Clarification of terms

Vajradhara

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Salaam all,

i've been engaged in a discussion with a few Muslims that i have found to be patient and knowledgeable in their faith.

i've a question that i'm having a bit of a time having answered.

can someone explain the difference between Kuffar and Mushrik to me please?

from what i understand, there are two different types of unbelievers... those that actively mock, insult and ridicule Islam and those that simply do not believe.

this goes to another question that i have which i'd be happy to post here for comment and feedback.
 
Greetings Vajradhara,

'Kaffir' comes from the root 'kfr'; I think the most literal translation would be 'to cover up or conceal'. This is referring to those who have heard and understood the truth, but they choose to close their eyes, cover it up and reject it. The word 'kaffir' is usually translated into English as 'infidel', but I think that's a very poor translation, as the two words have entirely different connotations.

A 'mushrik' refers to those who worship others besides Allah. It comes from the root 'shrk', which means 'to associate.' Anyone who equates anything with Allah, relates anyone to Allah, worships anything apart from or along with Allah, or obeys anyone outside the guidance of Allah is said to commit 'shirk'. Usually, 'mushrik' is translated as 'polytheist' or 'idolater'.

A kaffir, or rejecter of truth, is not necessarily a polytheist, and a polytheist is not necessarily a rejecter of truth. This is because the sin of kufr is entirely dependent on the knowledge and intention of the one commiting it. In order to commit kufr, one must hear the truth, understand it, and recognize it as truth...then choose to reject it and cover it up. Not everyone fits this category. Many people do not accept Islam because they simply and sincerely are not convinced of it's truth.

Unfortunately, nowdays there are many muslims who are binary in their thinking, and divide the world into muslims and kaffirs, with nothing in between and no grey area. I don't believe the Qur'an reflected this kind of thinking. In the earlier Meccan surahs, the Qur'an calls to the Meccan polytheists (mushriks), saying "O people". It was only after some time of hearing and rejecting the Prophet Muhammad's teaching that the Qur'an began referring to them as 'kaffirs'.

Many Muslim scholars say that it is impossible for anyone but God to make a pronouncement of kufr on anyone, because only God truly knows the hearts and minds and true intentions of people.

I hope this helps.

Peace
veritasamat
 
Thanks for that - interesting question and answer. :)
 
Salaam Veritasamat,


thank you for the post and the explanation.

i've heard the word "kuffar" translated as "rejector"... which seems that perhaps would be a translation that you would agree with.

the question that i've been asking is based on what i've been told are requirements for Muslims to go to heaven (jhanna) sp?

1. belief in God
2. belief in an afterlife
3. belief in judgement day
4. good works.

so.. to get to the heart of the question... from what i can read the good works only applies to believers, not unbelievers like myself. however, i conceed that i'm reading the English and therefore may not have a proper understanding of the words.

in all the Ayats that i can find, good works are linked to believers... and unbelievers are usually reviled and castigated.

does the question make sense? wait a sec... have i even posed it yet?

dunno... so i'll explicitly do so here:

if one is a kuffar, i.e. one that doesn't accept the truth of Islam, however, one does perform good works, not out of pride or arrogance, but genuinely to help others, does not associate anything with God nor worships idols, will Allah judge us upon our works or our belief in Islam?
 
Greetings Vajradhara,

You asked: "if one is a kuffar, i.e. one that doesn't accept the truth of Islam, however, one does perform good works, not out of pride or arrogance, but genuinely to help others, does not associate anything with God nor worships idols, will Allah judge us upon our works or our belief in Islam?"

I think I should clarify again that a kaffir is someone who has recognized that Islam is true (assuming that an authentic version has been conveyed by a reliable source), but has chosen to reject it. So to rephrase your question: "if someone who believes that Islam is true but has chosen for reasons of their own to conceal it's truth and reject it...if they perform good works, not out of pride or arrogance, but genuinely to help others; if they do not associate anything with God nor worship idols, will Allah judge them upon their works, or their rejection of Islam against the witness of their own conscience?"

I would say that Allah will judge them as He does everyone...on both their faith and their works. However the Qur'an makes it clear that there is no excuse for the sin of kufr, because one is intentionally working against that which they know is true. My observation is that people with such conflicted consciences cannot produce much in the way of sincere good deeds.

Now to answer the question as I believe you were meaning it: "if someone who has not heard or is sincerely not convinced of the truth of Islam performs good works, not out of pride or arrogance, but genuinely to help others, does not associate anything with God nor worships idols, will Allah judge them upon their works or their belief in Islam?"

Here is a verse that should help answer the question (emphasis mine): "Those who believe, those who follow the Jewish, and the Sabians and the Christians - Any who believe in Allah and the Last Day and work righteousness - On them shall be not fear, nor shall they grieve." surah 5:69.

