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Why Did the Prophet Break Idols in The Kaabah?

20 May, 2017
Q Why did the Prophet break the idols of the pagan Arabs? It seems that this is a kind of religious intolerance.


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Dr. Shabir Ally addresses this question in the video below:

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Aisha Khaja: So, Dr. Shabir, question number one: upon the conquest of Mecca, it is said that the Prophet went inside the Kaaba and destroyed the idols. Why did he do that? Isn’t that disrespecting other religions?

Dr. Shabir Ally: When we look at the materials that shape our religious understanding, we should not deny our overall conception that comes as a result of our whole life experience on all of this.

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So, when we interpret the Quran and we interpret the incidents in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), there could be two basic approaches.

One could be the approach of I know myself. I know myself as a human being. I know what it means to be kind. I know what it means to be respectful of others. I know how I feel if somebody disrespects something that is sacred to me, and so on.

With that understanding, we would say that the mutual respect between people for their religious symbols and so on, this is a basic given.

So, when we come to the Quran and we you interpret it, we must interpret it in light of that basic understanding and don’t cancel that.

But the other approach is also evident in that some people will negate what they already understand and think that somehow what we understand must be wrong. And we must now go to the Quran and find an entirely, whole, wholly different understanding altogether.

And some people may ignore their sense that they ought to be respectful of others and try to find meanings in the Quran that will justify that kind of perception. As if something in the Quran will tell them that they ought not to be respectful to others.

So, we need to look carefully at what our presuppositions are as we come to the Quran. We don’t come with blank slates and empty minds. People come with some presuppositions already. Now coming to the Quran and putting our presuppositions aside for the moment because that’s a further exercise.

Now, to see what the Quran actually says. We see that the Quran actually says much about respecting others, not abusing what they worship, and so on. For example, the sixth chapter of the Quran {quoting Quran in Arabic} do not criticize or do not abuse that which they worship other than God.

For then, they will turn it round and abuse God in their ignorance because they would say your God is something wrong. And whereas our God is the universal God: is their God as well.

So, we shouldn’t provoke them. According to this verse, we shouldn’t provoke them by abusing their gods because we’ll just set up the motion for them to turn around and abuse our God, which is also really their God, the true universal God.

So, it is unthinkable that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), required to follow the Quran, would then go about and do something contrary, such as abusing the gods of the others.

What must have happened is that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), clearly allowed for people to continue to worship as they were for many years until the population reached a certain threshold of understanding.

He was preaching to them for so many years, telling them that we should worship the unseen creator of the heavens and the earth. Never mind the idols that you carve with your own hands: those are helpless. And you need the help of the Living God.

So, after many years had passed, now we’re dealing with the eighth year after the migration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) just two years before his death. And now he enters Mecca and people are converting to Islam in throngs.

Now people don’t need their idols anymore. So, somebody’s got to do something about these idols. What are they going to do with it? Either you throw them into the ocean, which is not exactly close by. Or you bury them in the sand or something like this.

So, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) dramatically marks the occasion, it is mentioned in the seerah work, that he went around and he broke the idols. First of all, we should mention this is not actually in the

This is in something other than the Quran. And if it is authentic, then it just simply means that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was doing what naturally comes at this point, seeing that there’s no more use for the idols. And that’s why he …

Aisha Khaja: So, it’s about looking at everything within the context?

Dr. Shabir Ally: Yes, and not breaking the idols of people when these are still dear to the people because then you’ll break the hearts of the people. And then they would never want to embrace or understand Islam.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Prophet Muhammad: Master of Tolerance

Lessons from the Prophet’s Wisdom: His Patience & Foresight

The Prophet’s Wisdom in Leading His Companions

About Dr. Shabir Ally
Dr. Shabir Ally holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, with a specialization in Biblical Literature. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Quranic Exegesis. He is the president of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as Imam. He travels internationally to represent Islam in public lectures and interfaith dialogues. He explains Islam on a weekly television program called "Let the Quran Speak". Past episodes of this show can be seen online at: www.quranspeaks.com.