Question/Criticism: The Quran says: "Take not Jews and Christians for friends . . . " Chapter 5 Verse 51, therefore Muslims are not allowed to have Jewish and Christian friends.
To understand what the Qur’an is really saying we have to study Arabic. In Arabic the common word for friend is "siddiq". The Qur’an did not use that word in this verse. The word used is "Wali" which means protecting friend or guardian. Even today the Governor of a region in Saudi Arabia is called a “Wali”. The Qur’an is telling Muslims in this verse that they should not look to Jews and Christians to be their protecting friends like a Wali. What is it that Muslims should not want Christians and Jews to be protecting friends of? It is to protect Muslim interests and Muslim understanding of Al-Islam. Why?
Because Jews and Christians do not know or are sensitive to the special interest that Muslims have in Al-Islam. Would a Christian go to a Buddhist and say "Mr. Buddhist here is my Bible I want you to be its guardian and protect the special interest that the Bible has for Christians." No! That can only be done by a fellow Christian who shares that interest.
Taking the English translation of verse 5:51 in isolation to mean that Muslims should not be friends with Christians and Jews is wrong especially when one does not know Arabic. Doing so is taking the message from the Qur’an totally out of context. There are too many verses in Qur’an advocating the friendship between righteous Christians, Jews and people of other faiths with Muslims. Here are a few:
[60:8] G'd does not enjoin you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriend them and be equitable towards them. G'd loves the equitable.
[60:9] G'd enjoins you only from befriending those who fight you because of religion, evict you from your homes, and band together with others to banish you. You shall not befriend them. Those who befriend them are the transgressors.
The Qur’an recognizes the universal goodness of all people and religions. It also acknowledges that G'd will reward all good people for their righteous deeds. This is shown in the following verses:
"Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth." (7:159)
"And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in G'd, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to G'd. They will not sell the Signs of G'd for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord, and G'd is swift in account." (3:199)
"Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant." (5:82)
Along with the Qur’an there is the example of the Prophet (saaw) which leaves no doubt about whom Muslims should befriend and what kind of treatment should be given to non-Muslim friends. Here are some statements from the Prophet (saaw) regarding that:
"He who believes in G'd and the Last Day should honour his guest, should not harm his neighbour, should speak good or keep quiet." (Bukhari, Muslim)
"Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys G'd." (Bukhari)
"He who hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state, I am his adversary, and I shall be his adversary on the Day of Judgement." (Bukhari)
"Anyone who kills a Non-Muslim who had become our ally will not smell the fragrance of Paradise." (Bukhari)