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Kafir (Arabic: كافر kāfir; plural كفّار kuffār) is an Arabic term used in a Islamic doctrinal sense, usually translated as "unbeliever" or "disbeliever". The term refers to a person who rejects God or who hides, denies, or covers the "truth".

The Qur'an uses the words Kafir, Kuffar, and Kufr 470 times in 451 different verses.[1]



The word kāfir is the active participle of the root K-F-R "to cover". As a pre-Islamic term it described farmers burying seeds in the ground, covering them with soil while planting.[2] Thus, the word kāfir implies the meaning "a person who hides or covers".

In Islamic parlance, a kāfir is a word used to describe a person who rejects Islamic faith, i.e. "hides or covers [viz., the truth]".[3]

"kafara" ~ the root verb ~ means "he hid (something)" and "he covered (something)" or "He hid (something) by covering it up." Both "hiding" and "covering up" are indelible significations of all of the words arising on the verbal root. In recent times, the Arabic term used as a loanword in English is seen as derogatory, which is why some Muslim scholars discourage its use and suggest the neutral term non-Muslim instead.[4]

The Hebrew cognate gives words like kofer (כופר) meaning "apostate" and kefira (כפירה), meaning "apostasy". The Hebrew word kever (קבר) (replacing the letter used both for the sounds of p/ph (פ) with a letter for b/v (ב) ) means "grave" and kover (קובר) means "he who buries", i.e. act of covering (a body with earth) ....

Types of disbelief

Types of kufr (disbelief) - Adapted from 'Tafseer ibn Katheer[5] The Qur'an uses the word kufr to denote a person who covers up or hides realities, one who refuses to accept the dominion and authority of Allāh. There are several types of Al-Kufr ul Akbar:

  1. Kufrul-'Inaad: Disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the truth and admits to knowing the truth and admits to knowing it with his tongue, but refuses to accept it and refrains from making a declaration. The Qur'an states: "Do ye twain hurl to hell each rebel ingrate?" [6]
  2. Kufrul-Inkaar: Disbelief out of denial. This applies to someone who denies with both heart and tongue. The Qur'an states: "They recognize the favor of Allah, yet they deny it, and most of them are ungrateful."[7]
  3. Kufrul-Kibr: Disbelief out of arrogance and pride. The disbelief by the devil (Iblees) is an example of this type of kufr.
  4. Kufrul-Juhood: Disbelief out of rejection. This applies to someone who acknowledges the truth in his heart, but rejects it with his tongue. This types of kufr is applicable to those who calls themselves Muslims but who reject any necessary and accepted norms of Islam such as Salaat and Zakat. The Qur'an states: "And they denied them, though their souls acknowledged them, for spite and arrogance. Then see the nature of the consequence for the wrong-doers!"[8]
  5. Kufrul-Nifaaq: Disbelief out of hypocrisy. This applies to someone who pretends to be a believer but conceals his disbelief. Such a person is called a MUNAFIQ or hypocrite. The Qur'an states: "The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire: no helper wilt thou find for them." [9]
  6. Kufrul-Istihlaal: Disbelief out of trying to make HARAM into HALAL. This applies to someone who accepts as lawful (Halal) that which Allah has made unlawful (Haram) like alcohol or adultery. Only Allah has the prerogative to make things Halal and Haram and those who seek to interfere with His right are like rivals to Him and therefore fall outside the boundaries of faith.
  7. Kufrul-Kurh: Disbelief out of detesting any of Allah's commands. The Qur'an states: "And those who disbelieve, perdition is for them, and He will make their actions vain; That is because they are averse to that which Allah hath revealed, therefor maketh He their actions fruitless."[10]
  8. Kufrul-Istihzaa: Disbelief due to mockery and derision. The Qur'an states: "And if thou ask them (O Muhammad) they will say: We did but talk and jest. Say: Was it at Allah and His revelations and His messenger that ye did scoff; Make no excuse. Ye have disbelieved after your (confession of) belief. If We forgive a party of you, a party of you We shall punish because they have been guilty."[11]
  9. Kufrul-I'raadh: Disbelief due to avoidance. This applies to those who turn away and avoid the truth. The Qur'an states: "And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of the communications of his Lord, then he turns away from them and forgets what his two hands have sent before? Surely We have placed veils over their hearts lest they should understand it and a heaviness in their ears; and if you call them to the guidance (Qur'an), they will not ever follow the right course (Islam) in that case."[12]
  10. Kufrul-Istibdaal: Disbelief because of trying to substitute Allah's Laws. This could take the form of: (a) Rejection of Allah's law (Sharee'ah) without denying it, (b) denial of Allah's law and therefore rejecting it, or (c) Substituting Allah's laws with "artificial" (i.e. non-Muslim) laws. The Qur'an states: "And if Allah had pleased He would surely have made them a single community, but He makes whom He pleases enter into His mercy, and the unjust it is that shall have no guardian or helper."[13] The Qur'an says: "Truly, Allâh is with those who fear Him (keep their duty unto Him), and those who are doers of good and righteousness." [14]

