Dangers of excommunicating Muslims from Islam

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Saturday Column by Imam Murtada Gusau

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

All perfect praise be to Allah, we praise Him, seek His aid, and ask His forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evils of ourselves and from our bad deeds. He whom Allah guides, there is none to misguide him, and he whom He leaves astray there is none to guide him!

I bear witness that none is worthy of Worship but Allah, who is alone without partners and I bear witness that Muhammad (SAW) is His Slave and Messenger.

To Proceed:

“O you who have believe! Fear Allah, (by doing all that He has ordered and by abstaining from all that He has forbidden) as He should be feared, [Obey Him, be thankful to Him, and remember Him always], and die not except in a state of Islam (as Muslims) with complete submission to Allah.” [Surah Ali-‘Imraan, 3: 102]

“O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women and fear Allah through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (do not cut the relations of) the wombs (kinship). Surely, Allah is Ever an All-Watcher over you.” [Surah An-Nisaa’, 4:1]

“O you who have believe! Keep your duty to Allah and fear Him, and speak (always) the truth. He will direct you to do righteous good deeds and will forgive you your sins. And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger (SAW) he has indeed achieved a greater achievement (i.e. he will be saved from the Hell-fire and made to enter Paradise).” [Surah Al-Ahzaab, 33: 70-71]

To Proceed:

Verily the most truthful speech is the Book of Allah, and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad (SAW). And the worst matters are the newly invented matters, and ALL new matters (in Religion) are innovations into the religion, and all the innovations are misguidance, and all the misguidance lead to the fire.

Servants of Allah!

One of the worst crimes against Islam and the Muslim community today is the practice of excommunication (takfir or takfeer), which is to declare a practicing Muslim to be an unbeliever. In several traditions, the prophet Muhammad and his companions warned us about the severity of charging a Muslim with unbelief or apostasy.

Ibn Umar (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“When a man calls his brother an unbeliever, it returns at least to one of them.” (See Sahih Bukhari, 5753)

Abu Hurairah (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“When a man says to his brother o disbeliever, then it will return to at least one of them.” (See Sahih Bukhari, 5752)

Abu Dharr (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“A man does not accuse another man of wickedness or unbelief except that it will return against him if his companion is innocent.” (See Sahih Bukhari, 5698)

Qais reported: Ibn Mas’ud, May Allah be pleased with him, said:

“When a man says to his companion: You are my enemy! Then at least one of them has left Islam or his companion is innocent.” (See Al-Adab Al-Mufrad, 421)

Thus, a Muslim who wrongfully accuses another Muslim of unbelief and apostasy will himself carry the heavy burden of unbelief on the Day of Resurrection.

Brothers and Sisters!

The issue of excommunication is not merely a theoretical or abstract matter, but rather it is used by criminals to justify violence.

It is well known that the life of a Muslim (and any innocent non-Muslim) is sacred and must be safeguarded in all respects.

Abu Hurairah (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“All of the Muslim is sacred to another Muslim: his life, his wealth, and his honour.” (See Sahih Muslim, 2564)

Therefore whoever unjustly kills a single believer (or any innocent person) on purpose will enter Hellfire and reside there forever.

Allah the Most High said:

“Whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell wherein he will abide eternally and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.” (Surah An-Nisaa’, 4:93)

Similarly, the lives of all peaceful non-Muslims are protected and whoever kills one of them wrongfully will never enter Paradise.

Abdullah ibn Amr (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Whoever kills a person protected by a treaty will never smell the fragrance of paradise. Verily, its fragrance can be found a distance of forty years of travel.” (See Sahih Bukhari, 6516)

My respected people!

To bypass these clear prohibitions, the criminal excommunicators (takfirists) within the Muslim community have developed a theory and ideology of excommunication. The original heresy was innovated by the kharijite sect and their misguidance continues today in the form of militant terrorism.

In reality, those who declare Muslims to be unbelievers and justify violence against them are closer to idolatry than the people they accuse.

