*after having re-read the original article today – June 17 2012 – I have decided to edit. Someone had linked this article – which I had forgotten even existed on the website – and I decided to re-read it. I realized that that my views on this issue have changed significantly. I believe that Allah ta’ala clarifies what he means by not taking Jews and Christians as “awliya” or bitanah:
“It may be that Allah will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For Allah has power (over all things); And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. Allah 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 Allah loveth those who are just. Allah 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.” [60:7-9, Yusuf Ali Translation]
Fakhrud-Din Ar-Razi, the famous Quranic exegete and theologian, stated that this verse was revealed regarding Asmaa’ bint Abi Bakr whose mother had come to Medina to visit her. Her mother was a pagan woman, although did not support war against the Muslims. Asmaa’ had treated her harshly refusing her entry and treating her coldly, though the Prophet Muhammad commanded her to treat her kindly ( وتكرمها وتحسن إليها), to honor her, and to treat her with goodness. This incident was also mentioned by Imam Al-Qurtubi in his tafsir – ascribing the narration to Sahih Al Bukhari and Muslim, adding that Imam Al-Mawardi and others, as well as Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi reported it in his Musnad – though clearly stating that this verse was revealed in connection to this event [to note this revelation apparently occurred when the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam) had signed the peace treaty with the Meccans]. Razi goes on to say that the people of Qur’anic Interpretation (Ahlut-Ta’wil) state that this verse proves that it is permissible to create [an environment of] birr (translated usually as kindness etc) between the Muslims and the polytheists (Mushrikin). Lane adds in his lexicon to the meaning, “affection, gentleness, and regard for others’ circumstances.” It is interesting to note that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was asked as to what are the best deeds and He said:
“Making Salah at the prescribed time and birrul-Walidayn (Birr towards one’s parents)…” [Sahih Al Bukhari 496]
This “birr” – righteousness, kindness, compassion, mercy, is being promoted by Allah the exalted towards the non-Muslims who do not abuse the Muslims.
Imam Al-Qushayri in his tafsir reminds us when commenting upon these verses we have just mentioned that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said,
“..For Verily Allah loves kindness in all matters!”
[Edited June 17, 2012]