Reflecting on the Fundamentals – Traditions from the Imāms on the Impermissiblity of Takfīr of other Muslims | Sayyid Kamāl al-Ḥaydari | Lesson 9


In the previous discussion, we looked at what the Qur’ān had to say in respect of accepting and condemning the other, and we saw from verse 113 of Sῡrah Baqarah that this logic was not acceptable. In this discussion, we will look at the words of the Imāms to see if they accepted this notion that whosoever did not accept them as the Imām, from the first of them till the last, was condemned as a disbeliever and would spend eternity in Hell. I want to remind the dear viewers that this is what has been said by scholars like Allāmah Majlisī and Sāhib al-Jawāhir [1], so let us see what the Imāms had to say about this.

I will look at a tradition that can be found in one of our reliable books. I haven’t said that this tradition is reliable as I have previously explained in other discussions [2]  that when it comes to approaching traditions we first need to see if the book in which the tradition is recorded is reliable or not. If the book itself is reliable then we can go to the next stage and look at the tradition itself as sometimes you’ll find traditions (within the reliable books) that have a reliable chain and those which don’t. Even if we assume that the chain of the tradition is unreliable but it correlates with the general principles of the Qur’ān or it has other indicators than this tradition is acceptable to me.

When I use this tradition as evidence I am not suggesting that the chain of it is reliable as my methodology is not like that of Syed Khoi’ī and his students (who only considered a tradition reliable if it had a correct chain). My methodology is different to this, and that’s why I am amazed at those who accuse me of rejecting the probative force of our traditions, either they are ignorant or they haven’t bothered to look at what I’ve said, I have no issues accepting traditions but in accordance with the principles I have explained elsewhere.

The tradition that I want to present today is from the book Al-Kāfi, which as you know is one of our most reliable books. To the extent that some Akhbarī scholars have called all the traditions within it completely authentic (qat’ī) and mutawātir. According to these scholars if you find a tradition within al-Kāfi which is not mutawātir you can still be certain that it is authentic (qat’ī). Syed Khoi’ī disagreed saying that neither are they mutawātir, nor are they authentic and nor can you get certainty that they are authentic, but rather they are all solitary transmissions (khabar āhād).

Moving on, play close attention to this tradition which can be found in the Chapter Faith and Disbelief (kitāb al-īmān wa al-kufr):

عن هاشم صاحب البريد قال: كنت أنا ومحمد بن مسلم وأبو الخطاب مجتمعين فقال لنا أبو الخطاب: ما تقولون فیمن لم یعرف هذا الامر؟

Hashim ibn al-Barīd said: Muhammad ibn Muslim, Abu al Khattāb and I were together in one place. Abu al-Khattāb asked, “What is your belief regarding one who doesn’t know the affair (of the Imamate)? [3]

One thing to point out is wherever the expression “the affair” (al-amr) is used in traditions it is referring to the issue of Wilāyah, or the successorship of the Imāms after the Prophet. This is what many of our scholars have mentioned, amongst them al-Turayhī in his Majma’ al-Bahrayn [4].

What’s interesting to see is that this discussion of the fate of those who disagreed in the Imāmate was mentioned during the time of the 6th Imām in the 2nd century, and it is clear to see that the companions of the Imāms themselves differed on this. Some said that they became disbelievers and others objected on the basis that the proof was not complete upon them. Only after the proof has been completed upon them and then they still refuse would they become disbelievers. Like we mentioned previously in our three principles, if someone (after researching) says I have not found proof that so and so are the successors of the Prophet and therefore I do not believe in it (then he is not required to believe in it), and likewise it wouldn’t make them amongst the people condemned in this verse: And they denied them unjustly and proudly while their soul had been convinced of them[5]. The tradition continues:

من لم یعرف هذا الامر فهو کافر

(I said:) Whoever does not recognise this affair (of Imāmate) is a disbeliever [6]

This is the same language we saw from Allāmah Majlisī.

فقال ابو الخطاب: لیس بکافر حتی تقوم علیه حجه، فاذا قامت علیه حجه فلم یعرف فهو کافر، فقال له محمد بن مسلم: سبحان الله ماله اذا لم یعرف و لم یجحد یکفر؟! لیس بکافر اذا لم یجحد

Abul Khattāb said: “As long as the evidence is not complete, he is not an unbeliever, if the evidence is complete and still he doesn’t recognise it then he is a disbeliever. Muhammad ibn Muslim said: “Glory be to God! If he doesn’t recognise the Imam and doesn’t show obstinacy or denial, how can he be considered a disbeliever?” [7]

Once there became a disagreement they decided to take the matter to Imam Sādiq:

