109 - Al Kafirun (The disbelievers)

7 Tafsir(s) related to verse 109.1

Al-Jalalayn

Say: ‘O disbelievers!

Al-Tustari

Say, "O disbelievers!He said:The mentioning of the [command] Say, is merely in response to the request put [to the Prophet ] by the disbelievers, "Worship our god for a month and we will worship your God for a year." At their saying this, God, Exalted is He, sent down this sūra. He said, Say, "O disbelievers! They returned with, "What is the matter with you, O Muḥammad?" He replied [with God"s words]:

Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi

(Say: O disbelievers! ") [109:1-6]. These verses was revealed about a group of people from the Quraysh who said to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace: "Come follow our religion and we will follow yours. You worship our idols for a year and we worship you Allah the following year. In this way, if what you have brought us is better than what we have, we would partake of it and take our share of goodness from it; and if what we have is better than what you have brought, you would partake of it and take your share of goodness from it". He said: "Allah forbid that I associate anything with Him", and so Allah, exalted is He, revealed (Say: O disbelievers!) up to the end of the Surah. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, then went to the Sacred Sanctuary, which was full of people, and recited to them the Surah. It was at that point that they despaired of him.

Ibn Al Kathir

The Declaration of Innocence from Shirk

This Surah is the Surah of disavowal from the deeds of the idolators. It commands a complete disavowal of that. Allah's statement,

قُلْ يأَيُّهَا الْكَـفِرُونَ

(Say: "O disbelievers!'') includes every disbeliever on the face of the earth, however, this statement is particularly directed towards the disbelievers of the Quraysh. It has been said that in their ignorance they invited the Messenger of Allah to worship their idols for a year and they would (in turn) worship his God for a year. Therefore, Allah revealed this Surah and in it

He commanded His Messenger to disavow himself from their religion completely

Allah said,

لاَ أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ

(I worship not that which you worship.) meaning, statues and rival gods.

وَلاَ أَنتُمْ عَـبِدُونَ مَآ أَعْبُدُ

(Nor will you worship whom I worship.) and He is Allah Alone, Who has no partner. So the word Ma (what) here means Man (who). Then Allah says,

وَلاَ أَنَآ عَابِدٌ مَّا عَبَدتُّمْ وَلاَ أَنتُمْ عَـبِدُونَ مَآ أَعْبُدُ

(And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping. Nor will you worship whom I worship.) meaning, `I do not worship according to your worship, which means that I do not go along with it or follow it. I only worship Allah in the manner in which He loves and is pleased with.' Thus, Allah says,

وَلاَ أَنتُمْ عَـبِدُونَ مَآ أَعْبُدُ

(Nor will you worship whom I worship.) meaning, `you do not follow the commands of Allah and His Legislation in His worship. Rather, you have invented something out of the promptings of your own souls.' This is as Allah says,

إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلاَّ الظَّنَّ وَمَا تَهْوَى الاٌّنفُسُ وَلَقَدْ جَآءَهُم مِّن رَّبِّهِمُ الْهُدَى

(They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the guidance from their Lord!) (53:23) Therefore, the disavowal is from all of what they are involved. For certainly the worshipper must have a god whom he worships and set acts of worship that he follows to get to him. So the Messenger and his followers worship Allah according to what He has legislated. This is why the statement of Islam is "There is no God worthy of being worshipped except Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.'' This means that there is no (true) object of worship except Allah and there is no path to Him (i.e., way of worshipping Him) other than that which the Messenger came with. The idolators worship other than Allah, with acts of worship that Allah has not allowed. This is why the Messenger said to them,

لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِىَ دِينِ

(To you be your religion, and to me my religion.) This is similar to Allah's statement,

وَإِن كَذَّبُوكَ فَقُل لِّى عَمَلِى وَلَكُمْ عَمَلُكُمْ أَنتُمْ بَرِيئُونَ مِمَّآ أَعْمَلُ وَأَنَاْ بَرِىءٌ مِّمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ

(And if they belie you, say: "For me are my deeds and for you are your deeds! You are innocent of what I do, and I am innocent of what you do!'') (10:41) and He said,

لَنَآ أَعْمَـلُنَا وَلَكُمْ أَعْمَـلُكُمْ

(To us our deeds, and to you your deeds.) (28:55) Al-Bukhari said, "It has been said,

لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ

(To you be your religion.) means disbelief.

