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What is the plural of كافر – “unbeliever”?

There are many options to form the plural of kafir (كافر) which is unbeliever in Islam. The most common are Kuffār and Kāfirūn. Do they mean the same?

Last updated: 8 months ago

The question which form of (kaafir) you use might sound trivial, but unfortunately it became political in a way.

Kuffar or Kaafiroun – a matter of taste

Many Islamic preachers in the West prefer Kuffar (كُفّار) over Kafirun/Kaafiroun (كافِرُون) in their speeches because the doubling of the consonant f, especially when combined with foreign languages – English or Ger­man – gives the word a special accentuation.

So, let's have a look at the various plural forms of Kafir, the Arabic word for unbeliever.

The DNA of the word kafir

  • A Kafir (كافِر) is a male person who denies or does not acknowledge the favors or benefits of Allah.
  • Kafira (كافِرة) is the feminine form.
  • Both forms are the active participle of the verb kafara (كَفَرَ).

Three possibilities to form the plural of Kafir

  1. : Kafirun (كافِرُون) or Kuffar (كُفّار)
  2. : Kawafir (كَوافِرُ) or Kafirat (كافِرات)
  3. Masculine OR feminine plural (same form!): Kafara (كَفَرة)

According to some scholars, the first two plural forms describe a disbeliever or someone who denies Allah whereas the last form (3) is used in the sense of being ungrateful to Allah.

There are forms which look almost the same and have only one dif­ferent vowel – but have a slightly different, mostly intensifying mean­ing.

Not every “unbeliever” is just an “unbeliever”

Arabic knows more possibilities than just the active participle (اِسْم فاعِل) to express this. In Arabic grammar, the following two forms are called an exaggerated form (صِيغة مُبالَغة).

The form كَفُور

A  Kafur (كَفُور) is an intensive epithet which expresses very ungrate­ful or un­thankful to Allah. It is found, for example, in a verse of sura 11 Hūd (سُورة هُود) – verse 11:9

How desperate and ungrateful man becomes when We let him taste Our mercy and then withhold it!وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ

(Alternative translation: And if We give man a taste of mercy from Us and then We withdraw it from him, indeed, he is despairing and ungrateful.)

Note that Kafar (كَفُور), as mentioned before, can be feminine or masculine because they have the same form in both genders. Its plural form is Kufur (كُفُرٌ) for both masculine and femin­ine.

The form كَفّار

The word Kaffar (كَفّار) – NOT Kuffār, notice the vowel a (فَتْحة) at the beginning – has a more intensive signification than Kafur (كَفُور) and expresses habitu­ally ungrateful.

It is used in Sura 14 'Ibrāhīm (سُورة إِبْراهِيم) – verse 14:34.

…and given you some of everything you asked Him for. If you tried to count God's favours you could never calculate them: man is truly unjust and ungrateful (= most unjust and un­grateful). وَآتَاكُم مِّن كُلِّ مَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُ وَإِن تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ لَظَلُومٌ كَفَّارٌ
Kafir - unbeliever in Islam - symbolic picture

What is a Kafir?

The Arabic term Kāfir (Kafir – كافر) is probably the most controversial word in Islam. It is the opposite of believer – in Arabic: Mu'min / مؤمن.
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5 years ago

extremely helpful… loved the way you come out with new ideas and pondering over each word of Quran, May Allah swt reward you and the members, and bless with best of both worlds aameen..

6 years ago

Please give an advice about the meaning of Verse 64:2 in the Quran. Especially word “faminkum kafirun wa minkum mukminun”. is the word “KUM” from “faminKUM” and from “minKUM” singular (you) or plural (all of you)

6 years ago

This information​ is very helpful thank you jazakallah kheir

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