When we hear the word “Kaafir” we immediately think of “disbeliever” or “non-Muslim” .. however Allah (swt) has used this word and it’s derivatives in many different ways and contexts. We explore its root meaning and how the word “Falaah” is associated with it.
The first time we see the word is in the sixth Ayah of the second Surah:
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe. (2:6)
Here we clearly understand it to mean the disbelievers, but how else has Allah (swt) used this word?
وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ
And if We give man a taste of mercy from Us and then We withdraw it from him, indeed, he is despairing and ungrateful. (11:9)
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِن شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ ۖ وَلَئِن كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
And when your Lord made it known: If you are grateful, I would certainly give to you more, and if you are ungrateful, My chastisement is truly severe. (14:7)
There are many more ayahs where Allah (swt) uses it to mean ungrateful.
We also find the label of Kaafir being applied to those who had full understanding and belief in the majesty of Allah (swt). Iblis (la) was one who worshiped Allah (swt) for over 6000 years, and was elevated to the ranks of Angels. However is one action led him to be a “kaafir”:
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ
And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers. (2:34)
We know Iblis still had firm understanding and belief of Allah’s Lordship and might:
قَالَ رَبِّ فَأَنظِرْنِي إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ يُبْعَثُونَ
He [Iblees] said, “My Lord, then reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.” (38:79)
قَالَ فَبِعِزَّتِكَ لَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ
[Iblees] said, “By your might, I will surely mislead them all (38:82)
So what does disbelief, ungratefulness and Iblis’ arrogance have in common? and what is the origins of this word? Well, this can be explained in this ayah:
اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
Know that the life of this world is but amusement and diversion and adornment and boasting to one another and competition in increase of wealth and children – like the example of a rain whose [resulting] plant growth pleases the tillers; then it dries and you see it turned yellow; then it becomes [scattered] debris. And in the Hereafter is severe punishment and forgiveness from Allah and approval. And what is the worldly life except the enjoyment of delusion. (57:20)
Interestingly, here the word kaafir is translated to tiller. A Tiller (according to google) is a farmer that tills. The primary role for him is to plant seeds, and to cover it with dirt or soil.
Let’s use some analogies to help understand Allah’s (swt) use of these words:
The truth is the seed
The soil is falsehood
the tiller is the one who covers the seed with the soil,
Or in other words, the kaafir is the one who covers the truth with falsehood.
You will notice Allah (swt) uses this word to explain how he hides the faults and sins of the believers:
إِن تُبْدُوا الصَّدَقَاتِ فَنِعِمَّا هِيَ ۖ وَإِن تُخْفُوهَا وَتُؤْتُوهَا الْفُقَرَاءَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ ۚ وَيُكَفِّرُ عَنكُم مِّن سَيِّئَاتِكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ
If you disclose your charitable expenditures, they are good; but if you conceal them and give them to the poor, it is better for you, and He will remove (cover, hide) from you some of your misdeeds [thereby]. And Allah , with what you do, is [fully] Acquainted. (2:271)
So we see in this context it means to cover the sins of the believers. In other contexts it can be seen to cover the truth, such as the examples of Iblis. Allah (swt) shows that the Kaafir is one who rejects, or covers, any sort of truth. When Iblis rejected the wilayah of Adam (as), he rejected truth, hence was of the Kaafareen.
When one ignores the bounties of Allah (swt), he covers the bounties with ungratefulness and he is of the Kaafireen.
When one rejects Islam, He rejects the true Religion with Allah, and he is of the Kaafireen.
When one rejects the guidance of Allah (swt), he is of the Kafireen
إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا
Indeed, We guided him to the way, be he grateful or be he ungrateful. (76:3)
And when one rejects the Ultimate truth, which is Allah (swt) what bigger kufr is there than this?
ذَٰلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنَّ مَا يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ هُوَ الْبَاطِلُ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ
That is because Allah is the Truth, and that what they call upon besides Him– that is the falsehood, and because Allah is the High, the Great. (22:62)
Now we move on to “Falaah” and we see another amazing parable.
Literally, Falaah is a farmer – one that cultivates the plants and nurtures them to produce fruits etc.
The root word of Falaah shares a few meanings. Looking at the Arabic dictionary, we see the following meanings (see here http://www.almaany.com/en/dict/ar-en/فلاح/)
Depending on the word, all coming from the same root, we find three amazing meanings, all tied together.
The Farmer is the one who ensures the salvation of the seeds and plants by nurturing and cultivating them. By growing, it ensures the success of the farm.
Allah (swt) uses the derivatives of Falaah in the Qur’an, and who these people are. The most predominant being:
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ
Certainly will the believers have succeeded (23:1)
Subhanallah, in farming terms, the Kaafir is the one who covers, and the Falaah is the one who helps through various means, to uncover the same thing that was covered.
Even more fascinating, is no matter how much the Kaafir tries to cover the truth, the mu’mineen will always be successful.