وَلِىَ دِينِ

(and to me my religion.) means, Islam. This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Qul ya Ayyuhal-Kafirun.

Kashf Al-Asrar

Say: "O unbelievers!"

ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās said that no surah is more difficult and harsher for Satan than this surah, because it is sheer tawḤīd and disavowal of associationism.

TawḤīd is of two sorts: the tawḤīd of attestation and the tawḤīd of recognition. The tawḤīd of attestation is to say one, and the tawḤīd of recognition is know one.

"To say one" is to bear witness to God's oneness and purity in Essence and attributes. In Es- sence He is pure of spouse, child, and partner, and in attributes He is pure of similar, equal, and pointer. His attributes are not intelligible, their "how" is not understood, comprehended, or lim- ited. They are outside of imagination and understanding, and no one knows how they are.

"To know one" is to know that He is one in blessings and bounties, that the giver and bestower is He, and that He is one in apportioning and beneficence. It is He who is one in word and deed, He who is one in bounty and gentleness, He who is one in mercy and favor. He is one-gratitude and favors belong to no one but Him. No one has power and strength but He, and no one has with- holding and bestowal but He.

When the rays of the sun of tawḤīd shine on the faithful, tawḤīd-voicing servant, his mark is that he is watchful over his rest and his movement. He does not take one breath without the permis- sion of the Shariah and the Tariqah. He weighs his outwardness in the scales of the Shariah and pulls his inwardness into the playing field of the Tariqah. He keeps his center point pure of relying upon either of them, for, as has been said, "The felicitous person is he who has an outwardness conforming to the Shariah, an inwardness following the Haqiqah, and a secret core quit of relying on his Shariah and his Haqiqah." If he should rely one iota on himself, this is sheer Zoroastrianism and utter Judaism.

O chevalier, if you fill up everything from the highest of the high to what is beneath the earth with acts of obedience and worship, that would not be equal to letting go of one iota of your self- hood so that you do not see yourself.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

A few points in this verse are particularly noteworthy:

(1)Although the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) has been commanded to tell this to the disbelievers plainly, the theme that follows makes it explicit that every believer should tell the disbelievers plainly what has been said in the following verses; so much so that the person who has just believed and repented of kufr is also bound to express similarly his disgust with and disapproval of the creed and rites of worship and gods of kufr. Thus, though the first addressee of the word qul (say) is the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) himself, the command is not restricted to him alone but it reaches every believer through him.

(2)The word "kafir' is no abuse, which might have been used for the addressees of this verse, but it implies the one who refuses to believe, or is an unbeliever. As against it the word "mu min" is used for the believer. Therefore, the Holy Prophet's saying, by Allah's command, "O disbelievers,... ', in fact, means: "O you, who have refused to believe in my apostleship and in the teachings brought by me." Likewise. when a believer uses this word, it will imply those who do not believe in the Holy Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings),

(3) The word used is "O kafirs" and not "O mushriks"; therefore, the addressees are not only the mushriks but all those people who do not acknowledge Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) as Allah's Messenger and the teachings and guidance brought by him as the teaching and guidance given by Allah Himself, whether they be Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians or the disbelievers, polytheists and pagans of the entire world. There is no reason why this address be restricted to the pagans of Quraish or of Arabia only.

