Deliberation before Condemnation – Part 1
Allāh says, speaking about Prophet Nūḥ (ʿalayhi al-Salām) and what he said to his people:
“..and I give sincere advice to you”
And He (subḥānahu wa taʿālā) said, speaking about Prophet Hūd (ʿalayhi al-Salām) and what he said to his people:
وَأنَا لَكُمْ نَاصِحٌ أمِينٌ
“..and I am to you a sincere and trustworthy adviser”
Our Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) would reinstate the importance of the dissemination of such advice, when he said:
“The Dīn of Islām is advice.”
In keeping with the obligation of advice, I dedicate this series to a phenomenon which is both old and new at the same time; one which rises to surface much more during times of frustration at the weak state of the Muslims. For, wherever you turn today, poverty, bloodshed, subjugation and humiliation happen to be the salient features of none other than the Muslim world. This in turn does not sit well with the Muslims, particularly the young, passionate and strong. As sentiments of hopelessness and frustration escalate, this can provide the perfect breeding ground for the appearance of such a phenomenon. This is the phenomenon of Takfīr (to deem another individual as a non-Muslim) and thus the title of this series, “Deliberation before condemnation”.
I make Allāh my witness that no one has compelled me to speak about this topic nor was I requested by anyone to speak about it. It was a choice that I voluntarily made, not out of fear from any party and not out of a desire to draw closer to any person(s) but, rather, out of my wanting the best for myself and the Ummah of Islām, inshāAllāh. I chose this topic upon witnessing the worrying rise of Muslims cursing Muslims, Muslims condemning scholars to disbelief, sickening scenes of bearded Muslims who have decapitated the heads of other bearded Muslims under the guise of lā ilāha illa Allāh.
This is not the first time that such a topic is addressed, in fact the Imāms of the Masājid, the sermon givers and their likes have lost their voices due to the sheer amount of times that they have addressed the severity of the matter of Takfīr as well as the sanctity of Muslim life. In reality, however, such efforts are not that fruitful when dealing with such a category of people nor will the relaying of evidences in this regard bring about change within them for the most part.
You may quote the Āyah,
وَمَنْ يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا
“But whoever kills a believer intentionally – his recompense is Hell, wherein he will abide eternally, and Allāh has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.”
And you may quote the Ḥadīth,
لا يَحِلُّ لِمُسْلِمٍ أَنْ يَهْجُرَ أَخَاهُ فَوْقَ ثَلاَثِ لَيَالٍ
“It is not permissible for a Muslim to boycott his brother for over three nights.”
You may also cite many other narrations in this regard which strictly prohibit the harming of Muslims, nevertheless, the citing of such narrations will not usually bring about much change amidst such a people. That is because they have founded their actions upon a preconceived foundation, one which states: “They aren’t Muslims to begin with, but are Kuffār”. Thus they will agree with every narration that you quote,
“Yes, we agree that the sanctity of Muslim life must be upheld.”
“Yes, we agree that a Muslim must not be boycotted for over three days.”
“Yes, we agree that classifying a Muslim as a Kāfir is a major sin.”
But they will say, “None of this however applies to us because they aren’t Muslims.”
Thus, when addressing such a phenomenon, perhaps this is where we need to begin; at the very premise upon which they found their behaviour. If the perception of a matter is corrupt, the delivered verdicts will also be corrupt, this will further bring about actions that are corrupt. With that established, it thus comes as no surprise at how it is that the most horrifying of scenes of brutality can be actioned at the hands of Muslims against Muslims and when asked, they say: “This was for the sake of Allāh.” In short, rather than addressing the actions of such groups in isolation, or their verdicts which resulted in such actions, it is imperative to shift the focus onto their initial perceptions which brought about the rest.
The purpose of this series is one: To illustrate beyond doubt the very sophisticated nature of Takfīr, hoping that it will dissuade those who have been afflicted with such boldness to reconsider their behaviour and to busy themselves with those matters that are urgently required of them, such as to memorise the book of Allāh, to perfect its recitation, to master its understanding, to the study of the Arabic language, to pursue Islamic knowledge, to call to the path of Allāh and to establish projects in preparation for their Hereafter.
