By Abu Amina Elias
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
Islam calls for Muslims and non-Muslims to cooperate with one another in good deeds, justice, and mutual benefit for humanity.
The precedent for this cooperation is the alliance of al-Fudul (Hilf al-Fudul), a pre-Islamic pact of justice made by the people of Mecca in which they pledged to support an oppressed person no matter what tribe he was from. The Prophet spoke highly of this pact and made clear that he would support any similar pact with non-Muslims after the advent of Islam.
Talha ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
لَقَدْ شَهِدْتُ فِي دَارِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ جُدْعَانَ حِلْفًا مَا أُحِبُّ أَنَّ لِيَ بِهِ حُمْرَ النَّعَمِ وَلَوْ أُدْعَى بِهِ فِي الإِسْلامِ لأَجَبْتُ
Certainly, I had witnessed a pact of justice in the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’an that was more beloved to me than a herd of red camels. If I were called to it now in the time of Islam, I would respond.
Source: Sunan Al-Kubra 12114, Grade: Sahih li ghayri
In another narration, the Prophet said:
لَقَدْ شَهِدْتُ فِي دَارِ ابْنِ جُدْعَانَ حِلْفًا لَوْ دُعِيتُ إِلَيْهِ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ لَأَجَبْتُ تَحَالَفُوا أَنْ تُرَدَّ الْفُضُولُ عَلَى أَهْلِهَا وَأَلَّا يَعُزَّ ظَالِمٌ مَظْلُومًا
Certainly, I had witnessed a pact of justice in the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’an which, if I were called to it now in the time of Islam, I would respond. Make such alliances in order to return rights to their people, that no oppressor should have power over the oppressed.
Source: al-Dalāʼil fī Gharīb al-Ḥadīth 243, Grade: Sahih
Ibn Hisham describes the nature of this pact, saying:
فَتَعَاقَدُوا وَتَعَاهَدُوا عَلَى أَنْ لَا يَجِدُوا بِمَكَّةَ مَظْلُومًا مِنْ أَهْلِهَا وَغَيْرِهِمْ مِمَّنْ دَخَلَهَا مِنْ سَائِرِ النَّاسِ إلَّا قَامُوا مَعَهُ وَكَانُوا عَلَى مَنْ ظَلَمَهُ حَتَّى تُرَدَّ عَلَيْهِ مَظْلِمَتُهُ
They promised and pledged that they would not find any oppressed person among their people or among anyone else who entered Mecca except that they would support him. They would stand against whoever oppressed him until the rights of the oppressed were returned.
Source: al-Sīrah al-Nabawīyah 1/123
In Islam, justice is the universal right of all human beings regardless of their race, religion, or gender. It is one of the most fundamental purposes and objectives of Islamic law (maqāṣid al-sharīʻah).
Ibn Al-Qayyim writes:
قَدْ بَيَّنَ سُبْحَانَهُ بِمَا شَرَعَهُ مِنْ الطُّرُقِ أَنَّ مَقْصُودَهُ إقَامَةُ الْعَدْلِ بَيْنَ عِبَادِهِ وَقِيَامُ النَّاسِ بِالْقِسْطِ فَأَيُّ طَرِيقٍ اُسْتُخْرِجَ بِهَا الْعَدْلُ وَالْقِسْطُ فَهِيَ مِنْ الدِّينِ وَلَيْسَتْ مُخَالِفَةً لَهُ
Allah the Exalted has made clear in his law that the objective is the establishment of justice between His servants and fairness among the people, so whichever path leads to justice and fairness is part of the religion and can never oppose it.
Source: al-Ṭuruq al-Ḥikmīya 13
Since justice is a universal right, Islam encourages Muslims to cooperate with non-Muslims in agreements like the Hilf al-Fudul in order to protect people from injustice, return the rights of the oppressed, and perform any kind of charitable work that benefits humanity as a whole.
وَتَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْبِرِّ وَالتَّقْوَىٰ ۖ وَلَا تَعَاوَنُوا عَلَى الْإِثْمِ وَالْعُدْوَانِ
Cooperate in righteousness and piety, and do not cooperate in sin and aggression.
Surat Al-Ma’idah 5:2
Ibn Kathir comments on this verse, saying:
يَأْمُرُ تَعَالَى عِبَادَهُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ بِالْمُعَاوَنَةِ عَلَى فِعْلِ الْخَيْرَاتِ وَهُوَ الْبَرُّ وَتَرْكِ الْمُنْكِرَاتِ وَهُوَ التَّقْوَى وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ التَّنَاصُرِ عَلَى الْبَاطِلِ وَالتَّعَاوُنِ عَلَى الْمَآثِمِ وَالْمَحَارِمِ
Allah the Exalted commands his faithful servants to cooperate in good deeds, which is righteousness (birr), and to avoid evil deeds, which is piety (taqwa). He prohibits them from supporting one another in falsehood and cooperating in sinfulness and unlawfulness.
Source: Tafsīr al-Qurʼān al-Karīm 5:2
Some of the pre-Islamic alliances were nullified by Islam, such as those that were based upon vulgar tribalism, sin, and transgression. However, the Prophet continued to make pacts based upon justice well after the emigration to Medina.
