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Refuting the gross distortion and misrepresentation of the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad and Islam, made by the critics of Islam

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September 15th, 2014

Issue 1: Muslims should not take Jews and Christians as friends

Issue 1: Muslims should not take Jews and Christians as friends

The verse 5:51 is often quoted as a broad injunction for Muslims to disassociate themselves from any ties of friendship with all Jews and Christians. That is factually wrong and quoted out of context. The full context of the said verse is discussed below:

5:51. O you who believe! do not take these Jews and the Christians for allies [Arabic: ‘awliya’]. They are allies of one to another (when against you), and whoso from amongst you takes them for allies, is indeed one of them. Verily, Allâh does not guide the unjust people to attain their goal.[1] [Emphasis added]

The emphasis in the said verse is on “these”, and its use, even if taken for its historical reasons, limits its addressed audience only to those who were among the opposing communities including Jews and Christians of Medina and its vicinity at the time when Muslims of Makkah had migrated to Medina to escape thirteen years of relentless persecution. “these” initially signed alliance treaties but were factually united against the city government of Muslims that was established in Medina under the Prophet. “these” are on record for aiding and abetting attacks on Medina by Makkans. In the use of identifier “these” Quran contextualizes “these” in the verses adjoining the said verse and throughout implores and makes a case to the hostile people of the Book to remedy their antagonism against Islam based upon their current behavior, their historically erroneous stance towards pervious prophets and for them to self-reflect in the virtuous teaching of their own Scriptures. Simultaneously, Quran also identifies for Muslims the attributes of followers of other religions which qualify them to be their friends and allies:

5:50. Do they seek to enforce the law of (the days of) ignorance? [i.e. when might was right, there were no human rights, women were mere property, slavery was rampant etc. before Islam]

Addressing the hidden alliances of the hypocrites of Medina who were strategically aligning on both sides of the divide, on one hand professing to be Muslims and wanting to be counted in their ranks, while on the other hand were colluding with the opponents as well, Quran states:

5:52. Now you shall see those [weak at heart Muslims] in whose hearts is a disease (of hypocrisy) vying one with another towards them (- the Jews and Christians [who were powerful and influential in Medina] to take them for allies). They [i.e. early Muslims of Medina, essentially the hypocrite faction] say, `We are afraid lest a misfortune should befall us [by not siding with the powerful that expectedly were to overcome the nascent Muslim community in Medina].' But it is well nigh that Allâh will bring about a victory or some other (more remarkable) event (in favour of Islam) from Himself; then they will become more remorseful (and ashamed) for what they secretly harboured in their minds.

5:53. And those who have believed will say (at that time), 'Are these they who swore by Allâh their most solemn oaths that they were surely with you?' Their deeds have gone waste (and their machination failed), so that they have become the losers.

Quran outlines the conduct of Jews against the Muslims as the basis for the latter to give up their friendship with “these” referred before:

5:57. O you who believe! do not make those who take your religion lightly and consider it worthless, from among those who were given the Scripture before you and the other infidels, your allies [while they maintain a hostile stance towards Islam and Muslims in turn are enjoined only to withdraw their friendship without any intended aggression]. And keep your duty to Allâh if you are (true) believers.

5:58. And when you call (the people) to Prayer, they [the Jewish communities of Medina] take it lightly [i.e. make mockery] and consider it [-Islam and its prayers] worthless [like a sport i.e. not to be taken seriously and a religion not worth adopting]. They do so because they are a people who do not understand.

5:59. Say, `O People of the Scripture! do you find fault with us [Muslims] only because we believe in Allâh and in that which has been revealed to us, and in that which was revealed before (us [on to you i.e. Torah, Evangel etc.])? Whereas most of you are disobedient (to God) [and flaunt His standards of fairness even in their own religions].'

5:60. Say, `Shall I inform you of those who shall receive from Allâh a recompense worse than that of those (who try to find fault with Us)? They are those whom Allâh has deprived of His blessings and upon whom He brought His displeasure and indignation and of whom He has made (as) apes and swine [in their behavior who copy and imitate each other without thinking and have no moral boundaries and thus degenerate to lower moral level of animals] and who serve the transgressor (- the devil) . It is these who are indeed worse-placed and farther astray from the right path.'

