What is major and minor “Kufr” (unbelief)? Will you explain it by giving examples? How can we protect ourselves from all kinds of unbelief?

The Details of the Question
What is major and minor “Kufr” (unbelief)? Will you explain it by giving examples? How can we protect ourselves from all kinds of unbelief?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In Islamic resources, there exist the concepts of “major shirk (polytheism), minor shirk (hypocrisy)". There exist no concepts of major unbelief-minor unbelief. The concept of minor unbelief has been put forward recently.

What is expressed as minor unbelief in the question is generally used in the sense of “ingratitude”. This word is preferred so that warnings will be more effective in terms of guidance.

As far as we know, according to the information in the Islamic resources, the concepts of “unbelief based on creed and unbelief based on deeds” are appropriate. 

It is not appropriate to name unbelief based on creed as “major unbelief” and unbelief based on deeds as “minor unbelief”. According to those people who have those claims, unbelief based on creed makes that person exit Islam. Unbelief based on deeds does not make that person exit Islam. Such a category reminds the resuscitated views of the school of “Murjia” rather than Ahl as-Sunnah.

Belief and unbelief are elements regarding the heart. Deeds are things that make creed (belief) and unbelief appear with its outward dimensions. For instance, it is decided that a person who performs prayers has belief in his heart. It is decided that a person who worships idols has unbelief/polytheism in his heart.

If a person shows attitudes that necessitate unbelief in terms of creed or deeds, it is enough for that person to become murtad (to exit Islam). A person who utters a word or does a deed that necessitates unbelief no matter whether it is in terms of stubbornness, mocking or creed he becomes a murtad/unbeliever. A person who regards alcoholic drinks as halal, who does not accept daily fard prayers, who curses Allah, prophets and angels is regarded the same. (see al-Fiqhu’l-Islami, 6/183-184).

Islam decides and judges based on the outward appearance. That is, the belief identity of a person can only be determined through his words and deeds. The aim and intention of a person in his inner world and heart is something between him and Allah. Therefore, if there is something that necessitates unbelief in the words and deeds of a person, this person is regarded as an unbeliever in terms of outward appearance and law. There may not be such a state in his inner world and intention. We will not be responsible for that decision because we cannot know his inner world. It is something between Allah and that person. Today, there are many people who are Muslims in terms of their intentions and hearts but who are unbelievers in terms of their outward appearances and words. It originates from ignorance.

Answering the question, "Unbelief is an attribute of the heart. So, how can wearing “zunnar” (a rope girdle worn by eastern Christians and Jews) and the hat, which is compared to it, be unbelief?”, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states the following, shedding light on the issue:

The Sharia acknowledges the outward signs of hidden matters. It even recognizes apparent causes that have no reason. Therefore, since some girdles hinder bowing in prayer and some hats prevent prostration, it deems the wearing of them a reason for unbelief.

Similarly, they both infer the renouncing of worship and imitation of unbelievers, betokening appreciation of their outlook and nationality. Since the hidden matter is not decisively disproved, judgment is made according to its outward signs. (see İşaratu’l-İ’caz (signs of Miraculousness, the interpretation of verse 6 of the chapter al-Baqara)

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