By request of Tore Hamming, I have translated the following article by 'Abu Abdullah al-Tunisi' on the issue of takfir. The article, which first appeared on the Telegram channel 'al-Durar al-Sunniya' ('Sunni Pearls') that is supportive of jihadist thinker Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, claims to outline the proper approach to takfir that the Sunni Muslim should adopt. While the article warns against an extreme approach to takfir and stresses the importance of certainty of the evidence and due consideration of real obstacles to takfir, much of the content is devoted to criticising those who present 'innovative' obstacles and contrived objections to takfir. These innovators are presented as Jahmites, referring to the supposed followers of Jahm bin Safwan.
I present the article in translation and also include some explanatory notes for context.
Rulings of Takfir Between the Sunni and the Innovator
By Sheikh Abu Abdullah al-Tunisi (may God protect him)
Collected and arranged by Abd al-Rahman
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
If you mention in the presence of a Sunni the takfir of an individual or sect of whose kufr he was not previously aware, he will not surprise you in condemnation however prominent is the renown of this individual or famous this sect is for evil or even for good, because he knows that there is no one sacrosanct after the prophet of God (SAWS) and he fears for himself disbelief and hypocrisy from where he does not realise before he fears it for one besides him. And His Lord has said to His Prophet to terrify his Ummah: 'And there has been revelation to you and to those before you. If you commit idolatry, your work will surely come to nought and you will surely be among the losers.' And He said to his companions who are the best of people after the prophets: 'Oh you who have believed: whoso among you apostasises from his religion, God will bring a people He loves and who love Him: humble to the believers, might against the disbelievers, waging jihad in the path of God and not fearing the blame of a blamer.' But rather the Sunni asks and seeks clarity as His Almighty Lord has said: 'Oh you who have believed, when you encounter in the path of God, make sure and do not say to the one who has given you the salam greeting: you are not a believer; seeking a display of this worldly life, for among God are many rewards. Likewise you were before God blessed you. So make clear. Indeed God has been well aware of what you do.' So he asks the one declaring takfir about the necessity of this takfir in order to make sure whether the ruling in disbelief is by requirement of a clear word or deed or a probable one.
And I have observed some of them declaring takfir on al-Ghanoushi the Tunisian[i] on account of his visit and prayer at the grave of one of the 'awliya', so I warned them that this deed is not among the issues that necessitate takfir of its doer, until it is known from him that he is clearly praying to this buried person, because his prayer may be in terms of praying to God at this grave desiring blessing so it is a condemned act of innovation or it may be in terms of prayer and seeking forgiveness for the dead so there is no objection in that in the absolute sense, but I have referred him to other issues that necessitate for this heretic the ruling of apostasy in which two goats cannot butt heads. And if the Jahmites deny it, they are more in error than livestock.
Then indeed the Sunni when it becomes clear to him that the ruling has arisen on a clear word or deed, he does not hasten until he makes sure of the certainty of this deed concerning the accused, for the one transmitting may be in error in understanding what he saw or heard or even may be lying and God Almighty says: 'Oh you who have believed, if a grossly immoral person brings you news, investigate, lest you strike people in ignorance so you become regretful of what you have done.' Then when the established nature of what has been transmitted to him becomes clear to him, along with the soundness of its evidence for the disbelief and apostasy, he observes the correct considered obstacles, not the innovated obstacles of irja', with observation of the state of the one on whom takfir is declared and his life and power over him or his refraining from the rulings of Islam by force and fleeing. This is just as the Prophet (SAWS) and his Companions after him did in distinguishing in treatment between Hateb bin Abi Balt'a[ii] and Qudama bn Madh'oun[iii] (may God be pleased with them both) on the one hand, and Abdullah bin Abi Sarh[iv] and those with him on the Day of the Conquest and Musailama[v] and his followers on the other hand.
So when it is established in the Sunni's view the occurrence of the clear deed and the absence of obstacles with regards to this individual or sect, he does not hesitate and he does not engage in cold hesitation of irja' in takfir of the one whose disbelief is shown by the Book and the Sunna and consensus, even if those people are their fathers, brothers or tribe, and it is so also regardless of whether this takfir is accompanied by adversity with him or is from the aspect of sympathy and advice or he has no motive besides making clear the Shari'i ruling or even from the aspect of luxury of 'Ilm, so this does not alter anything about the matter and does not provoke controversy for him regarding the ruling!
As for the Jahmite person of innovation, when he hears the ruling of takfir, his face becomes yellow, his shoulders tremble, and he condemns that from the outset, then he begins putting forth to you his ignorance of the principles of his religion and his satiation with the madhhabs of irja', each according to the degree of his ignorance. For among them is the one who does not consider disbelief in word and deed absolutely, so he disputes you in takfir on issues of consensus by which even the Murj'ites and Ash'aris declare takfir. So if you obtain concession with him on this and you agree on the basis of takfir, he devises for you innovative obstacles that God conferred no authority on, like their assertion he prays or he prints the Qurans or he fights the Jews and other such things of the branches of faith that have no connection with the basis of takfir, so if you declare takfir on the one who abandons prayer, it then becomes impossible for him on the grounds of the person's piety towards his parents and the like. And this proceeds on their innovative principles in the lack of division of faith and if most of them say without understanding that faith is branches and words and deeds as their contemporaries do, they deem as something unseemly disbelief in one of the branches of greater disbelief, and they consider the rest of the branches of faith an obstacle to takfir from disbelief through a voluntary nullifying deed, unless the person announces his atheism and abandonment of Islam entirely. And some of them may hesitate on it as we heard from them when the grey-haired Nawal al-Sa'adawi[vi] perished.
