A question was posed in the comments section of a previous thread, [click here: christmas eve ponderings], regarding the general guidelines for Muslims living in the west regarding their interactions with kafirs.
The answer as obtained from various esteemed shuyukh is also posted in the following comment after the question.
In sha Allah, it shall be beneficial to other readers as well.
Edited on 05/06/2013 – The conversation is copied and pasted below, with some editing to my own comments. A link to a similar post has also been added.
[Snippet from sister’s question]: We are living in a society where we come across many kafirs, in neighborhood, at work and other routine activities, how are we supposed to behave with kafirs in this situation.
[‘Abd-Allah al-Mujaddidi al-Naqshbandi]:
I am copying (in my own words) three of the many advices Imam Abu Hanifa radi Allahu ‘anhu has instructed his esteemed students/son:
1 – Always fear Allah, follow the commandments of the Shari’ah and adhere to taqwa.
2 – DO NOT ever establish any relation with any person unless you have a deeni (religious) or duniyawiy (worldly) objective in mind.
3 – Always remember, if you do not behave gently with people, they will become your enemies, even if they may be your parents.
There is a lot of wisdom concealed in these words of advise for those who have an understanding in the basics of Shari’ah.
Coming to the specific question you asked, and the advise I got from my shuyukh –
while this entire blog is dedicated to killing the modern wave of perennialism and equating Islam and kufr, compromising on Islamic dignity and principles in the name of da’wah and “harmony” and licking the boots of the kuffaar – started by kafirs pretending to be Muslim scholars –
the general guidelines in answer to your query are:
1 – It is haram to unjustly hurt anyone, even a kafir. It is haram to be treacherous in one’s dealings, even with kafirs.
2 – It is permitted to treat kafirs gently in matters of da’wah. However, this gentle treatment should not reach the level of respect and honor of the kafir or his religion.
Da’wah is about propagating the truth of Islam above falsehood, and everything other than Islam is falsehood.
Da’wah is NOT about compromising on Islam or designing exquisite and elaborate excuses for the purposes of honoring kafirs and their way of life or being subservient to them, as the heretic shayaateen pretending to be Muslim scholars do in our times.
One should always uphold the dignity and the esteemed status of Islam and Muslims. A good analogy is that a Muslim’s gentle treatment of a kafir should be akin to a king’s gentle treatment of an amputee pauper, or your gentle treatment of your pet whom you own.
3 – Keeping in mind Imam Abu Hanifa’s advises mentioned above and the two points preceding this one,never initiate any hostile treatment of anyone. But if a kafir is hostile to you for reasons of you being Muslim or because of hatred to Islam (ie, not because of anything directly related to your person), show him/her NO MERCY at all and do what ever is in your means to punish him/her or have him/her punished. DO NOT FORGIVE HIM/HER. Respond to his/her hostility to Islam, in kind. These are times when Islam is extremely weak and people are sparing no stones to harm it and hurt it.
Our mother, ‘Aaisha, radi Allahu ‘anhaa, has said in a hadith by Sahih Muslim that the Prophet’s character is the Quran.
عن سعد بن هشام قال سألت عائشة فقلت أخبريني عن خلق رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فقالت : كان خلقه القرآن – رواه مسلم
Translation of meaning: Sa’ad bin Hisham narrates that he said: “I asked [the mother of the believers] ‘Aaishah and said: “Inform me about the character of Rasul-Allah ﷺ“; thereafter she [our mother ‘Aaishah] said: “His character is the Quran” (Sahiih Muslim)
The Quran itself says to the Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam:
[68:4] وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلى خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ
Translation of meaning: And indeed, you are of a supremely exalted character. [Holy Quran 68:4]
The same Quran also commands the Prophet as thus:
[9:73 & 66:9] يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ جَاهِدِ الْكُفَّارَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَاغْلُظْ عَلَيْهِمْ
Translation of meaning: O [beloved] Prophet! Launch jihad against the kafirs and the hypocrites and be tough with them. [Holy Quran 9:73 & 66:9]
We have thus established that fighting with kafirs due to their denial to worship Allah  and toughness to them is from the Prophet’s ﷺ supremely exalted character, as his character includes the following of Allah’s command to fight and be tough with kafirs for their refusal to worship Him alone and accept His prophets. 
