Surah Kafirun (الکافِرون), meaning disbelievers, also known as ‘Ibādah (عِبادة) [worship] and Jaḥd (جَحد) [denial], is the 109th surah and one of the short chapters of the Quran located in juz’ 30 that God revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Mecca. In surah Kafirun, God instructs the Noble Prophet to tell the disbelievers that he would never believe in and follow their religion and worship what they worship, and neither would they ever follow his religion and worship his God.
Facts about Surah Kafirun
Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Kafirun
بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم
In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْكَافِرُونَ ﴿1﴾
Say, ‘O faithless ones!
لَا أَعْبُدُ مَا تَعْبُدُونَ ﴿2﴾
I do not worship what you worship,
وَلَا أَنتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ ﴿3﴾
nor do you worship what I worship;
وَلَا أَنَا عَابِدٌ مَّا عَبَدتُّمْ ﴿4﴾
nor will I worship what you have worshipped,
وَلَا أَنتُمْ عَابِدُونَ مَا أَعْبُدُ ﴿5﴾
nor will you worship what I worship.
لَكُمْ دِينُكُمْ وَلِيَ دِينِ ﴿6﴾
To you your religion, and to me my religion.’
Occasion and Context of Revelation
Once, a specific group of polytheists and idolaters of Mecca from the tribe of Quraysh including individuals such as Waleed ibn Mughayrah (وَلید ابنِ مُغيرَة), ‘Āṣ ibn Wāli‘ah (عاصِ ابنِ والِعَة), and others said to the Prophet, “O Muhammad! Let us make a deal. Follow our religion and worship our deities and idols for a while, and we too will worship your God and follow your religion for a while.” At this instant, God revealed surah Kafirun to the Prophet ordering the Prophet that he would never do that and that they would not fulfill their promise either.
Surah Kafirun Tafseer
- Surah Kafirun is one of the five surahs in the Quran that begins with the word qul (قُل), meaning say. The other four surahs that begin with qul in order of arrangement in the Quran are as follows:
- Surah Jinn (الجِنّ) [Creatures God made from fire]
- Surah Ikhlas (الإِخلاص) [Sincerity] or Tawheed (التَوحيد) [Monotheism]
- Surah Falaq (الفَلَق) [Daybreak]
- Surah Nās (النّاس) [Humans]
In fact, these surahs instruct the Prophet to say something, either to people (such as disbelievers in surah Kafirun), as a means of confessing God’s oneness (surah Ikhlas), and seeking refuge in God from evil (surah Falaq and Nās).
Another key point is that surah Kafirun is actually foretelling the future. To explain, Arabs use the word lā (لا), which is a word of negation, before a verb to indicate that such an action will never happen in the future, whereas they use the word mā (ما) to negate something in the present. Therefore, those disbelievers who said that they would worship the God of Muhammad were lying. In other words, they would never have worshipped God Almighty even if their condition was met, which of course was impossible.
The Obstinate Disbelievers
It is important to realize that verses of the Quran are not only contradictory to one another, but also complement and further explain each other. Analogous to surah Kafirun, God has said in various verses of other surahs in the Quran that certain groups of disbelievers shall never believe in God and follow the true religion of Islam. As an illustration, God says in verse six of surah Baqarah (البَقَرَة):
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿6﴾
As for the faithless, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not have faith.
- Whether the Prophet warned these disbelievers to believe in Islam or not, they would not believe. This could have various reasons as stated in the Quran itself:
- They wish to follow their carnal desires; thus, a religion that places certain restraints on their carnal desires and lusts is not appealing to them. 1
- The justification they give for not having faith is their adherence to the religion of their fathers and forefathers. 2
- They do not want to accept the fact that there will be a day when they would be called into account for their actions, even though they might know it is true. 3
- The thought that a deity that cannot be seen or heard by one’s senses is hard for them to accept. 4
A point often overlooked is that there is a major difference between disbelievers who are ignorant and those who have knowledge of the truth. To clarify, many people may know what the truth is and that God must be worshipped as the only deity and Lord of the universe. Nevertheless, they refuse to admit it, follow His commandments, and abide by His laws. As a matter of fact, this is kufr (کُفر) in the true sense of the word. Kufr is an Arabic word that is translated as disbelief. However, it is interesting to know that kufr literally means to cover or hide something.