How will this purpose be achieved? The model for our study will be a very simple one. We shall relay a narration which speak of a person(s) who had seemingly engaged in matters which violate the soundness of a person’s Islām and which would otherwise remove a person from the pale of Islām. Then, we will follow it up with commentary from the scholars of Islām, focusing on the words of Ibn Taymiyyah specifically (for reasons which shall be expounded upon later on, inshāAllāh) thus determining that “This matter of Takfīr is not how we had previously imagined. It clearly is not for us.” We will then move onto the next narration where we will do the exact same.
The story of Hātib b. Abī Balta’a (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu)
ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib said,
بعثني رسول الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم أنا والزُّبَيْرَ والمِقْدَادَ، فقال : ( انطلقوا حتى تأتوا رَوْضَةَ خاخٍ، فإن بها ظَعِينَةً معها كتابٌ، فخذوهُ مِنها ) . قال : فانطلقنا تَعادَى بنا خَيْلُنَا حتى أتينا الرَّوْضَة، فإذا نحن بالظَّعِينَةِ، قُلْنا لها : أخرجي الكتابَ، قالتْ : ما معي كتابٌ، فقُلْنا، لَتُخْرِجِنَّ الكتابَ، أولَنُلْقِيَنَّ الثيابَ، قال : فأخرجتهُ من عِقاصِها، فأتينا رسول الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم فإذا فيه : من حَاطِبِ بْنِ أبي بَلْتَعَةَ، إلى ناسٍ بمكةَ مِن المشركينَ، يُخْبِرُهم ببعض أمر رسول الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم . فقال : رسول الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم : ( يا حاطِبُ، ما هذا ؟ ) . قال : يا رسولَ اللهِ، لا تَعْجَلْ علَيَّ، إني كنتُ امْرأً مُلْصَقًا في قريشٍ، يقول : كنتُ حَليفًا، ولم أكن من أنْفُسِها، وكان من معك من المهاجرينَ، من لهم قَراباتٌ يَحْمونَ أهْلِيهِمْ وأمْوَالهمْ، فأحببتُ إذ فاتني ذلك من النسَبِ فيهم، أن أتَّخِذَ عِندَهمْ يَدًا يَحْمونَ قَرابَتِي، ولم أفعله رْتِدَادًا عن ديني، ولا رضًا بالكفرِ بعدَ الإسلام . فقال : رسول الله صلَّى اللهُ عليه وسلَّم : ( أما إنه قد صدَقَكم ) . فقال عُمر : يا رسولَ اللهِ، دَعْنِي أضْرِبْ عُنُقَ هذا المُنافِقِ. فقال : ( إنه قد شَهِدَ بَدْرًا، وما يُدْرِيكَ لَعَلَّ اللَّهَ اطَّلَعَ علَى مَن شَهِدَ بَدْرًا فقال : اعملوا ما شِئْتُمْ فقد غفرتُ لكم ) . فأنزل الله السورةَ :يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لاَ تَتَّخِذُوا عَدُوِّي وَعَدُوَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَاءَ تُلْقُونَ إِلَيْهِمْ بِالْمَوَدَّةِ وَقَدْ كَفَرُوا بِمَا جَاءَكُمْ مِنَ الحَقِّ- إلى قوله -فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ
The Prophet of Allāh (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) sent me along with Az-Zubair and Al-Miqdad and said to us, “Proceed until you reach a place called Raudat-Khākh. There you will find a lady travelling. She has a letter. Take the letter from her.”
Some have said that this event took place during the 6th year during the ʿUmrah in which the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was barred from entering Makkah at the hands of the Makkan pagans. Others have argued that this in fact took place during the 8th year after the Hijra during the year of the conquest. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) had told some of his companions of his intentions to conquer Makkah after which one of the companions intentionally sought to leak this information to the Makkans.
