Tafseer of Surah Kaafiroon

بِسْمِ اللّٰهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

قُلْ يٰاَيُّهَا الْكٰفِرُونَ ‎﴿١﴾‏ لَا أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَلَا أَنتُمْ عٰبِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَلَا أَنَا عَابِدٌ مَّا عَبَدتُّمْ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَلَا أَنتُمْ عٰبِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ ‎﴿٥﴾‏ لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ ‎﴿٦﴾‏

Say, “O disbelievers, I do not worship that (idols) which you worship, nor do you worship the One whom I worship (Allah Ta‘ala). And neither am I going to worship that (idols) which you worship, and nor will you worship the One whom I worship (Allah Ta‘ala). For you is your religion and for me is my religion.”

The two surahs, Surah Kaafiroon and Surah Ikhlaas, possess great significance and virtue. Hazrat Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) used to recite these two surahs in the sunnats of Fajr and Maghrib salaah. He also advised that Surah Kaafiroon should be recited every night before sleeping, for it is a declaration of disassociation from shirk and disbelief.

On one occasion, Hazrat Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) was stung by a scorpion. He then recited Surah Kaafiroon, together with Surah Falaq and Surah Naas, and with that he applied salt water to the area where he was stung. Through the barakah of these surahs, he was granted shifa.

The cause for the revelation of this surah, as reported by Hazrat ibnu Abbaas (radhiyallahu ‘anhuma), is that once a group of the Quraish came to Nabi (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and proposed the following to him. They said, “We shall give you so much of wealth that you will become the richest man in Makkah Mukarramah, we shall give you whichever woman you desire in marriage and we shall follow and obey you as our undisputed leader – on condition that you do not speak ill of our gods (idols). If you do not agree to this, then let us agree that you worship our gods for a year, and we will worship your Allah for the next year.”

Upon this, Hazrat Jibreel (‘alaihis salaam) descended with Surah Kaafiroon.

According to some reports, it is mentioned that some of the pagans of Makkah Mukarramah asked Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) to compromise by worshipping their gods. However, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) had refused. Thereupon, they said, “O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam), if you do not wish to worship our gods, then at least touch some of our gods. If you touch them, then we will believe in you.” It was then that this surah was revealed.

In essence, the kuffaar had made three proposals to Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam).

The first proposal was that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) should not speak out against their idols.

If he was not prepared for this, then the second proposal was that he should agree to join his worship with their worship and his deen with their deen by him worshipping their gods for one year and by them worshipping Allah Ta‘ala for one year.

The third proposal they put before him was that Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) should at least touch their idols in order to show some type of reverence and respect to them. However, Allah Ta‘ala revealed this surah to forbid Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) from accepting any of their proposals.

The open declaration of this surah

This surah is an open declaration that Islam cannot be joined or mixed with the religion of the kuffaar. In this surah, Allah Ta‘ala openly condemns the actions of the kuffaar and enjoins the Muslims to worship Allah Ta‘ala alone in a manner that there is no shirk or adulteration with any sort of kufr.

The reason for Allah Ta‘ala prohibiting Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) and the ummah from accepting the proposals of the kuffaar is that the deen of Islam is a pure, perfect, comprehensive and complete deen that is based on the principles of tawheed (oneness of Allah Ta‘ala) and obedience to the command of Allah Ta‘ala alone.

Hence, this deen can never be joined with any other religion, as every other religion besides Islam is based on kufr and shirk whereas the deen of Islam is based on purity, tawheed (the oneness of Allah Ta‘ala) and complete obedience to Allah Ta‘ala alone.

قُلْ يٰاَيُّهَا الْكٰفِرُونَ ‎﴿١﴾‏ لَا أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَلَا أَنتُمْ عٰبِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَلَا أَنَا عَابِدٌ مَّا عَبَدتُّمْ ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَلَا أَنتُمْ عٰبِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ ‎﴿٥﴾

Say, “O disbelievers, I do not worship that (idols) which you worship, nor do you worship the One whom I worship (Allah Ta‘ala). And neither am I going to worship that (idols) which you worship, and nor will you worship the One whom I worship (Allah Ta‘ala). 

When examining these verses, it would apparently seem as though they been repeated. However, there is a difference between the first two verses compared to the second two.

The first two verses refer to the present period and the second two verses refer to the future period i.e. at present, we are not going to worship what you worship and nor in the future will we worship what you worship. Hence, do not expect us to follow you in what you worship at any time. According to this explanation, the “maa” in all four verses is translated as “maa mausoola” i.e. the object of worship – we worship Allah Ta‘ala and you are worshipping your idols.

The second explanation of these verses which is given by Allaamah Ibnu Katheer (rahimahullah), is that the ‘maa’ in the first two verses will be translated as “maa mausoola, and the ‘maa’ in the second two verses is translated as “maa masdariyya”. Accordingly, these verses will be translated as “I do not worship that (idols) which you worship, nor do you worship the One whom I worship (Allah Ta‘ala). And neither do I worship in the way you worship and nor do you worship in the way I worship.”

