Ayatollah Fadlullah believed that the Takfiri groups are people who do not know Islam or its truth, and that is why they do not differentiate between disbelief and belief.
Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah (ra), once talked about the phenomenon of Takfir and Wahabbism in the Muslim communities and the ways to face it, by answering a series of relevant inquiries. He considered that the Takfiri groups are people who do not know Islam or its truth, and that is why they do not differentiate between disbelief and belief. He also pointed that discussing the matter with them objectively and showing them how wrong they are with regards to the issue of disbelief and belief and deeming certain groups of Muslims as disbelievers and permissible to kill could be a means to treat this phenomenon and limit it…
Q: Recently, the phenomenon of Takfir has come to light in our Islamic communities, what is the best way to get rid of it?
A: The problem of these Takfiris is that they do not clearly know what disbelief and belief are. For example, as Muslims; what makes a human a Muslim or a disbeliever? What makes a person Muslim are three things according to all Muslims unanimously: [professing] the oneness of Allah, prophethood and the Last Day. Once a person believes in these main things, he becomes Muslim. So what makes a person a disbeliever? Simply, denying one of the three aforementioned things. So, if a person denies the presence of Allah or that there is no god but Him, then he is a disbeliever. That is why we say that the atheists are disbelievers for they deny the presence of Allah, and that is why we say that the polytheists are disbelievers for they deny that Allah is one and only and they do not believe in the prophethood [of Muhammad]. We also say the same to the People of the Book, who demand to know: How do you call us disbelievers?! Indeed, disbelief is relative, for their might be a believer who believes in Allah, the Most Exalted, yet he does not believe in the Prophet [although believing in the prophethood of Muhammad is one of the constituents of belief]; which makes them “believers” in their own way. However, Allah has considered them as ones who ascribe no partners to God, for He says: “Say: O followers of the Book! Come to an equitable proposition between us and you that we shall not serve any but Allah and (that) we shall not associate aught with Him, and (that) some of us shall not take others for lords besides Allah…” (03:64), and: “And say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our Allah and your Allah is One” (29:46). As such, the Quran concludes: “Those who disbelieved from among the followers of the Book and the polytheists could not have separated (from the faithful) until there had come to them the clear evidence” (98:01). It considered the People of the Book, whether Jews or Christians, as disbelievers and not polytheists, considering that they disbelieved in the Messenger of Allah. In the same sense, Allah considers those who do not believe in the last Day as disbelievers.
There are certain cases where the jurisprudents, both Sunnis and Shiites, say that whosoever denies an essential factor in religion has actually denied something that has been self-evidently established in religion. An example is when someone says that the prayers are not obligatory, but this entails disclaiming Allah and His Messenger, for Allah says: “And keep up prayer” and the Prophet (p.) has established that the prayers are obligatory. The same goes for those who say that fasting and performing pilgrimage are not obligatory and that drinking alcohol is not forbidden, although these rulings are known to all Muslims. When this happens, then one is denying the principle which demands believing in what Allah and His Messenger preach, but if one does not believe, then he is disclaiming Allah and His Messenger, since both disclamation and the denial of the essentials are correlated. However, if we suppose that someone denies something that has been established as an essential in religion, without knowing that the disclamation and the denial of the essentials are correlated, then he does not become a disbeliever, as stipulated by some scholars including His Eminence, Sayyed Al-Khou’i. The reason is that some people do not distinguish, or notice or know what the principles of belief are to rule that someone is a believer and Muslim and what the principle of disbelief are to rule that he is a disbeliever. This is happening nowadays between certain groups of Sunnis and Shiites. One group might relate a hadith and say that they consider it to be authentic, yet they get accused of disbelief, for according to the others, they have disclaimed the Messenger (p.). But this Hadith that you establish as authentic might not be established by me as authentic, based on how reliable the narrators are or on the signification of the words of the Hadith. So if you believe in it, while I say that it is not authentic, then this does not mean that I am disclaiming the Prophet (p.); nay, it means that the narrators of this Hadith are not reliable. The same applies when you say that this Hadith means so and so, while I say that I understand it differently, then this does not allow you to impose your understanding on me. And this is how some people accuse other Muslims of disbelief, just because they consider that their thoughts are the true religion while the others’ are not.
Unfortunately, many are those who accuse others of disbelief and misguidance, both Sunnis and Shiites, for there exists a Shiite fundamentalism and a Sunni fundamentalism. What we ought to do is engage in an objective discussion with them, provided that they accept discussion, for some people do not, and they are described as: “And it is alike to them whether you warn them or warn them not: they do not believe” (36:10). He who closes his mind and refuses to listen, you cannot speak with him, but he who is ready to discuss the matter objectively and scientifically, we should engage in a discussion with him so as set the issue of disbelief and belief straight for him.
