Muslim and non-Muslim relationship

Sep 29, 2021 | Tafsir



Are muslims and non muslims allowed to be friends?
There are a few verses where Allah has commanded muslims not befriend jews, Christians and idolaters. However I have heard many scholars say that it is ok to be friends with non-muslims even atheists, and these verses only addressed specific situations that were meant to warn early muslims that jews and idolaters of their time cannot be trusted since they were at war with them.


The term ‘friend’ is a subjective term and each person will have their own interpretation of friendship and what types of relationship it constitutes. Due to this, issuing a ruling on whether or not Muslims can be ‘friends’ with non-Muslims will be difficult. What we can do is identify the boundaries that shari’ah has created surrounding interaction with non-Muslims and use this as a framework to guide our interactions.

A very relevant verse for this discussion is the following:

Allah does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you due to your faith or driven you out of your homes. Allah loves those who deal justly. Allah only forbids you from those people that fought you because of your faith, drove you out of your homes and helped in your expulsion, that you take them as intimate associates. And whosoever takes them as intimate associates, then it is they who are the wrongdoers.” [60:8-9]

This verse makes it clear that a Muslim is not prohibited from showing kindness and being just to non-Muslims. These are important qualities of a believer and are encouraged by the teachings of Islam. If for a person friendship means to have a casual relationship and being kind to each other, then from this verse we understand this to be permissible.

There are some verses that seem to be more conservative in regards to the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. For example, in Surah Aal Imran Allah the Almighty says:

Let not the believers take the disbelievers as awliya instead of the believers, and whoever does that will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them. And Allah warns you against Himself (His Punishment), and to Allah is the final return. [3:28]

Another similar verse is:

O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as awliya. They are [in fact] awliya of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people. [5:51]

The word ‘awliya’ is where the contention usually arises. It is often translated as friends, hence stating that believers cannot take disbelievers as friends. However, when we look at the commentaries of these verses, the explanation provided is more aligned with taking someone as an ally. The meaning would then be to not take non-Muslims as allies, where you are supporting them in their religious affairs and you take support from them in your affairs as opposed to taking support from other believers. This does not stop Muslims from having a good relationship with non-Muslims but at the same time ensures religious boundaries and principles are not crossed.

If we take this interpretation then these verses would still apply today and will not unnecessarily be restricted to the Muslims at time of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace).

Yes, if the relationship with the non-Muslim was so close that non-Islamic practices and habits were rubbing of onto the Muslim and impacting their faith, then to maintain such a relationship would be a prohibited. Similarly, if one was to support them or encourage them in matters that conflict with Islam, that would also be impermissible.

This approach takes into consideration the different verses in the Qur’an as well as the kind and generous treatment that the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) exercised with those around him whether Muslim or non-Muslim.

It must be stated however, that a person should try and remain in the company of those people whose values align with their own. Believers should remain in the company of believers as that will help with one’s faith.

تفسير الطبري = جامع البيان ت شاكر (6/ 313)
القول في تأويل قوله: {لا يَتَّخِذِ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِنْ دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَمَنْ يَفْعَلْ ذَلِكَ فَلَيْسَ مِنَ اللَّهِ فِي شَيْءٍ إِلا أَنْ تَتَّقُوا مِنْهُمْ تُقَاةً}
قال أبو جعفر: وهذا نهيٌ من الله عز وجل المؤمنين أن يتخذوا الكفارَ أعوانًا وأنصارًا وظهورًا

ومعنى ذلك: لا تتخذوا، أيها المؤمنون، الكفارَ ظهرًا وأنصارًا توالونهم على دينهم، وتظاهرونهم على المسلمين من دون المؤمنين، (2) وتدلُّونهم على عوراتهم

تفسير البغوي – إحياء التراث (1/ 427)
قَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ:
كَانَ الحجاج بن عمرو وابن أَبِي الْحُقَيْقِ وَقَيْسُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ [يبطنون بِنَفَرٍ] [7] مِنَ الْأَنْصَارِ لِيَفْتِنُوهُمْ عَنْ دِينِهِمْ، فَقَالَ رِفَاعَةُ بْنُ الْمُنْذِرِ وَعَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ جُبَيْرٍ وَسَعِيدُ بْنُ خَيْثَمَةَ لِأُولَئِكَ النَّفَرِ: اجْتَنِبُوا هؤلاء اليهود لا يفتنوكم عن دينكم [ويخرجوكم عن طاعة الله ورسوله] [8] ، فَأَبَى أُولَئِكَ النَّفَرُ إِلَّا مُبَاطَنَتَهُمْ، فَأَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى هَذِهِ الْآيَةَ، وَقَالَ مُقَاتِلٌ: نَزَلَتْ فِي حَاطِبِ بْنِ أَبِي بَلْتَعَةَ وَغَيْرِهِ، وَكَانُوا يُظْهِرُونَ الْمَوَدَّةَ لِكُفَّارِ مَكَّةَ.
وَقَالَ الْكَلْبِيُّ عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا: نَزَلَتْ فِي الْمُنَافِقِينَ: عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بن أبي وَأَصْحَابِهِ كَانُوا يَتَوَلَّوْنَ الْيَهُودَ وَالْمُشْرِكِينَ وَيَأْتُونَهُمْ بِالْأَخْبَارِ، وَيَرْجُونَ أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الظَّفَرُ عَلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، فَأَنْزَلَ الله هَذِهِ الْآيَةَ وَنَهَى الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَنْ مِثْلِ فِعْلِهِمْ

تفسير الطبري = جامع البيان ت شاكر (10/ 395)
القول في تأويل قوله عز ذكره: {يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى أَوْلِيَاءَ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ}
قال أبو جعفر: اختلف أهل التأويل في المعنيِّ بهذه الآية، وإن كان مأمورًا بذلك جميع المؤمنين

Answered by:
Ifta Research Fellow

Checked & Approved by:
Mufti Abdul Rahman Mangera
Mufti Zubair Patel