In other words, according to this explanation, the first two verses show that the object of our worship and your worship is different. We worship Allah Ta‘ala and you worship your deities. The second two verses show that we are different in the manner of our worship. i.e. our ways of worship are totally different and are poles apart from each other. As long as you wish to remain upon your path of falsehood, then you should not expect me to move away from the path of haq and conform to your wrong ways of worship, and neither will I expect you to conform to my ways of worship. There is no reconciliation between our ways of worship as both are totally diverse from each other.

In essence, these verses imply that the path of Islam is a path of purity and righteousness, the path of believing and worshipping Allah Ta‘ala alone and obeying and submitting to what He says alone without any deviation whatsoever. On the contrary, the path of shirk and kufr diametrically opposes the path of Islam as it demands accepting everything besides Allah Ta‘ala. Therefore, a Muslim and a non-Muslim are on diverse paths in all respects and a Muslim can never follow non-Muslims in their acts of worship, customs, rituals, fashions, celebrations, business trends and lifestyles.

This surah conveys the essence of tawheed and submission to the commands of Allah Ta‘ala alone and the importance for a believer to show unquestionable submission and loyalty in all spheres of his worldly and deeni life. A believer is not like a disbeliever who moves with the times and changes with the occasion. Rather, in all conditions and situations, a believer remains loyal to Allah Ta‘ala. No matter what time of the year it may be and what environment he is exposed to, whether he is in his hometown or out on vacation, whether in his domestic life, social life or in his business dealings – he remains firm on deen at all times on account of him being conscious that he is answerable to Allah Ta‘ala.

He is not swayed by the customs and traditions of the kuffaar at any time, but radiates the true values of Islam wherever he goes and whoever he meets. It was this condition that was found among the Sahaabah that caused them to be successful wherever they went in the world and caused people’s hearts to be attracted towards Islam upon merely meeting them.

لَکُمۡ  دِیۡنُکُمۡ  وَلِیَ  دِیۡنِ

For you is your religion and for me is my religion.

Deen can be translated in different ways. One translation of deen is religion – as preferred by Imam Bukhaari (rahimahullah). Accordingly, the translation of the verse is, “For you is your religion and for me my religion.”

Another translation of deen is ‘way’. Accordingly, the translation of the verse is, “For you is your way and for me is my way”.

In other words, you will have to bear the consequences of your actions and I will enjoy the outcome of my actions.

Befriending the Kuffaar

One important lesson which we learn from this surah is that a believer should not compromise any of his deeni principles to please the disbelievers. It is for this reason that in many verses of the Qur’aan Majeed, Allah Ta‘ala has prohibited us from befriending the kuffaar.

Allah Ta‘ala states in the Qur’aan Majeed:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ آمَنُوْا لَا تَتَّخِذُوْا الْكٰفِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُوْنِ الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ أَتُرِيْدُوْنَ أَنْ تَجْعَلُوْا للهِ عَلَيْكُمْ سُلْطَانًا مُّبِيْنًا

O you who believe! Do not take the disbelievers as friends instead of the believers! (Surah Nisaa v. 144)

In another verse, Allah Ta‘ala says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوْا الْيَهُوْدَ وَالنَّصٰرٰى أَوْلِيَاءَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ وَمَنْ يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ إِنَّ اللهَ لَا يَهْدِيْ الْقَوْمَ الظّٰلِمِينَ

O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and Christians as friends! They are friends of one another. And whoever befriends them from you, then he will be from among them. Indeed Allah Ta‘ala does not guide unjust people to the right path. (Surah Maa’idah v. 51)

From these two verses, we understand that taking the kuffaar as friends has been strongly discouraged in Islam. Similarly, in the Mubaarak Hadith, Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) has strictly commanded that believers should only associate with the believers.

Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said to the Sahaabah:

لا تصاحب إلا مؤمنا

Do not take anyone as a companion and friend besides a mu’min. (Sunan Abu Dawood #4832)

The reason for the Shari’ah prohibiting the believers from befriending the kuffaar is that once the believers befriend them, they will invariably begin to emulate them in their ways, dressing, outlook, culture and values.

This will ultimately result in them neglecting or compromising their obligations which they owe to Allah Ta‘ala and the other believers.

Once the believers are inclined towards them and their culture, they will begin to live like them and idealise their values, and ultimately, they will abandon their own Islamic culture and values.

It should be borne in mind that though we are discouraged from befriending the kuffaar, we have been commanded to be kind and considerate towards them. Similarly, we are allowed to deal with them in business, etc. on condition that we do not become close to them and our dealings with them remain within the parameters of the Shari‘ah.

In essence, we will not infringe upon their rights, but at the same time, we will not be influenced by their ways and culture and begin to compromise in our deen.

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