The Arabic term takfir refers to the act of declaring someone non-Muslim, or kafir. It is thus similar to a death sentence, and has been used as such throughout Islamic history. When one group of Muslims decides that another group believes erroneously, they can pronounce takfir upon them and then they can be attacked and killed.This is important to Muslims, as the Qur’an contains clear instruction not to kill Muslims, and not to kill innocents:

So We decreed for the tribe of Israel that if someone kills another person – unless it is in retaliation for someone else or for causing corruption in the earth – it is as if he had murdered all mankind.  (Qur’an 5: 32)

Who is Innocent?

There are two qualifications to this. First, the commandment applied only to Jews in any event; it was for “the tribe of Israel.” This part is often left out by apologists. Second is the seemingly broad use of “innocent” which is misunderstood by Westerners. Once someone has been determined to be kafir, i.e., once takfir has been pronounced upon them, they are no longer innocent. They are enemies of Islam. And non-believers, kafirs, cause “corruption in the earth” by Islamic definition.

Being associated with such persons is enough: The prophet Muhammad, when told that his people were killing the innocent children of their enemies, commented merely “They are of them.”

This is why when Muslim apologists are asked to condemn a particular terrorist attack, they generally respond “the Qur’an condemns the killing of innocents.” Here, for example, is CNN defending Islam and omitting the Jewish restriction on the commandment and the exceptions:

Most of the world’s 1.57 billion Muslims know that the Holy Quran states quite clearly that, “Anyone who kills a human being … it shall be as though he has killed all of mankind.

Now you know a bit more about that statement, and how much is being left out.

Takfir Targets

So whom does takfir get applied to? Sunnis and Shias and Salafis and Wahhabis and Qur’an-only and Ahmadis have all been treated this way from time to time, having takfir pronounced upon them, with Sunnis (as by far the most common) usually on the pronouncing side. It is, in effect, a sort of Obama/Clinton pronouncement: “That group has absolutely nothing to do with Islam!”  (and this it’ is open season on them). Except…

The highest religious authority in Islam (at least among the majority Sunnis) refuses to pronounce takfir upon ISIS:

Al-Azhar refused to pronounce takfir (Islamic anathema) on ISIS. However, their reasoning is really creative.

They basically say that nobody is outside of Islam unless he himself says he is. But the funny thing is, all these restrictions that they now suddenly feel in the business of anathematising ISIS because of have in the past always been completely absent whenever they rushed to pronounce takfir on anyone who wanted to somehow “reform” (water down) Islam or modernise the Quran or the Hadith. They just pronounced the takfir with no qualms about it, and the poor “reformer” fellow usually was put in prison or killed by vigilantes or went into hiding.

But now suddenly “moderate” middle-of-the-road Al Azhar cannot pronounce takfir on any ISIS member unless he renounces his shahada, the declaration that “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet”!

Of course, ISIS embodies that declaration — it is the inscription on their flag:


Core Beliefs

Islam is a far more monolithic set of beliefs than are the varied and varigated sects that make up Christianity. Islamic schools differ with regard to which sets of tradition documents are authentic, and which line of control should obtain. But there is no disagreement on the Qur’an itself as infallible, nor of Muhammad as Allah’s prophet, nor that Islam is the system to run all lives through a world-wide government called the Caliphate.

The other key point is that Muhammad is the example of perfect behavior. One group made to take exception to this last point — they are called the Qur’an-only school in English and do not give much weight to the Hadith and Sunnah — but they are a tiny fraction of a percent of Muslims and are disdained/chastised/outlawed by Islamic authorities worldwide.

I recently wrote about another sect of Islam, the Ahmadiyya, a recent start-up in the nineteenth century that purports to advocate for peace, and is generally the closest one could find to devout moderate Muslims. But they represent less than one-tenth of one percent of Islam, and they too are under penalties of various kinds and often considered apostates; takfir is pronounced upon them regularly.

Devout versus Moderate

I don’t mean that only a tenth of a percent of Muslims can be considered moderate — only that most Muslims, who are moderate, are not deeply devout practitioners of the faith. In a similar fashion, most of the US is nominally Christian, but a very much smaller percentage of them could be considered devout students of their faiths.

There is a key difference: Christianity as practiced by the devout leads, generally, to good works. Islam, as practiced by the devout, leads to Shariah law. Every political area where Muslims have control has Shariah law implemented, and expanding to the degree that such control is complete. Saudi Arabia, ISIS, Iran and other places fully implement the hudud (deaths and dismemberment by Shariah) as part of their official bodies of laws. Other nations and regions do so informally, though more local religious councils.

In England and Canada, Shariah law is implemented only partially, locally, reflecting not the benign nature of Shariah but merely the lack of sufficient political control by Islam, the political system. Your friend who wants Shariah is unlikely to fight to the death to prevent the implementation of hudud punishments by it, as is dictated by the Qur’an. But even if he were one of a few enlightened souls who would do so, it simply means he would be quickly marked for death himself.

Nothing to Do with Islam

Here is a key point: The Al Azhar Islamic authority in Egypt quoted above is to Islam as the Vatican would be to Christianity, if 90% of Christians were Catholic. This authority is looked up to by almost all Muslims world-wide. And they denounce the Ahmadiyya and the Qur’an-only schools as takfiri — unIslamic, apostate, enemies of Islam, and subject to being killed at leisure. But they have consistently refused to make such a pronouncement about ISIS, Hamas, al Qaeda or Hezbollah.

Effectively, the leaders of Islam reverse the positions of Obama and Clinton, and declare that it is the mild-mannered moderate groups that have “nothing to do with Islam.”

What HAS to do with Islam?

A few years ago, Huma Abedin (Hillary Clinton’s right-hand person) was exposed as being heavily involved with the Muslim Brotherhood, through mother, father and brother as well as personally. Much of this was directly though the al Azhar university in Cairo. This Islamic citadel and Muslim high authority was exposed recently by one of its graduates as teaching exactly what ISIS is now putting into practice. In the article Al Azhar and ISIS: Cause and Effect, Sheik Nasr was asked why ISIS was not condemned, since so many other moderate and more secular Muslims were condemned as non-Islamic. He said:

It can’t [condemn the Islamic State as un-Islamic].  The Islamic State is a byproduct of Al Azhar’s programs.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?  Al Azhar says there must be a caliphate and that it is an obligation for the Muslim world [to establish it].  Al Azhar teaches the law of apostasy and killing the apostate.  Al Azhar is hostile towards religious minorities, and teaches things like not building churches, etc.  Al Azhar upholds the institution of jizya [extracting tribute from religious minorities].  Al Azhar teaches stoning people.  So can Al Azhar denounce itself as un-Islamic?

Evidently not. Thus, the al-Azhar university has a problem. The Muslim Brotherhood has a problem. Islam in general has a problem.

And we have a problem.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  • Triciabee

    Very interesting post Keith and quite informative. I think we here in the West are fooling ourselves with this “most Muslims” are moderate” attitude. As you say, those that claim the mantle don’t really practice the full faith and many are not in disagreement with Sharia principles, they just own’t fight to the death for them. Political correctness has gotten completely in the way of sound judgment when it comes to radical Islam, would that we wake up soon.