 Jihad by combat is supposed to be launched by the authoritative heads of Islamic states in order to conquer new lands and impose Islam upon them so that the people of those lands have a chance to become Muslim and save their hereafter. Individuals and groups are not allowed to take such actions unilaterally, specially when they know that they certainly do not hold any strategic or tactical advantages and will jeopardize the safety of life and property, dignity, and freedom to practice Islam of the Muslim diaspora living in a kafir land. Furthermore Muslims must not violate and must honor any such treaty that they enter into with the kuffaar, if the clauses and conditions of such a treaty are permitted by Islam.
 It is an open challenge to any western sufi-pretender to bring forth the explanations of the Quranic verses in the books of hadiith, tafsiir, the words of the sahaba and the tabi’een, the mujtahid scholars of Islam, and Islamic history itself – to prove their disgusting colonial claim that Islam should not be spread by conquests by wars! Allah and His Messenger have commanded Muslims to conquer the earth and bring it under the dominance and banner of Islam and establish the worship of Allah on this entire planet – this is the belief of the AHLUS SUNNAH, AND ALL TRUE SUFIS LIKE IMAM GHAZALI. We Muslims are VERY PROUD that our forefathers conquered many lands and spread Islam using the sword just as Allah has commanded us. These shameless colonial subjects pretending to be sufis and their secular democratic kafir brothers and sisters are filthy and ugly hypocrites and blind fools who cannot see that the values and ways of life that they so cherish that their kafir masters have established, have also been done by none other than conquests by wars. This is the quality Allah has embed into His creation – that ALL ideologies are essentially locked in a zero sum game and advanced and sustained ONLY by political domination and power. We Muslims are proud that we are taught to be calculating in our wars so as to eliminate the damage to civilians and engage in combat only with armed combatants and the state machinery only as much as necessary to establish the power and political domination of Islam in order to spread it. These people on the other hand are ugly, defaced animals whose wars, whether against Muslims, or of their own kafir kind, are replete with tales of crimes against humanity. If these filthy hypocrites have an iota of shame or decency, they will not be able to deny it. It is a challenge to the kuffaar to compare any Muslim conquest with any of their own. In fact, even in current times, these filthy kafir hypocrites have massacred more innocent civilians than any terrorist in the history of the world who happened to be a jahil Muslim! If these filthy swine-eaters are indeed truthful, let them compare how many civilians they have massacred in their wars to spread their way of life, and how many civilians have been killed by jahil Muslim terrorists! And yet, so-called “Muslims” and “Islamic scholars” and “men of tasawwuf” and kafirs pretending to be “sufis” do not tire in their apologizing for supposedly being Muslims and preach to innocent Muslims to “love” these enemies of Allah and humanity, rather than confronting these filthy kafirs and showing them the abject hypocrisy, filth and ugliness of their beliefs, ideologies, leaders and actions! These filthy kafirs pretending to be “Muslim scholars” are a greater evil than open kafirs who do not wish to see Islam established on this earth.
Furthermore, the Quran describes the qualities of the believers as thus:
[48:29] مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاء عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاء بَيْنَهُمْ
Translation of meaning: Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah; and those with him are tough on the kafirs and merciful/compassionate amongst themselves. [Holy Quran 48:29]
So please DO NOT respond to any hostility to Islam with any kindness, mercy, or compassion, what so ever.
4 – There is a difference BETWEEN being an acquaintance, being neutral & professional AND being a friend or developing close affinities.
Despite what the heretics who are embarrassed of being Muslim, and the innocent people misguided by them say, NEVER EVER EVER develop friendships and affinities with kafirs. See the verses of the Quran posted above in the post. Also, see this verse where the Quran says explicitly NOT to take jews and christians as friends:
[5:51] يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تَتَّخِذُواْ الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاء بَعْضٍ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّهُم مِّنكُمْ فَإِنَّهُ مِنْهُمْ إِنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الظَّالِمِينَ
Translation of meaning: O you who believe! Do not take the jews and christians as friends; they are friends of each other; and he amongst you who develops affinities with them, is from amongst them; indeed Allah does not guide the transgressors. [Holy Quran 5:51]
There is no wala- (loyalty) to kafirs for a Muslim.
A “friend” is typically defined as someone who can use your belongings without your permission and you are cool with it, as someone you confide in, as someone you hug, kiss and greet on festivities, and so on. None of those are allowed between a Muslim and a kafir. See the entire post above.
