Active Pages >> Response to Criticism  >> The Qur'an And Non-Muslims

Non-Muslims have been referred to in the Qur'an as Kafir. It is given to understand that that is an uncouth expression. What does this term actually mean ?
Does not the Qur'an recommend the forcible conversion of Non-Muslims ?
Does not the Qur'an, which strongly prohibits idolatry, encourage Muslims to demolish the objects of worship of other religionists ?
The Qur'an instructs against having intimate relations with Non-Muslims and against having them as friends. Is this not communalism?
What is the verdict of the Qur'an concerning friendly relations with the Non-Muslims who exhibit no enmity towards Islam or the Muslim ?
The Qur'an prohibits marital relations with other religionists. Is this not communalism ?
The Qur'an permits the Muslim man to marry from amongst the ‘People of the Book’. It does not, however, permit the Muslim woman to marry a man of the ‘People of the Book’. Is this not a blatant injustice ?

Is not Jihad the battle against those who are not Muslim ? Does not the Qur'an, which incites Muslims to Jihad, thereby propagate animosity towards other religions ?

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"O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (ie, the Qur’an), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc) in your breasts,-a guidance and a mercy for the believers."

Holy Qur’an 3:83

Non-Muslims have been referred to in the Qur'an as Kafir. It is given to understand that that is an uncouth expression. What does this term actually mean ?

The literal meaning of the term Kafir is ‘he who conceals’. The cultivator, too, who hides the seeds in the soil is called a Kafir. To call the one who hides his accomplishments a Kafir was a practice that was in vogue even in the earliest Arabia. It can also be seen that the term Kafir has been used to aver to an ungrateful person.

The Qur'an, however, uses Kafir to refer to a denier of the truth, one who shows ingratitude, a disbeliever and the like not in any uncouth manner; rather the Qur'an uses this term to explain the nature of those it intends to expose. The singular form of the term - Kafir - as well as the forms Kafirun and Kuffar, which are the plural derivatives, have been repeatedly used in the Qur'an. In all such instances the Qur'an has sought to explain the character of those it mentions within the context. Look at a few of the verses of the Qur'an:

"Those who deny God and His apostles, and (those who) wish to separate God from His apostles, saying, ‘We believe in some but reject others’ : and (those who) wish to take a course midway. They are in truth (equally) the Kafirun; and We have prepared for the Kafirs a humiliating punishment." (Qur'an 4:150,151)

"They recognize the favours of God; then they deny them; and most of them are Kafirun (i.e. deniers of the truth / ungrateful ones)" (16:83)

"It was We who revealed the Law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its stand have been judged the Jews, by the prophets who bowed (as in Islam) to God’s will, by the Rabbis and doctors of Law: for to them was entrusted the protection of God’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto: therefore fear not men, but fear Me, and sell not My signs for a miserable price. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) the Kafirun." (5:47)

"Say : O ye Kafirun! I worship not that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been wont to worship, nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your way, and to me mine." (109:1-6)

From these verses we understand that the Qur'an has used the term Kafir to refer to those who, in not acknowledging Divine guidance, reject truth and show ingratitude to Allah, the Most Bounteous. Those who enjoy the blessings of the Lord Creator and yet abstain from acknowledging Allah, the Provider of all bounty are, indeed, Kafir. Those who deviate from the worship of Allah alone - the one thing that the Lord Creator, who provided for man all the means of his sustenance on earth, demanded of us - and pray unto the creations that are never to be worshipped, are Kafir. Those who do not acknowledge the messengers whom the Lord Creator had sent to illumine the path of guidance are Kafir. The one who does not regulate his life according to the religious scripture revealed, by the Lord Creator, as a criterion to judge between truth and falsehood, is a Kafir. It is the Kafir who have become enemies of the Truth who strive to blow out the Divine light of guidance.



Does not the Qur'an recommend the forcible conversion of Non-Muslims ?

No. There is not a single verse in the Qur'an which recommends the forcible conversion of Non-Muslims. In fact, the Qur'an does not agree with the idea of forcible conversions.

