What is General Takfir?

When you think of general Takfir, you can think of a generalization and excommunication of a group of people. Do you believe that a specific group are disbelievers, or do you see a person as Kafir because of the majority of a country? Then that is general Takfir.

General Takfir is also called Takfir 'Aamma in Arabic. It is a form of Takfir that relies on the majority of a group or population. This form of Takfir falls under the foundation of religion in Islam, also called as Aslu Deen.

  1. When does it apply?
  2. How to practice it
  3. Examples of general Takfir

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)]

How to practise it

A Muslim makes general Takfir by excommunicating a person based on the majority or state of the country. Does he see a person in a country of disbelief, or a country in which the majority of the population commits major Shirk? Then he judges this person based on the reality.

For example, is a country known to have a majority of thieves? Then it is clear that a person then assumes that no one can be trusted until they distinguish themselves. This is the same with the condition of a country where the majority are in disbelief. No one is believed until they distinguish themselves.

Salamah bin Nu'aym reported: "I was a witness with Khalid Ibn Walid on the day of Yamamah. When we were besieging, I hit a man in their mids. When he fell, he said: "O Allah, I swear upon your religion and that of your prophet, that I am free of what Musaylamah is doing." [Juz Yahya bin Muayn (28)]

The Companions besieged the people of Yamamah because of their belief in a false prophet named Musaylima. The people of Yamamah massively believed in the false prophet, but only a few did not. As stated in the report, a man was distinguished himself from Musaylima. That was necessary in order not to be captured.

How one can distinguish oneself

A person can distinguish himself from the country in which he lives. This is done with a unique distinguishing factor. For example, it is not a unique sign to dress Islamicly when you know that people who dress in this way also commit major Shirk.

So what can you use as a sign to see someone as a Muslim? That is his or her creed. Because that immediately distinguishes itself from everything and everyone from the ground up.

Thus, questioning a person in a country of disbelief is necessary in order to judge him as a Muslim. Is that person different from the people? Then this is the distinguishing factor.

Abu Bakr Al Marwadhi heard the Iqamah, so he asked Imam Ahmad if he should pray behind the Imam. Imam Ahmad responded with: "I used to be lenient in this matter. But now that innovation has been spread widely, you should only pray behind a person whom you know." [Tabaqat Al-Hanabilah 1/59]

In that quote from Imam Ahmad we see that he made a general judgment. Because of the spread of innovation, he only saw someone on the right path when he knew that person.

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]

Despite the Islamic rituals that were present in the city of Qom, the Salafu Saliheen did not judge the people on it. They judged by the creed (Aqeedah) of men.

In this case, we see that when the majority of a country is in disbelief, but practises Islamic rituals, it cannot be used as a reason to judge someone as a Muslim.

Examples of General Takfir

Do you want to know who performed general Takfir and what their thinking was? Below are several examples of how Prophet Ibrahim, the Sahaba and after them acted.

Prophet Ibrahim عليه السلام

Abu Huraira narrated:

Ibrahim did not tell a lie except on three occasions. Twice for the sake of Allah when he said: "I am sick", and he said: "(I have not done this), the great idol has done it." The (third was) that Ibrahim and Sarah (his wife) were going on a journey , when they passed (the territory) of a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant: "This man (i.e. Ibrahim) is accompanied by a very charming lady." So he sent Ibrahim to him and asked him about Sarah, saying, "Who is this lady?" Ibrahim said, "She is my sister." Ibrahim went to Sarah and said, "O Sarah! There are no believers on the face of the earth except you and I. This man asked me about you and I got him told you are my sister, so don't contradict my statement."

(Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Hadith 578)

In this narration we see that Ibrahim عليه السلام generalized. Despite the fact that Lut عليه السلام was alive, Prophet Ibrahim still made general Takfir. Of course, not all of the earth was in disbelief at the time, because it is a generalization.

Sahaba practiced general Takfir

The Companions in Islam perceived the reality of the world and people. Based on that reality, they performed general Takfir. Abu Bakr, Ibn Mas'ud, Zayd ibn 'Amr, Salman Al-Farisi, 'Amr bin 'Abasa Sulami RadiyAllahu 'Anhuma and others practiced general Takfir.

Abu Bakr رضي الله عنه

Abu Bakr radiyAllahu 'anhu said at the beginning of Al-Riddah wars: "Verily, the earth (the people) today is disbelieving." (Tarikh al-Tabari 3/245 and al-Bidayah wa Nihaya 9/441)

When the false prophet Musaylima had a lot of influence on the people after the Prophet (ﷺ) died, many Muslims became apostate because they believed in Musaylima the false prophet.

Abu Bakr radiyAllahu 'anhu saw this and saw that there were also others who would not pay Zakat. Because of this, Abu Bakr fought the apostates in the wars of Al-Riddah (war against apostasy).

Since there were quite a few Companions on Earth who remained steadfast on Islam, it is not the case that Abu Bakr radiyAllahu 'anhu also excommunicated them. The generalization of the statement can be traced back to the reality of that era, namely that the majority of the world was drowning in disbelief.

Ibn Mas'ud رضي الله عنه

'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said: "As you can see, I am the sixth of the six. And there are no muslims on this earth except for us." (Hilyatul Awliyaa #384)

This was said at the time when Ibn Mas'ud converted to Islam. He was one of the first 6 Muslims to convert to Islam.

Someone would ask: "How can Ibn Mas'ud claim that there are no other Muslims on Earth?". It is because he generalized based on the state of the world. The minority of Muslims are excluded.

