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Accepting Non-Muslims; Do They Deserve Paradise?

16 November, 2016
Q Thank you for your continued patience with my questioning. There are some things about Islam that are extremely troubling to me, and I hope you can clarify them. My first question is this: Islam claims to be a religion of tolerance and acceptance, but it seems to be very bent on staying away from people who do not share its beliefs. For example, I understand that Muslims are not allowed to be very close friends with non-Muslims. I do not understand this. Someone who is not a Muslim can be a very good friend and will not necessarily influence you wrongly. Or Islam also commands Muslims not to associate with people with "gay pride" or such. This I do not understand either. In Catholicism, it is said to hate the sin yet love the sinner. In other words, you do not need to stay away from such people. You may need to express to them your disapproval of their lifestyle, but if they respect your beliefs, there is no reason to avoid them. Let me give you an example. I am a practicing Catholic, and my faith is definitely a part of my life. My best friend is a Catholic in name, but does not practice at all and does not see the point in attending church on Sundays. Still, she knows the part faith plays in my life and respects that I need to go to church on Sundays and can't spend the night on Saturday. She has never once tried to convince me not to go to church or tried to dissuade me from my own faith. This same girl's adopted mother is a lesbian. I knew her and her mother long before I knew about this. Neither of them see any problem in gay relationships, but they know that I believe it is wrong. Therefore, after having expressed our opinions, we don't talk about it. If it does come up, I will defend my beliefs and she is very accepting of my opinions, as I do not condemn her family or think less of her. You could not tell me her mother is a bad person. I realize that her lifestyle is sinful, but she is a caring, compassionate woman. She works at a shelter for woman recovering from drug abuse. My friend's biological mother was addicted to drugs and custody was given to my friend's grandmother. She died when my friend was 12, and no one in her family would take in her and her handicapped twin. The woman who is now her mother, and who is not blood related, took them both in and adopted them. You cannot tell me that this is an evil or horrible woman simply because she is a lesbian. I see no reason to avoid seeing my best friend and her family or to stop being her best friend. This girl would give her life to help another person, no matter who they are. Do not tell me that if I were a Muslim I would not be allowed to associate with these people, because that is nonsense. Also, I understand that only Muslims (or Jews and Christians before the time of Muhammad) can enter Paradise. Let me ask you this. If there is a person who is not a Muslim, but is following their own religion with all their heart and honesty believes they have discovered the truth about God, will this person be barred from Paradise? Catholicism teaches that at the moment of your death, God will reveal His truth to you, and you can either choose to accept it or reject it. Obviously, if you have led a hardened and sinful life, it is doubtful that you will accept the truth, no matter how blatant it is. But if you have tried to live your life in the best way you believe you can, and strove to learn the truth, you will not reject it when God reveals it to you and you will enter Heaven. I do not understand how Islam can say that a person like this will not be able to enter heaven if Allah is so merciful. Islam seems here to have a contradictory message. One is of acceptance, the other is of exclusion. I understand, for example, that you should not associate with those that would try to keep you from your faith, no matter what religion you are. But just because someone does not share your beliefs or morals does not mean they will try to bring you down with them. My friend's mother does not do anything inappropriate around me, and my friend is very considerate of the fact that I do not approve of her mother's lifestyle. I practice my religion and do not curse. If you could clarify this, I would be very appreciative.


Salam (Peace) Dear Amy,

Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.

As far as I understood, your long message has two main questions:
1- Does Islam prohibit befriending others from different religions and moral systems?
2- Are non-Muslims doomed not to enter Paradise even if they know the truth?

I hope I got you right Amy!

Your first question falls, in turn, into two parts as it deals with two different approaches: the first is towards those who are religiously different, while the other is towards those who are morally different.

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As for the first part of your first question concerning the relationship with non- Muslims, the approach of Islam towards them is relative and depends on who this non-Muslim is.

The following verses of the Quran assert the difference in approach according to the difference in their attitude. The Quran says what means:

{Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of [your] religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly; surely Allah loves the doers of justice. Allah only forbids you respecting those who made war upon you on account of (your) religion, and drove you forth from your homes and backed up (others) in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them, these are the unjust.} (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8-9)

Of course this tolerance of Islam with other religions applies on those non-Muslims who hold no animosity or rancor to the Muslims, or else we are directed otherwise.

For example, you can’t put the Christian George W. Bush in the same basket together with those Christian brothers and sisters who are standing in the same trench with the Muslims in Palestine against the savage occupiers.

