The Seventy Ninth Call: The Prohibition of Taking Islam’s Enemies as Allies
Almighty Allah says (what can be translated as): “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. (1) If they gain dominance over you, they would be to you as enemies and extend against you their hands and their tongues with evil, and they wish you would disbelieve. (2) Never will your relatives or your children benefit you; the Day of Resurrection He will judge between you. And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing. (3) There has already been for you an excellent pattern in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah . We have denied you, and there has appeared between us and you animosity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’ except for the saying of Abraham to his father, ‘I will surely ask forgiveness for you, but I have not [power to do] for you anything against Allah. Our Lord, upon You we have relied, and to You we have returned, and to You is the destination. (4) Our Lord, make us not [objects of] torment for the disbelievers and forgive us, our Lord. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise’ (5)” (Al-Mumtahana: 1-5)
The story of Hatib ibn Abi Balta’ah is the reason behind revealing this verse. Hatib was among the early emigrants and participated in the battle of Badr. When the Messenger of Allah decided to conquer Makkah, he supplicated to Allah and said, (O Allah! Keep our news concealed from them) so that he would attack them suddenly. Hatib wrote a letter and sent it to the people of Makkah informing them of the Messenger's intent to attack them. He gave it to a woman to deliver it to them. He wanted them to be indebted to him so that they would grant safety to his family in Makkah. Allah the Exalted conveyed this matter to His Messenger. The Prophet sent Ali and Zubayr after the woman and retrieved the letter. He told them to proceed until Rawdat Khakh, where there is a lady carrying a letter and then take that letter from her. They found the lady and asked her to give them the letter. She denied having it, they threatened her to take off her clothes to search for it. So, she took it out of her braid.
Allah's Messenger asked Hatib about the letter, and he confessed and said he did not make that out of disbelief or apostasy. He only did that because he did not belong to Quraysh and he wanted to do them a favor, so they might protect his family, relatives, children and money as he has no blood relation with Quraysh. Omar said to the Prophet (Peace Be upon Him): O Allah's Messenger! Allow me to chop off the head of this hypocrite! The Prophet (PBUH) said: (He attended Badr. What can I tell you, perhaps Allah looked at those who attended Badr and said, ‘O people of Badr, do what you like, for I have forgiven you.’
Almighty Allah commands the believers in this verse not to take the disbelievers as their allies and not to inform them any kind of news that the enemies of the Messenger should never know. Those people disbelieved in Allah, His Messenger and His Book, they denied the truth. So, how come you take them allies and you tell them things that would empower them and harm the Messenger and Muslims. They expelled the Messenger and his Companions on account of their hatred for Tawhid, monotheism, and worshipping Allah alone in sincerity and your only fault, believers, is that you believed in Allah, Lord of all that exists.
If you migrated in Jihad for My cause and for seeking My pleasure, then do not take My enemies and your enemies as protecting friends, after they expelled you from your homes and property in rage against you and rejection of your religion. Whoever takes them as allies and tell the secrets of the Messenger to the enemies has gone astray and left the straight path leading to Paradise.
If they gain the upper hand over you, they would use every type of harm in their disposal to hurt you in words and action, - they are eager that you do not earn any good. Therefore, their enmity to you is outward and inward, so how can you become supporters of this type of people.
Almighty Allah answers the one who used the excuse of protecting his children and wealth in Makkah that your family relations and children will not benefit you if Allah decided to cause harm your way. Your relations will not benefit you if you please them with what angers Allah. Those who agree with their family being disbelievers in order to please them will have earned loss and failure and their deeds will be rendered invalid. Their relation will not benefit them with Allah, if you disobey Him and they will not protect you from his torture because He will separate between you and your relatives on the Day of Judgment. Everyone will be on his own on that day, everyone will be overwhelmed and busy with his own issues on that day, and Almighty Allah is All-Knowing of what people do.
The people who extend their affection to the disbelievers should take Prophet Ibrahim and his believing followers as their role models. Allah tells the believers there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim and his followers who believed in him when they said to their people we are free from you, we disown you and whatever you worship besides Allah. We reject you, your disbelief and your ways. There has started between us and you, hostility and hatred forever. Animosity and enmity have appeared between us and you from now and as long as you remain on your disbelief; we will always disown you and hate you until you believe in Allah alone, meaning, unless, and until, you worship Allah alone without partners and disbelieve in the idols and rivals that you worship besides Him.
