Islam does not only prohibit assaulting non-Muslims who do not wrong us, but also urges us to treat them well and be just when dealing with them. Thus, it is prohibited to attack their places of worship. This is based on the fact that assaulting such places is considered to be an act of injustice, which neither Allah nor His Messenger accept. Freedom of religion and belief is a right which Islam guarantees, Allah Almighty says, [There is no compulsion in religion] (Al-Baqarah 2:256).

It has been stated in The Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Jurisprudence that: Al-Kamalibn Al-Humam, a Hanafi scholar, said, “All opinions adopted in the Hanafischool assure that no temple, church, or other place of worship can be destroyed.”

The Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali scholars all state that dhimmis (non-Muslims living under the protection of a Muslim state) must not be forbidden from repairing their churches, temples, and other places of worship, because forbidding them from doing so would lead to the destruction of these places. Thus, the ruin of these places takes the same ruling as destroying them.

In addition, Shehab Ad-Deen Al-Qarafi, the Maliki jurist, stated the following: The covenant of protecting dhimmis imposes upon Muslims certain obligations towards them. They are our neighbors, under our shelter and protection upon the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and the religion of Islam. Whoever transgresses against them, even with a mere word of injustice or insult against any non-Muslim , has breached the Covenant of Allah, His Messenger, and his or her conduct would be considered counter to the teachings of Islam.

IbnHazm, the Zahiri jurist, also said the following: If a dhimmi is threatened by an enemy, it is our obligation to fight the enemy with soldiers and weapons, and even to die defending him. By doing so, we will be honoring the Covenant of Allah and His Messenger. To hand him or her over to the enemy would mean that we were negligent of the Covenant of Allah and His Messenger.

Moreover, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, a contemporary Muslim scholar, states the following: A clear separating line should be drawn here between the teachings of Islam, which prohibit attacking non-Muslim places of worship, and the acts of some Muslims who possess a narrow-minded view of Islam.

Those people harm Islam and Muslims with their wrong behavior; as the threat they pose to Islam is much more than that of the enemies of Islam.

Along the same line, a traditional Arabic proverb reads, “A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.”

The fanaticism we see in some certain people is often due to reasons that have nothing to do with religion, even if it takes the form of religion. In fact, its reasons may turn out to be social, economic, or political after thorough study. That is why we see it ap
pearing in certain areas and not others; as some social circumstances and inherited traditions sow the seed of fanaticism and help it grow. Therefore, it is unfair to accuse religion of being responsible for such fanatic acts.

In Islam, dhimmis have the nationality of Dar al-Islam (Muslim lands), which means that they are citizens of a Muslim nation. Thus, the word dhimmi is not a dispraising one, but rather a word that implies the obligation of protection and allegiance, and that is the way of piety and being obedient to Allah’s law.

It is incumbent upon Muslims to preserve dhimmis blood, honor, property, and places of worship; to respect their beliefs and rites; to defend them from any outside aggression; and to avoid anything that may kindle their rancor, or offend them, their families, and their relatives.

These rights acknowledged by Islam are not mere words, but rather are sacred rights regulated by Allah’s law. Therefore, no human being is allowed to nullify them. These rights are also surrounded and protected by several guarantees as follows: The guarantee of belief in the conscience of every Muslim individual who worships Allah through obeying Allah’s commands and avoiding Allah’s prohibitions, and the general Islamic conscience represented in the entire society.

On the same note, Dr. `Abdus-Sattar F. Sa`eed, a professor of tafseer at Al-Azhar University, says the following: Islam respects other religions and prohibits attacking their places of worship. Allah Almighty says, [For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down] (Al-Hajj 22:40). Moreover, in the hadith reported by Al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan, Abu Bakr gives orders to his governors, saying, “Do not drown or burn date palm trees; do not kill an animal or a fruit tree; do not destroy markets; do not kill children, old men, or women. You will find some people who have retired in places of worship, so leave them there to practice in peace.”

Sheikh Muhammad`Abdullah Al-Khatib, a prominent scholar from Al-Azhar, adds the following: Places of worship that belong to non-Muslims have a special position in the Qur’an, which mentions protecting them before mosques. The Almighty says, [For had it not been for Allah’s repelling some men by means of others, cloisters and churches and oratories and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft-mentioned, would assuredly have been pulled down] (Al-Hajj 22:40). This precedence is intended to place stress on caring for and protecting non-Muslims’ places of worship.

Since the beginning of Islam, Muslims have protected non-Muslims’ places of worship; the order for the all commanders in all battles and conquests was not to attack places of worship and the people inside them, “You will find people who have devoted themselves to worship, so leave them.”

Islam is a religion that allows for all religions to coexist as long as there is no aggression against Muslims. If there is aggression against Muslims, then only the transgressors would be punished, as the Qur’an says, [And no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another] (Al-An`am 6:164).