Is it haram
to take non-Muslims as friends?
No. A Muslim is friendly to every
one. If dawa is the purpose, then being friendly to everyone is
an obligation. A Muslim must care and feel for those whom he is
giving dawa to. It is not enough to just stand and give a talk.
Rather it requires building relationships to influence others and
to genuinely care for those among whom we are living. Prophet Muhammad
deeply cared for Makkan Mushriks. Allah's peace
and blessings be upon him. He prayed, cried and tried his best to
save them from hell-fire. Even his enemies were treated not only
with kindness, but, with genuine concern for them. The story of
woman who used to throw garbage on the Prophet
whenever he went by her house, portrays the
picture of a person with deep love for even those who would actively
oppose him. One day when the woman became sick, the Prophet
not seeing her there became concerned for her
and went to visit her1,2.
Also, the rights of neighbors as taught to us by the Prophet
extend to non Muslims as well. The confusion
comes because of the wrong understanding of the words "wali" and
"kafir," and the misinterpretation of the ayah:
You who believe, do not enlist kafirs as
wali, instead of mumineen (4:144).
The word "wali" is used both in
the sense of taking as a friend as well as a protector. The word
"friendship" can also be at many different levels and mean different
things. It can range from helping someone and treating someone kindly
to becoming a "buddy". But in all cases it means a relationship
at equal level from both sides. On the other hand "wali" is not
usually used in the sense of relationship at an equal level, but,
where one has more power than other or acts as a patron. It is in
this sense that Allah calls Himself as wali of all believers. And
it is in this sense that Muslims are asked not to take their fathers
and their brothers as wali if they prefer kufr over Iman:
You who believe, do not take your
fathers and your brothers on as wali if they prefer kufr rather
than Iman (9:23).
But it does not imply dissolving those
relationships. Kufr is an act and not just a label for all non-Muslims.
There is a difference between the term "non-Muslim" and "kafir."
Kafir is the one who after knowing Islam rejects it. Whereas a non
Muslim could be any non-Muslim who has neither studied Islam nor
has made a conscious decision of rejecting it as is also evident
from the following verse: "Those who disbelieve among the people
of the book and among the polytheists
Kufr is something that people actively do after knowing the truth.
It is they who should neither be taken as protectors nor as friends,
but still must be treated justly and in a fitting manner. The Prophet
used to keep good relations with non-Muslims,
keep their trusts, eat their food and visit them when they were
What is forbidden is the relationship
of wilayah with Kafirs (who knowingly reject Islam). But, even in
that case there are exceptions. The Prophet
sought protection from different leaders
of Quraysh when reentering Makkah from the Dawa trip of Taif. He
finally received the protection from Mutim the chief of Nawfal
tribe1,2. Abu Bakr Siddique
also returned to Makkah aborting his migration to Habasha when Ibn
ad-Dughunnah, a non-Muslim Bedouin chief offered him his protection
to stay in Makkah and became his Wali. But when Abu Bakrs
crying while reading Quran outside his home became a dawa attraction,
he told Abu Bakr that I did not give you protection to let you change
the heart of my people. On that Abu Bakr let him revoke his protection,
without compromising his right of dawa.1,2
The Prophet had kind
relationship with non Muslims all the time in weakness as well as
in strength. Therefore the principle is that hikmah of time and
space will determine whose help or protection a Muslim may seek
or not seek.
One must be careful, however, in
using this provision and it should not be used to justify the unjustifiable.
The perspective which I am presenting here deals with individual
behavior. It does not deal with international relations of governments
which is a relevant but different topic.
wallahu alam bis sawab.
1. Seerat ibne Hisham (Earliest existing source
2. Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources
by Martin Lings.
"The prophet and the people around him" and "The
prophets message in an alien soil" in Dawa for us and against
us Both are lectures by Khurram Murad available on video
from Sound Vision.
Food for thought
... and action
"I swear by the time, Most surely man is in loss, Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other Truth, and enjoin on each other endurance." Quran 103:1-3