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The Nature of Disbelief

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In contrast to the man described above, there is the man who, although a born Muslim and unconsciously

The remaining one throughout his life does not exercise his faculties of reason, intellect, and intuition for recognizing his Lord and creator and misuses his freedom of choice by choosing to deny Him. Such a man becomes an unbeliever in the language of Islam a kafir.

Kufr literally means ‘to cover or ‘to conceal’. The man who denies God is called kafir (concealer) because he conceals by his disbelief what is inherent in his nature and embalmed in his own soul-for, indeed, his nature is instinctively imbued with ‘Islam’. His whole body, every sinew and every fibre, functions in obedience to that instinct. Each and every particle of existence-living or lifeless-functions in accordance with ‘Islam’ and is fulfilling the duty that has been assigned to it. But the vision of this man has been blurred, his intellect has been befogged, and he is unable to see the manifest. His own nature has become concealed from his eyes and he thinks and acts in utter disregard of it. The reality becomes estranged form him and he gropes in the dark such is the nature of kufr.

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Kufr is a form of ignorance, rather it is ignorance pure and simple. What ignorance can be greater than to be ignorant of God, the creator, the Lord of the universe? A man observes the vast panorama of nature, the superb mechanism that is ceaselessly working, the grand design that is manifest in every nook and corner of the creation-he observes this vast machine, but he does not know who is its maker and Director. He looks to his own body, the wonderful organism that works in the most superb way, and uses it to achieve his own ends but is unable to comprehend the force that brought it into existence, the engineer who designed and produced this machine, the creator who made the unique living being out of lifeless stuff: carbon, calcium, sodium, and the like. He witnesses a superb plan in the universe but fails to see the planner behind it. he sees great beauty and harmony in its working-but not the creator of this all.

He observes wonderful design in nature-but, not the Designer! In the universe all around him he observes the choicest demonstrations of skill in science and wisdom, mathematics and engineering, design and purpose, but he blinds himself to the being Who brought all this vast incomprehensible universe into existence. How can a man, who has blinded himself to this great and significant reality, approach the true perspectives of knowledge?

How can the vistas of truth and knowledge be opened to such a man? How can one who has made the wrong beginning reach the right destination? He will fail to find the clue to Reality. The Right path will remain concealed for him and whatever his endeavours in sciences and arts, he will never be able to avail himself of the lights of truth and wisdom. He would be groping in the dark and stumbling in the gloom of ignorance.

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Not only that; kufr is also a tyranny, nay, the wars of tyrannies. And what is ‘tyranny’? It is an act of cruel and unjust use of any force or power. If you force a thing to act unjustly or to act against its true nature, its real will and its inherent attitude,-that is tyranny, root and branch.

We have seen that all that is in the universe is obedient to God the creator. to obey, to live in accordance with His will and His Law or (to put it more precisely) to be a Muslim is ingrained in their very nature. God has given manpower over these things, but it is incumbent in the very nature of these things that they should be used for the fulfilment of His will and not otherwise. But one who disobeys God and resorts to kufr is the person who perpetrates the greatest injustice, for he uses all these powers of body and mind to rebel against the course of nature and becomes an unwilling instrument in the drama of disobedience.

He forces his head to bow down before deities other than God and cherishes in his heart the love, reverence, and fear of other powers in utter disregard to the instinctive urge of these organs. He uses his own powers and all those things upon which he has authority against the explicit of good and thus establishes a reign of tyranny. Can there be any greater injustice, tyranny, and cruelty than that exhibited by this man who exploits and misuses everything under the sun and unscrupulously forces them to a course which affronts nature and justice?

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Kufr is not mere tyranny; it is, to say the least, sheer rebellion, ingratitude, and infidelity. After all, what is the reality of man? What is his power and authority? Is he himself the creator of his mind, his heart, his soul, and other organs of his body-or have they been created by God? Has he himself created the universe and all that is within her-or has it been created by God? Who has harnessed all the powers and energies for the service of man-man or God? If everything has been created by God and God alone, then to whom do they belong? Who is their real owner? Who is their rightful sovereign? Verily, it is God and none else. And if God is the creator, the Master, and the sovereign, then who would be a greater rebel than the man who uses God’s creation against His injunctions-who makes his mind think against God, harbours in his heart thoughts against Him, and uses his various faculties against the sovereign’s will. If a servant betrays his master you denounce him as faithless. If an officer becomes disloyal to the state you dub him a traitor and renegade.

If a person cheats his benefactor you have no hesitation in condemning him as ingrate. But what match can this betrayal, this ingratitude, and this rebellion have to the one which the disbeliever commits by his Kufr? After all, who is the real mainspring of all power and authority? Who gave man command over the resources? Who elevated people to positions of high authority and power? All that a man has and all that he uses for the benefit of others is a bestowal of God. The greatest obligation that man owes on this earth is to his parents. But who has implanted the love of children in the parents’ hearts? Who endowed the mother with the will and power to nurture, nourish, and feed her children? Who inspired the parents with the passion to spend everything in their possession for the well-being of their children? A little reflection would reveal that God is the greatest benefactor of man.

He is his creator, Lord, Nourisher, and sustainer, as well as his real king and sovereigns. And this being the position of God vis-à-vis man, what can be greater betrayal, ingratitude, rebellion, and treason than Kufr, through which a man denies and disobeys his real Lord and sovereign?


Do not think that bay committing Kufr man does or can do any harm to God Almighty. No, not the least. An insignificant speck on the face of a tiny ball in this limitless universe that man is, what harm can he do to the Lord of the universe whose dominions are so infinitely vast that we have not yet been able to explore their boundaries even with the help of the most powerful telescope; Whose power is so great that myriad’s of heavenly bodies, like the Earth, the Moon, the sun and the stars, are at His bidding, whirling link tiny balls; Whose wealth is so boundless that He is the sole Master of the whole universe; and who provides for all and needs none to provide for Him. Man’s revolt against Him can do Him no harm; on the other hand by his disobedience, man treads the path of utter ruin and disgrace.

The inevitable consequence of this revolt and denial of reality is a failure in the ultimate ideals of life. such a rebel will never find the thread of real knowledge and vision; for the knowledge that fails to reveal its own creator can reveal no truth. Such a man’s intellect and reason always run astray; for the reason which errs in knowing its own creator cannot illumine the paths of life. Such a man will meet with failures in all the affairs of his life. His morality, his civic and social life, his struggle for livelihood and his family life, in short, his entire living, will be upset. He will spread confusion and disorder on the earth. He will without the least compunction, shed blood, violate other men’s rights, be cruel to them, and create disorder and destruction in the world.

His perverted thoughts and ambitions, his blurred vision and disturbing scale of values, and his evil-spelling activities would make life bitter for him and for all around him. Such a man would destroy the calm and poise of life on earth. And in the life hereafter, he would be held guilty for the crimes he committed upon his nature, his powers, and resources. Every organ of his body-his very brain, eyes, nose, hands and feet-will complain against the injustice and cruelty he had done unto them. every tissue of his being will decry him before God Who, as the very fountain of justice, will award him the fullest punishment he deserves. This is the inglorious consequence of Kufr. It leads to the blind alley of utter failure, here and hereafter.

Culled from the Book titled Towards Understanding Islam by Syed Abul A’la Mawdudi

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