Muslims and non-Muslims: Friend or Foe?

God does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice.

However, for those non-Muslims who are hostile to Muslims:

God only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends (and ally) with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are wrong-doers. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8-9)

God Almighty does not forbid Muslims from dealing justly with those who do not fight Islam or oppress Muslims. Indeed, He enjoins Muslims to do “kindness” for them. Obviously, doing “kindness” is more than just dealing justly, because it may give people more than what they deserve. Note that the word “birr” (translated as kindness) that Allah used in this context is the same word that is used for the type of kindness that a Muslim should show his/her parents as in birr al-walidain (kindness to parents) and the same “birr” in what is defined as righteousness in the Quran, al Baqarah  2:177.

The above verses affirm that it is only forbidden to have friendly relations with those who show hostility to Muslims. In this context, those who aid the oppressors are not better than the oppressors themselves.

It is important to note that the above verses were revealed after the first verses of the same surah, Al-Mumtahanah, which forbid taking guardians and trustees from among the enemies of God, they also encourage Muslims to follow the example of Prophet Ibrahim who boycotted the enemies of God. This fact confirms the validity of the ruling given in the above verses and thus cannot be claimed that it has been ‘abrogated’ [60:1-4]. It is also important that the second verse of the surah provides a clear description of the enemies of God.

If they get the better of you, they would treat you as their enemies and stretch forth, their hands and tongues against you with evil, and they desire that you become unbelievers. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:2)

Verse seven of the same chapter serves as an introduction for verses eight and nine, confirming that the above enmity does not always last forever. God says what means,

It may be that God creates (mutual) love between you and the ones of them whom you took as enemies (Al-Mumtahanah 60:7).

The verse does not stipulate an enemy's conversion as the reason for removing the enmity; actually, enmity may be ended if an enemy takes a supportive or at least a neutral position.

As mentioned above, the ultimate goal of Islam is to establish peace and to bring about happiness for all beings in both this world and the eternal one in the hereafter. In case some people refuse to cooperate in achieving bliss in the hereafter, Muslims should still cooperate with them to maintain harmony and happiness in this world. God says what means,

O you people We have created you from a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. The best among you is the most pious (Al-Hujurat 49:13).

In regards to the verses found in the Quran prohibiting against alliance [of friendship] to non-Muslims (whether of the ‘People of the Book’ or otherwise) are in the context of those who viewed Islam and the Muslims with enmity; who hatched conspiracies for their destruction and who had driven out the Muslims from their homeland and promote mockery of their religion, for the only reason that they are Muslims.

You who believe, do not take My enemies and yours as your allies, showing them friendship when they have rejected the truth you have received, and have driven you and the Messenger out simply because you believe in God, your Lord––not if you truly emigrated in order to strive for My cause and seek My good pleasure. You secretly show them friendship––I know all you conceal and all you reveal–– but any of you who do this are straying from the right path. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:1)

You who believe, do not take as allies those who ridicule your religion and make fun of it- whether people who were given the Scripture before you, or disbelievers- and be mindful of God if you are true believers. (al-Ma’idah 5:57)This is a pragmatic and realistic approach from God All-Wise.

Muslims are often accused of using derogative terms for non-Muslims. However, this is to the contrary.

According to Catholic Encyclopedia: As in the Christian usage of language those who by baptism have received faith in Jesus Christ and have pledged Him their fidelity are called the faithful, so the name infidel is given to those who have not been baptized. The term applies not only to all who are ignorant of the true God, such as pagans of various kinds, but also to those who adore Him but do not recognize Jesus Christ [as Divine], as Jews and Muslims.

The archaic term “Mohammadan” and the modern term “Islamists” are considered unfavorably by Muslims since these terms have no bases in the Quran, the sacred text of Muslims. Moreover, common media terms such as “Islamic terrorism” or “Islamic extremism” are derogative since it implies that it has Islamic legitimacy for such heinous crimes.

The Arabic term Kaafir used by Muslims for non-Muslims, is similar to the word Goy used by Jews or Gentile for its Latin translation by Christians for non-Jews [usually other than Christians in modern usage].  Unfortunately, like other common, otherwise innocent terms it may be assigned disparagingly to even fellow Muslims. However, its common and 'correct' [albeit un-Quranic] usage is no more insulting than the word gentile.

So, the basic rule in the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is that there must be coexistence and harmony. This situation must be maintained, even if non-Muslims continue to reject Islam for themselves, as long as they do not react in a hostile way to Islam and Muslims. Thereby the Muslims have a right for self-defense within equity. (see: Ash-Shoora 42:40-43)


And Allah knows best.


Please see: War in Islam

Related article: Kafir - Are all non-Muslims inherently condemed to Hell?


For Younger Readers

God teaches in the Quran, the holy book of Muslims that:

  • There are both good and bad people within the Human race

  • Do not be friends with bad people

  • Both Muslims and good non-Muslims can be friends

  • All people must try to live in peace and harmony