Non-Muslims in Islam

Having friends who make fun of Islam

I have friends who are not muslims. Sometimes they make fun of islam and we go into discussions but i feel like sometimes they just want to insult muslims. 2 of them are atheists and another one is a christian. They ask the same questions/claims repeatedly but always jump from one question to another before i can fully answer. Maybe they dont really care about the answer. It hurts when they make claims about the prophet and allah and other muslims. Are they wrong to do this or am I just lacking?

Your friends lack good manners and it would be best to find more civilized friends even if it was not a religious issue.

The Quran says:

He has revealed to you in the Book that when you hear God’s revelations being rejected, or ridiculed, do not sit with them until they engage in some other subject… (From the Quran, verse 4:140)

The Quran therefore recommends that you avoid such people. Make it clear to them that you will avoid them if they bring up Islam with the aim of making fun of it, and if they continue, then stop befriending them.

The meaning of not taking Christians and Jews as allies in the Quran

Salam, you articulate your explanations very nicely MashAllah. My question is in Surah Ma'idah how can Verse 52 apply to modern day Muslims? A lot of the time I read a verse and get apprehensive about how it relates to me, then I read the tasfir and it makes sense in its context. But then I struggle to apply it to my own life.

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

Usually when the meaning of a verse of the Quran is unclear, another part of the Quran clarifies it. That verse should be understood in the context of other relevant verses. These verses are concerned with diplomatic relations between Muslim groups and Christian and Jewish groups. The passage says:

51. O you who believe! Do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies; some of them are allies of one another. Whoever of you allies himself with them is one of them. God does not guide the wrongdoing people.

52. You will see those in whose hearts is sickness racing towards them. They say, “We fear the wheel of fate may turn against us.” But perhaps God will bring about victory, or some event of His making; thereupon they will regret what they concealed within themselves. (The Quran, verses 5:51-52)

The chapter goes on to say:

O you who believe! Do not take as allies those who take your religion in mockery and as a sport, be they from among those who were given the Scripture before you, or the disbelievers. And obey God, if you are believers. (The Quran, verse 5:57)

In another chapter, it says:

138. Inform the hypocrites that they will have a painful punishment.

139. Those who ally themselves with the disbelievers instead of the believers. Do they seek glory in them? All glory belongs to God. (The Quran, verses 4:138-139)

In another chapter, the Quran says:

8. As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable.

9. But God prohibits you from taking as allies those who fought against you over your religion, and expelled you from your homes, and aided in your expulsion. Whoever takes them for friends—these are the wrongdoers. (The Quran, verses 60:8-9)

In these verses, what is translated as “taking as allies” are verbs from the W-L-Y root that refer to the concept of wilāya. This means to enter into a relationship where you are dependent on a person for your safety and protection. The verse you mentioned is referring to some of the hypocrites and other misguided Muslims who tried to enter into such a relationship with the Jews of Medina. They thought that in this way they would be safe in case the pagans of Mecca attacked the Muslims. The Quran is forbidding Muslims from putting their lives in the hands of Jews and Christians out of fear and in the seeking of safety, because such relationships always have strings attached. It is an unequal relationship that causes the Muslims to submissively accept the demands of the Jews and Christians. It also means putting one’s trust in people who may have agendas of their own and may betray the Muslims at some point, as the many examples of history show us.

Verse 60:8 tells us that we are not forbidden from dealing with non-Muslims justly and kindly. We can have equal relationships with them, what we cannot have are unequal relationships that make us submit to them spiritually and materially.

When it comes to individual Muslims, these concerns are usually not relevant since befriending a Christian or Jew does not automatically place you in a relationship of wilāya with them. An example of a Muslim who enters into a relationship of wilāya with Jews and Christians is a Muslim politician who builds his or her entire career around pleasing Jewish and Christian allies, relies on them for success, and does his or her best to live up to their expectations. We see such examples among British Muslim Members of Parliament. In their desire to fit in and to gain Christian and Jewish support they largely abandon their Muslim identity. That is what these verses forbid us from doing.

As for a Muslim politician who keeps friendly relations with Jews and Christians but does not submit to them or rely on them for success and protection, then such a Muslim is not doing anything wrong in this regard.

In summary, Muslims can befriend non-Muslims if the friendship is on equal, non-submissive terms. But they are forbidden from selling their Muslim identities to enter into relationships of spiritual and material submission with non-Muslims out of the desire for protection and gain.

Does being a Muslim make us better humans than non-Muslims?

Does being a Muslim make us better humans than disbelievers?

First, note that the word “disbeliever” as it is used in Quran translations does not refer to all non-Muslims as explained here. It only refers to someone who believes in God but knowingly disobeys Him and denies His blessings and scriptures.

The attributes that make some humans better than others are mercy, compassion, submission to God and fear of Him, generosity and other attributes that God teaches us to try to have. Any human who has more of these attributes is superior to those who have less of them.

It is quite possible for a non-Muslim to be more kind than a particular Muslim. In that case they are superior to the Muslim when it comes to kindness, but they may be inferior when it comes to submission to God (maybe they believe in God but knowingly reject following Him).

