Allah, the Most High, stated:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا عَدُوِّي وَعَدُوَّكُمْ أَوْلِيَاءَ تُلْقُونَ إِلَيْهِم بِالْمَوَدَّةِ وَقَدْ كَفَرُوا بِمَا جَاءَكُم مِّنَ الْحَقِّ يُخْرِجُونَ الرَّسُولَ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۙ أَن تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ رَبِّكُمْ
“O you who believe! Do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what has come to you of the truth, having driven out the Messenger and yourselves only because you believe in Allah, your Lord.” (Al-Mumtahanah 60:1) And He said,
وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
“And whoever is an ally to them among you, then indeed, he is one of them.” (Al-Mā’idah 5:51)
Alliance (Al-Muwālāt) with the unbelievers is of two types:
1. At-Tawallī (التولي): That which entails love of idolatry, or love of unbelief and having a love for its people due to their idolatry and unbelief, or to support the idolators and unbelievers in fighting against the believers with the intention of making unbelief and idolatry prevail over Islam. This is major unbelief and nullifies one’s Islam and exits a person from the Islamic faith. It is, for this reason, Allah said, “And whoever is an ally to them among you, then indeed, he is one of them.” (5:51) So this occurs when a person has a love for idolatry and its people both, or even if he does not love idolatry, however, he supports the idolators against the Muslims with the intent of making idolatry manifest over the monotheism of Islam. The intent is important to note in this issue as you will see from the narration of Hātib Ibn Abī Balta’ah below.
2. Al-Mawālāt (الموالاة): These are forbidden alliances which entail a kind of love of the idolators and unbelievers due to what they have of worldly possessions, and due to seeking favour with them. The important principle here is that one has a love for them due to their worldly possessions or seeking favour with them. However, there is not attached to this category any support wherein one intends and desires idolatry to prevail over Islam. So this type of alliance is sinful. The Companion ‘Alī Ibn Abu Tālib reported an incident shortly before the conquest of Makkah. He said, “Allah’s Messenger sent me, Zubayr Ibn Al-‘Awwām and Abu Marthad Al-Ghanawī on an errand, and all three of us were horseman. He said, ‘Proceed until you reach the garden of Khākh. There you will find a woman from the idolators carrying a letter on behalf of Hātib Ibn Abī Balta’ah to the idolators.’ So we caught up with her while she was proceeding on her camel at the place the Messenger of Allah informed us. We said to her, ‘Where is the letter you are carrying?’ She replied, ‘I have no letter.’ So we made her camel kneel down and searched her saddle and belongings but did not not find it. My two companions said, ‘We cannot see any letter.’ I said, ‘I know Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) did not lie. By Allah, if you (addressing the lady) do not bring out the letter, I will strip you of your clothes in search of it.’ When she realised that I was serious, she put her hand into the knot of her waist sheet and brought out the letter. So we proceeded to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) with the letter. The Prophet (ﷺ) said to Hātib, ‘What made you do what you have done, O Hātib?’ He replied, ‘I am not except a believer in Allah and His Messenger. I have not altered or changed my religion. I only wanted to do a favour for the people of Makkah by which Allah might protect my family and my property, as there is none among your other Companions except that he has some relatives in Makkah through whom Allah will protect his family and property against harm.’ Upon hearing that, the Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘He has spoken the truth, so the rest of you are not say anything to him except good.’ ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattāb said, ‘He has betrayed Allah, His Messenger and the believers so allow me to kill him.’ The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘O ‘Umar! What do you know? Perhaps Allah looked upon those who participated at the Battle of Badr and said, ‘Do whatever you like, for Paradise has already been obligated for you.’’ On hearing that, ‘Umar started to weep and said, ‘Truly Allah and His Messenger know best.’” (Reported by Al-Bukhārī, no. 6259) In another narration ‘Alī said, “Allah’s Messenger said to ‘Umar, ‘Indeed he participated in the battle of Badr. You do not know, perhaps Allah looked at those who witnessed Badr and said: ‘O people of Badr! Do as you like, for I have forgiven you.’’ It was about Hātib Ibn Abī Balta’ah that Allah revealed, ‘O you who believe! Do not take My enemies and your enemies as allies extending to them affection while they have disbelieved in what has come to you of the truth, having driven out the Messenger and yourselves only because you believe in Allah, your Lord.’ (Al-Mumtahanah 60:1)” (Reported by At-Tirmidhī, no. 3619) Here Allah addresses the Muslims saying, “O you who believe..” This verse was revealed concerning the Companion, Hātib (may Allah be pleased with him), and it shows that expressing love for an unbeliever does not in itself nullify a person’s faith because Allah still addressed them as believers, alongside Him forbidding them from such alliances. And one must remember that Hātib (may Allah be pleased with him) sent this fore-warning to the enemy on the brink of the conquest of Makkah, which under normal circumstances would be considered as treason, even in our times. The fact that the Prophet (ﷺ) prevented ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) from executing Hātib proves that he did not exit the fold of Islam due to this deed since his intent was not to support the idolators against the believers. This is the reason why the Prophet (ﷺ) sought from Hātib that he explain his action – and when it was clear that the intent was his seeking worldly assistance from the unbelievers and not aiding them in prevailing over the Muslims with their polytheism, the Prophet affirmed he was speaking the truth. And Allah informed the Prophet (ﷺ) that those who fought at Badr would die as Muslims, and will not leave Islam. (See Sharh Kitāb Thalāthatul-Usūl of Sālih Ālush-Shaikh, p. 13)
To add to the above, it is allowed for Muslims to seek assistance from non-Muslims if there is a need, just as the Prophet (ﷺ) sought the assistance of Safwān bin Umayyah, who was not a Muslim at the time at the battle of Hunayn. Mālik Ibn Anas (died 179H) said, “There is no harm in seeking their assistance in a time of need.” Also upon this position were Abū Hanīfah (died 150H), Ash-Shāfiʿī (died 204H), Al-Laith and Al-Awzāʿī (died 157H) and others. (See At-Tahrīr wat-Tanwīr of Ibn ʿĀshūr 1/741) Ibn Uthaimeen also stated that seeking aid from the non-Muslims (unbelievers) in wartime through commisioning a supply of weapons from them or other than that is allowable and permissible since in that there is a benefit for the Muslims. (See Tasfīr Āli ‘Imrān 1/169-170 of Ibn Uthaimeen)
Aiding a party of Unbelievers against another party of Unbelievers:
Allah stated in the Qur’ān: “The Romans have been defeated by the Persians in the nearest land. But they, after their defeat will be victorious within three to nine years. The decision of the matter, before and after these events is only with Allah. And on that Day, the believers (Muslims) will rejoice at the victory given by Allah to the Romans against the Persians. With the help of Allah, He helps whom He wills, and He is the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful.” (Ar-Rūm (The Romans) 30:1-5) Ibn Uthaimeen (may Allah have mercy upon him) explained that the believers (Muslim) rejoiced when the Romans were victorious over the Persians. So if there is an enemy that is shared between the Muslims and a group of unbelievers – and the Muslims know that if they do not aid this non-Muslim group (or nation) against their shared enemy, then this enemy of the Muslims may turn their attack upon the Muslims after they have defeated the group of unbelievers (who sought aid from the Muslims) — then in that situation it is permitted to aid the unbelieving force to subdue the common enemy. That is because Muslim support for them is not due to their unbelief, but rather for the safety, security and benefit of the Muslims. But this does not extend to harming other Muslims who have no right that they should be harmed. (See Tasfīr Āli ‘Imrān 1/169-170 of Ibn Uthaimeen) However, as it relates to extremist sects who ascribe to themselves Islam such as the extreme Khawārij or the terrorist-Rāfidah, then the Muslims are permitted to seek the aid of the non-Muslims (purchase of weapons and learning counter-terrorism skills) in order to defeat them and bring security and safety to the Muslim lands and their borders.
Kindness and good treatment of non-Muslim neighbours, work colleagues, one’s Christian/Jewish wife or parents, etc. does not oppose what has been discussed above. Indeed there is a natural love in one’s heart for one’s mother or son if they are non-Muslim. This affection is due to family relations and so on but is in no way indicative of any love for their unbelief or idolatrous practices. Indeed good behaviour, generosity and kindness are among the best means of inviting others to the beauty of Islam and its inherent justice. It is clearly stated in the Qur’an:
لَّا يَنْهَاكُمُ اللَّهُ عَنِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُقَاتِلُوكُمْ فِي الدِّينِ وَلَمْ يُخْرِجُوكُم مِّن دِيَارِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّوهُمْ وَتُقْسِطُوا إِلَيْهِمْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُقْسِطِينَ
“Allāh does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who did not fight against you on account of Religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allāh loves those who deal with equity.” [Al-Mumtahana: 8]