I recently finished reading Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong, a renowned author on comparative religion.
There was a piece about the definition of kafir that piqued my interest. For my South African reader, you know that we have our own distasteful history with the word “kaffir” which we annexed with great gusto from the British writer, H. Rider Haggard (see footnote at the end of this article).
But today we are talking about kafir >>>
I’ve always been led to believe that kafir meant a non-believer who has malevolent intentions towards Islam and Muslims. The kafirun (الكافرون) of Mecca were the non-believers who rejected the God of Muhammad.
According to Armstrong, kafir derives from the root KFR (“ingratitude”), which implies a discourteous refusal of something that is offered with great kindness and generosity.
I find that definition more preferable.
I understand that by being invited to this experience is no small thing. That I was chosen to play in this theatre called life is a gift beyond comprehension. One that should be viewed with awe and gratitude.
Every time I blame and complain, and feel the destructive desolation of self-pity, I’m no better than a kafir.
I’ve come to learn that self-pity is an operating system. The more I wallow in it, the more I attract that which feeds it.
Gratitude is an operating system too, the more I revel in it, the more I attract that which feeds it.
I’m going to start doing more of the latter because gratitude truly is the grammar of success. Do you want to join me?
Footnote. I love looking for the etymological roots of words. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll know that South Africa has a unique relationship with the k-word. Not that it’s any consolation, but neither the Dutch nor the Afrikaner invented the word. The British writer H. Rider Haggard, who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, often used the word “kaffir” in his novels about Africa. This term was used to refer to black people in the region at that time. We may not have invented the word, but hell, we certainly milked it dry.