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It is narrated:

Imaam Ahmad reported that Abu Moosa al-Ash’ari (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “I said to ‘Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him). ‘I have a Christian scribe.’ He said, ‘What is wrong with you, may Allaah strike you dead! Have you not heard the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning), “O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as awliya’ (friends, protectors, helpers, etc.), they are but awliya’ to one another…” [al-Maa’idah 5:51]”? Why do you not employ a haneef [i.e., a Muslim]?’ I said, ‘O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, I benefit from his work and he keeps his religion to himself.’ He said, ‘I will never honour them when Allaah has humiliated them, and I will never bring them close to me when Allaah has expelled them from His mercy.’”

What is the authenticity of this narration? Likewise, if it is authentic, isn't Umar RA being a bit harsh? He simply employed him as a scribe nothing else.

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  • Umar is well-known for being "a bit harsh" when it came to religious matters.
    – goldPseudo
    Commented Mar 31 at 1:04

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The athar has been classed as Sahih by al-Albani in Irwa al-Ghalil.

It is permitted for a Muslim to employ a disbeliever for his services. However Abu Musa al-Ash'ari was a governor and so being his scribe was a position of authority, honor and trust. Such a position should not be given to a disbeliever, because:

  • A scribe is charged with writing down correspondence and documenting the accounts of taxes etc. This involves putting him in authority over the subjects and trusting him with the privacy and integrity of the information he writes down. The disbelievers should not be given authority or trusteeship over the affairs of the Muslims.

    يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تتخذوا اليهود والنصارى أولياء بعضهم أولياء بعض ومن يتولهم منكم فإنه منهم إن الله لا يهدي القوم الظالمين

    O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you - then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

    Quran 5:51 also see 9:23, 3:28 etc.

    ولن يجعل الله للكافرين على المؤمنين سبيلا

    And never will Allah give the disbelievers over the believers a way [to overcome them].

    Quran 4:141

    يا أيها الذين آمنوا لا تتخذوا بطانة من دونكم لا يألونكم خبالا ودوا ما عنتم قد بدت البغضاء من أفواههم وما تخفي صدورهم أكبر قد بينا لكم الآيات إن كنتم تعقلون

    O you who have believed, do not take as intimates those other than yourselves, for they will not spare you [any] ruin. They wish you would have hardship. Hatred has already appeared from their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater. We have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason.

    Quran 3:118

  • The disbelievers are humbled and disgraced because of their kufr. Granting them honorable roles in governance is contrary to that:

    قاتلوا ... حتى يعطوا الجزية عن يد وهم صاغرون

    Fight ... until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

    Quran 9:29

    يا أيها النبي جاهد الكفار والمنافقين واغلظ عليهم

    O Prophet, fight against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be harsh upon them.

    Quran 9:73

Umar's viewpoint is not unique to him, it is adopted by the other caliphs, exegetes and jurists. See Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Tafsir al-Jassas etc.

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