Muslim relations

For dealing with non-Muslims, Jasser Auda, a director of the al-Maqasid Research Centre in the Philosophy of the Islamic Law in London, England, says that the general rule is mentioned in the verse that says what means:

"Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers." ([Quran 60:8])

Birr in this context is likened to birr al-walidain, the kindness that a Muslim should show to his or her parents.[15]

Use outside Islam

By the 15th century, the word Kaffir was used by Muslims in Africa to refer to the non-Muslim African natives. Many of those kufari were enslaved and sold by their Muslims captors to European and Asian merchants, mainly from Portugal, who by that time had established trading outposts along the coast of West Africa. These European traders adopted that Arabic word and its derivatives.[16]

Some of the earliest records of European usage of the word can be found in The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation by Hakluyt, Richard, 1552-1616.[17] In volume 4, Hakluyt writes: calling them Cafars and Gawars, which is, infidels or disbelievers.[18] Volume 9 refers to the slaves (slaves called Cafari) and inhabitants of Ethiopia (and they use to go in small shippes, and trade with the Cafars ) by two different but similar names. The word is also used in reference to the coast of Africa ( land of Cafraria on the coast of Ethiopia).[19]

The word eventually changed into many forms — cafre (in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Greek), caffar, kaffer, kaffir, kafir, etc. (in English, Dutch, and Afrikaans). Those words were then used to name many things related to Africa, such as the Kaffir Wars,[20] Kaffraria, kaffir lime, kaffir corn, and so on; see kaffir (disambiguation).

Some of those African slaves were taken by the Portuguese to work in their colonies in Asia. In some cities of Sri Lanka, in particular, the descendants of those slaves still constitute a distinctive ethnic group, who call themselves Kaffir.

By the late 19th century the word was in common use throughout Europe and its colonies, often appeared in the newspapers and other written works of the time.[21][22][23][24][25] One of the Union-Castle Line ships operating off the South African coast was named SS Kafir.[26]

In South Africa the word kaffir eventually became a racial slur, applied pejoratively or offensively to African blacks or to dark-skinned persons in general.

The song "Kafir!" by American death metal band Nile from the album Those Whom the Gods Detest uses as subject matter the violent attitudes that some Muslim extremists have toward Kafirs.

The Nuristani people were formally known as Kaffirs of Kafiristan before the Afghan Islamization of the region. Moreover their native name was Kapir, due to the lack of a "P" in Arabic, they coincidentally were called Kafirs, which was incorrect but again correct since they were polytheists, moreover Henotheists.

The Kalash people located in the Hindu Kush mountain range south west of Chitral are known as Kafirs by the 100% Muslim population of Chitral.

See also

Non-Islam specific:


  1. ^ Searchable Quran Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  2. ^ (أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ) Surah 57 Al-Hadid (Iron) Ayah 20)
  3. ^ Who is a Kaafir? - Reading Islam.com - Ask About Islam
  4. ^ Sheikh Muhammad Al-Mukhtar Al-Shinqiti (2005). "General Fatwa Session, "...kafir is now a derogatory term..."" (HTML). Living Shariah>Live Fatwa. Islamonline.net. http://www.islamonline.net/livefatwa/english/Browse.asp?hGuestID=8zOFOr. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  5. ^ "'Tafseer ibn Katheer". http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/aqeedah/0038.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  6. ^ "Soorah Qaaf (50), Ayah 24". http://thequran.com/Read.aspx?t=4&s=50&fv=24&tv=24. 
  7. ^ Soorah Nahl (16), Ayah 83
  8. ^ Soorah Naml (27), Ayah 14
  9. ^ http://thequran.com/Read.aspx?t=3&s=4&fv=145&tv=145 Soorah An Nisaa (4), Ayah 145]
  10. ^ Soorah Muhammed (47), Ayah 8-9
  11. ^ Soorah Taubah (9), Ayah 65-66
  12. ^ http://thequran.com/Read.aspx?t=2&s=18&fv=57&tv=57 Soorah Kahf (18), Ayah 57]
  13. ^ Soorah Shuraa(42), Ayah 8
  14. ^ Soorah Nahl (16), Ayah 116
  15. ^ IslamOnline, Jasser Auda
  16. ^ Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. pp. 422. ISBN 0816054541, 9780816054541. http://books.google.dk/books?id=OZbyz_Hr-eIC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  17. ^ Works by Richard Hakluyt at Project Gutenberg
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Sir Harry Smith" (PDF). The New York Times. 1902-05-24. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9B05E5DC1330E733A25757C2A9639C946397D6CF. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  21. ^ "BARNATO A SUICIDE; The Kafir King Leaps Overboard....". New York Times. 1897. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9B02E2DD163DE433A25756C1A9609C94669ED7CF. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  22. ^ "KAFIR BAND IN JAIL AND MIGHTY GLAD, TOO". New York Times. 1905-10-18. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9E00E6DB1F3DE633A2575BC1A9669D946497D6CF. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF LIEUTENANT-GENERAL SIR HARRY SMITH". http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/hsmith/autobiography/harry.html. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 
  26. ^ "Union Steamship Company". http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/union.html. Retrieved 2008-10-23. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • kafir — ● kafir nom masculin (mot arabe) Nom donné par les musulmans dans le Coran à l infidèle, et, en théologie islamique, au musulman hétérodoxe. kafir n. m. Chez les musulmans, incroyant. (V. cafre, sens II.) ⇒KAFIR, (KAFIR, KÂFIR)subst. masc. [Dans… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Kâfir — Kafir Un kâfir (arabe : كافر [kāfir], incroyant) est un incroyant à l islam. Le kâfir pratique le kufr (كفر [kufr], incroyance; athéisme; refus). Il faut distinguer l accusation qu un individu donné est un incroyant (kâfir), de celle qui… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • kafir — [kaf′ər] n. [Ar kāfir: see KAFFIR] 1. a sorghum (Sorghum bicolor var. caffrorum) with juicy stalks and slender, cylindrical seed heads, grown in dry regions for grain and fodder: also kafir corn 2. [K ] alt. sp. of KAFFIR …   English World dictionary

  • kafir — n. Same as {Kaffir}. [South Africa] Syn: kaffir, caffer, caffre. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Kafir — (arab.), Ketzer, Ungläubige, Nichtmuhammedaner; Schimpfwort, bes. gegen Juden u. Christen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Kâfir — (arab., »Ungläubiger«), Name der Nichtmuslime im Koran (s. d.). Im Munde der osmanischen Türken wurde K. zu Giaur, dem in der Türkei üblichen Schimpfnamen für Christen und Juden. Von dem Worte K. ist auch der Name der Kaffern (s. d.) in Südafrika …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Kafir — Kafir, afrikan. Sprache, s. Bantu …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • kafir — sif. <ər.> 1. Müsəlman olmayan, islam dininə etiqad etməyən; qeyri müsəlman. // İs. mənasında. Kafir olsaydı əgər rəhmə gələrdi, gözəlim; O qədər ki, sənə mən dərdimi izhar elədim. Şəhriyar. Kafir olmaq – başqa dinə keçmək (müsəlman… …   Azərbaycan dilinin izahlı lüğəti

  • Kafir — Der arabisch islamische Rechtsbegriff Kafir (arabisch ‏ كافر ‎ kāfir; plural ‏كفّار ‎ kuffār) bezeichnet „Ungläubige“ oder „Gottesleugner“. Kafir leitet sich ab von der Wortwurzel kfr. Diese Wortwurzel kommt im Koran ca. 500 Mal vor und dient… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Kafir — Un kâfir (arabe : كافر [kāfir], mécréant, incroyant, ingrat, infidèle) est un terme arabe désignant celui qui n est pas musulman, qui n adhère pas aux préceptes de l islam, que ce soit partiellement ou dans sa globalité. Le kufr (كفر [kufr] …   Wikipédia en Français

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