I hope this helps.

salaam,
veritasamat
 
Salaam Veritasamat,


thank you for the reponse.

yes... that's exactly how i was meaning the question :)

your answer, however, hasn't cleared this for me. let me explain...

you answer:

"Those who believe, those who follow the Jewish, and the Sabians and the Christians - Any who believe in Allah and the Last Day and work righteousness - On them shall be not fear, nor shall they grieve." surah 5:69.

i've read this as well. this seems to be saying that those who believe in Allah, the Last Day and work righteousness... not, however, if one doesn't believe in Allah and the Last Day. does that make sense?

it may not be addressed in the Qur'an in the way in which i'm framing the question.. i'm not versed enough in the layout of the Qur'an to find this information for myself at this point, hence the questioning.

thank you for taking the time to address this for me, i do appreciate it :)
 
Greetings Vajradhara,

Please forgive me for the delay...I'm not ignoring you. I'm a little bogged down with work right now. I will reply soon in sha' Allah.

veritasamat
 
There are other categories too - for example you can just be downright ignorant of Islam and believe it's a hateful religion that causes people to hack other people to little bits. That's taken into account in the reckoning it appears.

I would recommend Imam al-Ghazali's Faysal Al Tafriqa (the boundaries of theological tolerance) for the sunni view on non-believers and the hereafter, it comes with good notes on the translation by Dr Jackson.

To excerpt:

The Fate of Non-Muslims in the Afterlife

The reason that contemporary writers affected by the writings of Gunon and Schuon, such as Chittick and Gai Eaton (or such as Martin Lings, Titus Burckhardt etc.), seem to want the universal validity of all religions at any price, even to the extent of attributing it to masters like Muhyiddin ibn al-`Arabi ("in principle") or Emir `Abd al-Qadir ("he protected the Christians against massacre by taking them into his own home because he understood" [as if other scholars considered massacring them halal]) would seem to be the emotive impalatability of followers of other religions going to hell. Where is the mercy? Would Allah put someone in the hellfire merely for worshipping in another religion besides Islam? This question is answered by traditional Islam according to two possibilities:

(1) There are some peoples who have not been reached by the message of the Prophet of Islam (Allah bless him and give him peace) that we must worship the One God alone, associating nothing else with Him. Such people are innocent, and will not be punished no matter what they do. Allah says in surat al-Isra',

"We do not punish until We send a Messenger" (Koran 17:15).

These include, for example, Christians and others who lived in the period after the spread of the myth of Jesus godhood, until the time of the prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), who renewed the call to pure monotheism.

The great Muslim scholar, Imam Ghazali, includes in this category those who have only been reached with a distorted picture of the Messenger of Islam (Allah bless him and give him peace), presumably including many people in the West today who know nothing about Allah's religion but newspaper stories about Ayatollahs and mad Muslim bombers. Is it within such people's capacity to believe? In Ghazali's view, such people are excused until after they have had an opportunity to learn the undistorted truth about Islam (Ghazali: "Faysal al - tafriqa," Majmu'a rasa'il al-Imam al-Ghazali, 3.96). This of course does not alter our own obligation as Muslims to reach them with the da'wa.

(2) A second group of people consists of those who turn away from God's divine message of Islam, rejecting the command to make their worship God's alone; whether because of blindly imitating the religion of their ancestors, or for some other reason. These are people to whom God has sent a prophetic messenger and reached with His message, and to whom He has given hearing and an intellect with which to grasp it but after all this, persist in associating others with Allah, either by actually worshipping another, or by rejecting the laws brought by His messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace), which associates their own customs with His prerogative to be worshipped as He directs. Such people have violated God's rights, and have accepted to go to hell, which is precisely what His messengers have warned them of, so they have no excuse:

"Truly, Allah does not forgive that any be associated with Him; but He forgives what is less than that to whomever He wills" (Koran 4:48).

In either case, Allah's mercy exists, though for non-Muslims unreached by the message, it is a question of divine amnesty for their ignorance, not a confirmation of their religions validity. It is worth knowing the difference between these two things, for one's eternal fate depends on it.

From a piece by Sh Nuh Keller on www.masud.co.uk. There are other groups in addition - some of whom will enter the hellfire but not be harmed by it for example. In the end, a cool aspect of omnipotence is that Allah (swt) will know best who's been a good boy and who hasn't ;)

The requirements for aqeedah (belief) according to the sunnis are belief in:

Oneness of Allah (swt)
Angels
Books
Messengers
The hellfire/heaven/last day
Qadr (destiny)

The shias vary with respect to this. The details of each category are beyond the scope of this post as I am hungry.
 
