¡ O you who believe! Take not Mine enemy and your enemy as friends—you offer them affection, though they have indeed disbelieved in the truth that has come to you, expelling the Messenger and you for having believed in God your Lord—if you have gone forth striving in My way and seeking My good pleasure. You show them affection in secret, while I know best that which you hide and that which you disclose. And whosoever among you does so has indeed strayed from the right way.
1 Friends translates awliyāʾ, which could also be rendered “protectors,” “helpers,” or “allies” (Ṭ). This verse was reportedly revealed in relation to a member
of the Muslim community who attempted to disclose the Prophet’s plans to the Quraysh. The Prophet sent several Companions to intercept the letter sent by Ḥāṭib ibn Abī Baltaʿah. After intercepting the letter, which had information about the Prophet’s plans to march upon Makkah, the Prophet asked, “What is this, O Ḥāṭib?” He answered, “Be not hasty [in judging me], I am a man who is merely allied with the Quraysh, for I am not myself a Qurayshite. All the Emigrants with you have relatives who will protect them. I have no relatives in Makkah; so I wanted to obtain some assistance from the Quraysh. By God, I did not do it because I doubt my religion, nor because I have turned to disbelief after choosing Islam.” The Prophet said, “He has spoken the truth!” But ʿUmar exclaimed, “Let me strike the neck of this hypocrite!” To which the Prophet responded, “He has taken part in the Battle of Badr. You do not know; perhaps God has looked upon those who took part in the Battle of Badr and said, ‘Do as you please, for I have forgiven you.’” Then this verse was revealed (Q, Ṭ, W). Despite the Prophet’s leniency, the verse indicates that to choose alliance with disbelievers over alliance with the Prophet and the Muslim community is to stray from the right way (sawāʾ al-sabīl), which literally means, “the middle way.”