Kaffir – Is this word offensive??

10 06 2007

Assalam Alaikum

A few years ago, the words ‘Kaffir/Kuffar/Kafiroon’ were often heard in Islamic talks, lectures and from there carried over to coffee table discussions. “Look at these kuffar”, “silly Kuffar”, “dirty Kuffar” were quite common and used loosely. However, more recently the use of this term has evaporated off the Da’wah scene and replaced with more moderate terms with similar meanings, non-Muslim, non-believer or even brothers in humanity.

The corruption involved here seems twofold:

1. Media, for the past few years has intensified its campaign against Islam where the use of words like Kaffir, Jihad, Caliphate and such have been portrayed as offensive and moreover associated with ‘radicals’, ‘extremists’, ‘Islamists’…. to the extent where an ordinary Muslim is forced to think twice before using these words publicly or even private gatherings.

2. The Muslim individuals, organisations, Jammahs, who are working hard to remove certain valuable terminologies from the everyday vocabulary of Muslims. On the other hand, we have Muslims who are using these terminologies in a very irresponsible way, not considering the effect or adopting the best styles and means to propagate their message in the most effective way.

Kaffir, is not really an offensive word, it is referring to non-Muslims, disbelievers and those who reject the deen al-Haqq (Islam), therefore anyone who is not a Muslim is a kaffir. This doesn’t mean we go around calling everyone Kaffir or dare to associate the term ‘infidel’ with the term kaffir… for that kind of association is part of the problem as ‘Kaffir’ is a loaded terminology and so is the word infidel, marrying the two is naturally recipe for disaster.

During the period of Prophet (saw) the terms Kaffir, Mushrik etc, were used but never in a derogatory way to offend the people, rather they were used to describe the beliefs of people and the people never took an offence upon being called a kaffir or Mushrik.

So what seems to be the problem today?

why is the west so concerned about the terminologies we use?

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15 responses

12 06 2007
Hasmita

We have to understand that there is some level of stigma attached to ‘name calling’… I mean why do we have to call people Kaffir when they happily accept being called Non-Muslim? Tia, it’s a bit like I am revert for life, I am always reminded of the fact that I am a revert and I just have to live with this reminder!!

I really think we need to move on from these labels and stop always trying to label people, even if it is calling kaffir a kaffir.. why do we have to anyway?

Did the Prophet (saw) label anyone like this?

12 06 2007
Tia

Hasmita, I agree that there is a problem with name calling and my parents being reverts often discuss being called ‘revert’ with their revert friends. Isn’t this quiet different to recognising someone who has rejected the call of Islam or disbelieves in it as ‘kaffir’. Unlike the word ‘revert’ the word ‘kaffir’ has Qur’anic origins and has been used by Allah (swt) in the Qur’an and Prophet (saw) himself.

For example, Abu Jahl was given this name by the Prophet (saw), prior to this in the Makkan society he was known as Abu Al-Hakkam (father of Wisdom) due to the extra ordinary intelligence he possessed. The Prophet of Islam (saw) took away this title from him due to his arrogance and rejection of Islamic faith, so he became from the father of wisdom (abu al-Hakkam) to the father of ignorance (Abu Jahl).

Another example is one of Walid ibn al-Mughira who was known as ibn al-Wahid (son of Unique) or Wahid al-Waheed (unique of the Uniques) denoting his nobility, prestige and lineage. Allah (Swt) exposed him in the Qur’an in Surah al-Qalam as the illigitimate one (dhalika Zaneem). It is reported that after hearing this verse he approached his mother who reveailed that his father was an impotant man and that he is product of her relations with a shephard.

There are many such examples which show us that certain language and terms were used to describe people as long as its factual.

My real concerns behind raising this topic is the use of Islamic terminology and key words which have always been part of Muslim’s vocabulary are being taken away. 😦

See also:
http://bint-hawa.blogspot.com/2007/02/use-of-political-terminologies.html

14 07 2007
rawi

“anyone who is not a Muslim is a kaffir”

I used to think so too, but that’s not true. At least not historically. The word kafir had a specific use in the Prophet’s time, and they did not refer to Jews/Christians as kuffar.

I agree it’s sad about the contemporary connotations, but I think it’s understandable. If anything, Muslims are to blame more than the media. The way some Muslims keep referring to the kuffar, it’s just disgusting and offensive.

