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I have heard conflicting information on what place a Non-Muslim holds in a Muslim's life. Are they brothers/sisters, or are they infidels to be avoided? Is a Muslim allowed to be friends or maintain acquaintance with a non-Muslim? Can a Muslim work for a Non-Muslim? Can a Muslim employ a non-Muslim? i.e. Are there provisions for discrimination against non-Muslims?

I have heard that there is some difference in how you treat people of the book (i.e. Christians, Jews) vs. Idol-worshipers (Hindus, etc.). Is that true, or is that just limited to certain things such as marriage?

Are Muslims allowed to maintain acquaintance with people who have rejected Islam (Kafir)?

  • One of my favorite quotes: "I love the Created for the sake of Creator" (Yunus Emre) – user44 Jun 20 '12 at 15:37
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The answer is very simple. Our prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) explained by example how Muslims should treat non-Muslims.

In Mecca, when Islam was a few people in number, he lived and interacted with non-Muslims (idol worshippers, specifically) peacefully. He would buy and sell from them, visit their sick, and they would even entrust him with their belongings (despite fighting him and oppressing him and torturing him and his companions). This is why they called him "Al-Amin," the trustworthy.

So in terms of ethical and moral conduct, he did not distinguish between people of any race, religion, social or economic background.

In Medinah, when he lived in a Muslim state, along with some Jews, he conducted himself the same way as in Mecca. All of the above applied.

As for "ahlul kitab" and people of the book, they are a brand of non-Muslims who have special favour in Islamic law -- we can eat their meat, marry their women, etc. Note that these are all personal actions.

Also, in terms of friendship, Islam allows friendship with anyone -- Muslim or non-Muslim. However, with one caveat: you are who your friends are. Would you make friends with someone who constantly attacks your way of life? Probably not. If you don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, don't scam, don't fornicate, don't drink, would you really be compatible at a deep level of friendship with someone who does some or all of those things? Probably not.

So Islam encourages Muslims to seek deep friendship with those who are the best friends: the ones who will call you to good, forbid you from evil, and help you succeed in the eternal Hereafter.

Edit: Some proofs about this issue are below. First, the verse of Surah Al-e-Imran:

O you who have believed, do not take as intimates those other than yourselves, for they will not spare you [any] ruin.

This refers to deep friendship and ruining you in your religious values, as I mentioned above; from the perspective of Islam, this is your hereafter, and that's the most important thing.

A hadith from Abu Dawud:

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend. Collected in Abu Dawud

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    Thanks, that makes sense. This seems to indicate that friendship with all is permitted - so we are allowed to interact with everyone. The caveat seems to indicate that we should be mindful of who are friends are and their influence upon us - but just because they are not Muslims doesn't mean that we can't work with/for them. Thanks, that makes sense! – user83 Jun 20 '12 at 15:46
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    Is it possible for you to add specific citations for verses from the Quran? – user83 Jun 20 '12 at 15:46
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    It'd be great if you could add any information on what the Quran says about treating others and how it applies to non-Muslims and Muslims. Lots of time I've heard the misinformation that the Muslims are suppose to treat non-Muslims differently. Having some concrete evidence from the Quran would be great. – user83 Jun 20 '12 at 15:55
  • I find the verse quoted confusing. Exactly what type of friends are classed as "intimates". You say "deep friendship", does this mean for example your best friend could not be a non-Muslim? – samiles Sep 6 '13 at 17:07
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    @samiles the word used is "awliyaa," which is the plural of "wali." There's also a hadith that says that beware of who you "yakhlul" (take someone as your khaleel). These words impart a meaning of: close friend, best friend; the one you trust to look after you, the best of your best friends, and more. Remember, you are who your friends are -- how much harder is it to do good when your friends call you to sin and disobedience of Allah, and reject Allah? I believe, and Allah knows best, that this is what it's about. – ashes999 Sep 6 '13 at 18:28
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In Surah Maaidah aayat 50 to 60, there it is clearly written that if we make non-Muslim friends then there would be the probability to follow or become like them. So, I think that we can associate obviously as Islam means peace but to make our imaan firm we have to avoid making any relations with them. Obviously we will talk or associate with them like each and every person of the world but with a limit.

This is my view and realization according to the Qur'an.

In this case marriage is different. If a Muslim gets married to a non-Muslim while that non-Muslim converted to Islam, then that is great. That Muslim will be especially rewarded for it, as Allah is raahmanuRaahim.