So we set out, and our horses ran at full pace until we reached Raudat Khākh, and behold, we saw the lady and said to her, “Take out the letter” She said, “I have no letter with me.” We said, “Either you take out the letter or we will strip you of your clothes.” So she took the letter out of her hair braid. We brought the letter to the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and it had been sent by Hātib b. Abī Balta’a to some pagans at Makkah, informing them of some of the affairs of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam).
In the custom of every nation, this is clear treason, one of the worst of crimes against any state. Hātib had just informed the enemies of Islām of the Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) intent.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said, “What is this, O Hātib?” Hātib replied, “Do not be hasty with me, O Prophet of Allāh. I used to be an ally of Quraysh. The emigrants who are with you have relatives there who could protect their families and properties at Makkah. So, in order to compensate for not having such family in Makkah, I intended to do them a favour so that they might protect my relatives (at Makkah). I did not do this out of disbelief or an inclination to desert my religion.”
Upon hearing this, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said to his companions, “He has told you the truth.” ʿUmar said, “O messenger of Allāh! Allow me to chop the head of this hypocrite!” The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) responded, “He is one of those who witnessed the Battle of Badr, and what do you know, perhaps Allāh looked upon the people of Badr and said, ‘Do what you want for I have forgiven you.'”
Upon this incident, Allāh revealed the following verse,
‘O you who believe! Do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies. You show them love even though they have refused to believe in the Truth that has come to you, while they drive out the Messenger and you away only because you believe in Allāh, your Lord. You send them secret messages of love, whereas I know full well whatever you do secretly and whatever you do openly. Whoever from among you does so, has indeed gone astray from the right way.’”
The behaviour of Hātib, outwardly speaking, was manifest Muwālātul Mushrikīn (taking the pagans as close allies) whilst Allāh has strictly forbidden this in the above verse.
One cannot argue that this verse does not apply to Hātib because it was revealed due to the story of Hātib with the pagans. The principle states,
إن دخول صورة السبب قطعي وإخراجها بالاجتهاد ممنوع
“The purpose behind the revelation of an Āyah is certainly part of the verse. Excluding it on the basis of reasoning is not allowed.”
So there may be a verse which speaks generally with regards to a matter (“O you who believe” for example). If we know the reason behind the revelation of such a verse, we are not allowed to exclude the individuals involved from the ʿUmūm (generality) of that verse.
Furthermore, one cannot argue that such a sin is like any other. According to Allāh, as stated in other verses, it can amount to disbelief. Allāh warns:
وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُمْ مِنْكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ
“And whoever takes them as allies among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them.”
Ash-Shanqeeti says, commenting on this verse and its likes:
“وَيُفْهَمُ مِن ظواهرِ هذِه الآياتِ أَنَّ مَنْ تَولّى الكُفّارَ عَمْدًا اختيارًا، رَغْبَةً فِيهم أَنَّهُ كافرٌ مِثْلُهُم”
“The apparent meaning of these verses is that whoever takes the disbelievers as allies purposely and willingly, wanting to be amongst them, that he is like them in disbelief.”
So the matter is grave.
Then the āyah mentions “offering them your love”. Clearly, the actions of Hātib constituted as offering them love.
Yet, despite the enormity of such a crime and despite Hātib being primarily involved in the revelation of the āyah, the text of the āyah did not condemn him to Kufr nor did the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) declare him a Kāfir. Rather, the āyah begins with, “O you who believe.” In fact, when ʿUmar accused him of hypocrisy, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) defended him, reminding ʿUmar of Hātib’s participation in the Battle of Badr and how his sins were consequently forgiven.
Now, what if a person suggests that reason why Hātib was not deemed as a Kāfir was due to his participation in Badr and, thus, in any other circumstance, such a person would be a disbeliever. This is not correct. His participation in Badr is a good deed, and had he disbelieved, all of his good deeds would have collapsed, regardless of the size of such good deeds. Allāh says,
وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
“And it was already revealed to you and to those before you that if you should associate anything with Allāh, your work would surely become worthless, and you would surely be among the losers.”