Salaam Semantic,

thank you for the post and the information.

i appreciate the difficult terrain that we are traversing and i deeply appreciate the patience being shown.

i realize that i'm being a bit pendantic and i do apologize for this.. however, i've not been able to get an unequivical answer :)

according to veritasamat;
"A 'mushrik' refers to those who worship others besides Allah. It comes from the root 'shrk', which means 'to associate.' Anyone who equates anything with Allah, relates anyone to Allah, worships anything apart from or along with Allah, or obeys anyone outside the guidance of Allah is said to commit 'shirk'. Usually, 'mushrik' is translated as 'polytheist' or 'idolater'.

A kaffir, or rejecter of truth, is not necessarily a polytheist, and a polytheist is not necessarily a rejecter of truth. This is because the sin of kufr is entirely dependent on the knowledge and intention of the one commiting it. In order to commit kufr, one must hear the truth, understand it, and recognize it as truth...then choose to reject it and cover it up. Not everyone fits this category. Many people do not accept Islam because they simply and sincerely are not convinced of it's truth."

so.. going by these definitions, i'm not Mushrik, since i associate nothing with Allah, i am not Kaffir since i do not recognize Islam as Truth.

if that line of thinking is correct, then, what would be the critera upon which i was judged? is it my works or aspects of my beliefs or something else of which i'm unaware at this time?
 
I believe (not certain) that the criterion for kaffirdom (to make up a word) is that you have recieved the truth, but choose to deny it - ie the message in it's pure form is in front of you, but you do not recognize it overtly as truth. It's a bit of a fine line, but in the end Allah (swt) can judge it.

You can be a jahil of course (ignorant one ;)). The exact fate of those that are like that is uncertain - some would say they go to the hellfire, but are not harmed - something not quite heaven, but not quite hell?

Still, getting back to the crux of the question.. It seems to me that you would be judged on both your beliefs and your actions.

Why?

In Islam the way in which we are judged is an amalgamation of the two. If I pray and do not mean it, this is "riya" (simulation) and is not accepted of me. If I become a scholar and dispense knowledge so others will laud me, I will go to the hellfire.

Intention (niyyah) is the crucial thing.

There is a concept al wara wal bara - loving and hating for the sake of Allah (swt). As Muslims we strive to follow the Shariah - the will of Allah (swt). In doing this, we aim to perform each action for the sake of him - to love others for the sake of him and to hate the deeds they do that do not conform with the Shariah for the sake of him.

Hence if your actions are in line with your belief that you are doing it for the sake of the one true god, then it would tot you up more brownie points (so to speak) than if you weren't.

If you did something "good" just to make yourself feel better, then one could say you were doing it for yourself and setting yourself and your nafs (desires, subconcious being) up beside Allah (swt) as something you serve..

I hope that helps somewhat, in the end Allah (swt) is the Ultimate of Justice, and he knows us better than we know ourselves..
 
Salaam Semantic,

thank you very much for the response!

my understanding, as limited as it is, is what you've confirmed here.. both, beliefs and actions are the critera.

i think that i understand your point regarding intentions... and, ultimately, i accept that Allah knows best in these things.

having said that... my intentions behind doing good acts, whilst obviously not for Allahs sake, per se, are also not for my sake. they are for the sake of all other sentient beings.

given the rather dualistic nature of Islam, i'm wondering if this type of view was not really considered... or, is it more of a thought that "if it's not for Allah, it's for ourselves" at work?
 
Well, there's a fine line to be drawn here - if you believe in a higher cause, a greater being as it were, do you derive your sense of morals from this? Do you consider yourself to have been created by it and thus this is the impetus of your consideration for others?

After all, what rights do other sentient beings have on you?

Where does your sense of what is good and what is bad originate?

Society? A higher cause?

You may find that ultimately your good actions are indeed for yourself - why? Because it helps you in society and your interrelationship with others. It helps you conform to a perception of worth. Alternatively, you may find that it's routed in a higher basis, one you simply cannot describe and you are working towards this end - I would not say that it is for other people though as intention is internalised.

Still, that's just my take - it is one or the other.

My words fly up, thoughts remain below. Words without thought never to heaven go.

I like that.
 
Salaam Semantic,

thank you for the post.

Semantic said:
Well, there's a fine line to be drawn here

i certainly appreciate this point.

- if you believe in a higher cause, a greater being as it were,

i do not believe in this in the way that you are indicating, i suspect.

do you derive your sense of morals from this?

no. it is my view that morality is derived from the evolutionary processes of human development. nor do i base my ethics on this.

Do you consider yourself to have been created by it and thus this is the impetus of your consideration for others?

no, my consideration for others comes directly from the observation of their suffering.

After all, what rights do other sentient beings have on you?

i'm not sure what you're asking here. other sentient beings rights stop at my nose :) and my rights stop at theirs.

