Jameel Kermalli – Sanford, USA
Al-Ma’idah (The Table Spread 5:51)
O you who believe!
Allamah Taba Tabai (AR)
… As the four verses under discussion (51-54), they speak about the Jews and the Christians. The Qur’an had not talked about them in the Makkan verses, because there was no such need at that time. It however describes their maneuvers in the verses revealed in Madina. Even then, the ones revealed in the early Madinan period are not concerned with the Christians, because Muslims in those days were involved with the Jews. They had to mingle with them, live with them, keep good relations with them, or avert their deceit and neutralize their plot. They were entangled with the Christians in the latter half of the prophet’s stay in Madina. Therefore, probably these four verses were revealed in that period; and perhaps the ‘victory’ alludes to the conquest of Makkah.
In a nutshell, Allah warns the believers against taking the Jews and the Christians for friends, and threatens them most severely; then points in an apocalyptical way where such friendship was to take them and how it would turn into ruins the magnificent structure of religious character; then Allah will bring on scene a people who will manage the affairs and restore the religion’s structure to its original splendor.
This is what makes a lover of a group a member of that group and unites him with it. It has been said: whoever loves a people, he is one of them; also [it is said]: a man is with whom he loves. And Allah has said forbidding to love the polytheists: O you who believe! Do not take my enemy and your enemy for friends: would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth… (60:1).
The verses go on in the same vein, until it says: … and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust (60:9). Also he says: you shall not find a people who believe in Allah and the latter day befriending those who act in opposition to Allah and his messenger, even though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their kinsfolk; … (58:22). Allah has also said regarding the love of the unbelievers – and the wording is general which includes the Jews, the Christians and the polytheists – let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than the believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing (to do) with Allah, except (when) you guard yourselves against (them) for fear from them; and Allah cautions you of himself; … (3:28). The verse clearly speaks about the wilayah of love and affection rather than that of covenant and pact. Remember that when the third chapter, “the house of ‘Imran”, was revealed; the prophet (s) had already concluded pacts and truce with the Jews and the polytheists.
In short, the wilayah that makes one people attached to another people is that of love and affection, and not that of covenant and help; and it is quite clear. If the cause: and whoever amongst you takes them as awliya’, then surely he is one of them, is taken to mean, whoever among you entered into a pact of mutual help after this prohibition, then surely he because of his going against this prohibition would be unjust, and would be joined to those unjust people in injustice, then it would be a vulgar meaning and would need additional conditions to be attached to the speech.
If the Qur’an prohibits something which was hitherto lawful, it always points to it being lawful until then; it does so to preserve the honor of that order which is now being changed; and to keep the sanctity of the prophetic tradition and practice. Ponder on these verses: O you who believe! The idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall not approach the sacred mosque after this year; … (9:28) … wherefore now be in contact with them and seek what Allah has written for you, and eat and drink until the white thread becomes distinct unto you from the black thread (of night) … (2:187). It is not allowed to you to take women afterwards, nor that you should change them for other wives ... (33:52); and many other such verses.
Now, it is clear that the language of the verse, in meanings of words and its context, does not disallow wilayah to be taken for lover and affection; if there is any rejection, it rejects other meanings. Thus, the clause: “do not take the Jews and the Christians for awliya’,” clearly forbids loving them or having any affection towards them; because such feelings pull the souls and spirits towards each other and it creates mutual moral effects on both sides; and if Muslims are influenced by un-Islamic behavior, their society will diverge from its religious way (which is based on the felicity of following the truth) to the way of unbelief (which is based on following the low desires and worshipping the Satan); and thus it will go astray from the path of the natural life.