You saw their priests and nuns besieged in the Church of the Nativity while hiding Muslim resisters inside the church and refusing to hand them over to the Israelis to kill them.

About Christians like G. W. Bush, the Quran says what means:

{And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah’s guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper.}(Al-Baqarah 2:120)Accepting Non-Muslims; Do They Deserve Paradise

Don’t you find that this verse is an exact description of such a Christian man who insists to mold the whole world in his image and ideologies?

But, for non-Muslims like those in Palestine, the following verses from the Quran say what means:

{Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly. And when they hear what has been revealed to the messenger you will see their eyes overflowing with tears on account of the truth that they recognize; they say: Our Lord! we believe, so write us down with the witnesses [of truth].} (Al-Ma’idah 5:82-83)

It is worth mentioning in this context that I received many inquiries, especially after September 11, about the English translation of this verse, which says what means:

{O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.} (Al-Ma’idah 5:51)

I can guess that this may be the source of your misunderstanding as it is to many others!

In the original Arabic text the verse directs the Muslims not to take the Jews and the Christians as awliyaa’ which in this context means “leaders,” but non–native-Arabic translators of the Quran translated it as “do not take the Jews and Christians for your friends and protectors” (Yousuf Ali). This is only one among many mistakes in the translation of the Quran.

In fact, the Arabic word awliyaa’ has nothing to do with friendship. Thus, the original meaning becomes a political advice to the Muslims not to take non-Muslims as leaders, guides, or decision makers, which is wise and logical enough.

No nation, Muslim or non-Muslim, ever offers its leadership to strangers. Have you ever seen a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Buddhist be king, president, or prime minister of the United States or of a European country? Definitely not!
Accepting Non-Muslims; Do They Deserve Paradise
Thus, the Quran in this verse states something that is common sense to all mentalities. It is only the mistranslation—intended or unintended—that created this misconception that Islam directs its holders not to take people of other religions as friends. It is a mistake of translators rather than of God.

As a researcher of Islam, you must have heard about the story when the early Muslims were tyrannized by the disbelievers of Makkah. The Prophet ordered them to immigrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) where there was “a just king.” He was Christian and he took the weak
Muslims, who were economically of no importance to him, in his protection. This was despite the pressures that the powerful disbelievers put on him to send the Muslims back.

On the other hand, the ruler of Egypt gave a Christian girl slave as a present to the Prophet. He set her free and married her. She embraced Islam of her own choice and was given the honor of being one of the Mothers of the Believers. Where, then, can we find such a command to cut off relationship with or treat non-Muslims unjustly?

As for the second part about those who are morally different, it is quite another story. Adulterers, homosexuals, drug addicts, liars, and other types of sinners could be either Muslims or non-Muslims. It is true that Islam does not consider them as regular citizens, but again it does not ask the society to abandon them. They have a right on their Islamic society—that of “commanding what is good and forbidding what is bad.”

This means that we have to come closer to them in an attempt to help them out with their problems, whether those are economic, psychological, social, or whatever. But in case they insist on their sins knowingly, the situation becomes different.

In such a case, normalizing relations with them will encourage them to go deeper in their sins, and in this case they will be doomed to God’s punishment. How can you claim that you care for this woman, while you leave her to such a tragic destiny, which all believers believe in!

Thus, punishing those who insist on sinning is an Islamic method of guiding, purifying, and rehabilitating those sinners in order for them to have a better hereafter; whereas showing respect and courtesy or at least tolerance to them leads them to an unhappy hereafter.

Plus, treating them thus destroys the society, which they infect with their morals. Islam strongly believes in the idea of moral infection, for the Prophet said, “Everyone is after the way of life and thoughts (deen) of his friend; therefore one should be careful about those one befriends.”
Accepting Non-Muslims; Do They Deserve Paradise
As for the last part of your question, I don’t quite understand where those who announce the names of those who will dwell in Paradise or Hell get their authority from.

Only God knows those who have had the truth in their hearts and have been on the right path in this life even if they didn’t seem to us to be so, or those who denied the truth and went astray even if they appeared to us to be saints.

I can give you a list of tens of verses in the Quran, all saying that it is only God Who knows what is in the hearts and who the real believers are and who are not. Look up the following verses just as examples: (117/6) (30/53) (10/29) and many others. It is only God Who decides who enters and who does not enter Paradise.

Thank you again and you have to know that we are truly delighted with our “continued patience with your questions” and don’t hesitate to send us more whenever you need.

Salam and please keep in touch.