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Takfiri: Wikis


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A Takfiri (from the Arabic word تكفيري) is a Muslim who practices Takfir, which is to accuse other Muslims of apostasy. The term Takfir derives from the word kafir (impiety) and is described as when " who is, or claims to be, a Muslim is declared impure."[1] Those to whom Takfir is applied are considered excommunicated in the eyes of the Muslim community.

According to Islamic or Sharia law, they can no longer benefit from the protection of the law, and as such are condemned to death. The severe implications of such punishment has resulted in a rigorous set of rules being formulated under orthodox Islam to determine whether an accused party is guilty of apostasy or not.

In principle the only group authorised to declare a Muslim a kafir are the ulema, and this only once all the prescribed legal precautions have been taken.[1] However a growing number of splinter Salafist groups - labelled by some scholars as Salafi-Takfiris[2] - have split from the orthodox method of establishing takfir through the processes of the law, and have reserved the right to declare apostasy themselves.


Takfiris and Terrorism

Takfiris have been classified by some commentators as violent offshoots of the Salafi movement, yet while Salafism is seen as a form of 'fundamentalist Islam', it is not an inherently violent movement and does not condone terrorism.[3] Takfiris, on the other hand, condone acts of violence as legitimate methods of achieving religious or political goals.

Takfiris believe in Islam strictly according to their interpretation of Muhammad's and his companions' alleged actions and statements, and do not accept any deviation from their path; they reject any form of reform or change from the religion as it was revealed in the time of the prophet. Those who change their religion from Islam to any other way of life, or deny any of the fundamental foundations of Islam, or who worship, follow or obey anything other than Islam, become those upon whom the takfiris declare the "takfir", calling them apostates from Islam and so no longer Muslim.

Takfiris practice a number of beliefs that separate them from the Salafist movement. The most obvious example is the aforementioned labelling of fellow Muslims as kafir and the practice of declaring takfir/damnation upon them—a legacy from the notorious medieval Islamic writer, Ibn Taymiyyah the Takirist. This belief allows Takfiris to justify the use of violence against fellow Muslims; a contemporary example being the sectarian violence perpetrated in the Iraqi Insurgency.

Takfiris also reject the traditional Muslim duty to obey one's legitimate rulers in all manners that do not contradict Sharia, as sedition is viewed as a great danger to a nation. However Takfiris consider all political authority that does not abide by their interpretation of Islam as illegitimate and apostate; a view which closely mirrors Qutb's views on jahiliyyah.[4] As such, violence against such regimes is considered legitimate.

Takfiri views on suicide also differ significantly from that of orthodox Islam. Takfiris believe that one who deliberately kills themselves whilst attempting to kill enemies is a martyr (Shahid) and therefore goes straight to heaven. As such all sin is absolved when a person is martyred, allowing carte blanche for the indiscriminate killing of non-combatants, for example.[5]

Some Takfiris are not bound by the usual religious constraints regarding wearing a beard, drinking alcohol, or eating pork when such restrictions would interfere with waging effective jihad. To Takfiris, strict adherence to those laws precludes necessary covert action in defense of Islam. Because Takfiris "blend in," they can organize, plan, and take action necessitated by the overriding duty of Jihad with less risk of identification, interference, or interception.

Opponents of the takfiris, especially anti-takfiri Islamic hardliners often view them as modern-day analogues of the Khawarij, a seventh-century off-shoot Islamic sect which waged war against the Caliphate.

Takfiris, on the other hand, exist in every Muslim sect, large or small, and often their fingers point not only to those who supposedly belong to a 'rival' sect, but also to those within their own; an example to that is the clear enmity between the Sufis and Salafi (both groups of which go under the umbrella of Sunni Islam.) 'Takfir' also occurs within the enmity between some pro-Saudi Salafis and the Jihadis (like Bin Ladin's group, al-Qaeda),with some Jihadis making takfir of the Salafis. Among Shia groups, takfir occurs in regards to the Sahaba and as is the case toward the followers of the major Shia Ayatollah Fadlallah of Lebanon (whose latest published opinions that review many beliefs deeply characteristic of Shia Islam have caused uproar and fierce opposition on the part of other Arab and Iranian clerics). There also exists the example of Twelver Shia declaring the takfir of the Shaykhi Shia small sect (found mainly in Basra, Iraq).

The term Takfiri was brought to a more public prominence by the BBC investigative journalist Peter Taylor, in his 2005 BBC television series The New Al Qaeda. However the term was used frequently by proponents of Salafism before this.

See also


  1. ^ a b Kepel, Giles; Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, I.B. Tauris, 2003, page 31
  2. ^ Oliveti, Vincenzo; Terror's Source: The Ideology of Wahhabi-Salafism and its Consequences, Amadeus Books, 2002
  3. ^ Oliveti, Terror's Source, (2002), page 45
  4. ^ Esposito, John L.; Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam, Oxford University Press 2002, page 59/60.
  5. ^ Oliveti, Terror's Source, (2002), page 47/48.


  • Jason Burke, Al Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, Penguin, 2004
  • John L. Esposito, Unholy War: Terror in the name of Islam, Oxford University Press, 2002
  • Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, I.B. Tauris, 2003
  • Vincenzo Oliveti, Terror's Source: The Ideology of Wahhabi-Salafism and its Consequences, Amadeus Books, 2002

External links

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