By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
06 February, 2015
Some Muslim scholars have developed a notion that there are only two bases on which Muslims should have relations with people: friendliness (wala) and separation (bara). Wala means to be on friendly terms with, while bara means to be separate from. These people claim that Muslims are duty-bound to maintain wala or friendliness only with fellow Muslims. And as for people who are outside the fold of Islam, they insist that Muslims must see them as ‘other’ and that they must maintain no friendly relations with them.
The fact of the matter, however, is that this is a communal, and not an Islamic, notion.
Those Muslim scholars who champion this notion base it on their reading of two Quranic verses (60:1 and 60:4). However, this notion is baseless. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Islamic teachings. This is evident from an examination of the occasion of revelation of the Chapter Al-Mumtahina of the Quran, in which these two verses are found. This chapter was revealed prior to the victory over Makkah, when the well-known incident of Hatib ibn Abi Baltaah occurred. The Prophet maintained immense secrecy in his plans about marching over Makkah along with his Companions. During this time it was discovered that a Companion, Hatib, had sent a secret letter to the Quraysh detailing the Prophet’s movements. When confronted, he begged for understanding, explaining that he had only hoped the Quraysh tribe would help protect his family who were residing in Makkah in return. It was in these circumstances of secrecy in which this incident occurred that the above verses from the Quran were revealed. It was meant to dissuade Muslims from leaking out to the Quraysh the Prophet’s secret plans of movement.
Thus, the mention of Wala and Bara in this chapter of the Quran is not of general application. Rather, they are related to the particular conditions that prevailed at the time of the incident concerning Hatib ibn Abi Baltaah.
The fact is that what has been stated in this chapter regarding wala and bara applies for times where war prevails, when the followers of Islam and others are practically at war with each other. These verses do not apply to contexts where war has ended and peace has been established between the two.
In present times, Muslims must base their relations with other communities on the basis of the laws of peace, and not on the basis of the laws of war. The above-mentioned baseless notion that Muslim scholars have devised have caused Muslims to unnecessarily consider other communities as their enemies, to hate them, and even to go to the extent of unleashing violence against them. Undoubtedly, this has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, properly understood.