As someone who is new to Islam, you may come across Qur’an verses which (when taken out of context) appear to instruct Muslims not to take non-Muslims as friends. But often, the best place to search for guidance and an example on how Muslims are expected to live and behave, is through the example set by our Prophet, (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) treated everybody with respect, dignity, and fairness, regardless of their religion or background. Even when treated himself with the utmost disrespect and often-times, torture, Muhammad (PBUH) continued to treat disbelievers with kindness. He and his followers faced a decade of persecution, torture and boycott before Allah revealed verses to them giving permission for them to fight back and defend themselves, and we see that even in these battles, the rights of their opponents were still respected and upheld. For example, it was forbidden for enemy casualties to be decapitated, or even to be stricken in the face.
If the Prophet (PBUH) upheld rights and fair treatment with his enemies, among whom he (PBUH) had been personally beaten and taunted for years, how then, do we expect he treated non-violent disbelievers? His neighbours and community members?
We know through hadith that a lot of the converts to Islam in the time of Muhammad (PBUH) came to the religion due to the kindness they had received by the hands of the Muslims. There are many converts of today (myself included) who would say the same thing of our own experiences. Our Prophet (PBUH) taught us that in being a Muslim, you have a responsibility to represent the religion of Islam, and to do so correctly, you must treat all people with kindness and good manners.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The deen itself is manners. Anyone surpassing you in manners is better than you in deen.”
There is a huge emphasis in Islam on kind treatment to your family, and kindness to your neighbours. Nowhere is it specified that we must only be kind to Muslim family and neighbours. Every member of our family and every neighbour, regardless of their creed or religion, has a right upon you to be treated with complete kindness. In the case of many converts today, family will include entirely non-Muslims, and according to some scholars, your neighbours includes every household within a 40-house radius of your own.
Kindness can simply mean smiling and greeting your neighbours when you see them. It might mean offering to help them, for example if you see them carrying heavy items. If you have elderly neighbours, this could mean offering to fetch things from the shops for them. It will also mean being considerate of how much noise you make; not blocking their driveway with your car; not leaving litter around the place. Simple, obvious things, that actually many non-Muslims already automatically do already.
Islam talks a lot about brotherhood/sisterhood, and while it is frequently referring to our brothers and sisters in faith, there are numerous occasions when in fact it is referring to our brothers and sisters in humanity. One such example is the hadith in which it was reported that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said,“None of you [truly] believes, until he loves for his brother that which he loves for himself.” When questioned what is referred to in this use of the term ‘brother’, it is reported that scholars are unanimous in agreement that ‘brother’ here refers to every human being, to the whole of mankind.
Islam is a religion of peace and of mercy, not just from believer to fellow believer, but to every single person. Allah says to Muhammad (PBUH) in the Qur’an,
“We sent you [Prophet] only as a mercy to all people” (Qur’an 21: 107).
As believers in Allah’s word, and as followers of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), then we too, have a responsibility to live up to, to spread peace, kindness and mercy amongst all of mankind.