Hudhaifah (RA) reported: the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him said:

“Verily, I fear for you that a man will recite the Quran until his delight is seen and he is wicked for Islam and he changes to whatever Allah wills for him, such that it is stripped from him and he throws it behind his back, assaulting his neighbour with the sword and accusing him of idolatry.” I said, “O prophet of Allah, which one is closer to idolatry? The accused or the accuser?” The prophet said: Rather it is the accuser.” (See Sahih ibn hibban, 81)

Allah knows that some Muslims will accuse others of unbelief and reject their peace offerings only because they want to plunder their wealth. Therefore, Allah has forbidden this in the strongest terms.

Ibn Abbas (RA) reported:

“A man passed by a group of companions of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, and he had with him some sheep. The man greeted them with peace and they said, “He only offered peace to protect himself.” So they attacked him. Killed him, and took his sheep. They went to the prophet and Allah the exalted revealed the verse: “O you, who believe, when you go forth in the cause of Allah, do not say to whoever greets you with peace that you are not a believer.” (An-Nisaa’, 4:94) (See Sunan At-Tirmidhi, 3030)

Servants of Allah!

The excommunicators merely use the charge of unbelief as an excuse to murder and plunder their innocent victims. Rather, the truth in Islam is that the killing of a single Muslim believer is a greater evil than the freeing of a thousand apostates.

Imam Al-Ghazali Rahimahullah said:

“Verify, to permit the killing of someone worshiping upon monotheism is a serious mistake. The mistake of leaving a thousand (dangerous and non-peaceful) unbelievers to go free is lesser than shedding the blood of a single Muslim.” (See Fath ul-Bari, 12/314)

This is the case of the wrongful killing of a single Muslim believer accused of apostasy. How much greater, then, is the case of those who declare whole cities, towns, countries, and societies full of Muslims to be unbelievers? Indeed, it is an incredibly disturbing phenomenon we are witnessing that an entire country and all of its Muslim citizens are declared to be apostates and heinous violence is justified against them.

The caution we must have in this matter becomes all the more clear when we understand the important distinction between acts of unbelief and unbelievers themselves. A Muslim might commit an outward act of unbelief due to ignorance or misinterpretation, yet Allah considers them to be believers. This is proven in the following tradition (Hadith):

Abu Hurairah (RA) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“A man had indulged himself in sin, so when death approached he enjoined his sons saying: if I die, then burn me, pulverize me, and scatter me to the winds over the sea, for by Allah, if He is able He will punish me in a way He has not punished anyone else. So they did that to him, and when he stood before his Lord, He said to him: what made you do that? The man said: Fear and awe of you, O Lord. So Allah forgave him because of that.” (See Sahih Muslim, 2756)

My people!

This man did not believe that Allah had the power to resurrect and judge him, a clear act of unbelief according to the consensus of Muslim scholars. Yet, Allah pardoned this act of unbelief due to man’s honest ignorance. The man’s righteous fear of Allah, based upon his faith, out weighted his act of unbelief.

Ibn Taymiyyah comments on this Hadith, saying:

“So Allah forgave him. This man doubted the ability of Allah to resurrect him when he was turned to dust. Rather, he believed Allah could not resurrect him and this is unbelief by the consensus of the Muslims but he was ignorant. He did not know that and he was a believer who feared that Allah would punish him and so Allah forgave him for that.” (See Majmu’ Al-Fatawa, 3/231)

Likewise, Ibn Al-Qayyim writes:

“If one of these matters of faith is denied out of ignorance or misinterpretation, then he is excused and the one who did so does not become an unbeliever, as in the narration in which the man denied the power of Allah and he commanded his people to burn him and scatter his ashes in the wind. Despite this error, Allah forgave the man and had mercy upon him because of his ignorance. The knowledge about the power of Allah that had reached him was not denied out of stubbornness or an intention to lie.” (See Madaarij As-Salikeen, 1/347)

Hence, we must not declare an individual Muslim to be an unbeliever due to an act of unbelief, let alone an entire Muslim society. A Muslim can only be considered an unbeliever when they declare themselves to be such. Their declarations of faith should be taken at face value and their lives protected by due process of law.

