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.
In this fatwa:
1- There is nothing wrong in praying in a place with images or statues as long as you do not make them right in front of you.
2- If there is no option but to pray while the images or statues are in front of you, you can cover them up. If, however, you are not able to do so, you can simply make a sutrah and pray.
In responding to your question, Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh, a prominent Azharite scholar, states:
There is nothing wrong in praying in a place with images or statues as long as you do not make them right in front of you.
However, if there is no option but to pray while the images or statues are in front of you, then you can close your eyes and pray. We read in Al-Bukhari’s Sahih a chapter on “Whoever Prays While Fire Is in Front of Him.” Fire was being worshipped at that time.
Given the above, if a Muslim offered prayer in such a room you mentioned and put a sutrah in front of him or her, there is nothing wrong with that.
Moreover, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, adds:
A Muslim living in the West should be always keen to perform acts of worship in the right way. At the same time, a Muslim should keep intact the fabric of the society he or she is living in.
For instance, a university campus might have limited space and the administration thereby assigned a multi-faith prayer room for students following different faiths. When this is the only option for a Western Muslim, there is nothing wrong for him or her to pray in such a room as long as the place is clean.
With regard to praying in a place with images of statues, if you can cover them up, it is best to do so. If, however, you are not able to do so, you can simply make a sutrah and pray.
It is worth remembering that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to pray in the courtyard of Sacred Mosque in Makkah while it was populated by idols.
So you can do so in exceptional cases if you have no other choice.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.