Takfirism – Understanding the ideology of terror

Takfirism – Understanding the ideology of terror


SHAFAQNA – ISIL, or Daesh as we should learn to use, is in the midst of adding another chapter to its spiralling violence and ideological cleansing of the Middle East.  Both a military plague and a dogmatic cancer onto the world, Daesh militants understand of faith and religion only violence, bloodshed, repression and utmost villainy.

And though the terror outfit has anchored its legitimacy within Islam, arguing only its clerics carry the true tradition of the last Prophet of God, Daesh is but a forgery, a negation many scholars have argued, of the very principles which define the Islamic faith.

Islam’s creed while pluralist cannot be claimed by those who stand in opposition to its core principles.

Key to understanding (and combatting) Daesh is an examination of its ideological underpinning: takfirism, the foundation upon which Wahhabism was risen into existence.

The definition of Takfir goes as follow: Pronouncement that someone is an unbeliever (kafir) and no longer Muslim. Takfir is used in the modern era for sanctioning violence against leaders of Islamic states who are deemed insufficiently religious. It has become a central ideology of militant groups such as those in Egypt, which reflect the ideas of Ibn Taymiyyah and Mohammad Ibn Abdelwahhab, the forefather of Wahhabism.

The principle of Takfi has long been rejected by both Shia and Sunni scholars on account it is based on bigotry.

Takfirism is a centuries-old practice of judging someone to be an unbeliever and rendering them an apostate or hypocrite through the most dogmatic of lenses. Those thirsty for power use it to legitimize inequities and de-legitimize anyone who disagrees with their authority.


In an article posted in November 2015 Dr Morrow noted: ““My Mercy prevails over My Wrath,” says Almighty Allah in a sacred saying (narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah). For Takfiri terrorists like IS, the so-called “Islamic” State, it is wrath that prevails over mercy. When asked to curse the polytheists, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, responded that “I was sent as a mercy” (Muslim). If anything, the rapists, torturers, and mass murderers who have infiltrated Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria, and other parts of the world, can only be seen as a curse, the likes of which have not been seen since the Mongol invasion of Genghis Khan in the 13th century.

While Islam does indeed permit Jihad, in the form of armed struggle, to combat certain oppressive conditions, it is highly regulated by a detailed code of norms and conduct. The killing of non-combatants, civilians, women, children, imams, priests, monks, nuns, and other members of religious orders, is categorically prohibited in Islam. Torture, rape, and the trafficking of women are all crimes which merit capital punishment under Islamic law. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, forbade Muslims from sacking sacred sites and places of worship, stating that anyone who destroyed a church or a monastery would receive the curse of Almighty Allah.

IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh is a terrorist, mercenary, army at the service of imperial forces. They do not speak for Islam or represent Islam in any shape or form. To describe such psychopaths as Sunnis is to insult the Sunnah. To describe Da‘ish as “Islamic” is an insult to Islam. The only terms that adequately describes the ideology of these demons is Takfiri, Wahhabi, Khariji, and Nasibi, Excommunicators, Wahhabis, Separatists, and Haters of the Household of the Prophet. While they call themselves Jihadists, they pervert the term jihad or sacred struggle. While they call themselves Salafi, followers of the pious predecessors, they are an offense to the true Salaf, the righteous Companions and their Followers.

As Almighty Allah, glorified and exalted be He, warns in the Holy Qur’an, “Do not exaggerate in your religion” (4:171), a verse that can also be translated as “Do not be fanatical in your faith.” The Qur’an also warns believers to “Beware of extremism in your religion” (5:77). In short, Muslims are supposed to be “a justly balanced nation” (2:143). Although some scholars may argue that the reproach against extremism contained in the Qur’an applies only to the People of Book, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, explained that it was equally applicable to Muslims. In fact, he warned his followers to “Beware of extremism in your religion for it is that which destroyed the nations which came before you” (Nasai and Ibn Majah). In another tradition, he stated that “The religious extremists are destroyed” (Muslim and Abu Dawud). The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, also warned: “There are two groups of people from my Ummah who will not receive my intercession: oppressive rulers, and religious extremists” (Tabarani)

It should be noted, however, that Takfiri combatants are not committed Muslims. In reality, they are all mercenaries. Large numbers of them are non-Muslim soldiers of fortune and guns-for-hire, and many are drawn from the criminal class. “Allah is Beautiful and loves beauty,” says the Prophet Muhammad, may God bless him and grant him peace (Muslim). Takfiri terrorists, however, are hideously ugly. “Allah is good and only accepts that which is good,” said the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him (Muslim). Takfiri terrorists, however, are devoid of good. Since “Allah is Just and loves justice,” and “Allah is Loving and loves love,” the true representatives of Islam are Ahl al-Hub and Ahl al-‘Adl, the People of Love and the People of Justice. As Almighty Allah warns in the Holy Qur’an: “Do not commit evil in the land for God does not love the evil-doers” (28:77)

Takfiri terrorists, such as ISIS/ISIL/IS, as well as al-Qa’edah, al-Shabab, the Taliban, al-Nusrah, Boko Haram, and other criminal organizations, do not speak for Islam or represent Islam. Not only are they not Ahl al-Sunnah (Sunnis), they are not members of the Ummah (Community) of Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, as a result of their own beliefs and actions. The Takfiriyyin, (those who believe that all Muslims, save themselves, are infidels), the Khawarij (those who broke away from the community in the early days of Islam, accusing both the Sunnis and the Shi‘ites of apostasy) and the Nawasib (those who hate the Household of the Prophet and their followers) are agents of the enemies of Islam.

