Friendship with non-believers

Q230 :Could you please explain the Qur'anic verse which instructs Muslims in these words: "Take not unbelievers as your friends, and if you do so you are among them." In our present world, most Muslims have some sort of dealings with non-Muslims, and that approaches friendship in the majority of cases, especially in countries where the Muslims are in minority. What is their position in the light of this Qur'anic injunction?

A230 : There is some confusion in the understanding of the Qur'anic verse, which has come about from the translation of the term 'waliy' which is rendered in the translation you have quoted as "friend". In fact the term "friend" is inadequate as a translation of the Arabic term. The term "friend" occurs in the Qur'an in verse 61 of Surah 24, entitled, Light. Had Allah meant that we must not take unbelievers as friends, in the strict meaning of friendship, He would have used this particular term, sadeeq, but He has chosen to use a different term which has much wider connotations. Translators of the Qur'an have found difficulty in rendering the meaning of the term waliy as it occurs in the verse you have quoted and similar verses. It should be noted that in Islamic terminology, the same word is used for the person who acts for a woman in her marriage, giving the commitment to marry her away to her prospective husband. When the suitor accepts that commitment, the marriage is made. Such a person is normally her father, if he is alive and sane. If not, then her grandfather, brother, uncle, or even her adult son may act for her. In such a situation, we normally translate the term waliy as "guardian". As for the situation of dealing with unbelievers, translators of the Qur'an have tried to come to grips with this term by using in their translations words such as "allies, protectors, helpers, bosom friends, etc." One translator uses both "friends and allies" to denote the meaning. Without wishing to comment on these translations, I can say that perhaps the word "ally" is closer to the meaning of the Arabic term. What Allah forbids in our relations with non-believers is the forging of alliances which have far reaching commitments that may take precedence over the implementation of certain provisions of our law. With the difference in meaning explained, there is no question that friendship on social basis with unbelievers is acceptable, provided that these individuals are not actively hostile to Islam or to Muslims. A clear reference to this in the Qur'an is found in verses 8 and 9 of surah 670, entitled The Examined One. These can be rendered in translation as follows : "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, Allah does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity. Indeed, Allah loves those who act equitably. Allah only forbids you to choose for your allies those that fight against you because of your faith, and drive you forth from your homelands, or aid others in driving you forth. Those of you who choose such people for their allies are truly wrongdoers." Perhaps it is important to explain that the phrase "Allah does not forbid you" which occurs in the first of these two verses does not merely mean an absence of prohibition. It implies in this context, as commentators on the Qur'an explain, a positive encouragement to act towards them with kindness and equity. There are numerous Hadiths which encourage Muslims to be kind to other religious communities, especially those who constitute minorities in the Muslim state. The strong emphasis placed on the need to behave towards them in this way has been heeded by Muslims throughout the ages. Minorities in the Muslim state have always enjoyed a fair and kind treatment by the Muslim majority. On the personal level, there is nothing to stop any Muslim from forging a friendship with non-Muslims who harbor no ill intentions against Islam or its followers.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )