The Nature of Disbelief by Maulana Maududi-Towards Understanding Islam
In contrast to the man described above, there is the man who, although a born Muslim and unconsciously remaining one throughout his life, does not exercise his faculties of reason, intellect and intuition to recognize his Lord and Creator and misuses his freedom of choice by choosing to deny Him. Such a man becomes an unbeliever -- in the language of Islam a Kafir.
Kufr literally means 'to cover' or 'to conceal'. The man who denies God is called Kafir (concealer) because he conceals by his disbelief what is inherent in his nature and embalmed in his own soul -- for his nature is instinctively imbued with 'Islam'. His whole body functions in obedience to that instinct. Each and every particle of existence -- living or lifeless -- functions in accordance with 'Islam' and is fulfilling the duty that has been assigned to it. But the vision of this man has been blurred, his intellect has been befogged, and he is unable to see the obvious. His own nature has become concealed from his eyes and he thinks and acts in utter disregard of it. Reality becomes estranged from him and he gropes in the dark. Such is the nature of Kufr.
Kufr is a form of ignorance, or, rather, it is ignorance. What ignorance can be greater than to be ignorant of God, the Creator, the Lord of the Universe? A man observes the vast panorama of nature, the superb mechanism that is ceaselessly working, the grand design that is manifest in every aspect of creation -- he observes this vast machine, but he does not know anything of its Maker and Director. He knows what a wonderful organism his body is but is unable to comprehend the Force that brought it into existence, the Engineer Who designed and produced it, the Creator Who made the unique living being out of lifeless stuff: carbon, calcium, sodium and the like. He witnesses a superb plan in the universe -- but fails to see the Planner behind it. He sees great beauty and harmony in its working -- but not the Creator. He observes a wonderful design in nature -- but not the Designer! How can a man, who has so blinded himself to reality, approach true knowledge? How can one who has made the wrong beginning reach the right destination? He will fail to find the key to Reality. The Right Path will remain concealed from him and whatever his endeavors in science and arts, he will never be able to attain truth and wisdom. He will be groping in the darkness of ignorance.
Not only that; Kufr is a tyranny, the worst of all tyrannies. And what is 'tyranny'? It is an unjust use of force or power. It is when you compel a thing to act unjustly or against its true nature, its real will and its inherent attitude.
We have seen that all that is in the universe is obedient to God, the Creator. To obey, to live in accordance with His Will and His Law or (to put it more precisely) to be a Muslim is ingrained in the nature of things. God has given man power over these things, but it is incumbent that they should be used for the fulfillment of His Will and not otherwise. Anyone who disobeys God and resorts to Kufr perpetrates the greatest injustice, for he uses his powers of body and mind to rebel against the course of nature and becomes an instrument in the drama of disobedience. He bows his head before deities other than God and cherishes in his heart the love, reverence and fear of other powers in utter disregard of the instinctive urge of these organs. He uses his own powers and all those things over which he has authority against the explicit will of God and thus establishes a reign of tyranny.
Can there be any greater injustice, tyranny and cruelty than that exhibited by this man who exploits and misuses everything under the sun and unscrupulously forces them to a course which affronts nature and justice?
Kufr is not mere tyranny; it is rebellion, ingratitude and infidelity. After all, what is the reality of man? Where do his power and authority come from? Is he himself the creator of his mind, his heart, his soul and other organs of his body -- or have them been created by God? Has he himself created the universe and all that is in it -- or has it been created by God? Who has harnessed all the powers and energies for the service of man -- man or God? If everything has been created by God and God alone, then to whom do they belong? Who is their rightful sovereign? It is God and none else. And if God is the Creator, the Master and the Sovereign, then who would be a greater rebel than the man who uses God's creation against His injunctions -- and who makes his mind think against God, harbors in his heart thoughts against Him, and uses his various faculties against the Sovereign's Will.
If a servant betrays his master you denounce him as faithless. If an officer becomes disloyal to the state you brand him as traitor and renegade. If a person cheats his benefactor you have no hesitation in condemning him as ungrateful. But such acts cannot begin to compare to the one which the disbeliever commits by his Kufr. All that a man has and all that he uses for the benefit of others is a gift of God. The greatest obligation that a man owes on this Earth is to his parents. But who has implanted the love of children in the parents' heart? Who endowed the mother with the will and power to nurture, nourish and feed her children? Who inspired the parents with the passion to spend everything in their possession for the well-being of their children? A little reflection would reveal that God is the greatest benefactor of man. He is his Creator, Lord, Nourisher, Sustainer, as well as King and Sovereign. So what can be greater betrayal, ingratitude, rebellion and treason than Kufr, through which a man denies and disobeys his real Lord and Sovereign?
Do not think that by committing Kufr man does or can do the least harm to Almighty God. Insignificant speck on the face of a tiny ball in this limitless universe that man is, what harm can he do to the Lord of the Universe, Whose dominions are so infinitely vast that we have not yet been able to explore their boundaries even with the help of the most powerful telescope; Whose power is so great that myriads of heavenly bodies, like the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and the stars are, at His bidding, whirling like tiny balls; Whose wealth is so boundless that He is the sole Master of the whole universe; and Who provides for all and needs none to provide for Him? Man's revolt against Him can do Him no harm; on the other hand, by his disobedience, man treads the path of ruin and disgrace.
The inevitable consequence of this revolt and denial of reality is a failure in the ultimate ideals of life. Such a rebel will never find the thread of real knowledge and vision; for knowledge that fails to reveal its own Creator can reveal no truth. Such a man's intellect and reason always run astray; for reason which errs about its own Creator cannot illuminate the paths of life.
Such a man will meet with failures in all the affairs of his life. His morality, his civic and social life, his struggle for livelihood and his family life, in short, his entire existence, will be unsatisfactory. He will spread confusion and disorder. He will, without the least compunction, shed blood, violate other man's rights and generally act destructively. His perverted thoughts and ambitions, his blurred vision and distorted scale of values, and his evil activities, will make life bitter for him and for all around him.
Such a man destroys the calm and pose of life on Earth. And in the life hereafter he will be held guilty for the crimes he committed against his nature. Every organ of his body -- his brain, eyes, nose, hands and feet -- will complain against the injustice and cruelty he had subjected them to. Every tissue of his being will denounce him before God Who, as the fountain of justice, will punish him as he deserves. This is the inglorious consequence of Kufr. It leads to the blind alleys of utter failure, both here and hereafter.