In the Qur’an, Allah commands friendship, love, brotherhood and goodness on Muslims. As a requirement of these moral values, Muslims treat the people of the Book, who believe in Allah and His prophets, with friendship and toleration. Allah has described the relations that Muslims should enjoy with the people of the Book in a number of verses:
Among the people of the Book there are some who have faith in Allah and in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down to them, and who are humble before Allah. They do not sell Allah’s Signs for a paltry price. Such people will have their reward with their Lord. And Allah is swift at reckoning. (Surah Al ‘Imran, 199)
Allah does NOT FORBID you from BEING GOOD to those who have not fought you in the religion or driven you from your homes, or from being just towards them. Allah loves those who are just. (Surat al-Mumtahana, 8)
Those who have faith and those who are JEWS and the sabaeans and the CHRISTIANS, all who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act rightly will FEEL NO FEAR and will KNOW NO SORROW. (Surat al-Ma’ida, 69)
As can be seen from these verses, Muslims adopt the friendly attitude required by Qur’anic moral values toward the people of the Book. They eat with the people of the Book, ask after their health, enjoy friendly and brotherly relations with them, run to help when they fall ill or are in need and give them alms if necessary. However, He has also forbidden relations with the people of the Book “to be of such a kind as might prevent Muslims living by their own beliefs.” For that reason, Muslims do not select individuals from the people of the Book who might manage them, and do not come under their influence and never accept their rules on the subject of religion. Allah has set this out in verse 51 of Sura al-Ma’ida:
You who believe! Do not take the Jews and Christians as your friends; they are the friends of one another. Any of you who takes them as friends is one of them. Allah does not guide wrongdoing people. (Surat al-Ma’ida, 51)
The word “friends” appears two times in this verse. One of the Arabic words for friend, “evliyau”, means "protectors, those responsible under the law, guardians, lords, owners, kings.” The other word is “Yatawallahum”. This means “undertaking the care of, acting as a ruler, assuming the management of.” In other words, the word “friend” in this verse appears in the sense of “manager.” Allah tells Muslims not to come under their (Christians and Jews) direction. (Prof. Dr. Bayraktar Bayraklı, Text of the Qur’an)
Yaşar Nuri Öztürk interprets this verse about the people of the Book, which commands Muslims not establish bonds of friendship in the sense of “choosing a manager,” as follows:
“Do not make Jews and Christians your leaders. The Qur’an calls on the people of the Book to be integrated with Muslims around the oneness of Allah and wishes to expand the sphere of believers in Allah. This is an international solidarity and togetherness based on universal values. However, the Qur’an says that the people of the Book are not to be taken as guides.” (The Qur’an in Islam, Yaşar Nuri Öztürk, p. 474)
As can clearly be seen from this commentary, Muslims establish all kinds of human friendship with the people of the Book but do not make such people their leaders because their beliefs and culture may conflict. Because developing such a friendship and taking one of the people of the Book as a guide would give rise to a contradiction here. A Muslim cannot abide by such direction. He does not accept such a friendship. If they accept being under such an administration, Muslims could end up becoming assimilated, it will be harder for them to live by their beliefs and they might experience difficulties in performing their religious observations. They might lose their cultures. But Allah advises Muslims to establish a bond of friendship, brotherhood and love, that excludes direction of that kind, with the people of the Book.
In the Qur’an, Allah commands Muslims to make even those who ascribe partners to Allah reach their destinations in safety. He advises them to forgive murderers. When Allah enjoins such wide-ranging love, affection, friendship and goodness on Muslims, He also, of course, commands the establishment of such a bond with the people of the Allah, who also believe in Him. Surah Al ‘Imran reveals how the people of the Book believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment, command what is good and avoid what is evil, prostrate themselves in prayer and compete to perform good deeds:
They are not all the same. There is a community among the People of the Book who are upright. They recite Allah’s Signs throughout the night, and they prostrate. They have faith in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the true believers. You will not be denied the reward for any good thing you do. Allah knows those who have fear for Allah. (Surah Al ‘Imran, 113-115)
Muslims and the people of the Book are friends and are agreed on the existence of Allah, Paradise and Hell. However, Muslims cannot support their ideas that are based on polytheism and opposed to the Qur’an and cannot establish friendships with them on these matters. In that sense, and as revealed in Surat al-Ma’ida, they cannot take them as their guides if they are to freely abide by their beliefs and religious obligations.