone who greets you with the greeting of peace, ‘Thou art not a believer.’ You seek the goods of this life, but with Allah are good things in plenty. Such were you before this, and Allah conferred His special favour on you; so do make proper investigation. Surely, Allah is well aware of what you do (Surah An-Nisaa: Verse 95)
This verse is mentioned in the context of war. Even in such situations, the Holy Qur’an prohibits one to call another a non-believer without proper investigation. Something important is mentioned in this verse: anyone who greets you with the greeting of peace. It does not even say anyone who calls himself a Muslim. A Muslim should not be declaring people, who greet him with the greeting of peace, as non-believers even in a state war. Then how could one be allowed to call someone a non-believer, who does not only greet you with the greeting of peace but goes further to declare that he is a Muslim? It is wrong according to the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah. Here, let me give an example from the Sunnah of Muhammad Rasoolullah (pbuh) that throws more light on this issue. We read in Sahih Bukhari, the book considered by Muslims as the most authentic after the Holy Qur’an:
Hadhrat Usama bin Zaid (ra) relates that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) sent us to the oasis of Juhaina tribe. We caught them early in the morning at their water-fountains. An Ansari and I chased one of them and apprehended him. When we overpowered him, he exclaimed: La Ilaha Illallah (there is none worthy of worship except Allah) which caused my Ansari Companion to restrain his hand from him, but I pierced him with a spear and killed him. When we returned to Medina and the Holy Prophet (pbuh) came to know of the incident, he asked: “O, Usama! Did you kill him in spite of the fact that he had recited La Ilaha Illallah?” I replied: “O, Prophet of Allah! He was saying (these words) merely to ensure his safety.” The Holy Prophet (pbuh) kept on repeating his question to a point when I wished I had not become a Muslim before that day. (Another tradition relates) The Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “You still killed him, even though he had affirmed La Ilaha Illallah?” I clarified, “O, Prophet of Allah! He had said that because he was afraid of the weapon.” The Holy Prophet (pbuh) exclaimed: “Why didn’t you cut his heart open to make sure if he had said it from the core of his heart?” The Prophet of Allah repeated this remark so many times that I wished I had not become a Muslim before that day.”
(Bukhari, Book of Al Maghaazi, Chapter Ba’ath al-Nabi, Usaamah bin Zaid ilal Harqaat min al-Juhaina)
The readers are also referred to: Sahih Muslim, Kitaabul Imaani, Baabu Tahriimi Qatlil Kaafri Ba’da Qaulihi: Laa Ilaaha IllaAllah.
Muhammad Rasoolullaah condemned the killing of an individual in his last moments, during a skirmish with Muslims, who declared the Kalima There is no god but Allah. He did not even go to the extent of declaring that Muhammad (pbuh) was the Messenger of Allah. Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) emphasized in this hadith that belief is a matter of the heart and only Allah knows what lies in a person’s heart. A person must therefore be judged on what he says and does; not what one thinks lies in his heart.
If this is the position of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh), then who else has the mandate and authority to declare someone a disbeliever who does not only declare la Ilaha Illallaah but further declares Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh)? Going contrary to this position of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) could mean that one believes he loves Islam more than Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) or believes that this position of Muhammad Rasoolullaah is deficient. Na’uudhu billaah, may Allah protect us from any such action.
If Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) condemns the killing and thought of disbelief about a person who only declared there is no god but Allah when he was confronted by a Muslim with a sword in hand, what would be his position regarding the one who does not only stop at declaring the kalima but goes further to practice other pillars of Islam particularly Salaat which is considered as the distinction between a believer and disbelief? Of course, we do not have to speculate the answer; Muhammad Rasoolullaah has provided us the answer. This Hadith is also narrated in Sahih Al-Bukhari that the Holy Prophet Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) said:
One who observes the same prayer as we do, faces the same Qibla (in prayer) as we do, and partakes from the animal slaughtered by us, then such a one is a Muslim concerning whom there is a covenant of Allah and His Messenger; so you must not seek to hoodwink Allah in the matter of this Covenant. (Bukhari, Kitabus-Salat, Baab Fazl Istiqbal il-Qibla)
It is wrong to call such a person a non-Muslim. Doing so is a clear insult to the status of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh).
In fact, Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) has said that anyone who calls himself a Muslim should be considered a Muslim. The following statements will prove the point. When a census of Madinah was being conducted, Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) instructed:
Write down for me the name of every such individual who claims to be a Muslim by the word of his own mouth (Sahih Bukhari, Kitaabul Jihaadi Was Siyar, Baabu Kitaabatil Imaaminnaasa).
You are also referred to Sahih Muslim, Kitabul Iman, Babu Jawazil Istisrari Bil Imani Lil Kha’ifi.
This is the man about who the Holy Qur’an says that he never speaks of his own desire, whatever he says is a pure revelation from the Most High, Allah the Almighty. These statements of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) clearly tells us that to be counted as a member of Islam the religion, it is enough to call oneself a Muslim. The veracity of the claim now rests with Allah to judge. There are technical definitions of a Muslim but these relate to the heart and the ultimate Judge of who fulfills the technical definition of Islam is none other than Allah. That is not a human domain; it is purely the domain of Allah.
Based on these statements of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) it is sinful to refer to a declarant of the kalima as a kaafir. In fact, he has instructed Muslims not to do that. Here are a few Ahadith regarding that:
“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).
“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).
So many references regarding this issue could be cited but I believe these are sufficient. I look forward to the answers of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council to the following questions.
Now my question to the ‘scholars’ of Islam in The Gambia, particularly the scholars of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council: What is their basis, from the clear statements of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah of Muhammad Rasoolullaah, in declaring fatawa of kufr? Where does the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah give authority to a human being or an organization to declare a declarant of the kalima as a kaafir? Who owns Islam and has the authority to make such declarations? Can they back their position in contradistinction to the above facts from the life of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh)? Can they cite one example from the life of Muhammad Rasoolullaah (pbuh) where he calls a declarant of the kalima a non-believer?
I must conclude with a quote. A general quote that can refer to anyone.
“Claiming wisdom in the presence of God, only shows your ignorance and insanity.”
Our last call is: All praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of the universe; and peace be upon those who follow the guidance from Allah. Aameen.