Relating with Non-Muslims

The teachings of Islaam require from the Muslim a certain set of attitude and behaviour towards other people in society. Muslims are expected to interact with everyone responsibly, sincerely and in a meaningful way.

Among the people the Muslims have to relate with in varying circumstances with the non-Muslims. Relating with non-Muslims particularly poses many problems for most Muslims. How does he differentiate between the demands of the Shariah not to have love for the non-Muslims and another requirement to be nice and fair to them?

Allaah says:

"O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends. They are but friends to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them." (Q5[Ma'idah]:51)

In the same vein, Allaah says: "Allaah forbids you not, with regards to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allaah loves those who are just." (Q60[Mumtahina]: 8)

From the above few verses of the Qur'an, it is clear that what is unlawful is to have close friendship and intimacy (muwalat) with non-Muslims, even if they were related to one. However, at the individual level one should treat  non-muslims with generosity, compassion and concern. The dislike of their (dis)beliefs should not prompt a  Muslim to treat them unfairly.

 Two Categories

However, for the purpose of personal relationship, it is important to point out that non-Muslims fall into two categories and they should be treated accordingly.

First Category is the hostile. non-Muslim who is constantly at war against Islaam, in particular, and against all Muslims. He seeks to harm them by any means available to him. Muslims are required to be hard against such non-Muslims. Allaah says:

"Muhammad (SAW) is the Messenger of Allaah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves." (Q48[Fathi]:29)

However, if there is any benefit in being soft to him such as his accepting Islam or Muslims being free from his harm, then that should be done.

The second group is the non-Muslim who does not oppose us nor does he evidently show his aversion for Islam and Muslims. Such a person should enjoy cooperation of the Muslims for the purpose of common good. However, the cooperation we show to non-Muslims must never get to the level of intimacy and love.

Four Stages

Friendship with non-Muslims is categorised into four levels and stages:

Muwalat or Mawadda: This means to have close and intimate relationship and deep love and affection from one's heart. This kind of relationship is reserved only for Muslims; hence it will not be permitted for a Muslim to have this type of friendship with non-Muslims.

Mudarat: This means to express friendship and love only outwardly without having love for them and their beliefs internally. It is a mere outward expression of the first stage (muwalat), hence it entails being pleasant, friendly, polite and kind towards non-Muslims. It involves expressing good manners, courtesy and good behaviour towards fellow human beings.

This kind of relationship with non-Muslims is permitted, as it is reserved for all human beings, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. This becomes even more important when the objective is to safeguard one's self from potential harm, invite them' towards Islam or when they are one's guests. However, if one fears corrupting his religious values, then this type of friendship will not be permitted with non-Muslims.

Muwasat: This means to help, assist and benefit non-Muslims. It includes charitable help and support, condolences and consolations, and removing harm, such as giving water to a thirsty non-Muslim or food to someone who is hungry. This is also permitted with all types of non-Muslims except those who are directly at war with Muslims.

Mu'amalat: This means to deal, transact and trade with non-Muslims even if he is at war with you! This is permitted with all non-Muslims except when it is harmful to Islam and Muslims in general.

The above clearly illustrate the need for Muslims to be moderate with regards to their interaction with non-Muslims. Based on this, the following represent a summary of the framework for Muslim relationship with non Muslim.

Giving And Accepting Gifts From Non-muslims

This is permissible based on the action of the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) and his companions. Umar bin AI-Khattab (RA) gave a silken cloath to his pagan brother to wear. (Bukhari) Also, in the battle of Tabuk, the king of 'Aila (a non-Muslim) presented a white mule and a cloath as a gift to the Prophet." (Bukhari)

As far as giving and accepting gifts during the period of non-Muslim religious festivals is concerned, such as at the 'time of Christmas, Easter, etc., this would not be permissible. Same for giving something that is connected to their religious festival, such as a Christmas tree. '

It Is Permissible To Invite Them For Food And To Accept Theirs

It is permitted to invite a non-Muslim for dinner at one's house occasionally due to strengthening family ties or other social ties. Without such a need, one should avoid making it a habit. Similarly, it will be permitted to accept such an invitation from a non-Muslim, provided one is sure that the food is Halal and no other unlawful activities are taking place.

Anas bin Malik (RA) narrated that a Jewess brought a poisoned (cooked) sheep for the Prophet who ate from it. She was brought to the Prophet and he was asked, "Shall we kill her?" He said, "No." I continued to see the effect of the poison on the palate of the mouth of Allah's Messenger." (Bukhari)

Ibn Qudama (RAH) said it is permissible to accept the invitation of a non-Muslim by eating at his house (Mugni)

Do Not Attend Their Religious Festivals

It would not be permitted for a Muslim  to attend the religious festivals and, ceremonies of non-Muslims, as this  would entail approving of their disbelief (kufr) and their religion. The Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) forbade Muslims from even offering their own Salaat at the time of sunrise, zenith and sunset, for there was an element of outwardly resembling the sun-worshippers.

You May Visit A Sick Non-Muslim

There is nothing wrong in visiting a non-Muslim who is ill, whether a Christian or Jew as long as no violations to Islam are expected. This is even more imperative if they are relatives, neighbours or there is possibility that visiting them may soften their hearts towards Islaam. Anas (RA) narrated: "A young Jewish boy used to serve the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) and he became sick. So the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) went to visit him. He sat near his head and asked him to embrace Islam. The boy looked at his father, who was sitting there; the latter told him to obey Abul-Qasim and the boy embraced Islam, The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) came out saying:

"Praises be to Allah Who saved the boy from the 'Hell-fire." (Bukhari)

Offering Condolences At The Time Of Bereavement

It is permissible to visit a non-Muslim to offer one's condolences for a family bereavement. It is equally permissible to offer prayer for the family such as saying "May God recompense you with someone; better and honour you 'with lslam.. ." Remember that you cannot pray for a dead non-Muslim: Allaah says:

"It is not for the Prophet and those who believe to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin after it has become clear that they are people of Hell-Fire." (Q9[Tawba]: 1 13)

Attending Their Funeral Ceremony

Funeral rite is essentially a religious rite and it is not permissible to participate in religious burial rites of non-Muslim especially when it entails praying for the deceased non-Muslim. However, if the deceased is a non-Muslim parent, relative, neighbour, or associate, it is permissible to facilitate their burial by members of their faith.

Standing Up For A Non-Muslim Out Of Respect

It is not permissible to stand up (to greet) anyone. However, for some diplomatic reason, such as the hope of the non-Muslim accepting Islam or preventing enmity and hatred, it may be done!

Shaking Hands,With Non-Muslims

There is nothing wrong in shaking hands of a Christian (i.e. non-Muslim) neighbour (and other associates). However, one should not initiate the shaking and ensure not to commit anything else unlawful, such as shaking the hands of a non-Mahram of the opposite gender.

Can We Give Zakat And lot Other Charities To Non-Muslims?

Other than those whose heart are inclined to Islaam, there is scholarly consensus (ijma') that Zakat cannot be given to non-Muslims. The Messenger of Allaah (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) specified that Zakaat is to be taken from amongst the wealthy Muslims and distributed amongst the poor Muslims. (Bukhari)

However, it is permitted to help and assist -needy non-Muslims by giving them other forms of charity, as this would -be a form of showing them kindness and dealing justly with them commanded by Allaah, the Most High in the Qur'an. Yes, if it is feared that the money will be 'Used against Islam and Muslims, then one must not. give them any charitable assistance.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited

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