Islam means submission or peace. It can be said that Islam signifies the peace attained by the one who submits the whole of his life to the Almighty. Indeed, the Muslim is the one who has surrendered his own self to God. To say that one is a Muslim is to so conform one’s life along the path of divine guidance. This conformance must first germinate in one’s mind. It is the position of the Qur'an that unless there is a substantial change in thinking there can be no other change, whatsoever, of a fundamental nature. Therefore it does not agree with forcing anyone into the religion. In fact, the prophet, who had struggled greatly to convince his own society perchance they came into the fold of the true faith, was rebuked by the Qur'an for the mental agony that he underwent on realizing that the deniers of truth were not going to change their stand, in the following words: "If it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed, - all who are on earth! Will thou then compel mankind, against their will to believe!" (H.Q. 10:99)

The Qur'an makes it very clear that the duty entrusted to the messengers, who were appointed for the conveyance of the message of the true religion, was restricted to the propagation of the religion alone; it never included the coercion of others into the faith : "But what is the mission of apostles but to preach the clear message ?" (H.Q. 16:35)

"If then they turn away, We have not sent thee as a guard over them. Thy duty is but to convey (the message)." (H.Q. 42:48)

The Qur'an repeatedly tells the prophet that he is only to invite people to the true religion; never to compel them to change their faiths. "Say: ‘The truth is from your Lord.’ Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it)." (H.Q. 18:29)

"Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Thou art not one to manage (men’s) affairs." (H.Q. 88:21,22)

In short, therefore, the messengers had all been only the propagators of the true religion. So was it the case with the last messenger also. He had the responsibility only of showing the people the nature of true religion. The obligation of the believers, too, who were conferred the duty of conveying the message of true religion, which was perfected through the last messenger, was restricted to this purpose alone: the obligation only of enabling others to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Not only has the Qur'an not demanded the forcible conversion of others, it has also declared that the practice of forcible conversion is, in itself, an abomination. "Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error." (H.Q. 2:256)



Does not the Qur'an, which strongly prohibits idolatry, encourage Muslims to demolish the objects of worship of other religionists ?

No. There is not a single verse in the Qur'an which commands the destruction of the objects of worship of other religionists. Furthermore, it is the injunction of the Qur'an that the objects of worship of the non-Muslims must not be ridiculed. "Revile not those whom they call upon besides Allah" (H.Q. 6:108)

It is true that Islam, which is grounded in monotheism, abhors the worship of the created. For the same reason, therefore, there are, in the Qur'an, numerous verses which seek to bring out the utter meaninglessness of the worship of the created. All of these verses serve the function of awakening the intellect of man. Indeed, the goal of the Qur'an has been the emancipation of human society from the clutches of the worship of the created. In fact, the Qur'an has never entertained the naive idea that humanity can be saved from the worship of the created by destroying the very objects which are deified. Therefore, that which the Qur'an did try to destroy has never been the objects of worship that were cast out of stone or other such materials. Rather, it has ever been the ‘idols’ that have been carved out in the very consciousness of man himself. The Author of the Qur'an is well aware that the use of force is never to be employed in the annihilations of these ‘idols’; and that it is the activization of the intellect that is to be the prime requirement. Thus, the Qur'an has sought first and foremost to educate the masses against idol-worship.

In the view of the Qur'an, while idolatry must, without doubt, be criticized and opposed in the strongest terms, those who persevere with idol-worship must also be allowed full freedom for their purpose. It is this attitude of tolerance which is highlighted in the injunctions of the Qur'an which asks us not to revile the objects of worship. Indeed, in allowing the Christians from Najran the complete liberty to use his mosque at Medina for the purpose of their prayers, the prophet had himself demonstrated to the world the great tolerance of worship prescribed by the Qur'an.

Furthermore, in the political order of Islam, the state is duty-bound to protect and preserve the places of worship as well as the other symbols of co-religionists. This fact is abundantly clear from the pact which the prophet had made with the Christians of Najran. There we read the following: "To the Christians of Najran and the surrounding territories, the security of God and the pledge of His prophet are extended for their lives, their religion and their property to the present as well as to the absent, and others besides; there shall be no interference with (the practice of) their faith or their observance, nor any change in their rights or privileges; no bishop shall be removed from his bishopric nor any monk from his monastery, nor any priest from his priesthood; and they shall continue to enjoy everything great and small, as heretofore; no image or cross shall be destroyed; they shall not oppress nor be oppressed; they shall not resume the practice of blood-vengeance as in the days of ignorance; no tithes shall be exacted from them, nor shall they be required to furnish provisions for the troops."

