“O ye who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends one to another. And whoso among you takes them for friends is indeed one of them. Verily, Allah guides not the unjust people.” (Quran, 5:52)

This verse of the Quran is often quoted to show that Islam is an intolerant religion and commands its followers not to befriend Jews, Christians and people of other faiths. In many countries, Islam is blamed, while quoting this verse, for being resistant towards integration and inclusion.

The Quran is a complete book of guidance and profound wisdom. However, to ascertain the complete guidance and true message, it is highly important to keep the context and the entire teachings in view.

It should never be forgotten that some parts of the Quran explain other parts; they are like a commentary on those parts. Something mentioned briefly in one chapter is further explained in a different chapter, with the context in view. A complete understanding can only be achieved by understanding the whole issue as presented over all the verses and chapters and not just by looking at only one part or verse.

I think the biggest misconception among people is that this verse refers to Christians and Jews of all times. However, if we look at the context of the verse, we see that it refers to the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, when Jews and Christians were at war with Muslims. Even so, the subsequent verse 58 clarifies the reasons for discouraging friendships with Jews and Christians of that time, who used to make fun of Muslims for adhering to their faith. It states: “O ye who believe! Take not those for friends who make a jest and sport of your religion” (5:58).

Jews and Christians are part of mankind. So how could Muslims be restricted by the Quran from showing mercy, kindness, sympathy and friendship to them?

In this context, there were many attempts made by the opponents of Islam to lead away Muslims from their path and impose on them their teachings and change them accordingly. So this was the situation where extreme caution was needed to provide a safeguard from the attacks of opponents and their planted conspiracies against Islam and Muslims.

Such precautions are always taken for the security and welfare of people whenever there is any war or conflict, and today’s modern world is no exception. This is what is prohibited. But to treat anyone kindly, with compassion and sympathy, is not only permitted but is imperative on Muslims. The Quran further explains this issue and states:

“Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them. Allah only forbids you, respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out.” (60:9-10)

This is the beauty of the Quran, that it speaks a language which is amazingly clear and applicable to all possible situations. It provides reasons and logic with every commandment and injunction.

The Prophet Muhammad is mentioned in the Quran as “a mercy for all mankind” (21:108), and Jews and Christians are part of mankind. So how could Muslims be restricted by the Quran from showing mercy, kindness, sympathy and friendship to them?

Moreover, the life and character of the Prophet Muhammad is an embodiment of kindness and beneficence towards all mankind. The Prophet, as a matter of habit, used to visit the ailing non-Muslims to express sympathy with them and to share their sorrows and sufferings. During his life, he always tried to help those in need.

When the Prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina, he signed a charter with Jews and Christians to live with mutual sympathy and sincerity, that they would refrain from oppression against each other. The Prophet Muhammad also granted a charter of freedom and kindness to St Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai in 628.

The message of Islam is of tolerance, harmony, peace, brotherhood, kindness and friendship. And any wrongly or out-of-context quoted or misinterpreted verses of the Quran should not be used as a tool of hatred or to inflict fear in the minds and hearts of people.

In brief, it is the duty of Muslims to become friends and show compassion, sympathy and kindness towards all peaceful human beings, without any exception or discrimination.

The motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community ‘Love for all, hatred for none’ is in fact, an essence of the Islamic teachings.

Laiq Ahmed Atif is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta.

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