The Quran, followed by Muslims as the word of God, is a text written in the Arabic language. Today, many associate the term “infidel” with Islam. However, the term “infidel” is an ecclesiastical term, originating from the French and Latin languages. Some have attempted to equate “infidel” with “kafir”, but these are two different terms, from two different languages that carry two different meanings.
Infidel (literally "unfaithful") is a term used for those accused of disbelief in the central tenets of their own religion, for members of another religion, or for the irreligious. It is an ecclesiastical term which makes a clear differentiation between those who were baptized and followed the teachings of the Church versus those who are outside the faith. The term “infidel” was also used by Christians to describe those perceived as the enemies of Christianity. By the early 16th century, this term became well-established in the English language. It is unclear when the English term “infidel” became equated with the Arabic term “kafir”.
The term “kafir” in the Quran has many meanings, only one of which is a person denying the monotheistic belief: Quran/2:6
The word can also be defined as ungrateful: Quran/2:152
Or as disbelief: Quran 2:89
It has also been used in the Quran when referring to farmers: Quran/57:20
Or meaning one who rejects: Quran/2:256
Notwithstanding, the Quran does on occasion use the term “kafir” when referring to people of the Jewish and/or Christian faiths in the context of describing their rejection of the Prophet Muhammad, or when addressing the issue of Jesus being the son of God which is against the monotheistic practice according to the understanding of Islam.
More often, however, the Quran refers to people of the Jewish and Christian faith as people of belief or “People of the Book”:
O you who believe! Believe in God and His messenger, and the Book He sent down to His messenger, and the Book He sent down before. Whoever rejects God, His angels, His Books, His messengers, and the Last Day, has strayed far in error. 4:136
Say, “O People of the Book, come to terms common between us and you: that we worship none but God, and that we associate nothing with Him, and that none of us takes others as lords besides God.” 3:64
The above are a few examples proving that translating the term “kafir” as “infidel” is not an accurate translation.
Regrettably, there are Muslims who misuse the term “infidel” or “kafir” as a way to slander or insult people of other faiths. This practice is not condoned by Islamic jurisprudence. In fact, it has been the position of Islamic scholars from as early as Abu Hanifah that it is not acceptable to use a name or descriptive term that may be offensive to the person on the receiving end. The usage of descriptive terms in the Quran are to be used to describe and/or explain, not as slander or abuse toward others, contextually or non-contextually.