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Question : #461 Category: Shia Sunni Dialogue
Subject: discussion discource
Question: I was having a discussion with a Sunni sister yesterday and I told her the Shia Ithna Asheri definition of a "kaafir".. such like.. a kaafir's sweat is najis for us .. a kaafir's cooked food is najis for us. She was pretty apalled at my words.. and told me that since Allah S.W.T. Has Created us all clean and pure, how is it possible that we can be so unclean to one another, based on our beliefs, whatever they may be. I told her the treatment we extend to kaafirs is synonymous with the treatment we extend towards dogs... but I know that I was limited in my knowledge to adequately satisfy her..and that's why I need help to explain this issue to her.. and please, if I fell short when explaining to her, do tell me.
Answer: Salaamun Alaykum

Before I answer the question, I believe it is essential to understand how we define a kafir:

A kafir is, first of all, according to the the Qur'an, one who is ungrateful to the blessings showered by Allah, the Almighty. This sense of being ungrateful is connected to the state of turning away (i.e. disbelieving in God) despite clear guidance coming from Allah. The guidance is not only in the form of the Prophets, Imams and Qur'an but also inner voices (waridat), the ability to distinguish good from evil and also outer ayat of Allah. Despite Allah talking to a person through these different modes, he/she chooses to turn away.

A kafir then is one who does not show gratitude in his/her conduct despite God's benevolence. This act of kufr is often accompanied by haughtiness and istghna' (free from God)

In several verses, the Qur'an warns them of the consequences of their evil acts and even curses them for it. e.g. (2:6). Verse 2:221 asks us not to marry them until they believe.

The definition of a kafir is not a Shi'a Ithna-asheri definition (as mentioned by you in the question) rather it is a Qur'anic definition. Please mention this to your sunni friend.

It is important to remember that although the Qur'an severly condemns them for their kufr, at no time does it ask us to deal with them in an inhumane way. i.e., our duty is to try to guide them not to treat them as lesser beings. Hence your comparison between a kafir and a dog was not appropriate at all.

Please remember Allah has bestowed dignity to all human beings and only he can take away that dignity, not us.

The prohibition on eating a kafir's food has nothing to do with his/her physical state of uncleanliness. Rather, it is connected with his/her spiritual state. What we eat makes a difference to our own spiritual state and our character formation. Therefore, we are required to eat pure food for the sake of the well being of our own spiritual states. Purity in the spiritual realm is dependent on consuming that which is spiritually pure. By the way, this is not unique to Islam - Yogis, some Hindus share a similar view. Therefore the najasat is connected to the spiritual state of a kafir.

There is no doubt that we still have to treat them humanely. Talking about the cleanliness of a kafir is very misleading since people assume it is connected to their physical state, I would therefore prefer using the term spiritual well-being or spiritual state.

May Allah guide us all

Yours in Islam

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