There are many divergent jurisprudential opinions on whether non-Muslims should be allowed to enter mosques, or not.
Almost absolute prohibition is advocated by the Maliki madhhab, or school of law or fiqh (jurisprudence). Conditional permission is supported by the Shafi’i and Hanbali madhhabs. And finally, almost absolute permission is endorsed by the Hanafi madhhab.
At any rate, the most correct view is that non-Muslims should be allowed to enter and visit mosques, but under certain conditions.
Those conditions revolve around the following matters: that they are given permission beforehand; that their entering is justifiable; that they are acquainted with the dos and don’ts inside mosques, lest the mosque’s purity and sanctity should become dishonored; and that their whole stay and their activities inside mosques are overseen by Muslims.
The exceptions, of course, are the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with especially al-Masjid al-Haram in the former and the Prophet’s Mosque in the latter. By divine decrees, access to the two holy cities is restricted to Muslims only.
Indeed, there are many pros and cons in relation to non-Muslims and their entering mosques. However, if properly perceived and effectively made use of, non-Muslims’ entering and visiting mosques could be turned into an excellent avenue and means of da’wah islamiyyah (propagation of and calling people to Islam).
This is especially so today when a majority of Muslim countries and their cities are flocked with non-Muslim visitors and tourists (guests), so much so that there are mosques that are visited more by non-Muslims than Muslims.
The same, furthermore, is relevant above all today when misconceptions and misinterpretations about Islam and Muslims abound, and when Muslims find it very hard to clarify and dispel those errors and misunderstandings.
More often than not, a number of both historical and modern mosques are the target of those people’s touristic visits and attention. Visiting those mosques is a must on many non-Muslim visitors’ list of things to do.
When they come to a Muslim country, most of them do so keen to witness, pay attention to and try to understand only authentic things and issues. After all, they pay handsomely for what they are up to.
Muslims do not have to go to non-Muslims to tell them what Islam actually is, and what and who they actually are. Rather, non-Muslims keep thronging to Muslims’ midst.
Hence, Muslims must make the most of the opportunity at hand and promote Islam. A healthy balance between demand and supply is to be created and sustained.
The mosque institutions, travel agencies and various governmental bodies in the Muslim world, should coordinate their sincere and well-devised plans and efforts, and should employ only highly qualified and trained personnel for the purpose of guiding those people — who are not only visitors, but also guests — and for explaining thoroughly a great deal to them about Islam, Muslims, Islamic history, culture and civilization, all of which the mosque institution as a community center unmistakably exemplifies.
Accordingly, each and every “significant and attractive” mosque ought to have a few highly educated and trained guides — in addition to the tourist guides of a same caliber employed by both tourist and government agencies, who will be with the visitors (guests) most of the time from the moment they arrive till they depart — who should speak fluently a couple of leading world languages.
When a group of non-Muslim visitors come to a mosque, a guide will warmly, politely and intelligently welcome them, preferably – if possible – in their own language. He will then accurately and scientifically explain to them about the mosque and what it stands for, along with anything else associated with Islam and Muslims as may be relevant to a particular group of people, or which may arise during a visit and during the ensuing interactions and conversations between a guide and the mosque visitors.
Plenty of free pamphlets and other reading materials in various languages should be made available and distributed to the visitors as per their needs and interests.
The management of a mosque should strive to spur the curiosity and interest of the visitors, leaving then no query, or need, of theirs unfulfilled, or unattended to. The visitors should be admitted inside mosques up to designated points, having been duly informed of, and complied with, a code of ethics for doing so.