It can be easily seen from the historical records of the relevant period that after the prophet, the Caliphs as well as the Muslim rulers who succeeded them, all had granted complete freedom of worship to the people of other religious denominations in their realm.



The Qur'an instructs against having intimate relations with Non-Muslims and against having them as friends. Is this not communalism?

There are verses in the Qur'an which makes it clear that the deniers of Truth are not to be made bosom friends. Observe a few of these verses:

"Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from God: except by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves from them. But God cautions you (to remember) Himself; for the final goal is to God." (H.Q. 3:28)

"O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily God guideth not a people unjust." (H.Q. 5:51)

"Your (real) friends are (no less than) God, his apostle, and the (fellowship of) believers - those who establish regular prayers and regular charity, and they bow down humbly (in worship)." (H.Q. 5:55)

"As to those who turn (for friendship) to God, His apostle, and the (fellowship of) believers - it is the fellowship of God that must certainly triumph." (H.Q. 5:56)

"O ye who believe! Take not for friends and protectors those who take your religion for a mockery or sport, whether among those who received the scripture before you, or among those who reject faith; but fear ye God, if ye have faith (indeed)." (H.Q. 5:57)

"When ye proclaim your call to prayer they take it (but) as mockery and sport; that is because they are a people without understanding." (H.Q. 5:58)

The Qur'an has given an account of the type of Non-Muslims with whom the Muslims are not to enter into friendly relations:

"O ye who believe! Take not My enemies and yours as friends (or protectors) - offering them (your) love, even though they have rejected the Truth that has come to you, and have (on the contrary) driven out the prophet and yourselves (from your homes), (simply) because ye believe in God your Lord! If ye have come out to strive in My way and to seek My good pleasure, (take them not as friends), holding secret converse of love (and friendship) with them: for I know full well all that ye conceal and all that ye reveal. And any of you that does this has strayed from the straight path." (H.Q. 60:1)

"If they were to get the better of you, they would behave to you as enemies, and stretch forth their hands and their tongues against you for evil; and they desire that ye should reject the truth." (H.Q. 60:2)

The Qur'an has, therefore, prohibited from entering into an alliance with those of the non-Muslims, whether of the ‘People of the Book’ or otherwise, who viewed Islam and the Muslims with enmity; who hatched conspiracies for their destruction and who had driven out the Muslims from their homeland for the only reason that they had believed in Allah. It is certain that no Muslim, who is engaged in a campaign in the path of God against such deniers of the Truth, can ever have friendly relations with them. However, there were, among the Muslims, certain hypocrites, who entered into friendly relations with the enemies of Islam while feigning the posture of ‘We are with you’ when with the Muslims. It was about them that the Qur'an said, "and he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them" (Qur'an 5:51)


What is the verdict of the Qur'an concerning friendly relations with the Non-Muslims who exhibit no enmity towards Islam or the Muslim ?

"God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just." (H.Q. 60:8)

"God only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong." (H.Q. 60:9)

It is evident from these verses that it has, in fact, been commanded not to enter into friendship only with those who hatch and execute plots for the destruction of Islam and the Muslims. The Qur'an never refers to any negative result in entering into friendly relations with the other ordinary non-Muslims which will not, in any way, prove harmful Islam.


The Qur'an prohibits marital relations with other religionists. Is this not communalism ?

The Qur'an does prohibit all marital relations with polytheists.

"Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: a slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allure you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: a man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allure you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But God beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His signs clear to mankind: that they may celebrate His praise" (Qur'an 2:221)

A marriage relationship is never one which is confined to the physical plane alone. Indeed, married life finds true fulfillment of purpose only in the union of an attitude of innocent love with one of mutual respect. The Qur'an has compared the purpose of man-woman relationship with that of the clothing that one wears. "...... they are your garments and ye are their garments." (2:187). This similitude makes clear the degree of affinity and mutuality which must exist between life-mates.

As distinct from the religions that have accepted asceticism as their ground norm, Islam views marital life as a religious obligation. In fact, prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had himself taught that ‘he who gets married has completed one half of faith.’