(4) To address the deniers with the word "O kafirs" is just like addressing certain people as "O enemies", or "O opponents". Such an address is not, in fact, directed to the person of the addressee but it is made on the basis of their characteristic of enmity and opposition, and lasts only until they are so characterized. If one of them gives up enmity and opposition, or turns a friend and supporter, he no longer remains the addressee of this word. Likewise, the address of "O kafirs" to the people also is in view of their characteristic of kufr and not their person. This address would be perpetual for him who continues to be a kafir till death, but the one who believes will no longer be its addressee.

(5) Many scholars from among the commentators have expressed the opinion that in this Surah the address of "O disbelievers" applied only to a few persons of Quraish, who were visiting the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) with proposals of compromise regarding religion and about whom Allah had informed His Messenger than they would not believe. They have formed this opinion for two reasons. First, that it is followed by La a `budu ma to `budun: "I do not worship him or those whom you worship". They say that this does not apply to the Jews and Christians, for they worship Allah. Second, that this is also followed by: wa la antum `abiduna ma a`bud "Nor are you worshipers of Him Whom I worship". Their reasoning is that this statement does not apply to the people who at the revelation of this Surah were disbelievers but later believed. Both these arguments are incorrect. As for these verses, their explanation that follows will show that they do not bear the meaning which has been understood from them. Here, to point out the error of the reasoning it would be enough to say that if the addressees of this Surah were only these people, why then does this Surah still continue to be recited when they are dead and gone from the world long long ago? And what was the need of making this Surah a part of the Qur'an permanently so that the Muslims should continue to read it for ever afterwards?

This includes all those deities whom the disbelievers and the polytheists have been, and are still, worshiping everywhere in the world, whether they are the angels, the jinn, prophets, saints, spirits of the living or dead men, or the sun, the moon, stars, animals, trees, rivers, idols and imaginary gods and goddesses. One may say that the pagans of Arabia acknowledged Allah also as a Deity and the other pagans of the world also have never disacknowledged Allah as a Deity till today. As for the followers of the earlier scriptures, they also acknowledge Allah alone as the real Deity. How then can it be correct to exonerate oneself froth the worship of all the deities of all those people, without' exception, when Allah too is included among them?

The answer is that if Allah is worshiped along with others regarding Him as a Deity among other deities, the believer in Tauhid will inevitably express his immunity from this worship, for in his sight Allah is oat a Deity out of a collection of deities, but He alone is the real Deity, and the worship of the collection of deities is no worship of Allah, although worship of Allah also is included in it. The Qur'an has clearly stated that Allah's worship is only that which does not have any tinge of the worship of another and in which man makes his worship exclusively Allah's. "And the only Command they were given, was to worship Allah, making their religion sincerely His, turning all their attention towards Him." (Al-Bayyinah: 5).

This subject has been explained at many places in the Qur'an forcefully; for example, see Au-Nisa': 145-146, AI-A`raf :29, AzZumar: 2, 3, 11, 14, 15, A1-Mu'min: 14, 64-66. It has been further explained in a Hadith Qudsi (i.e. Divine Word revealed through the mouth of the Prophet) in which the messenger of Allah says: "Allah says: I am Self-Sufficient of the association of every associate most of all. Whoever performed an act in which he associated another also with Me, 1 am free of it, and the entire act is for him who was associated." (Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Ibn Majah). Thus, acknowledging Allah as one of the two, three or many gods and serving and worshiping others along with Him is, in fact, the real kufr, declaration of immunity from which is the object of this Surah.

The words used are: ma a'budu. The word ma in Arabic, is generally used for lifeless or unintelligent things, and the word man for intelligent and rational beings. The question arises why has ma a `budu been used here instead of man a `budu? The commentators generally give four answers to it:

(1) that ma here is in the meaning of man;

(2) that ma here is in the meaning of alladhi (i.e. which or who);

(3) that in both the sentences ma is in the meaning of a noun of action (masdar) and it means: "I do not perform the kind of worship that you perform, i. e. polytheistic worship, and you do not perform the kind of worship that I perform, i.e. worship of One God;"

