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{{QualityScore|Lead=1|Structure=3|Content=3|Language=1|References=4}}
 
{{QualityScore|Lead=1|Structure=3|Content=3|Language=1|References=4}}
 
[[File:Al-Kafirun.png|290px|right|thumb]]
 
[[File:Al-Kafirun.png|290px|right|thumb]]
This article analyzes the apologetic claim that [[The Holy Qur'an: Al-Kafiroon (The Disbelievers)|Surat al-Kafiroon]] (the [[Non-Muslims|Disbelievers]], [[Atheists]]) advocates religious tolerance, freedom and pluralism.
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Surah 109 "Al-Kafirun" contains a core message which on its surface seems to be one of reconcilliation with the non-believers(the [[Non-Muslims|Disbelievers]], [[Atheists]]): "to your religion and to me (my) religion." Although often pointed to as an example of religious tolerance, freedom and pluralism, the traditional understanding of the verse in classical commentaries and hadith is altogether different from this more modern understanding.  
 
==Qur'an==
 
==Qur'an==
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===Context===
 
===Context===
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This [[surah]] was revealed in Mecca before Prophet [[Muhammad]] became a military leader. [[Islam|Islamic]] historian al-Zuhri writes that during this period “the unbelievers of the Quraysh did not oppose what he [Muhammad] said. If he passed the place where they sat together, they pointed to him and said: 'This young man of the tribe of Abd al-Muttalib proclaims a message from heaven!'” However, “this they continued to do until Allah began to attack their gods…, and until He proclaimed that their fathers who died in unbelief were lost [to hellfire]. Then they began to hate the Prophet and show their enmity to him.”<ref>Sharma SS (2004), Caliphs and Sultans: Religious Ideology and Political Praxis, Rupa & Co, New Delhi, p. 63; Muir, p.63</ref>  
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According to the traditional chronology of the [[Qur'an]]'s surahs, this [[surah]] was revealed in Mecca before Prophet [[Muhammad]] became a military leader. [[Islam|Islamic]] historian al-Zuhri writes that during this period “the unbelievers of the Quraysh did not oppose what he [Muhammad] said. If he passed the place where they sat together, they pointed to him and said: 'This young man of the tribe of Abd al-Muttalib proclaims a message from heaven!'” However, “this they continued to do until Allah began to attack their gods…, and until He proclaimed that their fathers who died in unbelief were lost [to hellfire]. Then they began to hate the Prophet and show their enmity to him.”<ref>Sharma SS (2004), Caliphs and Sultans: Religious Ideology and Political Praxis, Rupa & Co, New Delhi, p. 63; Muir, p.63</ref>  
    
Muslim chronicler al-Baihaqi further records (in The Signs of Prophethood) Muhammad’s disciple Amru ibn al-Aas’ testimony of Quraysh leaders’ discussion concerning Muhammad's verbal attacks on them and their religious beliefs: “Never have we had to tolerate from anyone what we have had to tolerate from this man. He slanders our fathers, criticizes our religions and divides our people, and blasphemes our gods. Such grievous things have we tolerated from this man…” Muhammad, who was nearby and heard this conversation, responded with, “Men of Quraysh! I will surely repay you for this with interest.”<ref>Baihaqi, Dala'il al-Nubuwwah, coc. Tornberg 232, fol. 85a</ref> The rest of the details are covered by the [[tafsir]] literature:
 
Muslim chronicler al-Baihaqi further records (in The Signs of Prophethood) Muhammad’s disciple Amru ibn al-Aas’ testimony of Quraysh leaders’ discussion concerning Muhammad's verbal attacks on them and their religious beliefs: “Never have we had to tolerate from anyone what we have had to tolerate from this man. He slanders our fathers, criticizes our religions and divides our people, and blasphemes our gods. Such grievous things have we tolerated from this man…” Muhammad, who was nearby and heard this conversation, responded with, “Men of Quraysh! I will surely repay you for this with interest.”<ref>Baihaqi, Dala'il al-Nubuwwah, coc. Tornberg 232, fol. 85a</ref> The rest of the details are covered by the [[tafsir]] literature:
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===Summary===
 