5:61. And when they [Jews of Medina] come to you they say, `We believe,' while, infact, they enter without faith and go out without it. And Allâh knows best all they conceal.[2] [i.e. they would strategically convert and revert in the then time of state of war with Makkans and were a source of dissent and treason]

Despite the rancor of the opponents, Quran analyzes such behavior of the people of the Book towards Muslims and exhorts them from their own Scriptures to modify their immoral conduct:

5:66. If they had only observed the Torah and the Evangel and that which has been revealed to them (now) from their Lord, [because no Divine Book will endorse such behaviors as above,] they would surely have eaten (of good things) from above them [i.e. spiritual gains] and from under their feet [i.e. material gains], (thus would have enjoyed the boons of the heaven and the earth). [Quran does not measure all members of the opposing tribes with the same yardstick and acknowledges that] Though there is amongst them a community who is moderate (and of balanced mind), yet a large number of them are such that evil are their deeds[3][which are on record in the secular neo-Islamic history].

Without imposing its own message Quran reminds the people of the Book to follow their own Scriptures for a virtuous behavior and its outcome. In doing so, it places the righteous Jews and Christians at par with Muslims::

5:68. Say, `O People of the Scripture! you stand nowhere unless you observe the Torah and the Evangel [that too teaches unity of God, contrary to their doctrine of Trinity] and that (- Qur'ân) which has (now) been revealed to you from your Lord.' And certainly that which has been revealed [i.e. Quran] to you [all] from your Lord will increase many of them in ordinate rebellion and disbelief; so do not grieve for the disbelieving people.

5:69. Verily, those who have believed and those who judaised and the Sabians and the Christians, whosoever believes in Allâh and the Last Day and does righteous deeds [as taught in their own Scriptures], they shall have no cause of fear nor shall they ever grieve.[4]

In order to rectify the hostility of opponents of Islam, Quran draws attention to history in which the ancestors of Jews of Medina exhibited antagonism to their prophets and now in the same manner they too were opposing Prophet Muhammad:

5:70. Surely, We took a covenant from the Children of Israel [for upholding unity of God in their beliefs and actions] and We sent Messengers to them. Every time there came to them a Messenger with that (Message) which did not suit their fanciful desires, (they defied him so that) some they treated as liars and others they sought to kill [e.g. Prophets John and Jesus[5] before and now Prophet Muhammad].

5:71. And they thought there would be no punishment (for them) so they willfully became [morally] blind and deaf [in the same manner as morally low apes and swine – v. 5:60]; (then they sought Allâh's pardon) then Allâh turned to them (with mercy with the advent of Jesus), yet again many of them became blind and deaf. And Allâh is Watchful of what they do.[6]

Still, Quran only enjoins a temporary halt of relationship with those alluded to in verse 5:51 above because:

60:7. It may be that Allah will bring about friendship between you and those of them whom you hold as enemies. And Allah is Powerful; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.[7]

Giving up of one’s company with the opponents of Islam by a Muslim can be as short lived as switching from an aggrieving discussion by such people to something else:

4:140. And He has already revealed to you in this Book (the commandment) that when you hear Allâh's Messages being denied and being ridiculed you should not sit with such (absurd people) unless they engage in a topic other than that, for in case (you do not leave their company) you will be indeed like them. Allâh is going to assemble the hypocrites and the disbelievers in Gehenna one and all.[8]

While expunging any notion of across the board rejection of Jews and Christians by Muslims, Quran is quite clear about what makes a friend or a foe of Muslims:

60:8-9 Allah does not forbid you, with regard to those who do not fight you for religion, nor drive you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly. Surely Allah loves the doers of justice. Allah forbids you only with regard to those who fight you for religion, and drive you forth from your homes and help (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends of them; and whoever makes friends of them, these are the wrongdoers.[9]

On the contrary, not surprisingly Quran teaches how to make friends even with those who have evil designs against Muslims that we particularly see as a working example in early Islamic history:

41:34-35. And good and evil are not alike. Repel (evil) with that (benign and graceful way) which is best, and lo, the person between whom and you there is enmity will behave as if he were your warm-hearted friend. Yet it is only the steadfast and patiently persevering who are allowed this (grace) and it is only those who possess a large share of good who are allowed this (moral standard).[10]

Despite treacherous behaviors by certain sections of other religions, Quran does not lump all the adherents of those religions together as one nor does it claim righteousness for Muslims alone:

3:113. They (- the people of the Scripture) are not all alike. Among these people of the Scripture there are some upright people. They rehearse the Message of Allâh in the hours of the night and they prostrate themselves (in His worship).