(4) that since in the first sentence ma ta'buduna has been used, in the second ma a `budu has been used to keep the style; in both places there is only the uniformity of the word, there is no uniformity of meaning; instances of this are found elsewhere also in the Qur'an. For example, in AI-Baqarah: 194, it has been said: "Therefore, if anyone transgresses a prohibition by attacking you, you may do likewise." Obviously, to transgress likewise in retaliation is no transgression, but the word transgression (in retaliation) Gas been used only for the sake of uniformity in style. In Surah At-Taubah: 67, it has been said: "They forgot Allah, so Allah forgot them", whereas Allah does not forget. what meant to be said is that Allah ignored them. The word nisyan in respect of Allah has been used corresponding to their nisyaa (forgetfulness) only to keep the uniformity of the study.

Although all these four interpretations are correct in their own way, and there is room in Arabic to take all these meanings, yet none of these explains the real object for which ma a'budu has been used instead of man a `budu. As a matter of fact, when man is used for a person in Arabic, it is meant to say or ask something about his person, and when ma is used, it is meant to ask or express something about his characteristics and traits. This can be explained in English by the questions: who is he? and what is he? about a person. When it is asked, who is he? the object is to know something about his person. But when it is asked, what is he? the object is to know whether, for example, he belongs to the army, and if so, what is his rank, or whether he belongs to some teaching organization, and if so, whether he is a lecturer in it, or a reader, or a professor, what science or art subject he teaches, what are his qualifications, etc.

Thus, if in this verse, it was said: La antum abiduna man a `bud, it would mean: "You are not worshipers of the being whom I worship, and in response, the disbelievers and the polytheists could have said that they too believed in the Being of Allah and also worshiped Him. But when it was said: La antum 'abiduna ma a`bud, it meant: "You are not worshipers of the Deity who has the attributes of the Deity whom I worship."

And this is the real point on the basis of which the religion of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) is absolutely distinguish-ed from the religions of all kinds of disbelievers, besides the deniers of God, for his God is utterly different from the God of all of them. The God of some of them is such that He stood in need of rest on the seventh day after having created the world in six days, Who is not God of the universe but God of Israel, Who stands in a special relationship to the people of one particular race, which is not shared by other men, Who wrestles with the Prophet Jacob and cannot throw him, Who has also a son, named Ezra. The God of some others is father of an only son, called Jesus Christ, and He causes His son to be crucified in order to make him an atonement for the sins of others. The God of some has wife and children, but begets only daughters. The God of some assumes human form and shape and living in a human body on the earth works like men. The God of some is merely an Essence, or Cause of causes, or the First Cause, Who after giving the system of the universe the initial push is sitting aside unconcerned, the universe is working by itself according to some relentless laws, and now He and man have nothing to do with each other. In short, even the unbelievers who acknowledge God do not, in fact, acknowledge the God, Who is the Creator,. Master, Disposer, Administrator and Ruler of the entire universe, Who has not only set the system of the universe but is running and controlling it by Himself every moment, Who is above every defect, fault, weakness and error, Who is free from every similitude, every physical limitation, every likeness, Who is Self-Sufficient of every companion and associate, Who has no partner in His Being, attributes, powers and entitlement to worship, Who is far too Holy that He should have children, or should take some one for a son, or should have an exclusive relationship with a community or race, Who is directly related to each individual creature of His as His Providence, Sustainer and Guardian, Who hears the prayers and answers them, Who alone possesses all the powers to give life and death, to cause profit and loss, and to make and mar destinies, Who not only sustains His creatures but also guides each according to its nature and need, Who is not only our God Whom we worship but also enjoins commands and prohibitions through His Prophets and His Books, which we have to obey, before Whom we are accountable for our deeds, Who will resurrect us after death, call us to account and reward and punish us accordingly. No one in the world except for Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) and his followers, is worshiping the God with these attributes. If at all some others also are worshiping God, they are not worshiping the real and true God but the God who is their self-invented, imaginary God.

