How do you say non-Muslim in Arabic?

Ghayra Muslim.

Yeah I was surprised too. Didn’t know that was the fusha way of saying it. It completely shatters my new definition of kafir in Islam. This was another gem from Bayyinah’s Arabic class.

27 Replies to “How do you say non-Muslim in Arabic?”

  1. My understanding was that “ghayr Muslim” is used neither in the Quran nor in the Hadith literature. It’s just “kafir.” But at the same time, a distinction is made b/t rulings in this life [eg, marriage/janaza prayer/etc], for which “kafir” could be translated as “non-Muslim,” versus outcome in next life [jahannam], for which “kafir” could be translated as one who rejects Allah and His messenger (peace be upon him) after having understood the message clearly, in its pristine form. Allah knows best.

  2. problem is today there is a movement which has made ‘kafir’ and ‘kuffar’ a derogatory term and advises against using it.

  3. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    The word kaafir became a derogatory term in English because white South Africans used it as a racial insult against black people there, and they got it from the Indonesian Muslims they brought over as labourers. In Arabic it simply means unbeliever, and the root verb is only negative if the thing not believed in is the Truth. Whether we should use it in English, when we don’t use every single piece of Arabic terminology in English, is another matter – one of my friends said that the name Fakhr-ud-deen was a beautiful name, but we shouldn’t use it in an English-speaking country because it is easily misinterpreted.

  4. We already learned this when you took the class with me @ Selden, remember?!?!

    kafir is someone who denies/covers the ruth

    Ghayra Muslim just may be a person who has never even heard of the truth…

    on another note…
    There are non-Muslims who reveal the beauty of Islam (Karen Armstrong, John Esposito, etc.).

  5. Im sorry, but if Karen Armstrong and John Esposito know Islam and do not accept it then they are kuffar, ones who DENY the truth IE the Orientalists.

  6. I agree with iboo, anybody who knows about Islam and then doesnt accept it is kaafir, regardless of how much they help it, Abu Taalib was the best kaafir in the history of the world because he helped our Beloved, but since he didn’t accept Islam although he knew about it and helped the Muslims, he died a Kaafir

  7. Who are we to judge who is a kafir?
    Many orientalists have to be neutral because of their job, their personal beliefs are not placed into question. I guess i was wrong to label KA & JE as non-Muslim. Who knows what there are? And it is none of our business.
    But I do like their books. 🙂

  8. @MR: Which scholars define ghayr muslim in the way you have described it? Where did you get your breakdown from?

    Obviously I am talking about the shar’i definition, not linguistic.

    Its an interesting topic no doubt.

  9. but you said it shattered your “definition of kafir IN ISLAM” so that means you meant it shar’ee-wise.

    definitions IN ISLAM are shar’ee definitions and not used in the linguistic sense, but built on them

    for example, zakat means to purify linguistically, whereas the shar’ee definition (IN ISLAM) means to purify your wealth by giving 2.5% of money you have not touched in a year as long as you are above nisab.

    so how did learning “ghayr muslim” change your definition of kafir IN ISLAM?

  10. The literal meaning of kafir is a farmer. It is a person that hides. A farmer hides and covers his seed so that it will grwo.
    A kafir is someone that knows Islam is the truth and hides it in their hearts as was the case with many of the Arabs in the time of the Prophet.
    A little history lesson here people. In the tribe of the quraysh the most powerful clans were banu makhzum and banu umayya. Muhammad was from the tribe of banu hadhim. They didn’t want to accept his message based on the fact that they didn’t want banu hashim becoming a powerful clan!! but they KNEW it was the truth
    most of the non-arabic speaking Muslims that love to throw around the word kafir and say it’s equal to ghayra -muslim don’t realize that many of these non-muslims are nowhere near convinced of the truth of islam
    Islam to them might mean terrorism and corrupt regimes and corrupt leaders and dictators as that is what the muslim world is filled with
    so in my opinion why would you call them a kafir
    they don’t speak arabic like the jahili arabs, they are not swooned by the beauty of the quran and still deny it mostly for tribal reasons…
    why call them kuffar, cuz you wanna sound cool?
    especially when you don’t even speak arabic as a first language…

  11. Actualy I would like to ask where did you find ghairul muslimeen in the Qur’aan? There is kuffar, mushrikeen, ahlul kitaab but I have never met non-muslim or ghairul muslimeen. For me it is newly invented shari’ah terminology coz bid’ah has meny different colours and it seems to me non-mulsim is one of them…bid’ah hasanah ….Allaah akbar! Alhamdullilah Allaah gided me …

  12. Mr Mars…

    For a muslim to use the term Ghair muslim, meaning non muslim, and for it to not be in the quran; doesn’t mean a muslim cannot use the term…
    If it’s otherwise then please say.

  13. One thing i do not understand.

    Why is daleel needed to use a term arabic language? How can one word be bid’ah in religion.

