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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word kafir (pl. kuffar) is derived from kfr means cover, hide or conceal. In religious context it means to cover benefits received. The verb kafara denotes the characteristics attitude of those who, having received God's gifts of benevolence, try to conceal and ignore them, who are ungrateful to the Gracious God, who even take the offensive against Him. By extension, kufr came to mean to ignore or fail to acknowledge (30:13, 35:14, 46:6, 3:115), to reject, to spurn, to be thankless or ungrateful (2:152, 16:55,83, 122-4, 17:27, 26:18-19, 29:66, 30:24, 43:15). Derivatives of the root kfr occurs some 482 times in the Koran. Derivatives of the root kfr occurs some 482 times in the Koran.

Kafir, in short, should be interpreted not so much in terms of belief as in terms of gratitude. According to Lisan al-Arab (5:144), the fundamental meaning of kufr is ingratitude for benefits received (kufr al-ni'ma). Someone accused of kufr is called a kafir, which later occurs only once in the Koran, often, however, the Koran simply calls them alladhina la yu'minuna (those who do not believe). The intensive forms, kafur and kaffar, describe someone whose kufr takes extreme forms (2:276, 11:9, 14:34, 22:38, 31:32, 35:36, 39:3, 42:48, 50:24). The derived form takfir not found in the Koran, means branding someone, especially a fellow-Muslim as a kafir. This is condemned in hadith, but nonetheless takfir became an instrument of excluding someone from the Muslim community. In the formative period of Islam, the first ones to make this accusation were the Kharijis, who reserved for themselves the qualification mu'minun while applying the term kuffar to all others.

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