Concept

Takfir

Summary
Takfir or takfīr (takfīr) is an Arabic and Islamic term which denotes excommunication from Islam of one Muslim by another, i.e. accusing another Muslim to be an apostate. The word is found neither in the Quran nor in the ḥadīth literature; instead, kufr ("unbelief") and kāfir ("unbeliever") and other terms employing the same triliteral root k-f-r appear. "The word takfīr was introduced in the post-Quranic period and was first done by the Khawarij", according to J. E. Campo. The act which precipitates takfīr is termed mukaffir. A Muslim who declares another Muslim to be an unbeliever or apostate is a takfīri ("excommunicational"). Since according to the traditional interpretations of Islamic law (sharīʿa) the punishment for apostasy is the death penalty, and potentially a cause of strife and violence within the Muslim community (Ummah), an ill-founded takfir accusation was a major forbidden act (haram) in Islamic jurisprudence, with one hadith declaring that one who wrongly declares a Muslim an unbeliever is himself an apostate. In the history of Islam, a sect originating in the 7th century CE known as the Kharijites carried out takfīr against both Sunnī and Shīʿa Muslims, and became the main source of insurrection against the early caliphates for centuries. Traditionally, the only group authorized to declare another Muslim a kāfir are the scholars of Islam (Ulama), which affirm that all the prescribed legal precautions should be taken before declaring takfīr, and that those who profess the Islamic faith should be exempt. Starting in the mid-to-late 20th century, some individuals and organizations in the Muslim world began to apply takfīr accusations not only against those that they perceived as stray deviant and lapsed Muslims, but Islamic governments and societies as well. In his widely influential book Milestones, Egyptian Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb preached that all of the Muslim world had fallen into a state of collective apostasy or jahiliyah (a state of pre-Islamic ignorance) several centuries ago, having abandoned the use of sharīʿa law, without which (Qutb held) Islam cannot exist.
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