By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
06 May 2019
Islam does not allow destruction of places of worship, but rather it guarantees the protection of churches, temples and other houses of worship belonging to non-Muslims both within and outside Islamic lands. The beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) granted a constitutional status this protection through his commands, contracts, agreements and accords. The religious rights and freedoms granted by the Prophet to the people of Najran are notable and a solid proof in this regard.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said,
“Indeed, Najran and her allies are under the protection of God and the guarantee of the Messenger of God. They are to be protected in their wealth, lives, lands and religion. This includes their priests, monks, those who are present amongst them and those who are absent and others amongst them, and their delegations and the like. They shall not be forced to change that (faith) which they are upon and no right of theirs is to be forfeited. No monk, priest or attendant amongst them should lose that which is in his possession, be it plentiful or scarce, and no fear or danger will threaten them” (This Hadith cited by Imam Abu Yusuf Hanafi in al-Kharaj, 78)
During the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, the non-Muslims enjoyed similar rights as their Muslim counterparts. Whenever any army left for a military expedition, Hazrat Abu Bakr would give special instructions to the commander of the army, “Do not spread corruption in the earth and do not disobey orders….Do not drown or burn date-palm trees. Do not kill any animal. Do not cut down a fruit-bearing tree. Do not demolish a church. Do not kill any children, old people or women. Soon you shall come upon people who have secluded themselves in cloisters; leave them to engage in that for whose sake they have secluded themselves” (narrated by Imam Bayhaqi in Sunan Al-Kubra, Imam Malik in Muwatta etc)
When Hazrat Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) sent Yazid b. Abi Sufyan to Syria, he said, “Do not demolish any place of worship…and do not kill an old, feeble man or an infant or a child or a woman” (Narrated by Imam Bayhaqi in Sunan Kubra)
According to a tradition cited by Imam Shaybani, Hazrat Umar bin Abd al-Aziz used to instruct his officials, saying,
“Do not demolish any church, cloister or Zoroastrian temple” (Kitab al-Hujja ala Ahl al-Madina and Imam Shafi’I in Kitab al-Umm 7:320)
A Quranic verse 22:40 is also quoted by classical jurists and Mufasserin in order to substantiate the view that Muslims are prohibited from damaging or destroying the places of worship belonging to non-Muslims with whom there is a treaty both within and outside Islamic lands.
Allah Almighty says in the verse,
“[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right - only because they say, "Our Lord is Allah." And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (22:40)
Hazrat Hasan Al-Basri comments on this Ayat, saying: يُدْفَعُ عَنْ هَدْمِ مُصَلَّيَاتِ أَهْلِ الذِّمَّةِ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ (translation) “The houses of worship for non-Muslim civilians shall be defended by the believers” (Ahkam Al-Quran by Imam Al-Jassas 5/83)
Imam Qurtubi wrote in his book of Tafsir, قَالَ ابْنُ خُوَيْزِ مَنْدَادَ تَضَمَّنَتْ هَذِهِ الْآيَةُ الْمَنْعَ مِنْ هَدْمِ كَنَائِسِ أَهْلِ الذِّمَّةِ وَبِيَعِهِمْ وَبُيُوتِ نِيرَانِهِمْ translation: “Ibn Khuwaiz said: This Quranic verse includes the prohibition of demolishing the churches of non-Muslim citizens, their temples, and their places of worship” (Tafseer Al-Qurtubi 22:40)
The covenant of Hazrat Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, the second caliph of Islam, which guaranteed the safety of Christians in Jerusalem, their lives, their property, their places of worship is recorded by Imam Tabari as follows:
بسم اللَّه الرحمن الرحيم هذا ما أعطى عبد اللَّه عمر أمير المؤمنين أهل إيلياء من الأمان أعطاهم أمانا لأنفسهم وأموالهم ولكنائسهم وصلبانهم وسقيمها وبريئها وسائر ملتها أنه لا تسكن كنائسهم ولا تهدم ولا ينتقص منها ولا من حيزها ولا من صليبهم ولا من شيء من أموالهم ولا يكرهون على دينهم ولا يضار أحد منهم
“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, This is what is granted of security by the servant of Allah, Umar, the commander of the faithful, to the people of Jerusalem. He grants them safety for their lives, their property, their churches, and their crucifixes, for their ill, their healthy, and their entire community. Their churches will not be occupied, demolished, or reduced in number. Their churches and crucifixes will not be desecrated and neither anything else of their property. They will not be coerced to abandon their religion and none of them will be harmed” (Tareekh At-Tabari 2/449)
According to a popularly cited incident, an Umayyad ruler Walid b. Abd al-Malik captured a piece of property that belonged to the Church of Damascus and made it a part of a mosque. When Hazrat Umar b. Abd al-Aziz got this news, he commanded the demolition of that part of the mosque and that it be returned to the Christians. One of the relevant reports is cited as follows;
لما استخلف عمر بن عبد العزيز رضي الله عنه، شكى النصارى إليه ما فعل الوليد بهم في كنسيتهم فكتب إلى عامله يأمره برد ما زاده في المسجد
Translation: “When Hazrat Umar b. Abd al-Aziz (may Allah be pleased with him) became the Caliph, the Christians complained to him about Walid’s seizure of the property of a church. Hazrat Umar dictated orders to his governor there, commanding him to return to the Christians the portion that was added to the mosque” (See Futhul Buldan p.150)
The afore-mentioned evidences are notable and substantiate the view that Islam does not allow destruction of houses of worship belonging to Non-Muslims both within and outside Islamic lands, or during peace-time or war-time. The radical ‘Islamist’ individuals associated with ISIS or any other extremist groups, who justify destruction of houses of worship, should learn the lesson of this article and introspect to diagnose their faults that they are making in the name of Islam and by demolishing houses of worship. The act of destructing houses of worship is an act of transgression and therefore they should return from acts of transgression and seek Tauba, otherwise they will be among those to which this verse is applied, “Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190). The Divine punishment for transgressors is mentioned in several verses of the Quran, for example 5:87/7:55/10/74/2:61/2:65).
Those who want to join ISIS any other radical ‘Islamist’ groups should consider this Quranic verse too, which reads, “...And do not let the hatred of a people for having obstructed you from al-Masjid al-Haram lead you to transgress. And cooperate in righteousness and piety, but do not cooperate in sin and aggression. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty” (5:2). They should consider that they are going to cooperate in sin, aggression and transgression, for which they will have to face severe penalty.
A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).