Surah Al-Kafirun: You Have Your Own Religion and I Have Mine

By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani

Surah Al-KafirunSurah Al-Kafirun: You Have Your Own Religion and I Have Mine

Islam, as a religion, is characterized by completeness, comprehensiveness, integration, and clarity. Nothing is ever missing, lacking, or ambiguous about Islam.

Some enthusiastic advocates of Islam think it is fine to compromise some of its teachings or principles in order to appease others who belong to different faiths.

We shouldn’t question their intentions or motives. They can be very sincere to the faith of Islam, just as many of our dear readers are, but there is a major problem in the way they think.

The problem is described as follows:

When they try to compromise their religion, or at least a part of it, they act against what Allah the Almighty taught Prophet Muhammad and ordered him to act accordingly.

In Surat Al-Kafirun, which is a Makkan Surah, Allah Almighty orders the Prophet to say to the unbelievers,

{You have your own religion, and I have mine.} (Al-Kafirun 109:6)

The idol worshipers of Makkah proposed they might worship the Prophet’s God (Allah) for one year if Prophet Muhammad would worship their gods (the idols) for one year.

Why did they think that way?

This has both a historical and philosophical background.

The polytheists were convinced that they were the followers of the religion of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). And that they were better than the Jews and Christians who believed that Ezra and Jesus were sons of Allah.

At the same time, Prophet Muhammad started to call people to embrace the religion he was sent to advocate. He made it clear that it was the same religion of Abraham.

Consequently, the polytheists of Makkah thought there was no need for them to forsake their religion and believe in Muhammad’s. Furthermore, they thought that the aforementioned compromise could be sought with him.

However, Allah the Almighty wanted to set things right and draw a distinct line between belief and disbelief, and between monotheism and polytheism. Surah Al-Kafirun was revealed.

The term ‘Say’ and its connotation

Surah Al-Kafirun reads what means,

{Say: ‘Unbelievers!

I do not worship what you worship, nor do you worship what I worship.

I shall never worship what you worship, nor will you ever worship what I worship.

You have your own religion and I have mine.} (Al-Kafirun 109: 1-6)

The Qur’an orders Prophet Muhammad to address the unbelievers through the imperative form ‘Say’, which indicates that when it comes to faith, when it comes to creed, it all belongs to Allah. It’s Allah Who has the first and final say in it, not Muhammad, though he is a Messenger.

It is Allah Who defines faith and determines who’s a true believer and who isn’t, not Muhammad.

This in effect, refutes any and all allegations that Prophet Muhammad was the author of the Qur’an or the originator of Islam, not Allah, Glory be His.

Unbeliever (kafir): A neutral term?

Remarkably, many people think that when Islam or Muslims describe someone of another faith as being a kafir or an unbeliever, that Islam is underestimating him or looking down at him.

This is not true in any way.

Originally, the term kafir comes from the Arabic verb kafar-a, which means to cover something or someone.

A farmer inserts a seed into soil and covers it with dust, he is called a kafir.

When someone covers up the truth of something, they too are a kafir.

Therefore, when Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the son of God, they are regarded as kafirs by Christians who do believe it. It is as simple as that!

Arabic regards this term as a neutral one: anyone who disbelieves in something can be described as an unbeliever.

Even Muslims can be described as unbelievers if they declare their disbelief in false or man-made religions.

Partial commitment is not accepted

Neither disbelief nor partial commitment is accepted in Islam. One should be totally and wholly committed to the teachings of Islam and be a good follower of the faith.

Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what means,

{Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin} (An-Nisa’ 4: 48)

and also,

{So do you believe in part of the Scripture and disbelieve in part? Then what is the recompense for those who do that among you except disgrace in worldly life; and on the Day of Resurrection they will be sent back to the severest of punishment. And Allah is not unaware of what you do} (Al-Baqarah 2: 85).

Peaceful coexistence and cooperation

The final statement in this Surah, Al-Kafirun, ascertains that, “You have your own religion and I have mine.” This means that there is no middle way!

However, this should not be confused with peacefully coexisting with others. The focal point here is the distinction between faiths in terms of creed and beliefs.

Treating people fairly; having mutual understanding and cooperation and interacting amiably with others regardless of their faith is what Islam dictates.


Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Kulliyyah of Languages and Management (KLM), International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He was Assistant Professor and worked for a number of international universities in Malaysia and Egypt such as Al-Madinah International University, Shah Alam, Malaysia (Mediu) and Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST), Egypt; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department, www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators & Linguists (Wata). He is a published writer, translator and researcher. You can reach him at [email protected].