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In the first verse (51), Muslims have been commanded not to enter into "Muwalat" (deep friendship) with Jews and Christians as is the customary practice of non-Muslims in general and, of Jews and Christians in particular, who reserve deep friendship for their own people only. They do not deal with Muslims at the same wave length.
After this clear instruction, should a Muslim do otherwise and enter into an intimate friendship with a Jew or Christian, then, in the sight of Islam, he is fit to be counted as one of them and not as a Muslim.
The Background of Revelation
Reporting from 'Ikrimah, Ibn Jarir has said that this verse was revealed in the background of a particular event. After the Holy Prophet (SM) had settied in Madinah, he had entered into a treaty with Jews and Christians living nearby which required that they would neither fight against Muslims nor help any other tribe at war with them, rather, they would join Muslims to fight against them. Similarly, Muslims will not fight them nor help anyone against them, rather, would defend them against the aggressors. For some time, both parties kept adhering to the treaty. But, the Jews could not observe the terms of the treaty any longer because of their conspiratorial nature and antiIslam temperament. They made a secret deal with the pagans of Makkah against Muslims and wrote them a letter inviting them to their fortress. When the Holy Prophet came to know about this conspiracy, he despatched a posse of Mujahidin to confront them. These Jews from Banu Qurayzah were, on the one hand, conspiring with the disbelievers of Makkah, while on the other, having infiltrated among Muslims, they had succeeded in making pacts of friendship with many of them This was their front of spying for the disbelievers of Makkah against Muslims. Revealed thereupon was this verse which stopped Muslims from indulging in deep friendship with Jews and Christians, so that they could be deprived of having access to sensitive information about Muslims. At that time, some noble Companions, including sayyidna 'Ubadah ibn Sirnit, openly announced the cancellation of their treaty obligations as well as their support for abandonment of any close friendship in the future. As for the hypocrites who had their pragamatic relationship with Muslims, or people whose hearts had yet to taste the sweetness of genuine faith, they apprehended dangers in breaking relationships with Jews and Christians lest the conspiracy hatched by the disbelievers and the Jews succeeded and Muslims were overpowered in which case it would be necessary that they keep their relationships balanced bothways to avoid any problems for them later on. It was on this basis that 'Abdullah ibn Ubaiyy ibn Salk1 had said that he saw danger in cutting off relationship with these people and, therefore, he cannot do that. Revealed thereupon was the second verse (52):
فَتَرَى الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ يُسَارِعُونَ فِيهِمْ يَقُولُونَ نَخْشَىٰ أَن تُصِيبَنَا دَائِرَةٌ
Now, you see those who have disease in their hearts race towards them saying, "We apprehend that some misfortune may overtake us."
It means that after hearing the religiously binding injunction of the abandonment of close friendships, people who have the disease of hypocricy in their hearts started racing towards their disbelieving friends saying that cutting off relationships with these people is dangerous for them.
Answering them, Almighty Allah said: فَعَسَى اللَّهُ أَن يَأْتِيَ بِالْفَتْحِ أَوْ أَمْرٍ مِّنْ عِندِهِ فَيُصْبِحُوا عَلَىٰ مَا أَسَرُّوا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ نَادِمِينَ
So, it is likely that Allah may bring victory or a command from His own side, whereupon they become regretful over what they concealed in their hearts.
It means that these people are under the impression that the disbelievers and the Jews will overcome Muslims. But, Allah has decided that it will not happen. Rather, close is the conquest of Makkah. Or, even before the conquest of Makkah, Allah may, by exposing the hypocricy of the hypocrites, put them to disgrace. Then, at that time, these people will regret thoughts they had concealed.
This has been clarified further in the third verse (53) where it was said that once the hypocricy of the hypocrites has been exposed and the reality behind their claims and oaths of friendship comes out in the open, Muslims would wonder if those were the people who used to assure them with sworn claims of their friendship and there they were all ruined as everything they did just to pretend had gone to waste. That Allah Jalla Sha'nuh u has mentioned the conquest of Makkah and the disgrace of the hypocrites in these verses was something which everyone saw only after a few days with their own eyes.
The fourth verse (54) tells us that the prohibition of intimate friendship and inter-mingling with non-Muslims is for the good of Muslims themselves. Otherwise, Islam is the particular religion the responsibility to protect which has been taken by Almighty Allah Himself. The crookedness or disobedience of an individual or group is self-destruct in its place. However, should some individual or group from among Muslims were to really abandon Islam itself, turn into an apostate (Murtadd)totally and become a part of non-Muslims, even that too could bring no harm to Islam because Allah who is Absolutely Powerful is responsible for its protection and He will immediately bring in some other nation into action which will carry out the duties of protecting and spreading the Din of Allah. Things He must do depend neither on an individual nor on the largest of the large party or institution. When He so wishes, He can make straws work for beams and logs, otherwise beams and logs sit in forests turning into compost anyway. As referred to elsewhere in this Commentary, how well this was put in an Arabic coupplet:
When Divine decree helps it can make the meak overtake the mighty.
When it was said in this verse that should Muslims become apostates, it does not matter, for Allah will make another set of people rise to take their place, then, right there, some virtues of this set of people have also been enumerated saying clearly that they can be marked out by such and such distinguishable qualities. Those engaged in the service of their religion should keep these qualities foremost in their minds because these verses tell us that people who have such quality and character are welcome and dear in the sight of Almighty Allah.
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