Islam and the Quran

Relations with Non-Muslims

Due to attitudes of anti-Islamists in recent years, it has become vital to know the basis of relations with non-Muslims that is instructed in the Qur’an and in the practices of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).

Here are the verses and narrations that explain how Muslims should behave upon the aggression against Islam:

Verses draw the three critical lines:

1. Battling against Muslims due to their religion
2. Driving Muslims out of their homes
3. Supporting the ones driving Muslims out
We cannot make friends with or exhibit sympathy to the ones that cross these lines.

“Allah does not forbid you from being kind and equitable to those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes. Indeed, Allah likes those who are equitable.
Allah only forbids you from making friends of those who fight you because of religion or expel you from your homes or aid in your expulsion. The ones that make friends of them are the wrongdoers. (Al-Mumtahanah/The Examined One 60:8-9)

Muslims battled against and overcame the Meccans who had attacked them at Badr, Uhud and the Trenches. In the sixth year of the Migration to Madinah, Muslims and Meccans had made a treaty of ten years at Hudaibiya. However, Meccans had violated the treaty. Mecca was conquered in the eighth year of the Migration by the army of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) but the war criminal Meccans who had violated the treaty, were not  disturbed for fifteen months.[1] The following verses, which were  revealed during the season of Pilgrimage in the ninth year of the Migration, were an ultimatum to those Meccans only:

“This is a declaration of last admonition from Allah and His Messenger to the polytheists (mushrikun) with whom you had made a treaty:

So travel freely, throughout the land [during] four months but know that you cannot cause failure to Allah and that Allah will disgrace the disbelievers.

And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the Great Pilgrimage that Allah is disassociated from the polytheists and so is His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away – then know that you will not cause any failure to Allah. So inform those who conceal the truth of a painful punishment.

Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists and then they have not been deficient towards you in anything nor supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the ones who protect themselves.

And when the forbidden months have passed [2], then kill those polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit and wait for them at every place of ambush. But should they repent, establish prayers, and give the tax (zakah), then let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” (At-Tawbah / The Repentance 9:1-5)

The judgement in these verses relates merely to the war criminal polytheists (mushrikun) who had not only crossed the three critical lines but also had caused war by violating the treaty. It does not include other non-Muslims. Although there may be other arguments presented due to political pressure, they are not acceptable when investigated in the light of Qur’an and the Example.


The Glorified Allah commands as follows for the apostates -ones who abandon Islam and become infidels (kafir)-:

“O you who believe! Whoso among you turns back from his religion, then let it be known that in his stead Allah will soon bring a peopile whom He will love and who will love Him, and who will be kind and humble towards believers, hard and firm against disbelievers. They will strive in the cause of Allah and will not fear the reproach of a faultfinder. That is Allah’s grace; He bestows it upon whosoever deserves it; and Allah is Bountiful, All- Knowing.” (Al-Maidah / The Feast 5:54)

Narrated by Muqatil B. Sulaiman (d:150/767) that twelve people had converted from Islam to become infidels (kafir) and had set out on their way from Medinah to Mecca with their minds complicated and arrived in Mecca. One of them, Harith B. Suwayd, later regretted what he did and changed his mind by sending a letter to his brother Julas: “I have repented and converted back to Islam. Ask the Messenger of Allah if I have the right to repent, or I will go to Damascus.” Julas informed our Prophet of the situation, but could not get an answer. The following verses have been revealed afterwards:[3]

“How shall Allah guide a people who have disbelieved after believing and who had borne witness that the Messenger was true when clear proofs had come to them? [4] And Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

Those – their recompense will be that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and the people, all together. Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor shall they be reprieved. Except those who repent thereafter and amend. And surely, Allah is Most Forgiving and Merciful.” (Al-e-Imran / Family of Imran 3:86-89)

There is no punishment prescribed for the apostates in this world. Their punishment is the curse of Allah, angels and the people. Should any of them repent,  it deprives those people of curse. Although this is the clear judgement about apostates, madhabs have consensus on the idea that they should be killed. The cause of this result, should be political pressure.


The core of religion is belief where basis of belief is confirmation of heart. Confirmation of heart is known by the person himself/herself  and by Allah only. Inside the heart freedom is endless. Therefore, nobody can be forced either to accept or to refuse any belief. The Glorified Allah commands:

“There is no coercion in religion. Surely, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong. Whoever denies the astray and trusts in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. Allah is The All-Hearing, The All-Knowing.” (Al-Baqara / The Cow 2:256)

People may consent or refuse to believe in a religion. Whoever chooses the wrong one, bears the consequences. To reveal the truth, discussions or even arguments must be made. Such arguments are not in the scope of criminal law. Their consequences should be faced. The Glorified Allah commands:

“You will surely be put to test in respect of your properties and lives. And you will surely hear from those who were given the Scripture before you and from those who associate others with Allah much abuse. But if you are patient and guard yourselves – indeed, that is of the matters of determination.” (Al-e Imran / Family of Imran 3:186)

Since abuse and insult are not marked by the three lines mentioned in the eighth and ninth verses of Surah Al-Mumtahinah , Muslims should be patient, cautious and determined in these cases.