Asim reported: I said to Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet declared there was no pact in Islam. Anas said:
قَدْ حَالَفَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَيْنَ قُرَيْشٍ وَالْأَنْصَارِ فِي دَارِي
The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, made a pact between the Quraish and the Ansar in my house.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 5733, Grade: Sahih
An-Nawawi comments on this tradition, saying:
الْمَنْفِيُّ حِلْفُ التَّوَارُثِ وَمَا يَمْنَعُ مِنْهُ الشَّرْعُ وَأَمَّا التَّحَالُفُ عَلَى طَاعَةِ اللَّهِ وَنَصْرِ الْمَظْلُومِ وَالْمُؤَاخَاةِ فِي اللَّهِ تَعَالَى فَهُوَ أَمْرٌ مُرَغَّبٌ فِيهِ
The inherited pacts and what the law prohibits have been annulled. As for a pact in obedience to Allah, supporting the oppressed, and brotherhood for the sake of Allah, then it is a matter to be desired.
Source: Fatḥ al-Bārī 5733
In another tradition, the Prophet explicitly confirmed that all pre-Islamic and non-Islamic alliances based upon justice and charity, such as the Hilf al-Fudul, are upheld and strengthened by Islam.
Ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
كُلُّ حِلْفٍ كَانَ فِي الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ لَمْ يَزِدْهُ الْإِسْلَامُ إِلَّا شِدَّةً أَوْ حِدَّةً
Every pact from the time of ignorance is not increased by Islam except in strength and affirmation.
Source: Musnad Ahmad 2904, Grade: Sahih
حِلْفٌ كَحِلْفِ الْفُضُولِ وَكَانَ حِلْفُهُمْ أَنْ لَا يُعِينَ ظَالِمٌ مَظْلُومًا بِمَكَّةَ
It is a pact such as the Hilf al-Fudul, in which they agreed not to help an oppressor over an oppressed person in Mecca.
Source: Fatḥ al-Bārī 2172
The classical scholars held that it is permissible for Muslims to cooperate and seek help from non-Muslims if there is a benefit in it and it involves no sin. In fact, the Prophet told us a time would come when the Muslims would make peace with the Romans and cooperate against a common enemy.
Hassan ibn Atiyah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
سَتُصَالِحُونَ الرُّومَ صُلْحًا آمِنًا وَتَغْزُونَ أَنْتُمْ وَهُمْ عَدُوًّا مِنْ وَرَائِكُمْ
You will make a secure peace with the Romans, and together you will fight an enemy from behind you.
Source: Sunan Abu Dawud 2767, Grade: Sahih
وَقَالَ الشَّافِعِيُّ وَآخَرُونَ إِنْ كَانَ الْكَافِرُ حَسَنَ الرَّأْيِ فِي الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَدَعَتِ الْحَاجَةُ إِلَى الِاسْتِعَانَةِ بِهِ اسْتُعِينَ بِهِ وَإِلَّا فَيُكْرَهُ
Ash-Shafi’ee and others said that if the unbelievers have good advice for the Muslims and there is a need for their help, then their help may be sought; otherwise it is disapproved.
Source: Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1871
The scholars relied upon the evidence of many instances in the life of the Prophet in which he sought the assistance of non-Muslims.
وَأَبِي حَنِيفَةَ وَأَصْحَابِهِ أَنَّهَا تَجُوزُ الِاسْتِعَانَةُ بِالْكُفَّارِ وَالْفُسَّاقِ حَيْثُ يَسْتَقِيمُونَ عَلَى أَوَامِرِهِ وَنَوَاهِيهِ وَاسْتَدَلُّوا بِاسْتِعَانَتِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِنَاسٍ مِنْ الْيَهُودِ كَمَا تَقَدَّمَ وَبِاسْتِعَانَتِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِصَفْوَانَ بْنِ أُمَيَّةَ يَوْمَ حُنَيْنٌ وَبِإِخْبَارِهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِأَنَّهَا سَتَقَعُ مِنْ الْمُسْلِمِينَ مُصَالَحَةُ الرُّومِ وَيَغْزُونَ جَمِيعًا عَدُوًّا مِنْ وَرَاءِ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
Abu Hanifa and his companions held that it is permissible to seek help from the unbelievers and sinners as long as they are adhering to the commands and prohibitions. They used as evidence that the Prophet sought help from some people among the Jews as mentioned, he sought the help of Safwan ibn Umayyah at the battle of Hunain, and he reported that an alliance would be made between the Muslims and the Romans in which they would together fight an enemy from behind the Muslims.
Source: Nayl al-Awṭār 7/264
Therefore, we should investigate many different ways in which we can cooperate with non-Muslims for a good cause. Today, our world is racked by violence from every direction, countless people live in grinding poverty, and our climate is threatened by pollution. These are issues that matter to all human beings regardless of their religion or ideology, as they put our collective future in danger. Hence, by forging international alliances to tackle these problems together, we can better serve Allah, our religion, and all of humanity at the same time.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.