Many people who are not familiar with the Quran or did not make a good effort to study it are confused about the issue of befriending people from other religions. Many of them make grave judgment on this matter.
Quran is a complete book that occasionally presents a law or commandment over several chapters or several verses in the same chapter and the practical part of this commandment can be achieved by understanding the whole issue as presented over all the verses and chapters and not by upholding only part of the Quran. God specifically warn us against doing just that, upholding part of the Quran while disregarding the rest.
[2:85] ...Do you believe in part of the scripture and disbelieve in part? What should be the retribution for those among you who do this?..
To understand the issue of befriending the Jews and Christians , we have to study all the concerned verses together in light of the whole Quran.
I heard many people mention 5:51 with no referral to the rest of the verses that discuss this important issue.
[5:51] O you who believe, do not take [certain] Jews and Christians as allies; these are allies of one another. Those among you who ally themselves with these belong with them. GOD does not guide the transgressors.
Now, let's look at some other verses about befriending the Jews and the Christians, or anyone not Muslim (Submitter) for that matter. These two verses are regulating relations with any people, regardless of faith;
[60:8] GOD does not enjoin you from befriending those who do not fight you because of religion, and do not evict you from your homes. You may befriend them and be equitable towards them. GOD loves the equitable.
[60:9] GOD enjoins you only from befriending those who fight you because of religion, evict you from your homes, and band together with others to banish you. You shall not befriend them. Those who befriend them are the transgressors.
Thus, we learn that we are only enjoined from befriending those who fight us because of religion. Let's go back to the verse immediately after 5:51, to see if it now sheds some more light on the issue.
[5:52] You will see those who harbor doubt in their hearts hasten to join them, saying, "We fear lest we may be defeated." May GOD bring victory, or a command from Him, that causes them to regret their secret thoughts.
Thus, it is clear that this is a situation when there is a division and an overhanging conflict between the believers and the others. Otherwise, what would be the logic behind the statement. "We fear lest we may be defeated."
In these situations those with doubts in their hearts will ally themselves with the enemy.
5:57 makes it clear again, who are not to be taken as friends;
[5:57] O you who believe, do not befriend those among the recipients of previous scripture who mock and ridicule your religion, nor shall you befriend the disbelievers. You shall reverence GOD, if you are really believers.
God teaches us throughout the Quran that there are righteous Jews and Christians. So, if we think we are righteous, and they are righteous, what could possibly be the problem between us, or obstacle for us to be friends?
[7:159] Among the followers of Moses there are those who guide in accordance with the truth, and the truth renders them righteous.
[5:46] Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the previous scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance and light, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting its guidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous.
[5:47] The people of the Gospel shall rule in accordance with GOD's revelations therein. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations are the wicked.
[2:62 & 5:69] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
[3:113-114]. They are not all the same; among the followers of the scripture, there are those who are righteous. They recite GOD's revelations through the night, and they fall prostrate.
They believe in GOD and the Last Day, they advocate righteousness and forbid evil, and they hasten to do righteous works. These are the righteous.
[3:199] Surely, some followers of the previous scriptures do believe in GOD, and in what was revealed to you, and in what was revealed to them. They reverence GOD, and they never trade away GOD's revelations for a cheap price. These will receive their recompense from their Lord. GOD is the most efficient in reckoning.
We learn, however, from the Quran that the Christians are closer to the believers (submitters-Muslims) than the Jews. This is just a statement of fact by God almighty, that we can still witness during our time. God is the best knower of the emotional structure of His creations and therefore was this statement of fact in 5:82. We can witness from the conflict in the Middle East for example , how very emotional the Jews get and how they react to conflicts with their friends, their enemies or even among themselves inside Israel.
[5:82] You will find that the worst enemies of the believers are the Jews and the idol worshipers. And you will find that the closest people in friendship to the believers are those who say, "We are Christian." This is because they have priests and monks among them, and they are not arrogant.
This verse should not be used by any mean to negate the fact that among the Jews (and Christians) will be righteous people who can be good friends as explained in the above verses, they do not fight us in our religion or our homes. They can be our neighbors, colleagues, friends, co-workers...etc We will be good to them as they are good to us. We, all the righteous people of all religions ,can make the difference and make this world better by respecting each other, respecting the freedom of choice of each other, and remember that we all have the One and the same God.