Where does your sense of what is good and what is bad originate?

this is a great question, in my view. Buddhists don't really use the terms "good" and "bad" except in a relative way. in Buddhism, there is the concept of relative truth and Absolute truth. things like "good" "bad" "happy" "hungry" "angry" etc are all parts of the relative truth. Ultimately, these terms and concepts do not apply, thus, our teachings really don't address these issues in this fashion.

our teachings focus on ethical and moral action, leaving aside the denotion of "good" and "bad" for others.

ultimately, the source for these things is one's own Buddhanature which is brought forward by exposure to the Dharma.... in our view.

Society? A higher cause?

i suppose that we could say society, in a limited sense, and be somewhat accurate. higher cause... nah... the Dharma is like water.. it flows into the low areas.

You may find that ultimately your good actions are indeed for yourself - why? Because it helps you in society and your interrelationship with others.

these reasons are insufficient for a Mahayana Buddhist to engage in the praxis. in point of fact, the Mahayana Buddhist view is that to generate Bodhichitta (the Heart of Compassion) requires one to take the Bodhisattva Vow. in essence, this vow comits one to the liberation of all sentient beings in all world streams before the Bodhisattva will take final liberation.

It helps you conform to a perception of worth.

that can be a motiving factor for a great many beings, this is true. this would be, however, a deluded reason for a Buddhist to engage in moral and ethical actions... not that Buddhists aren't deluded... that's the de facto standard :)
 
Ah.. You're a Mahayana-style buddhist, gotcha. In that case your lines are finer than most ;)

I was merely asking those questions to get a fix on where you were coming from, my apologies for any offense caused.

I believe your beliefs would put you in the action for thyself section, to continue to use that simplistic demarcation. There are some stark similarities between your path and that of a muslim - the dharma would be analagous to the Shariah - the will of Allah (swt), ie the Islam of a muslim, the actions by which he must abide to return. There is an element of the second leg of the tripod too, ihsan - essentially a return to the Absolute truth and an awareness of it (although as a Mahayana, you do not achieve enlightenment, do you?). What's missing is the third leg, which we term iman, belief. The final linking line to the Absolute as it were. Under standard Islamic thought, this would put you in the category of carrying out these actions for your own sake I believe.. However, it is impossible to say and Allah (swt) knows best who gets rewarded and who does not - he does say he may forgive any sin except one - shirk, associating partners with him. That one has to repent for, so it's pretty much monotheism or bust..

Some of the analogies I've drawn above are a dash crude, please accept my apologies as I have to rush out to a dinner engagement.

Here is an article I came across from a Buddhist pov.. I don't agree with certain bits of it of course (Islam being Truth and all ;)), but you may find it an interesting read:
http://www.berzinarchives.com/islam/common_features_islam_buddhism.html

edit: I should have guessed by your location :D
 
Salaam Semantic,

thank you for the post.

Vajrayana adherent actually :)


Semantic said:
I was merely asking those questions to get a fix on where you were coming from, my apologies for any offense caused.

no worries and none caused :)

I believe your beliefs would put you in the action for thyself section, to continue to use that simplistic demarcation.

but.. but... we don't understand that there is a "self" for whom to act :)

There are some stark similarities between your path and that of a muslim

agreed. though this is fairly common between Buddhism and any other world religion that has a sound moral and ethical basis.

- the dharma would be analagous to the Shariah - the will of Allah (swt), ie the Islam of a muslim, the actions by which he must abide to return. There is an element of the second leg of the tripod too, ihsan - essentially a return to the Absolute truth and an awareness of it (although as a Mahayana, you do not achieve enlightenment, do you?).
sure we do :) all sentient beings will... though, technically, it's not "me" that this would happen to ;)

What's missing is the third leg, which we term iman, belief. The final linking line to the Absolute as it were.

well... we have some beliefs as well... though i think that you mean a specific form of belief.. is that correct?

Under standard Islamic thought, this would put you in the category of carrying out these actions for your own sake I believe.. However, it is impossible to say and Allah (swt) knows best who gets rewarded and who does not - he does say he may forgive any sin except one - shirk, associating partners with him. That one has to repent for, so it's pretty much monotheism or bust..

well... you could be an atheist and you'd be ok in so far as you aren't associating partners with God...

the thing that i keep stumbling on, as it were, is the requirement to believe in an afterlife and a judgement day for those things are simply beyond me.

Some of the analogies I've drawn above are a dash crude, please accept my apologies as I have to rush out to a dinner engagement.

no problems.. enjoy your dinner :)

Here is an article I came across from a Buddhist pov.. I don't agree with certain bits of it of course (Islam being Truth and all ;)),

'natch ;)

but you may find it an interesting read:
http://www.berzinarchives.com/islam/common_features_islam_buddhism.html

edit: I should have guessed by your location :D

if you'd be interested... i'd be willing to go through those features one by one.. so we can bring out the full flavor of the discourse and, i'll admit, to satisfy my own curious nature.
 
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