5 – Your nickname indicates you are a female. Please note dear sister:
ALL FOUR MADHHABS OF THE AHLUS SUNNAH – have ruled that – IT IS HARAM – for a Muslim sister to uncover in front of kafir women.
Your hijab in front of kafir women SHOULD be the same as it is in front of men. The ‘awrah of a Muslim female in front of kafir females is EXACTLY what it is in front of males. (Only exception being face, palms, and feet below ankles)
Just as our Master Rasulullah, sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, has forbidden us men folk from initiating the greeting with kafir men, the same ruling also applies to you sisters.
It is NOT allowed for you to greet and kiss kafir women, the same way you greet and kiss your other sisters in Islam. It is reprehensibly disliked to shake hands with them.
If a sister can help it, it is COMPULSORY for her to hire a MUSLIM midwife to help deliver her baby. If she cannot find a Muslim midwife despite her best efforts, she has an excuse and may hire a kafirah midwife.
Please note dear sister, that it is disliked for you to even say salam to a strange MUSLIM man.
Then what can we say about a Muslima greeting a kafir male with good cheer and laughter, and flirting with him, all in the name of da’wah?! It is nothing but a mockery of Islam of the highest order and compromising on the dignity and chastity of Islam.
A Muslima’s interaction with ANY strange male (not her mahrams or husband) should be only to the point, and very cold (or professional, if you will, the aim is that there should be zero good cheer and at the same time no rudeness), without any of her feminine charm being used. This mannerism should be twice as staunch when dealing with a kafir male.
Please note that da’wah is NOT compulsory to those who have received the message of Islam, which is almost all the people in our times who have heard of our beloved Prophet.
It is HARAM for a Muslim sister to shake hands with even any Muslim male, worse yet kafir males. Being in the workplace is no excuse for it.
6 – As stated, there is a difference between being neutral & professional, and being a friend & developing affinities.
While a Muslim MUST strive as much as possible to minimize his interaction with kafirs, it is NOT forbidden to use kafirs on worldly matters, they may be used knowing full well in one’s heart that these people are those whom Allah has called “the worst of all creation” in the Quran.
Imam Sarkhasi, an early era GIANT of the Hanafi madhhab says in his Sharh Jame’a As-Sagheer:
و الإستعانة باهل الذمة كالإستعانة بالكلاب
“And taking help from a dhimmi (a kafir living in a Muslim state) is like utilizing a trained dog”
One is allowed to buy/sell from them or hire their services and so on. Also, routine conventions at the workplace like saying “G’day” or shaking hands at business meetings (still haram for opposite genders) are just business conventions and social lubricants and not marks of respect or honor in the least. They are allowed in such circumstances. (How many kafir customer service reps do you know who cuss at other kafir customers right after they leave the room or hang up the phone?! These kind of things are proof that these are just meaningless conventions in the world of business.)
Also “respecting” (ie acknowledging the authority of the status) an officer of the law or following the law of the land (like if one is assigned jury duty or attending court for some reason, and he has to stand up for a kafir judge) or students in a school standing up for a teacher are just conventions for respecting the worldly positions in and of themselves and not the person of the kafir per se.
For example, even other kafirs will not “respect” a kafir policeman if he left his job or if he was not on duty in a uniform. They will just treat him like any other joe bloggs.
The quote that you mentioned regarding saying “hey sir” is regarding calling on a kafir respectfully and deliberately respecting a kafir.
It does not refer to meaningless business conventions like a customer service phone operator saying, “G’day mr. jones! How may I help you?” or a person using “sir” sarcastically like for example saying “you sir, are an incompetent politician!”
7 – As much as possible and within one’s reach, Muslims living in kafir lands should strive to be self employed. This will save them from having a kafir in a “boss” position above them and being told what to do. It is far more reward-able to be working for oneself and live by one’s own terms and conditions, than to work in a global corporation where one has to take orders from others, much less a kafir.
It is HARAM for a Muslim to take up employment in a position where his dignity will be compromised in front of kafirs.
For example, working as a street-cleaner. Or a butler for kafirs. Or in a position where Muslims have to serve on kafirs, like their senior citizens homes.
As stated right in the beginning, there is NO RESPECT or HONOR of kafirs in Islam, and the gentleness that CAN BE shown to a kafir is the kind of gentleness a king shows an amputee beggar or a person shows his pet animal.