And Allāh says,
وَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالْإِيمَانِ فَقَدْ حَبِطَ عَمَلُهُ وَهُوَ فِي الْآخِرَةِ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
“And whoever denies the faith – his work has become worthless, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.”
Had this behaviour of Hātib constituted as Kufr, then all of his good deeds would have been rendered null, including his participation in Badr. But the fact that his good deeds did not collapse makes it manifest that it was not his participation in Badr which saved him from disbelief.
Shaykh ʿAbdullatīf Āl Shaykh said,
“ولا يقال، قوله صلى الله عليه وسلم :” ما يدريك لعل الله اطلع على أهل بدر، فقال اعملوا ما شئتم، فقد غفرت لكم ” هو المانع من تكفيره، لأنا نقول : لو كفر لما بقي من حسناته”
“It cannot be said that what saved Hātib from disbelief was the saying of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) ‘and what do you know, perhaps Allāh looked upon the people of Badr and said, ‘Do what you want for I have forgiven you’’ because we say: If Hātib had in fact disbelieved, none of his good deeds would have remained.”
The principle which we are en route to establishing is that:
ما كل موالاة للمشركين تكون كفرا مخرجا من الملة
“Not every form of Muwālatul Mushrikīn constitutes as Kufr which causes one to part from Islām.”
Therefore, some forms of Muwālā constitute as a minor sin, other forms constitute as a major sin whilst other forms constitutes as Kufr. As for the Muwālā of Hātib to the pagans, it was not of a minor category, but from the severest where a military secret of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was intentionally leaked out to the adversaries of the Muslims. However, even in such severe forms of Muwālā, the individual at hand cannot be condemned to disbelief until certain conditions are met and impediments are eliminated.
In short, even in the severest forms of Muwālā, should a condition be absent or an impediment failed to be eliminated, the ruling changes. With that said, we are now ready to ask:
1) Who are the ones who have the authority and aptitude to establish whether a given form of Muwālā was from the minor or major category?
2) Assuming that it was from the major category, who are the ones who are qualified to ascertain whether the conditions are indeed met and that impediments are absent?
The answer: The people of knowledge
Though the answer is clear and emphatic, perceptions are skewed and poisonous ideas are instilled in countless instances. Some of the most ambiguous of sources, where the very names of the authors are unknown, leave the reader unsure whether such statements belong to a genuine writer or a conspirator.
Assuming however that the reference was a genuine scholar of Islām, many a time, their statements which are used in support of misguided practices have been taken out of their correct context, where the statement was, for example, specific to an incident and/or specific to an era. It is when such context-specific statements are generalised that problems arise.
This issue must not be belittled. There are, in fact, statements of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) himself about which the scholars have had to question,
“Does the specific communication to an individual from the Ummah include only him from a linguistic perspective? Or does it include others from the Ummah?”
If this is asked of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam)’s statements, then it most certainly applies to others who are far less than him. It is only when the statements of such a scholar are gathered in their totality with regards to the matter at hand that his intent becomes manifest. If an individual latches onto a statement of a scholar while another individual latches onto another statement from the same scholar, the result will be dissension, bitterness and conflict.
The techniques of Shayṭān in misguiding mankind is most certainly not a one-size fits all. As the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) said,
إِنَّ الشيطانَ قَعَدَ لِابنِ آدمَ بِأَطْرُقِهِ
“Shayṭān sits at every one of the paths of the believer.”
For those who are inclined towards the fulfilment of carnal desires, Shayṭān will tailor for them their set of traps. For those who are inclined towards accolades, recognition and fame, Shayṭān will tailor a set of traps for their fit. Similarly, those who are zealous in the path of Allāh, eager to see the justice of Islām spreading, for them, Shayṭān too has his fair share of custom-made traps.
So I say to my brothers who are inclined this way, have mercy on yourself, for you have only one chance in this world. Beware of wasting the opportunity. Just as Mutarrif b. ʿAbdillāh would say,
هِيَ نَفْسٌ وَاحِدَةٌ لاَ أُغِرِّرُ بِهَا
“It is only one life that I have. Thus I will not expose it to deception.”