14 07 2007
Tia

Shukran for commenting.

you are correct in saying that Jews/Christians were known as Ahle Kitaab and there is another term for morally good people known as Ahle Fitrah.. but these are specif terms and all fall under the generic terms like Kaffir or Mushrik. It is also a bit rare to find Ahle Kitaab these days.

I agree, the irresponsible use by many Muslims is sometimes more damaging than the media onslaught.

17 07 2007
Sonia

its not just about the ‘western’ resentment is it – given, coming from a muslim background, how i know my fellow muslims think about non-muslims, i always found it offensive, given we think for the most part they will go to hell etc. because i cant see where in islam it is said to think of yourself as somehow superior to another person or group – that is just arrogance. when the term kafir is used – in my humble opinion- to emphasise that superiority – yes it is problematic.

its the same attitude people displayed in india to people who were not in the same caste. yes one could argue, it is a point in fact that one is not from the same caste as someone else. yes it is a point in fact that one is not the same race as someone else. so why did people find the term nigger problematic? for similar reasons.

its hardly so simple is it? and the biggest underlying problem is this my group vs your group which religion seems to be encouraging, rather than the other way around. What a shame that is.

17 07 2007
Tia

Thanks Sonia for provoking some thought in my lil baby blog.

Brought up in native convert family I’ve never had any cultural baggage attatched, which no doubt has tremendous effect on how most Muslims follow Islam. The dichotemy which exists in minds of Muslims really irks me because it allows people to abuse Islam. The attitude you have described exists amongst people of all religions and races because its natural for human beings to ‘look up to’ and ‘look down at’ others, but the decision on how to satisfy these natural inclinations is a choice that will depend upon the concepts and ideas that the human being carries. This need to look down at people is found amongst people who proudly hold on to something without it being a real concept or idea. For example, Arabs looking down at non-Arabs, Pakistanis looking down at Bengladeshis, or the caste system which exists within Muslims as we often hear people are unable to marry because they belong to different castes or tribes. Similarly, if Muslims start using the term ‘Kaffir’ to look down at people, there is a problem with their attitude not the term itself.

The term ‘Kaffir’ is purely a technical term used in Islam along many others, its importance is not so much to do with describing individuals or groups of people rather the ideas and concepts people carry. The term ‘Kufr’ has the same origins as ‘kaffir’. ‘Kufr’ is used to describe the ideas, thoughts, cultures, beliefs, practices which are alien to Islam and can be deterimental to a Muslim’s beleif (Iman). There has always been and will be a conflict between Iman and Kufr, but not necessarly Muslims and Kuffar/kaffir because the cause of conflict is the ideas. My concern is really with disappearing of such key-terminology from Muslim vocabulary and NOW also how to treat the abuse of it.

Islam came to teach mankind modesty (Hayaa) forbidding everything which is the opposite of modesty such as arrogance (kibr) or showing off (riyaa) and consequently any action where such would be expressed. So, if people are looking down at others out of shere arrogance or becuase they believe they are the ‘saved ones’ they are clearly committing haram whether its an Arab looking down at non-Arab or Muslim at Kaffir. Perhaps its my lack of foresight, but I can’t see anything wrong with the terms itself but problem seems to be atttiude of individuals and the thoughts they carry.

28 07 2007
Tia
13 07 2010
perceptor1

In North America, the ‘n-word’ is taboo, but the n-word is not remotely the worst word in human language. There is a far worse word used by Islam throughout the Koran–kafir. If you look into any of the Korans at a bookstore, you won’t find the word “kafir”, instead you will find “unbeliever”. But this translation is wrong. The actual Arabic word is kafir and it is self-defined in the Koran by its usage. A kafir is an evil person who intentionally covers up the truth. A kafir is so reprehensible that he deserves to be treated violently.
The Koran says that a kafir can be robbed, enslaved, raped, mocked, insulted, cursed, tortured, crucified, killed, and plotted against. The kafir is the lowest form of life, lower than dirty beasts. Inherently, a kafir has no human rights in an Islamic country, but is similar to cattle that may be exploited or slaughtered.
The Koran reserves its finest imagery for the torture of kafirs in Hell. Allah hates the kafir. What is the terrible moral failing that attracts the hatred of Allah? Murder, rape, theft, lying? Very few of those in Hell will be there for moral failings. No, Allah’s main reason to create Hell (94% of the people in Hell are there for being kafirs) is to torture the worst people in the universe, the kafirs. And what makes a kafir? Anyone who does not think that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.
According to the Koran there are several crimes worse than mass murder and theft and they all have to do with not believing Mohammed. The absolute worst crime is apostasy, or denying that Mohammed was the prophet of Allah after becoming a Muslim. A kafir is one who never believed in Mohammed in the first place. A Muslim who loses his faith becomes a kafir. Kafirs do not deserve to live.
Since there is only evil for kafirs, and since Islamic terrorists people caused people to fear Islam, most kafirs imagine that there is a third category for them in Islamic doctrine. They imagine some “safe place”exists in Islam. But there is no safe category in Islam. Anyone who Jew or Christian does not believe that Mohammed is the final prophet is a kafir, a subhuman. Islam only accepts one kind of person, those who believe Mohammed. Thus Islam believes in total segregation of Muslims from kafirs.
According to Islam, ‘Kafir’ is the worst word in human language .
The K-word reveals the complete intolerance of Islam towards ‘others’.

