What Muslim Scholars Opined on Takfir (Excommunication)

Dhahabi relates in his Siyar A’lam al-Nubala’ that Zahir al-Sarakhsi said: “When Abu ‘l-Hasan al-Ash’ari drew close to death in my house in Baghdad he called me and I went to him. He said, ‘Be witness that I do not make takfir of anyone from the people of the qibla (i.e. Muslims), because they all make reference to the same deity, just their verbiage is different.'” Dhahabi then says, “I also take the same as my belief. Similarly, during the end of his life, our Shaykh Ibn Taymiya used to say, ‘I do not make takfir of anyone from this umma.’ He would say that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, ‘Only the believer is regular in performing wudu (ritual ablution),’ so whoever is regular on their salat with wudu is a believer” (10:16). (Al-Ta’liq al-Muyassar 427)

Many exhortations have been reported from the scholars regarding takfir of Muslims. The Syrian Hanafi jurist Haskafi says, “Know that a formal legal opinion (fatwa) will not be issued regarding a Muslim whose statements can be interpreted in a positive way, or when there is a difference of opinion regarding the unbelief of a person [who makes such a statement], even if that [difference] is based on a weak narration” (Al-Durr al-Mukhtar 3:287). Ibn Nujaym states, “I have made it binding on myself not to issue a formal legal verdict of unbelief regarding any matter in which the scholars have differed” (Al-Bahr al-Ra’iq 5:210).

The Shafi scholar Ibn Hajar al-Haytami says, “What our scholars have clearly said is that no judgement should be made against a person who has uttered something that could constitute unbelief until he is questionsed, that is, he is asked of his intention. If he says, ‘I intended such and such’ and such a thing can be clearly taken as unbelief, then a judgement of takfir will be made. If he has intended a meaning that is not of unbelief, then takfir will not be made (Al-Fatawa al-Kubra 4:239).

Mulla Al-Qari has quoted that Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani said, “The correct opinion according to the majority of the early and later scholars is that we do not make takfir of the innovators and sectarians unless they declare open unbelief and not just words whose implications may be construed as unbelief. This is because the soundest opinion is that the necessary implications of a position cannot be taken as the position itself. Based on this, the Muslims have been dealing with such people as believers in terms of intermarriage, praying on their deceased, and burying them in their cemeteries, because even though such people are considered to be in error, unexcusable, and correctly labeled unrighteous and deviant, their intention by what they have uttered is not to adopt unbelief (Mirqat al-Mafatih quoted by Mubarakpuri in his Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi 2:326).

Shaykh Ghawji after compiling the above statements concludes by saying, “We should constantly keep in mind the words of Allah: ‘The believers are but a single brotherhood. So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy'” (Qur’an 49:10). (Al-Ta’liq al-Muyassar 534).

Source: Abu Hanifa’s Al-Fiqh al-Akbar Explained, pg. 150, footnotes 154 and 155.

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