Praise be to Allaah.
The Sahaabah, Taabi’een and the Ahl al-Sunnah
who came after them were unanimously agreed that whoever says or does
something which is blatantly kufr is a kaafir, without any need to show
that he believes it to be permissible.
The scholars agreed that kufr may take
the form of denying, disbelieving or turning away.
This may be a verbal action, such as
insulting Allaah or His Messenger
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), or mocking the religion
and its rulings; or it may be a physical action, such as prostrating
to idols, circumambulating graves, or offering sacrifices to the jinn
Or it may be an act of omission, such
as not doing a certain kind of action at all. Ishaaq ibn Taahawayh and
others narrated that the Sahaabah were agreed that the one who does
not pray deliberately is a kaafir. It was narrated in Saheeh Muslim
via Ibn Jurayj from Abu’l-Zubayr al-Makki from Jaabir that the Prophet
(peace and blessings of Allaah
be upon him) said, “Between a man and shirk or al-kufr there
stands his neglecting the prayer.”
The use of the definite article al-
here indicates that major kufr (al-kufr al-akbar) is being referred
to. But there are some differences among the imaams of the madhhabs
concerning the kufr of one who does not pray. Some said that he does
not become a kaafir in a complete sense so long as he does not deny
that prayer is obligatory.
Others said that he is guilty of major
kufr, because there was consensus among the Sahaabah on that point,
although there were differences as to the point at which he becomes
guilty of kufr by not praying. Some said that he is a kaafir is he neglects
to pray one prayer until the time for it is over; others said that he
is not a kaafir unless he neglects prayer completely.
To sum up, Ahl al-Sunnah do not regard
a person as a kaafir for general sins or for every sin, as the Khawaarij
and Mu’tazilah said when they denounced people as kaafirs for major
sins. They regarded as sins some things that are not sins, and applied
the rulings of kufr in such cases. Sometimes they would condemn people
for the apparent meaning of their words (i.e., they were too quick to
judge). This is what many of the later Khawaarij and Mu’tazilah do,
because when judging people they do not differentiate between the action
and the person, or between one issue and another. They may denounce
as a kaafir anyone who does not agree with them in these deviations.
They were described by the Messenger of Allaah
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), “They kill the people of
Islam and leave alone the people who worship idols.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari
and Muslim from the hadeeth of Abu Sa’eed).
The Ahl al-Sunnah tread a middle path
between the Khawaarij and the Murji’ah. They do not denounce those who
commit major sins as kaafirs, so long as they do not believe their actions
to be permissible. Neither do they agree with the view of the Murji’ah,
that sin does not undermine a person’s faith at all, and that no one
can be denounced as a kaafir unless he is known to believe that his
action is permitted. This is false according to the Qur’aan, Sunnah
and scholarly consensus (ijmaa’). So anyone who insults Allaah
or His Messenger (peace and blessings
of Allaah be upon him) is a kaafir, with no need to show that he believes
his action to be permissible. Scholarly consensus on this point was
narrated by more than one scholar. Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh said that the
scholars were unanimously agreed that whoever insults Allaah, may He
be glorified, or slanders His Messenger
(peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), or rejects anything that
Allaah has revealed, or kills one of the Prophets of Allaah – even if
he believes in that which Allaah has revealed – is a kaafir.
And Allaah knows best.