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Are Attacks on Churches Prohibited in Islam?

21 April, 2019
Q Respected scholars, as-salamu `alaykum. We hear every now and then that some people have attacked churches or temples in different places, so we'd like to ask whether these acts are deemed right according to the Shari`ah. JazakumAllahu khayran.


Wa`alaykumas-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

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In this fatwa:

1- Islam prohibits assaulting non-Muslims who do not wrong us.

2- Islam urges us to treat non-Muslims well and be just when dealing with them.

3- It is prohibited to attack non-Muslims’ places of worship.

4- Attacking such places is considered to be an act of injustice, which neither Allah nor His Messenger accepts.

5- Freedom of religion and belief is a right which Islam guarantees, Allah Almighty says (Let there be no compulsion in religion.) (Al-Baqarah 2:256).

Regarding your question, we would like to quote the following from The Kuwaiti Encyclopedia of Jurisprudence:

Al-Kamal ibn Al-Humam, a Hanafi scholar, said,

“All opinions adopted in the Hanafi school 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.”

Ibn Hazm, 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/her over to the enemy would mean that we were negligent of the Covenant of Allah and His Messenger.”

On the same note, Dr. `Abdus-Sattar F. Sa`eed,  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. Allah 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 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)

Allah Almighty knows best.

Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.