The concept of charity and unconditional good deeds is inconsistent with the concept of charity and good deeds in the light of what is referred to as al-walā’ wal-barā’ (‘loyalty and renunciation’), since the performance of acts of charity and good deeds may not be applied to those who differ in belief.


ACCORDING TO THE DOCTRINE of ‘loyalty and renunciation’, [1] a charitable action or a good deed are not accepted as such in themselves as acts that please both the doer and the receiver. The act only acquires its charitable value when that act is according to the standards and definitions laid down by al-walā’ wal-barā’, and carried out for the benefit of those who subscribe to the creed. It is the creed that determines whether it is an act of charity or a good deed.

And that evaluation does not necessarily conform in all cases to the judgment of the moral reasoning, as a “practical act”, because the provisions of moral reasoning do not accept any conditioning restriction according to one identity or belief, or any national identity or what have you. The arbitration of moral reasoning does not accept restricting conditions, since for mankind all over the globe lying is an ugly thing while truth-telling is beautiful, oppression is ugly but justice beautiful, loyalty is beautiful but treachery ugly – irrespective of religious belief, social identity or anything else for that matter.

Anyone who adopts al-walā’ wal-barā’ and stresses that any good charitable act or good deed must be ‘for God’ alone, he means that no acts are to be characterized as charitable unless the standards, restrictions and conditions stipulated in the creed – as he understands and interprets it – are applied to them. This means that they are not carried out for the sake of a human being as such, but only for someone who ascribes to his belief system. When, in some cases, a person is intended as the beneficiary, it is for some specific reason and not simply because he or she is a human being. This is what the Salafist tawḥīdī [2] vision refers to and from which the term ‘loyalty and renunciation’ derives.

Those who adopt this belief do not take the initiative to do good for people without first looking at their belief

This means that those who adopt this belief do not take the initiative to do good for people without first looking at their belief. Doing good has to be reserved for those who share their belief as opposed to anyone else, in the sense that the religiosity constructed on this vision sees that one’s relationship with God can only be expressed via a special charter of belief, and whatever precise and detailed limits for the religious believer that this charter stipulates. This charter includes statements of belief that prohibit doing good to those who in some issues espouse a different belief, and sets the compass guiding the map of charity that is defined by believers. It is within these limits that the act acquires a religious value that validates it as benevolent and righteous.

The term ‘loyalty and renunciation’ and other terms of belief, set strict limits for doing good acts that one is to see as pleasing to God – that is, every act that is lawful in the sense being bounded by the faith. Accordingly, everything that God does not approve of cannot validate this act as ‘good’. Therefore a person whose religion or denomination differs cannot be the object of a charitable act or a good deed, nor can he be seen as sharing one’s humanity or in need of some act of charity. This is because, in the perspective of most of those holding this opinion, such an act is not required for God’s sake.

Charitable work for the sake of a person, simply as a person, does not constitute validation for an act of doing good for followers of those who would forbid even expressing festive greetings to anyone of another religion, or who would forbid any salutation or saying ‘peace be upon him’[3]. Ibn al-Qayyim expressed it thus:

“As for congratulating them on the rituals of disbelief that are specific to them, such as congratulating them on their festivals and their fasts, or saying:  ‘Blessed Eid be upon you’, or congratulating them on this feast and the like, or returning the greeting from a disbeliever  – this is forbidden by the consensus of scholars, since it constitutes a prohibited act equivalent to congratulating him for worshipping the Cross.  There are many who are weak in faith that fall into this trap.”

Indeed, some of them forbid even eating the meat slaughtered by someone who does not pray, or responding to any invitation that he may receive from him, and instead impose on the believer the duty to cut relations with that man entirely.

 “Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen was asked about the ruling on greeting non-Muslims? He replied, ‘It is forbidden and prohibited to initiate a greeting to non-Muslims.’” [4]


“Sheikh Abd al-Aziz bin Baz was asked about the ruling on the permissibility of eating the meat of animals slaughtered by one who intentionally abandons prayer: ‘The one who does not pray, his sacrificed meat is not to be eaten. This is the correct view… for the one who does not pray has no religion, and thus his sacrificed meat is not to be eaten…  If that man should issue an invitation to feast, his invitation should not be accepted but instead he is to shun him until he repents to God and resumes the prayer.” [5]

In the work of Ibn Taymiyya[6] the matter reached its ultimate expression when he forbade benefiting from any of the experiences and knowledge of non-Muslims and prohibited imitating them even in what is in the interest of the Muslim, as he says:

“Do not imitate them even in what is might benefit our interests, because God will either give us the equivalent or better than this in this world, or He will compensate us for it in the Hereafter.” [7]

This means that a Muslim must boycott the entire non-Muslim world, and that is impracticable since the world today is intertwined and interacts like a tightly knit fabric in terms of communication, inter-exchange and co-operation in the various arenas of contemporary life. A society that seeks a presence in the world cannot live as if it is on some island closed in upon itself.

History tells us that whoever remains in sharp conflict with reality will not be able to maintain his position for long

Most of the known religions engaged in anathematizing takfīr[8] at one stage of their history. No one faith has monopolized this tendency, albeit they have differed in the intensity of this takfīr  and in the diversity of its forms, limits and influence. Takfīr constitutes the dilemma of religious faiths: it thwarts every serious attempt at inter-faith dialogue and co-existence. Most religious believers deplore the presence of takfīr in their faith, their heritage and their history, and many are disturbed by the takfīr discussions on sects and denominations in our heritage.  Yet those who reveal its existence are usually accused of defaming the religion or the sect to which they belong. It is as if they remain unaware that takfīr pervades the traditional scholasticism in every denomination.

