What are the criteria for social intercourse with non-Muslims? Is it permissible to be business partners with them?

The Details of the Question
What are the criteria for social intercourse with non-Muslims? Is it permissible to be business partners with them?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is permissible to trade with a non-Muslim person. It is also permissible to see a non-Muslim doctor. There is not a religious objection to it. The Prophet (pbuh) told al Haris bin Kalda to work as a doctor though he was not Muslim. (Awnu’l-Mabud sharh Sunen Abi Dawud, vol. 4, p. 14, India).

While migrating from Makkah to Madinah, the Prophet hired an idolater guide who knew the way well. The tribe of Khuza’a, both their Muslim and non-Muslim members, were the Prophet’s confidants. (Halil Günenç, Günümüz Meselelerine Fetvalar II. 285)

If there are Muslims who sell the same things we want to buy, we can prefer them. However, it is religiously permissible to trade with Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims.

The authority prohibited in the Quran is about authority of representing and managing. Islam prohibits authorizing non-Muslims to represent Muslims and govern them. Apart from it, relationships and behaviors such as being business partners with non-Muslims, being neighbors, being friends and offering them food are not prohibited. Islam also orders people to treat non-Muslims well and to pay attention to the criteria of justice in relations with them. (al-Mumtahina: 60/8)


Islam is a means of happiness and mercy for humankind. Its wings of affection and wide tolerance embrace the ones who do not follow it as well. The followers of other religions found the comfort and peace which they could not find in their own religions in Islamic countries and they pursued their lives there without being subject to any problems. Muslims obeyed the divine orders on the issue strictly and applied them widely.

“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 God and your God is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam)." (1)

The translation of another hadith which confirms the previous one is as follows:

God 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 God loves those who are just.” (2)

How Muslims should live with people of the Book and non-Muslims who live in Islamic countries and the rules that should be followed mutually are stated under the light of many other divine orders and hadiths, like the ones the translations of which we have written above. Our religion has never ignored them by saying “they are infidels” and has not broken the relations off with them, and acted together with them in many situations.

Relationships with Jews and Christians are not about their beliefs. Friendship made with them is not for their Jewishness and Christianity. What should be approved about them is some of their good characteristics and jobs because,

Just as each characteristics of a Muslim is not necessarily Muslim, each characteristic of an infidel is not necessarily infidel, either. In this sense, why should it not be permissible to benefit from a Muslim characteristic by appreciating it? If you have got a wife from the people of the Book, of course you should love her.
On the other hand;

Your friendship with them means to appreciate their civilization and development and to benefit from them (adapting them into our culture). And the essence of each worldly bliss is the protection of peace.”

It is because;

There is not obligation to mix beliefs with procedure (of religion).” (3) That is to say; there is no obligation to mix beliefs with human relations.

It is possible for a Muslim to act together with the followers of other religions or with those who do not have any faith in some situations except faith issues, and to have social intercourse with them. It is natural for people who live in the same country or in the same world to share their ideas with each other on some issues and to have commercial or political meetings. This situation is seen both internationally and interpersonally; because, no matter how infidel one can be, s/he may have some humane characteristics. There can be some features of his/hers which do not result from his/her infidelity. For instance, s/he may do some things which are beneficial for humankind or may have some good characteristics.

Our religion does not totally break relations off with non-Muslims but shows how to have relations with them within some criteria, due to the togetherness caused by living together in the same world.

It does not permit Muslims and non-Muslims living in the same land to treat each other like enemies even though their beliefs are different. Our religion permits marriage with women from the people of the Book, eating their dishes and considers it a duty to visit non-Muslims when they are sick and ask how they are as a part of law of neighborhood.

Those duties are at the same time suggestions of our religion.

I am the enemy of those who treat the people of the Book living in Islamic countries badly” (4) says our Prophet and orders Muslims to protect non-Muslims’ rights and not to cause them troubles.
Islam, which permits the people of the Book to live peacefully in Islamic lands with the freedom of praying and belief, applied that tolerance quite permissively.

The principles pointed out by those explanations are regarded as interpretations of the verses we mentioned before. All kinds of relations with the people of the Book are considered to be lawful and permissible on condition that they are not haram (forbidden). In fact, Our Prophet bought thirty sa’ (half of a load a camel can carry) of barleys on credit from a Jew called Abu Shahma and left his armor to him as pawn. (5)
From that hadith, the following judgments are deduced:

1) Trade with the people of the Book is permissible.

2) The property which the people of the Book have got is their right.
3) The Prophet was not eager about worldly materials and had only sufficient amounts of them to stay alive.

4) Just as pawning is permissible, it is also permissible to leave a war material to a non-Muslim living in an Islamic country as a pawn. Also, pawning is permissible in the time of peace as well. Moreover, trade of non-forbidden things with other non-Muslims who are not the people of the Book is also permissible. (6)

The Quran states that dishes cooked by the people of the Book can be eaten and Muslim men can marry to women from them in the following verse:

“… 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…” (7)

The interpreters of the Quran say that what is meant by the food mentioned in the verse is the animal slaughtered by them. Fahr-i Razi is one of them. The following event which took place in the Era of Bliss is a clear proof that meat slaughtered by the people of the Book can be eaten, too:

After the Prophet (pbuh) conquered Khyber, he stopped to have a rest. Zainab, daughter of Harith who is a Jew from Khyber, asked: “Which part of the meat does Mohammad like eating the most?” They said that he liked eating foreleg meat and shoulder the most. Zainab slaughtered a goat right away and fried it. Then she applied a fatal poison all over it. She poisoned the foreleg and shoulders more than the other parts. She took it to where the Prophet was resting and said: “O Aba Qasim, I present this to you.” The Prophet (pbuh) took a part from foreleg and put it in his mouth. However, he did not swallow it and took it out. He said to his companions: “Do not touch the food! That foreleg told me that it is poisoned.” (8) As it is seen here, the Prophet would not hesitate to eat from an animal which is slaughtered and cooked by a Jewish family.