You have a good example in Ibrahim and his people; as for Ibrahim's prayers for Allah about his father, it was a promise that he made for his father. When Ibrahim became sure that his father was an enemy of Allah and he would not believe in Allah, he declared himself innocent of him.
Allah the Exalted said that Ibrahim and his companions, who parted with their people and disowned their way, said afterwards, while invoking Allah in humility and submission: We trust in You for all matters, we surrender all of our affairs to You, and to You is the final Return in the Hereafter. Do not give the disbelievers victory over us, thus subjecting us to trials by their hands. Surely, if You do so, they would then think that they were given victory over us because they are on the truth. Cover our mistakes from being exposed to other than You, and forgive us for what (sin) is between us and You. You are the Almighty and those who seek refuge in Your majesty are never dealt with unjustly. You are the All-Wise in Your statements, actions, legislation and decrees.
The surah begins with this friendly and inspiring address, calling on ‘believers’. It is an address by their Lord in whom they believe, who calls on them in the name of faith that establishes their bond with Him, to carefully consider their position. He also warns them against their enemies’ schemes and reminds them of the task they have been assigned, in a kindly and friendly way, Allah makes their enemies His enemies: “O you who have believed, do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies, extending to them affection…” (Verse 1)
Thus, He makes the believers feel that they belong to Him. Whoever is hostile to them is actually hostile to Him. They are the people who bear His insignia on earth and the ones He loves. Therefore, it is inconceivable that they should show affection to those who are His and their enemies.
Allah reminds them of the crimes, aggression and injustice committed by those people against them, their faith and His Messenger; “..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.” (Verse 1) Having committed all such injustices, what basis could there be for friendship and affection? They rejected the truth and drove the Prophet and his followers out of their homes for no other reason than that they believed in Allah. He reminds the believers of all this stating in effect that it was for their faith that the disbelievers fought them, not for any other reason. The real issue of contention, i.e. faith, is brought to the fore, they were driven out of their homes for no reason other than faith.
Having thus stated the true issue of conflict, the surah reminds the believers that there is no room for intimacy between them and the disbelievers, if they have truly left their homes for Allah’s sake, and in quest of His pleasure: “If you have come out for jihad in My cause and seeking means to My approval, [take them not as friends].” (Verse 1) It is not possible for someone to migrate seeking Allah’s pleasure and His cause to combine this with friendship with those who drove him out because of it. Such people are the enemies of Allah and His Messenger.
The surah then adds an implicit warning against what they conceal in their hearts of friendly feelings towards their enemies, Allah’s enemies, He is fully aware of what hearts may secretly harbor and what they leave in the open: “You confide to them affection, but I am most knowing of what you have concealed and what you have declared.” (Verse 1) This is followed by a fearsome warning that strikes fear in believers’ hearts: “And whoever does it among you has certainly strayed from the soundness of the way.” (Verse1) A believer fears nothing worse than going astray after he has known and followed guidance.
The threat and the warning come right in the middle of an explanation of the disbelievers’ true character and their evil intentions. Further explanation follows: “If they gain dominance over you, they would be to you as enemies and extend against you their hands and their tongues with evil, and they wish you would disbelieve.” (Verse 2) Whenever they have the chance to take advantage of the Muslims, they will act as open enemies, causing them whatever harm they can, verbal and physical, using every means available.