A section of the commentators is of the view that both these sentences are a repetition of the theme of the first two sentences and the repetition is meant to strengthen the statement in the first two sentences. But many commentators do not regard it as a repetition. They say that a new theme has been expressed in these which is different from the theme of the first two sentences. In our opinion they arc correct in so far as there is no repetition in these sentences, for in these only "nor are you worshipers of Him Whom I worship" Gas been repeated, and this repetition also is not in the sense in which this sentence was used first. But after negating the repetition the meanings that this section of the commentators has given of these two sentences are very different from each other. There is no occasion here to take up and discuss each of the meanings given by the commentators. Avoiding details we shall only discuss the meaning which is correct in our opinion.

In the first sentence, it has been said: "Nor am I a worshiper of those whom you have worshiped." Its theme is absolutely different from the theme of verse 2, in which it was said: "I do not worship those whom you warship," These two things widely differ in two aspects. First, that although there is denial, and a forceful denial, in saying that "I do not, or shall not, do such and such a thing", yet there is much greater force in saying that "1 am not a doer of such and such a thing", for it means: "It is such an evil thing that nothing to say of committing it; it is not possible that I would even think of it, or have intention of doing it." Second, that the sentence "whom you worship" applies to only those gods whom the disbelievers are worshiping now. On the contrary, the sentence "whom you have worshiped" applies to all those gods whom the disbelievers and their forefathers have been worshiping in the past. Now, it is a well known fact that the gods of the polytheists and disbelievers have always been changing and their number increasing and decreasing. In different ages different groups of them have been worshiping different gods and the gods of all the disbelievers have never always been the same everywhere. Therefore, the verse means: "I exonerate myself not only from your gods of today but also from the gods of your forefathers, and I am not a person who would even think of worshiping such gods."

As for the second sentence, although its words in verse 5 are the same as in verse 3, yet its meaning at the two places is different. In verse 3, it follows this sentence: "I do not worship those whom you worship." Therefore, it means: "Nor are you worshipers of the God having the attributes of the One God Whom I worship." And in verse 5, it follows this sentence: "Nor am I a worshiper of those whom you have worshiped." Therefore, it means: "Nor does it seem you would become worshipers of the One God Whom I worship." Or, in other words, "It is not possible that I should become a worshiper of each of those gods whom you and your forefathers have worshiped, and on account of your aversion to adopting worship of One God, instead of many gads, it cannot be expected that you would desist from this wrong worship and will become worshiper of Him Whom I worship."

That is, "My religion is entirely distinct and separate from your religion. I am not a worshiper of your gods and you are not worshipers of my God. I cannot worship your gods and you are not prepared to worship my God, Therefore, you and I can never follow and walk one and the same path together." This is not a message of tolerance to the disbelievers, but a declaration of immunity, disgust with and dissociation from them as long as they are disbelievers. Its object is to disappoint them absolutely and finally that in the matter of religion the party of Allah's Messenger and his followers would ever come to terms with them. This same declaration of immunity and expression of disgust has been made in the Makki Surahs revealed after this Surah successively.

Thus, in Surah Yunus, it was said: "If these people deny you, say to them: 1 am responsible for my deeds and you are responsible for yours: you are not accountable for what I do, and I am not accountable for what you do." (v. 41). Then further on in the same Surah it was said: "O Prophet, say: O mankind, if you are still in doubt concerning my Faith, know that I do not worship those whom you worship beside Allah, but I worship that Allah alone, Who has the power to cause your death." (v. 104).

In Surah Ash-Shu'ara it was said: "If they disobey you, tell them: I am not responsible for what you do." (v. 216).

In Surah Saba it was said: "Say to them: you will not be questioned for the errors we have committed, nor shall we be answerable for what you are doing. Say, our Lord will gather us together, then He will judge between us rightly." (w. 25-26).

