Question: People who are Ahl-i qibla [people of the qibla] cannot be called kāfirs [disbelievers]. Since all the seventy-two heretical groups are Ahl-i qibla; that is, they perform namāz, do people calling them disbelievers not become the ones themselves?
Yes, the Ahl-i qibla cannot be called disbelievers, but what is the term Ahl-i qibla? The Ahl-i qibla are not the people performing namāz. Let us elucidate the matter succinctly:
1. Imām-i Azam and Imām-i Shāfiī said that a person of the qibla (the Ahl-i qibla) cannot be called a kāfir. This statement means that the person of qibla does not become a kāfir by committing sins. The seventy-two groups are Ahl-i qibla. Since they erred in the interpretation of the unclear documents in which ijtihād is permissible, they cannot be called disbelievers. Yet, because ijtihād is not permissible in those religious learnings that are indispensable and which have been communicated through tawātur [consensus], those who disbelieve such learnings become kāfirs according to the consensus (of savants). For those who disbelieve them have disbelieved Rasūlullah (sall-Allahu alaihi wa sallam). Īmān [belief, faith] means to believe those commonly known learnings which Rasūlullah brought from Allahu taālā. It is kufr [disbelief] to disbelieve even one of these learnings. (Translation of Milal-Nihal)
[ijtihād: it means to work with all ones might, to strive and to take pains. In other words, it is to strive to derive the rules to solve problems that have not been explained clearly and openly in the Qurān or in the hadīths by likening them to matters that have been explained clearly and in detail. This can be done only by our Prophet (sall Allahu alaihi wa sallam), by all his Ashāb, and from among other Muslims, by those who have been promoted to the grade of ijtihād; these exalted people are called Mujtahid.]
2. Though the seventy-two heretical groups perform namāz and do all acts of worship, some of them have become mulhids. Since those who deny a tenet of belief or a tenet of practice that have been communicated through consensus become disbelievers and renegades; they are not called Ahl-i qibla anymore, even if they utter the Lā ilāha ill-Allah, do all acts of worship, and avoid all sins. (Hadīqa)
[mulhid: a person who goes out of Islam by giving wrong meanings to āyat-i-karīmas and hadīth-i-sharifs, that is whose īmān is corrupt, is called a mulhid.]
3. Those who disbelieve even one of the indispensable religious learnings or one of the tenets to be believed become disbelievers, even if they say the Lā ilāha ill-Allah Muhammadun Rasūlullah. (Radd-ul-mukhtār)
4. Not all of those who are in this one group (the Ahl as-sunnat group) will go to Hell. Of these, only those who have committed evil deeds will go to Hell. Because the seventy-two reported group of bidat are Ahl-i qibla, they are not declared disbelievers. However, of these people, the ones who disbelieve those Islamic tenets that are indispensable to be believed become disbelievers. (Maktūbāt-i Rabbānī, Second Volume, 67th Letter; Third Volume, 38th Letter)
5. Those who deny a commonly known fard [a command] become disbelievers, even if they perform namāzes. (Barīqa)
6. Not every performer of namāz is classified as being Ahl-i qibla. The purport of a hadīth-i sharīf is as follows:
(He who lies when he speaks, who breaks when he promises, and who betrays the trust when he is entrusted is a hypocrite, even if he claims he is a Muslim, performs namāz, and fasts.) [Bukhārī]
7. Those who disbelieve any of the six fundamentals of īmān are disbelievers, even if they perform namāz. (Ashiat-ul-lamaāt)
For the phrase with ikhlās in the hadīth Abstaining from harāms, he who says Lā ilāha ill-Allah with ikhlās will enter Paradise, our Master the Prophet said, (ikhlās is) its precluding the sayer from harāms. [Tabarānī]
For people who do not avoid prohibited acts, it gets increasingly difficult to keep their īmān. If they fail to keep it, they will dwell in Hell eternally.
Question: When we see a certain Muslim do an act that is a symptom of disbelief, can we judge such a person to be a disbeliever?
On the basis of a suspicion, we cannot attribute disbelief to people who confess openly that they are Muslims and who say the Kalima-i shahādat.
If something done or said by a certain Muslim bears many symptoms of kufr [disbelief] and only one symptom of īmān [belief], or bears a symptom that is controversial (among savants) whether it causes disbelief or not, such a person cannot be named a disbeliever. For we are enjoined to have a good opinion about other Muslims. (Radd-ul-mukhtār)
When it is understood clearly that that person has meant the symptom of disbelief, this one becomes a disbeliever. Our tawīl [interpretation] will be of no use then. (Bazzāziyya)
Question: Is it not declared in hadīth-i sharīfs and in Islamic savants statements that seventy-two heretical groups will go to Paradise after they stay in Hell as much as their sins and corruptness of their belief?
Yes, but who will be treated as such are heretical groups, not every person who is Ahl-i qibla. Of these heretical groups, only those who have not fallen into disbelief will be so. People who have slide into disbelief will be in eternal Hell.
Question: There have emerged people claiming, Those who turn to the direction of the Kaba five times a day and who say the Kalima-i shahādat when reciting the prayer Attahiyyātu in the sitting postures in namāz will not remain in disbelief even if they fall into disbelief and do not repent and renounce the deed which caused their apostasy. Is it not wrong?
This thought goes against the credal tenets of Ahl as-sunnat belief. Hadrat Imām-i Azam expresses: To make tawba [repentance], it does not suffice to say the Kalima-i shahādat; it is also necessary to repent and renounce the deed which has caused ones disbelief. Unless people repent that deed, they will remain in disbelief even if they perform namāz.
Question: Basing their thought on the hadīth He who says Lā ilāha ill-Allah will enter Paradise, some people say that seventy-two heretical groups, too, will not stay in Hell eternally. Is this assertion true?
It is wrong. A hypocrite can also utter the Lā ilāha ill-Allah. Out of them, those who have died as disbelievers will not enter Paradise.
Question: Is it permissible to say Beneath our disease of takfīr, there lies a kind of self-deification virus?
This statement is a slander against the Prophet of Allah and Islamic savants. Were Rasūlullah and his inheritors, the Ahl as-sunnat savants, infected (Hāshā!) with a self-deification virus as they declared those who fell into disbelief kāfirs? What an abominable slander! Heretical people holding disbelief in creed are not Ahl-i qibla; they will stay in Hell forever even if they perform namāz and do all acts of worship. In order for them to be embraced in the group termed Ahl-i qibla, they must repent and renounce the false creed that causes their disbelief. We have listed its proof-texts and documents above.
(takfīr: declaring a Muslim a kāfir [disbeliever].)