Building Places of Worship of the non-Muslims in Muslim Countries

Regarding the topic of allowing the non-Muslims to build their places of worship in Muslim communities, following is the fatwa of Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the prominent Muslim scholar:

“Islam has preserved for non-Muslims their temples and maintained the sanctity of their rituals. Rather, the Qur’an has stressed that among the reasons behind (people) given permission to (indulge in) fight is protection of freedom to practice religious rituals, as Almighty Allah (Exalted be He) says, Permission to fight is given to those (i.e. believers against disbelievers), who are fighting them, (and) because they (believers) have been wronged, and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory. Those who have been expelled from their homes unjustly only because they said: “Our Lord is Allah.” – For had it not been that Allah checks one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, wherein the Name of Allah is mentioned much would surely have been pulled down.” (Al-Hajj: 39 – 40).

Besides, we already know how the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) covenant to the people of Najran involved that Najran and its environs is given the protection of Allah and the pledge and covenant (Dhimmah) of the Prophet (peace be upon him) for their possessions, their religion and their churches.

Again, during his Caliphate, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab granted the People of Ilya’ (Jerusalem) freedom to practice their religious rituals and the sanctity of their synagogues and places of worship, as he stated (in the Pact he held with them):

This is what the servant of Allah, `Umar ibn al-Khattab, has conceded to the people of Ilya’ [Jerusalem] by way of guarantee and safe conduct: protection for themselves and their possessions; for their churches and crosses and their entire community, and that their churches may not be inhabited or destroyed, nor could their churches suffer to be diminished in any way, neither in their grounds nor their crosses, and nothing of what they own [is to be touched]. Nor may they be coerced in their religion, nor may any among them be persecuted. None of the Jews will live with them in Ilya….” (At-Tabari, Tarikh, Vol III, p. 609, ed. Dar Al-Ma`arif, Egypt).

Moreover, Khalid ibn Al-Walid, in his covenant with the People of `Anat, stated, “They are allowed to ring the bells at any time of the day or night, except in the time of the Islamic prayer times. They are allowed to bear their crosses in their festivals.” (Abu Yusuf, Al-Kharaj, p. 146)

All that Islam requires non-Muslims to do is to have regard for the feelings of the Muslims and to preserve the sanctity of their religion…

Some Muslim jurists deem it permissible for the Ahl-ul-Dhimmah (covenanted non-Muslims living under Islamic rule) to establish churches and synagogues and other places of worship in Islamic countries and in countries conquered by the Muslims, where inhabitants are forced to embrace Islam under the edge of the sword, if the Muslim ruler allows them to do so drawing on a perceived interest as long as Islam agrees to their keeping their creeds.

This opinion was held by the Zaydis and by the fellow of Imam Malik, Imam Ibn Al-Qasim (See Ahkam Al-Dimmiyyin wa Al-Musta’manin, pp. 96 – 99).

It seems that customary practices have testified to this approach throughout the Muslim history since the early stages of the Muslim state. For, several churches were established in Egypt during the first century of Hijrah, such as Mar Murqus (Saint Mark) Church in Alexandria, being established between 39 – 56 A.H. Likewise, the first church was built in Al-Fustat – in the suburb of Al-Rum – during Maslamah ibn Makhlad’s rule in Egypt between 47 – 68 A.H. In addition, when `Abdul-`Aziz ibn Marawan established the city of Hulwan, he authorized the building of a church therein, and also allowed some bishops to build two monasteries.

there are many other example which testify to this fact, knowing that Al-Maqrizhi – the famous historian – referred in his book Al-Khitat to several related examples, and then he concluded his statement saying, “And all the referred to churches of Cairo were uncontroversially newly founded during the reign of Islam” (See Dr. `Ali Husni Al-Kharbutli, Al-Islam wa Ahl-ul-Dhimmah, p. 139, and Thomas W. Arnold, The Call to Islam, pp. 84 – 86, 3rd ed., Trans. Hassan Ibrahim, et al.).

Such tolerance towards followers of other religions by people whose entire life is founded on religion and who have obtained victory and triumph, is unprecedented in the history of religions; a fact that is testified to by westerners themselves.

The French scholar Gustav Lobon stated that they have noticed through the Qur’anic verses how Muhammad’s tolerance towards the Jews and Christians was substantially magnificent and that none of the founders of religions that emerged before Judaism and Christianity, in particular, showed a similar approach. He added that his successors (Caliphs) followed his example.

Such tolerance is also acknowledged by some skeptic and – few – believing western scholars who have scrutinized the history of the Arabs. Thus, the following are excerpts quoted from many reference books written by western scholars which prove that our opinion on the issue is not a subjective one.

Robertson, in his book Biography of Charlequin, said that “The Moslems alone were the ones who joined between Jihad and tolerance toward the followers of other faiths whom they had subdued, leaving to them the freedom to perform their religious rites.” (Gustav Lobon, Arab Civilization, p. 128 fn.).”