The Definition of Kufr
Etymologically, “Kufr” means “covering”. Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “Its likeness is that of rain: when it produces vegetation it delights the kuffar (tillers)” (The Iron:20)
The word ‘kuffar’ in this verse means ‘the tillers’ or farmers. They are termed as “kuffar” because the farmers are those who cover the seeds by soils.
While in shari’a terminology, “kufr” means disbelieve in Allah and His apostle, either by giving lies to Him or not.
The Types of Kufr
There are two types of kufr: the major kufr and the minor kufr.
a. The major kufr
The major kufr is the act of kufr or infidelity that drags the actor out of Islam. It has five forms:
First: The kufr due to giving lie to religion
For example: If someone believe that Muhammad is lying. The Qur’an is the making of Muhammad, and Qur’an is not an authentic Book, then he is an infidel because he has given lie to the divine decree of Allah.
The indication of giving lie to Islam is a major kufr is the decree of Allah, which can be translated as, “Who can be more unjust than he who foists a lie on Allah or gives the lie to the Truth after it has come to him? Is Hell not the resort of the unbelievers?” (The Spider: 68)
Second: The kufr of iba’ and istikbar (kufr due to hesitancy and arrogance, whereas the person justify the truth of Islam)
For example is the kufr of Satan. He believed that Allah is the One, even he ever directly talked to Allah. But he did not want to obey Allah’s command due to his arrogance.
The indication is the decree of Allah, which can be translated as:
“And when We ordered the angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam,’ all of them fell prostrate, except Iblis. He refused, and gloried in his arrogance and became one of the defiers.” (The Cow: 34)
Third: The Kufr due to doubt
For example: If there is a person who’s doubtful whether the Qur’an is the decree of Allah, or of human making, or he is doubt about the Hereafter, he is already fall into the major kufr.
The indication showing that this act is a major kufr is the decree of Allah, which can be translated as,
“Then he entered his vine-yard and said, wronging himself: “Surely, I do not believe that all this will ever perish. Nor do I believe that the Hour of Resurrection will ever come to pass. And even if I am returned to my Lord, I shall find a better place than this.” While conversing with him his neighbour exclaimed: “Do you deny Him Who created you out of dust, then out of a drop of sperm, and then fashioned you into a complete man? As for myself, Allah alone is my Lord, and I associate none with my Lord in His Divinity.” (The Cave: 35-38)
Fourth: The kufr of i’radh (kufr due to turning away)
It means that turning away from Islam; the one who does it doesn’t want to know about his religion, cares nothing of Islam: never performs any kind of worship, never knows anything about Islam, and so on.
The indication of this act including in the major kufr is the decree of Allah, which can be translated as, “We have created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in Truth and for an appointed term. But those who disbelieve have turned away from what they were warned against.” (Al Ahqaf:3)
Fifth: The kufr of nifaq (kufr due to hypocrisy)
Hypocrisy is one showing in his outer look, or physically, that he is a muslim, but he hides his infidelity in his heart.
The indication showing that hypocrisy is a type of major kufr is the decree of Allah, which can be translated as,
“All that is because they first believed and then disbelieved, and therefore a seal was set on their hearts; as a result they understand nothing. “ (The Hypocrites:3)
b. The minor kufr
The minor kufr are acts of infidelity that do not cause it’s actor to be out of Islam.
Among the kinds of this minor kufr is kufr in deeds, that is sins mentioned in the Qur’an and sunnah as sins that causes the doer to be kufr, but are not reaching the degree of the major kufr yet. For example : kufr to the bounty of Allah, as mentioned in His verse:
“They are aware of the favours of Allah, and yet refuse to acknowledge them. Most of them are determined not to accept the Truth.” (The Bee: 83)
Killing a muslim is also a form of minor kufr, as mentioned in one of the saying of the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- ,
“Abusing a muslim is a wickedness, and killing him is a kufr act.” (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)
Among the kind of minor kufr is vowing or making oath by other names than Allah. The Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said,
“Whoever vows by the name other than Allah, he has done an act of kufr or shirk.” (Narrated by At Tirmidhi and classed good by him; classed sahih by Al Hakim).
The Difference Between Major and Minor Kufr
The major kufr place the actor out of Islam, and vanishing his the rewards of his deeds, while minor kufr do not make the actor out of Islam, also not vanishing his rewards, according to the degree of it’s kufr, but the actor is still the object of threats.
The major kufr cause the actor to be eternal in hell, while in the actor of minor kufr, if he enters the hell, he wont be eternal in it. Or, Allah will forgive him thus he wont enter it at all.
The major kufr cause the blood and property of the actor to be legal to be taken, while the minor kufr doesn’t.
The major kufr necessitate true enmity between the actor and the believers. The believer, or muslim, should not love him nor be loyal to him, although he is their nearest family. As for the minor kufr, it doesn’t deny the existence of loyalty at all, but the actor is loved and given loyalty according to the measure of his faith and detested and get hostility according to the level of his wickedness.
“At-Tauhid li Ash-Shaff Ats-Tsalis Al-Ali”. author: Dr. Shaleh Ibn Fauzan Ibn Abdullah Al-Fauzan.