Aal-Imran · Juz 3 · Qur'an Tafseer

Relationships with People of Other Faiths

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayah 28

Relationship with the people of other faiths is a sensitive matter. Sometimes we fall into extremes. We either assimilate giving up our distinct identity or choose a life of isolation having no ties with them. In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala teaches us the middle way, what we should we do and what we should avoid. He says,

Muslims are not allowed to form close, intimate relationships with people of other faiths while ignoring the believing brethrens. The word awliya [أَوْلِيَاءَ] is the plural of the word wali which means close, protecting friend. Wali is a friend who when we need help will always be there for us. He will come and support us. We cannot have such a relationship with people of other faiths. For example, when a non-Muslim country decides to attack a Muslim country, whose side are the Muslims to take? As Muslims, our main purpose in life is to worship Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. If someone stops us from practicing what we believe in then that person cannot be our close friend. He is taking us away from the path that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chose for us. We can’t harm our own brethrens while pleasing someone else.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala warned against such behavior when He said, “And whoever [of you] does that has nothing with Allah.”

What does that mean? It means that such a person does not belong to the Deen of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala anymore. He loses his faith. It also means that such a person no longer has the walaya of Allah – that is His support.

At another place in the Qur’an, He said,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا عَدُوِّي وَعَدُوَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَاءَ تُلْقُونَ إِلَيْهِم بِالْمَوَدَّةِ وَقَدْ كَفَرُوا بِمَا جَاءَكُم مِّنَ الْحَقِّ يُخْرِجُونَ الرَّسُولَ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۙ أَن تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ رَبِّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ خَرَجْتُمْ جِهَادًا فِي سَبِيلِي وَابْتِغَاءَ مَرْضَاتِي ۚ تُسِرُّونَ إِلَيْهِم بِالْمَوَدَّةِ وَأَنَا أَعْلَمُ بِمَا أَخْفَيْتُمْ وَمَا أَعْلَنتُمْ ۚ وَمَن يَفْعَلْهُ مِنكُمْ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ سَوَاءَ السَّبِيلِ

“O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what came to you of the truth, having driven out the Prophet and yourselves [only] because you believe in Allah, your Lord. If you have come out for jihad in My cause and seeking means to My approval, [take them not as friends]. You confide to them affection, but I am most knowing of what you have concealed and what you have declared. And whoever does it among you has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way.” [Mumtahanah 60:1]

In Surah An-Nisa, He said,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْكَافِرِينَ أَوْلِيَاءَ مِن دُونِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ ۚ أَتُرِيدُونَ أَن تَجْعَلُوا لِلَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ سُلْطَانًا مُّبِينًا

“O you who have believed, do not take the disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Do you wish to give Allah against yourselves a clear case?” (4: 144)

[Tafseer Surah An-Nisa Ayah 144]

And in Surah Al-Ma’idah, He said,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ أَوْلِيَاءَ ۘ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them.” (5:51)

[Tafseer Surah Al-Ma’idah Ayah 55]

In another ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala talks about faithful believers giving support to the faithful believers among the emigrants [Muhajireen], residents of Madinah [Ansar] and Bedouins. He says,

وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ ۚ إِلَّا تَفْعَلُوهُ تَكُن فِتْنَةٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَفَسَادٌ كَبِيرٌ

“And those who disbelieved are allies of one another. If you do not do so, there will be fitnah on earth and great corruption.” [Al-Anfal 8:73]

Continuing the present ayah, He says, “…except when taking precaution against them in prudence.” It means those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers are allowed to show friendship to them. It also means that maintaining relationships with people of other faiths is permissible as long as it does not make us compromise on our Islamic principles. Remember, we have to find a balance between assimilation and isolation.

There are different levels of interacting with people

1.Muwasaath: It is to wish well for everyone. It is a relationship, which is based on compassion for all human beings regardless of one’s beliefs, ethnicity, age or gender. This compassion is also extended to trees, plants and animals. It means helping them, smiling at them, sharing food with them, visiting them if they are sick and saying hello to them. For example, you see an old person carrying grocery bags, you must help them and not say, “Oh they are non-Muslims, I am not going to help them.” It also means not causing any harm to your neighbor, your colleagues and other people that you come across.

Such relationships were common during the time of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The prisoner of wars were not locked up in prisons of today where there is overcrowding, abuse, and cruelty. After the Battle of Badr, 70 Mushrikeen were arrested and a place near the mosque was chosen for them. The Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhu gave them the best food to survive – bread was a rare commodity, yet the Companions chose dates and water for themselves and bread for the prisoners. When there was famine in Makkah, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam sent them food supplies. They were the same people who have persecuted the Muslims and forced them to immigrate to Madina. Why were they treated like this? Because they are human beings. And if someone is dying of hunger, no matter what their religion or background is you should provide food to them.

During the caliphate of ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu, stipends were given even to the disbelievers.

2.Mudaraath: It is to be good to people when you come in contact with them such as meeting people on the street or in shops. It means if they greet us, smile at us or ask us something, then we must respond to them gracefully.

3.M’uamalaat: It is meeting people due to some work such as employee-employer relationship, student-teacher relationship, patient-physician relationship, etc.

4.Mu’awlaat: It is close, intimate relationship where you support the other at any cost even if that means you have to compromise on your principles. This is the only one that is forbidden.

Al-Bukhari recorded that Al-Hasan said, “The Tuqyah is allowed until the Day of Resurrection.”

“And Allah warns you of Himself, and to Allah is the [final] destination,” meaning He warns us against His anger and the severe torment He prepared for those who give their support to His enemies, and those who have enmity with His friends. “And to Allah is the [final] destination,” meaning the return is to Him and He will reward or punish each person according to their deeds.


-We learn that we cannot develop close ties with people of other faiths while leaving our own people. We can’t help them in causes where they ask us to go against the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We read in Surah Al-Baqarah that the Jews were criticized for shedding their own people and evicting them from their homes because they were allies of the Mushrikeen.

[Tafseer Surah Al-Baqarah Ayaat 84-86]

-We must maintain cordial ties with people especially when they don’t cause us any harm or ask us to lose our Muslim identity. When they are involved in activities that are forbidden in our religion or are displeasing to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala then we must politely and firmly excuse ourselves and not participate. Because we don’t set any boundaries soon we would be doing the same things and that’s disobedience to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. We can see when our children go to non-Islamic schools and there is no strong religious upbringing from the home as well, those children lose their identity. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala warns us of this danger. While we are required to live as a compassionate and courteous human being, we must not lose our identity.

-Nobody should be harmed because they are on a different religion or a different ethnicity. Muwasaath should be adopted.

-We cannot compromise on our religion to please someone else. It means we cannot participate in the activities of the non-Muslims which are based on Shirk or involve something displeasing to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

– If they offer us food, we can eat it as long as it is something halal and tayab. It is therefore important to study our religion and know what is permissible and what is not.

-On the Day of Judgment, a person will be with those that he loves. Whom do we love?

 DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayah 28

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم                
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]


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