At-Tahawi writes in his important work on Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah creed:

“A person does not leave faith except by disavowing what brought him into it.” (See Aqeedah At-Tahawiyyah)

Furthermore, Ash-Shawkani writes:

“Know that with regard to the ruling upon a Muslim man for leaving Islam and entering into unbelief, it is not befitting for a Muslim who believes in Allah and the Last Day to apply it unless with a proof that is clearer than the light of day.” (See Sayl Al-Jarrar, 1/978)

As such, it was the practice of the righteous predecessors (salaf as-salih) to refrain from excommunicating the heretics who opposed them, as it is the right of Allah alone to determine that a Muslim has become an unbeliever.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

“The scholars and people of the Sunnah would not excommunicate those who oppose them even if their opponents declared them to be unbelievers, for the matter of unbelief is a legal judgment and a person may not punish with the like of it, such as if someone lies against you or commits adultery with your family it would not be permissible for you to lie against him or commit adultery with his family. Fornication and falsehood are unlawful by the right of Allah. Likewise, excommunication is the right of Allah, so we do not excommunicate anyone except those whom Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unbelievers.” (See Ar-Radd ‘ala Al-Bakri, 1/381)

Perhaps our greatest example in this respect is the distinguished Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal who stood strong against the persecution of the Mu’tazilites. The extremist Mu’tazilitte sect fabricated their doctrine of the “creation of the Quran” and they were charging with unbelief and oppressing anyone who publicly disagreed with them. Imam Ahmad was taken prisoner by them and brutally flogged, yet he refrained from excommunicating them, cursing them, or calling for violent rebellion. Instead, Imam Ahmad understood that they were confused by misinterpretations and he prayed for Allah to guide and forgive them.

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

“Imam Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him, prayed for mercy, guidance and forgiveness for his persecutors because he knew it was not clear to them that they were denying the Messenger and disputing what he had brought. Rather, they had a misinterpretation and they were mistaken and imitated and followed those who told them that.” (See Majmu’ Al-Fatawa, 23/349)

Such is the excellent example of the patience, forbearance, and mercy of Imam Ahmad in stark contrast to the violent rebels and excommunicators of today.

Following in the footsteps of Imam Ahmad was Ibn Taymiyyah who also took a strong stance against excommunication (Takfeer).

Ibn Taymiyyah writes:

“Those who always sit with me know that I am the strongest of the people to forbid declaring an individual to be an unbeliever or a sinner, unless it is known that the legal proof has been established against him that he is an unbeliever or sinner. I affirm that Allah will forgive this nation for its mistakes, whether it is mistakes in narrating or practice. The righteous predecessors continued to debate many of these matters and none of them testified that another among them was an unbeliever or a sinner.” (See Majmu’ Al-Fatawa, 3/229)

Indeed, despite the persecution he endured at the hands of opposing scholars, Ibn Taymiyyah vowed never to excommunicate a single Muslim.

Adh-Dhahabi reported: Ibn Taymiyyah said near the end of his life:

“I will not declare anyone from this ummah (nation) to be an unbeliever.” (See Siyar A’lam an-Nubala, 15/88)

In the same manner, we must take a principled stance against excommunication and those who use illegitimate violence against the Muslim community. We must be clear that declarations of faith and the offering of peace by anyone must be taken at face value and that such peace offerings immediately invalidate violent action.

And lastly, the Prophet (SAW) said:

“Beware; do not return to unbelief after me by killing each other.” (See Sahih Bukhari, 121)O Allah! Make us among those who earn your forgiveness and acquire safety from the Hell fire, Ameen.

All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. Prayers, peace and Mercy are upon our beloved Master, Muhammad (SAW), his family and companions.

And success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Raby’ al-Thaany 11, 1437 AH (22 January, 2016), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’at Mosque and Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosque, Okene Kogi State Nigeria.

He can be reached through: +2348038289761.

 

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