Just as it is permissible to accept a present from the people of the Book, it is also permissible to give them presents. 
For instance, the Prophet  sent presents with his envoy to foreign governors to whom he sent letters to invite them to Islam, and he accepted the presents they sent to him in return.

When the Prophet (pbuh) was in Madinah, a famine started out in Makkah. The Prophet helped those who were in danger of starving even though they were idolaters. He sent 500 them gold coins. He wanted Abu Sufyan and Safwan to be set free and wanted them to distribute those gold coins to the poor of Makkah.

Judging from this event, the Islamic jurisprudents said that it was permissible for Muslims to give presents to and accept presents from non-Muslims. (9)

Another event which took place in the Era of Bliss enlightens the issue. Asma, daughter of Hazrat Abu Bakr narrates:

My mother, who was an idolater at the time of the Prophet, one day, came to me with some raisins and oil as presents. I did not want to accept the presents and let her into my house. I came to the Messenger of Allah and asked:

O Messenger of Allah, my mother came to me with her son Harith. She wants to be intimate with me and to be cared for. Can I respect my mother and behave courteously to her? The Messenger of Allah said: “Yes, respect your mother and be courteous to her”. (10)

As it can be deduced from the hadith above, the Prophet (pbuh) suggested Asma to accept food her mother brought and respect her even though she was an idolater. Bukhari, who mentioned this hadith in the section under the title of “The permission for a Muslim to give an infidel presents”, states that the hadith is proves the issue.

Both the generosity that Our Prophet showed to Makkan people and the permission he gave to Asma is another proof of that he contained all high moral qualities in himself because it is also about visiting relatives. Even though one’s relatives may be non-Muslims, s/he should not break off the relations with them. If one has got a non-Muslim relative, they should help him/her when necessary, should visit him/her when s/he is sick; if s/he calls them over, they should accept and eat from his/her food and if there is an argument between them, they should not speak any offending words for him/her. It is also permissible to marry women from the people of Book. Besides human relations, non-Muslims also fought on the same side with Muslims. There were approximately eighty idolaters in the Islamic army in the battle of Hunain after the conquest of Makkah. They fought together with Muslims.

The most important point on such issues which should be taken into consideration is trying to show them Islam in a positive way, by living as a good Muslim; because, one day they might appreciate a word or a behavior and this may lead them to the right path.

 In addition to all of them, some people claim that there is difference between the people of the Book who lived at the time of the Prophet Mohammad and the people of the Book who live today, and say that those judgments are impossible to be applied today.

Let us state this firstly:

The Quran is not a book that addresses to only a certain age or a certain period of time. The Quran sustains its freshness and newness to every age, as if it was sent down again. For this reason, the judgments of the verses are valid until the Day of Judgment.

On the other hand, it cannot be said that there is a lot of difference in terms of belief between the people of Book of that time and the people of Book of our day, and that they were better than the people of the Book of today. As a matter of fact, the people of Book who lived in the Era of Bliss are characterized as sinners in a Quranic verse:

“Say: "O people of the Book! You disapprove of us for no other reason than that we believe in God, and the revelation that hath come to us and that which came before (us), and (perhaps) most of you are rebellious and disobedient.” (11)

Again in the chapter al-Fatiha, Christians and Jews are characterized as “strayed” and “those who deserved the wrath of Allah’s”.

The people of Book who lived in the Era of Bliss and the people of Book who live today agree on the issue of belief in Allah. For instance, Christians believed in trinity in the Era of Bliss and today they still do. Besides, the Christians today gradually tend to believe in oneness of God instead of trinity. We sometimes read in newspapers about the Christians who converted into Islam. Is it not a proof to the issue?

That change can also be observed in social structure. For instance, as Christian countries are managed in an atmosphere of freedom and democracy, the social structure in those countries are favorable for Islamic service and developments, and they also provide Muslims an opportunity to live in peace. When taken into consideration that the Muslim population in those countries is growing day by day, this issue can be comprehended better. Badiuzzaman Said Nursi stated the following seventy years ago: “These days we almost see with our own eyes the tidings of that Europe is pregnant with Islam and one day it will give birth to an Islamic country.” The facts that Austria accepted Islam as one of the official religions, that European countries, primarily Swiss, Norway, Germany, France and England, provide convenience for Muslim population are each a positive development.

Furthermore, Muslims receive important rights in countries which are governed by democracy and those rights are also provided by the governments themselves. In those countries, no Muslims are repressed for wearing headscarf or performing other religious orders. The positive developments in terms of Islam in such countries will be better comprehended when it is taken into consideration that reciting of the Quran and religious programs are permitted in television channels of some European countries such as France, the Netherlands and Spain, and that call of prayer (adhan) is permitted in the Netherlands.


1. al-Ankabut, 46.
2. al-Mumtahina, 8.
3. Münazarat, p. 26-28.
4. Kashfa’l-Khafa, 2: 2341.
5. Muslim, Musaqat: 24: Ibn Majah, Ruhun: 1.
6. Nawawi, Sharhu Sahih-i Muslim, 11: 40.
7. al-Maidah, 5.
8. Ibn Hisham, Sirah, 3: 352.
9. Ibn Abidin, Raddu’l-Mukhtar, 5: 420.
10. Bukhari, Hiba: 26.
11. al-Maidah, 59.

Mehmet Paksu

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