The Qur’an (11:113) says, “And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest the Fire should touch you, and you would have no protectors other than Allah, nor would you then be helped.” This verse is used by some Muslims to prohibit working with and in non-Islamic governments, as this is seen as “inclining towards those who do wrong”. Those who do so are viewed as disbelievers. The verse is therefore also used to justify not praying or relating with Muslims involved with such governments.
What is the correct interpretation of this verse?
All verses of the Qur’an and hadiths must be interpreted within their specific contexts, and in the context of the whole Qur’an, as well as the practice (sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad (p) and his rightly guided Companions, if the meaning is to be true to the intents of the text concerned. Neglecting other explicit statements of the Qur’an and hadiths related to this issue, while disregarding the principles and rules of interpretation of religious texts, only creates misinterpretations, misconceptions, unnecessary contradictions, and sometimes, dangerous conclusions which actually contradict clear and explicit texts.
The context of this verse makes its meaning clearer. The immediate verse before it reads, “So remain on a right course as you have been commanded, [you] and those who have turned back with you [to Allah], and do not transgress. Indeed, He is Seeing of what you do.” Then the next verse reads, “And do not incline toward those who do wrong, lest you be touched by the Fire, and you would not have other than Allah any protectors; then you would not be helped.”
According to Ibn Kathir, in the first verse (Qur’an 11:112), Allah is commanding His Messenger and the believers to stand firm, because that will help them become victorious over their enemies. And Allah prohibits going to extremes even if it is against polytheists (mushrikun).”
The verses, therefore, are of general import and implication. They are prohibiting Muslims from collaborating with or inclining towards oppressors, or being pleased with “those who do wrong” irrespective of whether these are individuals or groups. The verses concerned are not directed to any particular Muslim or non-Muslim government, but would apply to any group or government that is oppressive and doing wrong.
The verse does not imply a prohibition of collaboration or alliance with non-Muslims in enjoining right and forbidding wrong, or in any other area of mutual benefit. Hence, the Prophet (p) and the Companions enacted treaties and alliances with various people of other faiths as seen in the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah, the Hilf al-Fudul, etc. These alliances and collaboration were in spite of the fact that there were other things that the non-Muslims involved were doing that Islam would object to, such as their idol worship, burying of their young daughters alive (female infanticide), dealing in usury (riba), cruelty to aminals, consuming alcohol, gambling, etc.
Some of the Companions and their successors worked under or related with some tyrants, oppressive governors and rulers in early Islamic history – such as Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, and some oppressors among the rulers of the Banu Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. They, however, did not support these rulers in any of their wrongdoing and oppression.
On the authority of Hudhayfah bin Yaman, the Prophet (p) said, “…There will be leaders who will not be led by my guidance, and who will not adopt my ways. There will also be among them (future leaders of Muslims), men who will have the hearts of devils and the bodies of humans.” I asked (the Prophet), what should I do, O Messenger of Allah, if I happen to live in those times? He replied, “You should listen to the leader (Amir), and carry out his orders, even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey.”
In this context, the Prophet (p) advised Muslims under such oppressive rulers to obey them when and where they are right even if they are tyrants, but not to support them in wrong-doing and injustice. The Prophet (p) said, “There is no submission in matters involving God’s disobedience or displeasure. Submission is obligatory only in what is good (and reasonable).”
Therefore, the verse in question cannot be interpreted to prohibit working with or under an individual, organization or government that is not Islamic, so long as a Muslim is not forced to be involved in wrongdoing or oppression.
 Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-‘Azim, Dar al-Tayba, Riyadh, 2nd Edition, vol.4, p.354
 Many lessons have been derived by Muslim Scholars from the treaty of Hudaibiyah between the Muslims of Media and the Polytheists of Mecca. These lessons are relevant to Muslim minorities living under non-Muslim rule, treaties and constitutional concessions, the priority of peaceful co-existence etc. For further reading, see: Ibn Hisham, al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Dar al-Qalam, Beirut, vol.1, pp. 321-336; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Maktabat al-Ma’arif, Beirut, vol. 1, pp. 164 – 177; Adil Salahi, Muhammad, Man and Prophet: A Complete Study of the Life of the Prophet of Islam, The Islamic Foundation, Markfield, UK, 2002, pp.40-41, pp. 495-530; Tariq Ramadan, In the Footsteps of the Prophet, Oxford University Press, New York, 2007, pp. 20-22, pp. 149 – 163.
 Syed Iqbal Zaheer, An Educational Encyclopedia of Islam, East West Educational tools, Bangalore, India, vol.1, pp.50-52 & 199-220
 Sahih Muslim, Darul Jeel, Beirut, vol.6, p.20, hadith no. 4890
Musnad Ahmad, hadith no. 724; Sahih Muslim, hadith no. 4871, Sunan al-Nasa’i, hadith no. 4205; Sahih Ibn Hibban, hadith no. 4564.