Grand Mufti Distorts Word ‘Infidel’ to Dupe Infidels

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Soon after reporting that Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, had pronounced all Christians “infidels,” I received several emails forwarding what looked like a response from Gomaa.  Some websites—such as the ever-hysterical “American Muslim”—published it, providing the following additional information:

Prof. Faroque Ahmad Khan took it on himself to investigate [the claims of my article].  Dr. Khan requested Dr Ibrahim Negm—a senior advisor to the Grand Mufti [and an Al Azhar professor] to provide a clarification of the remarks attributed to Sheikh Ali Gomaa.  Here is the response that was received [followed by the same text others had emailed me].

Though he makes several points, including the need for “dialogue” and “mutual respect,” Gomaa’s grand point, the crux of the issue—what kafir which I routinely translate as “infidel” means—unfortunately exposes dishonesty on his part (the other option, ignorance, being inapplicable). He writes:

Mr. Ibrahim’s choice of wording is regrettable. The English word “infidel” carries with it strong connotations of exclusion and violence, inherited from the European experience of Christianity during the wars of religion which devastated that continent for decades.

In fact, from its inception, Islam has been the quintessential religion—historically and doctrinally—to enforce and institutionalize “exclusion and violence” for the “other,” to the point of influencing medieval Christianity. Gomaa therefore takes the standard way out—blame Christianity and its “wars of religion” (code for “Crusades”)—without alluding to what prompted these wars in the first place: five centuries of unprovoked Islamic aggression, land-grabbing, subjugation and persecution of Christians, which continues to this very day.

Gomaa’s sophistry continues:

The Arabic “kafir” is a legal term which denotes very precisely and simply those outside the Muslim community, those who do not believe in the particular message and worldview of Islam. The much less charged translation “non-believer” is appropriate here.

Yes, the word kafir is a “legal term” denoting non-Muslims; and yes, most modern English Qurans translate it as “non-believer.”  However, and as Gomaa knows full well, the word kafir (plural, kafirin) is heavy laden with negative associations, or, as I originally wrote, it “connotes ‘enemies,’ ‘evil-doers,’ and every bad thing to Muslim ears.”

Accordingly, Sharia mandates hostility for kafirin—war and subjugation when they are weak, deception and smooth-talk when they are strong.   Quran 2: 98 simply declares that “Allah is the enemy of kafirin”—regardless of whether we translate that word as “infidels” or “non-believers.”

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  • Zaynab bt al-Harith

    Sheikh Gomaa,

    I would humbly suggest that you direct your energies and exertions to the task of prying open the gates of ijtihad. Your dear one was corrupted by Shaytan himself, was he not?
    The evidence from your hero's book, from his biographer and from Mr Bukhari is clear. Once a prophet knowingly breaks his covenant, it will go badly for him and his followers. Eid Mubarak

    • aspacia


      Are you referring to Satan tempting Jesus on several occasions? Your post lack clarity.

      Also, your profit (intended) frequently changed the rules for himself and his followers, and furthermore tells how Allah change his mind regarding 50 daily prayers. How can a perfect entity err?

  • StephenD

    Mr. Ibrahim, you had me at:
    “the time for sophistry, apologetics, euphemisms, and projections is past.”

    But then you lost me when you said:
    “Operating according to this fact—that is, respecting people’s intelligence—is the first step to meaningful dialogue.”

    As if to say there is a place for talking. There is not. Islam as we know it is the anathema to all Freedom Loving People worldwide. We must take a hard stand and continually call them out (as you are known to do). Soon, as you point out, the world will become aware of this perverse denigration of humanity. It cannot hide from the truth and the TRUTH is still our most formidable weapon.

    • kafirman

      There IS a place for talking. That is what you are doing here. Our response to Muslims must be compassionate: They are the first victims of Islam. We need political leadership who will expose the evils of Islam and usher political liberation from the shackles of Islam. Words are more powerful than bullets my friend.

      • StephenD

        I stand corrected.

  • Asher

    Islam and the Koran represent Oppression, not Freedom..There is no honor in people who lie and deceive.

  • kafirman

    Thank you Raymond for focusing on the word "kafir." Islam stands and falls on this word. As another message from the internet reads

    The Jizya is specifically designed to “[force non-Muslims to] pay the tax in acknowledgment of [the] superiority [of Islam over whatever religion the non-Muslims believe in] and [to insure] they [i.e., the non-Muslims] are in a state of subjection [or 'being brought low' Pickthal translation]” (Koran 9:29, Shakir translation).