===Summary===
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The authoritative and wholly [[Islam and Scripture|Islamic sources]] tell us that, following Muhammad's "shameful"<ref>Francis Edwards Peters, Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, SUNY Press, p.169</ref> verbal attacks on the native [[Paganism|pagan]] beliefs, the people of Quraysh still had hopes for reconciliation. In what appears to be history's first ever recorded attempt at inter-faith dialogue with the followers of Islam, they would visit Muhammad with different proposals of compromise so that he could accepted one of them and the dispute between them would be brought to a peaceful resolution.<ref name="Wahidi">[http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.altafsir.com%2Fasbabalnuzol.asp%3Fsoraname%3D109%26ayah%3D0%26search%3Dyes%26img%3Da%26languageid%3D2&date=2015-03-14 Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi, trans. Mokrane Guezzou, 2011 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought</ref><ref name="kathir"></ref> They were even willing to part with their wealth and women, and follow and obey him as their leader, on the condition that he would not speak ill of their gods.<ref name="maududi">[{{Reference archive|1=http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/quran/maududi/mau109.html|2=2013-05-06}} Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an</ref> In response to their efforts at making peace, Muhammad recited surat al-Kafiroon, declaring his "rejection of all that which they worship" and showing that the disbelievers are all "one people ... because disbelief in all its many manifestations has one thing in common – that is, falsity".<ref name="kathir">[{{Reference archive|1=http://sunnahonline.com/library/the-majestic-quran/434-tasfir-of-chapter-109-surah-al-kafirun-the-disbelievers|2=2013-05-06}} Tafsir of Chapter 109: Surah Al-Kafirun (The Disbelievers)] - Tafsir Ibn Kathir (SunnahOnline)</ref> It was at this point that they finally "despaired of him."<ref name="Wahidi"></ref> The content of surat al-Kafiroon was then later [[Abrogation |abrogated]] by verses ordering Muslims to [[Jihad|physically attack]] disbelievers, and "the Prophet (pbuh) did fight them."<ref name="Abbas">[http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=109&tAyahNo=6&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas, trans. Mokrane Guezzou, 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought</ref><ref name="Jalalayn">[http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=109&tAyahNo=6&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza, 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought</ref>
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The traditional [[Islam and Scripture|Islamic sources]] tell us that, following Muhammad's "shameful"<ref>Francis Edwards Peters, Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, SUNY Press, p.169</ref> verbal attacks on the native [[Paganism|pagan]] beliefs, the people of Quraysh still had hopes for reconciliation. In a process that bears streaking resemblances to modern inter-faith dialogue with the followers of the fledgling Islam, they would visit Muhammad with different proposals of compromise so that he could accepted one of them and the dispute between them would be brought to a peaceful resolution.<ref name="Wahidi">[http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.altafsir.com%2Fasbabalnuzol.asp%3Fsoraname%3D109%26ayah%3D0%26search%3Dyes%26img%3Da%26languageid%3D2&date=2015-03-14 Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Asbab Al-Nuzul by Al-Wahidi, trans. Mokrane Guezzou, 2011 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought</ref><ref name="kathir"></ref> They were even willing to part with their wealth and offhim Muhammad his pick of women, and follow and obey him as their leader, on the condition that he would not speak ill of their gods.<ref name="maududi">[{{Reference archive|1=http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/quran/maududi/mau109.html|2=2013-05-06}} Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an</ref> In response to their efforts at making peace, Muhammad recited surat al-Kafiroon, declaring his "rejection of all that which they worship" and showing that the disbelievers are all "one people ... because disbelief in all its many manifestations has one thing in common – that is, falsity".<ref name="kathir">[{{Reference archive|1=http://sunnahonline.com/library/the-majestic-quran/434-tasfir-of-chapter-109-surah-al-kafirun-the-disbelievers|2=2013-05-06}} Tafsir of Chapter 109: Surah Al-Kafirun (The Disbelievers)] - Tafsir Ibn Kathir (SunnahOnline)</ref> It was at this point that they finally "despaired of him."<ref name="Wahidi"></ref> According to the traditional chronology of the suwar and the doctrine of [[abgrogation]], the content of surat al-Kafiroon was then later [[Abrogation |abrogated]] by verses ordering Muslims to [[Jihad|physically attack]] disbelievers, and "the Prophet (pbuh) did fight them."<ref name="Abbas">[http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=73&tSoraNo=109&tAyahNo=6&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Tafsir Ibn 'Abbas, trans. Mokrane Guezzou, 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought</ref><ref name="Jalalayn">[http://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=109&tAyahNo=6&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2 Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Tafsir al-Jalalayn, trans. Feras Hamza, 2012 Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought</ref>
    
==Conclusion==
 
==Conclusion==
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When read in context, like many other [[Misinterpreted Verses|verses misinterpreted]] for apologetic purposes, surat al-Kafiroon advocates the opposite of what is sometimes claimed. This surah is not a proclamation on religious tolerance and freedom or a recognition of religious pluralism. In fact, this surah unequivocally forbids inter-faith dialogue, expresses Muslims' "total disgust" of non-Islamic beliefs<ref name="maududi">[{{Reference archive|1=http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/quran/maududi/mau109.html|2=2013-05-06}} Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an</ref> and advocates an "us versus them" mentality<ref name="kathir"></ref> between Muslims and disbelievers. This is how the surah is understood by mainstream Islam and the majority of its classical and contemporary scholars. Furthermore, if the historical context were to be ignored, it would still remain an abrogated verse superseded by "the verses of fighting".<ref name="Abbas"></ref><ref name="Jalalayn"></ref>
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When read in the context of the classical Muslim commentaries, surat al-Kafiroon advocates the opposite of what it appears to claim to many modern eyes and ears. In this context the surah is not a proclamation on religious tolerance and freedom or a recognition of religious pluralism. In fact, according to the traditional narrative, this surah unequivocally forbids inter-faith dialogue, expresses Muslims' "total disgust" of non-Islamic beliefs<ref name="maududi">[{{Reference archive|1=http://www.islamicity.com/mosque/quran/maududi/mau109.html|2=2013-05-06}} Surah 109 Ayah 1-6] - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, Tafhim al-Qur'an</ref> and advocates an "us versus them" mentality<ref name="kathir"></ref> between Muslims and disbelievers. This is how the surah is understood today by mainstream Islamic clerics and laity as well as the most widespread understanding amongst the majority of classical and contemporary Islamic religious scholars. Furthermore, even ignoring the traditional commentaries, the tradition renders this verse [[Abrogation|abgrogated]] by "the verses of fighting", rendering its doctrinal impact on Muslim theology mute.<ref name="Abbas"></ref><ref name="Jalalayn"></ref>
    
==See Also==
 
==See Also==
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