In Surah az-Zumar: "Tell them plainly: O my people, do whatever you will, so shall I. Soon you shall come to know as to whom comes the disgraceful torment and who gets the enduring punishment." (w. 39-40).

Then the same lesson was taught in Madinah to all the Muslims: "There is indeed an excellent example for you in Abraham and his companions when they said to their people plainly: `We have nothing to do with you and your gods, whom you worship beside God: we have renounced you and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred for ever, until you believe in Allah, the One." (Al-Mumtahinah: 4).

These continuous explanations of the Qur'an do not leave any room whatever for the doubt that the verse Lakum dims kum wa liya din dces not mean: "You may go on following your religion and allow me to follow mine", but it is the kind of declaration made in Surah Az-Zumar: 14: "O Prophet, say to them: I shall serve Allah alone, making my religion sincerely His. As for you, you may serve whomever you please beside Him." (v. 14).

From this verse lmam Abu Hanifah and Imam Shafe`i have deduced that kufr (unbelief ), as a whole, is one community, however discordant and different from each other be the religions of the unbelievers; therefore, a Jew can inherit a Christian, and a Christian a Jew, and likewise the unbeliever of one religion can inherit the un-believer of another religion, if there exists between them a relationship by descent or marriage, or some other connection, which necessitates the passage of inheritance of one to another. On the contrary, Imam Malik, Imam Auza`i and Imam Ahmad hold the view that the followers of one religion cannot inherit the followers of another religion. They deduce this from the Hadith which has been related on the authority of Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-As, saying that Allah's Messenger (upon whom be peace) said: "The people of two different communities cannot inherit each other." (Musnad Ahmad, Abu Da'ud, Ibn Majah, Daraqutni).

A Hadith with almost the same content has been related by Tirmidhi from Hadrat Jabir, by Ibn Hibban from Hadrat `Ahdullah bin `Umar, and by Bazzar from Hadrat Abu Hurairah. Dealing with this legal problem comprehensively, the well known Hanafi Imam; Shamsul-A'immah Sarakhsi, writes: "The unbelievers can inherit each other mutually for all those reasons for which the Muslims inherit each other mutually, and they can also inherit each other in certain other cases in which the Muslims do not inherit each other... The fact is that Allah recognizes only two ways of life, the religion of Truth and the religion of falsehood; that is why He has declared: Lakum dine-kum wa liya din. And He has classified the people also into two groups, one group will go to Paradise and this consists of the believers, and the second group will go to Hell and this consists of the disbelievers collectively. And He has declared the two groups only as the potential opponents of each other: "These are the two parties who have disputed about their Lord." (AI-Hajj: 19).

That is, one group comprises all the disbelievers collectively and they are opposed to the believers... We do not admit that they are separate and distinct communities according to their beliefs, but as against the Muslims they all form one community. For the Muslims affirm faith in the prephethood of Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) and in the Qur'an and they refuse to affirm faith. For this very reason they have been declared to be unbelievers and are one community as opposed to the Muslims... The Hadith, La yata-warith ahl millatain, points to the same thing as explained above. For the Holy Prophet has explained the word millatain (two communities) by his saying: La yarithul Muslim al-kafir wa lal-kafir al-Maslim: "The Muslim cannot inherit the disbeliever, nor the disbeliever can inherit the Muslim." (AIMabsut vol. 30, pp. 30-32). The Hadith cited here by Imam Sarakhsi has been related by Bukhari, Muslim, Nasa'i, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah and Abu Da'ud on the authority of Hadrat Usamah bin Zaid.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Say: O disbelievers!): '(Say: O disbelievers!) a group of people who derided the Prophet (pbuh) among whom were al-'As Ibn Wa'il al-Sahmi and al-Walid Ibn al-Mughirah, said to the Prophet: "O Muhammad! Surrender to our deity so that we worship the God you worship". And so Allah said addressing his Prophet: Say, O Muhammad, to these deriders, O disbelievers who mock Allah and the Qur'an.