The Qur'an and the practices of the prophet have, in themselves, prescribed the exact observances that are to be maintained in marital life. It is expedient to follow these regulations even in the sexual life that is based on morality. A Muslim can, by no means, deviate from this code of conduct.

Polytheism has, of itself, no foundational basis per se. Therefore, polytheism has taken on different forms and meanings according to the variations in time and place. Similar has been the case of the rites, customs, and moral prescriptions of the polytheist. As far as the Muslim, who is obliged to follow the moral code revealed by God, is concerned he can never follow laws that have been formulated by man; particularly when such an attitude would go contrary to the tenets of the faith of his own profession. That his partner should follow a moral life that is quite contrary to his own creed, will only serve to adversely affect the religious life of the Muslim.

There are religious communities that view adultery as a religious rite. Indeed, the Hittites of Greece and the Devadasis in India, were forced into prostitution as part and parcel of religion itself. The decree of Manu Smrithi is that if neither the virgin nor her father were to give their consent, it is permissible to carry away, by force, the woman of one’s liking and then to marry her. Such marriages which are permitted to the Kshathriya are referred to as Rakshasam (Manu Smrithi). It was the custom amongst the polytheists of Mecca to consider as father the one who most resembled the child that was itself born out of extra-marital sexual relationships which were had with many. Polyandry was a way of salvation in many primitive religions. Undoubtedly, therefore, it would be a difficult task, indeed, for the Muslim who chooses a mate from communities of polytheists who accepted as their own such forms of moral law, to live by his own religion.

If the Qur'an had allowed the marriage with the Polytheists it would have caused much hardship for the Muslims. How would it be possible for a Muslim, to accept as his mate, a tantrik woman who practices polyandry as a religious act? It should either be that she is forced to forego her religious freedom or that he is forced to act against his religion. It would, perhaps, be also for the purpose of removing such difficulties that the Lord Creator prohibited marriages, in their totality, with the Polytheists.

The Qur'an does permit the Muslim to take mates from the ‘People of the Book’ who are heirs to a moral code that is as clear as it is authentic. Whether this be the Jews or the Christians, they are after all, the possessors of a religions scripture that is to ne obeyed and of a moral code that is in accordance thereof. As for this moral code, it is, at best, a rough approximation of the Islamic code itself. It is, perhaps, for this reason that the Lord Creator permitted the Muslim to marry women from amongst the ‘People of the Book’.


The Qur'an permits the Muslim man to marry from amongst the ‘People of the Book’. It does not, however, permit the Muslim woman to marry a man of the ‘People of the Book’. Is this not a blatant injustice ?

It is true that the Qur'an does allow only for the man to marry from amongst the ‘People of the Book’. Look at the verse of the Qur'an which explain the matter. "Lawful unto you in marriage are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women amongst the people of the Book." (H.Q. 5:5). Why is it that the Qur'an disallowed the Muslim woman from marrying from the ‘People of the Book’?

A little reflection will make it clear that, is not permitting the Muslim woman to marry from the ‘People of the Book’, the fact becomes evident that the Qur'an is, indeed, from Allah who is best aware of the needs and limitations of the woman. The lofty position that is accorded to the woman by Islam is not given to her by any other religion. The rights which have been granted to her by Islam also not few in number. In all the other religions, however, she is regarded only as the private belonging of the husband. As for Islam, it regards her as in possession of fully independent existence, personality, and of rights as well. This is while both the old and New Testament of the Bible consider her as the very cause of sin itself.

Without doubt, a Muslim woman who comes to the home of her husband as the wife of one amongst the people of the Book. She will be confined to the rights that are only allowed her by her husband. When compared with the rights that she has been provided by Islam, those which are granted by him will appear wholly insufficient and restrictive. Besides, he will never treat her with a consideration of the high status that Islam has conferred upon her. (Indeed, he is under no religious compulsion, whatsoever, to act likewise). Therefore, for such a one as her, brought up as she was in an Islamic environment, the treatment and consideration she receives in the home of her husband will all prove overbearing. Most of the privileges which she had earlier enjoyed will now be of no consequence. She will, therefore, find it difficult to get along well in the household.