28 06 2011
Qatari Investors: Huge Downtown Development Project in Washington DC Must Conform to Sharia Law « MidnightWatcher's Blogspot

[…] aren’t allowed.  Or pro-Zionist Christians.  Or your average every-day pro-freedom ‘kaffir‘ […]

2 08 2011
Hajj 2011

As per my point of view all I just want to say that kaffir doesn’t seems an offensive word.

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23 11 2012
Kaffir | English Language Tutorials

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7 08 2014
argotina1

Assalam, you wonder why the West should be so concerned about the terminologies you use? The West is just as concerned about the terminologies it uses itself, otherwise known as Political correctness, so it’s not a specific sensitivity to Islam. The word Kaffir was taken out of context and used in colonial South Africa as a racial slur in the oppression of indiginous african people, so it means something completely different to many non muslims than it does to those who may have studied the Koran. We Westerners get used to having to change our terminologies to fit whatever is politically acceptable with the times, here, it’s not a big deal. But a very interesting article and comments, for which I thank you.

18 08 2016
nonmuslim

I am of a Christian Arabic decent, I read and speak the arabic language, and was raised between muslims knowing that calling a person a Kaffir is an insult. Its just like calling a black person the word “Nigger”. when a person is called kaffir it is usually done looking down on him as an outcast destined to hell and trying to disrespect him. To test it just try calling a muslim the word kaffir and see his reaction.

16 02 2017
Aaron

I saw a documentary about one of the largest Islamic Centers in England. The narrator was a English female posing as someone who is working towards converting to Islam. There was a lot of hidden camera footage. Her Teacher/Mentor was the leader for all Female teaching at the center. This teacher studied in Saudi Arabia and instructed the Student about strict adherence to Wahhabism. The Teacher constantly used the word Kaffir to refer to Christians, Jews, Hindu, Buddhists and English Non – Muslims in general. You could tell by her tone and inflection that she intended for it to be as offensive as possible. She even used Filthy, Dirty, and Disgusting in front of it, and Pig after. The teacher instructed the student to begin in earnest to stop associating with Kaffirs and only associate with Muslims and be friends only with Muslims. She even told her to offer Islam to her family and if they reject she would need to disown them as they are Kaffir also. She said Muslims should not integrate with Non-Muslims. They are not there to assimilate and become British but rather they are there to take over and eventually drive the British out or kill them. In preparation for a worldwide Celiphate. The student was told she had to leave her nursing job at the hospital because there was direct contact with Men.The Teacher said that it is God’s will for them to kill homosexuals.

This Teacher started expressing all of these ideas and giving this information after the Students second visit to the Center.

The narrator was sent to the on premise book store where she found books and video lectures that were very radical in nature from very controversial lecturers. This is a book store open to the public. The store has these books and videos in inconspicuous places and behind other texts. One of the books the Student was told to ask for was in a back room. She had to ask for it by name and drop the teachers name before the the guy working there went to get it for her. The portions she showed and read from this book were alarming. She revealed that a UK agency had been working with the Center to remove some of these texts and videos. The Government Agents are told the Center will comply. The books disappear for a few months and then reappear.

The research by the narrator revealed the Center was largely funded by a foundation in Saudi Arabia and the director is from there and has close ties to leading Clerics there.

This documentary was very alarming and very eye opening. People are constantly running across this type of information all over the world, so this is surely not isolated to a small group or percentage. This kind of discovery is why Non-Muslims have so much fear, and apprenension about Islam. The officials at this very high profile center give a message of tolerance, integration and assimilation. Then our Narrator hears a completely different message after claiming to accept the religion and attending 2 sessions with the Teacher/Mentor assigned to her.

So how am I supposed to feel about this?

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