Relationships with non-Muslims in Islamic Law

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The Quran and other Islamic sources prohibit certain degrees of relationship with non-Muslims, including with the "People of the Book". Its stance appears to have evolved over time at various stages of Muhammad's prophetic career, occurring in a context when the believers had been driven out from Mecca and there was a degree of enmity between them, as recorded in such verses as Quran 60:1. Some contemporary views emphasize contextual issues and use particular verses and examples from Muhammad's life to argue that friendship with non-Muslims is permitted in some circumstances.


A word common in many of these verses is awliyaa (plural of وَلِيٌّ waliyyun, from which we also have 'wali' - the male guardian of a female or orphan[1]). It is often translated as guardians, friends and protectors, or allies. The phrase walīyu 'llāh (ولي الله), means 'friend of God'.[1][2]

Prohibition on taking non-Muslims as intimate friends or guardians / allies

Let not believers take disbelievers as allies [awliyaa] rather than believers. And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah, except when taking precaution against them in prudence. And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination.
O ye who believe! Take not for intimates [bitanatan][3] others than your own folk, who would spare no pains to ruin you; they love to hamper you. Hatred is revealed by (the utterance of) their mouths, but that which their breasts hide is greater. We have made plain for you the revelations if ye will understand.
Those who chose disbelievers for their friends [awliyaa] instead of believers! Do they look for power at their hands? Lo! all power appertaineth to Allah.
O you who have believed, do not take the disbelievers as allies [awliyaa] instead of the believers. Do you wish to give Allah against yourselves a clear case?
O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors [awliyaa]: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.

A later verse in the same surah is more concilliatory regarding Christians, though not towards Jews and idolaters.

Thou wilt find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe (to be) the Jews and the idolaters. And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection [mawaddatan][4]to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not proud

The next two verses give more specific proscriptions concerning relations with non-Muslims who mock the religion or Muslims who do not take their religion seriously.

O Ye who believe! Choose not for guardians [awliyaa] such of those who received the Scripture before you, and of the disbelievers, as make a jest and sport of your religion. But keep your duty to Allah if ye are true believers.
Leave alone [dhari] those who take their religion to be mere play and amusement, and are deceived by the life of this world. But proclaim (to them) this (truth): that every soul delivers itself to ruin by its own acts: it will find for itself no protector or intercessor except Allah: if it offered every ransom, (or reparation), none will be accepted: such is (the end of) those who deliver themselves to ruin by their own acts: they will have for drink (only) boiling water, and for punishment, one most grievous: for they persisted in rejecting Allah.
28:86 Thou hadst no hope that the Scripture would be inspired in thee; but it is a mercy from thy Lord, so never be a helper [thaheeran] to the disbelievers.
There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: "We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone": But not when Abraham said to his father: "I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah." (They prayed): "Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal. "Our Lord! Make us not a (test and) trial for the Unbelievers, but forgive us, our Lord! for Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise."

Muhammad softens his stance before the conquest of Mecca: Allah forbids only guardians / allies from those who made war on the believers for religion and drove them out

Abraham's people, whom he declared enemies in the above verse, did nothing besides idolatry according to the tafsirs. But it should be noted that a softening of this stance occurs a few verses later in the same surah. It says that Allah may put love / affection between the Muslims and those who had been their enemies, that they are permitted to show kindness and deal justly with them so long as they had not made war on the Muslims and had not helped drive them out. It is only those who did do such things that the believers should not take as guardians / allies (awliyaa).

The tafsirs say that verse 60:7 was uttered because the previous verses were hard for the Muslims, telling them to disown their own relatives in Mecca, even their children in verse Quran 60:3. Regarding verse 60:8, ibn Kathir cites Sahih Bukhari 8:73:9 that it was revealed after Asma' bint Abu Bakr rejected her idolatress mother when she tried to visit her in Medina. He says that 'A'isha asked Muhammad's opinion on this.[5] Al-Tabari in his tafsir records disagreement as to whether the exemption applies only to believers who did not migrate from Mecca, or to polytheists who did not fight nor expel the believers. He also records one narration that the verse was abrogated by later commands to fight the disbelievers, while others disagreed.[6]

It may be that Allah will ordain love [mawaddatan][4] between you and those of them with whom ye are at enmity. Allah is Mighty, and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Allah forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! Allah loveth the just dealers. Allah forbiddeth you only those who warred against you on account of religion and have driven you out from your homes and helped to drive you out, that ye make friends of them [tawallawhum]. Whosoever maketh friends of them - (All) such are wrong-doers.

Prohibition on taking non-Muslim family members as guardians / allies; believers disassociate from them and do not love them if they are enemies of Allah

Surah 9 (at-Tawbah) came later chronologically than surah 60 in the section above, after the conquest of Mecca. By this time it seems Muhammad had hardened his stance again. Now even family could not be a Muslim's awliya if they love disbelief more than faith, and a Muslim was not allowed even to have love for them if they opposed Allah and Muhammad. Presumably love was allowed if they don't oppose Allah and Muhammad, though it seems that a Muslim still was forbidden to take them as awliya either way if they were disbelievers.