Some people believe that merely entering the fold of Islam automatically makes one a superior species of human compared to everyone else. But the Quran seems to reject that view. The Quran says:

13. O people! We created you from a male and a female, and made you races and tribes, that you may know one another. The best among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is All-Knowing, Well-Experienced.

14. The Desert-Arabs say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not believed; but say, ‘We have submitted,’ [i.e. we have entered Islam] for faith has not yet entered into your hearts. But if you obey God and His Messenger, He will not diminish any of your deeds. God is Forgiving and Merciful.”

15. The believers are those who believe in God and His Messenger, and then have not doubted, and strive for God’s cause with their wealth and their persons. These are the sincere.

16. Say, “Are you going to teach God about your religion, when God knows everything in the heavens and the earth, and God is aware of all things?”

17. They regarded it a favor to you that they have submitted. Say, “Do not consider your submission a favor to me; it is God who has done you a favor by guiding you to the faith, if you are sincere.” (The Quran, verses 49:14-17)

These verses criticize the Bedouins for claiming to have faith when they do not. They accepted Islam but they have only done so out of political and material considerations–they have not become believers yet. ﻹhe verses imply that their being merely “Muslim” has little value if they do not believe and strive in the way of God.

That teaches us that being Muslim is not automatically a ticket to being superior to others. A Christian who better embodies the attributes of submission, piety, fear of God and kindness seems to me a superior human in the Quranic view compared to a cruel and evil-doing Muslim. The Quran says:

146. Those to whom We have given the Book [Jews, Christians and followers of other Abrahamic religions] recognize it as they recognize their own children. But some of them conceal the truth while they know.

147. The truth is from your Lord, so do not be a skeptic.

148. To every community is a direction towards which it turns. Therefore, race towards goodness. Wherever you may be, God will bring you all together. God is capable of everything. (The Quran, verses 2:146-148)

Verse 148 above says “race towards goodness”. The call may be directed towards Muslims, telling them to race with one another in goodness, or it could be a call to Muslims, Jews and Christians to race each other. This second interpretation follows more logically from the context, since in 148 it says “Therefore, race towards goodness” right after it means “every community” (meaning Muslims, Jews, Christians, etc.). Now, if there is to be a race towards goodness between Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others, that means it is possible that some Jews and Christians may win the race and some Muslims may lose the race. If Muslims were supposed to always win just by the virtue of being Muslim, then there would be no point in a race. The race would be won by default every time before it even begins.

So the concept that Muslims, Jews and Christians can race one another in goodness suggests that it is goodness that matters, not the mere fact of being Muslim.

Of course, merely being Muslim comes with its own virtues, but it is only one attribute among other equally important attributes.

In summary, being Muslim does not necessarily make every Muslim automatically superior to every non-Muslim.

Islam’s view of having non-Muslim friends

What said islam about having friends with different religions or even atheists ones? I know that we have to respect the opinion of each one but can we be closer freind?

When referring to interacting with non-Muslims, the Quran says:

As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable. (The Quran, verse 60:8)

The Quran does not have anything more specific than that to tell us and does not define limits on friendship, which can be taken to mean that it leaves it to our own judgment. One non-Muslim can have a beneficial influence on you while another may have a harmful influence. So they should be judged just like we judge Muslim friends. If we find that our character is harmed by association with them, then it does not make a difference whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim.

However, it is not good to befriend an atheist who has a snarky attitude toward religion, or a non-Muslim who dislikes and looks down on Muslims. But this should be obvious.

On Muslim hypocrisy in not defending other persecuted peoples

Salam Aleikoum. I wonder how we Muslims are against that quraysh was persecuting muslims at that time and all the suffering they had to go through,but many muslims today are doing the same. they are OK with the fact that shias/ismailis /sufis are persecuted in many muslim countries. Isn't that hypocrisy?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

The fact is that Muslims are humans who act like other humans. Few among them live up to Islam’s high spiritual ideals. The Quran tells us that Prophet Ibrahim tried to save the people of Lot despite knowing them to be great sinners, but if you look at Muslims today you will see that many of them lack the spiritual maturity to see the tragedy in the destruction of a sinful people and may even celebrate it.

We should not blame the failure of Muslims on Islam, but on their human nature. Look at any Muslim population and you will be able to see various negatives. But take away Islam from them and they will become worse, not better. Islam’s critics blame Islam for the problems of the Middle East but are generally completely blind to the fact that Christian Latin America is doing much worse than the Middle East when it comes to many things (homicide rates and scientific research output are two examples).

We can criticize the intolerance of India’s rural Muslims, but compare them to India’s rural Hindus and you will find that the Muslims are doing much better when it comes to many things.

If we compare most Muslim countries to Western Europe, then the Muslim countries will look worse, because they have yet to catch up to the same level. But if we do a fair comparison, comparing the Muslims of any country with its non-Muslims, we see that the Muslims are actually better, not worse. Swedish converts to Islam are just as nice, kind and open-minded as Swedish Christians and agnostics. Egyptian Muslims are in no way inferior to Egyptian Christians. Honor killings, which people like to blame Islam for, are common in India among the Hindus and Christians. Whatever problems Muslims have are better explained by the state of their society rather than their religion, and if we look at the non-Muslims around them, we see them suffer from the exact same problems and often worse ones. A Muslim migrant in Sweden will often be worse than the native population when it comes to many things, and the West’s many amateur sociologists will blame that on Islam and ignore the fact that a non-Muslim migrant from the same country will have exactly the same problems and probably worse ones.