The Messenger of Allah and Muslims used to be abused verbally very often. Especially attacks of poets were rather effective. Our Prophet used to respond to them with the poems of Muslim poets, such as Hassan b. Sabit, Kab b. Malik, Abdullah b. Revaha. The Messenger of Allah had prayed for Hassan b. Sabit, who was in service of Islam with his poems, to Allah: “Oh my Glorified Allah, support him with the Holy Spirit!”

Apparently, the only response to verbal attacks should be verbal.


The Messenger of Allah has suffered much from the hypocrites who converted to Islam and then returned; but he did not punish them in any ways. The Surah Al-Munafiqun is important from this aspect. The Glorified Allah commands:

“When those hypocrites came to you, they said ‘We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah.’ And Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, but Allah bears witness that those hypocrites are surely liars. They have made their oaths a shield and withdrawn from the Path of Allah. Truly evil are their deeds! That is because they first believed, then covered up their belief. Then a new structure formed in their heart, so that they no longer understand. When you look at them, the forms of their bodies please you; and when they speak, you listen to their words. They are as pieces of timber propped up. They think that every cry is against them. They are the enemies; so beware of them. May Allah destroy them! How are they mislead to lie!

And when it is said to them, ‘Come, that the Messenger of Allah may ask forgiveness for you,’ they turn their heads aside, and you see them keeping back while they are full of pride. It is equal, whether you ask forgiveness for them or not. Allah will never forgive them. Surely Allah guides not the mischief makers.

They it is who said, ‘Spend not on those who are with the Messenger of Allah that they may disperse and leave him;’ while to Allah belong the treasures of the heavens and the earth; but those hypocrites understand not. They also said, ‘When we return to Medinah, the one most powerful will surely drive out therefrom the one weakest;’ while true power belongs to Allah and to His Messenger and the believers; but the hypocrites know not.” (Al-Munafiqun / The Hypocrites 63:1-8)
Zeyd b. Arkam told the following about these verses: “We were on a battle with the Messenger of Allah. The army was suffering. Abdullah b. Ubeyy said to his friends: ‘Spend not on those who are with the Messenger of Allah that they may disperse and leave him. When we return to Medinah, the one most powerful will surely drive out therefrom the one weakest.’. I reported this to the Messenger of Allah immediately. He called and questioned Abdullah b. Ubeyy, who swore that he had not said it.  They ascribed lie to me which was so heavy. Then, Allah revealed the Surah Al-Munafiqun.” [5]

Elmalili Muhammed Hamdi Yazir gives information on this subject that can be summarized as:

“Abdulah was respected in his tribe; he was from the old ones. Useyd b. Hudayr came and said: ‘Oh the Messenger of Allah, do not mind him, be kind to him. I swear that his tribe was beading for his coronation when Allah sent you. He sees as if You have deprived him of his kingship.’ ”

Abdullah, the son of Abdullah b. Ubeyy was a pure believer. When he learned what his father had done, he came near the Messenger of Allah and said: “Oh the Messenger of Allah, I heard that You would like to have my father dead due to his words that reached you. If You will, just order me and I will bring it to you. I swear, the whole Hazrec people know that there is no other more respectful to his father than I am. I am afraid that you order somebody else and he murders my father, then I cannot bear to see him wandering in public and kill him. Then I will have killed a believer for a hypocrite and stay in hell forever.”

The Messenger of Allah replied:

“No, we will treat him kindly as long as he is amongst us.” [6]

Although Abdullah’s behaviour is utterly evil, our Prophet had behaved him gently since his behaviour did not cross the three critical lines mentioned in the verses. Such people are disturbed by the facts. Behaving them kindly inspite of the consensus that they are in the wrong way, causes them to lead to loneliness. Even their supporters leave them. Thus the gentle behaviour of our Prophet had caused the people around Abdullah to choose Islam.


Allah will punish the ones who abuse or attack the Prophet. The Glorified Allah commands:

“And certainly were messengers denied before you, but they were patient over [the effects of] denial and persecution, until Our aid did reach them. And none can alter the words of Allah . And there has certainly come to you some information about those messengers.” (Al-An’am / The Cattle 6:34)

“Indeed, those who abuse Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment.” (Al-Ahzab / The Allies 33:57)

Prof. Abdulaziz BAYINDIR
Faculty of Divinity, Istanbul University
Chairman to Süleymaniye Foundation Centre of Research on Religion and Nature

[1].      Muhammed Hamidulah, Islam Peygamberi, Ankara 2003, vol. II, p. 271, paragraph 451.
[2].      The warning above was made at Dhul Hijjah, the last of the forbidden months. The forbidden months here, are not known forbidden (haram) months (AlAsh-hur-ulHurum) but four months specified in the second verse. They are called forbidden (haram) since related parties are untouchable during that period.
[3].      Tefsiru Mukatil b. Sulaiman, Tahkik: Ahmed Ferid, Beirut 1424/2002, vol. I, p. 180-181.
[4].       و جائهم البينات is supposed to be a declarative sentence
[5].      Bukhari, Tefsir, Surah Al-Munafiqun 4.
[6].     Muhammed Hamdi YAZIR, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, vol, VI, p. 5005–5008.

revealed in the ninth year of the Migration

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