How must the verse “Do not befriend Jews and Christians” be understood? Is to have economic and social relations with them included in the prohibitive boundaries of this verse?

The Details of the Question

How must the verse “Do not befriend Jews and Christians” be understood? Is to have economic and social relations with them included in the prohibitive boundaries of this verse?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,


Islam is a means of happiness and mercy for humanity. Its wings of compassion and wide tolerance encompass also those who are not its members. Members of other religions found in Islam the ease and welfare that they could not find in their own religions; they lived in Islamic land without undergoing any problems. Muslims obeyed the orders regarding the issue fully and practiced them in the widest sense.   

The following is stated in verse 46 of the chapter of al- Ankabut:

"And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, ‘We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)’."

Another verse that confirms this meaning is as follows:

"Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just."

"Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong."(1)

The principles related to the relationships between Muslims and People of the Book are stated in the verses above and in many other divine commands and hadiths. Our religion never ordered us to abandon them and to break all relationships with them because they are "unbelievers"; our religion regards it legitimate to make deals with them about worldly affairs and to act together with them. Such relationships with Jews and Christians are not contrary to the following order of the Quran:  "Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors." The friendship that is prohibited in the verse is to be in friendly terms with their wrong beliefs. To make friends with a person from the People of the Book in order to benefit from his knowledge and skill is not included in this prohibition. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi explains the issue as follows:

"It is not necessary for every attribute of a Muslim to be a Muslim attribute. Similarly, not all attributes of an unbeliever are unbeliever attributes. Therefore, why should it not be permissible to have relations with them in terms of their Muslim attributes and useful arts?"

"Being friends with them is to obtain the good parts of their civilization and developments, and to maintain public order and security, which is the most important principle of the happiness in the world" because "it is not necessary to mix the circle of creed with the circle of practices."(2)

That is, it is not necessary and obligatory to mix belief with human relations.  

It is possible for a Muslim to act together with the members of other religions or people with no faith at certain times and have some civilized relationships with them, not in terms of faith.  It is natural for the people living on the same land or in the same world to exchange ideas related to some issues. This takes place both among nations and among individuals.

Our religion does not allow Muslims to regard the non-Muslims living in the same country, in the same city as enemies. Our religion regards it a duty to marry the women of the People of the Book, to eat the meal prepared by them, to visit them when they are ill and ask about their health, and to respect the rights of neighbors. The Prophet (pbuh) said,

"If a person maltreats a dhimmi, I am his enemy."

Thus, he ordered Muslims to protect the rights of the non-Muslims citizens who live in their country and who do not oppress or harm them, and not to trouble them.   

Islam, which allows the People of the Book to practice their religion peacefully on the Islamic land and gives them full liberty of worshipping and faith, shows them great tolerance. The following is stated about eating the food of the People of the Book and marrying their women:

"This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)."(3)


1. al-Mumtahina, 8-9.
2. Münazarat, p. 26-27.
3. Al-Maida, 5.

(Mehmet PAKSU)



There might difference of opinions among Muslims in terms of foreign politics. This is quite normal. It must be tolerated for the sake of the freedom of thought. However, sometimes these arguments pass the limit. Some might accuse a person of unbelief when he defends Nato. He says, “You have supported Christians with this opinion of yours and exited the religion.” When you try to rectify this wrong attitude, he chides you “does the Holy Qur’an not say we must not befriend Christians and Jews !”   

Below is some part of the answer that Badiuzzaman Said Nursi gave to those who opposed military pacts and commercial agreements by misevaluating this verse.

“Our making friends with them is in order to receive their civilization and advancement. And to maintain the law and order, which is the essential of the bliss on the earth. Now, this sort of friendship is not included in the prohibition of the Holy Qur’an.” (Münazarat)

With these expressions, along with pointing out that technical advancement and scientific discoveries that have emerged in Christendom are not included in the prohibitive boundaries of this verse, it is also stated that the essential of the bliss on the earth is law and order and it is impossible for the verse to prohibit us from making agreements with them in order to maintain law and order.

In the following part of the topic, it is stated that what is prohibited is to love them “in terms of their Christianity  and Judaism”. And a wonderful example is given:

“If you have a wife from the People of the Book, you shall certainly love her.” In other words, if a Muslim has a wife who is Christian, he must love her for being his wife, but must not love her Christianity.

Being deprived of this criterion costs us dearly...

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