Kafir is an Arabic term used in a Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic doctrinal sense, usually translated as "unbeliever" or "disbeliever". The term refers to a person who rejects God
God in Islam
In Islamic theology, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular . God is unique and inherently One , all-merciful and omnipotent. According to the Islamic...

 or who hides, denies, or covers the "truth".

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


The word is the active participle of the root
The roots of verbs and most nouns in the Semitic languages are characterized as a sequence of consonants or "radicals"...

' , Hebrew כ פ ר is the triconsonantal root of many Arabic and Hebrew words, and many of those words are used as names.-Concepts:*Kufr , Kefirah — negation of the faith; disbelief*Kafir, pl. Kuffar , Kofer, pl...

  "to cover". As a pre-Islamic term it described farmers burying seeds in the ground, covering them with soil while planting. Thus, the word implies the meaning "a person who hides or covers".

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

"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
Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

 discourage its use and suggest the neutral term non-Muslim instead.

The Hebrew cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. This learned term derives from the Latin cognatus . Cognates within the same language are called doublets. Strictly speaking, loanwords from another language are usually not meant by the term, e.g...

 gives words like kofer
Kofer is a Hebrew word, with several meanings:* Kofer-nefesh ."The price of a life", "a ransom", compared to Teutonic Weregild....

 (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
The Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 uses the word kufr to denote a person who covers up or hides realities, one who refuses to accept the dominion and authority of God
God in Islam
In Islamic theology, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular . God is unique and inherently One , all-merciful and omnipotent. According to the Islamic...

Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

). 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?"
  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."
  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!"
  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."
  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."
  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."
  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."
  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." 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."

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."

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

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
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 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.

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.
In volume 4, Hakluyt writes: calling them Cafars and Gawars, which is, infidels or disbelievers. 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).

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, Kaffraria
Kaffraria was the descriptive name given to the southeast part of what is today the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Kaffraria, i.e. the land of the Kaffirs, is no longer an official designation...

, kaffir lime
Kaffir lime
The kaffir lime, Citrus × hystrix, Rutaceae), is also known as combava, kieffer lime, limau purut, jeruk purut or makrut 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
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, in particular, the descendants of those slaves still constitute a distinctive ethnic group, who call themselves Kaffir
Sri Lanka Kaffir people
The Sri Lankan Kaffirs are an ethnic group in Sri Lanka who are partially descended from 16th century Portuguese traders and the African slaves who were brought by them to work as labourers and soldiers to fight against the Sri Lankan kings...


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. One of the Union-Castle Line
Union-Castle Line
The Union-Castle Line was a prominent British shipping line that operated a fleet of passenger liners and cargo ships between Europe and Africa from 1900 to 1977. It was formed from the merger of the Union Line and Castle Shipping Line...

 ships operating off the South African coast was named SS Kafir.

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
Kāfiristān or Kāfirstān was a historic name of Nurestan , a province in the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, prior to 1896. This historic region lies on, and mainly comprises, basins of the rivers Alingar, Pech , Landai Sin, and Kunar, and the intervening mountain ranges...

 before the Afghan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 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
Kalasha or Kalash may refer to:*Kalash people of Chitral, northern Pakistan**Kalasha **Kalash language, also known as Kalasha-mondr**Kalasha Desh, their valleys*Nuristani people of Nuristan, Afghanistan...

 people located in the Hindu Kush mountain range south west of Chitral
Chitral or Chetrar , translated as field in the native language Khowar, is the capital of the Chitral District, situated on the western bank of the Kunar River , in Pakistan. The town is at the foot of Tirich Mir, the highest peak of the Hindu Kush, high...

 are known as Kafirs by the 100% Muslim population of Chitral.

See also

  • Ahl al-Fatrah
    Ahl al-Fatrah
    In Islamic theology, the term Ahl al-Fatrah refers to everyone whom the da‘wah has not reached in an uncorrupted manner: the people who live in ignorance of the teachings of Islam, either in geographical isolation, or in times predating Muhammad...

  • Dhimmi
    A , is a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with sharia law. Linguistically, the word means "one whose responsibility has been taken". This has to be understood in the context of the definition of state in Islam...

  • Divisions of the world in Islam
  • Gâvur
    Giaour, Gawur or Ghiaour written gâvur in modern Turkish, is an offensive ethnic slur used by Muslims in Turkey and the Balkans to describe all who are non Muslim, with particular reference to Christians like Greeks, Armenians, Bulgarians, Serbs and Assyrians...

  • Mumin
  • Shirk
  • Takfir
    In Islamic law, takfir or takfeer refers to the practice of one Muslim declaring another Muslim an unbeliever or kafir...

Non-Islam specific:
  • Heathen
  • Infidel
    An infidel is one who has no religious beliefs, or who doubts or rejects the central tenets of a particular religion – especially in reference to Christianity or Islam....

  • Kofer
    Kofer is a Hebrew word, with several meanings:* Kofer-nefesh ."The price of a life", "a ransom", compared to Teutonic Weregild....

External links

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