Love for the Enemies in the Bible and in the Qur’an

1 In the Old Testament

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release with him. (Exodus 23:4-5)

When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria. When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:18-23)

But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out to meet the army which came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand, and you have slain them in a rage which has even reached heaven. Now you are proposing to subjugate for yourselves the people of Judah and Jerusalem for male and female slaves. Surely, do you not have transgressions of your own against the LORD your God? Now therefore, listen to me and return the captives whom you captured from your brothers, for the burning anger of the LORD is against you.” Then some of the heads of the sons of Ephraim—Azariah […] arose against those who were coming from the battle, and said to them, “You must not bring the captives in here, for you are proposing to bring upon us guilt against the LORD adding to our sins and our guilt; for our guilt is great so that His burning anger is against Israel.” So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the officers and all the assembly. Then the men who were designated by name arose, took the captives, and they clothed all their naked ones from the spoil; and they gave them clothes and sandals, fed them and gave them drink, anointed them with oil, led all their feeble ones on donkeys, and brought them to Jericho, the city of palm trees, to their brothers; then they returned to Samaria. (2 Chronicles 28:9-15)

If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him, I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse…(Job 31:29-30 ESV)

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)

2 In the New Testament

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, […] forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.[…] For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:9,12,14-15 ESV)

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. […] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven…(Luke 6:27-29,35-37)

While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:47-51)
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” […] (Luke 23:33-34)

They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:18-23)

3 In the Qur’an

…those who are patient for the sake of their Lord’s pleasure, maintain the prayer, and spend out of what We have provided them, secretly and openly, and repel evil [conduct] with good. For such will be the reward of the [ultimate] abode … (Surah 13:22)

He said, ‘Abraham! Are you renouncing my gods? If you do not relinquish, I will stone you. Keep away from me for a long while.’
He said, ‘Peace be to you! I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you. Indeed He is gracious to me. (Surah 19:46-47)

Not equal are the good deed and the evil deed. Repel with that which is fairer and behold, he between whom and thee there is enmity shall be as if he were a loyal friend. Yet none shall receive it, except the steadfast; none shall receive it, except a man of mighty fortune. (Surah 41:34-35)

We are not aware of any other passages. We welcome your comments if you know of others.

4 Summary

Even in the Old Testament we find several hints at love for enemies. This prepared the way for Jesus’ command in the New Testament. Jesus himself displayed love for his enemies in his suffering and death. Stephen’s behaviour shows that the early Christians followed the words and example of Jesus.

Apart from these passages, we did not find others. The Qur’an seems to touch on this command rather as a side issue, whereas the New Testament explains it as something essential and characteristic of Jesus’ teaching and of the lives of Christians. Therefore, in order to get to know the full revelation of God, we need the words of Jesus – who is the only one that can change people’s hearts.

That is why it says in Surah 57:27:

[…]and We put in the hearts of those who followed him [Jesus] kindness and mercy.[…]

Jesus lived and taught the goodness and mercy of God. We have the privilege of being able to learn from him.

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