Sam Bailey: Kufr and Salih Reflection

Because the terms Kufr and Salih are rooted in a generally abstract distinction of good and bad, the words carry relatable yet different interpretations. The various interpretations effect the actions and modes of thought directed towards them.

Kufr stems from the concept of one being unthankful to God and consciously ignoring God’s acts. Since God is responsible for the very creation of the human race, humans have the responsibility to honor God for their creation, and the preservation of that creation. Kāfirs are believed to exist because they have a lack of faith. Under this notion, an understanding took form over time of the word Kufr meaning less so “ingratitude” and more “dis-belief.” However, it is important to note that the two are interconnected–without gratitude towards God, one is believing in the wrong things. The lack of faith produced by a Kāfir is also intertwined with the individual having a large ego and believing that they can approach this world independent of God’s partnership; that they can survive secular of the conversation between creator and created. These faults are described through the terms Istakbara, ‘to be big with pride’ and Istagná, ‘to consider oneself as absolutely free and independent.’

The mode of thought incorporated through the division between the older idea of the Kufr representing ingratitude as opposed to disbelief is evident in the text “Whoso does good works as a pious believer, there shall be no ingratitude (kufr) for his efforts,” where God is seen as an entity thankful for mankind’s faith. In addition, the ungrateful mode of thought is apparent in through man’s actions as man “turns away” as God rescues him and brings him to shore. In this sense, it is not that man does not necessarily believe in God (for they are willing to let him save them) and more so that they are not willing to continue the dialogue with God, and give thanks once their own personal needs have been satisfied.

Man is born with the expectancy to be thankful to God for Man’s own very existence. In this respect, Kufr could definitely be related to the mode of thought that the definition of the word means ingratitude, however; without the original faith and belief that God created Man, a thanking would not be necessary. To clarify the separation between the two meanings and the way they relate to each other a distinction is made between the infinitives of the verb kafara broken up into kufr and kufrān. Under this particular understanding kufr is considered to represent the disbelief in God while kufrān represents ingratitude.

Often when the source of kufr is considered to be under the realm of disbelief, the main skeptiscm arises in the doctrine of Resurrection. in terms of the Resurrection, kufr serves as the impression that the idea of Resurrection is unreasonable and too absurd to be taken as a realistic concern. To believers, those who express kufr towards the Resurrection will face a equal distrust and accusation from God when Judgment Day comes. The Kāfirs will become “Fellows of the Fire” and will encounter the punishment they deserve for conveying disbelief.

While Kufr represents the negative qualities in certain attitudes towards the Quran, Salih suggests the positive side. Salih speaks for a trade of faith a good works from Mankind and a reward for these attributes from God. Though Salih is often tied closely to the idea of faith, the term īmān which does translate to believing in God suggests that Salih meaning is of a different nature.

To look beyond the aspect of faith, the actions included in “good works” are represented through five different tasks-“to worship none save God; to be good to parents near kinsmen, orphans, and the needy; to speak kindly to everyone; to perform the prayer; and to pay the alms.” Exercising these duties is known as a “sālih deed.” An example found in the reading specifically defining such a deed would be considered focusing on loyalty and faith in monotheism. Through prayer and recitation of messages such as “your god is One God.” one is demonstrating themselves as a salih man. In addition, and in opposition to the perspective of kufr, a salih mindset places full belief in the coming of judgment day and in turn their good works will be rewarded when this time comes.