The term ‘loyalty and renunciation’, as a synonym for takfīr, turned into an authority permeating the conscience of every Muslim who embraces it. Its Muslim adopters was were, and still are, incapable of fostering a free, humane, moral conscience that would allow him to build positive human relationships with followers of other faiths. Very often they are incapable of trusting relationships also with Muslims of other sects, since the ‘loyalty and renunciation’ doctrine obliges them to take a hostile position with respect to them, a position which some emphasize by repeating the saying:

“And know that even should he declare the Oneness of God and renounce polytheism – a person’s Islam is not a sincere Islam, unless it be accompanied by enmity for these polytheists.”[9]

Confining ourselves to adducing Salafist statements and fatwās on this does not mean that they are abnormal or the only ones that emphasise this in our heritage. The fact is they are still effective and working their influence upon the points of view of many of those who believe in them. The actual living conditions of many (non-Salafist) Muslims has forced them to contravene these statements and rulings in their dealings with those who differ in their beliefs.The force of reality imposes a logic that overcomes the arguments of those who are attempting to resist the course of history, wherever this course takes them .

History tells us that whoever remains in sharp conflict with reality will not be able to maintain his position for long or stand firm however hard he tries, as we have seen repeated in all religions, beliefs, identities and cultures.Takfīr tears apart the bonds of co-existence in society, and plunges it into open warfare. Exposing takfīr’s historical archive is vital for restoring the values of spirituality, morality and beauty in the Qur’ān to a Muslim’s life, and for liberating the Muslim’s conscience from the gloomy legacy of takfīr.

[1] See Glossary: Al-Walā’ wal-Barā’ .

[2]  See Glossary: ‘Tawhīd’  and ‘Salafists’.

[3] The argumentation is that “it is not allowed to imitate a ‘salām’ greeting to a kāfir since the meaning of ‘salām’ is safety from harm, so if you say ‘al-salāmu ‘alayk’ (‘peace be upon you’) you are thereby asking God almighty to grant him security from physical and moral harm”. Amīn al-Shaqāwī, المسلمون في بلاد الغربة (‘Muslims Abroad) 1st ed. 2017, p.245.  (Ed.)

[4] The question is featured on the Islam, Question and Answer website: There is a particularly rich body of warnings on this: cf. Ibn ‘Uqlā al-Shu‘aybī: حكم تهنئة الكفار بأعيادهم (‘The  Verdict Concerning Greeting the Infidel at the Time of their Feasts’). According to the ‘ask a scholar’ site Islam Q&A, the position is the following: “Greeting the kuffaar [the infidel] on Christmas and other religious holidays of theirs is haraam [forbidden], by consensus … as is congratulating them on their festivals and fasts by saying ‘A happy festival to you’ or ‘May you enjoy your festival,’ and so on …  It is like congratulating someone for prostrating to the cross, or even worse than that. It is as great a sin as congratulating someone for drinking wine, or murdering someone, or having illicit sexual relations, and so on. Many of those who have no respect for their religion fall into this error; they do not realize the offensiveness of their actions. Whoever congratulates a person for his disobedience or bidʽa [‘innovation’]  or kufr [‘infidelity’] exposes himself to the wrath and anger of Allaah.”  For the full fatwā, see:  (Ed.)

[5] This question is also featured on the Islam, Question and Answer website: (Ed.)

[6] Taqi al-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) was an idiosyncratic scholar who, by prioritising the authority of the Salaf (‘ancestors’) over subsequent scholars, promoted the devaluing of taqlīd and fostered the development of what later came to be known as the lā madhhabiyya (‘anti-school’) position. In this he departed from  Ibn Ḥanbal’s (Atharī) method of interpretation to initiate what opponents of ‘Salafism’ consider to be a ‘Neo-Atharī’ school of thought. Contemporary Salafists consider Ibn Taymiyya and his disciples Ibn Kathir and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya as important classical religious authorities and fundamental points of reference. For more on the doctrines of the Salafists, see Glossary. (Ed.)

[7] Ibn Taymiyya’s signal work on this is  اقتضاء الصراط المستقيم لمخالفة أصحاب الجحيم   (‘Cleaving to the Straight Path means Opposing the Inhabitants of Hell) where the Muslim is enjoined to “act differently from the others … Because being different from them brings us benefits and good in everything we do. Even the perfect things they do in their lives could be harmful to us in our Hereafter, or even more importantly in our daily lives, so remaining different from them will bring us goodness.”  خالفوهم  … فإذا المخالفة لهم فيها, منفعة وصلاح لنا في كل أمورنا، حتى ما هم عليه من إتقان أمور دنياهم قد يكون مضراً بأمر الآخرة، أو بما هو أهم منه من أمر دنيانا. فالمخالفة فيه صلاح لنا. Ibn Taymiyya,  اقتضاء الصراط المستقيم لمخالفة أصحاب الجحيم, Minbar al-Tawḥīd wal-Jihād, 1994, pp.39 and 43. (Ed.)

[8] See Glossary.

[9] This formula was a favourite of Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb, and founded upon the Qur’ānic passage LVIII (al-Mujādila) 22: “You shall not find a people who believe in Allah and the latter day befriending those who act in opposition to Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their (own) fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their kinsfolk”. (Ed.)

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymin: “It is forbidden to initiate a greeting to non-Muslims”