    Ghair muslim, is simply a word meaning non muslim. Just as if i was to say “non muslim” in English. The word kafir – from what i know- linguistically means one who rejects belief in God (in the islamic context). So do we ever replace the word “non muslim” with “one who rejects belief in God” each time we say it? Ofcourse not; so my point is; that even if i want to say the word banana in Arabic; that doesnt mean it has to be in the quran for me to be able to say it. The Quran is a guide for humanity!!!.
    Ofcourse God knows best.

  14. How does the term “non-muslim” relate to an islamic issue?

    Technically speaking everything in this world should relate to an islamic issue; because islam is a way of life which is devised for the inhabitants of earth. So technically everything is related to Islam in one way, shape or form.


  15. Salaams,
    Happened to come across this discussion when googling something related.

    Yusuf brings up important cultural background issues–though I doubt that the South African usage is the main cause of Westerners’ discomfort with the term; Muslim attitudes towards non-Muslims (real or imagined) clearly are at most prominent factors, at least consciously–but the real issue to grapple with IMO is the extent to which we should be uncritically adopting legal terminology formulated in a far less multi-cultural/confessional era and in an era where conflict on the basis of religion was universally deemed inevitable (the idea that religions can coexist peacefully is a very new one).

    Yes, the Quran obviously uses this term, but I don’t think it’s used as a stand-in for all non-Muslims, even if Muslim scholars have not always been totally consciously of this semantic distinction in their writings

    Such imprecise language on the part of jurists probably didn’t cause much in premodern times, but I think there’s no question that semantically lumping all non-Muslims in with Abu Lahab and the like not only is harmful (to Muslim and non-Muslim alike), but factually misleading (at the very least in terms of its political connotations, if not also as regards the spiritual state of non-Muslim seekers). These spiritual categories don’t map neatly to demographic labels, and even the definition of Jews and Christians are very different today from the Prophet ‘s (s) time.

  16. There are several issues that need to be clarified. One is the matter of takleef (legal accountability). For the human being to be legally accountable, they must be:

    1. Sane

    2. Age of Majority (i.e., pubescent)

    3. Heard the call to Islam (in a language they understand)

    The first obligation on the accountable non-Muslim is for him (or her) is to immediately embrace Islam. (To delay a kaafir or discourage a kaafir from embracing Islam would be itself kufr.) It does not require that a person have a long theological discussion–or that the person go home and think about it–before the person becomes accountable. It’s enough that one has heard that Muslims believe in One Perfect God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. If this person, who recently received the Message, but did not believe (and testify), and then died shortly thereafter, then he is an accountable kaafir, and will be condemned to Hell forever.

    What Hamza Yusuf and some of those like him have done is added a new rule: they claim that for one to be a kaafir, one has to “arrogantly reject” Islam to be considered kaafir. It’s enough that the non-Muslim heard the Call and did not accept for him not only to be kaafir but also to have rejected Islam. The Qur’an is clear on this point:

    “Whoever does not believe in Allah AND HIS MESSENGER then he is among the KAAFIREENA who are condemned to Hell.” (Al-Fath, 13)

    The Verse mentions nothing about “arrogantly rejecting”–it’s enough that the person does not accept Allah and/or the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam). The mass of (kaafir) humanity, are as the Qur’an describes them: “Like cattle or worse than cattle.” (al-A`raaf, 179) They are people who are shallow and too lazy to use their minds; they merely follow what the herd of humanity does with little time devoted to reflection. Nonetheless, they are of sane and have the ability to reason–but refuse to do so. The Qur’an says such people will in the Hereafter say:

    “If we had taken heed [of the Message] and USED OUR MINDS, then we would not be denizens of Hell.” (Al-Mulk, 10)

    There are two other groups of kaafirs, one could say. Those who even after extensive proofs have been brought against them (like, some of the Christians), they still arrogantly “turn away.” And then there is the third category who know Islam is the Truth, but attempt to deter others from embracing Islam–or even to attack Islam itself.

    Regarding the first class of people (those who are like herd animals), every Muslim has to simply accept that Allah does not owe anybody anything. Allah does not owe people guidance. Allah guides whomever He wills. It should be evident that there is a world of a difference between the person who seeks the Truth, hears about a religion called “Islam,” investigates it, and embraces Islam, and the person who simply was too lazy, too caught up in patriotism/nationalism, or what one’s family or ancestors have followed, or the opinions of others to seek the Truth about the purpose of existence. The one who does not care to seek the Truth regarding their Lord obviously deserves to be punished–just as the person who arrogantly rejects the Truth, or the one who seeks to hide or destroy the Truth deserves to be punished. The former may have less punishment, but he is a kaafir nonetheless, and will find himself in Hell forever in the Hereafter.

    May Allah guide us to learn the matters of the correct `Aqidah and enable us to die as Muslims.

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