Is everyone who is not either Jewish or Christian (dhimmis) or Muslim kafirs?

I assumed that was the case, but Wikipedia says

The term refers to a person who rejects or disbelieves in the god of Islam or who hides, denies, or pays no attention to the Islamic version of truth.

and the section Types of disbelief seems to be describing scenarios where Islam is offered to someone, and they reject it.

Would someone who has had never had Islam promoted to them by another person still be a kafir? For example, would someone living in North Korea be a kafir, or a Japanese person who believes in Buddhism and Shinto be regarded as a kafir?

  • Okay, it is a common question: will someone who did not hear about Islam enter the Paradise. At least I heard 2 opinions. First of them is that person didn't listen to his fitrah (unlike prophet Ibrahim. He understood that the path of his forefathers was wrong) and hence he will enter Jahannam. Or there is another opinion that for those people Allah will prepare a special test on the Day of Judgement. I don't know explicit hadith for the second opinion but probably it exists. You can try to look for it in authentic books of hadiths.
    – Jihad
    Jan 11, 2015 at 14:51
  • Possible duplicate? islam.stackexchange.com/q/1143/22
    – goldPseudo
    Jan 11, 2015 at 20:42
  • 1
    Kafir means "non-believer". So Christians and Jews are also considered to be kafir, because they don't believe in Islam.
    – Artus
    Jan 18, 2015 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


I found an ayah which could answer your question:

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to Allah ]. And he was not of the polytheists. (3:67).

As will be explained below the word Muslim doesn't just belong to Islam. Although Abraham hadn't had the Koran Allah describes him as a Muslim, too. As we know the general meaning of Muslim is submission to Allah/God, and it shows that everybody can become a Muslim as long as he/she believes in one God/Allah and is righteousness (read Sura Asr)

The following ayah could also be interesting for answering your question:

Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent an messenger (to give warning). (17:15)

So we can assume that Allah had sent at least one prophet to each nation to teach the truth and the right way. In my opinion these prophets had sent the same message of Allah, but due to the the cultural differences in other societies it was an other type of an abrahamic monotheistic religion. However this is my personal point of view...

Addtionionally, sura Asr teaches us how to prevent becoming a kafir:

By time, Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.

In the sura above the key words to become a Muslim are iman (faith), amiableness, teaching of truth, Patience and Constancy.

I can't imagine that Allah punishes anyone only because of his non-abrahmic religion or who comes from a society where Allah didn't sent a messenger. Of course, Allah knows best...

  • 1
    Are you referring to this Abraham as not being Jewish?
    – Golden Cuy
    Jan 12, 2015 at 22:42
  • @Andrew: yes.Unfortunately in our society a lot of people associate Judaism with jews, Jesus with Christianity and Muslims with Islam.But the Koran wants to make us clear that the word Muslim is a general name for those who believe in one God and submit only one God. As an example we can take the protestanism and catholism confession in the christianity... for a better interpretation and understanding now lets transmit the ayah 3:67 to Jesus: Jesus was neither a protestant nor a catholic, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim . And he was not of the polytheists.
    – kadesh
    Jan 13, 2015 at 8:13
  • @Andrew: Or another example for sunnits and shiits groups in Islam can be interpreted as wel l (although both groups are Muslims) Btw, all messengers/prophets in christianity and judaism like Maryam (Maria), Musa (Moses), Yusuf (Joseph), etc. were Muslims, too.
    – kadesh
    Jan 13, 2015 at 8:26

If Someone is never been exposed to Islam then he/she is not kaffir as they are unaware.However I have three propositions to this please:-

  • Firstly In the world where Allah has given us ample indications,sky,land,fire,rain,day,night and human morphology,birth and basic biology of existence then one can verily decide at least this fact that this World can not just exist on its own but is created by one Supreme Power,One Allah, when even a drop of water can not stand its shape when out of bowl how this Earth exist after being out of Sun? and how this universe exist in the complete emptiness of space?How day and night passes without an absence? These questions are in the mind of young boy and definitely in the course of his adolescence one gets the right answer owing to the world wide web and globalization.Unless the one decides to go away from truth but on the path of his desires then that is his own mistake and for that he or she would be considered kaffir and judged as kaffir.

    According to Quran Surah Al-Balad

    In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful

    1. I swear by this city (Makkah);
    2. And you are free (from sin, to punish the enemies of Islam on the Day of the conquest) in this city (Makkah),
    3. And by the begetter (i.e. Adam) and that which he begot (i.e. his progeny);
    4. Verily, We have created man in toil.
    5. Thinks he that none can overcome him?
    6. He says (boastfully): "I have wasted wealth in abundance!"
    7. Thinks he that none sees him?
    8. Have We not made for him a pair of eyes?
    9. And a tongue and a pair of lips?
    10. And shown him the two ways (good and evil)?
    11. But he has made no effort to pass on the path that is steep.
    12. And what will make you know the path that is steep?
    13. (It is) Freeing a neck (slave, etc.)
    14. Or giving food in a day of hunger (famine)
    15. To an orphan near of kin.
    16. Or to a Miskin (poor) afflicted with misery.
    17. Then he became one of those who believed, and recommended one another to perseverance and patience, and (also) recommended one another to pity and compassion.
    18. They are those on the Right Hand (the dwellers of Paradise),
    19. But those who disbelieved in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.), they are those on the Left Hand (the dwellers of Hell).
    20. The Fire will be shut over them (i.e. they will be enveloped by the Fire without any opening or window or outlet.
  • Secondly It can be argued if people who lived 2000 years ago had to face difficulty in rooting their beliefs and finding the truth however for the same argument there were 124000 Prophets send for them by Allah.However the people who lived in the today's world are either Muslims or believers of something other then Islam and are avoiding or covering the truth deliberately as its a fact that we live in a global world and unless one is really deaf and blind for his real interactions or social media interactions or television then he is aware of Islamic religion and how a muslim clearly exercise his beliefs in his life.Hence such a person who is aware and still disbelief's is surely disbelieving for a reason he finds better then the truth itself hence he is a disbeliever and a kaffir by defination.It is not applied to him that a particular Muslim should sit and tell him about Islam or else he will not be able to see or hear about it.

  • Thirdly All hearts are made by Allah and Allah put sense of good and wrong in it.As mentioned in Surah Balad.So noone can truly say he never felt the truth. Still its important to spread message of Islam by Muslims and this website is doing the same.Thanks to the manager and people who participated in sharing Islamic teachings. Thankyou for reading Fondly Nabeel Abdaal Bela


Ok, first of all, there is a distinction between declaring someone kafir and recognizing someone as kafir. For the former case, Allah alone is the judge of declaring someone Kafir or not. So, if someone's never been exposed to Islam, it's Allah to judge if he's kafir or not, and no human can grasp the criteria of His judgement. But we do know that He's most gracious, just and kind, so we can reassure ourselves that someone who's never exposed to Islam will be judged for other factors like piety, and will be rewarded respectively.

The definition you found is for the latter case which helps us recognize kafirs.

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