Keeping Away Treacherous Friends
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
Believers, do not take for your intimate friends men other than your own folk. They will spare no effort to corrupt you. They love to see you in distress. Their hatred has already become apparent by (what they say with) their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is even much worse. We have made revelations plain to you, if you will only use your reason. See for yourselves how it is you who love them and they do not love you. You believe in all the scriptures. When they meet you they say: “We, too, are believers.” But when they find themselves alone, they bite their fingertips with rage against you. Say: Perish in your rage. Allah is fully aware of what is in the hearts (of people).
When good fortune comes your way, it grieves them; and if evil befalls, you, they rejoice. If you persevere and fear Allah, their machinations cannot harm you in any way. Allah encompasses all that they do. (The House of Imran, “Aal Imran”: 3;118-120)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb
Translation: A. A. Salahi and S. A. Shamsi
THE nature of deviation in the behavior of people of the earlier revelation has already been discussed. Now we take up the verses that direct the Muslim community to discharge its duties, paying no heed to the transgressors’ deviant arguments. At the end a warning is issued to the Muslim community against establishing an intimate relationship with its natural enemies, revealing its secrets to them and trusting them with its interests. Those who claim to be Muslims have overlooked this picture, drawn by this Quran which concerns itself with real life. This has rebounded on them with the evils and humiliation they suffer today.
The picture drawn here brings out the inner feelings and reactions. It is a picture of a certain type of men who can be seen in every age, in every society. We see them in the enemies who are all around the Muslim community, professing friendship with the Muslims when the Muslims are strong and victorious. Their claims, however, are belied by their every thought and action. Muslims may be deceived by them, trusting them when they wish nothing but trouble to the Muslims and they spare no efforts to inflict hardships on them. They set out most determinedly to weaken the Muslims whenever they have a chance to do so.
The picture drawn applies in the first place to those followers of earlier religions who were living close to the Muslim community in Madinah. It depicts the strong hatred they felt toward Islam and the Muslims, their treacherous intentions and evil schemes against the new Muslim community. At the same time, some Muslims continued to think well of them. Those Muslims were very friendly to them and even passed on to them secrets.
Their intimacy with them meant that they grossly underestimated the end result of letting them into the secrets of the Muslim community. This warning is, therefore, issued in order to open the eyes of the Muslims and to warn about the machinations of its natural enemies whose enmity will never be removed by the friendliness of the Muslims. This warning applies to all times.
Yet the Muslims remain heedless of their Lord’s directive. Allah tells the Muslims not to make any such people their advisors and confidants. Muslims, however, continue to ignore this directive and look up to them for guidance.
The Muslims nowadays maintain their friendship with non-believers and receive them with warmth, heedless of Allah’s words which apply to them in the same way as they applied to the first Muslim community: They love to see you in distress. Their hatred has already become apparent by what they say with their mouths, but what their hearts conceal is even worse.
Allah also says to the Muslims: “See for yourselves how it is you who love them and they do not love you. You believe in all the Scriptures. When they meet you they say: We, too, are believers. But when they find themselves alone, they bite their fingertips with rage against you”. Allah also points out to the Muslim community the true feelings of such people: “When good fortune comes your way, it grieves them; and if evil befalls you, they rejoice”.
We do not seem to learn a lesson despite going through a bitter experiences and discovering their evil intentions covered in a wide range of designs. Many a slip of their tongue reveal their deep hatred of Islam which cannot be dispelled by any measure of friendliness shown to them by the Muslims or by the tolerance Muslims are taught by their faith. But we nevertheless open our hearts to them and treat them as close friends. Our courtesy reaches such an extent that we even avoid mentioning our faith in front of them, and we do not take Islam for our way of life and we distort our own history in order to avoid any mention of past conflicts between our forefathers and those enemies who work for our ruin. It is only to be expected in view of this that we are punished for disobedience of Allah. It is also natural that we find ourselves weak, defenseless and humiliated, suffering the distress in which they love to see us, and weakened by the corruption they spread among us.
Allah’s revelations teach us how to foil their plots, repel the harm they try to cause us and avoid the evil intentions they harbour for us and which they betray by that they say: If you persevere and fear Allah, their machinations cannot harm you in any way. Allah encompasses all that they do”. The message is clear. We have to equip ourselves with a strong resolve and stand up to their designs and their attempt to break our unity. There should be a strong resolve not to give up easily and not to relinquish any part of our faith to avoid the harm. The other requirement is to fear Allah alone. It is through this that our hearts will establish their bonds with Allah. When a heart establishes its bond with Allah, it will look down upon every power other than his.
This is then the way: perseverance and fear of Allah; steadfastness and maintaining the bond with Allah. Throughout their history, Muslims were always able to raise their heads high, achieve victory, foil the machinations of their enemies and achieve supremacy only when they fostered their bond with Allah alone and implemented His method in all their lives. Never did the Muslims revive their bonds with their natural enemies and never did the Muslims listen to their advice without bringing upon themselves defeat. Their enemies gained the upper hand and they have been left humiliated, feeling regret when it is of no use. History testifies to the fact that Allah’s words always remain true and His law is always operative. Anyone who overlooks Allah’s law will be made to see only humiliation.
The passage ends on this note, bringing the first section of the surah to conclusion and driving its lessons home. We stand at the point which separates the Muslims from their enemies; a separation which is total, complete, final.
We should note that Islam meets all this hostility with tolerance. It simply commands Muslims not to take such people for their intimate friends. It does not require them to return the non-believers’ profound hate, grudges and evil schemes with similar attitudes. It only seeks to provide protection for the Muslim community. A Muslim treats all people with love, hospitality and tolerance. Only in the case when a Muslim faces aggression which aims at turning him away from his faith and from following the method of life Allah has laid down, he is required to fight back and defeat aggression so that no barriers remain to impede people from following divine guidance and implementing the divine law. His fight is a campaign of struggle for the cause of Allah. It is not revenge. He fights because he loves what is good for mankind, not because he nurses a grudge against those who have caused him harm. He struggles in order to remove the barriers which prevent the goodness of Islam from reaching mankind, not to win power. His aim is to implement the perfect system under which all mankind enjoys justice and peace. He is not after raising any national banner or building any empire.
Many a statement in the Quran and the Sunnah confirm this fact. The history of the first Muslim community proves this. This method of life is absolutely good. Only the enemies of mankind try to turn them away from it.