Zayd ibn 'Amr رضي الله عنه

Asma bint Abi Bakr (daughter of Abu Bakr) reported: "I saw Zayd ibn 'Amr bin Nufail standing with his back to the Ka'ba and said: 'O people of Quraish! By Allah, none of you is on the religion of Ibrahim except me." Sahih al-Bukhari Book 63, Hadith 53 (Chapter of the Ansar)

Zayd ibn 'Amr did general Takfir on Quraysh. He knew that the majority of them were committing Shirk. He knew about the reality of Quraysh.

Zayd was also a friend of the Prophet (ﷺ) before he became a prophet. Therefore he knew that he was not a polytheist, yet Zayd ibn 'Amr said: "O Quraysh, none of you are on the path of Ibrahim (believers), except me". Zayd judged Quraysh (general) as disbelievers.

Salman Al-Farisi رضي الله عنه

Salman al-Farisi said: 'I was a man of the people of Jayy and the people of my village worshiped a black-white horse, that is how I knew they were on nothing (no right path). I got told: 'The religion that you seek is in Morocco'. So I traveled until I arrived in Mosul. Al-Mustadrak 'ala al-Sahiheen page 790

This was said when Salman Al-Farisi went searching for a religion. This was before he met the Prophet (ﷺ).

Perhaps there was a Muslim among them. So they are not made Takfir of, because it is just a generalization.

'Amr bin 'Abasa Sulami رضي الله عنه

'Amr bin 'Abasa Sulami reported: "'I used to think in the times of jahiliyah (before embracing islam) that the people were in error and that they were not on anything (no right path). They worshiped idols." Sahih Muslim 832

'Amr bin 'Abasa was a companion of the Prophet (ﷺ). In the above mentioned narration, he tells us how he thought before he converted to Islam.

He saw that the people were in error and judged them accordingly. They were on nothing (error) and worshiped idols. His perception of the situation made him generalize.

Scholars after the Sahaba

The Muslim scholars after the Companions also practiced the concept of general Takfir. They were strict with it and looked at the condition of peoples. Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Ya'qoub Al-Qomi, Imam Ahmad, Barbahari, Ibn Battah and others practiced generalization.

Sufyan Ath-Thawri

Yahya ibn Al-Qattan said: “When Sufyān Ath-Thawrī (161 AH) entered Basrah, he began to study the matter of Ar-Rabī' Ibn Subayh and his status with the people. So he asked, "What is his creed?" They replied, "His creed is no different from the Sunnah." So Sufyan asked, "Who are his closest friends?" They said: 'The people who deny the Qadr (Qadariyyah).' He said: "Then he is a Qadarī." (Al Ibanah #426 by Ibn Battah) Ibn Battah commented on this and said: “May Allah have mercy on Sufyān Ath-Thawrī. He indeed spoke with wisdom and spoke the truth. He spoke with knowledge that is in accordance with the Book and the Sunnah. And [he has spoken] according to what is required of wisdom, perceived with the eyes and known to the people of understanding and education. Allah (the Most High) says in the Quran: “O you who believe! Do not take those outside yourself (i.e. outside Ahlus-Sunnah) as your companions, as they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They want to seriously harm you."

Sufyan Ath-Thawri (161 AH) said: "Pray only behind a person whom you trust and who is on the path of Ahlu Sunnah." [Sharh Usul Al-I'tiqad #314 by Lalikaee]

Besides Sufyan, there were others of the Salaf who were strict about this. Praying behind a person of which his Aqeedah was unknown was avoided.

Ya'qoub Al-Qomi

The Imam Ya'qoub al-Qomi (180 AH) was born in Qom, and it is a Rephidhi-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]

The city of Qom is located in Iran. At the time, it was a city where the Rafidhah (Shi'a) were the majority. Today this is also the case in Iran. The majority are Shiites.

The Shi'ites gave Salaam, prayed prayer, gave Zakat, etc. This proves that Islamic rituals are not a unique factor to judge someone as a Muslim.

Imam Ahmad

Abu Bakr Al-Marwadhi heard the Iqama, so he asked Imam Ahmad (241 AH) if he can pray behind the Imam. Imam Ahmad replied: "I used to be lenient in this matter. But now that innovation has been spread widely, you should only pray behind a person whom you know." [Tabaqat Al-Hanabilah 1/59]

In that quote of Imam Ahmad we see that he made a general judgment. Because of the spread of innovation, he only saw someone on the right path when he knew that person.


Al-Barbahari (329 AH) said: "It is permissible to declare someone as Sunni only when that person concerns all its characteristics." [Sharh as-Sunnah 145]

Questioning is important here. Do you see that a person has all the characteristics of a Sunni? Only then is it allowed to see him like this.

Al-Barbahari (329 AH) said: “Be very cautious, especially with the people of your time. And be careful with whom you sit, who you listen to and who you take as your companion. Verily, it is as if all of creation (people) became apostates, except the ones that are protected by Allah." [Sharh as-Sunnah 140]

The scholar was aware of the fact that the majority of people were in disbelief. He warns you to be careful with whom you trust.

Ibn Battah Al-'Ukbari

Ibn Battah (387 AH) said: "Verily, we have come in a time wherein only a small amount of people are safe in religion, and being rescued of misguidance has become difficult to an extent it seems impossible, except those who are protected by Allah through knowledge." [Al-Ibanah 1/366 of Ibn Battah]

Here Ibn Battah says similar to what Barbahari said. Ibn Battah was aware of time and reality. He warns of this, saying that rescue seems impossible. But those who are protected by Allah with knowledge can save themselves.

Abu Athari writes about basic principles within Islam. He uses his critical and well-researched way to spread knowledge of the first three Muslim generations.

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