By Bassam Zawadi
Please note: This paper is discussing non-Muslims in general and not exceptions to the general rule. Of course a Musilm can be friends with his non-Muslim wife and with his non-Muslim parents (31:15), etc.
Before I proceed to my article, I want to clarify what I mean by the word “friend”.
Is this article going to argue that Muslims could be friends with disbelievers? The answer to that would be a yes and a no. It all depends on what you mean by the word “friend”.
Can I be friends with the disbeliever in the sense that he is not my enemy (as a war combatant let’s say) and that I can hold peace treaties with him? The answer to that is a yes.
Can I be friends with the disbeliever in the sense that I can hang around with him by going out for dinner, picnics, etc. and be his close companion? The answer to that is a no, except under certain conditions. However, this is not something that is discriminatory to disbelievers. It can also be applied to Muslims as well.
I am going to elaborate on the above two in separate sections.
Does Islam Prohibit Friendship With Disbelievers In The Form Of Being Peaceful With One Another?
We will analyze some Qur’anic verses that speak about us Muslims not being able to take the disbelievers as friends, allies and patrons.
Quranic verse no.1
O ye who believe! Take not for friends (awliyaa) unbelievers rather than believers: Do ye wish to offer God an open proof against yourselves?
Imam Tabari states in his commentary:
وَهَذَا نَهْي مِنْ اللَّه عِبَاده الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنْ يَتَخَلَّقُوا بِأَخْلَاقِ الْمُنَافِقِينَ الَّذِينَ يَتَّخِذُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاء مِنْ دُون الْمُؤْمِنِينَ , فَيَكُونُوا مِثْلهمْ فِي رُكُوب مَا نَهَاهُمْ عَنْهُ مِنْ مُوَالَاة أَعْدَائِهِ
And this is a prohibition from Allah on the believers that their character should not be like the hypocrites who take the disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. So they (the hypocrites) will become like them (the disbelievers) if they do what God forbade them, which is allying themselves with the disbelievers. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami’ al-bayan fi ta’wil al-Qur’an, Commentary on Surah 4:144, Source)
So God is warning the believers to not act like the hypocrites because the hypocrites would secretly aid the disbelievers against the Muslims. It is clear in the context of the passage that it is referring to the hypocrites when you read the next verse:
The Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire: no helper wilt thou find for them;-
The Arabic word awliyaa used in the verse could mean “patrons, friends, allies, etc.” and it seems most appropriate to say that the word means ally in this verse.
So the verse really means that we cannot aid the disbelievers against the Muslims.
Quranic verse no.2
Those who believe shall not take misbelievers for their patrons, rather than believers, and he who does this has no part with God at all, unless, indeed, ye fear some danger from them. But God bids you beware of Himself, for unto Him your journey is.
Imam Tabari says in his commentary of this verse that this means that we should not go around supporting the disbelievers in their religion and that we should support ours. Allah will make Himself innocent from those that apostatize from Islam. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami’ al-bayan fi ta’wil al-Qur’an, Commentary on Surah 3:28,Source)
Ibn Abbass states:
(Let not the believers take) the believers ought not to take [the hypocrites:] ‘Abdullah Ibn Ubayy and his companions [and] (disbelievers) the Jews (for their friends) so as to become mighty and honourable (in preference to believers) who are sincere. (Whoso doeth that) seeking might and honour [by taking the hypocrites and disbelievers as friends] (hath no connection with Allah) has no honour, mercy or protection from Allah (unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them) save yourselves from them, (taking (as it were) security) saving yourselves from them by speaking in a friendly way towards them with, while your hearts dislikes this. (Allah bideth you beware (only) of Himself) regarding the shunning of unlawful killing, unlawful sex, unlawful property, consuming intoxicants, false testimony and associating partners with Allah. (Unto Allah is the journeying) the return after death. (Ibn Abbaas, Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 3:28, Source)
Here we see that Ibn Abbass says that this verse actually refers to people like Abdullah Ibn Ubayy and his cohorts who were enemies of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and were conspiring against Islam.