A kafir senior citizen is STILL a kafir and in no way, shape or form, worthy of being waited on by a Muslim. Shari’ah states that MUSLIM senior citizens must show respect to young Muslim scholars. SUCH IS THE DIGNITY OF ISLAM & ITS KNOWLEDGE. What then can we say about a kafir senior citizen?
A Muslim must uphold his own dignity and the dignity of Islam and think that when these people’s own children and grandchildren do not take care of them, why on earth should a Muslim do it? They are only reaping what they have sown. There is NOTHING about them that should make them endearing to a Muslim.
If one intends to do da’wah to them, they can organize informational seminars and events in such senior citizen’s homes but there is NOTHING that justifies a Muslim waiting on a kafir senior citizen in a home, pushing his wheel chair, and wiping his nose and putting his shoes on. We seek Allah’s refuge from such. al-’iyadhu billah.
Specially our sisters should take EXTREME caution to not be in a position where either Islam’s, Muslims’, their or their family’s chastity and dignity is compromised.
For example, it is ok for a sister to work as a teacher.
However it is HARAM for her to work as a babysitter to a kafir’s children changing their nappies and so on. While it’s a given that one must be tender to children and this in no way means that we consider children as responsible adults like their parents, IT STILL DOES NOT negate the fact that a kafir’s child belongs to the kafir and changing his nappies IS effectively waiting on the kafir.
She is allowed to work as a babysitter to Muslim children or run a day care center for them.
Muslim owners of eateries and restaurants should make their businesses self service or open buffets. Muslims should NOT wait tables to kafirs. It is especially low for a Muslim to utilize his wife or sister or daughter to wait tables for kafirs.
Remember OUR RIZQ IS PRE-DESTINED FROM ALLAH. No amount of business procedures or compromises or strategies will change that.
Therefore the course of wisdom is to earn a living in a manner that does NOT compromise on the rules of the Shari’ah or the dignity of Islam and Muslims.
If compromising, undignified jobs are the only kinds of jobs you can work in, then please migrate to a Muslim country at your first possible instance. It is far better for you.
8 – Muslims should always strive to improve the Muslim sub-economy by as much as possible buying and selling ONLY from other Muslims and boosting each other’s businesses.
9 – Muslim business owners should ALWAYS seek to hire Muslims rather than kafirs. This is explicitly stated in ahadith and books of fiqh.
10 – BUY real estate from anyone.
BUT once a Muslim acquires real estate, NEVER EVER EVER sell it to a kafir.
This will work wonders for Muslim diaspora in the long run, one way or another. Think about the community. Either hold on to it, or sell it only to other Muslims. (This is NOT a fatwa of haram, but an excellent guideline for the betterment and upliftment of the Muslim community)
As much as possible, try also NOT to rent it to kafirs.
For points 9 & 10 if the law of the land demands that you SHOULD accept all offers to sell your real estate, the simple rule to get by that law is, DO NOT advertise your vacancy or sale.
The first thing you should do is put word of mouth out in the community that you “intend to” hire someone or sell your real estate. There is nothing legally binding you to not have an intention. If despite your best efforts, there are no results, then put out an advertisement, and then too, make sure to your best efforts possible, you hire a Muslim or sell your real estate to Muslims.
Be wise and use the law and its loops to your advantage.
11 – Court procedures in kafir lands generally take ages. Also taking your case to a court, is an implicit acknowledgment of the authority of the kafir’s court system. As much as you can, avoid taking your disputes to court, SPECIALLY disputes amongst Muslims must be tried to be resolved as much as possible by mutual agreements and arbitration of the community elders.
12 – As long as you are free to practice the core tenets of Islam, and your life and property are not under threat, seek to uphold the laws of the land.
13 – Send your children to a Muslim school or home school them, so that they do not learn the conventions of kufr and the kafir teachers in the public school systems. Give them advise from the above guidelines what ever is relevant to their ages and understandings and teach your child that the only friend of a Muslim is Muslim. Ingrain this well into your child’s psyche. As the Quran says, Allah invites us to heaven and the kafirs invite us to hellfire.
I hope this will comprehensively answer your general query.
First read these 3 (of the many) advises of Imam Abu Hanifa ponder well over them. Then read the rest of this post, and in sha Allah, you shall be able to find an answer that can help you connect the dots with wisdom.
Please ask a trustworthy scholar of the Ahlus Sunnah regarding any specific queries you may have for any specific questions.
WAllahu Ta’ala a’alamu wa ahkam.
Another post on the same topic – Click Here