Can a Muslim and a Non-Muslim Become Friends?
Name of Questioner: Randall
Date: 19-12-2019 09:16:48 AM
5:51 "O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them." This friendship makes any Muslim an enemy of their own and deserving of the same fate as the unbeliever. This is because God does not guide an unjust people. After reading this, it occurred to me why groups of Muslims mainly choose not socialize outside of their own friendship groups in schools and colleges around my area. Surely this aggravates an already mounting tension between Muslims and other groups. To me this shows Allah is a God not of love and openness to all his children but one who 'looks after his own.' How can this be good for building the Muslim faith? It seems Islam is a selfish religion in which one must worry about only his own beliefs and the beliefs of those close to him. What do you say to this? And also I have friends who are Muslims, are they in the wrong as I am Christian?
Thank you for your question.
Answering your question, Dr. Jasser Auda, Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, states:
Yes, some Muslims believe that the verse that you quoted implies not having any relationship with Jews and Christians under all circumstances and in all places and times, and they seem to apply this in their life!
However, I would like to confirm that this is their own ungrounded interpretation, and not what the verse really means as an absolute rule!
As a general and essential rule, before one quotes any verse in the Quran, two important contexts should be considered:
1- The historic context or circumstances surrounding the revelation of this verse. The Quran was revealed over a period of 23 years and not all at once. One wisdom behind this is that we should consider the context and circumstances surrounding the revelation and learn and apply lessons from the verse based on these circumstances.
If the situation at hand is totally different from this historic context surrounding the revelation, then the verse simply does not apply. They call this "Tahqeeq al-Manaat" (verifying the applicability) in the Islamic legal language.
2- The other important context is the context of the other verses. We have to answer the question on whether the verse we are quoting is the only verse revealed on the same topic or not? If not, then it is a must that we consider the verse in the context of all the other verses on the same topic.
Now, the verse that you mentioned actually has two contexts:
1- It was revealed in certain historic circumstances, in which there was a war between the infant Islamic State on different occasions on four different fronts (the Romans, the Persians, the pagans of Arabia, and the Jews of Medina).
So, the historic context of the revelation of this verse is a situation of war between Muslims and the People of the Book (Jews, internally in Medina, and Christians, through a Roman crusade).
So, yes, Muslims were not allowed to make friends with the enemies who were fighting them and wishing to eliminate them from the face of the earth.
Some Muslims say that since the verse has this historic context, then it is part of history and no longer applies. This is not correct! It is true that the verse has a history behind it, but this does not mean that it is no longer relevant. It is totally relevant but only in a context similar to the historic context.
So, today, Muslims are not to make friends with Jews or Christians (or followers of any other religion for that matter) if they try to kill them, kick them out of their homes, etc.
However, this verse and its lessons do not apply to your case. I understand that you and your Muslim friends are living in a peaceful community. Therefore, this verse is not the verse that is "applicable" here, but rather some other verses of the Quran, as the next point shows.
2- The second, and also very important, context is the context of other verses that address the same topic. The verse that you mentioned is not the only verse in the Quran that talked about relationships with Jews and Christians. There are many other verses that talked about different kinds of relationships between Muslims and Jews and Christians. Here are two examples:
As for such [of the unbelievers] as do not fight against you on account of [your] faith, and neither drive you forth from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity: for, verily, God loves those who act equitably. God only forbids you to turn in friendship towards such as fight against you because of [your] faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or aid [others] in driving you forth: and as for those [from among you] who turn towards them in friendship; it is they, they who are truly wrongdoers! (Quran 60:8-9)
And notice that the word "birr" (translated as kindness) that God used in this context is the same word that is used for the type of kindness that a Muslim should show to his/her parents, as in "birr al-walidain" (kindness to parents)! This is not just friendship but deep respect, isn't it?
The other verse I would like to mention is the verse that allowed Muslims to marry Christians and Jews; "… virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you are lawful for you …" (Quran 5:5)
Again, this is not just friendship. This is the closest and strongest possible human relationship; a husband and his wife, who is his lover, friend, and mother of his children. No other religion (officially) allows that.
Therefore, no, Islam is not a selfish religion. Islam makes sense! The overall wisdom behind all these verses is the following: Islam is a religion that calls for coexistence with other religions and creating social ties to the furthest possible extent. Yet, it takes for an enemy whoever transgresses against Muslims and conspires to kill them. It does not give them the other cheek to slap, but rather defends itself.