It is not permissible to rush into accusing people and society of disbelief except after having a decisive certitude of the existence of the causes of disbelief and its reasons. Belief and disbelief are only in the hearts, and the Almighty does not order us to search the intentions and consciences of people. Rather, He (Exalted and Glorified be He) ordered us to leave their intentions to Him.
In his book BayanLin-Nas Min Al-Azhar Ash-Shareef, Sheikh Gad Al-Haqq `Ali Gad Al-Haqq, the former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, stated the following: Accusing any person of disbelief is a dangerous judgment because of its serious consequences. Thus, Islam forbade rushing into judging and accusing others of disbelief, except after making sure of the existence of its causes without doubt. It is better for a person to be mistaken in forgiveness rather than in penalty, for if a disbeliever managed to escape from the punishment of the worldly life, he or she will never escape from the punishment of the hereafter.
Belief and disbelief are only in the hearts and no one knows the intentions but the Almighty, the All-Knower. Not all the apparent indications reveal the secrets of hearts, as most of them are presumed. Furthermore, many texts in the Quran and the purified Sunnah prevent people from judging through suspicions, and order people to seek proof and evidence, especially concerning beliefs. Thus, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) strongly condemned UsamahibnZayd when he killed a man in one of the battles after the man had greeted him [in the manner of Muslims].
Islam orders Muslims to verify the truth, as Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) says, [O you who believe! When you go (to fight) in the Cause of Allah, verify, and say not to anyone who greets you (by embracing Islam), “You are not a believer,” seeking the perishable goods of the worldly life. There are much more profits and booties with Allah. Even as he is now, so were you yourselves before till Allah conferred on you His Favors (i.e. guided you to Islam), therefore, verify (the truth). Allah is Ever Well Aware of what you do] (An-Nisaa ‘ 4:94).
Thus, the Almighty repeated the word “verify” because of the importance of this act. In addition, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not accept the apology of Usamah and told him, “Have you split his heart into two pieces (to know his intentions)?”
Also, Allah (Exalted and Glorified be He) says, [O you who believe! If a rebellious evil person comes to you with news, verify it, lest you harm people in ignorance, and afterwards you become regretful to what you have done] (Al-Hujurat 49:6).
According to Imam Ahmad ibnHanbal and many others, this verse was revealed in relation to Al-Walidibn `Uqbah, whom the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had sent to collect the z akah money from Al-HarithibnDirar. When Al-Harith found that the Prophet’s messenger was late, he went with some of his people directly to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to pay the zakah money.
Al-Walid met them, but he did not know their intentions and came back to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and told him that Al-Harith refused to pay z akah and even tried to kill him. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered his Companions to go out with a
deputation to fight Al-Harith. When the truth became clear, they all came back to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and told him the story. Thus, Almighty Allah revealed this verse.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If a man says to his brother, ‘O disbeliever!’ Then surely one of them is such (i.e. a disbeliever).” In another narration, he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If somebody accuses another of disbelief (by calling him disbeliever), such an accusation will revert to him (i.e. the accuser) if his companion (the accused) is innocent.”
Also, he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If a man accuses another of disbelief or call him, ‘O Allah’s enemy’, such an accusation will revert to him (i.e. the accuser) if his companion (the accused) is innocent” (Muslim). In addition, he said, “Three things are part of the root of faith: to refrain from harming all who say there is no god but Allah; not to accuse them of disbelief because of a sin; and not to expel them from Islam because of theiractions” (Abu Dawud).
True disbelievers are those whose hearts are full of disbelief; furthermore, they are convinced of it completely and there is no doubt concerning them. Almighty Allah says concerning disbelievers, [But who opened their breasts to disbelief (i.e. they are convinced and their hearts are at rest of it), on them is wrath from Allah, and theirs will be a great torment] (An-Nahl 16:106).
Hudud (prescribed punishments) are suspended by doubts and some of these hudud do not reach killing; thus, how do we accuse someone of disbelief without having clear evidence?
It was narrated that Imam Malik (may Allah have mercy upon him) said, “The action that is supposed to be an act of disbelief in ninety-nine aspects and an act of belief in one aspect should be considered as an act of belief.” Also it was narrated that he said, “The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) refrained from the hypocrites in order to guide his nation that the ruler should not judge according to his own knowledge.”
It was narrated that `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “People were (sometimes) judged by the revelation of a divine inspiration during the lifetime of Allah’s Prophet, but now there is no longer any more (new revelation). Now we judge you by the deeds you practice publicly, so we will trust and favor the one who does good deeds in front of us, and we will not call him to account about what he is really doing in secret, for Allah will judge him for that; but we will not trust or believe the one who presents us with an evil deed even if he claims that his intentions were good” (Al-Bukhari).
Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri narrated that `Ali ibnAbiTalib sent to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) from Yemen some gold alloyed with clay in a leather bag dyed in mimosa leaves. He (peace and blessings be upon him) distributed it among four men. A person from among his (Prophet’s) Companions said, “O Allah’s Prophet! Fear Allah.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Woe to you! Do I not deserve most to fear Allah among the people of theearth?” Then the man went away.
Khalid ibn Al-Walid then said, “Messenger of Allah, should I not strike his neck?” Upon this he (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Perhapshe may be observing theprayer.” Khalid said, “How many observers of prayer are there who profess with their tongue what is not in their heart?” Upon this, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “I have not been commanded to pierce through the hearts of people, nor to split their bellies (insides)” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Furthermore, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) ordered Muslims to consider the outward appearances of the Muslims and think well of them; as he (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever says, ‘there is no god but Allah’, faces our q iblah during the prayers, prays like us, and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim and has the same rights and obligations as other Muslimshave” (Al-Bukhari).
Also, he (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade fighting those who have a mosque or those who are called to prayers through the Adhan. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) used to attack the enemy when it was dawn. He would listen to the Adhan; so if he heard an Adhan, he stopped, otherwise he would make an attack” (Al-Bukhari).
Another narration reads: He (peace and blessings be upon him) heard a man say, “Allah is the Greatest, Allah is the Greatest.” The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) remarked, “He is following the fitrah (innate nature, i.e. Islam).” Then hearing him say “I testify that there is no god but Allah; there is no god but Allah,” the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “You have come out of the Fire (of Hell).”
`Isam Al-Muzani narrated: The Prophet of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) sent us in a detachment and said (to us), “If you see a mosque or hear a muezzin, do not killanyone” (Ahmad).
Ash-Shawkani said, “It denotes the permissibility of judging by the evidence, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stopped fighting when he heard the Adhan. Also, it denotes that one should be cautious if there is blood, as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stopped fighting against them at this case, although it might not be the reality.”