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Sura 5 verse 51About friendship between Muslims, Jews and Christians

"You who believe! Don't take the Jews and Christians as friends! They are friends with each other. Whoever joins them belongs to them. See, God does not guide the wrongdoers."

On hearing this verse, the statement seems clear: Muslims are required to keep the greatest possible distance from Jews and Christians. In fact, the Arabic word walî, which is translated here as "friend", is ambiguous and difficult to grasp; its meaning was and is controversial among Muslim exegetes.

They only agree that it is about a close personal relationship that includes obligations. In the tribal society in which the Koran was created, for example, these were covenant obligations: a walî, someone who gave assistance or paid a ransom in the event of a war or blood feud.

Many classic Muslim commentaries on the Koran went far beyond this in their interpretations. They declared very well that one should generally not enter into friendly, trusting or intimate relationships with Jews and Christians.

A wide range of new interpretations emerged in the modern age. Political interpretations became popular in times of colonialism. Here the verse was understood as a prohibition of collaboration with the mostly Christian colonial rulers: "Do not take the Jews and Christians as leaders!" was their reading.

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In the fundamentalist spectrum, on the other hand, the verse served to underpin demands for a radical demarcation from everything non-Muslim. This interpretation refers, among other things, to the occasion on which the verse is said to have been revealed.

According to tradition, this happened in Medina during Muhammad's time. The verse was an admonition to a hypocrite who was outwardly Muslim but inwardly still attached to unbelief. For reasons of personal profit and a lack of trust in God, this hypocrite is said not to have renounced himself from his Jewish allies, even though they were enemies with the Muslims.

Fundamentalist commentators deduce from this an obligation to completely renounce non-Muslims. Relationships with Muslims alone are allowed. They argue that anyone who does not adhere to this principle is no longer a Muslim.

But you can also read the verse quite differently. According to the revelation, he forbids alliances with a certain group of Jews who were at war with the Muslims. Is such a situation even transferable to coexistence in today's pluralistic societies? Aren't the alliance structures of the Arab tribal society obsolete today? Besides, did not the prophet himself make alliances with non-Muslims? Doesn't the Koran elsewhere allow Muslim men to marry a Jewish or Christian woman, so it undoubtedly legitimizes intimate relationships?Johanna Pink, holder of the Chair for Islamic Studies and the History of Islam at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg (private)

According to many recent interpretations, this verse merely forbids a protective relationship with hostile non-Muslim groups in a war situation. The question of friendship with non-Muslims who are not hostile to Islam, according to them, is therefore not touched at all. Finally, the Koran says elsewhere, in the 8th verse of the 60th sura: "God does not forbid you to be kind to those who did not fight you because of religion and who did not drive you out of your houses, and to treat them fairly. See, God loves those who do righteously. " And in the 7th verse of the same sura it says: "Perhaps God creates love between you and between those of them who are hostile to you."