For the same reason, kufr is sometimes synonymous with its derivative kufrān (کُفران) that means taking something for granted, such as a blessing, or generally being ungrateful of something. Therefore, kufr means that there is a covering or veil between that person and God that deprives the individual from benefiting from that knowledge. Given these points, the Quran states:
لَقَدْ حَقَّ الْقَوْلُ عَلَىٰ أَكْثَرِهِمْ فَهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿7﴾
The word has certainly become due against most of them, so they will not have faith.
إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا فِي أَعْنَاقِهِمْ أَغْلَالًا فَهِيَ إِلَى الْأَذْقَانِ فَهُم مُّقْمَحُونَ ﴿8﴾
Indeed We have put iron collars around their necks, which are up to the chins, so their heads are upturned.
وَجَعَلْنَا مِن بَيْنِ أَيْدِيهِمْ سَدًّا وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِمْ سَدًّا فَأَغْشَيْنَاهُمْ فَهُمْ لَا يُبْصِرُونَ ﴿9﴾
And We have put a barrier before them and a barrier behind them, then We have blind-folded them, so they do not see.
وَسَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿10﴾
It is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not have faith. 5
All in all, some disbelievers know the truth in that God is one, yet they refuse to admit it, even verbally.
A Misconception About Verse Six of Surah Kafirun
Some people think that when at the end of this surah, God tells the Prophet to say, “To you your religion and to me my religion,” it means that people are free to choose polytheism or disbelief over Islam, or that the Prophet has nothing to do with the polytheists and disbelievers in terms of inviting them to Islam. In fact, the last verse of surah Kafirun is saying that the Prophet will never be inclined to them and neither will they accept Islam. 6
Virtues of Reciting Surah Kafirun
As for the virtues and rewards of reciting surah Kafirun, our Noble Prophet and his vicegerents have recommended us to recite this surah in our obligatory prayers. The following are the virtues of reciting surah Kafirun:
- The reward of reciting surah Kafirun is equal to reciting one fourth of the Quran. 7
- Whoever recites surah Kafirun and Ikhlas in his obligatory prayers, God will forgive him, his parents, and children.
- If someone whose name has been written to be among the wretched recites surah Kafirun, God will:
- include him among the prosperous
- make him felicitous
- cause him to die as a martyr 8
- resurrect him as a martyr
- Prophet Muhammad has said: Whoever recites this surah before sleeping, God will keep him safe from polytheism. 9
Benefits of Surah Kafirun
1. Seeing Prophet Muhammad in One’s Dream
One of the Imams has said, “Whoever recites surah Kafirun a hundred times on the eve of Friday, he will see the Messenger of God, peace be upon him and his progeny, in his dream. 10
2. Satan Being Shun From the Reciter of This Surah
3. Answering of Prayer
The Prophet has said, “Whoever recites surah Kafirun ten times during sunrise and then says a prayer, God will answer his prayer.” 12
4. Surah Kafirun as One of the Four Quls
There are four specific surahs that begin with qul, meaning say. As was noted, these surahs are:
Narrations state that by reciting these surahs dispels the evil eye and sorcery. Moreover, it serves as protection for one’s:
It is also very common for these four surahs to be written and hung on the wall of houses as a means of protection from evil.
In conclusion, learning about and reciting surah Kafirun is very important, just as learning the entire Quran is important, so that we will never be among the disbelievers and polytheists, God willing.
- Quran 30:29.
- Quran 23:24.
- Quran 75:3-5.
- Quran 2:55.
- Quran 36:7-10.
- Al-Mīzān (الميزان).
- Thawāb al-A‘māl (ثَوابُ الأَعمال), p. 127.
- Majma‘ al-Bayān (مَجمَعُ البَيان), vol. 10, p. 550.
- Mustadrak al-Wasā’il (مُستَدركُ الوَسائِل)
- Majma‘ al-Bayān (مَجمَعُ البَيان), vol. 10, p. 552.
- Al-Miṣbāḥ al-Kaf‘amī (المِصباحُ الکَفعَمي), p. 461.