It takes a great deal of education for people to start to have empathy for outsiders. Westerners only started to see non-Westerners as proper humans about two hundred years ago, Muslim societies are developing in the same (good) direction, but change takes time and should be measured in generations, not months or years. The Muslim world is changing very fast. We can look at the example of Indonesia:

In 1950 there were 10 institutions of higher learning with a total of about 6,500 students. In 1970, 450 private and state institutions enrolled about 237,000 students. By 1990 there were 900 institutions with about 141,000 teachers and nearly 1.5 million students. By 2009 there were 2,975 institutions of higher education and more than 4.2 million students. (From Wikipedia)

The Islamic world is entering a phase that has never been seen before, and that is going to change everything. For all of Islam’s history until recently, the number of people who could read and write was often around 1-2% of the population. Today the literacy rate is approaching 100% in most Muslim countries, while the number of people attending university has doubled in most of these countries in the past 30 years. As people become more educated, we can expect them to become more open-minded and to develop better empathy for people who differ from them and to stand up for their rights.

On having empathy toward non-Muslims

My question might be weird to you but I hope you can at least understand my perspective. I'm an empath, the inclusion of the entire humanity is important for me. However I don't feel that I've found this in Islam and I feel isolated because of this problem. I feel as the Islamic community only sympathise and cares about other Muslims and in the mosque when we are making dua for Muslims , but disregard other lives because they fall into the category is disbeliever.

Muslims are a few generations behind on this issue, but I expect that is going to slowly change as more of them get educated. I wrote a new essay related to this topic, on how Islam teaches us to have respect and sympathy for non-Muslims, it might interest you: Consensual Communities and the Sanctity of Human Life: The Path to Moderate Islam between Pluralism, Authoritarianism, Conformity and Individualism

The Quranic and Prophetic Way to Treating Non-Muslims

My father says we must hate Buddhist and Hinduists because they are mushrikin. I don't really hate them or see them as enemy. Is that normal?

There is no reason to hate them. Hatred often causes you to be blind to the good qualities in the person you hate and to only see the bad qualities in them.

We must instead treat them the way the Quran teaches us to treat people, and the way the Prophet ﷺ treated his pagan extended family and neighbors. The Prophet ﷺ did not gather his following by preaching hatred and intolerance toward others. He did it by preaching recognizing God’s Oneness and the importance of connecting with Him, and by preaching good manners and patience toward the insults and attacks of the pagans against the Muslims.

Here is an anecdote about the Prophet ﷺ and his treatment of his arch-enemy Ibn Ubayy in Al-Madinah:

The Prophet’s leniency toward this hypocrite continued until Ibn Ubayy died of natural causes. The Prophet accepted to have his (own) garment used as Ibn Ubayy’s burial shroud upon Ibn Ubayy’s son’s request.

The Quran says that God would not forgive the like of Ibn Ubayy even if the Prophet asked for forgiveness for them seventy times, so the Prophet said he would ask for his forgiveness more than seventy times. He accepted to pray at his funeral, after which verse 9:84 of the Quran was revealed which prohibited him from praying at the funerals of proven hypocrites. (From my book A Beautiful Path to God).

The Prophet ﷺ, instead of finding excuses to hate this man who spent most of his time plotting against the Muslims, continued to find excuses for him, and honored him after death by letting his own garment be used as his burial shroud.

Prophet Ibrahim was a similar person as is recorded in the Quran:

74. When Abraham's fear subsided, and the good news had reached him, he started pleading with Us concerning the people of Lot.

75. Abraham was gentle, kind, penitent.

76. “O Abraham, refrain from this. The command of your Lord has come; they have incurred an irreversible punishment.” (The Quran, verses 11:74-76)

The angels had arrived to tell Prophet Ibrahim that they were about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, which were inhabited by a people who were homosexual rapists and robbers. Instead of rejoicing at the news of the destruction of these people, Prophet Ibrahim argues with the angels on their behalf, wanting to block the punishment.

And the Quran does not blame Prophet Ibrahim for trying to block the punishment, instead praises him for it in verse 75 above.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his ancestor Prophet Ibrahim are role models in kindness and tolerance toward others, including toward non-believers. It is the example of these two men that we must follow above all others.

If individual Buddhists or Hindus, or groups of them, commit a crime against Muslims then they should be dealt with as the case requires, the way the Prophet ﷺ dealt with the Jews, hypocrites and pagans who plotted to destroy the Muslims. But there is nothing in the Quran and the Prophet’s life ﷺ to teach us to have a blanket hatred toward people who mean us no harm just because they are not Muslim.

As for those who have not fought against you for your religion, nor expelled you from your homes, God does not prohibit you from dealing with them kindly and equitably. God loves the equitable. (The Quran, verse 60:8)