    Indeed it is remarkable that a religion would have as its express objective the psychological oppression of its outsiders….Well before the seventh century, the nascent Christian church revealed its posture towards those outside the faith:

    But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. (Paul’s First letter to the Thessalonians 4:10b-12, written circa 51 AD) …. even a nominal Muslim (as opposed to a true Muslim) can admit that, all other things being equal, a religion which treats its non-adherents with kindness (like Christianity) is superior to a religion which treats its non-adherents with oppression (like Islam). It is self evident that 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 is superior to Koran 9:29. Even a nominal Muslim can admit — in the abstract — that a religion that oppresses its non-adherents is morally blemished, and cannot therefore be a true religion.

    • alan g

      Yeah, good luck with convincing them of that.

    • Theophile

      Hi Kafirman,
      A good argument for a true religion, and one that stands forth in the history of Christianity in Foxes book of Martyrs:
      I can hardly believe how few have read this book or know of it's contents, considering how many had read this book, and talked about it's contents while the US was growing up. After reading the letters of the "founding fathers", having read Foxes, on can only conclude 100% of them knew it's contents.

  • Andy

    From a Muslim American who disagrees with Mufti Gomaa on several issue – and who has watched the video (and noted Mr Ibrahim's rusty Arabic)… the only sophistry here is yours.

    Pray tell, is it rejection of others when your priest tells you that you can only go to heaven by accepting Jesus Christ (Peace & Blessings Be Upon Him)? No? Then perhaps you can stop these silly games whereby the term clearly translates as non-believer (or one who does not accept the Oneness of God and that Muhammad (PBUH) is his prophet) and has no other connotations in his talk. The Mufti even says, "I have my belief and you have yours," so please, Mr Raymond Ibrahim, take his advice and concentrate on bettering yourself and your own community, which mind you, is not perfect either and let the Muslim community do the same…
    Oh, and trust me, I doubt the Mufti or his personal representative responded to you. Self-aggrandizement is frowned upon in all religions, isn't it? Lies? Aren't those also frowned upon?
    Your bio speaks of "meeting" and "intersection" between Islam and Christianity but your work only attempts to widen the gap in communication. Double speak indeed. Either decide to have honest, respectful, and knowledge-seeking dialogue… or please, stop your misinformation.

    • Kalam Sarih

      Hey Andy, you make accusations without any documentation. How is Mr Ibrahim's Arabic "rusty," for example? Did he mistranslate the words of the mufti? Also, if you go to the link, a Muslim website, you will see that the response is in the first person, which means it is either the mufti responding, or else his representative — odd though that he would do so in the first person? Finally, how do you respond to all those Quran verses Ibrahim quotes, which make clear that there is more to the word kafir than just being a non-believer?
      Less hyperbole, more substance, please?

    • aspacia

      Exactly what sophistry did Ibrahim use? It is the Mufti who is trying to deceive by inserting the word "nonbeliever" for the commonly used infidel–it is the Mufti who is deceptive.

      Sure the NT teaching claim that that only way to God is through the son, Jesus, but they do not tell the faithful that non-believers are apes and pigs, dirty, deceitful, etc., as your book does.

      Islamic religious leaders often respond even to individuals of average status like me, a high school teacher.

      It is you who is practicing deceit by calling Ibrahim a liar.

      It is Muslim "double-speak" that widens the gap. The average person in the U.S. is plain spoken, and usually honest to a fault, which often lands us in hot water. In contrast, deceit is a common practice in the ME. ME leaders often make one claim in English for the purpose of deceit, and make the opposite claim in Arabic to create further violence. Your leaders make treaties and truces until they believe they can destroy their foes, and they violently attack.

      Frankly, you deceitful, greedy brethren are the cause of ALL THE ME VIOLENCE NOT ISRAEL. Why don't you absorb your brethren into your vast lands as tiny Israel did? Why? Your brethren want death and destruction, YOU LOVE IT!

      • Marjorie


  • Amos

    Nice loud accusations while skirting around the issue at hand — what the word kafir means? Sure, in most other religions, including Christianity, the "non-believer" goes to hell. But that's not the point of Ibrahim's article; rather, the point is the position of the kafir/infidel/non-believer in Muslim law, in the here and now. He is an enemy to be subdued. Sorry, but that's not the case of the non-believer in Christianity, as you know full well. So, like your mufti, stop the lies and dissembling, and look to yourself and your religion.