The Quran has put great stress on ‘faith’ and ‘actions’ both. The faith involves two basic articles, ‘there is no other God but One Creator God’, and ‘Muhammad is the messenger of God’ or the Message that has come through Muhammad (PBUH) is from the same Creator God’.
Once a person has this faith in the origin of Quran, its credibility assumes gargantuan proportions. Thereafter, each and every information, injunction, decree, precept, rite, regulation and rule of Quran, becomes literally the Word and Command of the Creator Himself. But, to get benefit from this ‘Ultimate Communication’, these commands have to be understood, interpreted and most important of all obeyed by the humanity. The directives against kufr, and warnings of punishment to kafirs in Quran, should be understood from this perspective.
The scholars translate kufr as the act of ‘rejection’ (of guidance, and this belief) and kafir as the one who rejects. But, there is a subtlety in the meaning of the original Arabic words. The root word for Kufr and kafir both is kafar, which means to cover or conceal. From this root, the meaning of kufr becomes covering and concealing the guidance and not simple rejection of it.
How can the guidance be covered? Primarily, two ways seem to exist for it. One is to suppress (cover) the guidance so that it may not reach others, specifically when the presence of guidance comes in conflict with selfish interests of a group of men, such as elites of Mecca, who believed that Muhammad’s preaching of a single invisible God, replacing all the idols in Kaaba would destroy their main source of income. These men indulged in this form of kufr (Quran 2:191, 217, 258). Second category on the other hand, represents those individuals who knowingly commit a forbidden act for their own selfish ends. The contradiction between actions and information with them, forces them to conceal (cover, ignore or reject) the guidance (Quran 2:99). It is this deliberate covering or ‘rejection’ that is primarily understood to be the meaning of kufr.
The Quran has used Kufr, Kafir and their variants extensively (525 times). Most of the verses forbid the rejection or suppression of the guidance and warn of punishment to those, who commit this act. Occasionally, the word has been employed in positive sense. In verses 3:193,195, God promises to suppress the past evil acts of a believer; and in 4:31, a believer suppresses the influence of Satan 2:256. At some other places, the word has also been used in context other than that of faith. In verse 57:20, the tiller has been called kafir as he covers the seeds in the earth. These usages simply corroborates the real meaning of Kufr as covering. However, the important point, which is often overlooked is that a deliberate act of concealment or suppression is only possible when there is ‘something to conceal’ or the guidance has already reached the man. It implies a precondition, which changes the onus of accountability in the directive. When a man commits an action in spite of being aware that the action is forbidden, only then he becomes accountable. If the man is ignorant, and does not realize the consequences of his actions then technically he cannot be assumed to have committed kufr.
Such an interpretation, ironically, also makes the converse directive of kufr – ‘to uncover’, ‘not to hide’ or ‘to bring to light’ the guidance, extremely important. It puts great responsibility on the shoulders of Muslims who are the primary recipient community of the latest Guidance.
Muslim scholars, shrug a greater part of this responsibility by pointing out that Quran is available in the world in original Arabic and in translated versions. Those who do not study, accept or believe in it are in fact rejecting it, and thus are technically kafir. But is it correct? Is it logical to assume that a person will read a particular book whether he is inclined towards it or not? Can the majority of western people, really come under the category of those who are concealing or suppressing the Quranic guidance that has reached them? For concealment, they will have to first accept it as guidance. The Neo-Cons, who are controlling the strings of power in the USA, sincerely believe that they are following the Divine Guidance that has reached them. By taking the world towards a destiny, predicted by a particular interpretation of the New Testament, they believe that they are helping God’s plan. From their point of view, every act they commit is justified, whether it is profiling of populations, forced migrations, closing down of charities or large-scale destruction of countries governed by a satanic religion in their eyes. For them, preparing ground for ‘second coming of Christ’ is more important than the small amount of kufr committed by concealing some directives of Jesus, mentioned for example, in the ‘sermon on the mount’. Likewise, for leaders of the right wing group of Israel, the Chosen People of God have the right to massacre entire populations if the aim is to replace them with Israelis. The case of Canaanites is present in scriptures, and they are prepared to conceal (commit kufr) some of the ‘God’s Commandments’, if these are found in conflict with their aim of ‘population replacement’. How much kufr, these and other top world leaders are indulging in, is known only to God. But, this much is certain that by not making an intense effort to open the phenomenon of revelation in totality before the world and establish its credibility in their eyes, it is we Muslims who are in fact becoming more accountable for concealing the Guidance that has reached the humanity.