Imām Ash-Shāfiʿī says, commenting on the Ḥadīth of Hātib:
وَلَيْسَ الدَّلَالَةُ عَلَى عَوْرَةِ مُسْلِمٍ وَلَا تَأْيِيدُ كَافِرٍ بِأَنْ يُحَذِّرَ أَنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ يُرِيدُونَ مِنْهُ غِرَّة لِيُحَذَّرَهَا أَوْ يَتَقَدَّمَ فِي نِكَايَةِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ بِكُفْرٍ بَيِّنٍ
“Guiding others towards the fault of a Muslim or assisting a disbeliever by warning him that the Muslims are intending to attack him by surprise and thus should be vigilant or take the initiative in attacking the Muslims does not constitute as clear Kufr.”
Imām Ibnu Taymiyya also has words to this effect, consolidating the fact that not all forms of Muwālā are the same. He says,
وَقَدْ تَحْصُلُ لِلرَّجُلِ مُوَادَّتُهُمْ لِرَحِمِ أَوْ حَاجَةٍ فَتَكُونُ ذَنْبًا يَنْقُصُ بِهِ إيمَانُهُ وَلَا يَكُونُ بِهِ كَافِرًا كَمَا حَصَلَ مِنْ حَاطِبِ بْنِ أَبِي بلتعة
“And it could be that a person expresses love towards them due to ties of kinship or a need which he has of them. Thus, such behavior constitutes as a sin which detracts from his Īmān but he is not condemned to disbelief as was the case in the story of Hātib.” 
Clearly, the matter of Takfīr is not as light as many of us had perceived but the mechanics of such a matter are incredibly intricate and precise. This was the style of meticulousness and care which our predecessors engaged in when discussing this matter, despite the enormity of their knowledge and depth of understanding.
Do you and I assume ourselves better equipped with the sciences of Islām than our predecessors?
Do you and I assume from ourselves greater jealousy and concern over the limits of Allāh than them?
Why then involve ourselves with such thorny matters when this is not our duty but the duty of others?
قَدْ جَعَلَ اللَّهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا
“Allāh has set a measure for all things.” 
What is even more mindboggling than those who hastily dismiss those who disagree with them as Kuffār are others who take it one step further, giving themselves the authority to take the law in their own hands and execute a punitive measure. A cursory glance at history, beginning from the time of the companions, through the era of the Tābiʿīn, all the way to our times today, reveals that the only group to conducts itself in this way, i.e. condemn the Muslims as non-Muslims and carry out their extermination, are the Khawārij.
This Ḥadīth of Hātib compels one to pause, to re-evaluate his approach, to think with deliberation a thousand times before saying or doing something which could very easily jeopardise both his Dunya and Ākhira, causing him to die in a horridly twisted state.
 Al-Qur’ān, 7:62
 Al-Qur’`a`n, 7:68
 Narrated by Muslim, on the authority of Abū Ruqayya
 Al-Qur’ān, 4:93
 Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Ayyūb
 Al-Qur’ān, 60:1
 Narrated by Al-Bukhārī and Muslim
 As was mentioned by As-Suyūti in his book, ‘Al-Itqān’
 Adwā’ul Bayān
 Al-Qur’ān, 39:65
 Al-Qur’ām, 5:5
 Words to this affect were mentioned by Ibn ʿĀshūr, As-Sa’di, ʿAbdullatīf Āl Shaykh and others.
 Al-Bahr Al-Muheet by Az-Zarkashi, Al-Burhaan by Al-Juwaini and multiple other books of Usūl.
 Narrated by An-Nasā’i in his ‘Sunan’, on the authority of Sabra b. Abī Fākih
 Narrated by Imām Ad-Dhahabi in his book, ‘Siyar A’lām An-Nubalā’
 Majmoo’ Al-Fatāwah
 Al-Qur’ām, 65:3
Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is Islam21c’s Tarbiya Editor. A UK national of Palestinian origin, he gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari’ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Shaykh Ali is the author of several books including ‘The Daily Revivals’, ‘The Ten Lanterns’ and ‘The Friday Reminder’. He delivers sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.