I'm interested in this quote from ibn Abd al-Wahhab (who is described as the founder of Wahhabism on Wikipedia):

... the Third Nullification from the nullifications of Islām which the Shaykh Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdil-Wahhāb (Rahimahullāh Ta’āla) mentioned, as he said, “The Third: Whoever does not make Takfīr to the mushrikīn, or doubts their kufr, or approves of their Math’hab, he has disbelieved.
Nāsir Ibn Hamad Al-Fahd, Refraining From Making Takfīr of a Kāfir, in The Evidences for the Ruling Regarding Alliance with the Infidels, p.120. (pdf)

All ten nullifications are rebutted in Question 1 of The Response (by Al-Azhar scholars). However, they didn't directly describe the third nullification as inaccurate, but rather discuss the extremely high standards required for takfir.

Question: How did ibn Abd al-Wahhab derive the third nullification of Islam: "whoever does not make takfir to the mushrikin ... he has disbelieved"?

My impression is that it's hugely risky and pointless to engage in takfir: the only time it's correct is when it's so obvious they're basically engaging in self-takfir anyway (such as someone who says "I'm an ex-Muslim").

Edit: I have asked a question about what takfir actually is here: What exactly is takfir (declaration of disbelief)?

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    Takfir literally means 'to declare someone a Kafir'. Who else other than a Mushrik can you wihout doubt declare a Kafir? Approving of their religion too seems obviously Kufr to me. So, I don't really understand what your problem with his statement is.
    – The Z
    Mar 25, 2018 at 3:18
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones Sorry if I misunderstood: seems to me you are understanding this takfir to mean that you need to go up to every individual and call them out, saying "you are a kafir" ... "you are a kafir". Rather what it means is that you believe that all non-muslims are kafir and that their beliefs are wrong. Someone going contrary to this would be, for example, someone who thinks that Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism etc. are on truth and will be saved. Or someone who expresses uncertainty about the matter.
    – UmH
    Mar 25, 2018 at 11:42
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    @RebeccaJ.Stones It wasn't rebutted, either, the thing you cited just clarifies that ignorance of the law is an excuse here, not that what Abdul Wahhab claimed the law was was actually not the law.
    – G. Bach
    Mar 25, 2018 at 12:00
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    Just FYI, "Al Wahhab" is one of the names of Allah, so shortening Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab's name to that is problematic.
    – goldPseudo
    Mar 25, 2018 at 18:17
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    @G.Bach, you are correct. There is no rebuttal (although this is what the aim was initially). The response of "Al-Azhar scholars" is full of fallacies of relevance, then they quote the Fatwa Centre, supervised by Dr. ‘Abdullah al-Faqih (which is IslamWeb) that actually has a lot of fatwas supporting the "third nullification." Not sure if they did so out of lack of knowledge or oversight or deliberately (they occasionally do so when forced to take a specific stance). In any case, Al-Azhar is not a fatwa authority.
    – III-AK-III
    Mar 25, 2018 at 18:24

2 Answers 2


Your impression of takfīr as a hugely risky process is indeed correct. The Prophet ﷺ warned his companions, and the rest of the Muslim nation, of the risk involved of publicly declaring one as a disbeliever is that one (or both) of them bears the title (either the one declaring or the one being declared against):

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بِشْرٍ، وَعَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ نُمَيْرٍ، قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عُمَرَ، عَنْ نَافِعٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ، أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ: إِذَا كَفَّرَ الرَّجُلُ أَخَاهُ فَقَدْ بَاءَ بِهَا أَحَدُهُمَا‏

It is reported on the authority of Ibn 'Umar that the Apostle (may peace and blessings be upon him) observed: "When a man calls his brother an unbeliever, it returns (at least) to one of them."

Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Hadith 121

This also implies that doing so may be required at one stage or another. The hadith is a deterrent, not a prohibition. It needs to be done with caution and by those who are qualified; yet, the fact remains that there are reasons for takfīr to be done. This is what makes your impression of takfīr being pointless to be incorrect. Matters of marriage (or its continuation thereof), funeral and burial process, inheritance, among other liabilities, are entirely dependent on one's belief either as the single criterion or as one of the major criteria. It is not a matter to be taken lightly either not to exercise takfīr. However, as your reference said on the same page (pp.120): "this principle is not unrestricted."

The concept that you are asking about "Whoever does not make Takfīr to the mushrikīn, or doubts their kufr, or approves of their Math'hab, he has disbelieved" predates Muhammad ibn 'Abdul-Wahhāb (1115 A.H.-1206 A.H.). For instance, Qadi 'Ayyad (Maliki, 476 A.H.-544 A.H.), more than six centuries earlier, said in his book Ash-Shifa:

ولهذا نكفر من لم يكفر من دان بغير ملة المسلمين من الملل أو وقف فيهم أو شك أو صحح مذهبهم وإن أظهر مع ذلك الإسلام واعتقده واعتقد إبطال كل مذهب سواه

NOTE. My own translation, so treat with care.

This is why we declare as a disbeliever whoever does not consider non-Muslims as disbelievers or declines to declare them as disbelievers or doubts they are disbelievers or justifies their belief; even if he publicly declares he is a Muslim while genuinely believing in Islam being the only true religion.

