The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Every child is born upon a natural disposition.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
and Sahîh Muslim
All people share a certain amount of knowledge regarding their relationships and dealings with others. They relate to each other in a purely natural and spontaneous way. Islam came to govern and refine this web of relationships, not to bar people from them. Islam does not seek to cut people off from each other. Indeed, the Qur’ân declares that cutting off one’s ties to others is a characteristic of people who are astray. It never declares it a mistake or a crime to uphold one’s ties with others.
Allah says: “Those who break Allah's Covenant after it is ratified, and who sunder what Allah Has ordered to be joined, and do mischief on earth: These cause loss (only) to themselves.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah
The love that one feel’s for a relative, a spouse, or a friend – or for one’s country or people – constitute part of the general, natural loyalties that a person has. This does not contradict the loyalty in faith that Muslims have regarding their religion. The first generation of Muslims used to interact with others according to what was natural and with complete liberality. Their behavior was a far cry form the strictness that some people adopted in later generations, people whose norms of behavior were an admixture of misconceptions, a blend of extremes in both harshness and negligence.
The meaning of Islamic loyalty is a faith-based loyalty by feeling affection for the believers and closeness to them. It constitutes a sense of fraternity between them, a mutual attachment, and a willingness to help each other. Without this, there would be no meaning to the concept of a Muslim community. The Muslim community exists by virtue of the ties that bind the Muslim’s hearts together with a sense of common loyalty.
Allah says: “The believers are but brethren.”
He says: “This community of yours is a single community.”
He also says: “As to those who turn in loyalty to Allah, His Messenger, and the (fellowship of) believers,- it is the party of Allah that must certainly triumph.” [Sûrah al-Mâ’idah
We should consider the ideas of support, mutual attachment, and loyalty in the conveyed by the following words of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “The believers, in their love and compassion for each other, are like a single body. When one part of the body is in pain, the whole body feels feverish and restless.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
and Sahîh Muslim
The same meanings are conveyed where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The believers are to each other like a building where each part of the structure supports the other parts.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
and Sahîh Muslim
This is the loyalty between the Muslims that is an essential aspect of Islamic monotheism. This loyalty is a spiritual meaning that exists in the heart, comprising love, mutual affection, and mercy. It is also a practical, vital meaning comprising support, assistance, and awareness.
The support that our loyalty requires from us is to assist our fellows in doing what is right and to prevent them from doing wrong.
This is made clear to us in the hadîth where the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Help your brother whether he is doing wrong or he has been wronged.”
His Companions asked: “We understand to help him when he is wronged, but how do we help him when he is the one doing wrong?”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) answered: “By stopping him from doing wrong.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî
This shows us that the bond of Islamic loyalty is founded upon religious belief. It is not a bigoted loyalty. It binds people together on the basis of principles that transcend the people themselves. Whenever a person goes against these principles, the greatest way to express loyalty is to prevent that person from wrongdoing. It is never right to support that person in committing injustice.
The “disavowal” that acts as a counterbalance to this loyalty means to be sincere in one’s devotion and commitment to the tenets of Islamic belief. It does not mean to break off one’s relationships with non-Muslims or to divest one’s heart of the natural love and affection that one feels towards them. The basic ruling for dealing with others who are at peace with us is to be good and kind.
This is stated decisively in the Qur’ân: “With regard to those who do not fight you on account of your faith nor drive you out of your homes, Allah does not restrain you from dealing kindly and justly with them, for Allah loves those who are just. Allah only forbids you from turning in friendship to those who, on account of your faith, fight you and drive you out of your homes or supported others in driving you out. And whoever thereafter turns to them in loyalty, they are the ones who do wrong. [Sûrah al-Mumtahanah
We are told by Allah in these to show both kindness and justice to non-Muslims. Muslims are to be just and never wrong anyone. A difference in religious belief is not grounds to treat someone unjustly. Moreover, we are supposed to be kind and magnanimous.
What is essential when it comes to “disavowal” is that we do not specifically love or admire the non-Muslims for their religious beliefs. Preventing this is what the concept of disavowal is all about, since such love means to prefer another religion over Islam. This is inconceivable for a Muslims who is convinced of his faith and devoted to it.
Allah says: “You not find people who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even though they be their fathers or their sons or their brethren or their clan. As for (believing people), He has written faith upon their hearts and has strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, and He will bring them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. They are Allah’s party. Lo! Is it not Allah's party who are successful?” [Sûrah al-Mujâdilah
This verse is speaking about those who fight against the Muslims, who oppose Allah and His Messenger, and who attack those who are faithful. This is how various commentators on this verse explain it, including al-Tabarî and Ibn `Atiyyah.
