*{O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them.}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:51)This friendship makes any Muslim an enemy of their own and deserving of the same fate as the unbeliever.

This is because God does not guide an unjust people. After reading this, it occurred to me why groups of Muslims mainly choose not to socialize outside of their own friendship groups in schools and colleges around my area. Surely this aggravates an already mounting tension between Muslims and other groups. To me this shows Allah is a God not of love and openness to all his children but one who “looks after His own.” How can this be good for building the Muslim faith? It seems Islam is a selfish religion in which one must worry about only his own beliefs and the beliefs of those close to him. What do you say to this? And also I have friends who are Muslims. Are they in the wrong as I am a Christian?


Jasser Auda

Salam, Micah.

Thank you for this good question.

Yes, some Muslims believe that the verse that you quoted implies not having any relationship with Jews and Christians under all circumstances and in all places and times, and they seem to apply this in their life. However, I would like to confirm that this is their own ungrounded interpretation, and not what the verse really means as an absolute rule.

As a general and essential rule, before one quotes any verse in the Qur’an, two important contexts should be considered:

1. The historic context or circumstances surrounding the revelation of this verse. The Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years and not all at once. One wisdom behind this is that we should consider the context and circumstances surrounding the revelation and learn and apply lessons from the verse based on these circumstances. If the situation at hand is totally different from this historic context surrounding the revelation, then the verse simply does not apply. They call this tahqeeq al-manaat (verifying the applicability) in Islamic legal language.

2. The other important context is the context of the other verses. We have to ask whether the verse we are quoting is the only verse revealed on the same topic or not. If not, then it is a must that we consider the verse in context of all the other verses on the same topic.

Now, the verse that you mentioned actually has two contexts:

1. It was revealed in certain historic circumstances, in which there was a war between the infant Islamic state on different occasions on four different fronts: the Romans, the Persians, the pagans of Arabia, and the Jews of Madinah. So, the historic context of the revelation of this verse is a situation of war between Muslims and the People of the Book (Jews, internally in Madinah, and Christians, through a Roman crusade). So, yes, Muslims were not allowed to make friends with the enemies who were fighting them and wishing to eliminate them from the face of the earth.

Some Muslims say that since the verse has this historic context, then it is part of history and no longer applies. This is not correct! It is true that the verse has a history behind it, but this does not mean that it is no longer relevant. It is totally relevant but only in a context similar to the historic context. So today Muslims are not to make friends with Jews or Christians (or followers of any other religion for that matter) if they try to kill Muslims, kick them out of their homes, etc.

However, this verse and its lessons do not apply to your case. I understand that you and your Muslim friends are living in a peaceful community. Therefore, this verse is not the verse that is “applicable” here, but rather some other verses of the Qur’an, as the next point shows.

2. The second, and also very important, context is the context of other verses that address the same topic. The verse that you mentioned is not the only verse in the Qur’an that talks about relationships with Jews and Christians. There are many other verses that talk about different kinds of relationships between Muslims and Jews and Christians. Here are two examples. The Qur’an says what means:
*{Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of [your] religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness (Arabic: birr) and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice. Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of [your] religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up [others] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.}* (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8-9)

And notice that the word birr (translated as kindness) that God used in this context is the same word that is used for the type of kindness that a Muslim should show to his or her parents, as in birr al-walidain (kindness to parents). This is not just friendship but deep respect, isn’t it?

The other verse that I would like to mention is the verse that allows Muslim men to marry Christian and Jewish women. The Qur’an says what means:
*{… virtuous women of the believers and the virtuous women of those who received the Scripture before you are lawful for you…}* (Al-Ma’idah 5:5)

Again, this is not just friendship. This is the closest and strongest possible human relationship: a husband and his wife, who is his lover, friend, and mother of his children. You might not find this permitted in many other religions.

Therefore, no, Islam is not a selfish religion. Islam makes sense. The overall wisdom behind all these verses is the following: Islam is a religion that calls for coexisting with other religions and creating social ties to the furthest possible extent. Yet, it takes for an enemy whoever transgresses against Muslims and conspires to kill them. It does not give them the other cheek to slap, but rather defends itself.

Also, please read the following link, which says that the verse you asked about is mistranslated:
Taking Those Who Are Different to Be Close

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.



Source: — Ask about Islam — Jasser Auda.