In light of the Umar Lee video in which he apparently renounces Islam and has re-embraced Christianity (there is NO DOUBT that if he actually said those words, then he is an apostate—with the exception that someone may have doctored the video), it is important to discuss the CONCEPT of apostasy. Many Muslims, and claimants of Islam, in the West are confused about this topic, and that is largely due to the leadership here not educating their congregations about this essential subject.
In general there are two deviant extremes regarding this issue. One are those labeled as “Takfeeris.” Takfeer is the act of deeming someone a disbeliever (Arabic: kaafir). Those typically labeled as “Takfeeris” by the general media are the quasi-Salafis (Wahhabis) and the Qutbis (followers of Sayyid Qutb and more extreme members of the Ikhwan—although it seems that many of them changed their position on this issue). Regarding the Qutbis, they claim that anyone who governs by other than Islam (or a single judgment other than Islam) becomes a disbeliever, and all those who work in such a government are disbelievers, and all those who do not rise up against the government are also disbelievers. Such a position is an invitation to mayhem and anarchy and is contrary to the position of the Sunni Muslim scholars.
As for the Wahhabis, they deemed various practices sanctioned by the Prophet to be shirk (polytheism). As a result of this misconception, the Wahhabis have deemed the vast majority of Muslims to be mushriks (polytheists) and disbelievers. And from that erroneous conclusion, they deemed that it is a religiously rewardable deed to murder Muslims. Also, many of the Wahhabis, like the Qutbis, take the position that to govern by other than Islam is also a form of shirk—this is why one finds groups, like Al-Qaeda and its affiliates committing the atrocities it does in the name of “Islam.”
On the other end of the spectrum are the quasi-traditionalists. These are people who have typically been trained in traditional sciences, they (claim to) follow one of the four Sunni madhhabs; they say they follow either the Ash`ari or Maturidi school of Sunni Theology; they praise tasawwuf (Sufism). Ostensibly, they appear to be Sunnis, but they have been introducing “liberal” accommodationist ideas to surreptitiously promote a pseudo-Sunni apologist agenda. It is enough to compare some of their pre-9/11 speeches with their speeches nowadays to understand this point.
Among their (quasi-traditionalists) deviant innovations is that they claim to refuse to make takfeer (deem as a disbeliever) ANYONE who claims to be a Muslim. This immediately leads to absurdities, like, by following such logic, one would have to call Louis Farrakhan a “Muslim,” in spite of his claim that:
Fard Muhammad is Allah
Hundreds of millions of Asiatic Blackmen are Allah
Allah was “self-created” from electricity trillions of years ago
According to the logic of the quasi-traditionalists, they would also have to consider those who follow a doctrine like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nation_of_Islam (the link says) to also be amongst the “Muslims.” Given such a ludicrous line of logic, one has to ask (rhetorically) where does it end? Is there—according to them—no distinction between Imaan and disbelief? Well, according to them, apparently there isn’t.
This refusal to make takfeer (deem a person to be a non-Muslim) has gone so far as one person contacting me and saying that he does not judge the person who has openly renounced Islam and embraced Christianity an apostate (and he didn’t say that is b/c the video in which the renunciation (apparently) took place was a fabrication).
Another one of these quasi-traditionalist celebrities has (apparently) innovated the absurd claim that you cannot call ANYONE a disbeliever because we do not know what state a person will die in. By following such sick reasoning, we also can’t deem anyone to be a “Muslim,” because we do not know what state the person will die upon. This same character has broken ranks with Ahlus-Sunnah and the Muslims by also claiming that those who reject Prophet Muhammad will attain salvation in the Hereafter.
We must be balanced in our approach to matters. Of course there is a grave danger in wanton accusations of blasphemy—but there is also grave danger in deeming blasphemy to be part of Islam. Let us take this back to first principles. We have to first define who a Muslim is. A Muslim is a person who believes in the Testification of Faith and its implications. If the person was not born to a Muslim family (or at least Muslim father (while married to the mother)), then he or she must utter the Testification of Faith to enter Islam. And the person, to be a Muslim, must believe in the Testification PROPERLY. That is, upon saying: “There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,” he must have the proper convictions about Allah and Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam). (And for the one born to a Muslim father, but never said the Testification, he would have to at least hold the correct conviction in the heart.)