Quranic verse no.3
O you who believe! Take not as (your) Bitanah (advisors, consultants, protectors, helpers, friends, etc.) those outside your religion (pagans, Jews, Christians, and hypocrites) since they will not fail to do their best to corrupt you. They desire to harm you severely. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, but what their breasts conceal is far worse. Indeed We have made plain to you the Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) if you understand.
This verse tells us to take precaution against letting out secrets to non-Muslims, which could possibly be used against the Muslims and Islam if the non-Muslim was capable of deciding to use the information or power that he has obtained in order to hurt the Muslim nation.
This verse states that we must take this precaution. Also, this does not mean that we can trust any Muslim. We can only trust a pious and trustworthy Muslim.
You won’t put your baby in the hands of a babysitter who is known to not like babies. Now it is possible that the babysitter who does not like babies might actually end up caring for the baby pretty well and not harming it. However that doesn’t mean that we take the risk.
Similarly, us Muslims are not to risk putting the safety of the Muslims in the hands of non-Muslims who could potentially have a motive to harming the Muslims and Islam.
This verse is not saying that we can’t have friendly relations with non-Muslims. It is only saying that we should not be dependent upon them and be at their mercy and under their control.
Quranic verse no.4
O ye who believe! take not the Jews and Christians for your patrons : they are patrons of each other; but whoso amongst you takes them for patrons, verily, he is of them, and, verily, God guides not an unjust people.
One explanation is that this is referring to the hypocrites: ‘Oh ye who believe outwardly’, and that they used to assist the polytheists and tell them about the secrets of the Muslims. Al Suddi said that this verse came down during the Battle of Uhud when Muslims were afraid that they were going to lose the battle and wanted to ally themselves with the Jews and Christians. (See Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami’ li-ahkam al-Qur’an, Commentary on Surah 5:51 Source)
The verse could also be referring to the true sincere believers not supposing to ally themselves with the enemy against the believers.
Reading the passage in context clearly indicates that it was in a certain context where the people being warned were afraid of something:
Thou wilt see those in whose hearts is a sickness vieing with them; they say, ‘We fear lest there befall us a reverse.’ It may be God will give the victory, or an order from Himself, and they may awake repenting of what they thought in secret to themselves.
So it makes sense to say that it was referring to those people who were afraid of defeat and then sided with the enemy.
Also if one continues to read on he will see who we are not supposed to befriend:
O ye who believe! take not for patrons those who take your religion for a jest or a sport, from amongst those who have been given the Book before and the misbelievers; but fear God if ye be believers.
So here we see greater emphasis on whom we are not supposed to take CERTAIN people from the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) as patrons and allies.
However, as I mentioned previously we are not supposed to be dependent upon any non-Muslim regardless of whether they outwardly are kind to us or not.
Until now, we still don’t see a verse which prohibits Muslims from having peaceful relations with those who do not harm the Muslim Community or disparage Islam.
Quranic verse no.5
Thou wilt see many of them taking those who disbelieve for their patrons; evil is that which their souls have sent before them, for God’s wrath is on them, and in the torment shall they dwell for aye. But had they believed in God and the prophet, and what was revealed to him, they had not taken these for their patrons; but many of them are evildoers.
Ibn Abbas said:
(Thou seest many of them) many of the hypocrites (making friends with) by seeking their assistance and help (those who disbelieve) Ka’b and his followers; it is also said that this means: you see many Jews, such as Ka’b and his followers, making friends with the disbelievers, the disbelievers of Mecca, Abu Sufyan and his followers, (surely ill for them is that which they themselves send on before them) in their state of Judaism and hypocrisy: (that Allah will be wroth with them and in the doom they will abide) never to die or be removed. (If they) i.e. the hypocrites (believed in Allah) genuinely believed in Allah (and the Prophet) Muhammad (and that which is revealed unto him) i.e. the Qur’an, (they would not choose them) i.e. the Jews (for their friends) seeking their assistance and help. (But many of them) from among the people of the Book (are of evil conduct) they are hypocrites. It is also said that this means: if the Jews genuinely believed in Allah, and in Allah’s divine Oneness, and believed in the Prophet (pbuh) and that which was revealed to him, i.e. the Qur’an, they would not have taken Abu Sufyan and his followers for friends, seeking their assistance and help. Nonetheless, many among the people of the Book are disbelievers. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 5:80-81, Source)
Again we see that it is prohibited to take those who are fighting against Islam such as Kab Al Ashraf as supporters and allies.
