The Sin of Disbelief


'Disbelief' is something that comes from the way we think. Indeed all our 'beliefs' are the result of the way we think; the way we weigh the evidence; the way we decide on which course of action to take. Our 'beliefs' are our conclusions. Consequently the 'sin of disbelief' must be equivalent to the sin that causes disbelief i.e. 'Bad thinking'.

Even though it is fairly clear what is meant here, I am generally reluctant to use the word ‘belief’ since it has the sense of something guessed and without foundation. The Islamic word that is most often translated into ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ is imān, which has quite a different connotation:

"Unlike the faith of Christians, the imān of Islam is truth given to the mind, not to man’s credulity. The truths, or prepositions, of imān are not mysteries, stumbling blocks, unknowable and unreasonable but critical and rational. They have been subjected to doubt and emerged from the testing confirmed and established as true. No more pleading on their behalf is necessary. Whoever acknowledges them as true is reasonable; whoever persists in denying or doubting is unreasonable."

[Isma’il Raji al Faruqi, Al Tawhid: Its Implications for Thought and Life, IIIT Publications 1992]

Indeed the Qur’an is full of prescriptions to use the mind and presents many arguments and evidences which I shall cover in due course. This is summarised in the Qur’an in verses such as these:

"Now have come to you from your Lord proofs to open your eyes: if any will see, it will be for (the good of) his own soul; if any will be blind it will be to his own (harm): I am not (here) to watch over your doings."

[The Qur’an 6:104]

Say thou: "This is my way: I do invite unto Allah on evidence clear as the seeing with one's eyes, I and whoever follows me: Glory to Allah! And never will I join gods with Allah!”

[The Qur’an 12:108]

It is also useful to note here that the word usually translated as ‘to disbelieve’ is ‘kafara’. This has the literal meaning of ‘to cover up’ the implication being that those who disbelieve are covering up something; hiding it from themselves and / or others. I will come back to this point later.

In Islam you can only be guilty of the 'sin of disbelief' if the message of Islam has been delivered to you. Bad thinking can only take hold when the evidence and arguments have been clearly presented.

. To follow on to the next stage of this explanation of the sin of disbelief we have to examine what thinking is and how we can go about reaching a workable common starting point on what constitutes good & bad thinking.

What is 'good thinking'? What is 'bad thinking'?

How can rationality be defined?

Some examples of aspects of good thinking.

What makes a good search?

What makes a bad search?

What makes bad reasoning?

In what ways can probabilistic reasoning be bad?

Thinking about Morals

The ultimate

The design argument

Ultimate explanations


The nature of signs of revelation

The general concept of sin in Islam

Problems with Christianity


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