When does general Takfir apply?
Is the majority of a population drowning in major Shirk or major Kufr? Or is that land a land of disbelief (Darul Kufr)? Then these are the times when general Takfir applies. A Muslim looks at the reality of a population or group and bases a judgment on it.
Is a country in disbelief? Then he doesn't see its people as Muslims. A person in a country where the majority is in disbelief gets the verdict of the majority. This is also referred to as a generalization.
1. Majority in disbelief and idolatry
As humans, we automatically judge by the majority. Whether it is about race, religion or other matters. We make generalizations when we think the majority is in a certain way. We do this because of our natural predisposition. It is therefore not really avoidable.
In the Islamic sources we find that general Takfir has a place. We see that the pious predecessors (Salaf Saliheen) practiced this. Let's look at an example where Jarir bin Abdul-Hamid (a Salafu Salih) generalized.
The Imam Ya'qoub al-Qomi (180H) was born in Qom, and it is a Rafidhi-majority city.
Jarir bin Abdul-Hamid used to say when he saw Ya'qoub al-Qomi:
"This is the believer of the folk of the Fir'awn. Because the majority of the people in the city Qom were Rafidhah."
[Tarikh al-Islam 4/767 and Tabaqat al-Muhaditheen bi Asbhan (2/34) #86]
Ya'qoub Al-Qomi lived in the city of Qom, a city in Iran. By the majority of Rafidhi people who lived there, Jarir bin Abdul-Hamid (a friend of his) told him that he is a believer of the people of Fir'awn.
A believer in the time of Fir'awn was very unique. Majority of the people of Fir'awn were disbelievers. Therefore, Jarir bin Abdul-Hamid found that Ya'qoub falls within that specification.
2. Land of Disbelief (Darul Kufr)
A person gets the judgment of the country he lives in. That is automatically determined in Islam. It is then up to the person to distinguish himself from the country by making his views clear.
When an accident happens and a person is involved, he should distinguish himself if he has nothing to do with it. The same is also true in discerning the judgment of the land.
Imam Sahnoun (240H) said:
"Imam Sahnun (240H) said: "I asked Ibn Al-Qasim (a companion of Imam Malik): Did Imam Malik dislike it if a man would trade in Darul Harb (a land of war)? He (Ibn Qasim) said: "Yes, Malik used to dislike it alot. He used to
dislike this because the person would receive the judgement of Ahl
Shirk (the people of shirk) automatically."
[Al-Muduwanna 3/294 by Ibn Sahnoun]
So here we see a person getting the judgment of his country. Does a person go to Darul Islam? Then he gets the judgment of the land unless he specifies himself as a Christian or a Jew. Does a person go to Darul Kufr? Then he will receive the judgment of that land, unless he distinguishes himself from it.
Yusuf 'alayhi salam's brothers visited Yusuf in another country without realizing it was him. They judged Yusuf like the people he lived with.
When they saw him they said, "Indeed, Allah rewards charity". They did not say that Allah will reward him (Yusuf) because they did not judge him as a Muslim. That is because they did not know they were dealing with Yusuf 'alayhi salam.
Muqatil bin Sulaiman [150 AH] said:
"The tafsir of the verse: 'Indeed, Allah rewards charity', is talking about the believers. If the brothers of Sulayman knew they spoke to Yusuf, they would have said: "Verily, Allah will reward you for your charity."
[Tafsir Muqatil bin Sulaiman (2/349)]