3:114. They believe in Allâh and the Last Day and enjoin good and forbid evil, and they vie one with another in (doing) good deeds. And it is these who are of the truly righteous.[11]

The bottom line alliance to be sought by Muslims is summarized as:

5:55. Your real ally is only Allâh, and His Messenger, and those who believe, who observe Prayer and present the Zakât, and they bow down (in obedience to Allâh).

5:56. And whoso takes for his allies Allâh and His Messenger and those who believe, (let him know that surely such a one is the party of Allâh) and it is the party of Allâh that is truly triumphant.[12]

The current and recent geopolitical history of the world and how it has affected the Muslim nations stands as a testament to the truth and wisdom outlined in verse 5:51 in context of its adjoining verses and the message of Quran in toto.

Dr. Zahid Aziz in his book “Islam, Peace and Tolerance” on pages 37-42 brings to light the subject of verse 5:51 in an even more diversified manner that reader may refer to [pdf – link].


[1] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[2] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[3] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[4] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[5] Matthew 17:11-13 – Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. [New International Version]
[6] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin
[7] Al-Mumtahanah – The Woman Tested: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[8] Al-Nisa – The Women: Nooruddin
[9] Al-Mumtahanah – The Woman Tested: Muhammad Ali – Zahid Aziz
[10] Fussilat – Detailed and Clear in Exposition – Nooruddin
[11] Al-Imran – The Family of Amran: Nooruddin

[12] Al-Maidah – The Table Spread with Food: Nooruddin

5 Responses to “Issue 1: Muslims should not take Jews and Christians as friends”

  1. Thank you for this article. I will reread the Quran with a dfferent point of view.

    In my Quran the verses are different from those you quoted. I found the ones you

    quoted. Can you recommend a good English translation?

    Thank you again.


  2. Greetings Daniel,

    https://ia600403.us.archive.org/32/items/EnglishTranslationOfTheHolyQuran/trans-quran-web.pdf

    The above link is the best translation of the Qur'an that I have read. Its predecessor was instrumental in converting more Americans to Islam than any other translation. It is the gold standard of translations and has remained so for nearly a century. Lamentably, it is not straightforward to purchase the updated edition in hard copy outside the UK.

    Other Qur'an translations that I recommend are:

    Ahmed Ali's 'Al-Qur'an: a Contemporary Translation'

    Shehnaz Shaikh 'The Glorious Quran: Word-for-word Translation'

    Peace!


  3. Various English translations of The Quran that have been used in the book at hand are outlined on its homepage (link).

    Of these translations, the ones most frequently used are from Nooruddin and Muhammad Ali. The former is frequently used when verses are directly quoted for ease of their reading due to its usage of parenthesis for an in-line explanation. The latter is mostly used to establish an argument. It is one of the most outstanding English translations ever. This translation and its footnotes explain the matters conjointly and succinctly with an unmatched accuracy, logic, context, detail and clarity while cross-linking the verses across the whole of the Quran. Dr. Zahid Aziz edited it to update its language and added notes wherever needed, in its footnotes. Both these translations uniquely bring out the intended message of Quran for its spiritual and moral impact while keeping it practical and fully congruent to human reason. Both translations implicitly rebut any nonsensical intrusions and legends that either have crept into understanding of Quran from extra-Quranic sources or have been maliciously flung at Quran.

    Muhammad Ali’s translation seeded many later other efforts namely the English translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Sher Ali and Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss). The translation marketed under the authorship of MH Shakir is essentially a wholesome plagiarism of Muhammad Ali.

    Links:

    Nooruddin: www. http://islamusa.org/

    Muhammad Ali, Edited by Zahid Aziz: http://www.ahmadiyya.org/english-quran-2010/


  4. Dear Regis, Thanks for the appreciation of the translation.

    As to the difficulty of purchasing it outside the UK, I can arrange to have a copy sent anywhere in the world. We also keep a stock in the US with a friend. The purchasing difficulty may occur through commercial retail outlets.

    We decided to use thicker paper to print this edition, which gave rise to the disadvantage that its weight is almost 1 Kg, and this made it costly to post. Whenever it is printed again, we intend to use thinner paper.

    It is also available in various electronic formats at our website for free download at this link (already given above by Ikram).


  5. October 6th, 2014 at 3:30 am
    From Daniel Shine:

    Thanks to Regis and Ikram.I am downloading the translation now. Peace to you and yours. Daniel.


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