O ye who believe! take not for protectors [yatawallahum] your fathers and your brothers if they love infidelity [kufra] above Faith: if any of you do so, they do wrong.
Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight - are dearer [ahabba] to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause;- then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious.
It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire.
And Abraham prayed for his father's forgiveness only because of a promise he had made to him. But when it became clear to him that he was an enemy to Allah, he dissociated himself from him: for Abraham was most tender-hearted, forbearing.

(see also 60:4 above, where it says Abraham is a good example to follow).

Thou wilt not find folk who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving [yuwaddoona][4] those who oppose Allah and His messenger, even though they be their fathers or their sons or their brethren or their clan. As for such, He hath written faith upon their hearts and hath strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, and He will bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. They are Allah's party. Lo! is it not Allah's party who are the successful?


Only pious believers where Muhammad's friends

'Amr b. 'As reported: I heard it from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) quite audibly and not secretly: Behold! the posterity of my fathers, that is, so and so, are not my friends. Verily Allah and the pious believers are my friends.[awliya]

Muhammad used to visit a sick Jewish servant

Contemporary scholars often cite this hadith as an example of Muhammad showing friendship to a Jewish persion.

Narrated Anas: A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet (ﷺ) and he became sick. So the Prophet (ﷺ) went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting there; the latter told him to obey Abul-Qasim and the boy embraced Islam. The Prophet (ﷺ) came out saying: "Praises be to Allah Who saved the boy from the Hell-fire."

Umar kicked a Christian out of Medina

(And if any among you befriends them, then surely he is one of them.) Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that `Umar ordered Abu Musa Al-Ash`ari to send him on one sheet of balance the count of what he took in and what he spent. Abu Musa then had a Christian scribe, and he was able to comply with `Umar's demand. `Umar liked what he saw and exclaimed, "This scribe is proficient. Would you read in the Masjid a letter that came to us from Ash-Sham" Abu Musa said, `He cannot."

`Umar said, "Is he not pure Abu Musa said, "No, but he is Christian." Abu Musa said, "So `Umar admonished me and poked my thigh (with his finger), saying, `Drive him out (from Al-Madinah).' He then recited,"

(O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends...) Then he reported that `Abdullah bin `Utbah said, "Let one of you beware that he might be a Jew or a Christian, while unaware." The narrator of this statement said, "We thought that he was referring to the Ayah,

A man follows the religion of his friend

Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man follows the religion of his friend [Khalil]; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.[Khalil]

Only stay with believers

Narrated AbuSa'id al-Khudri:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Associate only with a believer, and let only a God-fearing man eat your meals.

Whoever joins a polytheist is like him

Narrated Samurah ibn Jundub:

To proceed, the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: Anyone who associates with a polytheist and lives with him is like him.

Muhammad was sent to stop friendship

Some Muslims remained friends with the Jews, so Allah sent down a Qur'an forbidding them to take Jews as friends. From their mouths hatred has already shown itself and what they conceal is worse
Ibn Ishaq p.262


Ibn Kathir

Allah forbids His believing servants from having Jews and Christians as friends, because they are the enemies of Islam and its people, may Allah curse them. Allah then states that they are friends of each other and He gives a warning threat to those who do this"

Ibn Taymiyah

“Imitation generates friendship and love, and regarding them as allies in the inside, just as loving them on the inside generates imitating them on the outside.” Allaah tells us that there is no (true) believer who takes a kaafir as a friend, for whoever takes a kaafir as friend is not a believer. Imitation on the outside implies that a person loves (the one whom he imitates), and so it is forbidden.”
“The Qur’aan, Sunnah and ijmaa’ (scholarly consensus) all indicate that we must differ from the kuffaar in all aspects and not imitate them, because imitating them on the outside will make us imitate them in their bad deeds and habits, and even in beliefs, which will result in befriending them in our hearts, just as loving them in our hearts will lead to imitating them on the outside

Contemporary views

Some argue that friendship with non-Muslims is permitted in most situations today, appealing to verse 60:8 (see above) and certain aspects of Muhammad's life. His uncle Abu Talib was close to Muhammad and supported him throughout his life, despite remaining a polytheist. His uncle Abbas supported him in Mecca before his conversion to Islam. They also point to the non-Muslim Bedouin who Muhammah and Abu Bakr trusted to lead them through the desert when the Quraish plotted to kill Muhammad.

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 wali ولي - Lane's Lexicon Suppliment pp.3060-3061
  2. Ed, , “Wālī”, in: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Edited by: P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Consulted online on 16 November 2020
  3. bitanatan بِطَانَةً - Lane's Lexicon p.221
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 mawaddatan مَّوَدَّةً - Lane's Lexicon p.2931
  5. - Tafsir of ibn Kathir on verse 60:8. The comment about 'A'isha is also found in Wahidi's Asbab Al-Nuzul
  6. - Tafsir al-Tabari for verse 60:8