Wa `alaykum As-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.
In this fatwa:
1- Muslims should strive as much as they can to build their own places of worship, which should be built according to Islamic Shari`ah, structurally sound, without extravagance or decoration.
2- If the Muslims cannot build their own mosques and they need a place to pray, and they cannot find anywhere other than that interfaith prayer room, then performing prayer in that place is permitted.
3- However, praying towards statues and pictures should be avoided, and they should be covered or concealed if they are in the direction of the qiblah.
In his response to the question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a Senior Lecturer and Islamic Scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
Prayer requirements are very simple and precise. The place we pray in should be clean and should not be contaminated by impurity or filth. It should be free of idols and statues. If we have a choice, we should ask for an empty room that can consecrated as a musalla.
If any of these conditions cannot be met, then the principle of jurisprudence ‘whenever there is hardship, the law is relaxed’ is applied.
If, therefore, the only room available for prayers is an interfaith hall where pictures and statues are found, we can pray there provided we cover them up. This is the least we can do.
There is nothing wrong with praying there, and Allah only ask us if we violated the laws intentionally. We are required only to fear Allah to the best of our ability.
In conclusion, you are allowed to pray in interfaith rooms provided they are kept clean and you cover up the images with a wrapper or curtain.
Moreover, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, the former president of the Islamic Society of North America, adds:
It is permissible to pray in any place, as long the place is clean. After the conquest of Jerusalem when the Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was visiting a church, the time of prayer came, and the people of the church told him to pray there if he wanted. Umar did not say that we were not allowed to pray in a church. He told them that he would not pray there because he did not want to see Muslims later take other people’s places of worship.
In addition, it is not allowed to pray in a place where the pictures (i.e. the crosses that are displayed) or statues are in front of the praying person, unless no other place was available.
Sometimes it happens that one has to pray in a university, a hotel, at the airport or some other place and one sees pictures hanging in the direction of the qiblah. If one cannot find any other place then one should put some Sutrah in front of him and pray without looking towards those pictures.
Almighty Allah knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.