What is even worse is that “and they wish you would disbelieve” (Verse 2) To a believer, this is worse than any verbal or physical harm that can be done to him. To wish him to lose his most valuable treasure of faith and revert to disbelief is to be his worst enemy. A person who has tasted the sweetness of faith after being an unbeliever, who has seen its light after the darkness of unbelief, and who has experienced the reassurance and happiness generated by holding the concepts and feelings of a believer will hate to revert to disbelief, just as much as he would hate being thrown into a fire. It is only an enemy of Allah who wishes to see him return to the hell of unbelief after he has experienced the happiness of living in the heaven of faith. How could he tolerate the emptiness of unbelief after he has enjoyed life in the active world of belief? The Qur'an gradually builds up the believers’ reaction against their enemies until it culminates in a true description of their dearest wish: “and they wish you would disbelieve” (Verse 2)
The second round makes only one comment about the strong bond of blood relations, a tie that is deeply rooted in people’s hearts. It is a bond that often forces its presence in the form of warm friendliness: “Never will your relatives or your children benefit you; the Day of Resurrection He will judge between you. And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing.” (Verse 3)
A believer works for the life to come, on which he focuses his hopes. Whatever he does in this life is merely the planting of the seeds. The harvest he awaits is in the life to come. This verse touches his heart with what happens there when all ties of blood are severed, and if the bond of faith is non-existent. This should make it easier for him to abandon such ties in the short life of this world, preferring the permanent bond that remains strong in both this life and the life to come. Hence, the surah says to the believers: “Never will your relatives or your children benefit you.” (Verse 3) These ties which you cherish, and the preservation of which forces you to befriend yours and Allah’s enemies happened to Hatib in his eagerness to preserve his bond with his family, and as happened to others who left their relatives and children. All these ties will be of no benefit to you, because on “the Day of Resurrection He will judge between you.” (Verse 3) You will be separated from them, because the tie that binds people together is already severed. Belief is the only tie that counts in Allah’s sight, “And Allah, of what you do, is Seeing” (Verse 3) He is aware of the action itself and the intention behind it.
The third round establishes a clear link between all Muslims and the first generation of believers in Allah’s oneness. They all join the same procession that moves across countless generations, distinguished by faith and shedding all ties except faith. They are all the same committee, starting with Abraham, who preached the first version of the pure faith, He provided an example to be followed, not only in faith but also in practice. He struggled with the bonds of kinship before he and those with him managed to purge their feelings of any bond other than that of faith:
“There has already been for you an excellent pattern in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have denied you, and there has appeared between us and you animosity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’ except for the saying of Abraham to his father, ‘I will surely ask forgiveness for you, but I have not [power to do] for you anything against Allah.’ Our Lord, upon You we have relied, and to You we have returned, and to You is the destination. (4) Our Lord, make us not [objects of] torment for the disbelievers and forgive us, our Lord. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (5) There has certainly been for you in them an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day. And whoever turns away - then indeed, Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy. (6)”
When a Muslim reflects on these verses, he discovers that he has a great, well-established ancestry, a long history and an example to follow set long ago. He goes back to Abraham not only in his faith but also in his personal experience. Thus, his experience goes beyond his own personal one and that of his generation. People in this great procession of the faithful have gone through a similar experience to what he is now facing, and they came to a certain conclusion taking a firm decision. The question is far from new, and the requirement does not constitute a very heavy burden. Besides, should ties with relatives who are hostile to his faith be severed, he still belongs to a great community, cherishing the bond of faith with all its members. He is only a branch of a great tree with firm roots and many branches that spreads its shade wide. This tree was planted by Abraham, the first to surrender himself to Allah.
So, Abraham and his followers went through the same experience as the Muhajirin, and they provide a good example: “…when they said to their people, ‘Indeed, we are disassociated from you and from whatever you worship other than Allah. We have denied you, and there has appeared between us and you animosity and hatred forever until you believe in Allah alone’” (Verse 4)
Abraham and his followers made their stand clear: they dissociated themselves from their people the deities they worshipped and their beliefs. They rejected them altogether and believed in Allah alone. The only feelings they had towards them were ones of enmity and hate until those people also came to believe in Allah alone. It was a total break that left no ties or bonds after the one of faith had been severed. This is the absolute verdict in such a situation. The example set by Abraham and his followers is good enough for every believer until the end of time.
