Guidelines in Understanding Texts that Warn of Severe Punishments

In the Name of Allaah, the Most Merciful…

This article clarifies the understanding of Ahlus-Sunnah regarding important religious texts on the issue of disbelief and the negation of faith, like the following hadeeths:

1) “Insulting a Muslim is fusooq (sinful disobedience), and fighting him is kufr.”

2) “None of you has eemaan until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

3) “The qattaat (tale-carrier) shall not enter Paradise.”

4) “Whoever deceives us is not from us.”

And like the Quranic verse of the murderer (4:93) abiding in the Hellfire, and all other texts threatening of severe punishment for sins that other texts prove do not remove a person from the fold of Islaam.

[1] Ahlus-Sunnah understand these texts in light of the entire body of texts on ‘aqeedah, and do not take any one of them alone to build their beliefs upon, as is the way of the deviant sects.

[2] The texts prove that the sins mentioned above do not take someone outside of Islaam by themselves.

[3] So kufr like in #1 is kufr less than the kufr that takes someone outside of Islaam.  Any sin referred to as kufr must be considered at least a major sin.

[4] The negation of a person’s eemaan like in #2 above is a negation of completeness of eemaan, not a negation in totality.  

[5] The negation of the qattaat entering Paradise in #3 means initially, not that he must remain in the Hellfire forever.

[6] When the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said about an action, like deception in example #4 above, that the person who does it is not from us, he meant: not adhering to our guidance in the proper way.  Thus, deception is a major sin that does not take a person out of Islaam by itself.

[7] The threat mentioned in the verse of the murderer is of entrance to the Fire, but not eternally, and so on.

[8] Some scholars allow these texts to apply to certain cases, like when a person deceives the Muslims by pretending to be a Muslim, and inwardly hiding disbelief.  In this case, the one who deceives us is not from us, ie. not from the Muslims.  Similarly, someone who kills another Muslim, declaring it to be permissible would be in the Fire forever (because he declares halaal what Allaah told us is haraam, and he would be a disbeliever with this belief before he even killed anyone).  However, to restrict the texts to only these meanings would mean that the Muslims do not need to fear the punishments mentioned in the texts, and they would lose their true meanings of tarheeb (scary warnings) for the Muslims, as guidance and warnings for the Muslims, the ones who are concerned with following the texts in the first place.

[9] Some scholars, like ibn Hajr in Fat-hul-Baaree and others refer to a position attributed to some of the early scholars, like Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Sufyaan ath-Thowree: to not explain these texts and leave them as they are, so that their effects of tarheeb (scaring people) from the actions remains fully effective.  It is also mentioned that they disliked ta’weel, explaining the texts, like kufr doona kufr, partial not complete negation of eemaan, etc.  The following points are vital to understand this point, as it has confused people of late:

a) The principle of dar’ al-mafaasid must be kept in mind.  Meaning, no harmful understanding of Islaam should be concluded as a result.  Meaning the people who are being addressed are not led into making takfeer of other Muslims for example.

b) This is restricted to admonitions and exhortations, keeping in mind the level of understanding of the audience.

c) When academically teaching the religious rulings on these actions, the proper breakdown must be given.

d) No false conclusions may be added when used as an admontion, rather the math-hab of Ahmad and Sufyaan during admonitions was to NOT EXPLAIN THE TEXT, to let it scare the people, keeping to the wording used in the text.  (Keep in mind the overlapping that exists between translation and explanation.)

Scenarios for practical applications of these guidelines:

1) You are a khateeb giving the Friday khutbah.  Killing is widespread in your area.  Some Muslims are even killing each other.  So you scream upon the minbar, “Be warned of KUFR, dear Muslims!! Fighting another Muslim is KUFR!  The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) said, “Do not turn into kuffaar after me (my death), by striking each other’s necks!!” and so on, without explaining that the meaning is actually a major sin that does not expel a person from Islaam.  Again, so long as no mafsadah (harm) is involved, this is the way of admonition attributed to some of the Salaf.

2) You are teaching new Muslims their religion, and they ask you about some of the texts mentioned.  You respond by saying, “Killing is kufr, the qattaat (tale-carrier) will not enter Paradise, the murderer is in the Hellfire… this is what is in the Book and the Sunnah!”   As a result, there is no distinction between their beliefs and the beliefs of the Khawaarij, which is a major mafsadah (harm).  Based on this, they now pronounce takfeer on major sinners, and you are accountable for that because you did not teach them the meanings of the texts in light of the other texts, rather you kept the knowledge of the other texts to yourself and thus misled them. 

“Whoever is asked about something of knowledge and hides it will be made to wear a bridle of Fire on the Day of Standing.”

So how much more obvious would the error be when someone not only mentions the text without explaining it in light of the other texts properly, but mentions the text with a false explanation that aids the beleifs of the Khawaarij!!  What if it was in an “Islaam 101 type book” used in Islaamic Studies classes for English-speaking teenagers?!

3) You are active in conveying knowledge to non-Arabs and you consider using what has been attributed to Sufyaan and Ahmad as an approach.  When reviewing the mafaasid, in light of the idea of your audience not having much access to the scholars or their writings, due to a language barrier, and many of them are new Muslims, and thus their level of understanding is basic (most of them), you decide to only mention these texts with their full explanation, fearing the harms that could result in leaving the texts alone, even if it means sacrificing a chance to scare people away from certain sins by mentioning the text of punishment without explaining its full meaning.  This is a responsible and mature decision, based on an accepted fiqh principle, taqdeem dar’ al-mafaasid (giving precedence to keeping harms away over establishing something positive).  This is what I would advise all of my brothers involved in da’wah with: that they always consider the level of their audience, the least of them in understanding, and speak to them on their levels.

I pray that these words benefit some of the students and callers to Islaam, and may Allaah guide us all to correct statements and actions.

Written by: Moosaa Richardson

ST Archives: 04-30-2010

21 thoughts on “Guidelines in Understanding Texts that Warn of Severe Punishments

  1. assalaamu alaykum please I want you to explain the hadith of the prophet which says all innovation are misguided and all misguid are all in hellfire….. does it means forever if one dies on it without repenting..please I need reply

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaam wa rahmatullaah. Some innovations take one outside of Islaam, like attributing a son to Allaah, rejecting Qadr, or calling upon the dead to intercede on one’s behalf. These innovations are in the Hellfire, and all those who do them will be in the Hellfire unless they repent. If a person dies on this kind of innovation without having repented, he shall not be forgiven, and he shall remain in the Fire forever. Allaah’s Refuge is sought..

      Other types of innovation are sinful, yet they do not take a person outside of Islaam. Yet because they are sinful, they lead a person to the Hellfire. We understand this kind of innovation how we generally understand the threats of punishments mentioned in the texts of the Quran and the Sunnah for various sins. A person may be forgiven by Allaah because of his towheed, or he may be punished in the Hellfire for a time and then purified from the sin, after which he shall enter Paradise.

      • jazakaallahu for your quick respond barakallahu fikum…..please can you give me some link to read more on the rulings concerning bidah ….so that I can understand the one which is kufr or shirk and one which is sin .and please is using spoons instead of the three finger to eat a bidah

          • assalaamu alaykum please I thought the hadith command us to use our hand due to the reward receive when you lick the hand before washing it and if that is case is it allow to use spoon because when you use spoon you can’t lick the hand again

          • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. We have been commanded to use our right hand, and we have been forbidden from eating with the left hand. When one uses utensils, he is using his right hand. There is no prohibition of using spoons and forks (with the right hand), and it is not something specific to the non-Muslims. (See this fatwa from the Permanent Committee, and I recall the same from Shaykh Al-Albaanee.) So the spoon or fork is seen as an extension of one’s hand and it is licked clean, like one would lick his fingers clean if he ate without a utensil. There is nothing about this which is against the Sunnah, and Allaah knows best.

            I remember witnessing Jamaa’at at-Tableegh going to extremes about this issue, shaming people who would eat with a spoon or a fork, saying they have opposed the Sunnah and imitated the non-Muslims’ traditions, etc.

  2. assalaamu alaykum I have check the fatwa …..jazakaallahu khair for the respond and the attention you gave me

  3. Assalamu Alaikum. After the recent Kenyan mall shooting done by evil Al-Shabab, a prominent Muslim tweeter was asked, “Who are the real mujahideen these days?” He replied: “As far as I can make out none in the wars going on. Killers of women and children are not even Muslims. Stay away from all of them.” What is the ruling on making such a statement?

    • wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. This is takfeer (expelling people from the fold of Islaam) because of a major sin, which is a distinguishing trait of the Khawaarij. While we could say, “People who kill innocent women and children do not represent Islaam,” we (Ahlus-Sunnah) consider Muslims who murder to be faasiqs (sinful Muslims), who can face severe consequences in the Hereafter for their actions. We openly disassociate ourselves from their shameful actions, declaring Islaam free of such corruption. Yet, to declare them outside of Islaam because of murder is a clear violation of basic Muslim beliefs. And Allaah is the One who grants success.

      • And as a reminder, Muslims should avoid twitter specifically, an evil platform that has been set up by the enemies of Islaam to harm Islaam and the Muslims. While twitter is simply social media in the West, and people tweet away mindlessly about music and entertainment, twitter in the Middle East is the choice platform for political turmoil, demostrations, protests, and the broad promotion of political activists made to take the place of the scholars. Due to these harms and others, the Grand Muftee, Shaykh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez Aal Shaykh, has been advising the Muslims for almost two years to get off of twitter, as it is not a suitable medium for the spread of Islaam, and Allaah knows best. [Review his khutbah against twitter here.]

  4. I was reading a piece on the importance of wearing Hijab where the writer wrote:

    “When a Muslim woman chooses not to observe hijaab she is doing the following things:

    1. Directly disobeying Allah’s order and breaking the Sunnah of His Messenger (SAS)

    2. Denying the Ayaat of the Qur’an and the order of Allah
    a. The one who denies the Ayaat of the Qur’an has committed Kufr.

    3. Obeying her vanity and nafs instead of Allah for which the Qur’an says:
    a. 25:43/44 Have you (O Muhammad) seen him who takes as his ilah (god) his own vain desire? Would you then be a Wakil over him?? Or do you think that most of them hear and understand? They are only cattle – nay they are even farther astray from the Path (worse than cattle). As you can see the Qur’an calls this shirk and so the one who disobeys Allah and instead obeys their nafs is committing shirk.

    4. So you see, the choice is between shirk and kufr. Take your pick. They both lead to the same place.

    5. Submitting herself to Sarkozy and others like him instead of to her Creator and Sustainer

    6. Opening herself to all that comes the way of those who become the slaves of men

    7. Losing her dignity, respect, honor, differentiation and power as a Muslim woman”

    Are Point 2 and 4 correct?

    • I would advise firstly that you restrict your sources of learning Islaam to only trustworthy sources. If you do not heed this, the result will be teachings like this one affecting you. Points 2, 3, and 4 are clear teachings of the Khawaarij Sect. If the person who wrote the article is ignorant of that, he/she must be advised to stop speaking on behalf Islaam until he/she is educated properly enough. Otherwise, if the writer is knowledgeable then it is worse, a khaarijee opening calling to the deviant and harmful way of the Khawaarij. In either case, the writer of such an article must stop writing, and people must stop reading his/her material. Ahlus-Sunnah may issue strong warnings to our sisters who do not cover properly, we might rebuke them and not defend them, however, we do not declare improperly dressed women outside of Islaam based on their clothing.

  5. Is it correct that a Muslim Muwahhid who dies WITHOUT repenting from other major sins(alcoholism, etc.) will be either:-
    1. Forgiven completely by Allaah WITHOUT any punishment at all or
    2. Punished for a while by Allaah in Hell(in accordance with his sins and Allaah’s perfect justice) and then finally put in Jannah?

    Ahsan Allahu ilayka!

  6. السلام عليكم

    A recent article on [a site Muslims are to avoid] stated:

    “The position of Sunni Islam that as long as someone accepts the Declaration of Faith (There is nobody worthy of worship other than Allah and Muhammad (S) is His Prophet) then he is considered to be a Muslim no matter what else he believes in or does. Not to say that everything that is done is accepted as correct but it is accepted that it doesn’t negate his Islam and his actions don’t constitute apostasy. This is and has always been the position of the major scholars of Islam based on which people with some very questionable practices are permitted to come for Haj and are not turned away claiming that they have left Islam by their actions. This remains the situation to this day even with the much maligned hardline Saudi regime, which doesn’t stop anyone from making Haj, though many of their scholars have some hard things to say about the Shia and others.”

    Later on in the same article it was stated:

    “Allah said about killing of Muslims: (Then he quoted the ayah from Sarah An-Nisaa)

    Nisa 4: 93.     And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell to abide therein, and the Wrath and the Curse of Allah are upon him, and a great punishment is prepared for him.

    What do you say about someone who is cursed by Allah and is promised the Hellfire forever – is he a Muslim or not? For a Muslim to kill another Muslim is to leave Islam and enter the Hellfire.”

    Both of these statements seem to be contradictory to me. Could you give your view on both statements? Jazak Allah khairaa.

    • وعليك السلام ورحمة الله

      They go from one extreme negating that anyone leaves Islam no matter what he says or does, so long as he says the shahaadah, claiming it to be the view of the majority (!) … from the Murji’ah Cult’s beliefs, all the way to the other side of impermissible deviation into the beliefs of the Khawaarij Cult, that someone who kills a Muslim is a disbeliever! Amazing.

      Regarding the Murji’ah and their beliefs, then the scholars have TOTAL CONSENSUS that a person’s Islam can be nullified by certain statements, actions, or beliefs. For example, if someone were to speak with insult or mockery of Allaah or His Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم), then he is a disbleliever by total consensus, with the exception of someone who was coerced. Books of all math-habs discuss issues of “nawaaqidh al-Islaam” or “asbaab ar-riddah” in detail, and these are the matters which nullify a person’s ascription to Islam.

      Regarding the Khawaarij Cult and their beliefs, one of them being that murder takes someone outside of Islam, then Allaah addresses Muslims who fight & kill each other in Soorah al-Hujuraat and affirms the description of “believer” for them, while they are fighting & killing each other. Ahlus-Sunnah hold that murderers are sinful and transgressive, but not outside of Islaam.

      Such forums are chaotic places of terrible misguidance, as they would only return to deviant people like Yasir Qadhi and Almaghrib Institute when they seek out answers. And Allaah knows best.

  7. Assalaamu Alaikum Brother Moosaa, how do we understand the phrase of the messenger of Allaah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) when he said about a person “Will not smell the fragrance of paradise.” Does this mean he is banned from Paradise forever?

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah. Its a threat of punishment and not absolute, as Allaah forgives all sins less than shirk for whomever He chooses. This is the position of Ahlus-Sunnah, in opposition to the Khawaarij Cult.

  8. Assalamualaykum warahmatullah. Jazakallahu khairaa akhii for responding to my previous questions elsewhere.

    I had a question :

    When we say, the doer of a major sin, such as stealing, is within islaam but deficient in his imaan as imaan decreases with disobedience.
    And when we say, if such a person dies without doing tawbah, then he is under the will of Allah, if Allah wills, he will forgive him and if He wills, he will punish him in fire for a period after which he will be brought out by way of الشفاعة or rahmah of Allah.

    My question is, is the above holds true for one who falls into just one major sin (in our example stealing), or it will also be same for anyone who falls into many many major sins and dies without tawbah, fr eg., the man who steals, takes ribaa, consumes alcohol, speaks lies, backbites, doesnt obey parents – yet he doesn’t do istihlaal of any one of them, he accepts each of above is haraam.
    Do we say the same for this person as well? Within islaam but deficient in imaan; and he on the day of judgement is under will of Allah and if Allah wills, He will forgive him in the beginning itself and if allah wills….. Upto he will ultimately enter jannah

    Barakallahu feek brother

    • Wa ‘alaykas-salaamu wa rahmatullaah wa barakaatuh. Yes, that is exactly what Ahlus-Sunnah say on this topic. ِIn a hadeeth in the two Saheehs, Aboo Tharr (may Allaah be pleased with him) expressed his amazement at this fact, saying (what means) “Even if he steals AND commits zinaa?!” The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam) confirmed this three times, that yes, even if he steals AND commits zinaa, adding the third time, what means “Whether or not Aboo Tharr agrees!”

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