The person must believe that Allah is the One, Perfect, Eternal, Omnipotent, All-Knowing Creator. Allah is the Creator of everything, and Allah ABSOLUTELY does not need or resemble anything. Allah is unimaginable. Only Allah deserves to be worshiped. Allah existed before the creations—before light and darkness, before time and place. This means that Allah is not a body, or an object, or a spatial entity or any other sort of dimensional being. Allah exists without time, place, or direction. Allah does not take up space or undergo change or transformation. To believe otherwise, is to believe contrary to what Muslims believe.
Regarding the belief in Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam), the person must believe that the Prophet was truthful in all he conveyed from Allah. One must believe that he (and all the other Prophets) was a man who always held the correct belief about Allah, and that the Prophets were of the highest honor and integrity. We must believe that the Prophets were all intelligent, courageous, trustworthy and embodied the best of manly virtues.
The one who contradicts the core meaning of the Testification of Faith is not a Muslim. Hence, the one who believes that Allah is weak, or ignorant, or requires space or a place in order to exist does not have the belief of Muslims. The one who, for instance, prays to a giant extraterrestrial being with a smiling face, or fingers, or a large tibia, or is during the daytime (allegedly) located above the `Arsh and late at night located beneath Prophet Jesus, would in reality not be praying to Allah. He would be praying to an object. And the person who worships an object—or anything else other than Allah—would NOT BE A MUSLIM. It is ludicrous to claim that the person can be a Muslim and an object worshiper at the same time. Likewise, to believe that the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) lied, or was a scoundrel, or a fool, or a coward, or the likes is blatant blasphemy with no doubt.
When this first principle is established, it becomes easy to understand why Muslims MUST make takfeer on certain beliefs. One cannot deem blasphemy to be part of Islam. Likewise, it should be known, as per the teachings of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) that a time would come when ignorance and disbelief would become pervasive. As he said:
“A man would be a believer in the morning and turn to disbelief in the evening, or he would be a believer in the evening and turn disbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Faith for worldly goods.” [Muslim]
The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) told us that holding on to one’s Islam would be more difficult thn holding on to a red hot coal. Also, it should be more than evident that the satanic opponents of Islam would intentionally plant blasphemous misconceptions amongst the Muslims to cause confusion and to fool them into falling out of Islam, as we see here: http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1716.html (the 0.1 MB outline is enough to catch the gist of these people’s evil machinations). Some of these blasphemous misconceptions would come from those masquerading as Muslim “leaders”. Also, Muslims should be aware that it is not a condition for one to commit riddah (apostasy) for one to openly renounce Islam. The person may slip into disbelief without knowing it, as the Prophet said:
“Certainly the slave [the human being, for instance] may utter a word he deems harmless, which results in his plummeting the depth of 70 years into the Hellfire.”
With that said, it is important that Muslims understand how blasphemy can be categorized, so that one can better understand how the rules of takfeer work. Disbelief (blasphemy) can be divided into three categories:
1. Ta`teel (Denial)
2. Tashbeeh (Resembling)
3. Takdheeb (Belying)
Ta`teel is the denying of the Attributes of Allah that one must necessarily know. That is, one must know, for instance, that Allah is Attributed with Existence, Oneness, Beginninglessness, Everlastingness, Power, Omniscience, Absolute Transcendence (i.e., being clear of all need for the creations), etc. It should be clear that the one who ascribes to Allah partners, or being originated, or being weak, or dependent could not possibly be considered a Muslim.