The condition of a woman from among the people of the book who is brought to the Muslim home is quite different. She will be treated with even greater attention than in her own home. The privileges that she becomes entitled to here will be much higher than the ones with which she was favoured in her own home. She, thus, finds no difficulty in getting along with life in her husband’s home.

As far as a Muslim is concerned, Allah and His messenger is more dear to him than his own self, wealth or family. This love is moreover related directly to his religion. To him, therefore, hearing Allah and his messenger being made the object of ridicule is more difficult than losing his own life. The Jews and Christians believe that the prophet was an imposter. There are even those who describe him as the Anti-Christ. It is natural, therefore, for them to ridicule him and to show him in poor light. If a Muslim woman is taken in marriage by any amongst the ‘People of the Book’, her life with him in his household will be equivalent to life in Hell itself. There will be many remarks from his side and from the side of the other members of his family which insult the person of prophet Muhammad (pbuh). For, after all, it has become their religious obligation as well. Thus, she is never able to carry forward her life with him.

However, this is not the case of the woman from among the ‘People of the Book’ who is brought, in marriage, to the Muslim home. She will never experience such humiliation in the name of her religion. For it is the religious obligation of the Muslim to respect and honour all the earlier messengers. Indeed, whenever the Muslim hears the name of Moses, who is revered by the Jewish woman, or of Jesus, who is revered by the Christian woman, being uttered, he himself makes the prayer, ‘May peace be upon him’. They hear only the best talk about those whom they hold in reverence. Thus, her life with a Muslim is never a painful experience.

The marriage with women of the ‘People of the Book’ is only a permission that has been granted. It is possible to do so in an inevitable situation. Furthermore, those who really follow the prophet, who had himself said, ‘Marry a woman who is God-conscious’, will naturally prefer believing women as their mates. They will prefer partners in religion to be their life partners as well.


Is not Jihad the battle against those who are not Muslim ? Does not the Qur'an, which incites Muslims to Jihad, thereby propagate animosity towards other religions ?

In Arabic, Jihad refers to the struggle to attain slated goals by persevering against all difficulties and obstacles that may come up in the process. Indeed, the term Jihad has been used both in the Qur'an and the saying of the prophet to mean the highest exertion in the cause of God. It never implied the attacks against non-Muslims.

It is the duty of every Muslim to strive in the way of God. Look, for instance, at a verse of the Qur'an which exhorts to the way of incessant striving. "And strive in His cause as ye ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you, and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the religion of your father Abraham. It is He who has named you Muslims, both before and in this(Revelation); that the messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witness for mankind! So establish regular prayer, give Zakat and hold fast to Allah! He is your Protector - the Best to protect and the Best to Help?" (H.Q. 22:78)

It is especially relevant that in this verse, which explains the nature of Jihad and exhorts the believers to come forward for the same, the statement "that the messenger may be a witness for you, and ye be witness for mankind" has been mentioned explicitly. The Muslims are those who, after Muhammad (pbuh), have been entrusted with the furtherance of the mission of all the earlier prophets. Therefore, Jihad is the struggle and sacrifice that becomes necessary in accomplishing the mission of witnessing to the true religion.

A Muslim must firstly prepare himself for the mission of witnessing to the true religion. An individual carries out Jihad with his own self by subjecting, and controlling, all his likes and dislikes to the dictates of the Divine commandments. Indeed, in accomplishing his mission a Muslim is duty-bound to subject his wealth, family, society and environment to a proper and apt preparedness. All these preparations come within the meaning of the term Jihad.

A Muslim fulfills his mission of bearing witness to the true religion by living his life according to the Divine religion and also by its propagation. It is also the duty of each Muslim to become part of the process of working for change in a situation wherein the freedom for carrying out both these objectives is curtailed. It is also his obligation to be an active member even of an armed campaign for the restoration of the freedom of religious practice in the event that such a situation comes up and, wherein, the Muslim society does decide that such a course of action is, indeed, imperative.

Jihad is never the battle waged against non-Muslims in a simplistic and general sense. It is, in fact, the nature of life that is lived in accordance with Islam and the exertions, sacrifices and struggle that will be necessary to throw aside the forces that disallow one to live as a Muslim. Only in such circumstances, therefore, will Jihad be in the form of an armed campaign. In all other situations it will remain only as the life that is lived according to Islam and as the struggle that goes with the propagation thereof.