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Does Quran Allow Muslims Close, Intimate Interaction with Non-Muslims?

By Waris Mazhari, Translated by Edit Desk

The issue of close, intimate interaction with non-Muslims is one of the most vital issues facing Muslims in terms of developing goodwill and coordination with other members of society in a multicultural, multi-religious society. This is directly related to the teachings of Qur’an. Everybody feels the need for cordial relations with fellow citizens, non-Muslims in the present volatile atmosphere of political, social and cultural turmoil is an undeniable fact. The close interaction with infidels (Kuffar), hypocrites (Munafaqeen), Yahood (Jews) and Nasara (Christians) is strictly prohibited at different places in Qur’an. The first mention we find in Qur’an; that is (V-28) in Surah Al-Imran, “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (supporters, helpers) instead of the believers, and whoever does this 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.”

Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi explains this Ayat as follows. There are three kinds of relations applicable with non-Muslims (Kuffar) such as close interaction or friendship (Mawalat), apparent courtesy  (Madarat) and gratitude or profit-making (Madasat), (Bayan ul Qur’an 1/217).The close interaction (Mawalat) is impermissible in any case, apparent courtesy (Madarat) is possible in three cases; first, if there is any danger; second, if there is any possibility of the person contemplating conversion to Islam; third, it is allowed in the case of Akram-e-Zeef. Janab Mufti Mohammad Shafi has adopted the same explanation in “Ma’rif-e-Qur’an” (V-1 Para-3 Page-134/7). In addition, he has described a fourth condition that permits to have cordial relation with non-Muslims; if it is not harming the general interests of Muslims. He describes close interaction (Mawalat) as an emotional relationship, friendship, intimacy and love. (V-1 Para-3 Page-135)

Various Islamic scholars are of the same opinion but they have ignored the very obvious questions arising out of the definition of this Ayat or others of similar nature. The first important question is related to its definition and significance in general and with a particular situation. Whether the relationship of Muslims with non-Muslims is discussed in a generalized way without any consideration of time and place or this Ayat and similar other Ayats were revealed to be applied in a particular situation only.

The majority of Islamic scholars think that it applies to all the non-Muslims without any obligation of time and place. As a rule, Muslims have been restricted from developing deeper and emotional relationship with non-Muslims. Many Islamic scholars who were against Deobandi scholars did not participate in non-cooperation and civil disobedience movements with Indian National Congress because Hindus were also involved in these movements with them. They considered Hindus as greater enemies in comparison to British and wanted unfriendly relations with both of them. (For details, please see Devotional Islam and Politics in British India: Ahmed Riza Khan Barelvi and His Movement, 1870-1920 Chapter-9)

Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab goes to the extreme extent in his assertion, “Even if The Muslims abstain from Shirk (polytheism) and are Muwahhid (believer in oneness of God); their Faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims. (Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291)

The word “Mushrikeen (polytheists) has been used in this context; whereas various scholars include Yahood and Nasarah also along with Kuffar (infidels) and Mushrikeen (polytheists), they consider this decree is applicable upon all the non-Muslims in general.

The present explanation of close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) is unacceptable to human intellect and nature because Muslims are allowed to marry in the families of Ahl-e-Kitab which has been in practice since the age of Sahaba-e-Karam (ra) till date. The emotional bond with our mothers and wives is bound to be deep within us. But in the light of these ideas, can Islam prohibit Muslims to have emotional relationship with their wives and mothers and maintain just courtesy? Can a happy matrimonial life be possible in the present situation? The answer is a flat “no” as Islam being a natural religion cannot deny the natural phenomena of life.

The hard reality is that – the concerning Aayats on close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) in Qur’an neither addresses the entire Muslim community nor the entire non-Muslim community. In reality, the Muslims and the non-Muslims who are addressed here are particular groups who have some discord among themselves or are at war which is being fought with purely Islamic norms for safeguarding Kalma-e-Tauheed and not for the benefits and advantages of the community.

Dr Israr Alam of Pakistan has no doubt about its appliance, but it cannot be considered jihad-fi-sabilil-Allah; he has emphasized upon this point in his various writings also.

Various Islamic scholars agree on the point that the meaning of the Ayats concerning close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) should be considered in the true perspective and background of its revelation, taking it in a generalized way will not be appropriate, but it hampers its significance.

Qur’an says in this regard through the following two Ayats, “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Fitna (mischief) is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al-Masjid-Al-Haram (the sanctuary at Makkah)” (Surah Al-Baqrah V-191).

 “They wish that you reject Faith, as they have rejected Faith, and thus you all become equal (like one another). So take not Auliya (protectors or friends) from them, till they emigrate in the Way of Allah (to Muhammad pbuh). But if they turn back (from Islam), take (hold of) them and kill them wherever you find them and take neither Auliya (protectors or friends) nor helpers from them. (Surah An-Nisah V-89)

To the vexation of moderate people, a group of scholars does not allow to have good relations with non-Muslims due to the following Ayat: “Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His messenger (Muhammad pbuh), and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. “(Surah At-Taubah, V-29). But gradually a view has taken hold that such Ayats and some more in this context were revealed in a particular situation for a particular group of people when fragile and weak group of Muslims was at war for their survival against the non-believers of Makkah and Jews of Madina, and that it is not meant for all times of peace and harmony.

According to Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi,” Close interaction with infidels (Kuffar) is prohibited only if they are at war with Muslims, otherwise there is no restriction in peace time, (Tadabbur Qur’an 2/412). He asserts explaining Ayat 28 of Surah Al-Imran, “having close interaction with infidels is not permissible for Muslims, but there is the condition of “Min doon Al-Mumeneen” which means the close interaction that is against the welfare and interest of Muslims in prohibited, (Page 67).

Actually, the Muslims addressed in concerning Ayats are the Hypocrites (Munafaqeen) who were involved in the conspiracy of Jews of Medina and Kuffar (infidels) of Makkah against the true Muslims. After the war of survival of Muslims when Islam was submerged in problems, the close interaction with the concerned groups was totally banned. Surah Al-Muntahanah is the best example for it.

“O you who believe! Take not my enemies and your enemies (i.e. disbelievers and polytheists) as friends showing affection towards them, while they have disbelieved in what has come to you of the truth (i.e. Islamic Monotheism, this Qur’an and Muhammad (pbuh)), and have driven out the Messenger Muhammad (pbuh) and yourselves (from your homeland) because you believe in Allah your Lord! If you have come forth to strive in My Cause and to seek My Good Pleasure (then take not these disbelievers and polytheists as your friends). You show close interaction to them in secret, while I’m All-Aware of what you conceal and what you reveal. And whosoever of you (Muslims) does that, then indeed he has gone (far) astray from the Straight Path”. (Surah Al-Mumtahanah V-1) The discussion is further extended in an elaborate manner in Ayats 8 and 9 as follows.

“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity”. (Surah Al-Mumtahanah V-8)

“It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the Zalimun (wrong-doers – those who disobey Allah)”. (Surah Al-Mumtahanah V-9)

That is why Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi expresses his opinion in regard to the concerning Ayats, “The prohibition of close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) is not against all the infidels (Kuffar), but it is for those only who waged a war against you (Muslims) in the matters of Deen-e-Ilahi and banished you (Muslims) from your country (Tadabbur Qur’an 8/334).