Some Muslims, however, found a loophole enabling them to continue to maintain warm feelings towards idolatrous blood relatives. This loophole was Abraham so far as he prayed to Allah to forgive his father who was an idolater. The Qur'an explains Abrahams attitude when he promised his father that he would seek Allah’s forgiveness for him: The only exception was Abraham, when he said to his father, “I will surely ask forgiveness for you” (Verse 4) Abraham said this before he was certain that his father still held stubbornly to his idolatrous beliefs. Abraham was hoping and expecting that his father would see the truth and accept the faith. In another surah we are told: “And the request of forgiveness of Abraham for his father was only because of a promise he had made to him. But when it became apparent to Abraham that his father was an enemy to Allah, he disassociated himself from him.” (9: 114)
When Abraham assessed the situation properly, he placed the matter in Allah’s hands, turning to Him for guidance, placing his trust completely in Him in all situations: “but I have not [power to do] for you anything against Allah. Our Lord, upon You we have relied, and to You we have returned, and to You is the destination.” (Verse 4)
This total self-surrender to Allah is the essential feature of Abraham’s faith placed under special focus so that his Muslim offspring properly appreciate it. Here again we see the Qur’anic method of cultivating the Muslim community with directives based on stories and the lessons derived from them.
Therefore, the remainder of Abraham’s supplication is also stated: “Our Lord, make us not [objects of] torment for the disbelievers and forgive us, our Lord.” (Verse 5) This prayer is an appeal to Allah not to give the disbelievers mastery over the believers, which would strengthen the formers rejection of true faith. They would think that had faith provided any protection to its followers they themselves would not have been able to subdue them. This is a confusing point one that often surfaces when falsehood manages to gain the upper hand for a time and purpose known only to Allah. In such periods tyranny is able to treat believers very badly and believers endure this test with patience, but this should not prevent them from praying to Allah to spare them such hardship that makes of them a test to others and a basis for creeping doubt.
Abraham and his group continue their supplication: “Forgive us” This is said by Abraham, Allah’s own friend, realizing that the standard of worship which is worthy of Allah is beyond his reach. As a human being, he cannot attain the level of worship which gives due thanks for Allah’s favors and which sufficiently glorifies Him, therefore, he appeals for forgiveness, setting an example for his own group and all later believers.
Concluding his prayer, Abraham addresses his Lord by His attributes that are the most suitable here: “…our Lord. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (Verse 5)
Concluding its account of Abraham and his followers attitude, of those who surrendered themselves to Allah the surah repeats the fact that they provided a good example for all believers: “There has certainly been for you in them an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day. And whoever turns away - then indeed, Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy.” (Verse 6)
The example is there for those who look forward with hope to Allah and the Last Day, These are the ones who truly appreciate the experience that Abraham and his followers went through and treat it as the example to follow. This, then encourages the present generation of believers to strengthen their resolve. Anyone who abandons this way leaving the noble procession of believers and disowns the bond with those great ancestors may do so. Allah needs no one: “And whoever turns away - then indeed, Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy.” (Verse 6)
In this round, the believers have been taken back to the early period of their long history, remembering their first origins on earth. They have learnt from the experience of those earlier generations and reviewed the conclusion to which such experience led. The way to follow is not difficult, especially since they are not the first to tread in, the Quran repeats this conclusion so as to make the procession of faith uninterrupted. No one who follows the same way should feel lonely, even if he finds himself the only one in his generation following that way! He will not find it difficult to discharge his duty because previous travelers discharged it before him.
Allah knows how eager the early Muslims were to see the hostility and conflict with their own people come to an end. Therefore, the surah raises before them the hope that those enemies might yet join the Muslims and accept the Islamic faiths. In this way, hostility between the two camps would be replaced by firmly-based affection. Again, the surah lightens their burden, stating the main rule on which international relations between the Muslim community and other powers are based. Thus, boycott and enmity are applied only in cases of aggression and hostility by disbelievers.
When there is no aggression against Muslims and hostilities arc absent, then Muslims should treat others kindly, as they deserve, always maintaining fairness and justice:
Perhaps Allah will put, between you and those to whom you have been enemies among them, affection. And Allah is competent, and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion - [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers. (Verses 7-9)
Islam is a religion of peace, a faith based on love. It wants only for others to benefit from and implement its sound way of life. It wants all people to come together, under Allah's banner, as a fraternity based on love. Nothing prevents this other than aggression by Islam’s enemies. Should those enemies wish to live in peace with Islam and Muslims, Islam will not be the one to start enmity. Even if enmity and hostility exists, Islam preserves the seeds of friendship by extending justice and good treatment to its enemies, hoping that they will one day be convinced that their own advantage lies in adopting its noble beliefs, Islam never despairs of this possibility-
The first verse of this section refers to this hope that is never extinguished by despair. It seeks to lighten the burden of some of the Muhajirin who were troubled by conflict with their own people; “Perhaps Allah will put, between you and those to whom you have been enemies among them, affection.” (Verse 7) As this prospect of hope is raised by Allah it was certain to become a reality. When the Muslims head it, they were certain that it would be fulfilled. Indeed, it was not long after, when Makkah fell to Islam that the people of the Quraysh became Muslims, and all joined together under the same banner and all enmity between them disappeared and all were united as brothers.
And Allah is competent, (Verse 7) He accomplishes what He wills, and no one can raise an objection let alone try to stop Him, and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Verse 7) He will forgive past sins and hostility.
Until Allah’s promise is fulfilled, expressed here in the form of a hope, Allah gives them permission to be friendly with those who did not fight them or drive them out of their homes on account of their faith. No blame would attach to them if they maintained friendly relations with such people, treating them fairly, giving them all their due. On the other hand, there is a strict prohibition against friendship with those who fought them, drove them out of their land, or even helped in driving them out. Those who violate this prohibition are judged as wrongdoers. Wrongdoing is equated with unbeliefj as Allah says in the Qur’an: “Indeed, association [partners with Him] is great injustice.” (31: 13) This is, then, a very serious warning that strikes awe in a believer’s heart.
And Allah is competent, Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion - [forbids] that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers.
This rule about how to treat non-Muslims is most fair and fits with the nature of Islam and its outlook on human life and on the universe as a whole. It represents the basis of its international law, which considers the state of peace to be the permanent state with all peoples and groupings. This state of peace is revoked only when military aggression against Islam and its people takes place, for it is imperative that such aggression be repelled; or when treason is feared after a treaty with others has been signed, for this represents a threat of aggression; or when freedom of belief and advocating Islam is forcibly suppressed, which again represents aggression. In all other cases, Islam extends the hand of peace, affection and justice to all people.
This rule fits perfectly with the overall Islamic concept, which makes the only bone of contention between them and their opponents that of faith. The only value a Muslim will not compromise, even if this forces him to fight, is faith. Nothing puts Muslims in conflict and hostility with other communities except the question of the freedom to present their faith to people, the freedom of belief, the freedom to implement the divine code in human life.
This directive fits with the drift of the surah which aims to give prominence to faith, making it the only banner Muslims raise. Whoever stands under it belongs to them, and whoever fights them on account of it is their enemy. Anyone who maintains peace with them, leaving them to their faith preventing no one from listening to it and adopting it, and putting no pressure on those who believe in it is a person at peace. Islam allows kindly treatment to be extended to such people.
A Muslim lives for his faith making it his sole purpose within himself and with all people. He does not enter into conflict for gain nor does he fight for ties of race, land, tribe or family. His only struggle is to ensure that Allah’s word reigns supreme, and that His faith is the code to be followed.
In Surat al-Tawbah (Repentance) something important was revealed, the Surah starts with the verse that gave notice to communities that held peace treaties with the Muslim state: “[This is a declaration of] disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger, to those with whom you had made a treaty among the polytheists.” It gave a four-month notice of termination of any treaty that did not specify a term of expiry. Treaties that ran for a specified notice remained valid until the end of their terms. This measure was taken after practical experience showed that the idolaters in Arabia only observed their treaties with the Muslim community until they had a chance of victory should they violate such treaties. This brought into operation the other rule concerning such treaties: “If you [have reason to] fear from a people betrayal, throw [their treaty] back to them, [putting you] on equal terms. Indeed, Allah does not like traitors” (8: 58)
To give notice of termination in a fair way was necessary to secure the Islamic base, which at the time included the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, against its enemies living alongside them. These were the idolaters and people of earlier religions who were repeatedly in breach of their treaties, trying to take the Muslim community unawares. This was essentially a permanent situation of aggression. Another reason for this measure was the fact that the two superpowers at the time, the Byzantine and Persian Empires, began to feel that Islam could become a source of danger to them and this they wanted to pre-empt. Therefore, they started to encourage Arab tribes living close to them to take a hostile attitude towards the Muslim state. All this necessitated that the Islamic base be made solid and secure from any internal enemy before any clash with outside powers could take place.