Indigo Jo and Umar Lee write about the concept of takfir and it’s place in today’s discourse.
A lot of people seem to be confused about where takfeer is legitimate and where it is not. Generally speaking, common people do not call people kaafirs unless either they do not claim to be Muslim, or they are part of a sect known to have beliefs so extreme as to put them outside of Islam (such as the Qadianis or Isma’ilis), or they reject something that is commonly known of Islam, such as that extramarital sex or the drinking of alcoholic drinks is forbidden, or insult Islam or the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). In the first of these cases, I question whether we should commonly use the word kaafir when speaking or writing in English, since there alternatives which are actual English which are not known as racially derogatory terms. DT makes out there is something terrible about making takfeer. In fact, distinguishing who is a Muslim from who isn’t is part of Islamic scholarship; what is offensive is careless accusations prompted by acrimonious differences of opinion; a classic example is the tendency of some “salafis” to call rulers who fail to implement the Shari’ah unbelievers, so as to justify making war (so-called jihad) on them – and classifying anyone who disagrees with them as unbelievers along with them. This opens the door for an awful lot of bloodshed, as we saw in Egypt and, worst of all, Algeria. He also compares the accusations about Shi’ites practising taqiyya with the claims Muslim-haters make against Muslims in general, namely “that they are liars, and that lying is religiously mandated”; in fact, Muslims are, for the most part, commanded to tell the truth even when it is inconvenient, and we hear references to taqiyya only in reference to Shi’ites, who practise it in disputes with Sunnis, not with non-Muslims, while people who hate Islam cry “taqiyya” every time a Muslim says something about their own religion with conflicts with what they allege. One has nothing to do with the other; the lying referred to in this article is specifically Shi’ites lying to Sunnis.
Umar Lee explains takfir:
This is a very controversial issue as many Muslims in different time periods have went overboard with takfir. In this era most of what have become to know as “al-Qaeda like” organizations are generally referred to by Muslim scholars and people of knowledge as takfiris (some will incorrectly call them Wahabbis or Salafis; but it has been the ulama of the Salafis who have been most vocal in their opposition to the takfiris and even making takfir against people who have obviously left Islam for fear of issuing a false accusation).
Takfir should not be pronounced easily and without the consent of the ulama and it should not be used as a method to further political unrest; but we should never abandon maintaining standards for who is and who is not a Muslim. If we completely abandoned takfir than the polytheists and others who obviously hold beliefs that are in opposition to the fundamental essence of Islam would have to be considered Muslim.