We do not condemn the Takfiris as “infidels who may be legally killed” as they do in the case of traditional Sunnis, Shi‘ites, and Sufis. The traditional Muslim Shari’ah does not grant carte blanche to kill someone simply because he or she is an atheist, an agnostic, a Jew, a Christian, a Hindu, a Bahai or a Salafi-Jihadi. As Almighty Allah warns in the Qur’an:“Whosoever kills a human being unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it shall be as if he had killed all of humanity” (5:32).

Although people cannot be condemned to death on the basis of their beliefs, they can be killed in combat or receive the death penalty on the basis of their actions. Consequently, any and all terrorists who have committed crimes against humanity and the Divinity should be brought to justice. And while Shimr may have murdered Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, the true culprit was Yazid, his Commander in Chief, may the curse of God be upon him. Likewise, while Takfiri terrorists should be held accountable for their crimes, those who founded them, funded them, armed them, trained them, and supported them, in any form or fashion, should be exposed and face the sword of justice.

The so-called “Islamic State” should be known as the “Satanic State” as it does nothing but spread corruption on earth (Fasad fi al-Ard). Territory under the control of Takfiri terrorists is the abode of unbelief (Kufr), falsehood (Ifk), heresy (Ilhad), and immorality (Fawahish). They represent the path of error (Sirat Al-Dalala), the pulpit of discord (Minbar Al-Khilaf), the den of iniquity (‘Arin Al-Ghawayyah), and the land of criminals (Dawlat Al-Mujrimin). The Takfiris are the enemies of Allah and His Messenger (‘Adu Allah wa Rasulihi). As such, it is categorically prohibited to support them in any form or fashion. Moreover, it is the obligation of all Muslims from Ahl al-Sunnah, Ahl al-Tasawwuf, and Ahl al-Bayt (the Sunnis, the Sufis, and the Shi‘ites), to oppose the polytheism (Shirk), hypocrisy (Nifaq), apostasy (Irtidad), and schism (Shiqaq) that the Takfiris are spreading throughout the lands of Islam.

The only people authorized to establish the Government of God on Earth are the Mahdi and Jesus, the Son of Mary, peace be upon them both. As we anxiously await their rise, we must stand for peace and justice, uphold Islamic ethical values, defend human dignity, and respect and preserve human life. Do not be deceived during these times of trials and tribulations (Fitan). People, who rape, torture, mutilate and murder civilians, non-combatants, hostages and prisoners of war are not Friends of Allah (‘Auliya’ Allah). People who destroy places of worship and sacred sites, who burn churches and blow up mosques with copies of the Holy Qur’an still in them, are not Friends of Allah. People who violate the teachings of the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the Shari‘ah, and the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, are not the Friends of Allah. If anything, they are the Friends of Satan (‘Auliya’ al-Shaytan). As Muslims, our response towards terrorists can only be one: “Fight the friends of Satan” (Qur’an 4:76); “And slay them wherever you may come upon them, and drive them away from wherever they drove you away for tumult and oppression is even worse than slaughter” (Qur’an 2:191).

In light of the non-Islamic character of the Takfiris and their role as agents of western and globalist imperialism against Islam, Muslims should find it easy to see through their absurd claim to be “defenders of Islam!””

Under the framework of takfirism, Daesh justifies an ideological cleansing of Kurds, Yazidis, Shia, Sufis, and anyone else who does not conform to its religious tyranny. Daesh is using takfirism to accomplish its goal of ridding the region of “impure” elements — like Christianity — and symbols — like the shrine of Jonah.

Takfirism turned violent in the late seventh century with the Kharijites, an early extremist group that rejected Muslims who did not accept their political and religious views. Known for their puritanism and fanaticism, this group engaged in campaigns of harassment and terror. The Kharijites’ violent extremism didn’t last long, as it was quickly dismissed as antithetical to Islam by the independent and authoritative ulema (religious leaders and scholars) of the time.

Today, takfirism has found new life within the structures of contemporary Gulf monarchies. The Gulf states used takfirism to eliminate political opponents and vulnerable populations, including religious minorities and women. They legitimized their modern takfirism by co-opting religious authority, fabricating religious texts, and spreading selective interpretations and applications of Islam by establishing schools and funding those that would teach their literal and absolutist Islamic narrative.

The diverse and principled interpretations of the Qur’an, hadith, and millions of other volumes written on theology, philosophy, and jurisprudence were eventually reduced to a whisper. The heart of the Qur’an — justice, equity, and compassion — became an inconvenient footnote because it was contrary to their agenda. Instead, the austere doctrine of takfirism was promoted as both a means to solidify power and create a duplicitous strand of anti-Western rhetoric while serving Western powers.

Now, these governments wield unanimous political and religious control. The result is an unholy alliance of clergy and state along with the disintegration of an independently authoritative ulema, consequently leading to the proliferation of groups like Daesh.

Also adding to their perceived legitimacy is the use of the term “jihadist” to classify these violent extremist groups. This misnomer serves the interest of groups like Daesh as they rely on framing themselves within fundamental Islamic concepts to recruit members. Jihad is translated as “struggle,” which can be taken to mean anything from an internal struggle against one’s desires to outright resisting oppression.

When groups like ISIL dress themselves in the pietistic robes of a righteous jihad, vulnerable and ostracized Muslims will see them as legitimate. Their violent ideology, while not grounded in Islamic jurisprudence or political thought, is effective propaganda nonetheless.

Education as always, as well as the promotion of Islam’s true tradition would go a long way in opposing the rise of terror, as without arms Takfirism cannot advance.

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

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Dr. John Andrew Morrow is a senior scholar specializing in Islamic, Indigenous, and Hispanic Studies.