What is Kufr?

Islam places great emphasis on believing in Allah and His religion. The opposite of belief (Eman) is disbelief (Kufr). Kufr linguistically means 'to cover something', and in religious contexts it has several meanings including 'disbelief'.

Other meanings of Kufr:
  1. Ingratitude
  2. Refusal
  3. Rejection
  1. Forms of Kufr
  2. What deeds are Kufr?
  3. The effect of Kufr

Forms of Kufr

Just as there are different sins in Islam that differ in grade, so is Kufr. The acts of disbelief differ in damage and effect. Thus, Kufr exists in two forms: minor and the major form.

1. Minor Kufr

The minor form of Kufr, also known as Kufr Asghar or Kufr duna Kufr, is described in the Hadeeth. Those are acts that do not place a Muslim outside the fold of Islam. This sin is one of the greatest sins in Islam. It should therefore not be despised.

The concept of minor Kufr is not found in the Quran. To find it we need to dive into the Hadith, and seek the understanding of the pious predecessors.

For example, we sometimes see that an act falls under 'Kufr'. That can be both the minor or major form. By keeping to the correct context of the Hadith, we quickly find in which form an act falls.

2. Major Kufr

The deeds of major Kufr make a person leave the religion. The act is also called Kufr Akbar. These deeds differ from acts of major shirk. Major Kufr are acts of disbelief in which a partner is not nessecarily attributed to Allah.

For example, think of acts like insulting Islam or disbelieving in one of the verses from the Quran.

A person would not ascribe a partner to Allah when he contradicts the Quran for example. But its still an act of disbelief.

Thus, the distinction between major Shirk and major Kufr is that Shirk means the attribution of partners to Allah, whereas major Kufr has to do with deeds that are disbelief, without nessecarily ascribing any partners to Allah.

A doer of major Kufr is called a Kafir (disbeliever), and the doer of major Shirk is called a Mushrik (polytheist). Both are disbelievers in Islam and thus can also be called Kafir.

What deeds are Kufr?

There are various acts of Kufr in Islam. The acts differ in intensity and effect. There are acts of Kufr which fall under the minor and major category.

Muslims like to protect themselves from committing these major sins. For it is the greatest sin along with Shirk. First, let's look at some examples of minor Kufr.

Minor Kufr examples

The act of minor Kufr is one of the greatest sins of Islam. It does not take a Muslim out of the religion of Islam.

We must always return to the Ahadith to find which acts are classified as minor Kufr. With the acts of major Kufr, that is not always the case, because we could also use our intellect and Fitrah on many of those acts.

Some deeds of minor Kufr:
  1. Killing a Muslim without having the right to do so
  2. Islamic judge who sometimes judges corrupt because of bribery
  3. Anal intercourse
  4. Wife disobeying her husband

Major Kufr examples

Major Kufr, along with major Shirk, is the greatest sin in Islam. Major Kufr is the second form of disbelief in Islam, which removes a person from the fold of Islam.

In order to protect yourself from this act, it is important to delve into this. In most cases we recognize major Kufr without having to see a source or anything about it.

Consider, for example, insulting Islam. It would be strange if someone doubts whether that makes a person leave Islam.

Some deeds of major Kufr:
  1. Not praying the five daily prayers
  2. Leaving a Pillar of Islam
  3. Hating Islam
  4. Believing in another religion besides Islam
  5. Mocking Islam
  6. Practicing magic
  7. Pretending to believe when in reality you don't (Nifaaq, hypocrisy)

The effect of Kufr

What harm would it bring if a Muslim committed Kufr? With regard to the major variant of Kufr, the Muslim abandons Islam by it. That person then becomes a Kafir. The minor form of Kufr does not make a person Kafir.

Islam places great emphasis on believing in Allah (Iman), which is in contrast to Kufr (disbelief). Muslims adhere to the guidelines and protect themselves from committing major sins.

Well, it is not the case that a Muslim becomes a disbeliever by committing major sins (such as consumption of alcohol, committing murder, etc.).

Unlike the Khawarij sect, the Sunnis believe that committing major sins does not equate to leaving Islam. And that is the traditional way of Islam.

How to return from commiting Kufr

Has a former Muslim commited the major form of Kufr? Then he can of course return to Islam. That is done by sincere repentance for the major disbelief that was commited.

A Muslim that commited the minor form of disbelief must repent from it if he was not ignorant of it. If a person for example did not know that disobeying the husband would be minor Kufr, then that is excused.

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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