Quranic verse no.6
Lean not unto, those who do wrong, lest the Fire touch you, for ye have no patrons but God; and, moreover, ye shall not be helped!
Ibn Abbass said in his commentary:
(And incline not towards those who do wrong) themselves by means of disbelief, idolatry and transgression (lest the Fire touch you) as it has touched them, (and ye have no protecting friends) no relatives to help you (against Allah) against Allah’s chastisement, (and afterward ye would not be helped) you will not be prevented from what is wanted with you. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 11:113, Source)
We are to not to incline towards those who do wrong by imitating their habits (common sense).
Quranic verse no.7
Thou shalt not find a people who believe in God and the last day loving him who opposes God and His Apostle, even though it be their fathers, or their sons, or their brethren, or their clansmen. He has written faith in their hearts, and He aids them with a spirit from Him; and will make them enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein for aye! God is well pleased with them, and they well pleased with Him: they are God’s crew; ay, God’s crew, they shall prosper!
We cannot have feelings of love towards those who oppose God and His messenger. Here ‘opposing’ is actually to the degree of fighting against us and wanting to hurt us. This verse came down in a certain context.
Ibn Kathir has it in his commentary:
(even though they were their fathers), was revealed in the case of Abu `Ubaydah, when he killed his fatherduring the battle of Badr, while the Ayah,
(or their sons) was revealed in the case of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq when he intended to kill his (disbelieving) son, `Abdur-Rahman, (during Badr), while the Ayah,
(or their brothers) was revealed about the case of Mus`ab bin `Umayr, who killed his brother, `Ubayd bin `Umayr, during Badr, and that the Ayah,
(or their kindred) was revealed about the case of `Umar, who killed one of his relatives during Badr, and also that this Ayah was revealed in the case of Hamzah, `Ali and Ubaydah bin Al-Harith. They killed their close relatives `Utbah, Shaybah and Al-Walid bin `Utbah that day. Allah knows best. A similar matter is when Allah’s Messenger consulted with his Companions about what should be done with the captives of Badr. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq thought that they should accept ransom for them so the Muslims could use the money to strengthen themselves. He mentioned the fact that the captured were the cousins and the kindred, and that they might embrace Islam later on, by Allah’s help. `Umar said, “But I have a different opinion, O Allah’s Messenger! Let me kill so-and-so, my relative, and let `Ali kill `Aqil (`Ali’s brother), and so-and-so kill so-and-so. Let us make it known to Allah that we have no mercy in our hearts for the idolators.” Allah said,
(For such He has written faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with Ruh from Himself.) means, those who have the quality of not befriending those who oppose Allah and His Messenger , even if they are their fathers or brothers, are those whom Allah has decreed faith, meaning, happiness, in their hearts and made faith dear to their hearts and happiness reside therein. (Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Commentary on Surah 58:22,Source)
Imam Suyuti states:
You will not find a people who believe in God and the Last Day loving, befriending, those who oppose God and His Messenger, even though they, the opposers, were their fathers, that is to say, the believers’ [fathers], or their sons or their brothers or their clan, rather [you will find that] they intend to do them harm and they fight them over [the question of] faith, as occurred on one occasion with some Companions, may God be pleased with them. [For] those, the ones who are not loving of them, He has inscribed, He has established, faith upon their hearts and reinforced them with a spirit, a light, from Him, exalted be He, and He will admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide, God being pleased with them, for their obedience of Him, and they being pleased with Him, because of His reward. Those [they] are God’s confederates, following His command and refraining from what He has forbidden. Assuredly it is God’s confederates who are the successful, the winners. (Tafsir Jalalayn, Commentary on Surah 58:22, Source)
So as we can see this was in the context of those who were opposing God and his Messenger by FIGHTING against the Muslims.