Ash-Shifa bi Ta'rīf Huqūq Al-Mustafa, Vol. 3, pp. 286 (Arabic only)

There are numerous other scholars who have reiterrated the same concept, e.g., An-Nawawi (Shafi'i, 631 A.H.-676 A.H.) in his book Rawdat at-Tālibīn 10/70 (Arabic only) said that one "who does not call a non-Muslim a disbeliever, e.g., Christians, or doubts their disblief or approves of their belief, then he himself is a disbeliever, even if he says he is Muslim, and even if he believes that Islam is the correct belief," and Al-Bahūtī (Hanbali, 1000 A.H.-1051 A.H.) in his book Kashshāf al-Qinā' 6/170 (Arabic only) said the same thing effectively, and so on.

The origin of this "third nullification" comes from the governing principle that whoever denies what is known by necessity or by proof of part of the religion is a disbeliever as Ibn Hajar al-Haytami (909 A.H.-974 A.H.) said:

يعني ما قلنا إنه واجب أو حلال أو حرام معلوم من الدين بالضرورة من حيث أصل كل منها، وإن وقع خلاف في بعض تفاصيل صور من العملي، فمن أنكر واحدا منها بالكلية أو اعتقد وجوب ما ليس بواجب بالإجماع كصلاة سادسة، اعتقد أن وجوبها كوجوب الخمس فخرج نحو الوتر أو أنكر مشروعية السنن الراتبة أو صلاة العيدين أو أنكر بقية الصلاة، زاعما أنها لم ترد إلا مجملة كفر

NOTE. My own translation, so treat with care.

What we said previously means that what is known to be mandatory or halāl (permissible) or harām (forbidden) by proof from the religion based on the principle(s) for each [classification], even if there is a difference in some of the details of its appication, then whoever denies one in its entirety or believes mandatory what is not by consensus — e.g., having a sixth prayer that he believes is as mandatory the five main prayers, as in the witr prayer), or denies al-sunan ar-rātiba (the proven and confirmed nafl prayers) or the prayers of the two Eids — claiming that they are not stipulated, then he is a disbeliever.

Al-Fatāwa al-Hadithiyya, pp. 142 (Arabic only)

Finally, takfīr is indeed a huge task that can only be undertaken by a knowledgeable body of a certain level of scholars (mujtahid levels); it is not a matter that followers or commoners (see the classification of seekers of knowledge for more information) should undertake. This was clearly mentioned by Ibn Taymiyyah (661 A.H.-728 A.H.), and of course Muhammad ibn 'Abdul-Wahhāb, in his book Majmū' al Fatāwa:

وغالب مذاهب الأئمة فيها تفصيل وحقيقة الأمر في ذلك: أن القول قد يكون كفرا فيطلق القول بتكفير صاحبه ويقال من قال كذا فهو كافر لكن الشخص المعين الذي قاله لا يحكم بكفره حتى تقوم عليه الحجة التي يكفر تاركها

NOTE. My own translation, so treat with care.

And most of the madhhabs of the Imams are to be restricted and the truth is: A saying [principle] may be disbelief, therefore its owner is declared as a disbeliever. It is said "whoever says so is a disbeliever," but naming a person as a disbeliever is not to be deemed valid until proof is established against him, then he would be declared a disbeliever by ignoring it [the proof].

Majmū' al Fatāwa, Vol. 24, pp. 345

You may refer to this Islam Q&A articles on guidelines on ruling someone to be a disbeliever and evidence that the one who is ignorant is excused with regard to issues of shirk and kufr for more information.

Note. Apart from Wikipedia and the media, I have not come across any credible Sunni source that refers to Muhammad ibn 'Abdul-Wahhāb as the founder of Wahhabism. I am not sure where else you may have come across this term, so I assumed in this answer the position of the definition in Wikipedia, which the media has often taken to declare Ibn Taymiyyah, who ironically died a few centuries before Ibn 'Abdul-Wahhāb, as one of his followers.


Al Wahab didn't introduce/originally derive this concept. He just propagated and 'popularized' it (for lack of a better term). It is a very old concept. In fact, we saw Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) demonstrating this Islamic principle!

There has already been for you an excellent pattern in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, "Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have denied you, and there has appeared between us and you animosity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone"... - Qur'an 60:4.

Complete dissociation from Kufr and its people is a hallmark (and requirement) of belief/being Muslim:

It Is narrated on the authority of Abu Malik: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: He who professed that there is no god but Allah and made a denial of everything which the people worship beside Allah, his property and blood became inviolable, an their affairs rest with Allah - Muslim (23).

The reasoning: People are defined by their beliefs. If you acknowledge someone as Muslim, you by default accept their beliefs as being within the folds of Islam. Therein lies the problem for those who refuse to make Takfir of the disbelievers. -- Ultimately it is rejection of Allah's (ﷻ) Word/Judgement as He said those beliefs are NOT acceptable to be Muslim so we can't view people with those beliefs as being Muslim (because we cannot contradict Allah (ﷻ))!

My impression is the opposite of yours; Takfir is part of what keeps Muslim society (as a whole) on the straight path. Otherwise, you go from a religion to a "free-for-all" that becomes anything but a united religious following.. and causes confusion and chaos. The reason we had Prophets sent to us and Books revealed was to be united on truth!

Also, not to go off on a tangent but all 10 nullifications are sound and backed by logic and Islamic textual proof. (Refer to this explanation for more details: "Explanation of the Nullifiers of Islam" by Shaykh Abdur-Ra'uf Shakir).

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