قال: فلما حججت دخلت على أبي عبد الله (عليه السلام) فأخبرته بذلك، فقال: إنك قد حضرت و غابا ولكن موعدكم الليلة، الجمرة الوسطى بمنى
فلما كانت الليلة اجتمعنا عنده وأبو الخطاب ومحمد بن مسلم فتناول وسادة فوضعها في صدره ثم قال لنا: ما تقولون في خدمكم ونساءكم وأهليكم أليس يشهدون أن لا إله إلا الله؟ قلت: بلى، قال: أليس يشهدون أن محمدا رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله)؟ قلت: بلى، قال: أليس يصلون ويصومون ويحجون؟ قلت: بلى، قال: فيعرفون ما أنتم عليه؟ قلت: لا، قال: فما هم عندكم؟ قلت: من لم يعرف [هذا الامر] فهو كافر
قال: سبحان الله أما رأيت أهل الطريق وأهل المياه؟ قلت: بلى، قال: أليس يصلون ويصومون ويحجون؟ أليس يشهدون أن لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدا رسول الله قلت: بلى، قال: فيعرفون ما أنتم عليه؟ قلت: لا، قال: فما هم عندكم؟ قلت: من لم يعرف [هذا الامر] فهو كافر
قال: سبحان الله أما رأيت الكعبة والطواف وأهل اليمن وتعلقهم بأستار الكعبة! قلت: بلى، قال: أليس يشهدون أن لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدا رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله) ويصلون ويصومون ويحجون؟ قلت: بلى، قال: فيعرفون ما أنتم عليه، قلت: لا قال: فما تقولون فيهم؟ قلت: من لم يعرف فهو كافر
قال: سبحان الله هذا قول الخوارج

When the Hajj season came, I went for hajj and went to Imam Sādiq. I told him of the discussion between the three of us and asked the Imām his view. The Imam replied: “I will reply to this question when the other two are also present. I and the three of you shall meet tonight in Minā near the middle Jamarah.” That night, the three of us went there. The Imām, leaning on a cushion, began questioning us.

“What do you say about the servants, womenfolk, and members of your own families?   Do they not bear witness to the Unity of God?” I replied, “Yes.”
”Do they not bear witness to the Prophecy of the Messenger?”
”Do they recognize the Imāmate and the wilāyah like yourselves?”
“So what is their position in your view?”
“My view is that whoever does not recognize the Imām is an unbeliever.”
“Glory be to God! Haven’t you seen the people of the streets and markets? Have’t you seen the water-bearers?”
“Yes, I have seen and I see them”
“Do they not pray? Do they not fast? Do they not perform hajj? Do they not bear witness to the unity of God and the Prophethood of the Messenger?”
“Well, do they recognize the Imām as you do?”
“So what is their condition?”
“My view is that whoever does not recognize the Imām is an unbeliever.”
“Glory be to God! Do you not see the state of the Ka’bah and the circumambulation of these people? Don’t you see how the people of Yemen cling to the curtains of the Ka’bah?”
“Don’t they profess monotheism and believer in the Messenger? Don’t they pray, fast and perform hajj?”
“Well, do they recognize the Imām as you do?”
”What is your belief about them?”
“In my view, whoever does not recognize the Imām is an unbeliever”
“Glory be to God! This belief is the belief of the Khārijites.” [8] [9]

Did you see what the Imām said? This is the reasoning of the Ahlulbayt which is in complete harmony with the Qur’ān. The Imām said that this type of reasoning (of those who do takfīr) was the same as the Khārijites. Whoever declares a fellow Muslim a disbeliever is a khawārij according to Imam Sādiq. It’s with great sadness and sorrow that these traditions are not read from the pulpit nor do those Shi’ī satellite channels who do takfīr on others read them. Why don’t they read these traditions which show that the Ahlulbayt did not accept doing takfīr of others? Don’t let it be said that these Shi’ī scholars do not do takfīr (of the Sunnis), they do, but they accuse them of disbelief in the next world and not in this world.

This is the first tradition which we have looked at, and it is evident to see that the Imām did not accept the condemnation of the other. So if the evidence has been completed on a person (then that suffices for him), if not then we have no right to do takfīr of anyone else, be it apparently or internally, in this world or the next.


1 – Refer to Part 7 of this series here where the views of Allāmah Majlisī and Sāhib al-Jawāhir are discussed.

2 – Here Syed Kamāl refers to his book Mīzān Tashīh al-Mawrῡth al-Rawā’ī . This can be accessed here.

3 – Shaykh Ya’qῡb Kulaynī, al-Kāfi, v. 2, p. 401

4 – al-Turayhī, Majma’ al-Bahrayn, v. 3, p. 210

5 – Qur’ān, Surah 27 Verse 14

6 – Shaykh Ya’qῡb Kulaynī, al-Kāfi, v. 2, p. 401

7 – ibid

8 – ibid, p. 402

9 – Translation for this tradition has been taken from: Martyr Murtaza Mutahhari, Divine Justice, p. 335 -337, Al Mustafa International Translation and Publication Centre, 2016

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