Every verse in the Qur’ân that prohibits the Muslims from showing allegiance to non-Muslims refers to those non-Muslims who are at war with the Muslims.
For instance: “O you who believe! Choose not My enemy and your enemy for allies. Do you give them your love even though they reject the truth which has come to you and drive out the Messenger, as well as yourselves, simply because you believe in Allah, your Lord?” [Sûrah al-Mumtahanah
We should note that this verse appears in the same chapter of the Qur’ân as: “…Allah does not restrain you from dealing kindly and justly with them, for Allah loves those who are just.”
Therefore, the hatred a Muslim is supposed to have is only for the incorrect beliefs of the unbelievers, and for the injustice and enmity that some of them meet out. The disavowal is for those who lead wars and engage in violence and bloodshed against innocent Muslims. Indeed, Muslims must disavow every act of oppression against people, everything that increases the might of wrongdoers and further dispossesses those who are weak. Islam came to protect the weak and oppressed, and to restrain those who perpetrate injustice.
As for loyalty of a relative degree between Muslims and non-Muslims, like the love a Muslim feels for a non-Muslim on account of the type of person that he is, or due to kinship, or friendship, or due to his kindness, this is part of the natural loyalty that people have for each other. Islam permits this and does not in any way seek to obstruct or prevent it. Indeed, Islam commands us to attend to our parents in kindness, even if they are idolaters. Islam permits marriage with Jewish and Christian women, even though Allah describes marriage by saying: “He has placed between you love and compassion.”
Allah also tells us: “You will not guide whom you love, but Allah guides whom He pleases.” [Sûrah al-Qasas
This verse was revealed regarding the Prophet’s uncle, Abû Tâlib. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) loved Abû Tâlib very much. This love that he felt was in no way unlawful, nor was it at odds with the concept of Islamic loyalty that Islam came with and which was firmly established in the hearts and minds of the Muslims.
Ibn `Abbâs said: “If Pharaoh were to say to me: ‘May Allah bless you’ I would say ‘And you too.’ because Islam manners teaches us to respond to a salutation with one that is equal to it. And the reward of exhibiting goodness is none other than goodness.” [al-Bukhârî, al-Adab al-Mufrid
– with an authentic line of transmission]
We must consider another verse of the Qur’ân: “Ah! You are those who love them, but they love you not” [Sûrah Al `Imrân
This verse affirms that the Muslims had love for those non-Muslims. It only rebukes the Muslims for showing that love to people who did not return that love to them, but instead sought to bring upon them misfortune and humiliation. Love that is mutually felt and mutually given is not prohibited by Islam. Natural human relations are based upon goodwill, acceptance, and brotherhood. Islam came to affirm these values, which are conducive to spreading the message of Islam and by way of which the Muslims present a good example to others – rather than driving people away and cutting off any chance of conveying the message.
Let us turn our attention to the story of Abraham (peace be upon him) mentioned in verse 4 of Sûrah al-Mumtahanah
There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone” – But not when Abraham said to his father: “I will pray for forgiveness for you, though I have no power (to get) aught on your behalf from Allah.” (They prayed): “Our Lord! in You we trust, and to You we turn in repentance: to You is (our) final goal.”
This verse depicts a clear case of mutual enmity, where it says: “and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you”. When Abraham (peace be upon him) first came to his idolatrous people, he did not do so with that animosity. Rather, he came to call them to Islam, to sincerity in the worship of Allah alone. However, when they declared him their enemy and turned on him in hatred, it was but natural and necessary for him to respond with feelings of enmity, to protect the sanctity and fortitude of his own beliefs.
As for Abraham (peace be upon him) praying for his father to be forgiven, we must know that Abraham did not disavow his father until after many months of his father exhibiting, with great ferocity, enmity to both him and his religion. In his perseverance in praying for his father to be forgiven, Abraham (peace be upon him) acted contrary to the normal pattern of interpersonal relationships, on account of his compassion and mercy.
Conducting ourselves with others in a spirit of clemency and natural propriety is to conduct ourselves according to the teachings of Islam, which upholds our natural loyalties to our people, our individual selves, and our countries, as well as our other natural relationships – while at the same time affirming our loyalty to our beliefs and the message of Islam. This loyalty to our faith is, in truth, complementary to our natural loyalties. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I was only sent to perfect good moral conduct.”