Categories of People According to the Quran

The Quran describes different types of people as follows:

  • Submitter (Muslim)
  • Believer (Mu’min)
  • Idolater (Mushrik)
  • People of the Book (Ahl E-Kitaab)
  • Disbeliever / Rejector (Kafir)
  • Hypocrite (Munafiq)

Idolater (Mushrik)

They are polytheists (people who worship more than one God). Mushrikeen comes from the Arabic word “shirk” which, in general, means “to share”. With respect to the Quran, “shirk” means sharing others as partners besides God.

Submitters (Muslims)

They are monotheists (people who submit to one, true God). They are not necessarily Believers as true belief may not have entered into their hearts yet. Being a submitter is a prerequisite to being a believer.

قَالَتِ الْأَعْرَابُ آمَنَّا ۖ قُل لَّمْ تُؤْمِنُوا وَلَٰكِن قُولُوا أَسْلَمْنَا وَلَمَّا يَدْخُلِ الْإِيمَانُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۖ وَإِن تُطِيعُوا اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ لَا يَلِتْكُم مِّنْ أَعْمَالِكُمْ شَيْئًا ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
The desert Arabs say, “We believe!” Say, “Do not say you believe; but only say, ‘We have submitted our wills to God (as Submitters / Muslims),’ as belief has not yet entered your hearts. But if you obey God and His Messenger, He will not deprive you anything of your deeds: for God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (49:14)

Believer (Mu’min)

They believe in God, His angels, His books, and His messengers and don’t differentiate between any of His messengers.

آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ ۚ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا …
“The messenger believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believes in God and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. …. ” (2:285)

Prophet Moses was a Submitter (Muslim) and after seeing a sign from God, he became a Believer (Mu’min)

وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَىٰ لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنظُرْ إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ لَن تَرَانِي وَلَٰكِنِ انظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي ۚ فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّىٰ رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ مُوسَىٰ صَعِقًا ۚ فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“And when Moses came to the place appointed by Us and his Lord spoke to him, He said: “O my Lord! show (Yourself) to me, that I may look upon You.” God said: “By no means can you see Me; But look upon the mount; if it remains in its place, then shall you see Me.” But when his Lord manifested His glory on the Mount, He made it crumble to dust. And Moses fell down in a swoon / unconscious. When he recovered his senses he said: “Glory be to You! to You I turn in repentance and I am the first to believe.” (7:143)

Disbeliever / Rejector (Kafir)

Disbelievers (Kafirs) are people who, after understanding the message of truth (worship the one, true God), deny the truth. They intentionally disbelieve in the one, true God. Kafir comes from the Arabic word “kufr” which means to hide. Kafirs hide the truth and refuse to accept it. They will go to Hell.

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
“As for the Disbelievers, Whether you warn them or you warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not. God has sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom” (2:6-7)

Even if Prophet Muhammad asks God to forgive disbelievers, God will not forgive them. They are walking dead because they’re just waiting to go to Hell.

اسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ أَوْ لَا تَسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ إِن تَسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ سَبْعِينَ مَرَّةً فَلَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّهُ لَهُمْ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَفَرُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْفَاسِقِينَ
“Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though you ask forgiveness for them seventy times God will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in God and His messenger, and God guides not wrongdoing folk” (9:80)

Idolaters (Mushriks) are not automatically Disbelievers (Kafirs)

In verse 9:6, the idolaters were not branded as disbelievers because they did not know they were wrong. If an idolater wanted protection, Prophet Muhammad was instructed to protect them so that they could learn about Submission (Islam) and become a Submitter (Muslim). An idolater only becomes a disbeliever if they’ve seen the truth about the one and only God yet they still refuse to believe.

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّىٰ يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ قَوْمٌ لَّا يَعْلَمُونَ
“And if anyone of the idolaters seeks thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the Word of God, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who do not know” (9:6)

The People of the Book (Ahl e-Kitaab)

They are people who received the former scriptures (Torah, Injil). They are Jews and Christians. Jews and Christians who submit to one, true God are Submitters (Muslim).