Tashbeeh is the resembling of Allah to the creations, whether that resembling is explicit or implicit. Examples of tashbeeh would be like when the Farrakhanis say “Allah is a real live human being and can’t be other than that.” Also, there are those who think that Allah is a giant body of light, others believe that Allah literally enters the bodies of people; some say Allah is a spiritual being, some say Allah is a material being—and some say both. Believing that Allah occupies space or is in a literal direction or has real-actual organs and other body parts is tashbeeh—even if the professor of said belief doesn’t recognize it as such. Again, the one who worships an object or dimensional being would not be worshiping Allah, and the one who does not worship Allah is not a Muslim.
Takdeeb is belying or rejecting what Islam teaches. There are matters that are commonly known and well-established amongst the Muslims. Examples of such would be, the existence of Paradise, the Prophethood of Moses and Jesus, the five prayers, fasting Ramadan, the permissibility of polygyny, the prohibition of fornication, homosexuality, and alcohol, or the illegitimacy of blasphemy. The one who rejects any of these matters, cannot be considered a Muslim, for Islam is based upon submission, and one can’t submit to Islam while one rejects what Islam teaches. (Nota Bene: the mere inclination towrds or engagement in sin is not blasphemy, as long as the person does not deem the sin to be acceptable in Islam.)
Among the claimants of Islam, I would say that the quasi-Salafis (Wahhabis) and the quasi-traditionalists pose the greatest threat to the growth and well-being of Muslims in the West. Regarding the Wahhabis, their da`wah to disbelief (tashbeeh, in particular) is still very active in the West. The Wahhabis’ literalist distortion of Qur’anic Verses and Hadiths has led many to thinking that Allah is an object located above our heads with various real-actual limbs and organs. This belief is blasphemy.
Furthermore, it is part of the Wahhabi ideology to deem the rest of the Muslims disbelievers (recently, I saw on a Wahhabi site one of the contributors saying that Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism) saved Tawheed). Because of this erroneous premise, they deem it permissible to murder genuine Muslims and everyone else in the “name of Islam and jihad.” For those who can’t see the evils in the gross tashbeeh of Wahhabism, they should at least see the harm that these people do by their atrocities. The Wahhabis are going to continue to commit acts of terrorism in the West, and all the Muslims are going to take the blame for their barbaric deeds unless we stand up and relentlessly expose them.
As for the quasi-traditionalists, they have for the past decade slowly changed their positions and are morphing into some “new school of thought.” Instead of exposing and attacking the theology behind this extremists ideology and demonstrating that the core creed of Wahhabism contradicts Islam, these quasi-traditionalists have signed off on some “pledge” with the Wahhabis that somehow includes object worship among the “Sunni schools of Doctrine.” On the one hand they unite with those following a bona fide extremist ideology and on the other, these quasi-apologists are having a hard time taking stands against abominable trends, like the spreading of homosexuality in American society.
Additionally, these quasi-traditionalists are encouraging the Muslims in the West to remain ignorant of apostasy and how to protect oneself from it. The reality of the matter is that when a Muslim learns about apostasy, he (or she) has the means of discernment to readily distinguish between disbelief and Islam. When one acquires such knowledge, he begins to recognize all sorts of blasphemous statements in books, in magazines, on websites, and even from the mouths of those who are allegedly the “Muslim leaders” in the West. The quasi-traditionalists do not want to empower the Muslim masses with this knowledge, for that would mean that they would be brought into greater accountability by their followers. These “leaders” would be forced to justify the unjustifiable—which they can’t—and their credibility would be shattered. Instead clarifying matters of Creed for the Muslims, they are intentionally confusing people. This is indicative of their treachery. May Allah protect us from them and that.
In conclusion, I remind you and myself of the Hadith mentioned earlier:
“Be prompt in doing good deeds (before you are overtaken) by turbulence which would be like a part of the dark night. A man would be a believer in the morning and turn to disbelief in the evening, or he would be a believer in the evening and turn disbeliever in the morning, and would sell his Faith for worldly goods.”
May Allah guide us and protect us and make us amongst the steadfast and sincere and not among those who sell their Religion for a measly worldly gain.