So if you obtain concession with him in this, he devises for you an additional innovation in the true obstacles, so the one who sweeps the land with his soldiers, fires at the Ibn Taymiyya mosque, and kills those who cling to it from the preachers of implementing the rule of Shari'a, he becomes compelled to rule by man-made law and unable to establish the Shari'a. And the one who is loyal to the Rafidites and the Tawagheet of the East and West becomes mistaken in interpretation!
And those who have degrees and doctorates become ignorant people in that the blind does not realise his ignorance.
So if you obtain concession with him on the obstacles, he comes at you from the door of necessities so he obliges you with necessities that do not oblige you from the outset or do not oblige you absolutely like the necessity of killing and making shedding the person's blood permissible, which these people deem bad, although it is not obliged absolutely, for the apostasy may be of the stripped type whereby it suffices for the one who has fallen into it to repent to go back on it, or he may not have power gained over him, and the establishment of the hudud is not necessary upon individuals of the citizens and preachers in any case, and this hadd does not differ from the hadd of the muhsin fornicator. So do we abandon describing the fornicator whose fornication has been proven by witnesses because we cannot establish on him the hadd today?!
So if you obtain concession from him on this, he imposes as terrible upon you a true necessity like the necessity of takfir of the thousands who blaspheme the religion and the millions who abandon prayer! So what is the difference in his view between this and the takfir of thousands of millions of Christians and Majus who are on the face of the earth?!
So if you obtain concession with him in all of these contrived obstacles, he sees no other option but to devise for you a new obstacle not asserted by those who preceded him. For example we have observed one of them recently prohibit the takfir of the Hamas government on the grounds that they say among themselves in private the opposite of what they show from things of disbelief to the eyes of the people. So you, oh Sunni, are seeking at this time to hesitate in ruling on the one who has fallen into manifold disbelief in which this innovator himself does not disagree with you, until the private nature of their state is examined. So perhaps he can confide to his wife that he hates the Rafidites and declares takfir on Sisi: the one who commands publicly to hand his photos on the sides of the roads! So if you do not do so, you are a Kharijite, or half or a third of one, and your Tawheed is a Tawheed particular to you, in which there has only been participation with you by Dhu al-Khuwaisara[vii] and Ibn Tumart[viii] and Shukri Mustafa,[ix] and that you declare takfir by suppositions and possibilities for a whim in yourself or out of enmity for your adversary. Yet this poor person does not see that he is the one who takes up defending those whom God and His Messenger have declared takfir on, and he does so by suppositions, unseen things and intuitive guesses because of ignorance, relation, whim, or seeking fame by contravening al-Maqdisi[x] or according with the people of ignorance from the masses who are more intense than he is in irja' and Jahmism.
So if you obtain concession with him on all this and he admits to you his disbelief, he comes to you from the door of wisdom and benefit in announcing that to the masses and he fears causing aversion from the da'wa, just as one of the 'senior 'ulama' said what is the benefit on declaring takfir on the 'disbelieving' ruler and rousing the hearts against him?! And yet the poor person has not noticed that the entire Qur'an came down to make clear the limits of faith and disbelief and so the people can realise the way of the criminals and avoid it and be hostile to those who pursue it and avoid them. So being silent about the those who pursue this path is the greatest act of corruption for him and others besides him of those loyal to him and helping him.
For the most open of intentions of bringing down the rulings of disbelief and gross immorality on those who deserve them is to deter them from what they are on and seek their repentance from what they have embarked against from the limits of God and loyalty to His enemies and oppression of His allies. So the Jahmite comes to them and engages in apologia for them and adorns for them their falsehood and indeed he makes them increase in their transgression and he knots around them wala' and bara' so he deters them from the path, a punishment of fate for them and a punishment for him for his plunging without due consideration into these serious issues with goods of little value and scandalous ignorance and turning away from consideration, asking and listening to those who give advice, as the Almighty has said: 'And likewise We turn some of the oppressors to become allies of each other in what they were earning.'
And praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.
Written by Sheikh Abu Abdullah al-Tunisi (may God protect him).
Gathered and arranged by Abd al-Rahman.
[i] Referring to the Tunisian Islamist politician Rached Ghannouchi.
[ii] Hateb was involved in a controversy regarding a letter he had sent to the pagan Quraysh informing them of some of the Prophet Muhammad's intentions. See here.
[iii] Qudama was involved in a controversy over drinking wine and whether he should be condemned with takfir. See here.
[iv] For this individual's story from the life of the Prophet Muhammad, see here.
[v] Renowned in Islamic history for claiming to be a prophet after the Prophet Muhammad.
[vi] Egyptian feminist thinker who died earlier this year.
[vii] Dhu al-Khuwaisara, from the Banu Tamim tribe. He is characterised as a Kharijite.
[viii] Medieval Berber scholar who was the key figure behind the Almohad movement.
[ix] From the Takfir and Hijra trend in Egypt.
[x] Jihadist thinker Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi.