What Are the Impediments to Takfir?

Answered By Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad


What are the impediments to Takfir (declaring someone a disbeliever)?


All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and prayers and peace be upon the most noble of the prophets and messengers, and upon his Family and his Companions and the followers.


Being hasty in declaring someone a disbeliever is among the most dangerous matters among Muslims, both in the past and the present. It leads to the fragmentation of the Muslim Umma and division among its individuals, resulting in hatred and conflict.

The Noble Quran directed Muslims to unite upon this religion and not to be divided, to gain both material and spiritual strength, as this unity is beneficial for their worldly life and the hereafter. Allah (Most High) says, “And hold firmly together to the rope of Allah and do not be divided.” [Quran, 3:103]

The principle is to consider a Muslim to remain upon his Islam until evidence to the contrary is established. Due to the great danger inherent in Takfir, the Most Noble Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) warned against it, saying, “If a man says to his brother, ‘O disbeliever,’ then surely one of them is such. If he was as he said, then it is as he said, but if not, it rebounds upon him.” [Muslim]

Impediments to Takfir

Therefore, scholars have taken a firm stance against being hasty in Takfir and have established laws to prevent it, which we can refer to as the impediments to Takfir. We mention the most important of them:


Whoever believes in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, the Last Day, and in destiny, both its good and its evil, in a general sense, and believes in Islam in general, but is ignorant of the details of what he needs to learn, we do not declare him an infidel due to his ignorance.

Instead, he must learn what is necessary, and he must learn what is obligatory, and it is recommended to learn beyond that. For example, a wealthy Muslim who is ignorant about paying Zakat on his wealth; his ignorance does not justify declaring him an infidel, but he must learn how to pay Zakat on his wealth.

Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

If someone utters a statement that could imply disbelief or could be interpreted otherwise, Takfir should be withheld, and their statement should be interpreted in the best possible manner. Also, if there is a dispute over whether a statement is disbelief, even if there is a weak report, Takfir should be withheld, and it should be assumed that the individual is not a disbeliever. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]

Scholars proficient in Islamic jurisprudence, language, and customs should be consulted to determine the correct interpretation and understanding of reports and statements.

Jurisprudential Disagreement

The existence of disagreement among jurists on issues that are subject to ijtihad (independent reasoning) prevents declaring any mujtahid (one who exercises ijtihad) an infidel, even if their ijtihad is considered weak or incorrect by another mujtahid.

For example, the Hanafi school considers reciting Surat al-Fatiha in the third and fourth rak‘a of Dhuhr, ‘Asr, and Isha prayers as sunnah, unlike the Shafi‘i school, which considers it obligatory. From the perspective of a Shafi‘i, a Hanafi’s prayer would be invalid if Surat al-Fatiha is not recited.

This kind of disagreement among the esteemed Imams is numerous and cannot be exhaustively listed, and it is not permissible to declare someone an infidel over jurisprudential issues that rely on the scope of ijtihad within Islamic jurisprudence.

Following a Jurisprudential Opinion

Whoever follows a jurisprudential opinion on a matter, even if it deviates from the consensus or the four Sunni schools of thought, and even if the opinion is unusual or considered inauthentic, this prevents their excommunication.

For example, someone who follows the opinion of wiping over thin socks in ablution, which is an opinion not held by any of the four imams – Abu Hanifa, Malik, Shafi‘i, and Ahmad, Allah have mercy on them.

Error or Slip of the Tongue

If someone inadvertently utters words of disbelief without intention due to extreme joy, astonishment, or otherwise, this prevents their excommunication.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) spoke about a man who lost his camel in the desert and made a mistake in his expression when he found it, saying:

“Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant when he turns penitently towards Him than one of you would be if his riding-beast which was carrying his food and drink escaped from him in a waterless desert and he, despairing of recovering it, went and lay down in the shade of a tree, then suddenly saw it standing beside him and, seizing its halter, said from excess of joy, ‘O God, Thou art my servant and I am Thy lord’, making a mistake from excess of joy.” [Muslim]


Someone who utters disbelief while intoxicated, whether the intoxication was caused by something lawful or unlawful, this state of intoxication prevents their excommunication because their mental faculties were impaired. [Ibn ‘Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]


If someone is coerced into uttering words of disbelief, and they utter them while their heart is secure in faith, this prevents their excommunication, according to the verse:

“Whoever disbelieves in Allah after their belief—not those who are forced while their hearts are firm in faith (…).” [Quran, 16:106]


We see scholars establishing many impediments to ensure that no one hastily engages in the matter of Takfir, which has led to missteps that should not have occurred and misconceptions that should not have arisen. It has confused some to the point of attributing disbelief to individuals who are not disbelievers, resulting in serious consequences.

Therefore, Muslims must beware of being lax in the matter of Takfir, fear Allah their Lord, and be accountable for their statements.

And Allah is the Guide to the path of truth.

Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad

Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Fayez Awad, born in Damascus, Syria, in 1965, pursued his Islamic studies in the mosques and institutes of Damascus. A graduate of the Islamic University of Medina in 1985, he holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Bahauddin Zakariya University in Pakistan.

He has extensive experience developing curricula and enhancing the teaching of various academic courses, including conducting intensive courses. Shaykh Awad has taught Fiqh, Usul al-Fiqh, Quranic sciences, the history of legislation, inheritance laws, and more at several institutes and universities such as Al-Furqan Institute for Islamic Sciences and Majma‘ al-Fath al-Islami in Damascus.

He is a lecturer at the Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih Waqf University in Istanbul, teaching various Arabic and Islamic subjects, and teaches at numerous Islamic institutes in Istanbul. Shaykh Awad is a member of the Association of Syrian Scholars, a founding member of the Zayd bin Thabit Foundation, a member of the Syrian Scholars Association, and a member of the Academic Council at the Iman Center for Teaching the Sunna and Quran.

Among his teachers from whom he received Ijazat are his father, Shaykh Muhammad Muhiyiddin Awad, Shaykh Muhiyiddin al-Kurdi, Shaykh Muhammad Karim Rajih, Shaykh Usama al-Rifai, Shaykh Ayman Suwaid, Shaykh Ahmad al-Qalash, Shaykh Muhammad Awwama, and Shaykh Mamduh Junayd.