When in the Middle East, speaking to the average citizen, you’ll hear them refer to groups like ISIL as takfiri. But it’s seldom mentioned here in the United States. Wikipedia defines takfiri as a Sunni Muslim who accuses another Muslim of apostasy. The accusation itself is called takfir, derived from the word kafir, and is described as when “one who is, or claims to be, a Muslim is declared impure.” Accusing other Muslims of being takfiris has become a sectarian slur, particularly since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.” 

Takfiri departures from its tradition and to accommodate extremists.

“In principle, the only group authorized to declare a member of an Abrahamic religion a kafir (unbeliever) is the ulama, and this is only done once all the prescribed legal precautions have been taken.[2] However, a growing number of splinter Wahhabist/Salafist groups, classified by some scholars as Salafi-Takfiris,[6] have split from the orthodox method of establishing takfir through the processes of the Sharia. They have reserved to themselves the right to declare any Muslim an apostate, as well as any non-Muslim.” (Wikipedia)

Most Americans believe that these groups hate the West, and Americans, more than anyone else. But, the bulk of their violence is set against others in the region. Yes, it’s more geographically convenient. But also, and logically, a personal hate exists for those who were born and raised in Islam, but are infidels, in their eyes. If there’s a sense of urgency for what they may do to our own people. In reality, extremists groups are speedily doing worse than most westerners have witnessed to civilians in the region, right now.

History of Takfiri Violence

The website “onfaith.com” featured an article entitled, “Takfirism: The Key to Understanding ISIL.” In the article, the history of Takfirism turning violent in the past is detailed.

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“Takfirism turned violent in the late seventh century with the Kharijites, an early extremist group that rejected Muslims who did not accept their political and religious views. Known for their puritanism and fanaticism, this group engaged in campaigns of harassment and terror. The Kharijites’ violent extremism didn’t last long, as it was quickly dismissed as antithetical to Islam by the independent and authoritative ulema (religious leaders and scholars) of the time.”

Gulf states give birth to Takfiri groups

Takfirism: The Key to Understanding ISIL” sheds light on how the violent trend of extremist groups in the name of Takfiri we see today was born out of modern monarchies.

Today, takfirism has found new life within the structures of contemporary Gulf monarchies. The Gulf states used takfirism to eliminate political opponents and vulnerable populations, including religious minorities and women. They legitimized their modern takfirism by co-opting religious authority, fabricating religious texts, and spreading selective interpretations and applications of Islam by establishing schools and funding those that would teach their literal and absolutist Islamic narrative.

The diverse and principled interpretations of the Qur’an, hadith, and millions of other volumes written on theology, philosophy, and jurisprudence were eventually reduced to a whisper. The heart of the Qur’an — justice, equity, and compassion — became an inconvenient footnote because it was contrary to their agenda. Instead, the austere doctrine of takfirism was promoted as both a means to solidify power and create a duplicitous strand of anti-Western rhetoric while serving Western powers.

Now, these governments wield unanimous political and religious control. The result is an unholy alliance of clergy and state along with the disintegration of an independently authoritative ulema, consequently leading to the proliferation of groups like ISIL.”

Takfiri and Jihadi add legitimacy

Just as referring to the Islamic State as such lends authority to their claim. The claim is that the Islamic caliphate exists in the here and now. Their use of a centuries-old term, takfiri, brings more credibility, as well. The use of these old Islamic traditions exploited for their benefit provides a kind of legal framework that absolves them from wrongdoing.

The term Takfiri is the underlying theme behind the attacks, suicide bombings, beheadings, and all punishments. In a way, it’s similar to how we operate under Titles of U.S. Code abroad. Extremists absolve themselves via Takfir. They’re guilty of genocide, but it doesn’t count to them because of takfirism. They were cleansing the region of infidels.

It’s not necessarily the most critical aspect in order to understand these terror groups. But takfirism is the methodology used to kill would-be fellow Muslims in the Arab world. It is their license to commit whatever violence they want. As takfirists cite fundamental Islamic code, their greatest criticisms are often a call for moderation; but, not a full rebuttal of their actions.

Featured image courtesy of jafrianews.com.