What about Takfiir?

Takfiir is an Arabic word and it means, more or less, excommunication. Now there are differences between the two ideas. Technically, excommunication means to ban a person from Communion, seen as the central ritual and sacrament of the faith.

Now you have probably heard the word "kaafir" which is often translated "unbeliever." That word is derived from kafara which means "(he) became an unbeliever." Then there is the word (with two f's) and has a causative meaning, "kaffara," which means "he excommunicated." Takfiir is the gerund of that verb. The person who has become kaafir has surrendered his personal security under Islamic law.

If there is one novelty in OBL's practice of Islam, it surrounds takfiir. By using takfiir very liberally he expands the number of people who can be killed in jihad. Very nicely explained here:

The concept of takfir, or excommunication, coupled with the mandate to kill unbelievers (Qur'an 9:5) leads to two internal consequences for Muslim communities: One is eternal instability, as tempers are conditioned to be short and explosive over disagreements. Additionally, the lack of separation of religion and state in Islamic teachings only adds fuel to the fire where political disagreements arise, demonstrated by both Shi'ites and Sunnis in this article.

In that atmosphere, the hazards of being branded a substandard believer, coupled with the military and material incentive for demonstrating religious devotion only further encourages as literal a following of texts and teachings as possible (see also: Gaza Strip). And thus, there arises a self-perpetuating cycle in that the solution to Islamically-charged instability is always more Islam (since the root of the problem is that the other party has it wrong), more sharia, and more jihad to make it happen.

From Here.


Anonymous said…
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Anonymous said…
The free and easy use of takfir is actually a sign of unacceptable heterodoxy, which is why Muslims did not develop formal tools of excommunication a la the Catholic church.
Abu Daoud said…
Hello Um Yasmin,

Actually Jesus came up with excommunication:

Matt. 18:15 ¶ “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.
Matt. 18:16 But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.
Matt. 18:17 If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matt. 18:18 Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
Matt. 18:19 Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
Matt. 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
Matt. 18:21 ¶ Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”
Matt. 18:22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
Abu Daoud said…
I also want to point out how your remark is self-contradictory:

Who determines what is and what is not heterdoxy? The very term 'heterodox' means that there is right belief and "other belief'. Who determines what is what? For example, who are you to say that Bin Laden, an avid fan of takfiir, is in fact heterodox, and that you have the correct version of Islam?

I mean, he would say that you are in fact not a Muslim at all, so why listen to you? If there is no excommunication, then there is no responsibility. You seem to think it is something evil or bad or, dare we say, Catholic. Discipline and accountability are part of any community, whether a nuclear family or the billion+ Catholic church, or anything in between.

The fact that the umma has no concrete form of excommunication is a deficiency, not an asset.

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