Some Jews and Christians are righteous.

لَيْسُوا سَوَاءً ۗ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ
“Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand: They rehearse the verses of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in God and the Last Day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten in good deeds: They are in the ranks of the righteous” (3:113-114)

Can Believers (Mu’mins) be friends / allies with Jews and Christians?

According to verse 5:51, God instructs believers to not be allied with the Jews and Christians.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ أَوْلِيَاءَ ۘ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, God guides not the wrongdoing people.

However, when read in context, we see from verse 5:57 that the prohibition is only against being friends / allies with Jews and Christians who ridicule Islam.

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا دِينَكُمْ هُزُوًا وَلَعِبًا مِّنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَالْكُفَّارَ أَوْلِيَاءَ ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
O you who have believed, take not those who have taken your religion in ridicule and amusement among the ones who were given the Scripture before you nor the disbelievers as allies. And fear God, if you should [truly] be believers.

At the time of Prophet Muhammad, some People of the Book (Jews and Christians) were Believers (Mu’mins) because they believed in the Quran and Prophet Muhammad.

وَإِنَّ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ لَمَن يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِمْ خَاشِعِينَ لِلَّهِ لَا يَشْتَرُونَ بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۗ أُولَٰئِكَ لَهُمْ أَجْرُهُمْ عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَرِيعُ الْحِسَابِ
“And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book (Arabic: Ahli-l-kitabi), those who believe in God, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to God: They will not sell the Signs of God for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and God is swift in account” (3:199)

Most people are Disbelievers (Kafirs)

As of 2018, despite Islam being the 2nd largest religion after Christianity and being projected to become the largest religion some time between 2051 and 3000, verse 12:103 indicates that most people may still call themselves Muslims (Submitters) or Believers (Mu’mins) when in reality they are actually disbelievers (kafirs).

وَمَا أَكْثَرُ النَّاسِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ
And most of the people, although you strive [for it], are not believers. (12:103)

It is possible, however, that verse 12:103 may mean that most people during the time of prophet Muhammad were disbelievers, rather than most people throughout life in this world. Nevertheless, verse 12:103 is in agreement with 17:62 whereby Satan says he will destroy all but a few of among mankind, even though 17:62 simply indicates what Satan said and doesn’t necessarily mean what he said will actually happen.

قَالَ أَرَأَيْتَكَ هَٰذَا الَّذِي كَرَّمْتَ عَلَيَّ لَئِنْ أَخَّرْتَنِ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لَأَحْتَنِكَنَّ ذُرِّيَّتَهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
[Iblees / Satan] said, “Do You see this one whom You have honored above me? If You delay me until the Day of Resurrection, I will surely destroy his descendants, except for a few.” (17:62)

Verse 25:30, similarly, seems to indicate that most of Muhammad’s followers will have abandoned the Quran. This verse describes what Muhammad will say on the Day of Judgment.

وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
And the Messenger has said, “O my Lord, indeed my people have taken this Qur’an as [a thing] abandoned.” (25:30)

As of 2018, it appears true that many people are indirectly abandoning the Quran by

  • Reading it in Arabic despite not understanding Arabic
  • Focusing on and following the hadith instead of the Quran as God’s law

Hypocrite (Munafiq)

They are people who say they are believers (Mu’mins) but they are lying.

إِذَا جَاءَكَ الْمُنَافِقُونَ قَالُوا نَشْهَدُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ إِنَّكَ لَرَسُولُهُ وَاللَّهُ يَشْهَدُ إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَكَاذِبُونَ
When the hypocrites come to you, [O Muhammad], they say, “We testify that you are the Messenger of God.” And God knows that you are His Messenger, and God testifies that the hypocrites are liars. (63:1)

The hypocrites (Munafiqs) will be in the lowest depths of Hell

إِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِي الدَّرْكِ الْأَسْفَلِ مِنَ النَّارِ وَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُمْ نَصِيرًا
Indeed, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire – and never will you find for them a helper. (4/145)

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