Until now, we still don’t see a verse that prohibits Muslims from having friendly relations with non-Muslims who do not attack Islam.
Quranic verses no.8 and 9
The reason why I put these verses together is because they are in the same Surah:
O ye who believe! take not my enemy and your enemy for patrons, encountering them with love for they misbelieve in the truth that is to come to you; they drive out the Apostle and you for that ye believe in God your Lord! If ye go forth fighting strenuously in my cause and craving my good pleasure, and secretly show love for them, yet do I know best what ye conceal and what ye display! and he of you who does so has erred from the level path.
O ye who believe! take not for patrons a people whom God is wroth against; they despair of the hereafter, as the misbelievers despair of the fellows of the tombs!
These verses are just simply telling us not to support those who fight us and to assist the disbelievers against the Muslims:
Ibn Abbass states:
And from his narration on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that he said concerning the interpretation of Allah’s saying (O ye who believe!): (O ye who believe!) referring to Hatib, (Choose not My enemy) in religion (and your enemy) who fight you, i.e. the people of Mecca (for friends) seeking their assistance and help. (Do ye give them friendship) you send them a letter to assist and help them (when they disbelieve in that truth which hath come unto you) i.e. to Hatib, (driving out the messenger) Muhammad (pbuh) from Mecca (and you) i.e. Hatib (because ye believe) because of your faith (in Allah, your Lord? If ye have come forth) if you have, O Hatib, come forth from Mecca to Medina (to strive in My way) for the sake of My obedience (and seeking My good pleasure, (show them not friendship). Do ye show friendship unto them in secret) do not send letters to them in secret to assist and help them, (when I am best Aware of what ye hide) i.e. of what you hide, O Hatib, regarding the letter; and it is also said that this means: regarding your faith (and what ye proclaim) O Hatib, of excuse; and it is also said: of profession of Allah’s divine Oneness? (And whosoever doeth it among you) whoever of you, O believers, does as Hatib did, (he verily hath strayed from the right way) he has indeed strayed from the path of guidance. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 60:1, Source)
(O ye who believe!) referring here to ‘Abdullah Ibn Ubayy and his fellow believers (Be not friendly) i.e. seeking their help and assistance and divulging to them the secrets of the Prophet (pbuh) (with a folk with whom Allah is wroth) twice; this refers to the Jews when they said: “Allah’s Hand is uptight” and again when they disbelieved in Muhammad (pbuh) ((a folk) who have despaired of the Hereafter) who have despaired of the bliss of Paradise (as the disbelievers) the disbelievers of Mecca (despair of those who are in the graves) i.e. of the return of the people of the graves; and it is also said that this means: of the questioning of Munkar and Nakir; and it is also said this means: do not be friendly with a folk with whom Allah is wroth, but rather be of those who glorify Allah and pray to Him.’ (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 60:13, Source)
Imam Qurtubi states:
يَعْنِي الْيَهُود . وَذَلِكَ أَنَّ نَاسًا مِنْ فُقَرَاء الْمُسْلِمِينَ كَانُوا يُخْبِرُونَ الْيَهُود بِأَخْبَارِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
This is referring to the Jews, because some poor people amongst the Muslims used to spell out the secrets of the Muslims to the Jews. (Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami’ li-ahkam al-Qur’an, Commentary on Surah 60:13 Source)
We have to read the whole Surah in order to understand exactly what God is saying:
God forbids you not respecting those who have not fought against you for religion’s sake, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that ye should act righteously and justly towards them; verily, God loves the just! He only forbids you to make patrons of those who have fought against you for religion’s sake, and driven you forth from your homes, or have aided in your expulsion; and whoever makes patrons of them, they are the unjust!
So when the Quran says that we cannot be awliyaa of the disbelievers it means that we cannot ally ourselves and support them against the Muslims. We cannot be friends or supporters of those who mock our religion. We cannot risk the security and fate of the Muslims under the power and control of the non-Muslims and be dependent upon them.