Q: You have spoken about concord between the mind and religion and you have cited examples of Muslim scholars, such as Alpharabius (Al-Farabi) and Avicenna (Ibn Sina), but even those have committed mistakes, and Imam Al-Ghazali turned to accuse them of disbelief (Takfir) in three matters and of making innovations (Bida’ pl. of Bid’ah) in seventeen, although we notice that you agree with Al-Ghazali over the issue of interpretation and seeking to reach the right by the necessity of seeking inter-faith proximity?
A: I do not agree with the inquirer over the issue of Takfir, for it is rather dangerous, and the definition of disbelief is the opposite of belief, which is to believe in the one and only God, His Messenger sent with a Message embodied in the Book of Allah and the Last Day. So, he who disbelieves in one of the aforementioned is a disbeliever. There remains an issue that the jurisprudents touch upon, under the title: “denying one of the essentials of religion”, and this results in disbelief for it entails disclaiming the Messenger, provided that one is aware that disclamation and the denial of the essentials are correlated, and this is a jurisprudential research. Therefore, rushing to accuse others of disbelief is dangerous, and there might be a disbeliever whom we accuse of disbelief, but we should not hasten to do so, for there might be a certain misconception or a different point of view that could change the matter.
As for the issue of interpretation, we say that interpretation is present in the Arabic language but based on the rules of interpretation of the Arabic language, for there is interpretation that is subjected to the mood, as in attributing to the word “Tharra” (literally “atom”) in this Ayah: “So, he who has done an atom’s weight…” (99:07), the renowned scientific meaning in this age, thus dealing with the Quran as one of the natural sciences books, although there might be certain significations in this regard. In my opinion, it is impermissible to interpret the Quran through scientific theories, for the Quran is a Holy Book, and if you interpret it today by a theory, this theory might change tomorrow, so what would you do in this case? There are scientific facts and scientific theories, therefore, the Quran wants man to arm himself with science, but not on the basis that the Quran is a book that handles natural sciences and so on.
Q: What is your opinion regarding the stand of the Imam of Al-Beit Al-Haram in which he accuses the Shiites of disbelief that it turned into a pretense for the others to shed the Shiites’ blood?
A: The issue is not restricted to the Imam of Al-Beit Al-Haram, for all the Wahhabis (followers of the Wahhabi thought) accuse the Shiites of disbelief, and I can almost say that indeed they spread among the different Islamic sects the issue of accusing the Shiites of disbelief. Therefore, the problem is blind fanaticism, and the problem of this man is that he did not learn about Shiism in the first place, so when you read his words, you will notice that he neither read about Shiism nor understood it. Actually, many scholars, whether in Egypt or Saudi Arabia or elsewhere, when you hear them talk about Shiism, you will realize that they are not familiar with its truth.
Q: What is your opinion regarding the Takfiris who are perfectly sure that they are on the right path regarding what they believe in and do?
A: These are people who do not understand Islam or know its truths, and that is why they do not differentiate between disbelief and belief. Actually, their actions of deeming the blood of the Muslims who differ with them lawful to spill go against the saying of the Messenger of Allah, who said: “All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith: his blood, his wealth and his honor” and before that, it is against Allah’s saying: “And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause” (17:33).
Q: What are the best ways to face the Takfiri movements that are dramatically spreading in our Arab societies?
A: If we can manage to convince them that their conception of belief and disbelief and accusing other Muslims of disbelief and deeming their blood violable is wrong and that the mere act of disbelief is not enough to kill a person, unless the disbelievers are in a state of war, which is what non-Muslims also adopt, for Allah says: “Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice” (60:08)… if we can manage to do that, then we should.
Q: “I think a lot about every issue I encounter, be it religious or not”; what does that mean? Does it mean that you apply the noble Hadith: “One hour of your contemplation is better than a year of worship”?
A: The issue of thinking about anything that crosses one’s mind or that is brought up in front of him or about anything that he encounters is something positive that man should adopt and train his mind to do, for Allah does not want man to embark on anything before thinking it over. But, man should think about the issues from the angle of the responsibilities he ought to shoulder, so when he thinks about the primary aspects of faith, he should think about his religious commitments, and the same applies to his human relations and political and social stands, and even to the matters related to his other responsibilities, such as standing as a responsible man before Allah and before himself, where he establishes his personality in a way that nurtures it mentally, spiritually and morally. Perhaps, the secret behind the infiltration of backwardness into our reality is that there is a party that prevents people from seriously thinking about the vital intellectual issues related to belief in its details and to the general concepts in their accurate elements and that does not believe in an objective scientific dialogue. Rather, this group accuses the vanguard intellectuals of disbelief and misguidance without studying the matter objectively and without any knowledge.