Shakyh Saalih Aal ash-Shaykh said:
And the principle concerning Tawalle is to help the kuffar against a Muslim during the time of war between a Muslim and a Kaafir with the intent and purpose (qasd) of allowing the Kuffar to gain ascendancy over the the Muslims. And the basis (asl) of Tawallee is complete love, or aiding a kaafir against a Muslim, so whoever loved a kaafir for his religion (deen), and then he turned to him with tawallee, and this is kufr.(Shakyh Saalih Aal ash-Shaykh, Concerning Tawallee and Muwaalaat, Source)
However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with showing kindness and having peaceful relations with those who do not fight and attack us and our faith.
Does Islam Prohibit Friendship With Disbelievers In The Form Of Being Companions With Them?
The position that I will argue is yes.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Sunan Abu Dawud
Book 41, Number 4814:
Narrated AbuSa’id al-Khudri:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Associate only with a believer, and let only a God-fearing man eat your meals.
Book 41, Number 4815:
The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend. (There is some minor dispute regarding the authenticity of this narration, see Awn Al Ma’bood, however the meaning of this hadeeth is correct)
When the Prophet (peace be upon) said “Associate only with a believer” the Arabic phrase is لا تصاحب إلا مؤمنا, which means that you should not be the companion or close friend of anyone except a believer.
The reason for this is given in the next hadith, which says “A man follows the religion of his friend”, which means that a man follows the habits and customs of his friends.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is also reported to have said:
Book 032, Number 6361:
Abu Musa reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The similitude of good company and that of bad company is that of the owner of musk and of the one (iron-smith) blowing bellows, and the owner of musk would either offer you free of charge or you would buy it from him or you would. smell its pleasant odour, and so far as one who blows the. bellows is concerned, he would either burn your clothes or you shall have to smell its repugnant smell.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is telling us that we should not be friends or companions of people that can have a negative influence upon our faith. If a person wants to be friends with a non-Muslim then this should only be done out of necessity. For instance, if you have a Non-Muslim friend who you meet and constantly have interfaith dialogues with and your intention is to bring him to Islam then there is nothing wrong with this. If you have a Non-Muslim friend whom you have to meet outside for any important matters (e.g. work related) then again there is no problem with this.
However, if you simply just want to hang around with a non-Muslim while there is no necessity for doing so then this is prohibited. The reason for this is because it could have a negative impact upon your faith. Just think about what things you would be doing with this individual. You are not working on anything important with him nor are you talking about religion. So what are you doing then? If you are wasting your time going out to the movies, picnics, etc. with this person then there is a big chance that you would be committing sins, since he does not believe that everything that is haram for you is also haram for him.
Also, over time your heart might soften too much for the person that you may begin to disbelieve that Allah could possibly place such a person in Hell fire. To have such a belief is kufr. Thus, it is advised to avoid these kinds of friendships in order to protect one’s faith.
I must also stress on the fact that this same logic applies to Muslims as well. It is forbidden for you to be friends with a non-practicing Muslim who could negatively influence you in regards to practicing your faith. I would associate with a non-Muslim who is willing to speak about matters of faith rather than associate with a Muslim who drinks alcohol and wants to drag me down to his level as well.
We should be friends with people that would encourage us in staying away from inequities and not the other way around.
Allah punished those Israelites who did not positively influence their friends:
Curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who rejected faith, by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses. Nor did they (usually) forbid one another the iniquities which they committed: evil indeed were the deeds which they did.
Thus, we ought to choose to not befriend and be close to those who will not try to positively influence us. This applies to non-practicing Muslims (they are sinning and will influence you to sin) and to non-Muslims (what interest do they have in ensuring that you practice your faith?)
In conclusion, we are allowed to be friends with non-Muslims in the sense that we don’t have to wage war against them and we can have peaceful relations with them and engage in friendly dialogue with them. However, we are not permitted to be close friends with them in the sense that they are our companions because this might have a negative impact upon ourselves. The exception to this is that you can be close friends with them if you have the ability to influence and not be influenced and try to have the person come to Islam or you can also associate with them for important matters such as work.
May Allah correct me for any errors in this paper, however this is the best understanding that I was able to achieve regarding this matter.